Leon closed his eyes while he listened to the other members of Targent. What he heard made his stomach turn. He felt uneasy, more than that.
“Mr. Altava has a daughter. Has just been born, a few months ago,” someone interposed, “What should we do with her?”
Leon breathed in deeply. His colleague had asked the question he hadn’t dared propose. He already was a few years with Targent by now, but it felt as if he yet had to prove himself for the others to fully trust him, especially the boss, Thomas Simon.
Said man merely shrugged. “The girl is not of our interest. Concentrate, Shir!”
Alastair Shir ducked his head. “Yes, Sir. Sorry.”
Leon couldn’t follow the rest of the meeting. He couldn’t get his thoughts away from Mr. Altava’s daughter. He had to think of his own sons whom he’d had to leave behind all those years ago, not knowing what had happened to them. He still didn’t know.
Theodore must be eight by now, Hershel eleven; not a day did pass without him and Rachel thinking of them. He couldn’t do anything for them; it was too late. But they had at least each other. The little girl had no one.
The shuffling of people and chairs brought him back to reality. He quickly stood up, nodding to his leaving colleagues while he made his way to his boss. He was still talking to someone, so Leon waited patiently until he turned towards him. “Bronev. What’s the matter?”
Though it wasn’t in his nature, he always felt intimidated by the man. He was, by all means, equal to him in any way but there was something about him… but that wasn’t important right now. Leon straightened himself. “It is regarding the girl Mr. Shir mentioned earlier… Altava’s daughter.”
“Yes. What about her?” Simon hissed, more than unfriendly.
Leon gulped. “I think she can be of good use for us, Sir. If you allow, I will tell you what I mean.”
Simon raised his eyebrows, but Leon’s words seemed to have caught his interest. “Oh? Is that so, Bronev? Please, enlighten me then.” Sarcasm was within every word and Leon couldn’t put into words how much he despised this man and what he and his organisation had done to him and his family. For them, it was too late; he would be damned if he let the same happen to Altava’s daughter.
“Instead of just leaving her, we could take her in. Train her right from the cradle to make her a loyal servant to our cause.” He hated talking about this little girl like that, like she was an experiment. All he wanted was to give her a happy childhood. He doubted he could do this in a place like The Nest properly, but it would be, after all, a lot better than any children’s home she would be put into. “The best people we have are the ones we recruited at a younger age; why not start even younger? She could be the best-trained warrior we could have.”
Simon seemed to contemplate what Leon had just said. He prayed the man would give in.
“I quite like that idea, I have to admit,” he murmured after a few seconds of silence, “but, as interesting as it sounds, Bronev, who will guarantee me that it works? And who will take her in? I don’t have time for something stupid like that.”
“I will,” he replied without missing a beat.
“Hmm.” A sly smile spread on his boss’s face. Leon hoped he wouldn’t remember the sons he had. “Well, well, Bronev, if you say so. It was your idea, after all. If it works, I shall have a great repayment for you and your wife.”
Leon couldn’t prevent himself from smiling. “Thank you, Sir. I’ll do my very best to ensure the success of the experiment.”
They nodded at each other and Leon took it as his sign to leave. When he was almost at the door, he heard the pinched voice of his boss once again. “If it doesn’t work, we’ll have to get rid of her just like her father. I thought you might want to know that.”
Leon couldn’t do as much as standing there while the others infiltrated Altava’s flat and threw everything around while searching for the documents and data he had embezzled. Even though Leon already was a few years with Targent, he still despised what they were doing. How could he ever not do so?
Altava’s gaze landed on him when they were tying him up for interrogation and, inevitably, to drag him away to… get rid of him. “Leave me alone! I have always been loyal to the organisation!”
“Hmm… You always had been would be more fitting, I believe,” the boss chuckled. Leon could see fear spreading on Altava’s face.
“No, I am! I don’t even know what this is about!”
The boss just paced the room slowly as if he was making a show out of it. He probably was. “Oh, you know exactly what this is about, Altava. I’m just waiting for my loyal men to get my documents back. Not that I would need the proof.” And when they showed up and handed the boss the said documents, Alatava’s face fell and he became as white as a wall and equally silent. “Now? Not so loud anymore, hmm, Altava?”
“Please,” he murmured, “I have a little daughter. I’m all she has.”
The boss chuckled once more. “Oh, I know that, don’t worry. Bronev? Get the girl so we can leave.”
