The gnomish restaurant near the library is busier than the previous times the pair has been there, as the lunch crowd is just starting to form. Just as it appears that Althea and Edgeworth will be in for a short wait, a familiar halfling notices them and waves them over from one of the smaller tables.

Althea winces very slightly, but maintains a pleasant smile, quietly commenting, "Guess I'll probably end up dealing with that matter today after all..."
Edgeworth frowns, looking down at Althea. "Is this your stalker?"

The other occupant of the table, a roughly middle-aged gnome, looks over at the two and nods in acknowledgement to Althea.

Althea: ...perhaps I gave too harsh an impression of him in my frustration over the situation... he is the one who has... expressed a certain level of... problematic interest, yes. I wouldn't use that word.
Edgeworth nods.
Althea heads over to the table. "I wasn't expecting to run into either of you so soon. I take it whatever you were working on didn't take all that long?"
Edgeworth follows Althea up onto the platform, then fetches a seating mat before heading to the table himself and moving a gnome-sized chair out of the way.
Berdmol: Sorry to spring that on everyone on short notice. I think we've got the critical bits worked out. So, is this your extraplanar visitor?
Berdmol peers critically at Edgeworth.
Edgeworth bows. "Indeed. My name is Miles Edgeworth."
Berdmol raises an eyebrow. "I thought you said he didn't speak Common."
Edgeworth seats himself. "Last week, I didn't."
Berdmol: Even if Illyvalen's been tutoring you, as I've gathered, that's a bit hard to believe. Then again, so is most of what we've been told about you.
Edgeworth takes a menu and tries his best to make sense of it. "Some of those aspects make as little sense to me."
Berdmol: Oh?
Edgeworth: For one thing, the entire "extraplanar" aspect is perhaps even more absurd to me than it is to you. Unfortunately, alternative explanations neither occur to me nor are anywhere to be found.
Althea clears her throat slightly. "This is Berdmol Cobrin Malindech and that's Nathaniel Salyrria Tarren. Both of them are part of the main research project I've been working on. Berdmol is heading up the research team."
Nathaniel nods politely.
Edgeworth frowns slightly in confusion. "Why precisely is it common to introduce others with three names?"
Althea: Ah, that's originally a Zil convention, though it was adopted by the dragonmarked houses as well. The first name is a person's given name, the second is their family name, and the third is their house name. In some cases there might be a prefix indicating some kind of status, such as in the case of a noble house like ir'Korran or a dragonmarked house as with d'Sivis.
Althea: The dragonmarked house convention also allows for adding the prefix to the family name and omitting the house name, but that's only particularly common with House Tharashk.
Edgeworth nods with a smirk even as he lifts his finger to his temple. "I see. Given the broadness of house names, would the appropriate formal means of address be the family name, then?"
Berdmol: If one must abbreviate at all, but it does seem like foreigners always feel a need to... One does get used to it, I suppose.
Nathaniel shrugs. "It seems to vary. Some folks are fine being on a first name basis, most are fine with family name, some prefer to be traditional about it."
Edgeworth: In that case, I suppose that in one respect Franziska would be regarded as normal here.
Althea: Just don't mess up on prefixes, people tend to take those pretty seriously.
Edgeworth nods to Althea, then looks to the others. "I greatly prefer to be addressed by my surname."
Althea nods. "So I've gathered."
Nathaniel: Well then, Mr. Edgeworth, I do find the world you describe most intriguing, if somewhat fanciful-sounding.
Edgeworth peers at Nathaniel. "'Fanciful'?"
Nathaniel shrugs. "Achieving the fruits of magic through pure mundane artifice? Piloting vessels to the moons? It certainly sounds much the basis for a fable or legend."
Edgeworth crosses his arms. "I suppose you have a point concerning the latter, but the former is an exaggeration — I've observed several phenomena here that no machine we've invented could duplicate."
Althea: Though I gather there are some advances in your world we have yet to match. Aside from vessels that fly beyond the sky, anyway.
Edgeworth taps his finger on his arm. "Indeed; for example, I've seen nothing resembling the class of device that's coming to define the current age in my world. Unfortunately, I have no idea how best to translate the term for it."
