The steady beating of the rain against the apartment window reminded Flora of her life at that moment: repetitive and gloomy.
Flora hated being alone, she hated it more than anything else in the whole world. Yes, hate is a strong word, but she meant it.
Being alone with your own thoughts is one of the most nightmare-inducing scenarios Flora could think of. Every day, every hour, every second, there’s the ticking of a clock in the back of her head, one that counts slowly, creaks loudly, and tells her that the Professor is never coming back. Flora was forced to go through that so many times, yet it never got better.
Today was yet another time.
Again, the Professor went off on… some kind of adventure with Luke. The details didn’t matter, she couldn’t come anyways. She never could.
Flora sighed as she sunk into the couch, putting her feet on the coffee table. She wouldn’t dream of doing that when the Professor was around, but he isn’t, so she did. These little acts of rebellion were one of the few things keeping her occupied, but it always wore off quickly.
It’s been… how long, again? Did it matter? It felt like forever to Flora.
It’s been so long, in fact, that a pile of letters had accumulated on the kitchen counter. It wasn’t a big pile, but it wasn’t a small pile, either. Flora had already checked it multiple times for mail addressed to her, mail that would definitely have come from St. Mystere as she had nobody else who would send mail instead of visiting, but there was nothing there for her. Nothing to take her mind off this aching boredom.
Flora’s gaze drifted towards the bookshelf. She’s read each book so many times, even the boring ones about… Gosh, Flora found them so boring that she didn’t even remember what they were about. She probably just went through the books looking for weird things to poke fun at.
Fun… Fun… Flora wanted to have fun. Everybody wants to have fun, it’s practically part of the human condition, right? Fun… Fun is… new experiences. New. Fresh.
Being left alone in the apartment isn’t fresh. It, quite frankly, was stale.
You know what’s fresh? Going on a mysterious adventure.
If it weren’t so unbefitting of a lady to grumble loudly, Flora would have done just that.
She envied Luke so much, she really did. He gets to go on all the fun adventures and not get kidnapped and replaced by an old dude and-
Yes, she wouldn’t have gotten in danger if she listened to the Professor, but it was still more fun than anything she could do in the apartment.
It was, quite honestly, unfair that Flora couldn’t go while Luke could. She’s seventeen, and he’s fourteen. She’s way older than him… Well, okay, not way older, but still.
It was the ultimate catch-22, in Flora’s eyes. She needed to prove herself capable in order to go on an adventure, but she needed to go on an adventure in order to prove herself. It was an endless, self-defeating cycle.
Flora’s gaze drifted yet again to the pile of letters on the counter. Maybe she could check it again, just in case…?
She got up and sifted through the pile again. Bill, bill, university stuff, boring stuff, don’t know what that is, bill…
One particular letter addressed to the Professor kept catching Flora’s eye. Unlike the rest of the professional-looking envelopes around it, this letter had a handwritten address, and was sealed with tape.
Tape… Flora could open it and close it back up again with more tape. Nobody would notice unless they really paid attention.
No. Flora never resorted to reading other people’s mail. She’s above that.
But also… It could be important…
Curiosity got the better of Flora as she slowly ripped off the tape. As she did it, she instantly started regretting it, but it was too late to turn back now.
Guilt weighed heavily on Flora’s shoulders as the envelope opened up. This is why she will never become a criminal: she’s too soft, too kind.
Carefully, she pulled the letter out. With slight hesitation, she read it.
Dear Hershel Layton,
We regret to say that we need your help. Our town of Wahldin is in grave danger. Every night, dead bodies rise from the dirt and roam around, destroying everything they see.
It is public knowledge that you have solved several weird cases before, so that is why we are asking you for help, Mr. Layton. Quite frankly, you are our last hope. We have been dealing with this problem for far too long.
Please do not make this public knowledge. Our reputation could plummet. We have attached a map to our town, so please use it. We wouldn’t want you to get lost.
We hope to see you there.
Sincerely, Ms. E
PS: I just realized I said “grave danger” and it was not intentional. This is no laughing matter. Don’t laugh.
Flora felt incredibly conflicted and incredibly confused. Dead bodies that walk? Dead bodies that… destroy things? What?
Okay. Think this through, Flora. This has to be some kind of scheme, right? Spectres and entire future Londons and boxes that kill you? They always ended up being fake.
Then again, lake monsters and time travel and so many weird and fantastical things ended up being real, Flora reasoned, so dead bodies that get up and do whatever they want to… They could be real, and that would be dangerous, right?
Jeez, Flora said that like she was going to go to Wahldin. They didn’t ask for her, they asked for the Professor… Besides she’s-
too weak, too dumb, too trusting, too inexperienced
-not supposed to go too far on trips when the Professor isn’t around, and this isn’t even a normal trip.
The catch-22 clawed at the back of Flora’s head again. Prove yourself to go on an adventure, go on an adventure to prove yourself, prove yourself to go on an adventure, go and prove yourself, go and prove yourself-
Nobody’s here to say she can’t go. Besides, she doesn’t know when the Professor will be back… She’s practically their last hope, right? It would be immoral to just abandon an entire town, right? Flora anxiously ran her fingers over the map, hissing to herself when she saw what it really was.
A puzzle map. It’s a puzzle map. A map that is a puzzle. Flora’s head spun just looking at the thing.
Okay. This can be salvaged. Wahldin. They said it was Wahldin. She just needed to find an actual map and use that instead.
Flora sighed as she grabbed her change-purse, heading off to buy a map.