A/N: Written for the Phoenix Wright Kink Meme. I know the writing style is a bit weird and I might have put too much Nick/Maya in it, even though I don't ship, but I felt that because Pearl was always confined to just one place, she wouldn't grow out of those ideals. I made the prose a bit clumsy, because I thought it fit Pearl's POV but I apologise if it was painful to read orz At any rate, please enjoy and review.
When Pearl turned 16, Mystic Maya told her 'You can go outside the village whenever you like now, Pearly. Just make sure to take the train and not to talk to strangers, alright? Oh and, no running off during training, either.' The two woman (though still girls at heart) smiled at each other over birthday cake.
Afterwards, Pearl was always skipping in and out of the village when she could. She went on weekends with Mystic Maya. She went on free afternoons by herself, or with the other acolytes. And once, when she was feeling very sad and lonely, she took the last train to town and returned by the first in the morning in restored spirits.
Pearl often wished she could meet Mr. Nick. Once, when she went shopping with Mystic Maya, she confided her hopes, to which Mystic Maya only replied 'Haha! You'd like that, wouldn't you?' She wondered briefly then if they'd had a fight, but reasoned that couldn't be it because you didn't fight with your special someone. Maybe he was too busy, and Mystic Maya only visited him occasionally at night so they could be alone, which Pearl certainly didn't blame her for.
As for Pearl herself... she didn't even try telling Mystic Maya about it. Not about this. Because it felt like her very own secret, something precious to be kept safe in her heart. And that secret was that the reason she loved going out so much was because she wanted to find her own special someone, too. She would know who he would be when she met him. She just knew it.
It was rare for Pearl to go out alone, not because she didn't like it, but because she preferred company. But today, she did go to town alone. She meant to go to the zoo, taking the long route through the park for the lovely day it was. Two older acolytes took the train with her, and they parted at the station. Pearl bought herself a new hat at a shop outside near the station and skipped off.
A lovely little stream ran through the park, mostly sheltered by tress along both banks. It was a personal favourite spot of Pearl, and it was here she went frolicking today. Though the park was full of picnickers and kite-fliers, here it was mostly quiet except for the tinkling of the stream, and the song of the birds.
The bank on Pearl's was made of grass and stones. It was a very beautiful, if hazardous road. Nevertheless, Pearl had been there so often, she didn't doubt herself as she ran along it, chasing a butterfly. She fancied she knew the path far too well to lose her footing, which turned out to be her downfall as her foot landed somewhere she did not expect it too, bringing her tumbling forwards, accompanied by her shriek. She struggled to regain her balance, twisting her ankle as she then fell on all fours.
The sharp stones scratched and scraped her palms and knees, but they were nothing compared to the pain that shot up her leg. She cried out, tried to sit, decided it was a bad idea, then burst into tears in a haze of confusion.
Her tears didn't stop, but her sobs did. She was surprised to hear another voice, and one tinted with a foreign accent at that. A moment later, she found herself scooped up into a pair of strong arms and carried off into the shade of the trees. Her sobs too stopped abruptly in surprise, although she felt no fear for the person who had picked her up so gently.
'My apologies if I'm being intrusive,' said her saviour. Pearl looked up and tried to see his face, but the trees overhead shadowed the both of them. 'But you looked like you needed help, and a gentleman always helps a lady in need.'
Pearl felt her heart picking up pace, pain forgotten. He set her down at the base of a tree and instructed her to lean against it while he inspected her ankle. She did as she was told, her hands clenched in her spirit medium uniform. Could this be the special someone she was waiting for?
Her knight in shining armour looked up and Pearl saw his face clearly for the first time. It was a very handsome, almost princely face. It didn't look like it belonged to California. He wore a newsboy cap on his head and a concerned expression on his face.
'May I take your shoe off?' he asked. She nodded, and he did so, undoing the buckle with nimble, yet gentle hands. His hands were warm as he slid off her shoe and rolled off her sock. 'It's not too bad,' he remarked. 'It's nothing that will last, but you won't be able to walk for a few days.'
'Oh no,' she whispered softly.
'Indeed.' He looked at her again, smiling now. 'What is your name?'
'Um... Pearl. Pearl Fey. C-can I ask y-y-yours...?'
'Luke Triton,' the boy said politely, extending a hand which she shook. 'It's a pleasure to meet you, Pearl. Can I call you that? You can just call me Luke. Let me just bandage that. You can squeeze my shoulder if it hurts you.'
