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Part Four

The Rise of Lutz, Leader of the Espers

Lutz stepped off of the stairway and into the main entrance hall of Esper Mansion, and when he did, Lian, Dev, Sophie, Jain, Aric, and the others simply knew. They knew Master Noah was gone.

Wearing the Frad Mantle that Master Tajim had passed on to Noah so long ago, and carrying Noah's mighty staff, Lutz walked across the entrance hall to the throne in the middle of the room. He sat down in it, ran a hand through his light blue hair, and looked upon his friends and fellow students, whom now looked to him as their leader.

"Master Noah is gone," were his first words on the throne, stating what was already the obvious to everyone present. In response to the confirmation, Jain broke into fresh tears, and Sophie scooped her into her arms to comfort her. Aric looked as if someone had just punched him in the stomach. Dev silently wiped a tear from her cheek.

But Lian stepped forward and approached what was now Lutz's throne. "Lutz, I'm the oldest here," he began to plead his case. "I should be the leader."

"Lian, I'm the only one left with any powers," Lutz argued back. "It's obvious that I should be the leader, and I am."

"Yes, but--" Lian began, but he was cut off as Lutz jumped from his throne and held Noah's staff (he still didn't consider it his own) before him.

"Do you question the judgment of Master Noah?" Lutz demanded.

Lian was stunned at the sudden outburst. "Well, no... of course not!"

"Yet you do," Lutz raged, "by questioning my rightful position as Esper leader. Master Noah personally gave me the Frad Mantle. Nothing else matters."

"Well what if our powers come back tomorrow?" Lian bellowed back. Lutz had stepped away from the throne and Lian had approached it, so they were now a few steps away from being in each other's faces. "Then you don't have that advantage, and I'll still be the oldest!"

"What the hell is wrong with you two?" Sophie suddenly yelled over the shouting match. "Our parents and families have been killed. Our powers are gone. Our teacher and mentor is dead. And you two are sitting here arguing!"

Lutz turned his attention to Sophie. "As leader of the Espers, I must face head-on any challenge to my authority."

Sophie stepped away from Jain and approached Lutz. "You don't get it, do you, Lutz?" she asked. "What did I just say? The Espers are dead! You don't even have a people to lead! We're just normal Palmans now!"

"That's not true!" Aric called back. "Our powers will come back. Won't they, Lutz?"

"Though my powers are weak, Master Noah told me they would be restored to their full strength," Lutz answered. "I suspect the same is true for the rest of you."

Shaking her head, Sophie let out a low growl. "None of you get it," she finally said aloud. "Master Noah was stupid to waste his power rebuilding this place. Esper Mansion? Hmmpf. What the hell is an Esper anymore?"

Dev, lost in the middle of the argument, spoke under her breath. "We need unity right now. Unity."

Lutz turned on Sophie and held the staff in front of him, swinging it around and slamming its base against the ground. "Enough, Sophie!" he reprimanded her. "Now listen to me! We're--"

But Sophie didn't want to listen. "Don't you even try to hold that staff like Master Noah did, Lutz," she said, almost chuckling as she did. "You're no leader for one simple reason: you don't have anyone to lead."

Then the room erupted into chaos, with everyone screaming at once. "Hand over the Frad Mantle, Lutz!" Lian yelled. "I'm the rightful leader!"

"Stop it, all of you!" Dev shouted, her voice once again lost in the crowd.

"Noah himself made Lutz our leader, Lian!" Aric cried out. "You can't question that!"

But Lutz ignored it all, and focused himself squarely on Sophie, staring her straight in the eye. Sophie, in return, met the stare head-on. Finally, the vocal chaos of the room was silenced. "Sophie!" Lutz screamed, instantly grabbing everyone's attention. He paused for a moment, then continued.

"Powers or no, we are still Espers, and this is our home. But if you feel you don't want to be one of us anymore... the door is right behind you. Feel free to use it."

None of them could believe what they'd just heard. They all just watched Lutz and Sophie, who both continued to stare each other down. Lutz's face was a mask of authority, or at least as much as he could find within him. Sophie wore a look of mild shock.

Shock which eventually turned back into defiance. "Fine," she said at last, very quietly. "I'm out of here."

She spun on her heels and stormed across the entrance hall towards the double doors. Jain, completely stunned, started following after her. "Sophie, no!" she wailed.

