Ameliyn sat on the couch to hand knit some smaller, more delicate projects. She didn't always do all of her work on the loom, but the things she produced to sell were usually larger things she created quickly. For the more personal items she made, she liked to do it by hand. It felt more intimate to know that something her daughters wore was made with her hands directly.
She wasn't currently making a more intimate piece of clothing, though. Instead, her eyes were focused beyond what her hands were doing, and she manipulated her mana in intricate braids and patterns over and over again.
Her mastery of braiding mana had astounded her tutors, and it was what had enabled her to unlock the Weaver designation instead of simply Mage when she became a Light Weaver. She had found that practicing her needlework, which her mother had insisted she learn as a child - "any noble lady needs to know certain, delicate skills," she would say - directly translated to her ability to perceive and manipulate mana threads into braids.
She had made it a habit to continue practicing both as they compounded each other's growth. It was the main reason she had taken up the persona as a talented weaver to provide some extra income for her family.
Once Reivyn gets back from his adventure in the Dungeons, he should have just unlocked his Caster Class, or be about to, and I can move on to the next stage of his training. If he hadn't been so insistent on practicing his Martial Skills so much, we would have had more time for this.
She looked over at her daughters, Kailey and Riley, affectionately as they wove baskets made out of grass. The odd flower bud was interspersed with the grass laces. Ameliyn thought back to the flower crowns they had made on the road to Magron. That little act of theirs had woken her and Refix up to the fact that they needed to seriously start guiding their development.
The girls hadn't realized exactly what they were doing, and they weren't intentionally Manipulating Mana, but they probably had unlocked the Skill. She didn't know as they weren't quite as forthcoming about it as Reivyn had been. They sought each other's counsel more than anything, but they didn't intentionally hide things, either.
They had begun to subconsciously infuse their intent into their little creations more and more. It didn't always manifest as a complete magical item, but it wasn't infrequent. They could really benefit from buckling down on some official training in their mana Skills and Mental Stats.
The only problem was that they had an utter lack of any motivation to do any serious training, completely opposite of their brother. Ameliyn had had to trick them into practicing. She had instructed them that each time they wanted to go out and pick flowers, and other things to make their little crafts, they had to first weave a grass basket to carry it in. And they had to make a new one every time.
The two girls hadn't understood why it was necessary to make a new basket every single time, and they had expressed as much. Ameliyn smiled at the memory of their conversation.
"But mo~m, there's a perfectly good one right here!" Kailey had complained. She grabbed Ameliyn's arm and swung it about.
"We don't need a new one," Riley added on, swinging Ameliyn's other arm.
"Well, take those ones that you've already made apart," Ameliyn advised. "Be careful not to tear the grass while you do so. Once you dismantle it, build it again, but this time, do something different. Try and incorporate some different colors into shapes and patterns. Give it a unique look. You can sport new fashion every time you go out of the house."
The two girls looked at their already made baskets in thought. Ameliyn could see the gears whirling in their minds as they imagined the different things they could do. After all, making new, cute things was the entire point of them going out to collect more flowers.
"Alright, mommy," Kailey and Riley said in unison.
That had been several weeks ago, and the two girls had quickly become experts in designing new and interesting looks for their grass baskets.
"Mommy, mommy, look!" Kailey came running over, followed immediately behind by a beaming Riley. "We made something completely new!"
"It's completely new!" Riley added.
"Oh? Show mommy what you've made," Ameliyn faced her daughters as she assumed a look of rapt attention. Kailey held up her basket for Ameliyn to inspect. She had somehow managed to incorporate all of the tiny, minuscule color distortions and blemishes in the grass into the outline of a woman in a flowing dress with braided hair over her shoulder. "This is magnificent!" Ameliyn exclaimed. She meant it.
"Look at mine! Look at mine!" Riley thrust her basket forward. She had similarly used the imperfections to craft a little masterpiece. Her basket sported the outline of a man in armor, a sword's hilt peeking over his shoulder.
"It's Princess Amily, like in your stories!" Kailey said while pointing to the woman. "She has a braid like yours." Kailey reached over and gave her mother's braid a tug. Ameliyn was able to see that her daughter had somehow incorporated the pattern on the braid into her work in elaborate detail.
"Mine is Knight Fenrix, Amily's trusty bodyguard!" Riley nearly shouted in her excitement. "See, he has the dragon-head pommel on his sword." Sure enough, a little depiction of a dragon's head was on the hilt sticking out from the man's shoulder.