Pearl blushed at the thought, but placed her hand on his shoulder anyway as Luke took out a handkerchief from his pocket and began to tie it around her ankle. He was obviously being as gentle as he could, but it still hurt her, her grip unconsciously tightening on his shoulder. He made no sign of having noticed, and bore it patiently.
'There, that's done.' Luke took the hand she had on his shoulder and stood up, helping her up as well. 'Lean on me and I'll take you home. We'll take a taxi. Where do you live?'
She put weight on her foot very tentatively, holding onto Luke very tightly. The warmth of his hand on hers was like assurance: this is my special someone! She felt wildly happy, and at the same time apprehensive. What if she never saw Luke again? He didn't look or sound like he came from around town. She had always believed everything would sort itself out once she met her special someone, but suddenly it was looking a lot more complicated.
'Are you alright, Pearl?'
'Y-yes! Um... actually, I live in Kurain Village. Everybody goes there by train, the train station is just a little bit away...' she said, trying not to sound so nervous. Mystic Maya was always bright and confident around her special someone, so Pearl should feel the same way, right?
'Oh, alright then. We'll make sure you get there okay.' He began to walk, half-carrying her along. She crawled along at a slow pace, but Luke never once showed impatience, or clicked his tongue. He merely smiled and murmured words of encouragement that made Pearl's heart flutter with pleasure.
'So you're a local in this area, Pearl?' he asked.
'Yes, I've lived in California all my life.' She hesitated before continuing, but you should always be truthful with the one you love, right? 'Actually, I've only ever lived in one village my whole life and I've only been allowed to go out by myself earlier this year when I turned sixteen this year so I'm a little...'
'Nothing wrong with that,' Luke answered pleasantly. 'My parents aren't moving-around people either, but I travelled a lot because I became the apprentice to a famous puzzle solver who people always called to help solve mysteries. He's the man who raised me to be who I am now, even more than my parents. ...I don't think that's a very gentlemanly thing to say though.' He laughed, and Pearl joined in.
'Wh-where are you from, Luke? You don't sound like you're from around here.'
'I'm from London, from the other side of the sea.' His tone was filled with pride for his city. 'I wouldn't live anywhere else in the world.'
'Are you studying here or something?'
'In a manner of speaking.' He paused in his tracks to adjust his hat. Her eyes followed his hand as it went to his head, then dropped back to her arm around his shoulder. He had the other hand around her waist. 'The professor's been asked to solve a mystery by an old friend around here, and I was doing some private investigating of my own.'
'Oh, I'm so sorry!' Pearl exclaimed, alarmed. She didn't want to be the means of hindering her special someone in something so important. 'It must've been such a nuisance-'
'No no, don't mention it,' he waved it away, sincerely happy to have been of assistance. 'The professor's trained me to be a true gentleman, and a true gentleman always puts a lady's needs first.'
'A-ah... I see...'
'I apologise if it bothers you that I mention it so much, but being a true gentleman is very important to me.'
'I don't mind at all.' Pearl smiled shyly up at him. 'It's hard to find a good, chivalrous gentleman these days.' She blushed and looked away.
'Thank you, Pearl,' he replied so quietly, if the stream had been any louder, she wouldn't have heard him.
They fell silent and didn't try to speak again until they had arrived into the open and were near the exit of the park.
'That's the train station, isn't it?' Luke asked, nodding in the direction of the building opposite the park.
'Yeah, that's it. Um...' She paused, feeling painfully shy. She didn't want Luke to leave her just yet, but was afraid of telling him this. She just knew they were meant for each other, but was she going too fast? Mystic Maya and Mr. Nick had known each other a year before they got together after all.
'Don't worry. I won't leave you until I make sure someone else is available to take care of you.' He smiled at her, reassuring her. She relaxed, and he helped her sit down on a bench before he went to buy them tickets. It wasn't until he had come back with the tickets that she remembered she hadn't given him any money for her ticket, but he told her not to worry about it, because, after all, a gentleman should be kind and generous, especially with beautiful ladies. Pearl almost wished he would stop mentioning being a gentleman if only because it made her face grow warm and her pulse pick up pace.
'Are you hungry?' he asked, joining her on the bench. 'There's an ice cream stand outside and I must confess I have a fondness for ice cream.'
'Okay, but let me pay for it this time,' she said quickly, taking out her purse.