And Jain wasn't the only one who was stunned. Lutz, too, simply couldn't believe she'd called his bluff. And so, not wanting to appear weak before the others in his first moments of command, Lutz called out to her again.

"Sophie!" he yelled, trying the best he could to match Master Noah's best no-nonsense tone. "If you walk out that door..."

Sophie spun on her heels again, turning back towards Lutz. The move was so sudden that she almost ran into Jain, who was right behind her. "What?" Sophie sneered, again testing Lutz's authority. "If I walk out this door, what?"

There was a long pause. All eyes in the room were on Lutz. What would Master Noah do? he tried to think.

"If you walk out that door," Lutz began, his voice very quiet, "don't ever so much as think about coming back here again."

A wave of gasps swept through the students. They couldn't believe what Lutz had just said, and neither could Lutz himself. He'd tried to do what he thought Master Noah would have done... and he couldn't help but feel he'd done the exact opposite.

But through it all, Sophie just stared back, indecision filling her mind. She and Lutz had a lot in common: they were both stubborn, and neither one of them wanted to appear weak in front of the others. She looked to the faces of her friends: Dev, Lian, Aric, Jain, and yes, Lutz. She knew that whatever decision she made would affect the entire future here in Esper Mansion. Either Lutz's authority as the new leader would be confirmed, or he'd be seen as an instant failure whose first order after taking command was to throw one of the few remaining Espers out of the mansion.

But she had to think about herself, too. She really did feel that the Espers were dead. The Dezorians killed us, she felt, and by rebuilding the mansion, all Master Noah did was prolong the agony of death.

And so she made up her mind.

"What makes you think I'd ever want to come back, Lutz?" she said, and then she opened the doors, waved good-bye to Jain, and stepped outside. Then she was gone.

"Sophie!" Jain yelled to the closed doors. She ran for them, ready to follow her friend, until Lutz called out to her.

"Jain, stop right there!" he yelled, the anger at Sophie's "victory" evident in his voice.

Jain turned and addressed her new leader. "But Sophie's leaving!" she pleaded.

"She's made her choice," Lutz agreed flatly.

"Well I'm going after her!" Jain called, her hand again reaching for the doors.

"No!" Lutz bellowed, taking a step forward and slamming his staff down. Jain jumped at the sudden outburst but stopped her movement towards the doors. "No one is leaving. We're all staying here, and that's final!"

He turned around, stepped back towards his throne, and slouched down into it. Jain still stood by the doors but lowered her head, silently crying. Defeated.

Meanwhile, Lian approached Lutz's throne. He stood there for a moment, looking down at Lutz, before the Espers' new fifteen year-old leader looked back up at him.

"Are you still sure I shouldn't be leader?" Lian asked with a sneer. Then he stormed across the entrance hall towards the stairs.

- - - - - - - - - -

The next several days were tumultuous ones. All of the fighting and bickering had basically stopped with Sophie's departure from the mansion. However, as time went on, more and more of the others started to think that maybe Sophie was right. Without powers, what made them Espers? What distinguished them from normal Palmans? After coming to that conclusion, some even took it one step further. Some wanted to join Sophie out on Dezoris and leave the mansion.

But they all remained silent as to their doubts. Lutz had received his wish: the others were looking to him as their new leader, and no one was making a move until Lutz did. The proverbial ball was in Lutz's court.

No one spoke much, even when they were together for meals. All of them moved their quarters to new wings of the mansion, escaping physically from the memories of their slain families even if they could not do so mentally. And while they all moved, some of them did not bother to unpack, as if they were just spending the night at an inn.

On the other hand, Lutz was a completely different story. While many of the others wanted to abandon ship, it was up to Lutz to somehow lasso the remaining fragments of Esper society and unify them into a whole. It was a task that many men twice the fifteen year-old's age would have balked at, but it was a task that fell squarely on Lutz's Frad Mantle-clad shoulders, and he knew of only one way to handle it.

So while the others were exploring new rooms to live in, Lutz was exploring a section of the mansion that no one, save for Noah and his top aides, had ever seen before.

Lutz went to the room underneath Noah's-- his throne. On his deathbed, Noah had telepathically shared with Lutz the knowledge of a secret passage from this room, the secret "key" inside, and the correct path through the hidden corridors to the room which housed what Noah had telepathically described as "the most important objects in all of Algo -- items you must guard with your very life."