Ameliyn could feel an unusually strong mana fluctuation coming from the two baskets, so she threw an Inspect at them.
[Princess Amily's Basket]
[It holds the hope of her people]
[Knight Fenrix's Basket]
[It holds the weight of his responsibility]
Emotions threatened to overwhelm her as she accepted the baskets from her daughters and held them. A single tear fell from her eye, but she quickly mastered herself.
"Why are you crying, mommy?" Kailey leaned forward and peered up at her mother.
"Why are you crying?" Riley put her head right next to her sister's.
"It's nothing," Ameliyn said as she wiped the tear away. "I'm just so happy at what you two have been able to do." She put a bright smile on her face. She was happy, and not just at the amazing things the two girls had crafted.
The words described in the notification about the two magical baskets weren't empty. She felt a tangible weight that she hadn't noticed was there lift from her shoulders as she accepted the baskets. She felt fresher and more clear-headed than she had in years.
"These baskets mark an important milestone for you girls, so we won't be taking these ones apart," Ameliyn said as she got up. She took the baskets and placed them on the mantelpiece to be displayed. "You can make new ones to use for your flower gathering, but mommy's going to be selfish and keep these for herself."
"Ok~ay, mommy," Kailey said. "But..."
"...You have to tell us another story," Riley finished the sentence. "It's payment for services rendered."
Ameliyn chuckled at her two daughters as she resumed her seat on the couch. The girls took up space half sitting on the couch and half sitting in her lap on either side of her. "Now, where were we?" Ameliyn asked, looking back and forth between Kailey and Riley.
"Amily and Fenrix had just embarked on their quest to find the Holy Amulet to wake her sleeping siblings," Kailey chimed in, bouncing up and down in her seat.
"To wake her sleeping siblings," Riley echoed.
"Right, right," Ameliyn said. It was a good thing she had already mastered her emotions. She felt her heartstrings tug at the mention of "Amily's" siblings. She took a deep breath and began her edited version of events. "Princess Amily bravely rode forth on her steed, the handsome Fenrix in his gleaming armor dutifully escorting her..."
"You're a bastard! A gremlin! An oaf!" Ameliyn stomped her foot as she shouted at the man who had kidnapped her away from her family. He had snatched her from the arms of her younger brother and sister and dragged her all the way out into the wilderness without even a glance back.
"I'm not an oaf," Refix said defensively. He sat in front of their campfire and stared into the flames with a distant look. His armor was nicked and scarred, covered in scorch marks and scratches adorning every part of it. Soot marred the features of his face, and exhaustion was the only emotion he was able to display.
The elaborate red cape that completed the ensemble of an Imperial Bodyguard was tattered and torn, and he had stripped it off to give to Ameliyn to use as a blanket. She had scoffed at the gesture and threw it back in his face. He had simply shrugged and used it as a pillow.
The two had narrowly escaped from the Imperial Capital and had fled for well over a full day before they had to stop to get some rest or risk collapsing. The incursion had started at dusk the previous day, and they had traveled through the night and all day.
Ameliyn was just a young Tier 2 who had just unlocked her Class, but Refix was already an established Tier 3. Not only was it his duty to protect and serve the Imperial Family, but he had years of experience fighting in Dungeons and against monsters in the wilderness to prepare for and compete for the honor of his position.
Refix had maintained a high alert state of mind for over 24 hours and had rushed as far as he possibly could on his Stamina reserves. He had constantly been on the lookout for threats, oftentimes having to fight off weaker monsters that had been drawn to the commotion in order to scavenge, and any time Ameliyn needed to rest, he had simply picked her up and kept going.
Ameliyn had been numb and mostly unresponsive for a long time. She had never encountered anything close to the strife they were faced with. Eventually, though, she had snapped out of her fugue. Unfortunately, she wasn't able or mature enough to handle the cascade of emotions that flowed within her, so she reacted in the only way that offered an outlet for her.
She had lashed out at the one person who was protecting her, and she was indignant at the treatment she was getting in their need for a speedy escape. She dragged her feet and complained about every little thing, escalating as she was unable to get a rise out of the target of her ire.
"I demand that you take me back to the Capital this instant," Ameliyn lifted her chin and attempted an imperious tone. "You will mobilize any forces you can find and launch a sortie to rescue my siblings at once."
