Leaving the Nest
“Prei, are you okay? Is the load too heavy?”
“No, mother, I’m fine. This much is nothing. I mean, I’m a dragon. It would be an insult to my race if I found this much heavy.”
Prei answered Lily’s question with a hint of pride as she hovered over the ground, experimentally testing the weight of the container which she was carrying in her forelegs. Lily had constructed a secure lid over the cart, lining its interior with the items Tate intended to sell. From this trip forth, they would be riding Prei to and from Riasode, rather than going by land. From the little Lily had felt of Prei’s flight, she estimated this decision to cut their travel time rather significantly. Prei had quickly gotten used to the feeling of wearing the saddle, and while she still found it slightly embarrassing, she never voiced any further complaints. Meanwhile, Tate and Lily had gone for several test flights on Prei’s back, and had slowly grown accustomed to staying on her back during high-speed flight.
Prei flew back down, gently resting the container on the ground, then folded her wings and landed gracefully next to it. Lily walked up to her and patted her snout.
Lily turned to Tate, who was standing to the side, and beckoned her over. Tate nodded, walked over to Prei’s side, and leapt on to Prei’s high back with a light hop. Prei craned her head around and licked Tate, causing Tate to giggle. Lily smiled. The two had stayed in the same room for slightly more than a year, as well as worked on many items together as a pair, so they were very close. Watching them was enough to warm anybody’s heart.
Lily turned to Iris with an apologetic look.
“Well then, we’ll be off. Sorry to leave you on your own here.”
Iris shook her head.
“It’s fine. I know you’ll come back, so I won’t get lonely.”
“Well, according to my calculations, with Prei’s speed, we should be able to return by the end of the day.”
Iris smiled sweetly and clapped her hands together.
“In that case, I’ll make sure to have a hot meal waiting for you when you get back.”
Lily laughed and nodded.
“Yes, that would be nice. Though, even if there was no food, and it was just you sitting at the table waiting for me, that would still be more than enough.”
Iris’ cheeks coloured, her eyes flashing a bright pink. Lily quickly turned towards Prei to hide the blush that was quickly spreading across her own face. This brought her face-to-face with Tate and Prei, who were both watching her with an expression of amusement. On Prei’s larger, reptilian face, the raised eyebrow was even more apparent, creating an expression that seemed entirely unnatural on a dragon. Lily’s blush deepened, and she leapt onto Prei’s back without saying another word.
“Uhuhu. The prospect of having two mothers is becoming increasingly likely~”
Prei quietly whispered this line as she pushed herself from the ground. Lily’s eyebrow twitched as her face turned even redder, and she buried her countenance in her daughter’s scales. Tate laughed from behind her.
“Come on, Lily. Both of us can see it. When are you going to say it out loud?”
Lily turned to Tate and growled to hide her embarrassment. Then she had to press herself low and close to Prei’s back as her daughter picked up the basket and rapidly accelerated in the direction of Riasode.
They travelled quickly, the wind blowing against their faces. As Lily had predicted, within two hours, they were quickly approaching the city of Riasode. As the walls of the city rushed into view, Lily could see a large amount of commotion along the walls, with soldiers rushing around. She barely had time to chuckle before Prei dipped into a steep descent, approaching the gate. As they drew closer, soldiers gathered in front of the gate, spears levelled. Fear was plainly visible on many of their faces. In front of her soldiers, with her sword drawn, Victoria was holding a fighting stance. When she saw the party atop Prei, however, her face took on an expression which combined confusion and disbelief. Holding up her hand, she ordered her soldiers to stand down, allowing Prei to place the container on the ground. She then landed softly next to it.
Lily and Tate slid off Prei’s back, where Victoria met them on the ground. Even as she shook their hands in greeting, Victoria kept glancing nervously at Prei, causing the dragon to chuckle. Finally, once they had exchanged pleasantries, Victoria asked the question which was clearly weighing heavily on her mind.