After making his way through the twisted corridors and secret tunnels, Lutz walked into the mansion's most secret room. His eyes immediately adjusted to the two dim light sources in the otherwise dark chamber. After blinking several times, he saw that the first (and brightest) of the two was a shining crystal, which floated in the middle of some kind of anti-gravity apparatus. The second light source was a sword which rested on an altar. It emitted a soft glow; a glow which the crystal captured and turned into a rainbow of colors. After admiring the prism effect of the crystal, Lutz approached the altar and placed his hand on top of the sword.

The moment he did so, Master Noah himself appeared in the room with him.

He jumped back at Noah's sudden appearance, but remained remarkably calm, for the most part. "Master..." Lutz whispered in disbelief, but after an awestruck moment, he saw that it was true. Master Noah was here with him, in the same room.

A closer inspection of the image of his teacher revealed a face that seemed several years younger than the one Lutz knew. He couldn't tell exactly how much younger Noah appeared, but it seemed as if a decade or more had vanished from his face. Lutz also noticed with a bit of surprise that, although he himself was wearing the Frad Mantle, this... glowing apparition of Master Noah was wearing it, as well.

"Thank you for coming, Lutz." Noah flashed a smile at his student, but then got straight down to business. "Time is short, and there is much I have to teach you. I sincerely wish it didn't have to be this way."

But Lutz was not yet ready for the lesson. "Master, how are you here?" Lutz asked. "I..." He swallowed. "I saw you die."

"Indeed," Noah nodded. "My soul now rests in Elsydeon, the sword you see before you. It is the most sacred object in all of Algo, the only object more sacred than the Aero-Prism you see next to it. Within Elsydeon rests the souls of all who have fought to protect Algo."

"I see," Lutz said with a slightly amazed smile. Others might have been absolutely flabbergasted by this revelation, but to an Esper, the extraordinary was the ordinary.

"Lutz, as I told you, I knew the moment I first saw you, when you were just an infant, that you would be the Espers' next leader," Noah began. "I'm sorry you've been thrown into the position, and I am especially regretful of the situation you have inherited. But there is even more I must reveal to you. I had intended to store my powers and memories inside an object I have hidden elsewhere in the mansion, the Telepathy Ball, which I then planned on passing on to you, so that within seconds, you would know all that I spent a lifetime learning."

"But you died too suddenly for that to happen," Lutz chimed in.

"Yes. So you must listen well, because you must pass on some of what I tell you to the other students."

At the mention of the others, the Esper boy and leader shuffled his feet and looked to the ground. He somehow had the feeling that even though he was dead, Noah knew exactly what was going on in the mansion... and he was right. "Lutz, it is absolutely imperative that none of the others leaves the mansion." He paused. Lutz met his eyes again, and from the look on his face, Lutz knew that Noah was about to reveal the reason for this magical meeting. "In fact... the survival of the very system may depend on it."

The strength of Noah's words intrigued Lutz. "That's what you said to me before; that it wasn't about you, it was about Algo."

The glowing image of Master Noah nodded. "You know of how I fought alongside Queen Landale, Myau, and Odin against King Lassic. And how after that, we faced the evil that had corrupted the king and then possessed Governor Sirus, Dark Force."

"Of course," Lutz confirmed.

"I spent the short time I had between Lassic's fall and what came to be known as the Great War studying Algolian history," Noah told his student. "Lutz... I don't know who he is or where he comes from, but I do know this: Dark Force has been terrorizing our world for millennia."

Lutz blinked. "I've never heard any historical accounts or legends regarding Dark Force, except, of course, for your battle with him."

"That doesn't surprise me, considering that, as far as I can tell, almost all of Algo never heard of Dark Force before fifteen years ago. And the reason we never knew about the demon is thanks to a secret society of Protectors known as the Desans." Noah chuckled softly. "Don't even ask how much work and research it took to learn just that. Regardless, I do not know much about them. I have learned that Dark Force returns to Algo once every 1000 years, and for as far back as I can tell, the Desans have stopped him every time. The only thing is that about one thousand years ago, their history ends."

Lutz blinked. "It just ends?"

"Yes. I can only speculate, but it would seem that after countless battles every one thousand years, Dark Force defeated the Desans. I'm sure he was looking forward to taking Algo once the millennium rolled around fifteen years ago, but myself and the others made sure that did not happen."

"So..." Lutz started, slowly realizing what it was Noah was getting at, "did Queen Landale, Myau, Odin, and you make it so no more Dark Forces will come to Algo?"

