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I Was Born The Unloved Twin 113 One Normal Lunch

I Was Born The Unloved Twin - NovelFullApp.com

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"Kyaaa~ Oh my!!! Oh my little preziosa~"

There is a terrible scene in front of me. Absolutely horrible. Someone call child protective services. No, it's not actually my mother terrorizing the minions.

I think it just may be even worse than that.

"Father....just...why? Are you really that free? " I somehow manage to form words.

"So cuuuuuuute! Oh my my my our Lilyanne is practically a genius! Too cute!!!!"

"When I said to make her smarter...this was not what I had in mind."

"Cute cute cute!!! You're doing AMAZING sweetie!!!! Oh ho ho ho Rosa dear, now don't be copy rude habits with your mouth from your father~"

"....Yes mother."

Child protective services, please. Preferably to get me the high h.e.l.l out of here before it's too late.

Strings pluck, playing a light and more than pleasant enough sound despite the monstrosity that is a harpsichord.

The music in this world is generally quite....strange, to my sense of tastes. Anyone ever heard a Renaissance fair or some courtly movie background music? Yeah that, but worse. Somehow under the nerd's control and pacing, played with those long piano fingers, it's bearable. Shame he plays too little to sway this world to slightly less bad tastes. The beautiful lazy melody floating across the air and flowing out and down the balcony.

It's a lovely day, too fresh and lovely to be spent cooped up.

However direct sunlight is bad for any lady's skin and hair, especially my own. The long dining terrace provides the perfect combination of indoor and outdoors. A pleasant view of the family estate a few floors up, shaded patios with grape vines climbing around the marble columns, open s.p.a.ce with a soothing breeze and no doors to block me from running back 'inside'.

Right now 'inside' is dangerously blocked by a dancing little monkey- oh wait no that's just my twin sister.

Like a trained monkey, Lilyanne totters along. completing a clumsy little ch.o.r.eographed dance in tune to father's playing. At best it could be called adorable. Like a pre-school recital. At worst it's the kind of funny stuff embarra.s.sing parents put up on the internet for millions of strangers to laugh and coo at.

Nothing too difficult. The music is rather simple, quite jolly, and utterly ridiculous in how well trained the little dancer is per tune.

She hops and hops, kicking her feet up with a turn and quite possibly the most graceful curtsey she has ever performed in her life. All before falling over on her b.u.t.t giggling when the music finally ends. The layers of fluff of her shorter than usual toddler dress poofed up to flash those scandalous poofy pumpkin undies.

Oh the utter lack of shame and decorum made perfectly acceptable in how small and babyishly cute she is. I feel faint in indignation.

Though that could be the lack of oxygen I'm getting in mother's lap dog hold.

The song and dance recital is over. Mother you can stop squealing now.


Mother I would very much like to breathe again.

Please have mercy on these tiny lungs, they cannot stand the force of being your pillow. I beseech thee mother, release me before my time is tragically cut short, forcing me to try my chances again at getting reborn. Hopefully in a less dangerous life.

"Cute cute oh so cuuuuute! Who is my good girl? Lily sweetie, my little duckie! Oh bravissimo! Bravo! Freed, Frederick, my love, my darling, dearest gleam of my heart oh that was just wonderful!~ Bravo!"

Who needs to wait for when I grow up? What are red flags, plots or schemes? I shall die here, nestled in the deadliest softness of my mother's surprisingly strong arms and warm flesh.

No pit of quicksand could compare nor any outside crus.h.i.+ng force. I think the only worse fate is forced to humiliatingly dance along like Lilyanne or being crushed by a trash compactor. Oddly I hear the harsh crus.h.i.+ng sounds now in my mother's applause. Oh my ribs, my inner organs, my head? I cannot bear this weight of b.o.o.bies.

Goodbye cruel world. I only wished, to have partaken in one last supper.

"What did I miss!?" comes a voice, striking down from the sky like lightning.

Though it sounds more as if it's climbing from over the balcony than anything. G.o.d is that you? Oh h.e.l.l you actually exist? d.a.m.n have I really died? Why is your voice so annoyingly like that crazy old-

"Papa! You missed it, our Lily sweet did the most wonderful adorable show of cuteness! Oh my to think my daughter could be so unbearably cute and ladylike!~ Oh of course, oh ho ho ho~ Darlings, do it again won't you?"

"That's my girl! Excelling in all she does! Huh doesn't look like Rosa found it too fun though, tuckered right out! Here here sleepy head, come to grampapa'!"

Air! Blessed air! For once the hero actually delivers and rescues me from a most certain death. Oh sweet delicious air!

"...my...hero...this is still all your fault." I huff.

Pat pat pat. Very good, man b.o.o.bies are a lot firmer, much less risk of suffocation. Pat pat pat. All my actions are excused due to the lack of oxygen in my brain.

