The darker it got outside, the more Flora worried.
She couldn’t find a single person outside, which made sense. Who’d want to stay outside if there’s dead people walking around? Still, Flora was concerned that she might not be able to find an inn in time.
The voice was deep and raspy. Flora quickly whipped her head around towards the noise, only to see nothing but an empty alleyway.
“Pshaw! Up here, sweetheart.”
She looked up, and, in the shadows, a figure laid lazily on a rooftop, hands behind her head. The figure waved.
“Who are you?” Flora asked, trying her best to keep up a brave front.
“Jeez, you forgot already?” The stranger chuckled, scratching at her nose, “Haha! That’s a joke, it’s okay that you don’t remember. You didn’t really see much of me, did ya?”
Flora’s mind flashed back to a familiar eye behind the wall.
“Oh!” Flora said, clasping her hands together, “You helped me in, didn’t you? Thank you so much!”
The stranger quickly hopped from the rooftop to a windowsill and down in front of Flora. She stood tall above Flora, cracking her neck and shrugging.
“Guilty as charged.” The stranger said, “You seem nice enough. Old Bugeyes is a stickler…”
If Flora tried her hardest to dress like a proper lady, then the stranger tried her hardest to dress like an improper man. She was tall, strong, and had a dirty black jacket on. Her hair was a mess, one that almost covered the eyepatch she wore over her right eye.
The stranger put her hands in her pockets, looking over Flora.
“So,” She said, “I suppose the proper thing to do would be to introduce myself, huh? I’m Scout.”
Flora waited for a last name, but it never came.
“My last name isn’t important, unless you wanna divulge yours.”
Flora flashed back to the last time she accidentally said she was a Reinhold to someone she didn’t know well. It… It didn’t go so well. Turns out people will kidnap people who will inherit great amounts of wealth. Who knew?
“Right.” Flora said, “That was improper, I… I’m sorry. I’m Flora.”
They shook hands.
“Flora, huh? Real pretty name for a pretty lady. Whatcha doing here, anyways?”
“I’m here on the behalf of Professor Layton.”
Flora felt bad for saying that. It wasn’t a lie, but… it was the only way people would take her seriously, she supposed.
“Nah, man.” Scout huffed, shrugging, “I don’t care about that old coot. He’s not here, is he? I wanna know why you’re here.”
Flora’s eyes narrowed, and she pouted, poking Scout in the chest.
“He’s not an old coot.” Flora grumbled, “He’s my father.”
Scout widened her eyes in surprise, then sighed sheepishly.
“Right. Sorry, that was shit of me to say.”
Flora cringed at her use of a swear. The Professor would be internally screaming right now.
“It’s just… y’know.” Scout continued, gesturing around herself, “Here. It’s pretty locked up tight. I guess since you’re here on behalf of your pops, that means you’re here about the, uh… walking dead.”
The words sent a shiver down Flora’s spine.
“Yeah.” She replied, face definitely going pale at the idea, “I’m here to get to the bottom of this.”
“Well, it’s not just you now.” Scout said with a smirk, “I’m helping.”
“I’m helping, and there’s nothing you can really do about it, cupcake. I don’t exactly like having dead-but-also-not-dead bodies run around me and attack everything I’ve known, y’know? Besides, you’re too cute to get torn to shreds, that’s my job. I mean… my job to get torn to shreds. Not tear you to shreds. I don’t tear people to shreds.”
Some part of Flora revolted at the idea of sharing her first ever mystery with some stranger with a cute smirk, but another, more logical, part of Flora knew exactly what needed to be done.
“I would love to have you along.” Flora said, smiling gently as she took Scout’s hands in hers, “Thank you so much!”
Being alone was one of Flora’s biggest fears, and this whole fiasco could only distract her from that sinking feeling for so long. That, and… Flora didn’t want to admit it, but she was frail. She easily got dragged along by Clive that one time, anyways, and he wasn’t exactly a beefcake. Scout, on the other hand… She took that guard single-handedly and won, she somehow climbed onto that roof and hopped down with no trouble, she probably knows this town inside and out, and she stood an entire head above Flora. It wasn’t exactly rocket science.
“So…” Scout said, breaking the hand contact, “Uh, ya got any money?”
“I brought as much as I thought I would need. Why?”
“Well, with me on your side, you won’t need to use any of it. Trust me on this, everybody in this town owes me a favour or eight. Lady at the inn owes me a couple for fixing her fence…”
Scout leaned in close to Flora and continued.
“Just don’t tell her I was the one who broke it in the first place, alright?”
Okay, so maybe she’s a tad morally dubious and Flora is regretting that decision just a little. It still helps to have a friend in this town.
“I won’t.” Flora said, “Promise.”
“Good, good. C’mon, let’s go wait for all those weird things to pop up in a nice room. Would rather see it from a distance first, wouldn’t ya?”
Flora couldn’t decide if Scout’s… lax demeanour was annoying or charming. Charming...? Yes. Yes, it was charming. They were now friends forged under mysterious circumstances like in a mystery novel, and that meant that Flora had to accept all her little quirks. The Professor had his chronic untidiness, Luke had a tendency to be blunt, and she… well, she was a little too passive, too weak, too… incapable.
Maybe he was right about her…?
It was now that Flora realized she never answered Scout’s question.
“I would love to.” She said as politely as possible so Scout wouldn’t ask what she was thinking about, “This is incredibly kind of you, Scout. I’ll figure out what’s up with those… things for you and the rest of this place, I promise.”
Scout grinned widely, showing off a missing tooth in the process.
“Aye, princess, let’s go.” She said as she walked along, making sure Flora walked alongside her.
“You look like a princess. All… cute and shit.” Scout trailed off before jumping to the next subject, “Jeez, how old are you anyways? You got that mature aura about ya, but you also kinda look like a little baby deer. It’s weird, you got so many numbers flying out of you, but none of them really seem… right.”
“Why do you care…?” Flora asked, trying her hardest not to sound rude.
“Well, I know everything about everyone. It’s an integral part of my lifestyle. It’s weird, y’know, to have someone who I don’t know lots of things about.”
That sounded reasonable to Flora. She sighed in relief, realizing this wasn’t a scam of some sort.
“Right, um, I’m seventeen.”
“Haha, small world.” Scout chuckled, putting her hands behind her head, “So am I!”
Flora almost stumbled at that revelation.
“Wow.” Flora said without thinking, instantly regretting it, “I mean, uh… you feel so much older for some reason.”
“Some people grow up faster than others, sweetheart. Haha! C’mon, we’re almost at the inn.”
It wasn’t until after the conversation ended that the one burning question Flora had peeked out its ugly head. It was a question Flora knew she had no right to know mere minutes after meeting Scout, but it was a question she had a disgusting amount of interest in for no reason.
If Scout has lived here her whole life… Then why doesn’t she invite Flora to her home? Does she not have one? Or…
Maybe she just lives in the inn. An inn needs at least one customer to stay in business, doesn’t it?
Flora felt that was reasonable, so she didn’t pursue the thought any further.