After a long pause, Noah admitted softly, "I don't think so, which is why I was so distraught when I thought I had destroyed the powers of all of you students. You see, Lutz, I had decided to pass on my memories through the Telepathy Ball because, without the Desans, Algo is unprotected... and I have declared it the duty of the Espers to choose a champion that will protect Algo from Dark Force every one thousand years. But if all of you were powerless--"

"Then there would be no Espers in nine hundred eighty-five years when Dark Force returns," Lutz finished. "No one to protect Algo from Dark Force."

"Exactly." The image of Noah sighed. "It would have been your duty to lead the Espers and, when the time came, to pass along your powers and the knowledge of the Esper Duty to the next leader via the Telepathy Ball. But now..."

"Now, it is vitally important that I restore the powers of the others as soon as I can. I am Algo's last telemental. If I die without passing on what I know..." Lutz drifted off, but Noah again sighed.

"Lutz... there is more to it than that. I probed the minds of the others before I died. It does not look good. I'm afraid that their grandchildren may never have powers, yet alone Lian and Dev and the others."

"But that can't happen!" Lutz exclaimed. "There has to be someone here in one thousand years to choose a Protector! And if that someone is going to help the Protector fight Dark Force, then he has to have his Esper powers!"

"You're right, Lutz," Noah agreed. "And that someone may have to be you."

Any non-Esper probably would have laughed at Noah's statement. Oh sure, I'll be 1000 years old, but I'll have no physical problem with coming face-to-face with a demon, so long as the Protector can hold my arm as I limp up to him...

But Lutz was an Esper, and so instead of laughing, he just remained silent for a long moment, considering. Finally, he spoke. "How?"

"The medical bio-unit in the infirmary," Noah revealed. "You can move it to the room below the throne, and with a few modifications, it can be made into a cryogenic sleep chamber."

Lutz began to pace the small secret room, the ramifications of what Noah was suggesting hitting him. "You can wake up every ten years, at which time you can spend a few weeks, maybe a month, attempting to restore powers to the students."

"Or to their children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren," Lutz threw in flatly.

"Lutz, I know this will be hard," Noah sympathized. "Your friend Aric will be an old man with gray hair and grandchildren, and you'll still look like a teenager. But please, Lutz. Like I said before: not for me... but for Algo.

"Lutz, please don't think I'm trying to make you feel guilty... but you truly are Algo's only hope."

The Espers' new fifteen year-old leader, clad in the Frad Mantle that both Master Noah and Master Tajim wore before him, stared at the shimmering light of the Aero-Prism, lost in thought. He figured that if the glittering piece of rock could show Queen Landale the way to King Lassic's Air Castle, maybe it could show him which way to go, as well.

He'd remain (almost) forever young while watching his friends around him have children. Then he'd go back to sleep and wake up a few times and before he knew it, his friends' great-grandchildren would be on their deathbeds, while his friends' great-great-grandchildren would appear to be older than he.

And what if he couldn't restore their powers? That meant that he, Lutz, son of Rie and adopted son of Nasak, would have to choose a Protector to battle the Dark Force. Lutz wasn't sure he could accept that responsibility. If he chose poorly, he couldn't go to the people of Algo and apologize and promise to do better next time, because the people of Algo would be gone.

After a few long moments of staring into the Aero-Prism, Lutz came to a realization, which also gave him his decision. Lutz realized that being the Espers' leader wasn't just about holding his staff in a menacing way, or wearing the Frad Mantle. It was about sacrifice. It was about realizing that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one. Other peoples' well-being had to come before his own, and Dark Force running loose without a Protector to end his evil would not at all be good for the well-being of the people of Algo.

Despite the fact that he had been handed the Frad Mantle a few days before, it was at that moment that Lutz truly became leader of the Espers. He turned his gaze from the Aero-Prism to the shimmering image of his teacher. "My answer is yes, Master Noah," he smiled. "For Algo."

- - - - - - - - - -

"So we wake you up in five years?" Jain asked Lutz. The two of them, along with Lian, Aric, and Dev, stood in what was now, in a sense, Lutz's bedroom. Perhaps "cryogenic bedroom" would have been a better term.

"The computer will wake me up automatically," Lutz answered. "But if you were all here to greet me, I would very much appreciate it."

"And you say this is just a warm-up of sorts?" This time the question was Dev's.