To think a man's fit chest could be so satisfyingly comfortable? This is a very sublime level of squish against hard toned pectoral muscle. Pat pat pat. Unlike my mother's softly sinking fresh mochi this is a roasted toasted mochi snack! Maybe on a stick with a brush of sweetened soy sauce or nutty miso paste? Grilled puffed up gohei mochi? Ahhh I miss that stuff, so yummy.

Pat pat pat.

"Papa....perhaps...I'm lacking in some aspect?" mother looks down to the empty spot in her cleavage where I almost perished. Her pretty head turning back and forth from her empty arms to the pillows on grampa, where I can actually safely breathe.

"Absolutely not, mio dolce amore." father interrupts from behind his instrument, blank faced in all seriousness.

As both her husband and an indecent perverted fiend, he goes ignored, as should be! With mother worriedly looking down at herself and back to her own father in comparison. As if there could be a comparison? On the floor Lilyanne rolls and rolls, giggling in tired happiness.

This is truly a very strange family and I don't think any world's child protective services can take it on.

"Of course not Maria, though I don't know what we're talking about." he tries looking down to where Mother glares but the dots simply do not connect, even with my helpful hints of pat pat pat. "But of course not! My baby girl can never lack for anything! What do you need?! Is Freddy bullying you on not providing enough!? No that can't be right?"

"I would never." father sounds insulted. So much so that he stops his playing with one hand to snap for the servants on standby.

"Send the catalogs and lace samples to the lady's boudoir for later. Order 30 more nightwear. Double, no triple the far east silk imports. And tell that scammer I'll take the crystal swans, they'll hang as my wife's garden ornaments. "

"What is it?! If it's something money can't buy tell papa' all about it and I'll get it no matter what!!!" grandfather pa.s.sionately declares.

No, no do not give mother any more than you already have. I'll seriously die. It's too much. Her bosom and closet are all too much.

It doesn't stop, the Ventrella menfolk continue to one up each other in their own special horrid ways.

"Order more knotted jewelry from the northwest. Pastel pearls from the South East and unique freshwater specimens in the far south seas. The painted bone porcelain cups from those blasted 'other' ports. Get the jeweled hairpins while we're at it, the more delicate the better. "

"Did you want more lessons? What subject? Anyone in mind baby girl?! I'll send orders and if they dare refuse then I'll beat and s.h.i.+t- I mean s.h.i.+p them over!"

"A s.h.i.+p. My lady must have a personal s.h.i.+p yes, start construction in mind for a seafaring vessel strong and tastefully suitable to bear the honor of my wife's name. Cost is no of concern of course. Make it light, fast, and of course beautiful."

"Don't sigh Maria, it's too long of a wait isn't it?! Too slow! We'll send the hot air balloons on it. Gable! I'll tell Gabe! Just tell papa what you want and where!"

Despite the world being offered practically at her feet, mother still pouts. Cheeks pink and pretty. With a delicate hand she points straight to where I'm settled on grampa's chest, then pats down at her own lap as if awaiting a teacup puppy or a toy doll.

Oh no.

Oh no she means me doesn't she?

Not again! Ahhhhhh!!! Lilyanne quick, do another dance and distract her! Grampa no, don't put me down there! Noooooo. Not the-

A sparkling gold coin goes flying in the air. It s.h.i.+nes beyond compare and comes to me like the light of the sun. Only to directly fall into mother's ....dress.

Ah s.h.i.+t.

*Sigh* The things I do for money.

"Kyaa! Thank you darling~" coos mother, arms outstretched as I weakly crawl back to my prison.

In her thanks, she blows disgusting kisses to father who receives the embarra.s.sing gesture gracefully with a small bow in his seat. One hand still managing to play keys through it all. It should be cringe and awful, by all common sense it should be horrible. But the too smooth gesture of his bowing hand bringing empty fingers to merely touch solemnly upon his lips has me feeling faint all over again.

I mean, ugh gross, d.a.m.n nerd. Couples. Gag.

Mother?

Mother, did you faint?

While I should be glad that a limp mother means easy breathing and less of this very unique training, I'm feeling a tad concerned here. h.e.l.lo? Earth to mother?

Lights are on I suppose, lit in a pink lovely dovey aura, but no one's home. She's quite offline.

How terrifying. I can hardly imagine the sheer amount of brain damage that awful man has inflicted on her over the years. If Lilyanne has the face of an angel then her cursed father is the face of G.o.d's most beautiful and once favorite one, fallen to rule the pits of h.e.l.l. Such a fiend.

That evil man is now playing another sonata, the pace faster and livelier for Lilyanne to swirl and twirl in yet another awfully adorable puppet dance.

It's not random movements, he actually has her trained a set dance per song? Why oh why?!

