Sometimes, in the rare quiet moments in a busy Mage Consul's life, Lillet would think about that room again.
While she may have been travelling through the loops of time inside the Silver Star Tower for thousands of years, she had also stood inside that room for just as many centuries. Lillet Blan—the first Lillet? Another Lillet? The real Lillet?—had stood alone inside that dark room, watching the horrible movie of her own life replay over and over, ending in tragedy each time and knowing that death or imprisonment were the only outcomes.
Sometimes, Lillet wondered just who she really was. Where had all those trapped Lillets gone? If Lillet had entered that dark room and been forced to stay that first time, then who was the Lillet who had appeared to repeat the loops of time once more?
Even though the current Lillet only held twenty extra days in her memory, sometimes she wondered just how many memories she truly had, locked somewhere inside her mind…or inside the mind of one of the many Lillets who had stood and watched and lived and died inside that dark room.
Why was she the only one who had made it out? Was it just luck that had given Lillet a chance to live, while the other Lillets had vanished?
The memory of that dark room still seeped into her nightmares some nights, trickled in when silence reigned. And even waking did not help, leaving Lillet shaking and frozen until she felt Amoretta's gentle hands stroke the terror and the coldness away.
To endure that quiet…that darkness…that despair…
How many Lillets had gone mad inside that room?
How many of her had been glad to vanish, to be free in nothingness rather than live tortured?
The fact that the dark room still existed frightened Lillet more than she would admit to anyone, even Amoretta—although Amoretta knew, without her ever saying it.
How many lifetimes had she spent in there?
Lillet had only been inside that dark room once, and only for a short time. But she knew that the same room had been a prison for Lillet Blan…or a tomb.
Even now…even now, having broken free of that room, after having destroyed it forever—the dark room haunted her still.
"You should apply for that job."
"Ah!" Lillet jumped, turning to find her demure housemate hovering at her shoulder. "Amoretta—" She had been about to automatically blurt out Don't sneak up on me like that! but Lillet didn't, because she didn't want to accidentally hurt Amoretta's feelings. Besides, Lillet actually liked it when Amoretta would come up quietly behind her and hug her from behind, so she wouldn't want Amoretta to stop. "—why do you say that?"
Amoretta stepped closer, pressing lightly against Lillet's back as she leaned in to tap a finger on the sheet that Lillet had in hand. "The investigation of Lujei's disappearance would take you back to the Tower, yes? I think you should go."
"Hm?" Lillet answered blankly, distracted by the silken feel of Amoretta's hair brushing her cheek. Using the real dreaminess in her voice Lillet affected a bright, carefree air. "Yeah, it would be nice to visit Professor Gammel and Dr. Chartreuse." She laughed. "It might even be fun to see Mr. Advocat again, don't you think?"
When Amoretta didn't answer her, Lillet felt her forced smile fall.
Laugh it off, pretend you don't know what she wants to say…keep it light-hearted, then she won't make you admit it. But instead, Lillet's voice came out smaller than she had been trying for. "Please don't."
The dark room hovered in the corners of her vision.
Amoretta's hand dropped to Lillet's shoulder, but all her touch did was make Lillet feel even more ashamed. She wanted to pull away, but she couldn't. Lillet couldn't do that to Amoretta. So she didn't move, and her tremors betrayed her true feelings to both of them.
"Lillet, come here," Amoretta said firmly, running both her hands up Lillet's sleeves until she clasped Lillet's hands, laying the government documents down on the desk. Coaxingly, Amoretta tugged Lillet over to the couch in the corner of Lillet's home office, her red eyes locked with Lillet's as she guided them. All Lillet could do was weakly follow her, sitting down next to Amoretta and letting the homunculus pull her head down onto Amoretta's shoulder.
Amoretta settled Lillet snugly against her before draping the throw blanket over both of them with one hand. The comforting warmth broke Lillet's final pretence, and the young magician curled up desperately against Amoretta, shaking as Amoretta hugged her close and murmured assurances.
"It's alright, Lillet. I'm here with you—I'll always be here."
"I know," Lillet gasped, just barely keeping herself from crying. "I know I'm not alone. I know, Amoretta."
She felt Amoretta's feather-light kiss on her cheek.
"Don't be ashamed for being scared, Lillet."
"I shouldn't be scared." Lillet pressed her face against Amoretta's bare shoulder, the touch of skin on skin reassuring, like how her Mom's touch had always made her feel safe when she was a little girl. "I'm the Mage Consul."
A soft hand came up under Lillet's chin, lifting her face until she was gazing into Amoretta's eyes as Amoretta leaned down and kissed her warmly.
"You're Lillet," she said simply. "It's alright to be scared."
