Tate completed her preparations quickly. Evidently, she had been planning this departure for quite some time. By noon the next day, all her belongings were packed and neatly sorted into a number of large wooden trunks. Lily offered to help her shift her forge, but she proved more than capable of handling it. Tate insisted on doing everything herself for this move. She said it was her decision, and therefore her responsibility. As a result, Lily could only stand on the porch and look on, her fingers interlocked with Iris’, the shape of their wedding bands pressing into their digits.
While Tate had adamantly refused Lily’s help, she had allowed Prei to help her out. Lily still had no knowledge of what it was the two had spoken about over the lake, but whatever it was, it had Prei in high spirits. Lily had tried asking Prei about her conversation with Iris, but her daughter had refused to say anything. The most Lily could extract from the girl was a reassurance that she would look out for Tate in the city.
However, observing the way Prei seemed to be eagerly helping Tate with her luggage and preparations, Lily understood that Prei was happy that Tate was coming to live in Riasode with her. Perhaps a little too happy. A brief possibility flashed across Lily’s consciousness, causing her to bring her unadorned hand across her body to touch the ring lightly. It was unlikely. Not impossible, but unlikely. Iris, seeming to sense Lily’s thoughts, grinned and pressed herself closer into Lily’s side, tightening her grip on Lily’s hand.
Within a short time, Tate was ready to set off. Prei took on her dragon form and crouched low to the ground as Tate fastened the straps on the trunks to the hooks which ran along the underside of the armor that covered her belly. With a quick wave, Prei and Tate took off, flying in the direction of Riasode, leaving Lily and Iris standing on the open field and waving, Lily’s mind still preoccupied with the possibility that had occurred to her.
Tate was like a sister to Prei, so naturally Prei would be glad that Tate was going to live with her. She was on her own in Riasode, after all. With Tate there, she would have some companionship. They loved each other as sisters and friends, and nothing more… right?
Lily fingered her ring again, but her train of thought was interrupted by Iris. The moment Prei was out of sight, Iris reached up and brought herself to Lily’s lips in a passionate kiss. As they broke away, she gazed at Lily, her eyes ablaze with a gentle lust. She whispered in a quiet voice that lit a fire in Lily’s heart.
“Now that the children are gone, we don’t need to worry about anyone seeing.”
Lily barely had time to process Iris’ meaning. One moment she was upright and gazing into the sky, eyes turned toward the direction of Riasode, but the next moment she was on the ground, with Iris straddling and grinding against her hips. Iris leaned forward and lavished soft kisses upon Lily’s neck, occasionally pausing to speak.
“With Prei and Tate gone, you’re all mine. And I’m all yours.”
Even in the midst of their intense lovemaking, Lily could not help but take note of how Iris had changed – since gaining Sarah’s memories, she had become much more assertive and self-assured. It was a nice change from her usual passive, emotionless self.
Iris’ new, more forward personality continued to show itself throughout the next year. She would attack Lily at lunch, in the workshop, at dinner, when she bathed. On her part, Lily would always reciprocate and answer Iris’ advances. For Iris, it was a matter of reassuring herself that what they shared was real, that an artificial being like herself had somehow found love, that Lily belonged to her and nobody else. For Lily, it was a matter of finally fulfilling the desires and urges she had held for so long. The two lovebirds spent a lot of time entangled in a flurry of flesh and metal.
With Prei and Tate settled in Riasode, Lily found her time evenly split between two major activities: the first was, naturally, making love to Iris. The second was working on new discoveries in her workshop.
With Iris’ access to Sarah’s memories, Lily now had by her side a veritable database of information on the lost technologies of the past. Leveraging on this information, Lily’s research advanced in leaps and bounds. She managed to create a more efficient artificial magical core, capable of more than seven times the output of her first prototypes. Utilising the more powerful power source, she was able to create a number of new inventions, trying to recreate the lost technologies.