"Awwwww! Thatta girl! Lily, you're doing amazing, sweetie!" claps grampa along in tune.

Why oh why am I getting a bad ringing of deja vu again. Or the somewhat sudden craving for bad modern T.V. shows? It's the lack of entertainment probably.

I went from having the internet at my disposal to ...this.

At something that sounds like it's being played in an ear-piercing minor, Lilyanne continues to hop and dance. I am far greater horrified than I am amused at this children's programming.

Part because the modern brain that is me is just shaking at how ridiculous it all looks.

Part because the original is screaming at having to relearn or do any of this, again.

No. No thank you. Oh no no no no no!

As many a refined lady, Rosalia was forced to master many things. Dance being a very obvious one. From a young age, she was trained and practiced as not to shame herself in any public setting, including b.a.l.l.s.

A great problem being ....Rosalia...was not the best ...dancer.

Is it really her fault?! I can't blame her I mean just look at this s.h.i.+t?! Why couldn't they do the Vienna waltz or some cla.s.sy mood dancing, even those fancy pretty Jane Austen movies stuff? Nooooooo they river dance and clap around in Le Tourdion or the Volta or the 16 thousand other 'dances' that honestly don't look too different. There's so many to memorize and what's 'fas.h.i.+onable' or trending changes faster than the waves at sea.

There were businesses to run and get done, and people expected me of all people to learn how many hopping goat dances? Ha!

Being the busy, resourceful but uh....gracefully...lacking girl that she was, Rosalia learned to dance much like a well-practiced recital. You know, memorize the one dance you have to do with your stupid mannequin of a prince partner, twirl around a bit in the public eye, then sit down and pat yourself on the back with some clotted cream and wine for a job well done.

However, an even better job was finding all the excuses to tragically be unable to attend, let alone be forced to dance. They can't judge or make you do s.h.i.+t if you don't attend. What a brilliant girl I was sometimes. Oh ho ho ho~

Oh but Lilyanne did love her b.a.l.l.s.

It actually doesn't surprise me at all that she's such a well-trained monkey dancer at this young age. Of course, the protagonist, the so called perfection incarnate, is the epitome of beauty and grace in every scene. Including what counts as the dance floor here, I guess.

So many a fun times snapping the secret guards to either stop or simply escort the young lady Lilyanne back home from her 'sneaking out' escapes to whatever dozen of hosted parties that season held. I may have even joined them in on a few occasions, in actual disguise of course and not whatever my admittedly not so bright sister did.

Sure I didn't need to go myself with the spy networks I had. But sometimes, you just have to go witness your fiance blatantly cheating on you with your sister in person.

A live show is really much different. Very fun.

It was actually very stress-relieving once in a while, for entirely different reasons than my sister so enjoyed!

The best part was watching the stupid prince pine and cry is jealous frustration over Lilyanne basking in the natural attention. My stone cold lump of coal of a fiancee took a few years to become a proper 'domineering' sort of prince that could effectively take the lead. Rather he would whine and and whine internally like a bad batch of wine, keeping sullen and eternally in an awful mood. Until he finally did something about it, say be a cheating b.a.s.t.a.r.d, Lilyanne was free to spin and twirl with everyone, suitor or not, who asked for a dance.

Really what the h.e.l.l did she see in the guy? There was like at least a handful of infinitely better options in comparison by her side? Ah, but those are stories I'll think about for another day.

Sometimes the original would send in a few plants, not only to keep Lilyanne safe but just for the fun of it. Handsome guard number 13 you're up. Followed by flirty spy number 7. Or fake clumsy waiter number 33, off to spill and ruin some catty n.o.blewomen's outfits or b.u.mp the stupid prince in some awkward situations.

Once she even managed to indirectly make the whole harem come to believe a ghastly lake spirit or had gotten their dear Lily one icy night. Ahh to have that stupid waterlogged fiancee of mine battle royale style getting beat up in a swarm was truly a wonderful memory to see and keep.

How was I supposed to know they're all mad enough to rus.h.i.+ngly jump in like it was a race, without checking? Poor Lilyanne worried so much she fell ill with fever the next day but it was still soooooo worth it.

Ahem. I admit, Rosalia was quite the petty girl with a terrible sense of humor.

But so am I! Ahahahahaha!

No one knows it yet, but that dancing little girl will be such a heartbreaker. A hilarious one may I add?

...This world really is lacking in entertainment for me to be like this.

Out of politeness and the fear of mother, I clap along as Lily and father finish the end of this mini concerto. Grampa and mother being the loudest of course. The beaming princess of this family finally tired out after her show.

"Papa! Lilwi do real good!?" she looks up at the nerd with eyes of s.h.i.+ning adoration, love and...hey wait a minute. That's just suspicious!

"Of course my little cheese wheel. But we must work on your speech, and for that I must reduce a cheese".

