Chapter 98:

Ch 97. Dark tunnel de doom

I was Born the Unloved Twin

So maybe running into the dark unknown and crying my eyes out in grossness wasn't the smartest idea. Especially on little chubby toddler legs. But what's done is done!

I do wish I had shoes though. My socks are wet and that just feels disgusting. Actually, I wish I was dressed in anything more substantial than my nighties. The butt is also wet due to slip and slide in the frozen dark.

That's it, I'm sleeping with my baggie from now on. No more exceptions.

It's just too risky being me. Being plucked off somewhere without it is too possible in this family. As a magically magicless villainess, I need all the advantages that this has provided me. Everything I can squeeze out of father and grampa! Who are also apparently my biggest risks in the getting awkwardly placed somewhere I'm not supposed to be department?

With the magic baggie I could at least pull out something that could light the way. Or a jacket.

The path has honestly gotten to the point that I can't see a thing. Nothing more than a few inches in front of me. This is quite bad. Anything could be down here?

I'm not particularly afraid of the dark but...even this is too much. Long dark tunnels underground, with nothing but cold winter stone and darkness. Rather than a movie isn't it too much like a scary game or a maze of horror? Something just waiting to pop out at you?

I'm no good at such things!!!

I can't do it. I can't do scary mazes alone! I always went with others! This is just too scary. I know my parent's grossness is an entirely different set of horrifying but it's not ghosts or monster or creepy crawlies in the night. I don't think I can get back or retrace my steps either. It's too dark down here and I've bumped into too many walls.

My breathing sounds so loud down here.

There should be nothing down here, right? Nothing living below my own house. But then again I didn't even know about the cool secret room or that this path even existed. My memories are unreliable in the sheer amount of gaps they held.

This treacherous brain of mine right now is overflowing with the wrong sort of memories.

I can feel my little knees trembling as my brain flashbacks to everything I have ever seen or heard in media. Everything. Unlike this world, entertainment and realism are too good where I'm from. All hail SFX.

Surround sound movies, award-winning games, terrifyingly designed interactive mazes, and even actual haunted houses. There are too many very convincingly scary things to remember at this very wrong time.

Even though at the source I have no one to blame but my own brain, I am cursing with all my might the evil individuals in that world that exposed me such 'fun' horrors in the first place. Especially their youngest, Jung-Joon.

Curse them all.

"Aww come on Mengy, it will be fun. I'll protect you, just hold on to me when it's scary." a youthful teen cried, looking innocent with wide sparkling eyes.

His sweet face and playful energy contrasting with the environment of the maze of terror. It was only the waiting area outside, the lines of people could still be visible from this point. As a professional and well-ranked company though, even the parking lot was scary.

The scenes were decorated so that people could take pictures or get in a pre-game scary mood while waiting in line. Actors lurked and prowled, creeping along to scare and rile up the crowd. A mixture of fun, nervous, and even some sadistic laughter rang with every jump scare among all these strangers, the music haunting in the night air, setting the ambiance.

"You bastard, the whole time will be scary! I'm already scared!"

"Oh? We should fix that then."

Instead of getting the hell out, the teen spread out his arms and jacket over the nervous shorter girl, capturing her to a night of doom.

"Be good Mengmeng~ I got you. Here here you can hide in my jacket."

"No no no I give! I call uncle! Bossman! Bossman, I'll take those extra shifts, I'll work an extra 3 weekends. Don't make me do this!"

Just as the petite young woman was about to make a squirming break for it from the surprisingly strong arms of the youth, a tall looming figure descended on them. Its eyes glinted from the ominous lighting reflecting on metal frame glasses, with a shadowy slender hand it reached out, grasping its claws on the stiff girl.

"Give it up. We have already paid."

"AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!" she screeched, jumping a few inches into the air

"Jung-soo, don't scare her like that." whined the teen. Despite his stern words though, he shared a sparkling wink and a thumbs up with his brother. The older boy played cool, pushing up his glasses with a subtle thumbs up returned.

There were no witnesses for the frightened girl was burrowed deep into the younger's shirt, hiding in his arms. Something he took with delight, easily wrapping them around her, like a protective cage.

"There there Mengy, that's right, hide right into me. I'm not so mean as to scare you for no reason. Remember you should just call out for me at all times. But hyung, where's eldest bro?"

While the girl was cursing these brothers in her heart, an ear piercing scream rung through the air.

"I GIVE! I'LL DO ANYTHING! Cept like give all you my good shoes or swag or something BUT I'LL DO ANYTHING! EVEN DISH DUTY!" screamed and shouted an approaching voice, it sounded like a person getting dragged.

"Jung-Joon, come get your annoying friend. He's heavy." a slightly pudgy man shouted, sounding exasperated.

"Hyung I'm very busy right now." Jung-Joon indicated, hugging the older but smaller girl even tighter. With a little maneuvering, he lifted her while still in his hold and tried to walk off, away from the crime scene.

