"It was a good thing I made that deal with you back in the tower…things have been so much fun ever since then."
"I see. So, how is it that you're here, in a physical body no less?"
"It was during one of my trips. I should invite you along sometime."
"No, I'm fine with this dimension, thank you."
The wild brown hair, blue flowers, and staff ornamented with a human skull gave her away immediately. She was wearing a jacket, but the rest of her clothing still looked as shameless as ever, Lillet thought.
This woman was one of the most powerful magicians to ever exist, and one of the creators of the fabled Philosopher's Stone, Lujei Piche.
There were two problems with this situation, however. The first was that she was supposed to be in another dimension. The second was that she was also supposed to be dead, as she had been for years.
She was neither of those now…and she looked a bit irritated.
"Yeah, I'm a bit pissed off."
"Why is that?"
"Because – who's your friend over there? He looks a bit familiar."
"Oh, you should know him. Bartido, introduce yourself."
"O-Oh, yeah. I'm Bartido Ballentyne, it's nice to make your acquaintance, Miss-"
"No need to be so formal! Just call me Lujei, okay?" she said with a wink.
"Uh…okay," Bartido said, blushing madly. "It's really nice to meet you, Lujei."
"You're quite right, Lillet. I've seen him around the Academy…you've grown into a handsome young man, haven't you?"
"Thanks for the compliment…you're, uh…not bad looking yourself, if you don't mind me saying."
"Not at all! I really like a guy who's straightforward."
"Well, that's me, you know. I'm a pretty straightforward guy no matter what time it is."
I almost don't believe what I'm seeing here. Just shamelessly drooling over each other…what a perfect couple, Lillet said to herself.
"If you're finished flirting, Bartido…we have some work to do. Lujei, if you're still around, we'll talk later."
"Actually, I think I have something relevant to your interests' right here." She placed what looked like a piece of rock on the table in front of her.
"Hey, hey…" Bartido looked over the stone with realization. "It's the same one."
"You mean that's one of the fakes?" Lillet inquired.
"Yeah…" Lujei said bitterly. "A damned fake Philosopher's Stone. It's what dragged me back here, to this world."
"Do you know why it did so?"
"No clue…but I'm pissed off that someone is copying my work…" She picked up the stone and crushed it with one hand. "And doing such a fucked-up job of it."
Understandable…to have one of your greatest achievements just copied so sloppily like that, it must hurt terribly. Maybe that's one of the reasons she came back here, Lillet said to herself.
"I'm guessing you want to know who's behind this, right?"
"I've already got an idea…Calvaros' remnants from across the continent and maybe others in addition. Not only that, but a third power as well…"
"The government," Bartido said. "Those guys are really moving suspiciously."
"I assume that's so…but I guess puppets can't move their own strings, can they?"
"What do you mean by that?"
"…It's nothing, forget about it."
Lillet committed the saying to memory. Nothing, huh? I'm not so sure, Lujei. If there's something you're hiding…
"Anyways, would you like to come with us?" Lillet asked.
"I don't mind it. Besides, I'd like to see what that old man thinks of all of this."
"Good, then it's settled. We'll just make a stop at my place first."
"Old man…you're sure about this meeting with those stuffy officials?"
"Positive, positive. Just telling them about the Stone doesn't mean they can go home and make it from scratch. Not only that, but each of us three held a vital piece to the puzzle…and we each made an oath to conceal one thing in our processes from the other two, in case we were interrogated like this."
"Clever…so Calvaros had a part in this, and now that he's gone for good, the Stone can never be truly completed again. And even if the government managed to find that Lujei…interesting, indeed."
At the Magic Academy, Gammel and Advocat were discussing the details of the upcoming visit by the government. From what they knew, it was just going to be a small group of officials asking questions about the Philosopher's Stone.
"I don't need to tell you that appearances can be deceiving, Gammel Dore. There will be plenty of questions irrelevant to the topic at hand." Advocat remarked.
"Of course. I've prepared for a few of those myself."
"I don't much care for what happens in that meeting of yours. You old men can sit there and talk all you want until you die of old age, as long as it doesn't get me into trouble."