“Yes, Sir,” Leon obliged, immediately going to track down the room. It was fairly easy, it was the room with the colourful letters which spelled out “Emmeline” on a door right next to him. Two others followed him. Behind them, Altava snapped. “NO! Don’t you dare to touch her! DON’T YOU DARE TOUCH MY EMMY!” Leon could hear how he struggled and had to be held down by the others.
He was surprised to find the little girl wide awake, yet silent. Both of his boys had always screamed as soon as they had been awake, hungry or bored.
Little Emmeline couldn’t be older than six or seven months. Though there was nothing she shared with his sons when they had been around her age, she yet reminded him so much of them when he took her out of her little bed. “Hello Emmeline,” he whispered as he held her close, actively ignoring Altava’s screaming on the outside. He turned to his colleagues. “Pack everything, we might need so we can leave.” He already was at a higher rank, being with Targent for quite a few years now, which was why he could give them commands.
“Yes, Sir,” they obliged just like him before and did as they had been told. Like everyone.
Emmy was six when Rachel fell severely ill for the first time.
With way too much worry for a six-year-old in her eyes, Emmeline sat on Rachel’s bad and held her hand. “Aunt Rachel, do you want some more tea? Uncle Leon and I made some for you,” she said in her tiny voice which had yet to grow strong.
Rachel smiled tenderly at the girl who was so much like a daughter to her. “That would be nice, sweetie, thank you. But don’t you have somewhere to be right now?”
She looked onto the sheets refusing to meet her gaze. “Martial arts practice,” she murmured before she raised her head again. “But Uncle Leon allowed me to stay here with you!” A grin spread across her face only to bee seen by Rachel for a second before Emmy turned around. “Uncle Leon! Auntie Rachel said she wants some more tea!”
It didn’t even take Leon a minute to come. “Here, my dear,” he murmured lovingly as he sat next to Emmeline and handed his wife the cup. She had to let go of the girl’s hand to sit up and take it.
“Thank you.” Her hands wrapped around the cup to heat up as she took a sip from it. She looked at her husband concerned. “Dear, you have to take Emmy to her class. She can’t just miss it.”
Leon bit his lip. “I know. But I didn’t want to leave you and Emmeline can’t go alone.”
She laid one hand onto his. It was cold and too light. Leon raised it to his mouth to kiss her knuckles lightly before he breathed some warm air over them. He knew she was right, which serious consequences it could entail.
“I’ll be alright, don’t worry.”
He sighed. “If you say so…” He turned to the girl who was still watching them. “Emmeline, please get ready. I’ll bring you to practice.”
She opened her mouth. “But Uncle Leon, I want to stay until Auntie Rachel is better!”
“No. Get ready now, Emmeline.” His voice sounded stricter than he had intended to, but she had to listen.
Emmeline crossed her arms and fought a silent battle of gazes with her uncle before she slipped from the bed defeated and shuffled away. “And please, walk properly.” She immediately straightened herself before she left the room, and Leon turned back to Rachel who looked as worried as he was…
“I thought I had made myself clear. Altava is your responsibility! I don’t have time for some stupidity like this!”
“I’m sorry, Sir,” Leon said, having lost count how often he had already apologized since he had entered Simon’s office some time ago. Couldn’t be more than five minutes though.
“I can’t hear it anymore! I hope you have a good explanation, Bronev!” he snarled.
“My wife, Sir. She’s sick and Emmeline wanted to stay with her.”
“That’s not an explanation, Bronev!”, he barked, and Leon flinched. He silently cursed himself for it. “She’s a child! Just drag her away if it has to be! God damn, I’m surrounded by idiots.” He had only muttered the last part to himself, but Leon had heard it and he knew that this had been the intention behind it.
“I’m so sorry, Sir. Emmeline is quite stubborn, but I’ll make sure it won’t happen again.” He ctook a deep breath to calm his nerves. They were strung to a breaking point.
Simon chuckled. “Well, though stubbornness can be something good… make sure she listens! She should be stubborn to finish all tasks we give her!”
“Of course, Sir. I’ll ensure that.”
“You better do. I told you what will happen when she steps out of line.”
“Emmeline, we have to talk.” These were Leon’s first words once they had entered their flat after he had picked her up from the martial arts practice, even before he checked on Rachel.
“Have I done something wrong, Uncle Leon?” she asked him timidly as he crouched down to be at eye level with her.
“You can’t be late for practice again, you understand? I won’t allow it anymore, no matter if Aunt Rachel or I are sick,” he told her sternly. “I let you get away with it this time but that was wrong of me. You always have to be on time, not just for practice.”
“Always?” she questioned.
