She came to the foot of the weeping willow and looked up at the platform. From this angle it appeared empty, but she was pretty sure that it was not! She climbed the ladder cautiously, one rung had almost dumped her when she climbed down last time. She peeked over the top of the platform and found Gilbert laying there with his phone in front of his face playing some kind of game.
"Well that's rich!" she snorted, and Gilbert sat up in surprise. "I charged up your phone so we could work on the clues, not so you could play video games!" She put her grumpiest, ugliest face on and gave him a death stare.
"Relax, I'm trying to get to the part of the game that tells us what one of the symbols means," said Gilbert in a slightly defensive tone. "It happens to be the name of one of the cities in the game, and I'm almost there, I think."
Eudorra relaxed a little bit, but tried to keep a somewhat grumpy face on, just to get the point across that she wasn't happy that he had been playing a game when they were supposed to be working on clues. She sat down next to him and looked over his shoulder at the phone. It looked like some kind of space aged fantasy game where players from all over the world tried to blast their way through countless enemies. 'Typical boy game," she thought to herself.
After several minutes, Gilbert let out an "Ah-ha!" and handed the phone to her. "Look right there!"
It was some kind of ornate archway, which would have been ancient by any standard, but in the center at the top was the second symbol from his mom's clues. Below the symbol were apparently translations in different languages, two jumped out at Eudorra instantly: 'Aleph' and 'Unity.'
"It means unity?" she asked curiously. "How can that be, you mom is so independent. Why would Simon want to leave her a symbol for unity, it is the exact opposite of what she is!"
"I think that might be the point!" said Gilbert, "The one thing my mom needs to learn is to work as a team and accept other's input, to be united. What better solution for her really?"
Gilbert had a point. If she had learned to work together, they would have been sharing clues this whole time, and possibly had them all solved by now. Instead they were reduced to getting answers from video games.
A thought came to her mind then that made her heart beat quickly. The two symbols she and her parents had found... What if they were place names in the game as well! She swallowed hard. Would her parents approve of her sharing their clues with Gilbert? But if he did know what they meant already, they would be that much closer to the answer, and didn't Gilbert just say that 'unity' was the perfect message for his mother?
"Gilbert," she spoke quietly, "I have something I want you to look at."
He looked up from his phone with a quizzical look on his face. "What?"
She pulled her phone out and opened up the photo gallery. She scrolled to the first symbol, the one they had found under the gazebo. He looked at it and shook his head.
"I haven't seen anything like that in Mars Blaster, but that doesn't mean it isn't there," he said.
"How about this one?" she asked scrolling to the second symbol.
Gilbert looked at it for some time, then smiled, "THAT I have seen before, just a minute." He turned back to his game and marched his character down the road away from "Unity" toward a mountainous region. After several minutes had passed, he stopped his character and handed the phone to Eudorra once more.
This time she saw a humble village of five or six wattle and daub cottages. In front of one of the cottages was a sign with the symbol from the Chinese puzzle box. Beneath it, once again, were translations, the first of which said "Friendship"
"It means 'friendship'?" she asked.
"Yeah, that's the home village in the game where your character starts, you go into that hut to add people to your friend list."
"But the sign says 'Friendship' why didn't the game makers use 'Friends' instead?" she asked.
"Well, the developers are Chinese, so maybe as they were translating it into English they might have chosen the wrong word." Gilbert said with a shrug, "Happens more often than you think. That's the casualties of creating an international game, sometimes you don't get the user interface translated correctly."
"So your symbol meant 'unity' and mine meant 'friendship.' I get why your mother would need a message about unity, but why 'friendship' for my dad? He's a pretty friendly guy, why would Simon leave a message abut friendship for him?"
"I don't know," said Gilbert as he put his phone away. "It must have been important though! What is up with the encyclopedia in the library?"
"Oh! Did you look at it?" Eudorra said, remembering it once more, "Someone rearranged the volumes so they spell: 'share cluz.' It got me thinking, do you suppose Simon could have hidden hints all over the Manor in addition to the clues? That would have been a lot of work, but knowing how important this was for him, he may have wanted to give us as much help as he could even though he would not be here himself."
"That does make me wonder, but I've been all over the Manor and the grounds and I haven't seen anything like that," Gilbert confessed. "Unless he hid them in such a way that most people wouldn't notice them. I could have walked past a dozen hints sitting in plain sight!"
"Right, like the encyclopedia. If you aren't going to look something up, you probably wouldn't ever notice it had been switched around!" Eudorra said excitedly. "Well, the next time you start to wander, check everything, not matter how obvious, it may have another hint from Simon, and we need all the help we can get!"