"Yes," Lutz nodded to her. "Usually I will sleep for ten years at a time. Now, I am only sleeping for five, in order to recharge my powers, so that I can do something about retrieving the stolen items of Nei as soon as possible."

Taking off the Frad Mantle, Lutz gently placed it on a hook in the nearby wall before looking over the assembled group of his friends. Somewhere along the way, out of the chaos that had erupted after the Dezorians bombed Esper Mansion, he and his friends had picked up the pieces and reformed Esper society. Sophie was wrong, Lutz thought, to think the Espers dead. We are very much alive. But I will be the first to admit that things will be rather... different for a while.

Lutz looked to Dev, sometimes the only voice of reason in the group. He glanced at Aric, his childhood friend who was now going ahead into adulthood while Lutz stepped into a far greater role. A smile was tossed at Jain, as if to put a final seal of friendship on their rivalry. And speaking of rivalry, he finally turned his attention to Lian.

"I guess you've received your wish, Lian," Lutz said, offering the oldest boy a hand to shake. "In a way, you'll be leader of the Espers for the next five years."

Lian shook Lutz's hand, but also shook his own head. "No, Lutz. The Frad Mantle is yours. You are our leader. While you're asleep, I'll just be... the half-leader, of sorts." Both boys laughed.

"Hey, that's what we are," Aric laughed. "Lian, you can be half-leader of the Half-Espers!"

"It would seem to be an appropriate term," Lutz nodded. "But don't get used to it. When I awake, I will do everything I can to restore your powers. I promise."

"We know you will, Lutz," Dev agreed. After that, an odd silence hung over the room for a moment before Lutz said what was really all that was left to say.

"In that case... good-night." He climbed into the cryogenic chamber, laying his back flat on the cold steel. Lian stepped around to the chamber's controls, pushing a few buttons to set the system's "alarm clock" at five years' time.

Then, with a final nod to his new leader, Lian pushed the "activate" button. Lutz's body slid inside the machine. He hid the mild fear he felt well; no one but Master Noah would have been able to read it on his face.

A few moments later, his eyes closed, his heart beat slowed, and his fears vanished as he fell into a state of hibernation.

- - - - - - - - - -

Epilogue

Lutz stepped into the Dezorian city of Aukba feeling a little travel weary. Today was his first day awake in five years, and it had already been a very active one. He had traveled to the Dezorians' four torture palaces -- the places they liked to call s'dkini -- which they also sometimes used as vaults of sorts. The Esper leader had traced the eight stolen items of Nei to the s'dkini: Menobe, Guaron (which was orginally a morgue), Naval, and the newest s'dkin, which Lutz found was named after General Ikuto, in honor of his "brave attack" against "those who would do harm to Dezoris."

It was too dangerous for him to enter the palaces on his own; too many wild, vicious beasts roamed the palace halls. And besides, with the force field dome and the Crevice, Esper Mansion really didn't need the Nei items for its protection anymore. Therefore, Lutz decided that if the Espers couldn't have the Nei items, the Dezorians would not, either.

He used his magic to teleport to each one, starting with Menobe, and once there, he raised the Aero-Prism high into the sky, at the same time chanting the words of a spell. Within moments, the s'dkin had simply disappeared. It had not been destroyed; instead it had merely been hidden to the naked eye. Only with the Aero-Prism would anyone be able to again see Menobe.

The process was repeated for Guaron, Naval, and General Ikuto's namesake. After that, his work completed, Lutz decided to take on a personal mission, and that is what brought him to Aukba. He walked through the town, this time hiding himself with the Aero-Prism. He had no actual proof that she was in Aukba -- hell, he didn't even have any actual proof that she was still alive -- but there was one bit of unfinished business he felt he had to attend to before doing some work on restoring the Half-Espers' powers and going back to sleep for ten years.

Searching with both his eyes and his mind, he scoured the town for Sophie. She shouldn't exactly be hard to find... Lutz thought. Just look for someone without green skin.

He was only a few blocks from the President's Mansion and about to give up his search when he saw her across the street from where he stood, sitting on a street bench. A quick gasp escaped his mouth... but it was not a gasp of surprise at seeing his white-haired, exiled friend again.

Lutz gasped because Sophie cradled in her arms a small baby. This in itself was not exactly shocking. What was shocking was that, while the infant's face was very much Palman, with a head of light blue hair, its skin was a pale green. The child obviously had a Dezorian father.