"Meeeeeng!" cried the dragged sob on the ground.

"Niiiiiilllllleeeees" the girl cried back for her only sane companion, muffled underneath the monster's jacket. A young monster with a nice and cute face, luring you into an unbelievable false of security before torturing you in the cruelest ways possible.

Say a night out at a haunted puzzle house.

"Jung-Joon take Meng out your shirt. Jung-hyuk just pull Niles up. If we're doing this maze, we're doing it right. No hiding away. No closing your eyes the whole time. We're getting our money's worth and finishing it all in one go." glinted the middle brother, the most reasonable and possibly the most sadistic one here.

"Awwww, but Meng is scared and I promised I would hold her the whole time she was. Can't break a promise to girl you know, it's very rude."

"Put me down you fake ass brat!!!"

"Ah Meng, don't scratch me in there ahaha it tickles." laughing but obviously reluctant, he loosens his grip to set the squirming girl down.

Once free, she made a break for it.

"Niles go go go we can still ru-Eeeeeep!"

Or well she tried. It was three against one, number four already half on the floor in defeat.

"Give it up, you two lost the bet so you must enter THE MAZE!!!! Ahahaha" boisterously laughed the eldest, not looking at all like the boss that he was to his two poor young employees.

This was not part of the contract at all.

All of his older and more experienced workers, friends and colleagues had known to steer clear of the Park siblings haunted horror runs. Even if Meng knew about her boss' tendencies, it was too late for her, for some unfortunate reasons. The brothers felt glad, luckily they had managed to secure these two saps last minute when their sisters canceled on them. One for school and the other for... a date. Shame. They needed a certain amount of people to enter this level maze and tonight was the grand opening of the new expansion.

While all the Park brothers were sure to enjoy themselves this night, it was Jung-Joon that was having the most fun, given the victims roped into it.

"Dude I beg of you, I will pay for all the popcorn munchies the next 5, no 10! 10 movie nights! I'll give you my extra sneakerhead con passes. I will WORK for both your bro and mom for free the rest the month! Don't make me do this?!" screams victim one.

"Jung-joooooooooon, don't do this to meeeeee. I'll fucking call you oppa or some shit. I'll do it with diabetes anime girl voice and everything. Don't make me go in? Please, pretty please. I'll cry, I'll so cry and piss myself in that maze. Do you want to do that to me, huh?! You seriously going to do that to me?" cries victim two.

Despite the pleading, Jung-Joon only continued to smile brightly.

"Sorry Niles, it's not up to just me and that's the way life goes. Ahh but if it's from Meng, I will accept anything and everything about you. Even if you piss yourself while screaming 'oppa' at me, I'll be looking forward to it~"

That got a 3-second awkward silence, not that Jung-Joon felt any of it as the others struggled to process and explode.

"....Dude you nasty. That's not even like sexy nasty, that's just nasty! Like I know you been thirstin for Mengy but what? Lord Jesus and Christ, what?"

"....Jung-Joon that's just gross. Niles, I'm gonna pretend I didn't hear that because I'm busy judging Jung-Joon. "

"Like heeeeelllll gross, judge away! Brah, my dude, J to the J, we gotta talk about kinks and that stuff you say in public because that's just-HOLY COWSHIT AHHHH!!!"

Mid-grimacing and honestly quite distracted by Jung-Joon in the front, the back of Meng and Niles shirts were suddenly caught and gripped. The victims were truly captured. Jung-Soo dragging them along despite the two's great height difference. He gestured for his brothers to follow and support, preventing any more running incidents.

"Awww I wanted to carry Meng over the threshold." complained the younger brother.

"You- stop being so gross! Ah what's wrong with kids these days." snapped back the eldest.

"But hyung, you watch even weirder 'gross' shit with eomma in your bad dramas."

"Shut up! That's entirely different and they are cinematic art pieces. I'm missing the special two-part episode of "Beloved Blooming Peony Over the Forbidden Walls" for this!"

"Hmm, isn't eomma recording it anyway?"

"Ah that's right, records. Come on, let's get a picture of these two chickens. Before and after." recalled Jung-Soo, scouting out a scenic spot for a group photo.

They waved down an actor without too many claws to take a few pictures, the two unrelated victims crying and cursing the whole time, both internally and externally.

"Meng, I can't trust any of those three, Mengy save me!" whispered the half frozen teen behind those brothers' backs.

"Shit Niles, you're a big boy, all 6ft and like 200 pounds. How the hell am I gonna save you? By being sacrificed? "

"I'm a baby boi! Shit Mengy you know how the movies go. It's always the black guy that dies first!"

"What about the tiny Asian girl huh?! I'm not even in the movie!"

"Yeah, cause' you busy staying alive or some shit."

"Not in the Korean horror movies! I suffer the most! Oh shit, they're coming back."

"Aww shit, tell my aunt I love her. Tell her the Parks finally ended me."