She rediscovered the speaker, a device which was capable of amplifying sounds, allowing them to travel to great distances. She recreated a device which replaced the traditional cooking fire – Iris called it a stove. It was a raised dish that spouted flames along its surface, and these flames could be extinguished at will, or set to extinguish themselves after a specific amount of time. Iris noted that the original iterations of these creations had used a form of energy known as electricity, but Lily decided to forgo that and use magic to power the items instead. While Iris had explained the theoretical basis for the generation of electricity, it was inefficient to attempt to rediscover this energy source when magic was so much more abundant.
She created many such devices, devices which alleviated the tedium of their everyday lives, making daily tasks simpler. The motivation behind the direction of Lily’s research was simple: the less time Iris spent on housework, the more time she was able to spend with Lily. As the tasks in the household became increasingly streamlined and simplified, Iris spent an increasing amount of time with Lily in the workshop, helping Lily with her research and generally keeping her company.
Tate and Prei kept their promises, returning home every week. After a mere three months, however, Lily told them it was alright to return every two weeks instead. This naturally elicited raised eyebrows and suggestive smiling, but Lily could say nothing to correct their assumptions – the reason behind her relenting about their promise was, in fact, that she wished to spend more time alone with Iris. They agreed, of course, but only after sharing numerous stage whispers and giggling together. Lily noted that they seemed to have gotten slightly closer to each other, but decided to keep her observations to herself until she had definitive proof.
Tate’s departure from their home did wonders for her. Lily observed Tate growing more cheerful and lively with each visit. It pained her a little to admit that the reason for Tate’s previous lethargy might have been her worrying, but she could not deny that Tate was clearly enjoying her life in the city. Slowly, the cheerful girl they had first picked up in Saphiz was starting to show herself again, emerging from beneath the cloak of work that she had worn for so long. Lily enjoyed her time alone with Iris, certainly, but she equally enjoyed the time she spent with the whole family in the house, chatting while eating.
Lily continued to visit Riasode at least once a month, purchasing materials and groceries. Whenever she did, she would make a courtesy call to Victoria and Roan. She thought of bringing Iris along to introduce them to her new wife, but Iris insisted on staying behind to guard the home, even though the likelihood that any would attack them was extremely low. Lily suspected it might have been because she felt guilty for stealing Lily from Prei and Tate, and wanted her to spend time with them, as well. Of course, she had no way of confirming this suspicion. Whatever the case, her visits to Riasode went on as per usual, with Iris staying behind. She did mention getting married to Victoria, but informed the demon woman that her wife did not want to enter the public eye. Perhaps it was for the best. The glowing red eye was bound to raise questions.
True to their word, Victoria and Roan had supplied Tate with a nice home in the centre of the city. It was a comfortable two-storey home, with the lower floor converted into a forge and storefront. It was situated close to the stores which sold raw metals, which made it easy for her to restock on materials. Her room was sparsely decorated, with naught but a bed and a table, though the bed was comfortable and wide. It was very much a room which suited her personality.
About seven months after she shifted out, Prei abruptly stopped sleeping in the barracks and started staying in Tate’s house, a development which made Lily extremely suspicious of what the younger members of their little family were doing in Riasode. Her existing suspicions grew stronger in intensity, but she held on to the belief that they were just enjoying each others’ company as sisters. She decided not to ask them about it, decided that they would tell her when they wanted to. Even though her curiosity burned to be sated, she reined it in, respecting their choices. It made her chuckle when she realised that this must have been how Prei and Tate had felt for seven years, when they were waiting for her to get over her hesitation regarding Iris. She felt a little guilty for making them suffer so.
There’s an idiom which says that distance makes the heart grow fonder. Indeed, the time Tate and Prei spent away from Lily and Iris made them cherish their return visits greatly – the family grew closer, more bonded than when they had all lived under the same roof. At the same time, Lily’s heart could not grow any fonder of Iris, and the time they spent together – at times making love, at times working together, at times talking about trivial things, at times simply enjoying the other’s company in comfortable silence – simply reinforced their bond.
Weekends spent with the whole family, and the rest of the time spent alone with Iris. The days passed in a flurry of happiness, and these days were the happiest days of Lily’s life – she felt more joy and love in that one year than in the rest of her life combined.