Father pets at her hair, picking her up for a light was.h.i.+ng in a warm bowl of lemon flower water. When he pulls off his own gloves with a snap, lunch is served with a line of servants to finally fill the set table.

"Cheese!!!"

Of course. Bribe and punish the child with food. How evil and utterly effective. Bravo father, I both fear and somewhat respect your villainy ways.

Just don't make me do any of that and we're good.

By the power of love or something like that, mother revives enough to release me and shower kisses and praise upon her 'darlings'. From an outsider's point of view, it looks like a very ideal sort of scene, a good looking family under the spring shaded spotlight. No filters needed, put it on a postcard.

In reality, it's very gross. Even Lilyanne wiggles in displeasure, caught between the nasty couple who block the way to her beloved cheese. Her tiny toddler limbs and stubborn expression, made all the more adorable fighting for freedom when it's plainly futile.

For a moment her sunlit amber eyes actually open, full of simple but fiery determination. She looks up beyond to squish of flesh entombing her and the sight of cheese, making direct eye contact with her mirror image.

I pick up my fork and enjoy my sald. Nope, nope nope, not getting into that mess.

Mmmmmmmm this Buretta cheese today is simply subline! Oh the mild richness goes so well to compliment the agrula and herbs, with the tangy white wine-based vinaigrette. Such sheer perfection of flavors, oh wow, great cheese.

Those hatefully adorable cow eyes start tearing up.

I take another bite of cheese.

"Waaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!"

Nom nom nom, oh my this soft blobby cheese goes so well on a simple tomato pasta as well. Soooo delicious! With such a beautiful hard prepared spread in front of me, how could I notice let alone bother with my tiredly sobbing sister? One must help themselves first before helping others. That's what all the safety manuals say, and how right we modern folks are.

So goooooood. Now this is pasta.

"WAaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!!!!! Wah!"

"Oh dear." professes mother, as if suddenly made aware of a sobbing toddler sandwiched between her and father's.....affections.

"It appears my love, that our Lilyanne's hunger outweighs yours." father makes a step back, arm still snugly around mother's waist, just enough to release the wild toddler

Who goes spearheading herself, not to literally any other seat at this table, but directly to me?

Ack! Grampa, take care of this!?

I scramble to safety behind where grampa laughs into his wine. Lilyanne goes straight for my partly eaten plates, specifically the serving of cheese on them. It's only when she stuffs them into her mouth with a huff and a satisfied sigh does she calm down from her tears. Blissfully chewing messily over my portion.

"Swwwoooo yuuuuuuuumy." she sings and sighs.

"...my food?"

So petty!!! How is a toddler so darn petty!? I wasn't expecting any of this until she hit p.u.b.erty?!

"Ahahaha hah! Careful there Rosalia! Not everything will go the way you expect it to." grampa laughs, setting me back up on table.

"But..."

He ruffles my hair, surely messing up mother's carefully tied little braid and side ribbon. When he reaches for another dish, his head bends low to me, smile boyish despite his age.

"The dance you already know, you don't have to follow them out step by step. No one does, not really. The tune changes all the time, even with the same player." he winks at me.

Eyes too warm brown, too big and little too much like Lilyannes. I feel like pulling those unfair lashes out.

"I don't know any stupid dances. I'm three."

"Of course pumpkin!"

"...but if I did, I'm not crazy enough to do it all over again like that. "

"I don't think anyone is."

"Not even you?"

"Not even me. Everything and nothing is the same."

"That doesn't make sense. It's the same. You're all the same...but you're missing steps. You're strange, you're all too strange compared to the yous of before."

"I'm me and no one else darling. Maybe, you just didn't meet me yet, not really."

This grandfather is as confusing as he is dangerous. Despite the bright sunny grin and cheerful laugh lines forming on his face, I know this is actually a horrible man with the blood of countless on his hands. I know there are awful stories hiding in plain sight as well as those buried so deep no amount of digging will get it back out again.

Trusting him is equivalent to betting your life. I just have no other options.

"Does it matter? No. No, it doesn't. "

"Only if you want it to little one. Go from there. "

"Go from where?"

"Wherever you want. Whatever you want. Otherwise, what's the point of it all?"

There is none. There is no real point. I still don't even know why I'm here, why me? Why was I the unlucky one that got pulled into this strange situation, this other world? Just because I keep myself busy doesn't mean all the questions go away. Just because I plan and prepare with my all doesn't mean I can still make it out unscathed.

This mother is different.

This father is different.

Even this Lilyanne is growing up to be different, but by how much?

Yet it's still all the same. No one is magically another person. They're all the same people who made up Rosalia's fragile little world. Who set her up for failure, who she set up for her own heartbreak. Again. And again. And again.

I don't like this song and dance. I don't want to play.