"You do that yourself Niles, then give me a nice funeral because I'll be dead. The haunted house gonna kill me and I'll be dead, then I'm going to haunt all the damn Parks and Jung-Joon till they dead and- ack!"

Warm arms wrapped around both their backs, causing both complaining parties to freeze in contradiction. Jung-Joon lightly ushered them with his own body into the entrance of doom. All with a pleasant cheerful smile. The boss and manager right behind them in an intimidating back cage, no room for escape. Jung-Joon's head leaned menacingly in between them, tilted over to Meng's side, pushing close and bending to knock their faces together. She could feel more than see his lips, how his grin grew even wider and more dazzling from their heavily radiating fear.

Fear that made her skin tingle and rush from where his lips brushed on her.

"Aww Mengy, you'd come back for me? I'm too touched. I don't want to be without you either so...I guess we just have to die together then, hmm?"

Screams echoed all through that night.

Much like right now.


Scary scary scary thoughts go away!!! This is a very bad time to remember anything. None of that nonsense. I'm in a real life maze right here, right now. No convincingly good actors, no really impressive technology, nothing from that world at all.

I'm alone now.

There's no one to smack away the unreasonable fear or to lead me out of the maze. No one to hide behind, even if there's a bad round of sadistic teasing involved. There's not even another soul to be scared and run away with.

I can't blame anyone on my own reactions, I know that. I can't rely on anyone but myself as Rosalia. It's just....gets hard sometimes.

Being reborn in another world does that to you?

In my nightmarish trip down memory lane, I've inched along the cold walls in the dark tunnel until I've reached a curve. A curve that leads into an open circular space, with peeks of light through the tunnels and cracks.

Three different paths are before me.

There's a chance that if I stay here, eventually my gross parents will find me and rescue me from the dark. However that 1. means them getting off each other long enough to realize I've disappeared from the room and go looking for me, thus surely getting trapped again. 2. Staying here. For longer.

How about no and no?

So, down one of these dark damp creepy paths, it is. I try very hard not to imagine or remember anything unnecessary. Not even the scary story university podcasts Jung-Joon liked putting on in the car. Those are bad. Those have too many settings about equally dark and lost tunnels.

Let's examine the here and now instead. Which of these unknown tunnels do I make my merry way down?

Despite the darkness, there are differences.

One drips with the sound of water, reminding me of a sewer.

One is silent, too silent. Its darkness stretches more ominously than the others, a longer path I assume. What is concealed in there, I do not fully know. We have a dungeon so maybe that? Mother had to come from somewhere?

One is colder than cold, a chill of an icy draft flowing down with a mixed scent diffused in the air.

My empty stomach growls and I immediately choose the cold one. Of course, the one underground area that I am quite familiar with is our food storage! It's in that labyrinth of pseudo freezers and cold rooms that I keep my fermenting pickle experiments in. If I make my way down there, then I'll find my way out even in the dark. It's just the path of the kitchen's courtyard.

Genius! The power of food saves the day once again.

Ah but I still have to walk all the way there. Please keep moving legs, don't fail me now. Slow and steady, progress is being made. Distance is being covered. I keep walking because that's all I can really do. Steadily I become aware of passing actual rooms in this hall, wooden doors that should be there.

Maybe once in a while, I have to stop to massage these little legs. They really are frozen stiff, not just from the cold.

It's all in my head. The anxiety built up from fear of the monsters than anything really there. Absolutely nothing to be scared of in my own fridge and pickling rooms. Nothing at all.

*bump crash*

A sound of something falling echoes in one of the rooms, causing me to jump and drop to the floor in shock. My heart barely has enough time to restart itself when the sound of a horrible giggle follows that echo. It sounds childishly demonic, a horror movie creepy kid lurking in the background.

Obviously a child once tragically died down here and now haunts the halls thus I should promptly get the hell out.

Except no such thing exists!

The giggling grows louder before being silenced by another's 'Ssssssssssshhhh' sound. Who is down here? My own staff? Someone's kid?

I get mad at my own pathetic reaction. It's familiar-ish grounds once again and the fact that there are other people sobers me up from fear quite well. I follow the sounds to the room where it sourced from. The door to the room already creaked open, not fully closed from the last entry. The pungent smell of fermentation wafting in the air.

Walking in the room are the solid shadows of rows and rows of shelves and their not yet ready products. Definitely not my pickles, this stench is far too strong.

In the corner, an unnatural light glows, casting creepy shadows all around. The giggling can't be contained. A shadow writhes and struggles, growing a monstrous height on the wall. Defenseless, I creep up, taking only a nearby wooden lid to cover me. My breathing short and terribly difficult in midst of all this awful stinky-





"SSSSHHHHH!!! Oh hi Rosalia! Are you playing too?!! Cool!"

I throw the lid to smack against the edge of the cheese wheel fort, nearly catching Lukas in the nose had he not ducked. My vision perfect from all the little jars of glowing magic moss Lukas has lit up around here. From atop the hazardous fort, my monstrous littler sister claps, and giggles. The baby queen of the....cheese castle.