She frowned. “Will I get in trouble if I’m late? What if I oversleep or play with Aunt Rachel and forget about the time?”
Leon shook his head. “We’ll make sure that won’t happen.” He tried to smile but he believed he had failed miserably.
Emmeline shifted from one foot to the other, avoiding his eyes. “Will I get in trouble if I’m late?”, she repeated her question timidly.
Leon sighed. He had thought she might not notice that he hadn’t answered it. But she was too stubborn and too quick to catch up on things for her age. “We all will. Just… remember that being on time is very important here, will you do that for me?”
She nodded enthusiastically and he smiled. He succeeded this time. “Now, why don’t you get out of your sweaty clothes and then we look after Auntie Rachel? Because I’m sure she wants to see you and not smell your stinky clothes,” he joked.
Her eyes lit up. “I’m not stinking, Uncle Leon!” she exclaimed giggling.
He sniffed the air and grimaced. “Puuh, you are! I’ll be with Aunt Rachel, alright?”
“Alright, Uncle Leon!” She grabbed the for her far too big bag up with no problems before hurrying off to her room. Leon’s face fell. Had he been too severe with her? Or should he have been stricter? He had never had these kinds of problems with his boys, obviously. And even if, so much time had passed… he was missing them so much…
When he entered the room, Rachel was wide awake and seemed to have overheard the entire conversation judging by her gaze. He raised his hands, reaching out to her. His voice and gesticulation, his countenance, everything about him expressed pure helplessness. “What should I have done?” he asked her like she was the one with the answer to their misery. “You know what is at stake.”
But she wasn’t. “I do,” she simply whispered, reaching out to him and enveloping him in a tight hug when he sat down next to her. They stayed like this for few moments until they heard tiny footsteps approaching. Pulling apart, they plastered false smiles on their faces to protect the girl from the monsters around her…
Emmeline was ten when she finally understood the concept of families and asked: “Uncle Leon, where are my parents? Why don’t I live with them? Didn’t they like me?”
It was just after they had gotten home from her horseback riding lessons which she had begged him to may attend to for over a year before he had finally given in. Leon wanted nothing more than to look after Rachel who has been sick for so long now immediately but Emmeline’s grip on his sleeve was strong and he didn’t have the heart to simply turn away.
So, after a few seconds of silence, he answered: “Your parents died a long time ago. That’s why you live with me and Aunt Rachel.” He crouched down. He still had to do so because, Emmeline might be stronger than any ten-year-old, but she was still so small. “I’m sorry, Emmeline. Should I have told you earlier?”
She shook her head. “No… it’s alright, Uncle Leon. Were you friends with them? Can you tell me something about them?”
He sighed. How should he tell her what had happened to her parents, to her father to be more precisely, but avoid her hating Targent like he did? She had to work for them and not draw any attention. She would have to face the same fate as her father otherwise.
“I didn’t know them very well, to be honest. Your mother died a few days after you had been born. And your father… he didn’t die very long after,” he explained hoping she wouldn’t question it any further. But Emmeline wouldn’t be Emmeline if she didn’t.
“So, you didn’t know them very well? Why would they give me to you then?” she asked with big eyes and a trembling lower lip. She bit down onto it like she was trying to stop the tears forming in her eyes from spilling.
“They didn’t exactly have much of a choice,” he answered carefully, stroking her hair soothingly before pulling her in for a hug. Emmeline wrapped her tiny arms around his shoulders and sobbed quietly. Her hugs would be surprisingly strong to anyone else, but not to Leon.
His stomach turned at the heart-breaking sounds she was making. She had been so happy when he had picked her up, like she usually was after visiting the horses. Why couldn’t it always be like that?
“I tell you something, Emmeline,” he whispered. She didn’t give him a sign, but he knew she was listening. “Your father… I didn’t know him very well, but I knew the situation he was in. And when I saw you, I couldn’t leave you there. I actually have two sons, you see. And… I had to leave them when they were very young. I don’t know what happened to them or where they are now, and I couldn’t let the same happen to you. Can you understand that?”
She had stopped crying and was instead watching him with huge watery eyes now. “Why did you have to leave them? Why couldn’t you just take them with you like you did with me?”
And how was he supposed to explain that now? “There were… some really bad guys. It was better for them like this. I wanted to protect them.”
And then, Emmeline, the girl with the huge black eyes, who was still way too small and way too strong for her age, asked with the voice of an old lady who had already seen everything bad the world had to offer: “Did the bad guys get my dad, too?”
And what was Leon supposed to answer?