"What if I told you...I just want that pasta?"

A giant forkful plops the saucy carbs on the plate in front of me. Grampa's deceptively handsome grin hiding that hint of a challenge he previously the man playing my father. It's quite annoying how he looks at me as if he always knows something I don't.

While I always feel lost somewhere, like a real child. How frustrating,

"Tomatoes and cheese and the veal, fish, no not that fish a less stinky fish. Do it again. Custard. Wine!"

Everything loads up in front of me but the wine. Darn it.

My parents chuckle as they finally take their seats at lunch. Finally remembering they had company, say two different generations of them. With mother cleaning off the sauce from a messy giggling Lilyanne while father raises an eyebrow at the unhealthy pile grampa keeps building up for me.

"I think that's enough gramps."

"What's that pumpkin? Not enough?~"

"That's the whole ham leg! No!"

" Too salty, yes that right."

"That's the cheesecake, no no no!"

"Cheeswie?!" the other toddler tries crawling over, eyes on the prize.

"Oh dear, no my little duckie, finish your meal first." coos mother, before turning sharply, getting scary again.

"And papa stop teasing Rosa. Eat your food. Rosalia, no, don't think I don't see you behind papa. You must not touch any wine. That's for grown ups and my little bird is far from being grown up. Darling say something, she listens to you."

"Listen to your mama Chippy. "

"Yes Maria, huh I swore- when did you get that pumpkin? Ahahahaha!"

"...I was just smelling it mother."

"Oh hoho~ My Rosalia, do you need to sit in between with mama again? Where I can watch you very carefully?"

"...no mother. I'll be good."

Time to stuff my face. Ahh scary scary, almost as bad when my own ma would nag me when I came back to visit, especially during meal times. Almost. That's just because mother isn't anywhere near serious yet.

I don't want to see that. Never ever.

But yummy food tastes good regardless. As the master of sitting through awkward situations, let's just keep eating. Mmmmmm.

"Hear that my darling, she knows exactly what she's doing when she's not. She gets it from you after all."

"I could refute that on the present evidence alone, my sweet love, but I never said she didn't."

"Oh you and papa spoil her so! Frederick, husband dear, she's going to turn out so much worse than the domineering daughters from all those other n.o.ble houses."

"I'm afraid, queen of my heart, that I'm happily preoccupied trying to spoil you. I am also afraid that it's too late for that. There's no need as Rosa for she does just as she likes. It's worse. So far worse, that no other could hope to compare, for she gets that from you. And to think you wanted another..."

"Oh but a boy would be so precious and-!!! Wait... what did you just say to me dear?"

"My what a novice ensalada, yes lovely. I see, this pure taste goes well with light or strong flavors. No wonder the girls are so enamored with this cheese, it's suitable for children."

"Oh daaaarling?~"

Munch munch chew chew, yes what deliciousness. I am tuning out everything. Nothing, not even gross reality can ruin meal time.

After all what's the point of being thrown in the doomed role of a little rich girl if I don't enjoy some fine dining? Was food ever so tasty for that Rosalia? It's not like she couldn't afford whatever she wanted, later on, it's just...I don't think we ever had a meal like this?

Leisurely, all together, out under the open sun and green grapevines draping down. This house, no matter how beautiful it was, has never been like this. The terrace balcony has never been opened and used in this way.

Father was never so free or fiendish, mother was never so strong and healthy, and for some odd reason, the crazy old man playing grampa has never been insane.

I take another bite, slightly melting into the taste of well braised red wine and meat.

Yep, food is more delicious now that it's ever been! All because I'm a cheat genius gracing my modern knowledge on these dishes. Of course! Oh hoho!

"So what do you think...." starts father, perhaps in the attempt to distract and save his own skin, "about heading up to the high vineyards?"

He smiles as if it were a generous present, a vacation, something that will benefit us entirely. I know that sparking scam face. It won't work on me, no matter how sinfully convincing or heart racing it is. Huh, perhaps they didn't cook out all the alcohol in this meat?

"Father....are you trying to run away from court work again?" I increase my eating speed with fervor.

"On the contrary my Rosalia, it will involve a lot more."

"Oh of course it is. For work." mother pouts, one cheek puffed up. "How long will you be gone this time?"

"We could all be gone for the rest of the season if you wish my love. How does that sound? See to honored father's main winery and orchards, before it gets too hot. Ride daytrips north to those trading hubs. You haven't gotten your taste of city life and shopping this year, and I'd hate for you to feel behind on the fun."

Father takes her hand as he speaks, using his other one to lightly wipe off what could be some sauce or just her red lip tint. Even when her face is obviously well and clean, he doesn't release her hand. Rather bringing it up for a cheesy death, uh I mean kiss.

I feel like slamming my whole face into this pasta, sauce or no.