Lillet stared at her, still tingling from the kiss. Maybe that was what gave her the courage to say, "But I shouldn't be. It wasn't even me in that room…but all those Lillets were…are…me too, right?" She felt a tear drip down her face. "I can't help imagining what they…what I would have suffered. Being all alone in that room, not knowing if I was ever going to escape. What if that—"
"Oh Lillet, don't think like that—"
"—was the real Lillet? Then who am I?"
"You're the girl who offered me love," Amoretta replied, her arms tightening around Lillet. "You're the girl I love, Lillet."
Lillet gave her a wobbly smile. "I would have offered you love in all the loops. Any version of me would have."
"Then," Amoretta said, her normally calm face glowing with a gentle smile, "all of you are the real Lillet."
Lillet froze, staring at Amoretta. She had said it truthfully but offhand, and now Amoretta's reply was ringing through her head. Was Amoretta right? Were…were all the Lillets, well…all real?
"Lillet dear, you're thinking hard again," Amoretta said, tilting her head slightly.
"Just…about what you said." She didn't quite know why, but hearing Amoretta's faith in her made everything seem less…dramatic. Lillet was quite aware that whenever her head got clouded with worried feelings, she couldn't think well. Not thinking well never solved anything… As dizzying as Amoretta's presence made her, Amoretta also had an odd knack of always making things clear in Lillet's head. Lillet laughed, feeling the tense knot inside her chest relax a little. "Oh, little love, I should have talked with you earlier about this…you made it all make sense so quickly."
"Yes, you should have," Amoretta told her, and Lillet smiled at the familiar well-meaning bluntness. A soft squeeze around Lillet's middle underscored the affection. "But I understand why you didn't."
"I'm sorry," sighed Lillet, resting her forehead against Amoretta's. She felt Amoretta start a soothing stroking pattern on her back, making Lillet's eyelids fall shut with ease. "I've been a fool, haven't I?"
"There's nothing foolish about fear, Lillet."
Yeah, Lillet kind of saw that one coming. She did know it herself, but it's always hard to confront mixed emotions and come up with something positive out of it all.
"I…I think I wanted to do it. To not tell you…"
A flash of hurt went across Amoretta's face. Lillet laid a hand on the other girl's knee. She finished, "…so that I wouldn't have to admit to myself that I'm not brave enough to accept that I'm really not alone and that…I never really was."
She saw Amoretta frown a moment as she worked out the multiple negatives in Lillet's statement. Finally, Amoretta smiled slightly and said, "I think you're very brave, even if you don't think you are. But I'll always be here to let you know that you're loved and safe. You know that, don't you?"
"Of course." Lillet brought her hand up to stroke Amoretta's cheek, trying to reassure both of them. "You always chase my nightmares away, you do. I just wish that I knew how to make them stay away."
Amoretta's expression changed briefly, although her features smoothed back to one of supportive love. Even so, her voice was slightly chiding as she said, "You already do know, Lillet."
…Yes, Lillet did know.
She sighed, laying her head on Amoretta's shoulder and taking comfort in feeling Amoretta run her fingers through her hair affectionately.
"…I should take that job to find Lujei, shouldn't I?"
And even if she hadn't known that it was the right thing to do, seeing Amoretta's delighted, relieved smile would have convinced Lillet anyhow.
Lillet wanted to go alone.
Amoretta had protested, of course, but they both knew that Lillet needed to be alone.
She had to let go of the dark room by herself.
Lillet had given Professor Gammel an excuse about devils and not bringing Amoretta because of that, and her old teacher seemed to believe her. It was pure coincidence that he and Mr. Advocat brought Lillet to the same place she had wanted to go when they explained what had happened to Lujei Piche.
The yellowed stones were the same, and so was the chipped pedestal. Lillet stood in the same spot she had stood when she had met her other self for the first time…for the hundredth time…for the last time. And that's when she realized it.
Lillet didn't quite know how to explain how she had realized it.
No, she'll never meet that other Lillet again…
But Lujei had crossed a doorway into another world, into another life. Beginnings, not endings.
Lillet wasn't quite sure what had changed…was it the lighting? Was it the knowledge that the Lillet who had once descended those steps was a young girl, while the Lillet who climbed back into the light was finally a great magician? Was it the fact that the whole while she had been thinking of Amoretta, and how she couldn't wait to go home and have a warm dinner snuggled up on the couch together, so she really could care less about some broken room?
Whatever it was, Lillet knew that something that changed.
Maybe it was the lighting…
For a dark room, that chamber wasn't quite so dark after all. And Lillet liked the thought that her other selves were somewhere, in some place where they too had the chance to make a new beginning.
No, she'll never forget those long, whirling five days…but Lillet Blan has a life beyond that night.
A life that Lillet knew any version of her would be proud of.
Author's Note: As shown in the story, this takes place between the end of the game and the epilogue.
Thanks to DezoPenguin for betaing, and for just being enthusiastic no matter what odd story idea I come up with! ^^