When Rachel died Leon swore to himself to do everything to make this world a better place; to reveal the Azran’s legacy and make it his, to eventually create a better world for his sons, for Emmeline.
Because that was what Rachel would have wanted.
He sat beside her and cried, having sent away Emmeline long ago. He couldn’t know that she was standing outside the door with tears in her eyes and fear grasping her heart.
Auntie Rachel was gone. Uncle Leon was all she had left now in this world where the bad guys could get you any day if you weren’t on time.
Emmy turned eleven soon after and was old enough to notice her uncle’s change in behaviour quickly.
The days became stricter. Uncle Leon was gone working most of the time, and Emmy started going to the martial arts lessons herself. School work had to be done until then.
On her own, of course. Uncle Leon wanted her to become more independent. So, Emmy did what he asked of her.
When there were no official lessons, Uncle Leon would teach her more martial arts, and then also on days she had already had lessons. Most days would leave her too exhausted to do more than shower and have dinner before falling into her bed like she was dead.
And the next day would just be like the last.
Uncle Leon would want her to wake up earlier to go for a run. He wanted her to be more untiring. He told her about the great mission she would have to go on one day, and that she needed to be prepared for that. So, Emmy would nod enthusiastically, and did as Uncle Leon told her to.
Her days became fuller and fuller, as to a point where she barely had time for anything else besides school and training and sleeping.
“Sorry, I have training today,” she would tell her friends.
“I can’t hang out with you, I have spy-training today!”
“I’m sorry, I really need to catch up on sleep.”
“Sorry, I have to train today.”
To a point, where even her teachers noticed it. And not just that. The bruises that formed regularly from the several training sessions didn’t go unnoticed. Her uncle would be asked which training specifically Emmy attended to and if she got enough sleep.
“You can’t just go around and tell everyone,” Uncle Leon told her when they drove home from school after they had called him in. “It needs to stay a secret, Emmeline. You know that.”
So, Emmeline started lying.
“Sorry, I have to study.”
“I’m sorry, my uncle and I have already planned something for today. We’ve been spending so little time together lately!”
“Tonight? Uh, I have this book I really want to finish. Sorry! But you can count me in next time!”
No calls from school came in anymore and Emmeline was happy that Uncle Leon wasn’t bothered anymore. She didn’t want to cause him any trouble. She’d do anything to have him smile at her. And when she did as he told her, he would.
Home became stricter, working hours longer and Emmeline was determined to do what Uncle Leon asked for. After everything Uncle Leon had done for her, that was the least she could do.
Emmeline was fourteen when Leon realized that she, the little experiment, had turned out just like anticipated.
She was training with the other members of Targent, every single one of them at least five years older and way taller than her, when he realized it. Leon, having become a high-ranking member of the organisation in the meanwhile and being determined that the Azran relics would be found under him one day, was checking on the new recruits and trying to decide who of them wold be worthy of going on the next mission with him, when he got the idea.
He beckoned one of the trainers over once Emmeline had noticed his presence and told the man to rebel a bit against him. Not too much but enough that everyone would notice. He did as he was asked, of course. Almost everyone did what Leon Bronev said, no matter which rank.
Emmeline noticed it immediately. Leon could watch contently how she knocked out the guy she had been training with, surely three times her size, out and ran over to him. “Get away from him!” she told the man, being ranked a lot higher than Emmeline herself while Emmeline still had the stature of a little girl.
He merely raised an eyebrow and chuckled. “Or what, little one?” he asked.
Emmeline made short work of him. He had barely blinked, then he was lying on the ground, groaning because of pain. “Touch my uncle again,” she hissed, “and you’ll pay for it even worse.”
She then looked up, being afraid that she had stepped out of line, but Leon smiled proudly. “Very well done, Emmeline. Now, go back to training.”
She practically beamed at him and must surely grow a few centimetres. “Yes, Uncle Leon,” she grinned and walked away, and Leon knew that “the little experiment” had gone all too well.
“Well done, Bronev,” Simon said as he reported the incident. “Seems like she’s the perfect warrior. Ultimately loyal to Targent.”
Leon chuckled. “Targent?” His chuckle turned into a barking laugh as he towered Simon, his eyes dark and full of hate. The times when he’d been intimidated by him were long over. “Oh no, she’s ultimately loyal to me. And you better hope I’ll never turn against you.”
It was the first time, anyone ever got to see Thomas Simon, the actual leader of Targent, trembling because of fear.
Emmeline was fourteen when Thomas Simon died because of a sad accident. No one would miss him, and no one questioned it. Neither his death, nor when Leon Bronev, Simon’s right hand, became Targent’s boss.