"Actually, we're going to have a few of the teachers at the Academy sit in on this. If there are any questions the government wants to ask of them, it can be done here as well."
"Oh, be serious…I actually have to listen to those bureaucrats repeat the same questions over and over? I'd rather be in the Ninth Circle."
"Would you rather have them conduct individual interrogations?"
"Is that the only alternative?"
"Well, it's the only lawful one."
Advocat sighed. "I suppose if it will…dispel suspicion. Regardless of the outcomes, I have the feeling we'll be running into trouble soon. Just a hunch."
The old man stroked his beard. "Hm. I'll keep that in mind, Advocat."
"Hey, I'm home!"
"You're back early, Lillet."
"There's something strange going on, so I've come to gather a few things. We're going to the Silver Star."
"Is there something wrong?"
"I'll explain it to you in a moment, Amoretta. Oh, could you…"
"The guests, right? You carry on, I'll tend to them."
"Thanks so much."
The group of three had just arrived at Lillet and Amoretta's place, to secure a few items as well as plan their next course of action in the matters concerning them.
"It's nice to make your acquaintances. I hope you feel comfortable here," Amoretta said politely.
"It's very nice to meet you as well, Amoretta," Lujei said.
"Oh, have we met?"
"Not really…but I know you very well."
"Well, I hope I've made a good impression on you in the past."
"Oh, you have. You were a very nice girl back then, at the Academy. I knew your old teacher, Chartruese."
"Ah, so he studied under you?"
"Yes…in more ways than one, I suppose," Lujei said with a nervous smile.
"That's good to hear."
"So, you're visiting Lillet right now, Amoretta?" Bartido asked.
"Yeah," he said, pointing to her attire, which consisted of pyjama bottoms and a t-shirt. "I heard you were a singer with the opera around here, too."
"Yes, I am. But I'm not visiting."
"Oh, you're staying for a while?"
"I already live here, Bartido Ballentyne," she said casually.
He froze up for a moment, and then started to laugh.
"Man, I couldn't tell if you were serious with that face of yours."
She tilted her head to one side in confusion. "But I am serious."
"I live here, with Lillet."
"Lillet told me that we would always be together, no matter what."
"Is that so…"
Lujei noted the perplexed look on Bartido's face, and figured out what was going on. A love triangle was interesting stuff, was it not?
"Amoretta…I'm thinking that I should have you come along, but I'm not too sure," Lillet said as she returned. "It might be dangerous when we get there."
"I can take care of myself, Lillet."
"I know, it's just-"
"Listen," Amoretta said, taking Lillet's hand. "You wouldn't have to worry about me at all, I've learned a lot from you over these years, and…I won't have you underestimate me, okay?" There was a tone of determination in her voice.
"I understand…sorry if it sounded like I thought you were weak or anything."
"It's okay, I knew what you meant, and I understand how you feel. Just don't put so much stress on yourself."
"You're right. In that case…" Lillet handed what looked like a keychain to Amoretta. It had miniature books hanging from it.
"Ah, the grimoires. I probably won't go through all of those spells, but it'll be useful."
"Okay, good. We need to get ourselves to our destination as fast as possible."
"Hiram? Are you not feeling well?"
"I just have a bad feeling, somehow. I don't know why."
Somewhere in the mountains, Hiram Menthe started to sense that something was off. If it wasn't coming from this kind of place, then what was he bothered about all of a sudden?
It did not make any kind of sense.
"Is it the air?"
"No, nothing like that, Opalneria. Just a feeling of general unease."
"I have to admit…I'm feeling the same way."
Opalneria Rain looked in the direction of the tower ahead, one that reached beyond the clouds in the atmosphere.
The Silver Star.
"Do you think everything's okay over there, Hiram?"
"…I honestly don't."
"Should we make our way over there?" Opalneria asked, brushing back her hair.
"I suppose we should. A visit wouldn't hurt at all, would it?" He pushed up his glasses and snapped his fingers once. A book popped out of thin air and into his hands.
"If there is trouble, though…"
"Yes, we'll have to deal with it."
"It'll be troublesome."
"Most things are, Hiram."
"…I suppose so."