"Hmmm, you're driving a very delicious offer my husband.~ Too good to be true even. What ever are you up to now? Do we need lay low again? All of us? Papa are you in on this too?"

"I may be," shrugs grampa, also practicing too busy eating and drinking to pay mind. Sometimes I wonder how he can put up with such an awkward and disgusting show. Bleh.

"Or perhaps ...the cliffside thermal springs?" brings up father.

Springs...the hot springs and spa towns! I forget we had those? I mean, it's not like the last few years of Rosalia's life was leisurely enough to be frequenting. Not with all the matters in the capital or the suffering back home.

So the original would say things along the lines of how those hot natural springs smelled awful anyways. Who has the time? A healing restorative vacation? Oh ho ho not Rosalia Ventralla!

...Ah I feel my blood pressure rise just by thinking about those times.

"Hmmm, the water is rejuvenating for a lady's skin...and the girls have never gone before."

"I'll have your rooms ready in a fortnight my love. "

"And I do love shopping... for myself....darling, one more thing."

"Yes dear."

"Cancel the orders for that awful s.h.i.+p in my name at once. By tonight. I know you weren't joking. If I see a gold and ivory s.h.i.+p with even a hint of my name or likeness carved into the figurehead, I'm docking it forever without a single consideration. "

"Well I suppose we'll take the gemstone carving down, I mean.....yes dear."

Well, I guess that's that. As a small child in the house I have absolutely no choice or control at all. Guess we're visiting up to the vineyards. Whether mother will get a s.h.i.+p or not is to be determined. Father sure never did that in the last life but I see it as a very believable thing now.

That's the best I can do then. Take the knowledge, not the memories. Taken it from then, but lay it under the now.

Because everything and nothing is the same.

Well, at least I think that's the point of what grampa is trying to say. A little hard to decipher crazy.

I wonder if I could manage to get us up north enough to pick up my horse. We just need to go a little bit further, past the border of the trade center towns. What a coincidence!

"What a coincidence. Papa? Darling, I heard from the last tea part that a certain young Northern royal shall be near the border around next season, for a public function. Hmmm?" mother tugs curiously at father's ribboned neck tie. I'm glad she likes up but...

"What?!!" I hear my own voice shriek like a mouse.

"Whaaaa?" parrots Lilyanne, copying along in pitch.

"What a coincidence indeed." father nods to the motion of mother's control, voice perfectly serious.

No no no I thought I avoided it for this year. I got poisoned for it?! Why do I have to see the stupid prince again so soon?! He's not as fun to bully when he's this little. I don't want to deal with this. Noooooooooo!

"No no nooooooooo" I half sob to grampa's rough pats on the top of my poor head, laughing the whole time.

"Like I said pumpkin, not everything. Some things! But not everything."

I slam my head into his palm, again feeling faint. I should go get poisoned again or something, then I really can't make it. Genius, me.

------------------------

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Bonus: 1 hour ago, 1 magic portal away

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A looming shadow. The blackened stains and wisps of smoke, spelling disaster not too long past. Slimy creatures crawling in broken splatters and chunks. A tearful torn child brought sore to his knees.

"...and why do we not bring in strange things to cook or play with?"

"Uhhh because we don't know what they are so we should so we can learn lots of stuff?"

"No....try again Lukas. Think about what ...just... happened."

"Because they blow up! Oh. Oh yeah. But Cap and Rosalia said she cooked on river rocks just fine all the way laaaaaaaast year. And you say I can't touch the fire anymore but then how do I get to be the best because I should be the best but bacon pasta didn't win because Amar aaaand Rosa cheated! So if I use hot rocks then that's not fire and it's ok if I-"

"You ...brought in a bucket of river stones and trail snails. In no way does to equate to mean... you bringing them into the kitchen!" the older man grits out, already tired from the thought to cleaning this up.

Gable's kitchen exploded. Wonderful. His walls are spotted in rock and everything was point blast scorched and charred. The only good thing to come out of this was that Lukas was unharmed, the boy had stepped out to the pantry when the pot of stones exploded.

"What a wonderful day for an energy filling whoooooa! Gabe what happened in here?! Ahahaha and you say only I blow up the kitchens!!! Ahaha! Oh....uhh"

Ron was at a slight loss. The last time this happened had not ended well for him. Now Lukas, merely a tiny squishy little s...o...b..ll of a boy, s.h.i.+vered on his knees. Awaiting the fires of retribution that might just be worse than the one he started.

Just the thought had Ron feel numb to his toes.

"...should I....take the lad and...go?"

"No." breathed Gable, voice icily calm. When he smiles, it's eerily beautiful, stiff as a statue. Cracks and chips breaking as it horrifyingly comes to life like a gargoyle.

Ron doesn't know whether to run and also get on his knees, maybe offer his neck to reduce Gable's anger. The kitchen blew up, again. Great.