Emmy celebrated it with her uncle, but it was a short celebration. More and more important people came over and he had less and less time for her. Besides martial arts, he taught her politics and archaeology, about the Azran specifically.
Even though Emmy sometimes found herself thinking how much Uncle Leon had changed since Aunt Rachel’s death and that some things couldn’t be good, she never voiced her concerns or took further note of them. She would help Uncle Leon, no matter what was to come.
Just like he had.
When he told her, she wouldn’t need her horseback riding lessons anymore, she wouldn’t argue with him though she loved these lessons. By fifteen, she was a fairly good rider, and could see the point he had. She could need the extra time for school and training with Uncle Leon anyways.
When he told her to train more, Emmy didn’t argue.
When he told her to study more, Emmy didn’t argue.
When he asked her to leave the house because he had important people over, she didn’t argue.
Emmy could argue very well and did it a lot, still being the stubborn girl, she had always been.
But she simply didn’t argue when it came to Uncle Leon.
He was all she had, and she would never upset him.
Emmy was sixteen when she got in trouble.
If it wouldn’t have been for this Professor Layton, this would have gone a lot worse. But the worst was yet to come. The police inspector had already called her uncle who was now on his way to pick her up since she wasn’t of age yet.
It was a silent car ride and she cursed Inspector Grosky for calling her uncle even though she could understand his point.
Uncle Leon didn’t say a word, but Emmy could feel his disappointment. “I’m so sorry, Uncle Leon,” she said over and over until he snapped. Which was just after entering the flat and closing the door.
“Quiet, Emmeline,” he barked, causing her to wince. When Uncle Leon cleared his throat, she immediately straightened herself and looked up, not having noticed earlier how slumped her posture must have been. She knew how much Uncle Leon hated it.
“While I understand that things like these can happen, Emmeline,” he began, making her sigh relieved, “I’m still disappointed. Haven’t I always taught you go unnoticed and be careful when you are out? What would you have done if this man hadn’t showed up, hm? I taught you to get yourself out of situations like that, didn’t I?”
“You did, Uncle Leon,” she answered quietly. “I’ll be more careful next time. I promise.”
“There might not have been a next time if it hadn’t been for this man. You understand?”
“Yes, Uncle Leon, I do.”
He nodded. “Good. Now, I’m sure you still have some homework to do? I’ll call you when dinner is ready.” He smiled at her. “I know you’ll be more careful next time, Emmeline. You always keep your promises.”
She smiled back at him before she went to her room. He was right, she would always keep her promises.
Just like Uncle Leon, when he had sworn, he would look after her all those years ago.
It was Emmeline’s eighteenth birthday when her uncle got her a camera and a bright-yellow scooter.
“I thought you wanted me to go unnoticed?” she asked him confused… and after a long time of hugging which had almost pressed all the air out of Leon’s lungs.
“Yes, I have… but you are not exactly made to go unnoticed, no matter how hard you try, Emmeline. So, we will try something else I thought.”
He immediately corrected himself when he saw the worry spreading on her face. “No, Emmeline, don’t be sad. It’s nothing we can’t fix. Besides, I know you love yellow. Who would I be to ignore that?” He chuckled when she fell around his neck in a bone-breaking hug. He might have trained her a bit too well, regarding the strength she had. “Now, off you go. I’m sure you want to try out the scooter. But be home by… oh, what am I saying? You’re eighteen and know when to be home, don’t you?”
“Yes, Uncle Leon!” She smiled and kissed his cheek before she was already off with her new scooter and such a happy grin Leon hadn’t seen in ages…
Emmy was twenty-three and a high-ranking member of Targent herself when she heard the name of Professor Layton again.
“He turns out to be one of my sons. Theodore, in fact,” Uncle Leon told her when he had called her in his office one day. Emmy was still in her training clothes and a bit uncomfortable, sitting in front of Uncle Leon, Targent’s boss, like this but he had assured her that she didn’t need to change.
“Why he goes under the name Hershel now… we don’t know why, we can only assume so much. My men are working on finding this out. Anyways. He’s a renowned archaeologist and I’m sure he could help us very much one day with finding the Azran relics.”
Emmy nodded, signing that she had understood. “Why are you telling me this, Uncle Leon?” she asked when he didn’t continue talking.
He chuckled. “This, my dear Emmeline, might be the great mission I have always told you about. I have a feeling my son will be among the people to find one of the Azran relics. He has connections to two locations where we assume to be Azran relics. It is only a matter of time until they will be found. That’s where you come into play.” He leaned back in his chair and smiled. “But this is a story for another day. I just want to prepare you and you to prepare yourself in the best way possible. Now, I believe you still have some business to attend to?”
