Chapter 100:

Ch 99: A little too much alike

I was Born the Unloved Twin

"What is it that you wanted to accomplish?"

An exhausted young man stands against the worn rust-covered wall, his hands held in a soldier's rest, even though the superior before him is not. A nobleman in fine dress should look out of place in this place, but he doesn't. He is something far more terrifying, ranks above by virtue of his identity alone.

The young Lord Ventrella.

Vincent schools his expression, forcing his heart to slow unnaturally. A bit of his abilities, twisted, to give the appearance of calm and not just dead. The young man is so tired. A whirlwind of events the last few days worked his down bare and raw. Everything done in the shadows wasn't brought to light, rather it only forced him to retreat even further. Hidden in the flames and ashes.

He could not, however, deny the headache that everything was. A headache catalyzed from the existence of just one child.

After anxious workdays of hearing absolutely nothing, their signal quitely lit up in the night. Frost and clouds covering a scent only the dead could be roused by. His little pets rattle and moaned that early morning. No more planning, no more waiting, nothing. That was all the warning given.

What a headache.

The young man was already running on fumes since this morning. He didn't have much more to give. He didn't have to worry, but he did anyway. Worried as all the parts and pieces fell in place, an elaborate trick that knocked and crashed a bigger and bigger reaction until the place he called home went all up in flames. He didn't have to worry as he rushed out, tagged out, because he had done his part in the dark.

But then that child tagged in. They had been over this, again and again, and he still worried.

He worried when one minute too long turned to two then three. Worried about it all going wrong because hell doesn't it always?

Being alive meant toeing the line, constantly.

His throat felt like a tightrope, a humm of rushing blood and magic keeping him from keeling over from the smoke and fumes. His heart might as well have overdone itself when a figure finally ran out of the doomed burning building, all in the wrong places. Up high and all wrong.

He thought it couldn't possibly get worse today. Not after the heart attack, Amar gave him, tossing their 'master' off the roof of a crashing building and then knocking the breath out of himself in his drugged up landing.

It could not have but it did. The bar had gotten even lower. It could not have possibly gotten worse after two practically naked vulnerable little brats somehow ran straight into the disaster zone as he was just managed to get Amar's heart and lungs to start again.

Then like the possibly suicidal brat that he is, the kid takes off the filter to his own mouth for the others. Not like it helped much.

Too long, too much poison circulating through his overworked system, again.

He knew best how overdosed that kid was at any time. At every meal, at every serving, how mislabeled the ingredients were. How there was bound to be three, hell ten times the dosage written down versus how much was actually being ingested. HE had been through his master's 'mislabeling' himself many times over, but never to this extreme of an extent.

In a way yes he knew that boy's body was different. The poison eventually integrating like a natural part of him rather than the foreign invader that it really was. If anyone could feasibly survive this painfully suicidal plan of theirs, it was that that kid.

They survived.

Burns, smoke, and collateral damage from out of nowhere, they had still survived.

Somehow survival was not the hardest part.

He shouldn't have played the heavens like that. If he dares ask how it could get any worse, well here he is. Called in the aftermaths by Lord Ventrella himself.

Vincent feels like it would be easier to just dig his own grave, fill it with sharp pointy bones and hop right down for an eternal nap than to deal with this.

"My my my, some very convenient string of coincidences indeed? What a deed, for all these contracts and forms to survive." tsked the young lord, hardly a decade older than Vincent himself.

He had the sort of face that other men just loved to hate, Vincent, being no exception. Condescending in his beauty, a despicable serpent sitting loftily in glory and riches beyond every hero wannabee's dreams. The young Lord Ventrella made the common man shake in a hazardous mix of fear, inferiority, and constant self-doubt.

He left one asking: does he know and how much was he simplifying toying with you?

All of it. The answer to anyone with half a brain and not living under a rock was all of it. There were populations of people who cowered and bent their souls, not just their knees, under the weight of the Biccheiri banner. This was no mere golden statue, but the famed terror it was built upon all condensed in one man. The man that held the hand of Lord Commander's only daughter and heir in his vice grip, wielding true power beyond the realms of simple strength or class.

Anything and everything Vincent says at this point was damnation to himself. He's too tired to think, to plan an escape. His plots and contingency plans have all be used up in this one burst, this entire week. Unexpected disasters one after the other, usually in the form of small children.

He never should have had anything to do with kids. Should have ignored the brat on day one. He was terrible with them and now look where it landed him.

"If I answer your lordship, these files and seals were stored elsewhere due to the current case in court. All were transferred, copied, and presented prior to the....disaster which has fallen." Vincent's speech slowed with heart forced heartbeat.

There was no use in lying, in getting away with this unscathed. But he would be a damned fool asking to be tortured if he just gave himself, themselves, away just like that.

Amar had already taken the brunt physical force of the plan. Now that the kid had tagged out, quite physically, it was his turn. This much he could at least do, even if he rather be anywhere else. Preferably underground, somewhere deep, dark, and just away. This was too much drama and just feelings in general for an introvert like him.

