Prep Work

Iris ran out of the house as Lily approached atop Prei’s dragon form. Judging from the fact that she was wearing an apron that was stained white with flour, Iris was clearly surprised at Lily’s early return – Understandably so, seeing as Lily had originally planned to return the next day. Lily leapt off Prei’s back and ran up to Iris, planting a kiss on her lover’s lips. This was the longest time Lily had ever been away from Iris since they had met, and their reunion after the separation, despite its brief duration, was all the sweeter for that fact. Iris allowed herself to enjoy the sensation of Lily’s lips for several moments, but quickly pulled away, understanding that something unexpected had occurred. That was rarely a good thing.

“What happened? Did something happen in Riasode?”

Lily shook herself free of her temporary spell of Lover’s Pining. Her eyes focused, a serious expression crossing her face.

“Trouble. An expeditionary force has landed on the coast.”

“What do you need?”

Iris cut straight to the chase. She knew that if Lily had returned early, there had to be something she needed from their home. It made no sense otherwise to leave a city that was under attack, unless Lily’s intention was to spend a sentimental moment with Iris before heading into the fray. As romantic as the idea sounded, the woman Iris fell in love with was not one who was that hopelessly impractical. Besides, doing something as ominous as that seemed to be tempting fate. There was also the possibility that Lily had decided to remain uninvolved with the city’s troubles and was returning home early to distance herself, but Iris knew Lily well enough that she knew her lover would never be willing to let Prei’s city burn. Therefore, the logical conclusion was that Lily had returned to retrieve equipment or material that she needed to assist in the defence of the city, and it was Iris’ duty to ensure her needs were met.

Lily bade a goodbye to Prei, who nodded and took off, hurrying back to Riasode to assist in siege preparations. They had arranged for Prei to come pick her up after four days. Tate was also remaining in Riasode, helping do any repair work for weapons and armor while working together with the city’s other blacksmiths to fortify the defences of the city. Tate trusted Lily to be able to create the machine to shape her power even without her input. Lily was determined to lend credence to that trust.

“I need Sarah’s knowledge for this, Iris. Can you help me?”

“Need you even ask?”

The two girls ran to the workshop while Lily quickly explained the rough outline of the plan to Iris. Iris frowned as she considered the situation.

“Intimidation tactics, then. Against an army that’s two hundred thousand strong. Ordinarily, I would dismiss it as insanity. But if it’s you, well, it might actually work out. You have an idea of what you want to do for the Tate-boosting machine?”

“Mm. I was thinking of constructing a specialised pseudo magical core to further increase her compilation efficiency.”

“Oh? That would certainly work, but you haven’t constructed a core before, have you?”

“Nope. That’s where you come in.”

Iris rubbed her chin.

“Hmm. It’s a bit complicated to do, especially on such short notice and without any prior experience. Then again, this is you we’re talking about, so it’ll probably work out. Grab a notebook.”

Lily carefully jotted down notes as Iris explained the theoretical basis for the core. It was a scene that had grown increasingly common over the last year. Iris would explain the theory using the vast amounts of knowledge that Sarah’s thoughts and memories held, and Lily would attentively listen, raising questions when unsure of anything. All the while, Lily’s mind worked overtime to try and understand how everything worked and to attempt to learn how she could apply this new knowledge. Iris possessed knowledge but lacked ingenuity. Lily had a talent for creation and creativity, but lacked knowledge. The two girls thus worked as a team, assimilating their strengths into a process which had led them to achieve such breakthroughs as the re-discovery of various lost technologies.

The two women spent the rest of the day cooped up in the workshop, Iris opening up her chest to allow Lily to use her core as a reference. It was hardly the first time she’d done it, but Lily found herself becoming increasingly familiar as she studied it, able to quickly grasp the parts of it which she needed to aid her project. Part of it was due to her increased theoretical knowledge allowing her to better understand the functions of each component, but she suspected that a part of it was due to understanding Iris better as an individual. It was an entirely unscientific thought, but she felt a strong conviction, unfounded in theory, that she was correct.

“Ugh, I can’t seem to isolate this stupid line of mana!”

Unfortunately, as talented as she was, even geniuses had moments of failure. Try as she might, Lily was unable to isolate the line about mana conversion streamlining from the mass of ManaScript that populated Iris’ core; the script was too convoluted, too dense. Iris scratched her head, wishing she could be of more help. She was incapable of reading her own component scripts; it was hardcoded into her AI. From Sarah’s memories, she knew it was because Liliana had wanted to avoid letting her become too self-aware of her nature as an artificially created girl – it was a decision made based on love. But it was still annoying. Eventually, it got too vexing to watch Lily constantly cursing and pulling at her hair.

“Lily, it’s getting late. You’ve made some good progress today, maybe you should take a break? Carry on tomorrow?”

“Eh? But I’ve only gotten the framework and mana management basis and conversion method done!”

Iris closed up her chest, ignoring Lily’s protests.

“Lily, that’s literally like 85% of the thing. You’re almost done. Besides, you know you’ve hit a snag. Any further headbutting will just be low productivity. Take a break. Let’s have dinner.”


“Let’s have dinner.”

Iris allowed an edge to creep into her voice as she spoke, motivating Lily to reluctantly put away her tools and follow Iris out of the workshop. Iris usually allowed Lily to do whatever she pleased, but she was much less tolerant when it came to Lily pushing herself beyond her limits. Iris’ highest priorities were Lily’s health and safety, and she would not allow Lily to push herself too far.

“Come on. Dinner won’t be very interesting, I’m sad to say, but I’ve been experimenting with baking a couple new desserts that I can’t wait for you to try.”

“I’m sure they’re going to taste amazing.”

Lily laughed and locked up the workshop, heading back to the main house with her lover clinging to her arm. The sky above them had long since faded to night, and the multitude of stars shone brightly in the dark sky, a million dazzling lights beautifully burning away their lives.