The wind blows in from the broken window.

It's a painting, a small shower of yellow-white flowers, partly dried, swirling around. Scared as they are, Ron sighs at the sight. Lukas whimpering when it makes his nose twitch and sneezes.

The flowers twist and rope, lining themselves tight and full in a large basket. Various jars of goodies already packed inside. The entire thing was tied off by two fat lace twin ribbons on each side. The package obviously meant to appeal to a more feminine audience.

The pretty package was a little out of place in a broken and blackened kitchen.

"In fact, Ron...go out for lunch today. Enjoy yourself. Bring b.u.t.tercup some flowers and some small things I've been meaning to hand over."

"Um, Gable...are you sure I shouldn't stay and help clean. You know I've very good at cleaning up my own messes and-"

"Go."

"....So Gabe, what you're saying is you don't want a witness?"

"I won't have you spoiling the child. I'll handle this. Now go before I lose my patience with you too, don't forget the flowers."

"Go on without me Cap!" cries Lukas, eyes closed in a childish display of bravery. That and the half-blown up snail crawling on his bare foot really tickled and he was trying to hold it in.

"Be strong Lukas," the other man tearfully waves, arms outreached.

"Cap!"

"Lukas!"

"Just go." the blond snapped, wand out to blow a certain bothersome bad influence away. Dramatic cow eyes full of tears and all. That's why he kept his line of sight directly on the child. One who looked too much like him to draw enough sympathy to get him out of this.

The boy grimaced.

"Is this going to hurt lots or be really boring?!"

"Another lesson for today Lukas....both is always an option."

"Awww p.o.o.pies. Can we still eat first?"

"Maybe after you clean this place spotless."

"Awwww super p.o.o.pies.

---------------------------------

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Bonus 2: 1 hour later, 1 direct express Ventrella wagon ride away.

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A teenage boy with soft brown eyes and even softer brown hair neatened his waist ap.r.o.n. The thing not as convenient as a full ap.r.o.n was a bit more presentable outside, yet kept the rest of his beloved clothes still clean.

He may not be an enviously handsome youth but he appreciated taking care of himself. Complain as he might, the possibly insane little miss did make some divine things for his skin. Why that troublesome acne that sprouted since he was 13 had all but vanished.

Even in the dark and under a strangely fitted but protective hooded coat, he resembled something of a soft and tender sheep. No, it was exactly because he was in this sort of place that he stood out.

But he was here for an a.s.signed errand, something Alfonso personally instructed for him to make. It was fine.

"They wouldn't send me to some horrible torture lab or anything, ...right?"

Sure that nothing was left loose, untied or too embarra.s.sing, he knocked on the door to the thin door between the stones of a bridge. It was honestly so thin and hidden and shadows that without specific orders written to him by the household head butler, Georgie was sure he would have never found it.

His knocks are at first met with silence. Then a rummaging flurry of voices, heavy thuds, and the draining sound of something wet?

Georgie knocks again, sure that the code was right?

"Um it's me, Georgie from the main house. We've met before? You know the poor sap taking care of Rosalia? I was told- uh to bring this in and see if you needed anything else?"

More cras.h.i.+ng sounds followed. Slamming and the thudding of stairs. It sounded like this place was a lot bigger than it looked from the outside.

The door bursts open and it's not what he's expecting at all. A wet tall strong exotic woman stood in nothing but man's blood splattered s.h.i.+rt. Georgie doesn't know exactly where to look that was least offensive. Bare legs, b.l.o.o.d.y top, or the string tied tooth in her hand.

He settles on begging for forgiveness

"Uh, I'm very sorry! Saw nothing. Nothing here!"

"Oh, oh dang you're looking finer day by day. Clearer than a milk maid's. I see I see. Rosa really doing good work on you there."

"Tamera?! What the- Where did half your hair go? ....er what happened?!"

"Long story. Calm down it's really just Georgie boy."

The sound of something roaring spluttered and stopped, as well the clang of a few cages closing. However a great rusting of things getting stuffed does sound out now that the door was open.

Mentally, his brain goes through all of young Rosalia's bad jokes of family torture chambers. He wonders if he should bother running.

"Cute. Didn't think soft hamsters ever be his type. Well, it changes every year."

"What?!"

"I mean, come on in! Watch your step over here. How's the little princess, Georgie? "

"Uh...great. Bossy as ever, especially in the kitchen. Keeps surprising people that she's actually a little monster of a genius. There are rumors that all that talk is just a rumor like we're trying to show off the Ventrella's good name or something. "

Against all logic, Georgie steps through the door and down a crack in the wall that really should not have fit anyone. Still, it gives way and he sweats and he feels his way down from against the wall, making small talk as he goes.