'It'd be my pleasure –'
Luke looked surprised, and Pearl was afraid she had overdone it for a moment, but then he laughed and accepted the money she extended his way. 'Thank you Pearl. You're a real lady.'
Relieved, she smiled shyly, glowing at the compliment. She had always thought of all women as 'ladies', but to Luke, it seemed like so much more. She watched him as he walked away, admiring his figure and the way his hat was tipped just so. It was impossible to believe that she had met him less than an hour ago. It felt like it had been a very long time, and she was just catching up with an old friend who used to buy her ice cream, but now it was her turn.
When the train arrived, he picked her up again ('I don't mean anything rude by it, but you're just going to slow us down if we let you hobble to the train.' 'I understand, it's okay.') and found her a good seat inside. His behaviour attracted some attention, but he appeared not to notice, too busy making sure she was comfortable.
'Is that alright? Do you feel snug?' he asked her, backing into the seat opposite.
She nodded and leaned back against the seat. 'Thank you. I hope it's not troublesome for you to bring me all the way home.'
'It's my pleasure, Pearl. The professor will understand if I'm a little late back. He trusts me.'
Pearl paused before speaking. Should she ask? Could she ask? Or would it be impolite?
'Is there something on your mind, Pearl?' Luke asked, looking at her with concern on his face again.
She shook her head quickly. 'No. I was just wondering about "the professor". You always talk about him. May I ask who he is?'
'Of course you may.' He smiled. 'We're friends now. There's no need to be so timid.' He waited for her to nod, smiling too, before continuing. 'His name is Hershel Layton. He works as an archaeology professor at Gressenheller University, London, England. Despite this, he is also a famous puzzle solver, and people often call on him to solve their mysteries.'
'You mean like someone with a detective hobby?'
'Yes, like that. But don't try calling him a detective. He doesn't like it.' Luke's smile grew affectionate in some memory. 'He is, in short, an archaeologist, puzzle solver, and true gentleman. He stresses a lot on the importance of being a true gentleman. I am his apprentice, and aspire to be everything that he is.'
'Oh wow... that's so cool. I'm an apprentice too, but of a spirit medium.'
She had been confident in her speech, and was therefore confused when doubt crossed Luke's face. 'A spirit medium?' he repeated.
'Yes. Is – is something wrong?'
He looked her straight in the face for a while before relaxing back into his usual stance. 'No. I suppose everyone has their own beliefs. Are you religious, Pearl?' She nodded. 'I see. Well, I don't see how that should be an obstacle in our friendship, do you?'
She shook her head, although she didn't understand in the least what he was saying. What should be an obstacle in their relationship? She was beginning to be a little afraid, but, perhaps seeing the confusion on her face, he quickly continued 'Who are you an apprentice to?'
'Oh... the village of Kurain is a village for spirit mediums. People go there to talk to the dead, and we channel them. The Master of Kurain is my cousin Mystic Maya, and if she doesn't get a daughter of her own, I'm going to be the next Master. I'm working really hard; I adore Mystic Maya! She's an amazing acolyte and really powerful, there's no one who can do better than her and someday, I want to be just as powerful and disciplined as she is!' She paused to draw breath, and flushed when she noticed that Luke was looking amused.
'You really adore Miss Maya, don't you?'
'Yeah – just like how you adore Professor Layton.' They grinned at each other at the common understanding.
'The clothes you wear, are they part of your uniform?'
'Yes. We come from Japan, and Kurain Village is very traditional.'
'Pardon my ignorance, but is Kurain Village the only spirit medium village around? This is the first I've ever heard of any such thing.'
It was also the first time Pearl had ever heard of 'archaeology', but she felt this was something she should know, and didn't bring it up. 'I um... amn't sure... there's Hazakura temple which is high up in the mountains, but I think most other spirit mediums stick to Japan... so...'
'That makes your village quite special, hmm? I'm honoured to have been personally invited there.'
Pearl was honoured to have been the one to invite him.
'Speaking of small villages, that reminds me of a puzzle I heard once. Would you like to hear it?'
'A – a what?'
'A puzzle. As the great Professor Layton's apprentice, I'm naturally equally fond of puzzles as he is. It's alright if you don't want to hear it, I know not everyone can have the same hobbies.'
'Um...' she began slowly. She didn't want to make herself look like an idiot if she couldn't solve it, but she might look even worse if she didn't try. 'I don't m-mind.'
'Here goes, then,' he began cheerfully, seeming not to have heard her stutter. 'You have eight weights. They are all identical, and all of them weigh the same, but for one, which is lighter than the others. What is the minimum number of times you can use a double-sided scale to figure out which of them is the lighter one?'