Althea: Is that that mathematician-machine you talked about briefly?
Edgeworth frowns in confusion for a moment, then puts his finger to his temple...
Edgeworth: I do recall speaking of them the day we met, so I presume from context that that was an approximation of the term.
Berdmol: Not a very informative one, unfortunately; I think further context would be required to make much sense of it.
Edgeworth: Essentially, such a machine is capable of processing vast quantities of information in various ways and following programmed instructions to achieve various ends.
Edgeworth looks mildly surprised at himself for a split-second.
Berdmol raises an eyebrow. "That sounds almost like something along the lines of Morridan's new toy."
Nathaniel: Oh? I don't think I've heard about this.
Edgeworth raises an eyebrow at Berdmol himself, though Nathaniel beat him to speaking up.
Althea: That Kundarak-funded project? I haven't heard all that much myself, really. Some kind of 'counting machine'?
Berdmol: Mm. Some kind of clockwork monstrosity. They're all excited about how they can make it do in several minutes what a magewright could do in a moment with a cantrip.
Berdmol shakes her head slightly.
Althea shrugs. "I'd presume they see some benefits coming out of it longer-term."
Edgeworth frowns in mild confusion at two of the larger words in Berdmol's last sentence.
Althea: ...Do you need me to translate again?
Edgeworth: I was only unable to deduce the meaning of "clockwork monstrosity".
Althea repeats the phrase in English.
Edgeworth nods and puts his finger to his temple again. "That does sound akin to a distant ancestor of the machines I refer to. Ours are sufficiently advanced to reproduce such things as text, images, and music while making them all easy to manipulate. One can easily forget that numbers are involved at all."
Althea: There exist various individual spells that can each manipulate a category of ephemera like that, including numbers, but I don't know of any that would attempt to transform all of those things into numbers...
Edgeworth looks thoughtful for a moment, then nods.
Edgeworth: Unfortunately, the workings of these machines are far from my area of expertise.
Berdmol: Still, I would imagine there are a few among the faculty of Morridan who would take on sizable debt for the opportunity to pick your brain on the subject...
Edgeworth: Er, my own insights on the subject would be extremely limited...
Edgeworth: It would probably be akin to asking the common man for insights concerning arcane magic.
Nathaniel: Yet even a commoner's awareness might provide a few scraps for one truly starved of such insight. It might well be some clue lies hidden in the simplest details of your world's artifacts.
Althea: I think he has his hands full trying to bring enlightenment to the Foundation for now...
Edgeworth: Ultimately more than just the Foundation, but it isn't yet time to begin stirring the pot.
Nathaniel: Ever the one to counsel moderation. But I imagine you too have questions you're dying to ask 'when the time is right'?
Althea shrugs. "Patience is a virtue that has served me well."
Edgeworth shifts awkwardly.
Edgeworth: I suppose this was inevitable. A pity I'm ill-equipped to share the truths they desire in detail...
Edgeworth: Er, yes... Aside from my own connection to what's commonly believed to be the divine, I hope to explore matters of language and law as well.
Berdmol: Well, you are at the greatest center of learning in all of Khorvaire.
Edgeworth frowns. A pity if that's the case, given this country's culture and approach to justice...
Althea: He's also just learning Common and doesn't speak or read Gnomish at all. I think it would take quite some time to just be ready to fully avail himself of such a resource...
Nathaniel: And as I recall, you weren't planning on staying all that long, either...
Edgeworth nods grimly. "Indeed, I cannot say that growing ensnared in a web of debt in a country where prosecutors have no place is an appealing prospect."
Berdmol frowns slightly.
Nathaniel raises an eyebrow. "You did say something about cultural difficulties earlier, though I don't think you mentioned any specifics."
Althea: I don't think the specifics really bear mentioning. The central matter is as has been succinctly put; Zilargo has no place for a criminal prosecutor.
Nathaniel: True enough... Though it does certainly have a place for new sources of insight and knowledge...