She struggles and tumbles, knocking down broken bits of cheese as she rolls off towards me, giggling and bouncing the whole way.

"Rosa Rosa! Liwli miss Rosa!"

As adorable as Lilyanne normally is, I must decline this hug with a block from another wooden lid, used to weigh and press the cheese wheels into shape. For one, she's.....messy, both her tiny toddler paws sticky and stuck with yellowish-white gunk.

"Yes Lilyanne, big sister misses you too. Now, how about we calm down and tell big sis aaalllllll about why you two are even down here?!"

"Rosa pway?" peeks my sweet stubborn sister, hugging at the wooden shield I placed in between us.

Lukas snickers obnoxiously until I turn my head to accusingly glare at him.

"And what are we plaaaaaying...DOWN HERE??"

"Hide and seek!" answers the snowy child, not at all disturbed by the unorthodox scenery.

We're in the cheese room of all things. The stinky moldy cheese room. I take a deep breath, stench and all. Fear is gone now, that's the magic of other people to distract you. Especially when they make no sense.

"Ok, fine. You're playing hide and seek. Now why is Lilyanne here?!"

"She's playing too!"

"Rosa! Lookie hidy!"

"I thought she was just a cry a lot baby because she cried so much when she saw us. She's a lot like you when crying but not as mad or red all the time. I wanted to just go but Amar said it would be fun to take her too and I was 'that's dumb but if you want to' so we did and she stopped crying. Amar has good ideas!! Then he said we should play hide and seek because your house is so big so that's fun and we did. I had to think really hard where's the best place to hide and Lily said cheese and I was ooooh yeah the cheese room I saw it once when Gable and I brought bacon wings! We get to eat cheese and Amar will never find us down here! It smells weird, yeah but it smells extra bad for Amar. He'll never think of coming here! Safe!"

"Safe!~ Liwli lwike pway. Cheewsie an pway!"

"....You guys..left the sickbay...all by play hide and seek? Then kidnapped my sister into the cheese room?"

"Nooooooo we left because you left and that means we could go too because it's boring up in there! We opened the balcony and everything after your dad left. Or well Amar opened it and went out. When I was less sleepy I went to look for him too but there was nothing there so we decided to explore more. We didn't kidnap your baby sister because we're kids too so ha! The cheese room was all her idea and it's awwwesssome but we should have brought some bread to eat all this cheese with." Lukas explains, the last part with some childish mourning.

For every child has their limits and even he cannot consume all the much cheese plain. Meat is one thing, cheese another.

"Wheee~ Liwli like chweesies hehe." laughs Lilyanne, dropping the shield I'm holding to go hug a cheese wheel bigger than her self.

"Right! It's the perfect place to hide if Amar is seeking! AHahahaha I'm gonna win! Hide and seek champion!!!"

"Hwide in da nom nom noms!" declares Lilyanne, her voice oddly similarly loud, even when muffled by uncut cheese.

I take another deep breath of fermentation, resisting the urge to slam my head into the nearest cheese wheel. I think my twin is already doing that for me, with her teeth.

Lily....Lilyanne don't do that. Lilyanne please no, you're leaving marks and oh forget it, it's ruined anyway. Not like I'm going to eat it.

I take a look back and forth between the two perfectly normal children, Lukas maniacally laughing in a sense of triumph behind the messy cheese fort while my sister drools and gnaws on a wall of cheese of said fort. I now am trying my best not to worry about a new fear, about their future IQs.

They're only so small. It will be fine right? We have time, lots of time to.....curb... this.

" Lukas...what you're saying is you've somehow 'not' kidnapped my sister from her maids and have been 'hiding' with Lilyanne. Great. Now where is Amar?"

"Seeking! Duh, the seeker gotta seek so I don't know where he is because if I knew then he found me and I lost and that's bad. "

"Seek!" parrots Lilyanne with an innocent cheer.

Invisible flowers spin out of her in cuteness. Messy messy cuteness. That is her great heroine powers, looking so cute while covered in....this. She's cute as long as she doesn't come too close or touch me. My parents are mentally gross while my sister, sad to say, physically.

"What you're saying let Amar go off, alone, with no one to stop him from escaping? Which he has been trying when we first got to my place?" I reason out to Lukas, hoping for him to connect the dots.

You can do it Lukas. Please, don't let Gable and me down.

"Noooooooo we're playing hide and seek so he has to find us because that's the rules of the game and Amar said so himself.... - HEY WAIT A MINUTE?! Amar never said he was seeking! He just said he would count to 30 before going! We've been tricked!!!" howls Lukas, hands bunched up in his hair from maybe actually using his kiddy brain.

I'm so proud of him

Ahh, but that is classic Amar. The question now is where did he go?

I leave the brats alone for how long and this happens. There's no way Amar hasn't run off by now. I mean, 'hide and seek'? Really? Running unintentionally into Lilyanne I can believe but not taking her along with them. She's obviously been used as a diversion to distract and keep Lukas busy.