To be honest, Pearl didn't have a clue. 'Could you... repeat that...?'
'Certainly.' He took out a notebook from his pocket and began to write it down for her, repeating the puzzle aloud at the same time. 'Do you think you can solve it?'
'M-maybe.' She was a little better at solving puzzles than Mystic Maya, but that wasn't saying much, seeing all the other things Mystic Maya could do ten times better than her. She accepted the notebook from Luke, and began to stare at the words printed neatly on the otherwise blank page. Luke had a very nice hand, but that was the only thing Pearl could surmise from the puzzle.
If she put four weights on both sides, then one would turn out lighter than the other. Then she could evenly divide the four weights that amounted to lighter than the others on both sides. Repeating this one more time would lead her to her answer. Is that right...? 'Is the answer... three?'
He laughed, but not cruelly jest. 'Try again.'
'Oh no.' She looked back at the puzzle, tilting her head sideways in an attempt to 'look at things a different way' as Mr. Nick put it. Maybe that was the key. It usually was to Mr. Nick's cases, and they were almost the same as puzzles, weren't they?
He watched her for a moment before saying 'Would you like a hint?'
She considered this for a moment before relenting, and nodding with a sigh.
'Don't worry about it if you can't solve it,' he said encouragingly. 'Everybody has to start somewhere, and your answer just now was pretty close. Here's the hint: try imagining this puzzle on a smaller scale. You have three weights, the same conditions as before. To find the light weight, you only have to measure two of them, right? So the minimum number of times you would need to find the lightest one would be one. Now try thinking about it on a bigger scale, namely, this puzzle.'
It was a moment before she remembered that staring was rude and closed her gaping mouth, looking away.
'Let me write it down,' he offered kindly. She gave him the notebook, and he did so before returning it. 'Don't hurry it, just think of a few possibilities and try them. It's like doing Math. If you keep trying, you'll eventually get the right answer.'
Pearl's knowledge of math was at a minimum, much to her dismay. Luke was so clever. How could he be her special someone? But maybe love wasn't like that. If she and Luke were truly destined for each other, then he wouldn't mind that she didn't know...
'I'm sorry, I don't know the answer,' she admitted, passing the notebook back to him. 'You see, I only ever learnt at Kurain, and we don't exactly have normal schools like other people... I only just learned what real schools are like when I was ten...'
'It's fine,' he said smilingly. 'There's nothing wrong with that. I'm sure you're smart in your own way, I can tell. And you'd probably learn fast if you ever had a teacher.' Pearl beamed at the compliment, but a part of her also wondered if he was just saying that. She didn't think Luke was the type to lie about anything, however, and if didn't think so about her, he would not have said anything at all. The thought put her more at ease. 'Would you like the answer?'
'Oh, yes, please.'
'The answer is two. Put three weights on each side. You'll have two left, right? Well if the six weights weigh the same, that leaves you to measure the remaining two. But if one side is heavier than the other, simply take the weights on that side, and measure one on each scale. If they weigh the same, the lightest one is the last one from the group, and if one side of the scale tips downwards... either way, you have your answer.'
'Wow...' Pearl breathed, gazing at him, awestruck. 'That's... really difficult...'
'It takes a while to get used to it. But don't let yourself down. The only thing I can channel to save my life is a television.' Again, a shadow of doubt crossed his face, but it disappeared so quickly, she began to doubt whether she had seen it at all. 'I'm sure you're good at it.'
'Yeah, I try to keep at the top of the class, but only because I want to make Mystic Maya proud.'
'I wasn't all that interested in puzzles myself when I was a child,' said Luke. 'But I want to make the professor proud. That's why I work hard.'
They say that opposites attract. Pearl had seen that in Mystic Maya and Mr. Nick. Mr. Nick was a good person, but he acted so sad sometimes. There was nothing wrong with that, but Mystic Maya was always smiling. Mr. Nick and Mystic Maya came from completely different places. But they really loved each other. Pearl had always thought her special someone would be the same, but then, love couldn't be the same for everyone.
'Will you go back to London?' she asked.
'Yes, I will as soon as the professor and I solve this mystery. But I'll come back often to meet you, Pearl. And I hope you'll come to London sometimes to meet me, too.'
She looked at Luke from across the carriage and a smile spread across her face, warmth filling her heart. Her life was now complete.