Althea shakes her head. "We cannot ask him to stop being who he is just to satisfy our curiosity."
Nathaniel: Ah, that is right, you did mention that for him, performing his job and practicing his faith entail walking the same path.
Edgeworth: Indeed, to the point that my badge of office serves the function that a religious symbol does for a typical cleric.
Berdmol: Intriguing.
Edgeworth glances aside. "It was quite a shock to discover."
Nathaniel: Because it juxtaposed things in which you had faith of the truth with those you held equal conviction of falsehood?
Edgeworth: ...Indeed. However, I believe I've come to at least some degree of understanding concerning where the paths of the cleric and the prosecutor coincide.
Edgeworth looks back to the others with a serious expression. "A union which still stands against the concept of maneuvering in the shadows being a more just path than revelation of the truth."
Edgeworth: Whatever benefits I might theoretically hope to derive from remaining in Korranberg, I cannot comfortably stay in Zilargo, and certainly cannot afford to grow obligated to do so.
Nathaniel: Yes, I can certainly see the problem...
Berdmol: Well, there are certainly other noteworthy — if less prestigious — institutions of learning in Khorvaire. Another member of our team is visiting from the University of Wynarn in Aundair, and you may already be aware that Althea comes to us from Morgrave in Breland.
Edgeworth nods slowly while quickly taking on a calmer expression. "I see. While Althea has shown me a map of the continent, I know relatively little of this world as yet."
Althea nods. "I haven't spoken much of Morgrave, though I have mentioned some of the more unusual aspects of Sharn."
Edgeworth half-frowns. "Aspects which fall within my own definition of fanciful, quite frankly, though the situation clearly demands that I await the opportunity to see more evidence of the class of phenomenon she describes."
Nathaniel: I am told that Sharn is quite a sight to behold, though I must confess I have myself never yet been. Are you planning to follow our young seer back to Morgrave once she's finished here, then?
Edgeworth appears awkward. "Er, evidence as broad as I refer to could be found elsewhere..."
Nathaniel laughs slightly at the reaction and nods. "That's certainly true."
Edgeworth looks affronted. "And just what is it that you find so amusing?"
Nathaniel: Oh, just thought I detected a hint of embarrassment there.
Edgeworth rubs his temple.
Edgeworth: Even if I were embarrassed, why would this be any concern of yours?
Nathaniel: You are of course quite correct, it isn't any of my business. I suppose I simply cannot help but be a little jealous of the man who has stolen our gentle maiden's heart.
Edgeworth looks around before looking to Nathaniel in bewilderment.
Edgeworth: ...I beg your pardon?
Althea facepalms slowly.
Berdmol glances warningly at Nathaniel.
Nathaniel: I have pursued her favor in vain, but the futility of that effort has become increasingly clear; indeed, I'm troubled to discover I may have been causing her some distress in that regard, which I deeply regret. But I can certainly understand why someone like you could capture her interest.
Edgeworth: Indeed, but what does her interest in the questions my existence raises have to do with matters of the heart?
Nathaniel: Heh. And I thought I had my work cut out for me. My condolences.
Althea: Nathaniel. We need to talk. But this isn't the place for it.
Nathaniel: ...right. Sorry.
Berdmol: So, have you had a chance to sample the local cuisine yet?
Edgeworth looks to Berdmol. "Er, yes. This is in fact my third visit to this restaurant, and we went to a seafood restaurant with Miss Mirilas the day before yesterday as well."
Berdmol nods. "This place is pretty well-known among the students and faculty of the Library."
Edgeworth: Given its location, that's unsurprising.
Edgeworth crosses his arms. "However, I can't help but take note of the degree to which the service prefers to be served..."
Edgeworth clears his throat.
Althea shakes her head slightly and looks over toward the edge of the raised platform, speaking with a somewhat amused tone. "You can come out now; I'm pretty sure we're done with the juicy stuff."
Berdmol gives Edgeworth a vaguely disapproving glance but doesn't comment.
Rimmiyacha steps back from the stage and walks over to and up the steps. "You didn't have to put it that way..."
Edgeworth frowns. Was that so great a faux pas?
Edgeworth shakes his head. "My apologies." He then looks to the others. "Do you have any recommendations?"

