Lillet Blan pushed open the door to her room and ushered Amoretta inside.

"I'm sorry about this," she said, "but I think you'll have to stay here for a couple of days."

"It's all right," Amoretta replied, looking around. "After what Ms. Opalneria tried to do, you're probably correct." She hadn't been in one of the student rooms before. This one had something of an archaic feel to it, with a high ceiling that the lamplight couldn't reach the corners of, antique bookcases stuffed with novels and reference works, a large padded armchair, and a narrow four-poster bed. It looked almost like it was a parlor that someone had decided to drag a bed into without bothering to change the rest of the decor.

It was not a room, she decided, that suited Lillet. The teenaged magic student was vivacious, energetic, and emotional, while the room was staid and musty.

Indeed, there was a young elf busily wielding a broom, showing that Amoretta's impression wasn't just implied but also literal.

"I don't know where all this dust comes from," he muttered.

"Gaff," Lillet said.

"Yes?" He looked up from his sweeping, then over in surprise at Amoretta. "Hey, who's she?"

"This is Amoretta. She's going to be staying with me for a while."

"Staying here?" Gaff yelped. "You know that the professors don't want you having guests after lights-out."

"There's nothing to be done for it," Lillet said firmly. She was so very decisive, Amoretta thought. "This is the only place I can think of where she'll be safe."

"Safe?" Gaff squeaked again. "Safe from what?"

"Ms. Opalneria wanted to sacrifice her to destroy a devil."

"What?"

"Lillet rescued me from her," Amoretta added.

"She won't be a problem, so long as that sleeping spell holds," Lillet mused, "but who knows what else might happen? We just need a few days to work this out, though."

"Sleeping spell? You put a sleeping spell on a teacher?" Gaff boggled. Amoretta had been amazed, too; she knew that Lillet was a new student who had just come to the Magic Academy three days ago, and yet she had wielded Runes like a master magician. It was all very strange. How did she know so much, not just magic but other things?

I'll give you anything you want.

Lillet, trying to get Amoretta away before Ms. Opalneria could find them.

And what makes you think you have what I want?

Blunt, perhaps, but Amoretta saw no other way to be. The people around her fought so often with themselves, saying what they didn't mean and hiding parts of themselves. They were, she thought, afraid of being hurt, and yet how could anyone solve anything if they tucked their problems away? It seemed so obvious to her that most of the problems people had between each other were created by not only being untruthful but by the expectation that they wouldn't be truthful, so that unanticipated truth sometimes caused pain and embarrassment.

Oh, I know I do. It's love, right? And I'll give you as much as you want.

How had she known?

It's love, right?

They'd never even met, and yet Lillet had known all about her, that Amoretta was a homunculus, her body born not of nature but of alchemy, not of God's love but human hands. Her Creator said that she had the soul of an angel at her core, which made her current existence as a crafted thing almost painfully ironic.

Love.

She felt its lack so keenly. It was in everything she saw, in the people around her, in spirits and familiars like Gaff, in a bird or an insect or a tree, in everything living. Perhaps her Creator had spoken the truth about the angel, or perhaps it was because she was not part of nature, but she could feel how every life was loved by God, fully and completely, not because of their actions but because they were part of creation and there was no part of it that He did not love.

Yet Amoretta's Creator did not love her. He loved the knowledge he had put towards making her, but he did not love her. Without that, she was only an incomplete thing. One who was loved could merely exist and by simply doing so fulfill that love. One who was not loved needed a reason to be, a purpose to fulfill.

I'll give you as much as you want.

Did Lillet know? Did she have any idea what that meant?

Maybe, Amoretta thought, she'd have been better off with Ms. Opalneria. If she gave her life to destroy Grimlet, then she would fulfill a purpose. Her existence would have had meaning.

But she'd gone with Lillet instead. She wanted so much to believe what Lillet was saying. For all one hundred and six days of her existence she'd hoped for it, ached to have that emptiness inside her filled. Could Lillet do that?

I'll give you as much as you want.

Could she trust her, this girl with the dreadfully earnest eyes that threatened to shed tears every time they lingered too long on her? Could someone so young provide a love that was not infatuation or desire, not sympathy or concern, but could fill and sustain her for a lifetime?

I'll give you as much as you want.

Oh, if it were only true. She'd give anything for that--a futile thought, since no payment, no action, could purchase love. But even so Amoretta reached out and wrapped the coolness of her fingers around the warmth of Lillet's in a gesture that was both a hope and a promise.