“So… Miss Voirgaire… Would you care to explain how you came to be in possession of a dragon? How did you manage to tame it?”
Before Lily could respond, Prei released an offended snort.
“How rude. I am not ‘tamed’.”
As Victoria lost fine motor control over her jaw due to hearing the dragon speak, Prei’s body was enveloped in light as she reverted to her humanoid form, with her special armor changing to accomodate her. Stretching contentedly, she walked up to Victoria and curtsied.
“Good morning, Miss Victoria. I’m Prei Voirgaire. My mother has told me much about you.”
Victoria’s eyes widened as she regarded Prei’s form. Her surprise caused her to forget her manners for a moment, but she quickly recovered and introduced herself.
“Well met. I am Victoria Lunus Fangheldt, Mayor of this city and Commander of the guard. I welcome you to Riasode, Prei, and hope you find your stay comfortable. Your mother did tell me about you, but she never mentioned…”
Victoria’s voice trailed off as she glanced at Prei’s wings. Prei, noticing her gaze, playfully flapped them. Lily grinned and spoke to Victoria.
“Yes, quite a bit has happened. Perhaps after we conclude our business in town, I can explain over tea.”
“Yes, certainly. Do come in.”
Victoria nodded, and the lines of soldiers parted to allow the party entry.
Bringing Prei along, they went around the city, introducing Prei to Roan and conducting the business as usual, with Tate receiving another set of orders. The news caused her to sag in anticipation of the workload, while somehow simultaneously glowing with pride. As they negotiated prices at various shops, Prei grew increasingly visibly bored. Finally, at one armor retailer’s store, one of the middling stops on their shopping path, Lily gave Tate a squeeze on the shoulder as she was waiting for the shopkeeper to finish inspecting her products. Tate looked at her questioningly, at which Lily bent down and whispered into the shieldsmith’s ear.
“Can I leave this to you? I think Prei’s getting a little restless.”
Tate quickly nodded. Smiling gratefully, Lily walked over to Prei, finding that the girl was occupying herself by staring at the trim patterns on the armor in the shop. She was clearly unimpressed.
“Come with me for a bit.”
At Lily’s bequest, Prei followed her out of the shop. Once they were outside, Prei looked at Lily questioningly. Lily ruffled her hair and spoke.
“This is your first time in Riasode. I’d love to show you around, but we’re too busy for that, sorry. Still, you should take the opportunity to explore the city. It’s a very friendly, safe city.”
Lily pulled out her coin purse and counted out a sizable amount, placing it in a smaller pouch and passing it to Prei, who received it with wide eyes. It was her first time handling money, and as such she carefully examined the bag, shaking it near her ear to hear the coins jingle. Lily suddenly realised that this would be a good chance to let Prei learn how to use money.
“So, go ahead and use that money however you want. Explore the city, try the food. We’ll meet back at the gate at sunset, okay?”
Prei nodded quickly and walked off while waving back, still jingling the pouch next to her ear. Lily giggled. Prei acted so mature, it was often hard to remember that she was still a child who grew up isolated from the world, first in a dungeon, then in their mansion within the forest. It would be doing Prei a disservice to chain her to them on this occasion, her first time entering the outside world.
With that accomplished, Lily returned to the shop, where Tate was busy cornering the shopkeeper into accepting a price triple that of his original offer. Lily shuddered. Tate was a sweet girl and a hard worker, but as a merchant, she was merciless and terrifying. Tate herself had admitted to enjoying watching merchants squirm as they walked into her traps. For the umpteenth time, Lily thanked fate for the fact that Tate was an ally.
After completing their shopping route, Lily and Tate headed to Victoria’s mansion, where the mayor recieved them with cups of tea and a variety of snacks. While they spoke, Lily explained the events revolving around Prei to Victoria. Victoria had become a close friend to Lily over the past two years, though she did not quite occupy the special place in Lily’s heart that Lily’s girls did.
