- Prologue -

The Golden Apple

It was a warm summer's day as we drove. The scenery was a peaceful countryside, insects humming about, the greenery and lands stretching out like green oceans for miles and miles. I sat in the backseat, absentmindedly reorganizing my pocketbook while Hershel drove happily and Luke gazed out the window.

Occasionally, Hershel and I would meet gazes in the mirror and give each other small smiles. I've known him since we were born; we were best friends growing up, and although we fought and hated each other sometimes, we always made up. It didn't help, though, that a large fact still remained. I was hopelessly in love with him, but I was too scared and in denial to admit, and besides, he didn't feel the same way. I don't know how I could recover from that blow if he said he didn't like me anymore than a friend. Plus, it could ruin our ever long friendship.

"I don't understand, Professor," Luke said suddenly, holding up the letter we'd received from one called Lady Dahlia. "Why are we going to help solve an inheritance dispute?"

"Because Hershel's been dying for an adventure and this is the only one that would accept him," I said from the backseat, sniggering. Luke joined in.

Hershel rolled his eyes. "Luke, Sawyer, do you think I would really take on such an ordinary request as that?"

"Knowing you, you wouldn't," I mumbled, catching his eyes.

We teased. We've always had and we always will. But, of course, I never mean those things. I would never mean those things. And I knew that Luke would always get highly amused by our teasing, so we did it often. Well, I probably did it more than Hershel, because he was such a gentleman, and he didn't want to hurt my feelings. Maybe that's why I've fallen in love with him more and more everyday.

"Oh, no!" he said, ignoring my comment, but he had the biggest grin on his face. "This is an altogether unique and exciting situation, and it has piqued my intellectual curiosity.

"But, I suppose it would be best to explain the case before we arrive at our destination."

"Yes, Hershel, that would be helpful," I told him, serious this time and curious. I had been wondering why Hershel had called me up and told me he would be going on a mystery-adventure and if I was able to go. Of course, I had canceled all plans. For him. I was smitten with him; it was pretty bad.

Hershel cleared his throat.

"Two months ago, Baron Augustus Reinhold passed away." He shot me a sympathetic glance as I grimaced. I didn't do well with death, ever since my parents died when I was just eighteen and fresh out of school, about to head into college. But now, it's okay. I've accepted it.

"Shortly after his passing, his will was disclosed. The contents of it were fascinating, to say the least. The Reinhold family treasure, the Golden Apple, is hidden somewhere within this village. To whomever successfully locates this treasure, I offer the whole of my estate."

"Wow," I breathed out, "giving someone your whole estate just for finding a pretty apple."

Hershel nodded. "Naturally, those who attended the reading of the will immediately set out in search of the Golden Apple. But, in the end, everybody came back empty-handed. It turns out that no one had even heard of such a treasure existing, until its mention in the will."

"That's some puzzle all right," Luke exclaimed, holding the letter still.

"Quite," Hershel replied. "Augustus Reinhold staked his entire fortune just to create one more puzzle before his death. What a perplexing individual. I wish I could I have met him while he was still alive."

"Something tells me, Hershel, that you two would've got along great," I said, a laughing tone in my voice. Luke sniggered.

I saw Hershel's cheeks flare. Time to make him embarrassed.

"By the way, honey, just what is this Golden Apple?" I asked him and he got redder, if possible. Luke sniggered louder.

"S-Some sp-speculate it's a rare an-antique," Hershel explained, his voice wavering. He cleared his throat and recovered. "While others say it could be a gem, yet its identify remains elusive. But, I can't shake the feeling that this matter is linked to some larger mystery. Something huge."

"And probably dangerous," I added ominously.

Hershel looked quite worried as he chuckled nervously and looked at me. What? Was he worried about my safety? I was a big girl now, not the little girl he thought he saw, but it still made me blush at the thought.

"Aha! Is that your famous intuition acting up again, Professor?" Luke asked while chuckling.

"Hm. Well, our first step needs to be getting to town," Hershel said, his voice a bit stern. Apparently, my comment about the journey being dangerous had toned him down.

"This is all so exciting!" Luke exclaimed happily.

"I know, right!" I told him, equally excited and happy.

"I hope St. Mystere is ready for the famous archeologist -" Luke started, but I cut him off.

" - and puzzle-solving detective, Hershel Layton!"

"Ha ha! Oh, Sawyer, you know as well as I do that I am no detective."

"Stop being so modest, sweets, you know you are," I told him, embarrassing him again. I was on a roll.

Hershel cleared his throat again, his mood excited again. "Augustus Reinhold's wife, Lady Dahlia, has asked me to investigate the situation. It seems she came across my name by chance when reading an article about me in the papers."

"And you immediately decided to take her up on her request, eh?" Luke questioned, a sly tone to his voice.

I scowled almost instantly and fell back into the seat. Yes, I was jealous, and although I didn't want to look it, I was. Lady Dahlia was probably regal and tall, like most Ladies, while I would be the short and frumpy best friend. Life wasn't fair.

Hershel laughed. "Well, Luke, a true gentleman never refuses the request of a beautiful lady." He looked at me as he said this, but I pretended not to notice. After all, he's called me beautiful multiple times.

"If you say so, Professor…"

"We should be nearing the town by now," Hershel said, changing the subject. "Look at the map in the envelope and help me with directions, please."

"You got it!" Luke said.

I peeked over Luke's shoulder to see the map, only to find a piece of paper with different pathways and five different locations. I scanned the riddle quickly, fond the answer without difficulty, and sat back. Hershel raised his eyebrows at me, but I smiled cheekily and waved a hand.

Sometimes I didn't act or look it, but I was extremely smart.

"What in the -?" Luke exclaimed. "What's this -?"

"Lady Dahlia seems to have given us a test. We'll need to decipher this map in order to find the village. She wants to see if we're capable of cracking the mystery surrounding the Reinhold fortune."

"Which, I think we're plenty capable enough," I added, smiling.

Hershel smiled back. "Care to give it a go, Luke?"

"I'll do my best! A puzzle like this should be a snap for the apprentice of the great Professor Layton."

"Very well, Luke. I'll leave this one to you. Think of it as a warm-up for things to come."

Luke huffed. "'My village is on a road that leads to no other towns. I look forward to seeing you there.' That's all then? Hmm…Layton's apprentice saves the day!" He suddenly exclaimed, pointing to a village located northwest, the one that wasn't connected any other pathways. "Here it is, Professor, Sawyer!"

"Good job, Luke," I congratulated.

"Right you are. We should see it on the horizon any moment now," Hershel said, winking at me and I winked back.

"Huh? Professor…do you mean to say that you already figured out the town's location?"

Hershel laughed. "I'm afraid I couldn't help myself. A basic puzzle like that is easy enough to solve with a glance."

"Hey, I solved it, too!"

Hershel laughed again. "Anyhow, you'd best gather your things, Luke, Sawyer love. We've arrived." He didn't catch himself saying love, but I did, and I blushed furiously.

Little did I know that this whole adventure would changed my life, forever.