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To Create Life Without Taking It

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Come see me at the Guymelef Factory. I have a present for you.

Naria and Eriya generally avoided the factories and industrial areas of the cities and fortresses of Zaibach. There were many unhappy memories growing up in those areas, memories that could be easily resurrected if either of them thought too much about the procedure they had been through. The infusion of fortune into their bodies had been painful, and only the love they had for Lord Folken had been enough to see them through.

Presents were good, but getting to see Lord Folken was better. He made sure they were taken care of, and occasionally would bring some nice clothing from around their home that he had found at a market, but nothing really compared to the warmth he gave them when they were together. They felt even luckier when he could give them attention, instead of moving armies or consulting with Emperor Dornkirk on strategic matters. They cherished the nights when they could all sit at a table and talk, which always led to hugging and cuddling in the bed, and sometimes, when things were just right, they could please Lord Folken in the special ways that they had learned from sharing his bed with them. Maybe the fortune they held could be tapped for a...different purpose. It had been some time since they had been able to sleep together.

Naria saw him first, standing majestically before columns of guymelefs. Eriya saw him soon after and gave Naria a playful shove, putting herself first. Naria gently pulled Eriya's tail to hold her back, stifling a giggle. Both sisters spent the time crossing the space subtly jockeying for position, with tweaks, pinches, tugs, and all manner of subtle fighting, trying not to be so obvious that Lord Folken would notice. It was a game between them, to be the first each day. They knew Lord Folken loved each of them equally and individually, but it was fun to play and to see if he ever noticed.
Today, Eriya was the first to him, taking one arm while Naria took the other. Folken smiled at them. "Eriya, Naria," he said warmly. "I have something to show you. Walk with me."

"Zaibach has achieved greatness in science," he said, gesturing to the weapons, "but even with recent advances in our liquid metal technologies, we have yet to approach the capabilities of the other kingdoms. Despite having far more soldiers and weapons at our disposal, and our ability to manipulate fate itself, we are faced with setbacks on all of our campaigns. I have been studying the reasons why, and I believe I have a theory."

Eriya stifled a yawn. Lord Folken enjoyed talking about science almost as much as Emperor Dornkirk did in his pronouncements, but she didn't understand much of it. Naria was much better at following along and comprehending.

"Guymlefs used to be made to the order of the kingdom by artisans and craftsmen long trained in the art of magic and metal. The Ispano were revered everywhere as the premier clan for creation. Of course, their skill came with a very large cost in labor and...materials," he finished, with an implication he clearly expected them both to follow. "You are both familiar with Escaflowne now, yes?"

Naria nodded, Eriya a short while behind. "Doesn't Escaflowne require a dragon heart to work?" Naria asked.

"Precisely the correct question, Naria," Folken said. "The heart of the dragon, transformed into crystalline form, provides the strength and power that Escaflowne is famed for. That heart is also its weakness. If there are no more dragons, then Escaflowne will never rise again." Folken flexed his arm reflexively, recalling what he had lost in that fight - not just an arm, but his belief in the right to rule and the traditions that upheld Fanelia. The metal arm that had replaced it was a technological triumph, but only a small consolation.

"Other kingdoms also have created guymelefs," he continued. "They, too, craft theirs in small amounts and pay many handsomely to create and maintain them. They, too, require resources of this world - metal, heat, skill, and, at their core, the energists of living things. For guymelefs to live, others must die."

Folken pulled his arms away from them to indicate the army before them.

"This is the most closely guarded secret of the kingdoms. Their power depends on the willing sacrifice of others. What Zaibach has done is create guymelefs that do not require life to animate. The liquid metal that flows through these creations is mined from the planet and refined with our technology. Living creatures do not have to be sacrificed to power these machines. We create life without taking it."

Naria and Eriya winced at this thought, but smoothed their faces before they thought Lord Folken noticed. They had seen the workers at the mines. They had heard Lord Folken give his condolences to the families of those lost in accident. They had seen the soldiers that left and did not return. They had lived the destruction of their home and the killing of so many of their people. Lord Folken had rescued them from death, but there were times where it was apparent that if the Emperor demanded it, he would send them into harm's way without worry. Sometimes Lord Folken forgot that the people he commanded had lives, and love, when he was being Strategos too much. But he would remember when they went to bed, and he would kiss them and hug them and apologize, and he would promise to remember, and things would be better for a bit. Eriya and Naria knew they had to keep reminding Lord Folken of his own love, and that they loved him, or Strategos would swallow him whole. Sometimes they wished he would remember these things without them, but Emperor Dornkirk was a strong-willed man. What he believed, Strategos did, too. Perhaps one day they could convince him to see it from their perspective. Perhaps one day he would think of them first.

"Zaibach," Lord Folken continued, "has not yet been able to unlock the full potential of guymelefs using only liquid metal. Unfortunately, with Fanelia and Asturia's knights moving against us, we must resort to other means of protecting ourselves. You, my Luck Soldiers, will help keep us safe until we can realize our vision."

Folken led Eriya and Naria into a hangar, together, making sure that neither went in before the other. Standing in the middle of the hangar were two new guymelefs. They were proud, tall, equipped with familiar weapons and new ones, with manes in the colors of Eriya and Naria's hair, looking every inch the sleek fighting machines that the two women had become in service to their Lord. They could not see a difference between the two guymelefs at this distance, save for the hair.

"These are my gift to you, my Luck Soldiers," Folken said, squeezing them both affectionately. "They are identical in every way, and they have been constructed with your skills, your ability to work together seamlessly, and your fortunate blood in mind from the very beginning. Together, not even Escaflowne can stand against you. Together, you can defeat the girl from the moon and allow Zaibach to prosper and protect this world from itself."

Eriya and Naria felt a twinge of knowledge, and their affectionate grip on Lord Folken lessened slightly as they looked at each other behind his gaze. Folken had cast their guymelefs in their image, giant versions of each sister, but what Lord Folken had explained still remained in their minds. To power these new machines would have required...both sisters shuddered from the realization, and said a silent prayer to the sacrifice of their sisters. Eriya wondered if anyone knew the names of the two who had been chosen. Naria hoped their family name hadn't perished along with them. Then they both hoped for the day when all of the families could walk as equals alongside the humans.

'They're beautiful, Lord Folken," Eriya said, breaking the silence and giving Lord Folken a kiss on the cheek.

"We will serve you well with them." Naria added, doing the same to the other cheek.

And they did.