What an incredibly well thought out plan, not just for a brat.

Amar's health is an odd sort of state. He's not bedridden but long term poisoning and malnutrition isn't an easy thing to recover from, I don't need Gable to tell me that. Even if he looks like a relatively normal kid, if on the skinny side, internally that can't be healthy. Whatever he took most recently wrecked the boy enough for Gable to show concern, let alone my witness to Vincent's violent reaction from that time.

My first thought on where he would back to the scene of those crimes. There's still Vincent too, they're in something together. They have been.

"Yes. Yes a minute, many minutes Lukas. How long has it been since the game started?"

"TRICKED! WE GOT TRICKED! TRICKS!!!" wails Lukas, arms flailing out in shock.

"Twikd!" cries the cute dumb parrot, scrunching her eyebrows to play mad before breaking character and giggling.

"Lukas calm down! Great, now you know. Now answer my question and let's get out of here. How long has it been?"

"I don't know we ran through a lot of rooms and then more rooms and the kitchens and we had food and snacks from Barbara and today is this fish pie thing and that yummy too but not as yummy as bacon but it was still yummy-"


"- and then we wandered the courtyard and went down here and we had to be down here for a while even if we found the cheese room real fast because we built this." he gestures to the honestly impressive feat of childish engineering using nothing but cheese, maybe some ice magic to freeze the structure into place.

"That's....a lot of time." I take a guess, feeling lost.

From Lilyanne's and mine's nursery, where I assumed to here, even if they didn't get distracted would still take quite a while. At least 15 minutes for me to get to my soap rooms. That's how big my house is, or how short my legs are. This is without all the distractions that Lukas must have gotten into. I say it's been far past an hour and a half, and that's me being generous. Who knows how long it's been?

"I know! We gave Amar too much of a head start! Grrr that's cheating! Not cool at all!"

"We gotta go then, now. Ah, there's no time and we gotta go back to the sickbay, I need my bag!"

"Oh oh I got it! I have it! I picked it up and out!"

A blessing in disguise. Like a disaster-prone hero with a lady's purse, Lukas pulls up and waves my baggie from the floor of the cheese fort, throwing it the short distance to me. The cute knitted cover over the worn leather looking worse for wear. When this is all over I'm making a new one.

"No morwe pway?"

As I quickly dress myself from the magically stored contents, my sister miraculously drops her cheese. Her eyes water but thankfully I don't see the signs of the usual screaming. Looking so downcast like that I pull her hand, cheesy mess and all, into mine.

That and I can actually clean it now. Some persistent wipes here and there, then cuteness slowly comes back. She's a presentable little child once again.

"Come on Lily, follow big sister out the cold rooms now."

"MMmmmm, no morwe play? Rosa and big bruder go bye an no pway morwe wit Lilwi. No morwe hiwde an seek?"

Wrong place wrong time for the cuteness attack but here it is. Who oh who can resist the charms of such a cute toddler? Ow ow ow, hit in the gut.

Right, Lilyanne must have been feeling lonely lately without me. Unlike in the past where she was trapped in the sickbay with me outside, it's been a switch around. Must be lonely for this sticky baby when I've always been by her, for magical recovery and all.

Before I can recover enough from the sucker punch of cuteness to soothe my teary sister, the great Lukas declares:

"Of course we're still playing hide and seek! We got tricked into hiding when we're SEEKING! I found Rosa! Now I gotta find Amar to win! Let's go!"

"Yaaaaaaay!!! Hwide an seek!"

I watch in pained confusion as Lukas spiritedly charges out of the room, down the tunnel the wrong way, then back again when he figures it out and up to the surface. All in under a minute. My little sister toddling after like a baby soldier, copying in all the dramatic movements and war crying.

Let's....not worry about them too much just yet. There's a more pressing concern at the moment.

Somehow though, I feel a little lonely.

It was me that this baby Lilyanne would always copy after every move. It's part conveniently and somewhat annoying, but still very cute. To see her doing it so blatantly after another child is a strange sight to me. I don't know how to feel about it. Does she just follow along and copy after anyone? Like an infant learning through monkey see monkey do?


Lilyanne no! Lily get back here, don't copy Lukas you're going to die! Or get even sillier! No no no! Ahhhhhhh!!!! Big sister is coming! Don't follow after that one! Not Lukas!!!

You're the heroine, you can't afford to become like that. He's so dumb and derpy it's almost as bad as...Oh no, oh no no no don't follow after grampa either Lilyanne! You're copying all the bad influences!!!

My sister is easy to catch up to given her short chubby untrained legs. These are the legs of a true toddler that never had to go through the Tamera obstacle course. They tire easily and aren't very fast, but they are full of enthusiasm.

"Rosa! Yayay! Rosa pway now!" she flings herself at me mid waddle run.

Oh even the clumsy way she penguin runs is heart-meltingly adorable. Yes yes, that's right Lily. If you must follow after anyone it should be big sister. Please discriminate a bit more?