As they spoke, they talked of events in town, across the continent, and even across the sea. Tate asked Victoria if there was any major news about Saphiz, and her response was troubling, to say the least. The Church was apparently moving to take control of the entire continent, using a combination of faith and politics, gaining the support of the common people by distributing wealth among the populace under the guise of charity. The news made Lily feel a bit uneasy, but ultimately, there was nothing she could do about it, so she just settled for squeezing Tate’s shoulder reassuringly. Sensing the mood, Victoria shifted the conversation toward more frivolous topics, mentioning the rumor that Roan had started dating a winged demon woman.
As they talked, the sun continued its trek across the sky. As the sky began to darken, they realised that sunset had arrived, and Victoria escorted them to the gate.
There, to the surprise of the three women, Prei was engaging in a friendly mid-air sparring session with a winged demon, and was losing handily. When she noticed Lily, she bowed respectfully to her sparring opponent, then returned to the ground and turned to dragon form, allowing Lily and Tate to get on.
Throughout the two-hour flight back and during the dinner which Iris had prepared, Prei said nothing. Her silence worried Lily, but Lily decided not to probe. If Prei wished to talk about it, she would.
Later in the night, as Lily was tinkering in her workshop, a knock sounded at her door, which was followed by Prei, entering with a conflicted expression.
“Mother… there’s something I want to talk to you about.”
Lily set down her tools and leaned back in her chair, eyeing Prei silently, indicating that she should speak. Prei began fidgeting restlessly, her hands behind her back, eyes darting all over the workshop. Then she seemed to gather her resolve.
“I know this is really selfish of me, and after you’ve done so much for me, it’s irresponsible of me to say this… but… I… I want to go train with the knights in Riasode.”
Lily sagged in relief. That was all? Lily thought she had been sad about her loss, and had been preparing to comfort her. It seemed that the loss had indeed affected her, but in a positive way. Lily chuckled at Prei’s apprehension.
“Prei. Do you see me as a mother who would keep you chained to me for life? Is that what you think of me?”
Prei frantically shook her head.
“N-No, of course not! You’ve done so much for me, given so much to me, showered me with so much love! You’re the greatest mother in the world!”
“Then why would I stop you on this occasion? Go for it.”
Prei blinked, as if she could not believe it was going so smoothly.
“Eh? Really? It’s really okay?”
“Of course it’s okay. All children must leave the nest some day, to find their own way to fly.” Lily eyed Prei’s wings. “Quite literally, in your case. It’ll be a bit lonelier without you around here, obviously, and we’ll all miss you, but if this is what you want to do, I won’t stop you. I’ll give you a letter to pass to Victoria. She owes me several favors anyway.”
Her eyes swimming with joy, Prei jumped into Lily’s chest, hugging her mother tightly. Lily pretended to be unmoved and spoke.
“Of course, there are a few conditions. You have to come home for the weekends. Oh, and in your free time I’ll need you to continue to help create crystals for Tate. That okay?”
Prei said nothing and nodded, burying her face even further into Lily’s chest. Lily smiled.
“Good girl. Now, let’s have you leave tomorrow. Can’t have you losing your motivation, and nothing kills motivation like idleness.”
Prei wiped her tears and smiled, looking Lily in the eyes.
“Thank you, mother. I love you.”
Lily returned her gaze with a kindly expression and kissed her on the brow.
“And I love you, my sweet daughter.”
As Prei pulled herself into Lily’s bosom again, hiding the new stream of joyful tears, Lily stroked her daughter’s hair and looked down her daughter’s back. Prei had grown so dependable, so mature. She had changed so much from the excitable girl who choked on her food and screamed at the sight of Hina’s katana.
All children must leave the nest and learn to fly, huh. She had known this day would come, eventually. It was a little sooner than expected, but she had been prepared for this, nonetheless. She was a little sad, but knew that she had to let Prei fly free. She touched the tip of one of Prei’s wings, which twitched slightly at the contact. Her lips broke into a proud smile. Her daughter would fly brilliantly. Of that she was sure.