Once the party of four settles on their respective meals, what conversation there is is small talk — something Edgeworth remains silent through, only contributing awkwardly to such conversational fluff when pressed.

Eventually, lunch is served and things grow quieter still. Once everyone's respective meals are complete and paid for, they head out the door...

Althea glances at Nathaniel and motions back toward campus, then looks to Edgeworth. "I'll catch up with you at the Archive later on."
Edgeworth nods. "Very well. I shouldn't leave Miss Mirilas waiting, after all."
Nathaniel nods solemnly and starts off in that direction, with Althea following not far behind.
Berdmol watches the two move off for a moment, then turns back to Edgeworth, commenting quietly. "How curious to see one set upon a path at once so like and yet unlike that of one of our clerics..."
Edgeworth raises an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
Berdmol: Zilargo does not produce a great number of clerics. Those few who do find deep enough conviction, may not always find it in the most anticipated of places.
Edgeworth: I see...
Berdmol: Most religious Zil seek their own personal truths rather than any sense of belonging.
Edgeworth's eyes narrow in disapproval at the phrase 'personal truths'.
Berdmol: Then again, most Zil tend to have an open-minded and arguably experimental approach to the whole matter.
Edgeworth raises an eyebrow.
Berdmol: I find myself somewhat curious just what sequence of events led you to discover your own convictions... but I suppose I'd best not keep you under the circumstances.
Edgeworth glances aside awkwardly. "Indeed, to say nothing of those circumstances having been rather personal."
Berdmol: Hmmm... perhaps you yourself were brought low by such a truth while you pursued other convictions...?
Edgeworth's eyes widen as he recoils. "H-how...?!"
Berdmol: Heh, thought it was something like that. Now I'm even more curious, but there really isn't time.
Edgeworth glares. "Nor a willingness to share on my own part."
Edgeworth turns and begins to storm off a bit too quickly.
Berdmol shakes her head and heads back toward campus.

Althea and Nathaniel make their way into an unused meeting room in one of the campus buildings, Althea scanning the room briefly before closing the door and turning to face the other halfling.

Nathaniel: Would that we meet under more pleasant circumstances. I had a feeling something like this might be coming, but... I did not mean to cause you such distress. I'm sorry.
Althea sighs and shakes her head. "No, it's my fault, I let this go on when I should have said something. How did you find out, anyway?"
Nathaniel: Berdmol gave me a talk about it this morning while we were away from the group. Didn't want me generating rifts in the team over personal matters...
Althea: How'd she find out?
Nathaniel: Aside from just plain knowing what everyone's thinking? Hmm, I think she mentioned Tikra raised some kind of concern last night...
Althea facepalms. "And Tikra got it from Illyvalen, of course. I forgot for a moment just how fast word travels around here. Look, it wasn't my intent to spread this behind your back, and certainly not to bring down the wrath of our lady of eternal minor vexation. Just that something came up last night that... kinda forced the issue when I'd been hoping to avoid it."
Nathaniel: ...does this have something to do with the concert?
Althea sits down in a chair and looks over to Nathaniel again. "Yeah. Illyvalen invited me..."
Nathaniel: ...I invited you hoping to have the pleasure of your company. It pains me to think you were going to deprive yourself precisely because I asked... Have I truly burdened you so deeply?
Althea: This isn't your fault. I let this get out of hand. It wasn't fair to you either, to just let things go like this... I just...
Nathaniel sighs. "Ever the kind and gentle one. Even now, have you no harsh words for me? Perhaps it was best that your friends chose to offer up condemnation on your behalf..."
Althea: No. You haven't done anything wrong, and I'm not mad at you. I don't hate or even dislike you. I just... am not comfortable with this kind of attention.
Nathaniel looks confused, asking after a moment, "Not 'comfortable'? Um... are you trying to tell me to stop, or to slow down?"
Althea groans and buries her face in her hands. "Why am I making this so difficult for myself?"
Nathaniel takes a seat himself, looking to Althea with concern.
Althea: I... I need you to stop. I'm not... willing to have that kind of relationship with you. I'm sorry.
Nathaniel: I... will accept that, even though I don't really think I understand...
Althea: Th-thank you... I... I'm sorry if I... hurt you...
Nathaniel watches Althea with increasing worry. "Are you all right?"
Althea: I... I will be. Please go now.
Nathaniel spends a few moments longer in conflicted hesitation at Althea's obvious distress, before the urgency with which her words were spoken pushes him to rise from his seat and depart the meeting room, closing the door behind him.

By the time Edgeworth makes it back to the Korranberg Archive, his unease at Berdmol's eerily accurate prying has subsided enough to be easily buried. Once he makes it down to the first basement, he finds Illyvalen waiting there, whom he approaches and makes a sweeping bow towards.