Hand in hand we burst out into the light of day, trailing after the bulldozer that is Lukas.

The back kitchen courtyard isn't empty , far from it, there's a small crowd of lingering staff and servents. Even some maids are watching something from a distance. From the white sunlight peeking through the half gloomy skies, I would say it's close to lunchtime. A few nearby eyes follow with surprise as Lukas bursts his way out of the cold storage with not one but two of their young mistresses behind him.

"Huh, was Rosalia down there the whole time?"

"Well at least we won't get in too much trouble with Ms. Gerta?"

"Eeeeh just don't tell the maids, it will be fine."

"They still panicking up there? I thought Alfonso had it."

"That Lukas kid sure is energetic, I think he's got stronger lungs than both our young misses combined."

"Hewo! Lilwli wikes hiwde an seek!" my sister cheerfully waves to every one of the staff.

Wait the staff!

"Lukas wait where you going you dummy? You can't just find someone by charging and yelling. Let's ask around if anyone saw where Amar went. Find Alfonso, Alfonso will know."

I squeeze my way through to the kitchen, dragging Lilyanne right behind me and Lukas quickly catching up. If anything I need a place to put my baby sister before really running off. Sorry Lilyanne, I'll play with you later when this is all over. Big sister promises so try not to copy anyone you shouldn't be in the mean time.

The kitchen is much emptier than it should be, not surprising given the crowd that's outside.

Huh, what was the matter there? I entirely disregarded that in my search for someone with answers. While there is no Alfonso in sight, Barbara is still here tending to the main firepit that serves as a stove. If my senior kitchen maid doesn't know what I need she can still point me in the right direction.

"Barbara! Have you seen Amar anywhere? Or heard anything?" I lightly tug at her skirts, getting her attention.

"Oh dearies whatever are you doing here?"

Pink faced from the flames, the still young woman looks down to find not one but three wide-eyed tiny children staring up at her. She quickly shoos us from the fire area, a safety concern I admit. Note to do something about upgrading my kitchens at a later time.

"You haven't heard with what the commotion all is? My our young miss Rosalia, you're usually all up in the know."

I shake my head, giving the excuse that I was with my father and playing with the other kids the whole time.

"It's horrible, we started seeing the start of green smoke and flames about two or so hours ago. Poor little Amar was so concerned about his friends back at the troops. He begged so pitifully to be let on the morning wagon. Our George couldn't stand for it and took the boy."

"What?!!" shouts Lukas and I at near the same time. I follow up to that, "There was a fire at the troops? A green fire?"

"I can't say what color the fire was but the smoke sure was shades of grays, purple and green. Still is. It's gotten a lot better so it must be contained somewhat but the smoke is still going. That's why everyone's dawdling outside."

With a quick thanks Lukas and I are running back outside, I faintly register my sister still toddling after us.

Now looking up at the sky in the right direction, I'm aghast how we could have missed it earlier. In the distance in the direction of the troops blow plumes of awfully colored clouds. The signs of a large fire any.

"Hwide an seek?" asks Lilyanne, still behind us as Lukas and I stare up where Amar has gone off to. Where he must already be, Georgie or no.

"Oh yeah we're still playing hide and seek alright!" growls Lukas, like a mad puppy dog ready to give chase.

"We have to get there. We have to find him, something bad is definitely going on. I don't think he's not involved either."

The moment we leave Amar alone and this of all things happen. Of course. Why do I even bother being surprised anymore? Not in this world. Even if he was here when the fire started, everything is just happening all too coincidently. A magical or something sort of fire? I'm not calling the kid an arsonist or that he's behind it but it's all too well timed.

"Liwli come too!" waddles my sister, trying to keep up after us.

I take the time to look back to at the very least shout a sorry and for her to stay good. I'm glad my training is showing some sort of effect because Lukas and I quickly lose her with our speed alone.

When we run out to the wagon stop, it's completely stalled. Two wagon drivers look on from their parked vehicles, the horses already returned to their stables for safety. Another lingering crowd looking out at the rising smoke, talking among themselves.

"Signore Serra!" I call out to the white-bearded wagon driver, one of the retired stablemen who had taken to the new more leisurely job position.

"My my my if it isn't the little missy Rosalia and the bacon boy. Out to see the fuss?"

"Mr. Serra is there any way for someone to take us to troops? Please, it's an emergency."

"Please please please!" shouts Lukas, "We have to get there!"

"Right, our friend went earlier and -"

But to my great disappointment, the old man shakes his head, pointing to the smoke stream.

"It's too dangerous younglings, not when it's been going on for so long. It's procedure for the troops to come to our aid but not the other way around. Rather it's better to stay back and be ready if need be to send supplies and aid. But we haven't received any word yet, not a single messager bird. "

"But Amar already left a long time ago!" cries Lukas.

The old man tsked and looks back to the source of the smoke and fire, shaking his head. "Nothing I can do, I'm sorry boy. Young missy. Not when all the steeds have been put back."