"Well, first we had better get back inside for lunch!" said Gilbert checking his watch, "It's almost time, and we need to enter at different times from different places if we are going to keep this charade up!"
"Right, let me go right now through the front door, and you can come in through the greenhouse in a few minutes." Eudorra said, then her eyes fell. "I did have one more thing to tell you." Gilbert heard the tone of her voice and gave her his undivided attention. "My parents found out we are working together. I guess all the texting we did during breakfast caught their eyes, so when you sent me the text on the boat they had a pretty good idea who it was."
Gilbert let out a moan and said, "Well, there goes my idea of beating Mom to the solution."
"Hold on," said Eudorra, "I asked them to not mention anything or try to get me to give up information. I told them I was just helping you to outdo your mother in this puzzle."
"And they were cool with that?" Gilbert asked in astonishment.
"Yeah, maybe they want to make sure the rift between my dad and your mom doesn't continue with us. Or maybe they just want you to succeed, I don't know." she admitted fingering a tear on the side of her shoe.
"Well, it has already happened, as long as Mom doesn't find out I think we will be okay." Said Gilbert.
"My parents agree, so let's try to keep the texting to a minimum when they are around, and use texting an Jared as much as we possibly can, that way we don't get caught working together."
"Good plan. I'll try to not text so much during dinner," he said with a smile. "Let's go eat."
Eudorra climbed down the ladder, once again almost falling on the third rung which was definitely loose! She crept from tree to tree back toward the front of the Manor, and was just about to pop around the front corner of the house when she looked back and saw Gilbert just starting to climb down the ladder.
She whipped around the front of the house and walked up the marble front steps and through the large front doors into the Manor. She remembered to wipe her feet this time, and quickly walked across the hall and up the grand staircase toward her room. As she passed her parent's rooms she could hear them talking while they changed. She passed the door quickly and nipped into her own room where she too started changing into something a little more appropriate for lunch, rather than boating!
Gilbert waited on the platform in the weeping willow while Eudorra climbed down and worked her way toward the front of the Manor. He sent Kevin a message over chat, letting him know that he probably wouldn't be on for a few days because he had a project that was going to take a lot of time. Then he logged out of the game and turned his data off. The longer he could make that battery last the better! Then he wouldn't have to send his phone via Jared to Eudorra to charge again. It was already going to be awkward when his mother asked Jared to charge her phone.
He put his phone in his pocket and climbed down the ladder off the platform. He walked slowly toward the back of the house where the greenhouse door was. He kept a sharp eye out for anyone who might be watching from the pond, or from the windows on the second floor of the manor. Jared's warning had been a good one, and he intended to heed it! There was no one out at the pond now, so he strode across the lawn from the gazebo to the door of the greenhouse and walked right in.
He jumped in surprise, at the sound of his mother's voice.
"We were going back over the first clue and thought the greenhouse might be a good place to look," she said walking toward him from the other end of the glass room. "Can you help us look for tubes?"
Gilbert let out a sigh of relief, "Yeah mom, no problem."
He crouched down to start looking underneath the tables that ran the length of the greenhouse. He had worked the clue out himself without either of their help, and he wasn't going to take them right to the solution without a bit of a show. If it had taken them two days to figured that much of the clue out it would look really suspicious if he went right to the t-post and said, "here it is!" He worked his way down the length of the row on hands and knees. He could see his father looking along the underside of another row of tables, and his mother inspecting the tools and the planters that ran along the wall of the Manor.
When he got to the end of the row he stood up and wiped imaginary sweat from his forehead and said, "Well, nothing under that row!" Then rested his hand on the t-post as his mother looked over at him, and his father popped his head up from under a table. His hand felt the black tube that was wired to the post, and he tried to look genuinely surprised as he whipped his hand back and bent over to look at the post more closely. His mother was already walking quickly toward him, and he knew it had worked.
"Is this what we are looking for?" he asked innocently.
"Yes, I think it is!" his mother said, "But how to we get the solution out?"
"Well the riddle said something about wet thumbs and a cup, so maybe we need water?" said his father pointing to the spigot at the other end of the greenhouse.
"Good idea, Dad!" said Gilbert, trying with all his effort to make this look new and genuine, which was really difficult knowing what was probably going to happen next.
He watched his dad fill a cup with water and bring it back to the post. Gilbert stepped up next to the post on one side so that he would not be in the line of fire. His parents crowded close to the post as his father poured the water into the pipe, then his mother let out a shriek and hopped away from the post in fright and disgust.
"Terrence, my shoes!" she wailed pointing to the stream of water that had splashed all over her legs and feet.
Gilbert turned away and chuckled quietly to himself.
So how was it?
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