Edgeworth: Good afternoon. My apologies for subjecting you to a wait.
Illyvalen: Um, did something happen? I was kind of surprised Althea wasn't here either...
Edgeworth: Initially, it was simply a matter of us going out to lunch. ...The matter was complicated by Mr. Salyrria's presence at the restaurant.
Edgeworth takes a seat at the table Illyvalen is at.
Illyvalen: Mr. Salyrria...? Oh, right, Nathaniel. He and Berdmol didn't show up at the meeting this morning...
Edgeworth: Indeed; apparently they were addressing something together, though the details never emerged.
Illyvalen: Oh, that's right, I got the concert tickets. Althea said to go ahead and not worry about the whole thing from last night... I invited Tikra too, I don't think she's been to one before, but she's getting better with crowds lately and... uh, sorry, I'm kind of rambling...
Edgeworth simply shrugs. "So long as no one is disruptive, who does or does not come is of no concern to me."
Illyvalen: Disruptive?
Edgeworth: By speaking aloud or moving about during the music, for instance.
Illyvalen: Uh, I wouldn't think so...
Edgeworth smirks. "Then there should be no issue."
Illyvalen: I... uh... o...kay...?
Edgeworth appears thoughtful for a moment. "...Has your ability with a language ever made sudden, unexpected leaps forward?"
Illyvalen: I think so? Not really unexpected after a while, I guess, but eventually it comes together enough you can think in terms of how to express your ideas in that language. It helps when you're working with a native speaker that you're comfortable talking with...
Edgeworth: As you're aware, I've taken the time to learn several languages. It does grow simpler with each new language, and yet I can't recall having an experience quite like that of this morning.
Illyvalen: What was it?
Edgeworth: Althea was questioning me in Common concerning the root of systems of justice and the reasons why I belong where I do within one.
Edgeworth: In answering her questions, I began to express myself eloquently, without hesitation or indeed any focus on the fact that it was still in Common.
Illyvalen: Oh. I think I know, maybe? Um, so you had the Knowledge domain, right?
Edgeworth: We believe so, yes.
Illyvalen: It is supposed to help with learning in some ways. You might want to ask Dil or Althea more about it.
Edgeworth: Hmmm.
Edgeworth puts his finger to his temple. I suppose that doesn't conflict with my best conjecture on the matter — that what examples of Common I've overheard but haven't paid direct attention to suddenly began to connect with those I have.
Edgeworth sighs and shakes his head. I may never truly become used to this...
Edgeworth: I suppose such a query is warranted. ...Of course, there is still much I need to learn. I lack the grounding in etymology necessary to deduce the meanings of words that aren't apparent from context, for example.
Illyvalen: Then we should begin?
Edgeworth grins. "Indeed."

After some time, Tikra slips into the conference room, closing the door behind her and looking at Althea as the halfling rests her head on her folded arms on the conference room table. She quietly takes a seat and waits a few moments before speaking.

Tikra: ...Nathaniel sent me here, but he was unwilling or unable to explain what happened.
Althea doesn't respond at first.
Tikra: Has he hurt you?
Althea responds in a slightly ragged voice, "I hurt me."
Tikra: I... do not understand.
Althea looks up briefly. "It's complicated. There are things I... cannot explain..."
Althea: I spoke to him. I told him... what I needed to. It simply... wasn't as easy as I imagined.
Tikra: ...then you too held such interest? I... did not realize...
Althea rises to a sitting position and fixes Tikra with a glare as best she can given her posture and breathing are still unsteady enough to give the impression that she could return to sobbing at any moment.
Althea: That doesn't leave here. The last thing I need right now is to give him mixed signals.
Tikra nods solemnly.
Althea: As for Berdmol...
Tikra looks at the ground. "When I heard Illyvalen's explanation of your... difficulties with Nathaniel... I concluded you were finding his actions toward you distressing, but that you were unable to confront him about it."
Tikra: It would seem I was not entirely correct in that assessment. I should not have acted without consulting you.
Althea sighs. "I do appreciate that you were trying to protect me... nevertheless, even were I not conflicted on this issue, resolving it was my responsibility, and one I am capable of. I don't need decisions made for me."
Tikra winces. "The gravity of my error escaped me. I... I'm sorry... I did not intend to—"
Althea shakes her head. "I know you meant well. And all it really did in this case was force the matter to be resolved slightly less... discreetly than I would normally have preferred..."
Althea looks back down at the table for a moment, takes a deep breath, and slowly rises to her feet. "It's all right. I'll be fine. Come on, let's get out of here." She makes her way to the door, her first steps unsteady, but with her composure regained by the time she reaches for the handle.
Tikra nods slowly and stands, following Althea out of the room.