She nodded and stood up. “Thank you, Uncle Leon. I’ll do my very best on this mission.”
She beamed with pride when he smiled and said, “I know you will.”
Emmy was twenty-four when Uncle Leon sent her on her mission. She had been on smaller missions before, countless times in fact, but never alone and for so long. “Report everything regarding the Azran. Be careful. Don’t let your masquerade slip. Come back regularly for larger reports but only when you can get away unnoticed and without raising suspicion.”
This and thousand other things she had been told by Uncle Leon. She had promised to follow every single one of them.
But Emmy loved her new-found freedom. The freedom not to have to stand up at four or five a.m. every morning to go for a run (although she still did that most days but at a more decent time), not to have to train several hours a day or concern herself with politics or archaeology. Though archaeology was a big part of her new life as Professor Layton’s assistant. To be honest, his lectures were actually quite interesting.
Luke shared her interest. Having barely had any friends when she had been around his age, Emmy was very fond of the little boy and loved playing with him, even the silliest games. She would be the first to agree on helping him with his homework or bring him to bed or make him some hot chocolate when he’d had a nightmare and found her awake in the middle of the night (now, that she didn’t have to stand up so early anymore, she found the night to be one of her favourite times).
That being Professor Layton’s assistant would come with having to take care for a child hadn’t exactly been what Uncle Leon had her prepared for. She had no problem protecting others, she had fought Descole’s guards, his wolves, a goon squad, a giant spectre… protecting others was easy. That was what Emmy had been trained for. It surprised her all the more that she found caring for a child so easy. Well, it was hard not to love the little boy.
While being with Targent and having to train like a soldier every day she had never really thought about other aspects of life. Did she ever want children? Marry? What would she do with her life if it hadn’t been for Targent?
She’d probably be living on the street or even worse, if it hadn’t been for Uncle Leon. She dispelled the thought immediately. She had to concentrate on her mission.
Once they had returned from Misthallery, Emmy took the first calm and undetected moment to race off and report everything to Uncle Leon. She did the exact same thing after they had returned from the cruise and having discovered Ambrosia (Emmy had been so glad Uncle Leon had taught her how to fly a plane after she had gotten her driver license. Not that she had thought she would ever need it… bless Uncle Leon who seemed to know everything.). He was content with her and Emmy couldn’t hide her smile.
Her world would always turn a bit brighter whenever Uncle Leon would smile at her proudly.
Emmy was twenty-five when, for the first time in her life, she thought she might have some more people than just Uncle Leon.
It was the first night spent in Monte d’Or. After the day’s events, the attack of the Masked Gentleman and the chase, she was quite tired. But the feeling of sitting on a horse again after so many years had left her delighted. It had felt so good. She had really missed it.
But despite exhaustion, sleep wouldn’t come easily. It took Emmy hours to fall asleep, the events of today still so fresh in her mind, and when she finally did, her thoughts were haunted by nightmares of people turning into stone.
She was running, running to get away and find a solution when she suddenly stopped. Professor Layton and Luke, both with cold, lifeless expressions being turned to stone forever. But the worst was yet to come.
When she turned, she saw a stone statue of Uncle Leon.
She knew he didn’t like it, never had, but she couldn’t help crying. She fell around the shoulders of Uncle Leon’s stone-cold body, sobs ripping through her body. “No, Uncle Leon, no! You can’t be gone! Uncle Leon! I can’t… I…”
What was she supposed to do without him? Without her Uncle Leon, the only one she had in the world?
“Uncle Leon! Come back, please!”
“Uncle… Uncle Leon?”
Emmy shot awake, eyes torn open and swimming in tears, and expected Uncle Leon in front of her. Though he had never called her Emmy. No, it was Luke, sitting in front of her and clutching his teddy bear in his arms. She could only stare at him, still trying to catch up on what was happening.
“Did you have a nightmare? You were moving around and talking in your sleep.” The boy looked really worried.
Emmy blinked. “I… uhm, yes. But you don’t have to worry, it’s okay,” she tried to reassure him, but her shivering voice betrayed her. Luke wasn’t convinced at all. Emmy was feverishly thinking about what to tell the boy that he would leave her, when Professor Layton entered the room.
“Emmy? Luke? I heard your voices. Are you two alright?”