"Ahhh people will always have room to talk. " Tamera waves off, opening a doorway of sharp point bars.

"So um..."

The teenager really didn't know what to ask first. The list was just too long.

"Yo special delivery for the chronically sick patient. Yuna, pull Vincent out of the coffin. It's just too obvious of a hiding spot when it's right there. You know? Sorry about him, kinda off lately."

From where he's perched, a younger feline-like boy gracefully kicks the stand. Forcing the coffin to tilt down to the floor and open.

Thankfully it's just a groaning hiding Vincent and not say a skeleton or a dead body. Georgie sighs in relief.

"Well um, here are some of the things supposedly set from Alfonso. Uh he said, you know what to do?" the teen sets his bags down, carrying out a metal container with what looked like many compartments.

Someone else might have been curious but not Georgie. No sireeee. He had something he liked to call common sense. There was a line with respecting others, and just not bothering in stuff that's not any of his business.

"And that." Yuna pointed a dangerous looking pair of pliers.

It was dark but Georgie would guess just about everything down here looked dangerous. He quickly offered up the lunch basket.

"Leftovers from today you brat. Vincent got his special herbs and porridge but I figured, how the h.e.l.l does anything live off just that? And I figured someone else might be around so I packed a h.e.l.l lot extras."

"You figured right" Yuna dropped the pliers, hopping down to help out with unloading lunch.

Okay, Georgie breathed. This he could do. Yuna was pretty familiar, the other side of this strange unpaid babysitting deal over young miss Rosalia.

"Sorry, thank you. Sorry for, yeah." the dark haired older boy muttered out, somehow still on the floor. At least he was looking healthier? More color that's for sure.

"This is just pathetic" Tamera crossed her arms, still too loosely dressed to be appropriate, anywhere.

"Uh huh, no problem. " Georgie unwrapped the dishes that were meant to be eaten right away, setting it on the table with Yuna's guidance and help.

Something felt off though, a nagging feeling that Rosa often just laughed on. Saying that was just him being a nag. And no it wasn't just the setting.

"So uh....sorry if this is rude but uh-" Georgie starts because there really was a limit to the common sense.

A soft groan. Practically indistinguishable from the creaking sounds echoing behind stone walls.

Georgie's feet move before his brain even registers it, climbing up a ladder by a shadowy loft.

"Told you he'd figure it out" Yuna scoffs at the others.

That soft groan was something Georgie had heard before, and it wasn't good. Soft voice, b.l.o.o.d.y head, a shy looking child that likes their house honey buns, cinnamon spice and all sorts of sweets too much.

"What the h.e.l.l is wrong with him?!" Georgie yells down, seeing the boy in his mind laying yet again in his own blood.

The more Georgie looks the more horrified he becomes.

Fresh bruises, fresher bandages. His entire left hand wrapped into a useless lumpy cast. The veins in his small temple blackened visibly under his skin. The kid was whimpering but unconscious, blood pooling out of his swollen cheek and mouth. The clear signs of a fist to the face, both eyes circled dark.

Georgie reached out to feel at a sweaty forehead but in his sleep, Amar cries, screams at the outside touch. He feels it as someone immediately pulls him away, Tamera most likely from the larger frame supporting him. See's her adult-sized tanned hands bluntly block against Amar's tiny bandaged ones.

She slams the child down as he struggles and claws, legs kicking wildly. Yuna already on his other side, holding Amar's small frame down. Stopping him from not only hurting Georgie but himself in the violent outburst.

"What...the h.e.l.l is wrong with him?!" Georgie repeats even slower, the moment Tamera gets him back down to safety. Safety against a small six-year-old, crying painfully in his sleep.

"Ask the tall a.s.s dark creep that dropped him off from the main house?! He's been unconscious the whole night to now!" Yuna bites.

"Multiple blunt points of damage, a twisted ankle, two black eyes, three broken ribs, a literal hole in his hand, two vemons and 17 known poisons. Three unknown. All at once." Vincent groans, still hiding his face in his hair.

"And a loose tooth" Tamera lift the baby tooth on the b.l.o.o.d.y string.

Out of all those responses, it's Tamera's that has Georgie squint and look over in disbelief.

"What?! It was practically punched out, kid could have seriously swallowed it."

An awkward silence followed, made even worse by the m.u.f.fled cries and whimpers above.

"This is why I wanted to stay in the coffin." Vincent complained.

"You can't just hide away and pretend your dead every time a cute-" Tamera starts.

"Hey someone get the d.a.m.n clingy snake away from the food down there." Yuna yells from the loft.

The what now?

Georgie turns and true to Yuna's words there's a giant snake hissing at some spaghetti. It looks up for a brief moment, and Georgie felt like a mere bug under its slit gaze. Then it drops, going back to hissing at past noodles.

So many questions. Georgie doesn't even know where to start.

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