"Well then take them back out, please. We have to get to the troops, we have to get him." I beg.

The only response I get back is another shake of the head and a holding pat on my shoulder.

"You best wait for news young miss Rosalia. Even if you weren't a child, it ain't no good rushing in when you don't know how to help. Folks like that may be getting in the way of the real help."

That may be true but, in the mess of it all, what help is there for a kid like Amar? Why is he running back in this commotion? How is he even involved? Is he even involved?

"We gotta go Rosa, we gotta." Lukas shakes me out of it, dragging me off from the wagon station.

"But -"

"We gotta! Something really weird is going on. I remember now! I remember when I went out to find Amar on the balcony. He wasn't holding anything but, it was a little like smoke floating in the air and there was something like ash on the ground. It was dark and I was sleepy but he kicked it away."

"He was burning something...smoke, a smoke signal? "

"I don't know but we gotta go if there's trouble."

"But how? And Mr. Serra is right, if we don't know what's going on and we rush in we'll make it worse. We're only kids Lukas."

"We're kids AND we're heroes!" he shouts, turning around to yell in my face. "That's what heroes do, they rush in the save people. So what if we're small and don't know it all?! We're the only heroes around that can find Amar. We already did it before!"

I gulp. From Lukas' shouting, from the still recent memory of the poisoning case, from the sheer ridiculousness of his statement and the truth behind it all.

"We're not heroes stupid. I'm definitely not and you're just 6, but you're right. We gotta go, for Amar. If they won't take the horses out we go to them. Come on the stables are this way."

"Of course we are Rosa! You're still a sidekick but don't be all sad and silly, you'll get bigger and cooler later. To the strong fluffy legs!!!"

"You mean horses."

"Muscle Leg Fluffies!"

Who am I to argue with that? Besides I'm too busy panting in the run the stables, Lukas is still leagues ahead of me in speed and well, everything. When I lag, he's forced to slow in order to pull me along. It feels like my arm is about to be ripped out of the socket if I don't at least try to keep up. If I just let go, I either go flying with him or lose my arm.

"There it is!" he announces, right as the stables are in seeing distance. We're a good 60 kiddy steps away when the doors bursts open, shocking us into a halting stop.

"Oh dear! Oh whatever are you little ones doing out here?"

Mother?! Behold that is most certainly my mother a top Damask, thankfully dressed in something more appropriate than that nightgown. Quickly riding out and around her is father on a much larger male steed, Gino.

"Little ones? Don't tell me it's those brats ...Chip?!" father exclaims, picking up speed.

Before either one of us knows it, he's curved and leaned to scoop me up off the ground. I hear Lukas shouting from behind as father rides off, trying to tuck me into safety because yes, that move of his was not standard pick up procedure at all. Cool looking but oh so not safe.

"Oh god what have I done?" father wonders, buttoning me in. As if taking me was not part of the plan, which to be fair it probably wasn't.

"Father we have to get to the troops, something awful has happened!" I shout, getting snug in my ride's jacket. All this wind friction is a tad painful for my eyes.

"I've noticed. You shouldn't be here."

"There's no time! Amar's already there and we know he's involved somehow."

"....Somehow, I am not surprised." Father looks down at me for a brief moment before picking up a thankfully ridiculous amount of speed, the wind blowing back his hair entirely. Against that very wind, I hear some grumbling that sounds a bit like curses a child shouldn't know.

After some time of anxious fast riding, I hear the familiar gallops of a beast steed coming from behind. Louder than that I hear the excited whooping sound from Lukas, who must have gotten a ride with my mother.

"This is so cooooooooool!!!"

Honestly, the suspicious fire and unknown horrors with it not included, yeah it kinda is.









He can't breathe.

He lies there, gasping and twitching, not of his own accord but the human body's natural response to life. A fish flopping out of water.

Humans were meant to breathe a certain mixture, a certain air. They cannot breathe smoke, flames, let alone the plethora of toxic things burning in the fire that now rages through the building. It's all too much. He can't breathe, he can't move but he could feel. Oh by the gods he could feel what havoc the fumes were wrecking through his body. Immunity or not, it was just too much. The entire site was burning in multi-colors, it wasn't just his vision going.

Left as is he would die here, surrounded by flames. Hopefully as soon as possible. It was too late, the poison was all too much. His body throbs, thrashing and curling without his control, nervous system and blood going haywire in the disconnect and rewiring from his brain to each connection.

Hundreds of specimens not meant to be burned, to be breathed, all up in flames. He would scream in the malady if he still could, it was torture.

Death by fire is a painful abhorrent way for anyone to go, but this? Wrecked in toxic fumes confusing and amplifying the body in ways it wasn't ever meant to be? It was too late for help, his system was finally going. Shutting down before even a lick of flames could touch him, though the intense heat surely did.

A crash, the closest door comes falling down with a purposeful slam. Areas of flames weakened, almost dead.