He had heard them talk? Just now or also when she had been sleeping? What had she said? How could he even hear them, he was sleeping on the couch of their hotel room, how could he have heard her? Oh god, Uncle Leon would be so disappointed if he found out that her cover had been blown so easily…
“Emmy had a nightmare, Professor,” Luke explained and yawned. Emmy felt guilty for keeping him up. She had no idea what time it was, but she knew that the boy should be sleeping.
“Honestly, I’m alright, it’s just a nightmare. Go back to sleep,” she reassured them, trying a smile. What were both of them even doing awake? It had just been a silly nightmare, nothing more.
Professor Layton didn’t seem too convinced, but he nodded. “Alright, Emmy, if you say so. I wish you a well rest then.” He smiled and left the room again, leaving Luke the only one looking at her.
Emmy smiled. “Seriously, Luke, I’m alright. You are tired and should sleep.”
“You too,” he simply replied, not moving from her bed. Emmy grinned. He reminded her of him when she had been around his age.
He yawned again. “Do you want to talk about it? Mom usually makes me talk about my bad dreams, so they won’t come back. When I was younger, I would sometimes sleep in Mom’s and Dad’s bed. I don’t do that anymore, of course. But I can sleep in your bed if you want.”
She chuckled. “I don’t think that’s necessary, Luke, but I appreciate your concern. Just go back to sleep.”
“Alright,” he yawned once more. He slipped from her bed but turned back and laid his teddy bear into her lap. “Here, you can have Teddy. He keeps away bad dreams.”
“I thought you were too old for plushies?”
“No one is ever too old for plushies! Even the Professor still has one. But don’t tell him that I told you. Don’t tell me you don’t have a plushie from when you were young.”
“No,” she said slowly, gaze directed on the teddy bear in her hands. She had had a plush-horse when she had been a little girl. But it had been gone at some point and Emmy had never really given it another thought after her initial sadness.
“You can have Teddy for tonight. And when we are back in London, we’ll get you your own plushie,” he decided before he slipped back into his bed and switched of the light. “Good night, Emmy.”
“Good night, Luke.” Her voice was still coming slow, she was still trying to process the last few minutes. She laid back down, the teddy bear in her arms.
They were so nice. They cared for her.
Emmy smiled. And asked herself, when her plush-horse had gotten lost.
Emmy looked back down on the city to take one last picture with her beloved camera after they had solved the mystery surrounding the city. A city built because of friendship and loyalty… she didn’t doubt that Randall had so many good friends who cared for him. He would never be alone. He would always be saved by his friends.
She looked at Professor Layton and Luke and remembered the first night. Both had been so worried about her even though it had been nothing. There were worse things she had gone through, alone, when she had been younger. She didn’t need them. And they didn’t need her. They didn’t know her.
And if they knew who she really was…
Emmy turned the camera in her hands. “Emmeline” was engraved on the bottom. Uncle Leon had done that. She smiled at the thought of him. He would be so happy to hear what had been discovered. The Ruins of Akbadain.
Uncle Leon was the only one who knew her, the only one she had in this world. Professor Layton and Luke might be her friends but once they would get to know who exactly she was and what she was doing… nothing would matter anymore.
She only hoped that there was still some time left until then.
Emmy was twenty-six when Professor Layton got a letter from a certain Professor Sycamore who told him about a living mummy, he believed to be related to the Azran. That was when Emmy knew that her time with Luke and Professor Layton would come to an end soon.
Their journey around the world, it was a true adventure. One whose memories Emmy would always cherish and refuse forgetting, no matter what would come. She tried to forget the fate that laid upon her, the fate that would eventually mark the end of these wonderful years she’d had with Professor Layton and Luke.
But she couldn’t. Every wake moment, the thoughts of Targent and Uncle Leon were in the back of her head. When she looked at Aurora, she saw a young girl who was just getting to explore the modern world. But she also saw her the way Uncle Leon had taught her: as an emissary of the Azran, the eventual key to unlock their legacy. For a long time, she didn’t know which side was stronger, but it was the same way as it had been with Luke: caring for someone younger, looking after someone younger came quite easily to her.
Betraying them just hurt all the more. Yet Emmy did as Uncle Leon had always taught her to. After what he had done for her, that was the least she could do. So, she held the icicle to Luke’s neck, demanding Professor Layton to hand over the key stone. She felt sorry, she truly did. But they wouldn’t believe her, not anymore. They tried to talk some sense into her, and Emmy wanted to believe them, she wanted it so dearly. But she couldn’t. What would she have left in this world if she gave in now?
“Everything I’ve done has been for Uncle Leon! Uncle Leon is all I have in this world!” she screamed to make Professor Layton and the voices in her head shut up.