Mesmerized, and still invisible thanks to the Aero-Prism, Lutz lowered the hood of the Frad Mantle off of his head and looked more closely at the child. He'd thought it was sleeping, but as he looked closer, he saw the child open its eyes.

They were solid black. The child most definitely had its father's eyes.

Well... Lutz thought, releasing a deep breath, it doesn't look as though she'll wish to return. He turned around and started to step towards the city's gates when a voice behind him made him stop instantly.

"Lutz?" Sophie's voice called with surprise. "Lutz, are you there? Is that you?"

Lutz turned around to see that Sophie was looking all over, as if searching for something she'd seen in her peripheral vision. Reaching out, Lutz touched Sophie's mind, making her the only person in the town immune to the hiding effects of the Aero-Prism.

When Lutz became visible, it was Sophie's turn to gasp. She was a twenty year-old mother of a newborn baby girl. Lutz, however, was still a fifteen year-old boy.

"Lutz?" Sophie asked again. Strangely enough, her voice was even more hesitant, despite the fact that she could now see her friend.

"It is me, Sophie," he smiled at her. "I have been in cryogenic hibernation for the last five years. Today is my first day awake since only a few days after the mansion's destruction."

Lutz stepped across the street and sat down on the bench next to her. [No one else in the town can see me or hear me] he told her telepathically [except for you. I suggest we communicate telepathically, or else you will appear to be talking to yourself.]

Lutz... I can open my thoughts to you, but I can't put them into your mind. My powers have never returned.

[Nor have the powers of any of the others] Lutz sighed [and only after sleeping for five years have mine been returned their full strength. Master Noah truly used everything inside himself and in us to rebuild the mansion.] Changing the subject, Lutz turned his attention to the baby. [But enough of that. Sophie, you've yet to introduce us.]

The proud mother smiled. Her name is Aria.

Lutz quickly looked up at his friend, his eyes wide with honored surprise. [After my mother?]

Yes. I always thought it was a beautiful name.

[Yes.] Lutz smiled at both baby and mother. [A beautiful name for a beautiful child.] After flashing her another smile, Lutz shuffled uncomfortably in his seat on the bench. [Sophie, I have come here for a reason. I owe you an apology.]

It was my choice to leave the mansion, Lutz.

[Yes, it was. But I was wrong to bar you from ever returning. And that is why I am here.]

Sophie blinked. You want me to return to the mansion?

Lutz nodded, but also again sighed. [That is what I wanted when I came here. But I can see you are probably... less than enthusiastic... about that prospect.]

Lutz, don't get me wrong. I'm very touched that you've searched for me and made me your offer. It truly does mean a lot to me.

[But?]

But, I've started a new life here in Aukba. I've fallen in love with a wonderful man, and now, with Aria, we've started a family together.

[Are you sure you're happy here, Sophie?] Lutz questioned. [How are the townspeople towards you? Do you face the same hatred we Espers faced before?]

Sophie shook her head, quick to end Lutz's misconceptions. No, Lutz, it's not like that at all. I'm very lucky -- the man I fell in love with is a close friend of the new Pai'tekkan. There are, of course, some stalwarts who won't see past their old prejudices, but they are the exception, not the rule. I am very, very happy here, Lutz.

A large smile spread out across Lutz's face. [And I am very happy to hear it. But know that if you ever wish to return, you have another home waiting for you at Esper Mansion.]

Sophie reached out and squeezed his hand. Thank you, Lutz. Thank you. She watched him for a moment more before squeezing his hand again and nodding.

[What?] Lutz asked with a smile. [What does that nod mean?]

I just asked myself a question, and my nod was the answer. I'm sure that when we had our... argument... you were just trying to do what you thought Master Noah would do, right?

[That is correct.] Lutz thought with a frown.

You don't need me to tell you that you failed in that respect. But Lutz, I must say, even if you have only aged a few days in the five years since then, you have come a very, very long way towards truly assuming Master Noah's position of leadership. Even though you still look like a teenager, you have truly become a man. And so I asked myself a question, and I came up with this answer. Yes, your father and Master Noah would both be very proud of you. Very proud indeed.

Lutz bowed his head in modesty at the extremely flattering words. [Thank you, Sophie. But I should tell you: I serve not for my father, or for Noah.] He looked up again and met eyes with his friend just as a knowing grin spread out across his face. [I don't even serve for the Espers. What I do... is for Algo.]

The Beginning.

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