"Yes, Princess, as soon as I'm able," Refix replied. He got up from his spot and tidied up their camp. He paused for a moment, looking at the tattered cape in his hands before he carefully stored it away in a pack he had been given by another soldier before they fled. He kicked dirt over the fire and made sure it was completely out before he grabbed Ameliyn's wrist and led her out of their little enclave.
The pack that had been thrust into his hands in haste had been carefully prepared ahead of time for such an eventuality, and it was inspected and maintained regularly. The Imperial Family didn't personally direct the action, but the Imperial Guard was professional, and they planned for everything.
The kit had included rations, money, some easily transportable resources, and several portable runic arrays. Refix had used such an array to hide themselves from any roaming monsters or beasts so they could both get some sleep without the need for a watch. They didn't have an unlimited amount of them, though, so he would need to be selective when he chose to use one. The first time they had stopped to rest was definitely one of the times it was a necessity.
Refix walked back out into the open of the small hills they had found themselves in, Ameliyn in tow. He didn't drag her or force her to move faster, but he was insistent with his movements. He found the road they had been following and turned down it again, away from the Capital.
"Unhand me!" Ameliyn shouted. She verbally asserted her displeasure, but her feet kept walking. "You're going the wrong way! I told you to escort me back to the Capital."
"Yes, Princess, as soon as I'm able," Refix replied as he continued walking without missing a beat.
The sky was still orange from the flames that still raged in the Capital, and it dyed the surroundings an unnatural color. Smoke was billowing on the horizon, marking the location of the tragedy.
"You're able to right now," Ameliyn said.
"You ordered me to launch a sortie with any forces I'm able to find," Refix patiently pointed out. "I'm going to go find those forces. They're most likely located in the vassal states in this direction. We'll have to find some form of transportation soon, though, because it will be a long journey on foot."
Refix released his hold on Ameliyn's wrist when he noticed she continued to follow. She folded her arms across her chest and pouted as she stepped up to walk alongside her bodyguard.
"You're not my exclusive guard," Ameliyn tried a different tack. "You're a bodyguard to the Imperial Family. Family. You have more people to protect than just me."
"Yes, Princess, I understand," Refix said. "I'm also not the only Imperial Bodyguard. I have several brothers in arms who can take on that duty as we make our escape."
Ameliyn lapsed into silence as she trudged along, thinking about the possibility of other bodyguards rescuing her siblings. She had to believe it was possible or she wouldn't be able to take any more steps forward. She knew deep down that they were making the right decision, but it hurt.
The two continued walking along the well-maintained road in silence. There were no other people on the road around them, traveling in either direction, so they walked alone.
I'm alone. Tears silently rolled down her face as she continued her beleaguered journey with her annoying bodyguard.
"...and Amily and Fenrix saw that the men were loyal, and so they recruited them to their cause. Amily embarked on her journey in style with all of her needs taken care of, and Sir Fenrix kept a protective watch over her at all times.
"We'll pick up from here next time," Ameliyn said.
"Awww," the two girls complained in unison.
"But we want to hear more about the magical land that they traveled through," Kailey said.
"And about the beasts that they tamed along the way," Riley added.
"And about the brave companions that joined them."
"And another time," Ameliyn said. "I've paid for your baskets with what I've told you so far. It's time for you to make new ones and go get your flowers."
"Ok~ay," Kailey (Riley) said.
The pair got up from the couch and ran into the backyard to pluck more strands of grass and simple flower buds for their next projects. Ameliyn smiled as she watched them run off.
The front door opened and closed, and Ameliyn looked up to see Refix join her.
"Look at what your daughters have made," she said with a nod toward the mantelpiece. Refix walked over and stood in stunned silence as he Observed the two baskets.
"These are amazing," he said as he reached out to pick them up. His eyes widened as he looked up at Ameliyn. "Wow! I feel... I feel... I can't quite put my finger on it, but I feel better."
"Like a weight, you didn't know you were carrying has been lifted?"
"Yeah, but more than that," he carefully placed the baskets back in their spots. "We'll have to keep these treasures safe."
"Agreed," Ameliyn said as she walked up and hugged her husband from behind. "My loyal bodyguard, I order you to keep these treasures safe, and to protect and guide the two treasures playing outside, as well."
Refix turned in her embrace and whispered, "Yes, Princess, as soon as I'm able." He leaned down to give his wife a kiss.