She couldn’t. She knew what was at stake. But she couldn’t. She couldn’t betray her beloved uncle, not matter how wrong he was. That’s what she had always been trained for.
Her loyalty laid with him.
“I’m sorry, Professor.”
His loyalties laid differently as well. He gave the keystone to Uncle Leon without a second thought.
“Good work, Emmeline,” she could hear Uncle Leon chuckle. He was proud of her. He was proud! She could hear the smile in his voice and see it when he stepped next to her. She had backed away from the others, Luke still firmly in her grip.
He placed his hand softly on her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Layton. It’s evident that you’ve grown attached to Emmeline.” His grip tightened as if he wanted to lay more emphasis on her belonging to him. “I must say, her performance was outstanding.”
She smiled at him, being downright ridiculously happy about it. Uncle Leon took Aurora and Emmy Luke and they left the others behind.
Not matter how wrong all of this felt, how wrong Uncle Leon was, it was the right thing to do. She didn’t have a choice.
For Uncle Leon.
Emmy was twenty-six when she realized that Uncle Leon wasn’t the only one, she had in this world.
Even though Professor Layton and Luke knew who she was and what she had been up to all this time, they still saw her as a friend. It even went as far as Professor Layton willingly entering the last room for her to ensure her safety.
Emmy had never had someone step in for her before. She had always saved herself.
It left her confused and shaky, bewilderment written all over her face. She glanced at Uncle Leon who only had eyes for his son anxiously.
It didn’t look like he cared at all.
Emmy wondered if he would have looked at her the same way if she had been in Professor Layton’s place.
Emmeline was twenty-six when Leon saved her one last time.
Though he didn’t refer to it as “saving” anymore. No, when the Azran ruins fell around him he realized that he had, in fact, never truly saved her. From a life on the street maybe. But aside from that? He and Targent had robbed her of a normal childhood, a childhood full of friends and ice cream and sleepovers and fun. A youth of free time, of first dates, of long days at the lake, of vacation at the sea and so much more…
It was due to Targent, but he didn’t put the blame on the organisation. After all, it had been his idea. He was the reason Emmy had grown up to be an ultimately loyal warrior to him and Targent.
He was disgusting.
When the ruins fell around him and they escaped, he merely saved Emmy from falling into her death. But that wasn’t nearly enough to atone for all the things he had taken from her. A childhood full of love and safety. He had always tried his best. But looking back he realized that his best had died along with Rachel.
When Inspector Grosky, the very inspector who had called him years ago because of Emmeline, arrested him he finally realized why he had been such a bad parent without Rachel.
She had always called the girl Emmy. He hadn’t.
He had always refused her a nickname, stating very strictly which kind of relationship they would have. Everyone had called and still was calling her Emmy. Never had he heard anyone say Emmeline.
He didn’t say goodbye to her. He might be selfish, but it would have hurt him too much. It wasn’t like he didn’t love her. He had known her all her life, she had been like a daughter to him, he had raised her after all. How could one not love her? She had always been such a cute little girl. So nice. And had grown into such a fine young lady.
“Be well… Emmy,” he whispered as he sat in the back of the police car and looked back to where she was still standing together with his son and the little boy. She didn’t look back.
That hurt, too.
Leon wondered how hurt she must be.
Dear Uncle Leon,
I don’t really know how to start this letter. Funny when you bear in mind that I’m not one to be lost for words easily.
I think we both know when things started to head south. Aunt Rachel really did keep us sane, didn’t she?
I’m still very thankful that you saved me from a life on the street. Or whatever Target would have done to me that day when they got my father. I had a great childhood, Uncle Leon, and I’m very glad you taught me all the things you knew. I would have gotten into quite some trouble without the martial art skills I possess by now.
But I’m beating around the bush. I have to tell you something, but I don’t want to because it will hurt you. But, then again, how often have you done the exact same thing?
All my life I believed I had no one but you. I thought I would be alone if I ever disappointed you which led me to making so many wrong decisions over the years. Don’t get me wrong, Uncle Leon, I loved you. That’s why I could have never betrayed you. That among other things was one of the decisions I made only because of my training.
Targent is gone now, but I don’t feel lost like I thought all my life I would. I’m traveling the world as a cameraman for the World Times, and as a normal girl. That’s the best way I can put it as for now.
Uncle Leon, I hope you understand that I can merely write you a letter and won’t visit you.
To use Professor Layton’s words, we may not be a family, but I hope to one day be able to meet you as a friend again.