One of my favourite characters in Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana is Veola, the seemingly rather standoffish owner of the magic shop in Kavoc.
Veola’s sidequest is technically optional, but like most of the “shopkeeper quests” throughout Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana, it’s hard not to get swept along in the soap opera of her life — and how she relates to the other people around her, including protagonist Klein, his party members, bartender Norman and numerous others.
So let’s take a closer look at this rather closed-off young woman and figure her out a bit. Some spoilers ahead!
Upon first encountering Veola, we get the impression of a young woman who doesn’t really like her lot in life, and kind of resents the situation in which she’s found herself. Something’s not quite right with this, though, and that’s immediately apparent; what she’s saying seems to suggest that she doesn’t want to run a magic shop, but the beautiful decorations and immaculate organisation of the place suggests that she actually takes great pride in it.
Well, mostly; an early event sees protagonist Klein and leading lady Lita catching her slacking off and eating when she “should” be tending the shop, but it’s hard to be mad at her. She runs the place by herself, is clearly skilled at what she does — for the most part, anyway — and, moreover, has to put up with a fair amount of harassment from resentful members of Kavoc’s Chamber of Commerce who, for one reason or another, want her gone.
As we get to know Veola a bit better, we learn more and more about her. We learn that she hails from a far-off place, and that she’s the only surviving member of her family. We learn that she has a long-term goal to create a mysterious item known as a “Chronolex”. And we know that Norman, the owner of the bar in Kavoc, has taken on the role of father figure towards her. There’s nothing sinister and no ulterior motives there, either; the relationship between the pair of them is purely wholesome and rather heartwarming.
Veola and Lita clash almost immediately. They are two very strong personality types that seemingly find themselves completely incompatible with each other. Lita is loud, brash, aggressive and not afraid to speak her mind on anything — with the important exception of all things romantic. Veola, meanwhile, is softly spoken, passive-aggressive and pretty in tune with her feelings; she quite openly admits partway through the story that she’s carrying a fairly large torch for Klein, and that Lita should probably step her game up if she wants a piece of that alchemical ass.
Many of Veola and Lita’s clashes come after you bring the former some ingredients to craft a new item. Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana’s shop crafting system features short skits after you create an item for the first time, during which the shopkeeper names the item in question and Klein and friends tend to comment on its quality, its possible uses (if any) — and the name. Veola is, not to put too fine a point on it, more of a scientist than a creative type, and as such tends to give things rather practical names. Lita, meanwhile, has strong feelings about what things “should” be called, and is not afraid to share her thoughts on such matters.
Veola’s emphasis on practicality over artistic expression extends to her fashion sense, too. Throughout the course of the game, it’s possible to get her to craft a number of equippable items — but most of them, at least in the early hours, are heavily criticised by Lita for being extremely dated or unfashionable. Even Klein finds himself admitting that the “Magoo Clothes” are a bit old-school for him.
Like real relationships, though, things develop. The banter between Lita and Veola becomes more than just verbal jousting. Veola knows inside that Lita is correct, and recognises that she can probably learn something from this boisterous young woman — but her pride prevents her from admitting such things. Lita, likewise, finds herself enjoying the jousting with Veola; she rarely argues with Klein and the rest of the crew — with the possible exception of Delsus — and so it’s easy to see that she actually looks forward to her next verbal sparring match.
And something wonderful happens as time goes on. Veola, having had the same fixed frown on her face for the vast majority of the game, starts to show some emotions on her face. At first, it’s an occasional sticking out of the tongue at Lita when she says something particularly offensive. Then it’s a gentle, subtle smile. And finally, as her story comes towards its conclusions, she starts to show genuine, honest happiness.
This is super-important, because Veola is clearly wracked with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and likely post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of, we discover, seeing her whole village — including her family — burned to death in a vicious attack. When we first meet her, she’s in a very dark place; she doesn’t care about what she does because she’s just going through the motions of what is expected of her, nothing more. And she’s so used to people being mean to her that her first instinct on encountering new people — Klein and Lita in this case — is to push them away through any means possible.
But Klein and Lita’s persistence — and their willingness to help her with her various projects — pays off. Veola recognises that they’re not just using her as a means to an end, and that they’re not going to abandon her as soon as they get what they want… and that they are her friends. Her feelings for Klein are clearly genuine, but she also recognises that Lita is a better fit for him, since they are clearly important to one another, and their travels together have helped them grow stronger and closer.
We can finally feel reassured that Veola’s personal growth has reached a milestone when you successfully craft a Chronolex for her. This is a lengthy, multi-stage and rather complex process — and partway through it, Lita discovers that Veola intends to use the device to effectively kill herself, enter the underworld and see her departed brother again. Klein, having no knowledge of this, brings her the parts — but when the crafting is complete, the result is not a Chronolex, but a Bio Frame. “The difference is in how much you tighten the screw,” Veola explains.
The Bio Frame is used for a completely different purpose to the Chronolex, and is Veola’s wordless admission that she finally has something to live for, thanks to the friendships she has forged. She’s not magically “cured” or anything — she makes sure to point out to Lita that she’s not ruling out the use of a Chronolex in the future if she figures the time is right — but she has finally found some meaning in her life.
And that’s pretty wonderful.
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