Help came too late. Help came underwhelming. Help was impossible at all.

The fire was of little concern, that could be put out, dampened to an extent. It was the air. No one should be able to make it through these fumes, not without a high level magical barrier to seal off their air supply. Then what? They get in and how would they get him out? How do they heal what damage has been done?

"Oh. There you are."

It can't be. He's hallucinating.

Steps so small and light it can only be from a child walks up, close, then back around. Circling the room slowly, as the room was a curious attraction rather than the lethal inferno that it was.

"You look very silly like that master Darius? Ah but this much poison would do that to about anyone? Hmmm, okay. That makes sense. We should do something about that?"

Acid more intense than any fire splashes over him, eating through layers of leather, cloth, hair, and skin, fusing them into one thick sludge. If his nerves were working right it would have been in pain enough to have him screaming in agony for hours.

But he just can't breathe, he can barely even see.

"Oh? That wasn't a healing solution? Ah sorry sorry. You shouldn't mislabel your items so much? Anyone would get confused. Even Vincent can't figure it all out and he's your best disciple after all these years. It's why sometimes I get the wrong dosage right? Is that what started the fire? Or did you do that yourself? That's very silly of you."

Powdery ash falls, dumped right over him, the chalky mixture causing his limbs to violently twitch and twist in ways that bones should not be able to. His neck already bent unnaturally to the side.

"Ah, these are all very bad symptoms. You can't even talk? Or breathe? Hmmm breathing. Right. Let's fix that. That much I know how do. Sorry I don't know how to do much more."

A leaf.

A simple sprig of leaves. All on a small green bundle, it dances over and under his nose. A sooty little brown hand holds the supposed cure, the gentle tickle of it shocking over flesh like razor blades. It trails to enter his mouth. Just as quickly as it appeared, it's gone, only to crush itself with grinding force into his eyes.

The reaction was almost instantaneous but he could feel it, every split seconds as the blood vessels there essentially burst, not from the pressure but the right mix of simple herbs.

"Oops. I was trying to feed it to you? It helps you breathe and it would stop a lot of the symptoms. It will definitely save you for a while longer before the poisons seep your body even more. But you moved. I guess you can't help it? You're twitching really bad?"

Another liquid pours, splashing in a long torrent over his eyes, his nose, drowning him without actually doing so. Who drowns to death in a fire?

"There we go, you still have your sight with you right? Problem solved. Now you really should chew on this. Good thing I found another one."

A small boot steps on his bent neck, increasing the monstrous pressure and maneuvering his rattling head to sufficient position, crushing what strained breath he can't feel right out. Contrary to the foot crushing the windpipe at his neck, the hand that feeds tender green herbs to his unconsciously gaping mouth is gentle. Like a child afraid to touch and damage his parent's things.

The effects of the herbs work, a portion of it melting down his twisted throat. Even with a body stepping on his neck, it feels wrong but it's easier to breathe.

With some semblance of control regained, the man spits out the dry bits of herbs remaining before that small boot kicks his jaw shut, most likely cutting his tongue in the process. Blood pooling in his mouth. He breathes, one-two, three and four breathes too many. When he quivers his mouth, his mangled tongue, to speak. blood and froth spill forth.


"Oh it's working. But I can't understand you like that you know?" the footsteps back and the outside pressure is gone.

"Ki-i-ll me."

"What's that? You're not saying what I think you are right?"

"Ki-ill me al-already." he gasped out, coughing a round of bloody bile.

"Don't be silly."

A small child's face brings itself upside down. Even from the distorted angle, he looked almost angelic. The goddess's tiny messenger come down to deliver eternal peace at the end of times. But it's not, far from it. For the childishly innocent smile and gentle soft tone didn't match with the intensity of wide green eyes. This was no angel, it was the spawn of the devil. This was his price to pay for playing his experiments with something, someone, they shouldn't have. A juvenile was still a demon, a creature of reckoning. This or something worse would have happened eventually, it was only a matter of when.

And today was just that day, simple as that.

"Don't be silly, I'm here to save you." the boy hums, promises with a bright smile. A tiny almost emancipated hand entangling itself to hair that hadn't melted off in acid. The boy tugs and it feels like he's being scalped alive.

"Heroes save people, that's what it's all about right?"

The child tugs and the scalp still remains, the body still attached, dragging the jerking paralyzed body of a full-grown adult across the ground. As if the weight and pull were nothing more than a toy rag doll rather then a violently lurching adult man, many times larger and heavier than the little boy himself. He drags the still breathing man across broken shards and puddles of flame, a path straight through to the exit. A valent rescue as any.

"Besides, it's no fun if you just die?"

The boy kicks and a line of surviving shelves fall like dominos, crashing and fueling the flames further, cutting off the immediate path to the outside. The fumes growing all the stronger, eating away at any soul that dared breath it in, just like it ate at the collapsed wreckage.

He prays for a quicker death and knows that it is too much to ask for.

"Oh. Oops?"