"Yes, quite unfortunate....your master had just 'walked' from the first part of his case too. I assume that the second will be unable to proceed."

Lord Ventrella looked almost bored, leafing through the paperwork his manservant gingerly organized and presented. His posture was relaxed, a face absurdly more beautiful than most women was slumped into one fine glove. To any outsider looking it, it was hardly intimidating.

Yet all that Vincent had ever wanted, ever worked for, lay in thin sheets between those deadly gloved hands. Sharp golden eyes tracing over the spread out sheets on the desk.

"I can't deny, that this cleans everything up quite well. Normally the estate and assets would go to the next of kin, but seeing as there's no dead to proceed that's not necessary. Madam Damia appears to not be in all the best condition herself as of late. No these are all more than enough to transfer everything to your own name. Cleaner and easier to process, rather it serves my own interests quite well if you truly took over your master's depleted department, not that there are many capable candidates behind you. What a blessing it is, that the man lives to bless your ascent. "

"It would appear that way, given the circumstances." grits Vincent, careful with every word, balancing precariously on the line.

"A sheer miracle, I would say, if I didn't understand just how much work you put into your research. Into the art of healing. How far it can extend, without a speck of magic." he makes to snap, thick volumes and scrolls of nothing, everything, spilled out over the desk. "It is not a thankful nor easy field. It is then, with my utmost sincerity, that I praise the scientific progress made here. Death is not the end. The world may scorn and bury it in their fearful ignorance but I admire what you've done."

"....Tis nothing but my duty, your words are too much of an honor for someone of my position." Vincent keeps the stuttering to a minimum, tongue going cold when cut from the feeling nerves.

"Oh not at all. You deserve credit where credit is due....tell many years of work have you published under your Master's name? Has been stolen from you?"

Vincent feels frozen in the limbs, a fault of his own. Yet he cannot suppress the shiver in his spine, the tremble to goes to the base of his skull under that golden gaze. How poised and put together was that manservant alone. He felt like being eaten was inevitable, it was merely the predator playing with its food. If he hadn't spelled himself in a near rigor mortis calm, Vincent was afraid his legs would have already failed him.

"It is true then, that nothing can pass your astute eye Lord Ventrella. I am but a mere disciple of an unknown dark art. My lifeline relies on the sparse branches above me. What my master has provided. If he says write then I must write, if he says jump then I may only ask how high. Without his...mercy... I may not even breathe, let alone work and eat."

Even in the low but many candlelit lights, subtle scarlet could be seen. Vincent doesn't think he's exaggerating when he thinks it looks like his own dripping blood. Lord Ventrella wasn't even looking at him as he spoke, far more interested in the detailed anatomical sketches. Of dissected beings, humans and beasts, and all the little beings in between. Anything that once contained life, broke apart layer by layer. Forever imprinted into wax sealed parchment and ink, so long that the material may last.

"It is fine work. There is no wonder why a man would be tempted to claim it for his own, to keep talent such as yours in the dark to farm. A very representative and literal draining of your life's blood."

The already thin line tightens even tighter, Vincent doesn't know how long he can keep walking it for this man's amusement.

"Oh, there's no need to be so tense. I have to congratulate you on your attention to detail, a rather masterful plot, and smart use of sticky fire. Unable to be put out by water and hidden in the toxic disaster that was the fuel. "

"....Your lordship, this humble disciple was nowhere near the scene at the start. Your words...hold weight beyond anything I can afford to counter, even in innocence."

" Of course you weren't, you're too smart for that. There's more than enough setup motives and means on that sniveling worm you were forced to call master. He was well known for his messes. It is not in my interest to drag you out screaming from the dark, who may or may not have started it. Again, all the easier for me. Isn't that right Alfonso?"

The manservant grins pleasantly behind the neatly trimmed beard, a slight bend and nod in his otherwise straight countenance.

"Indeed my Lord, it is a bit...disappointing that our young lady's illness could not be avenged personally. But the results are more than satisfactory at no cost to our own. The healers are marveled at how he still breathes and retains all sense of consciousness. Healing of any kind shall be a long endeavor, the man is paralyzed yet continues to sense and feels. Never to speak let alone move on his own again, confined to his own body so long as the nutrient tubes keep his natural body alive. "

"A clean job. I would have done it better myself but a clean and well done job nonetheless. Any physical evidence up in flames, playing dead with these deeds till the time comes. I'm sure there's a plot that Damia next. There is hope in the next line, no?"

"Indeed my Lord."

Just end him, Vincent felt himself begging the gods he doesn't believe in. Just kill him and get it over with. This was too awful for his nerves, his own wrecked stomach to handle.

"Alfonso I'm afraid the lad has had a long day. Well, it's been a long week for us all. Bring out the documents and wrap this up. I'm expected home by 9 lest my wife has a fit again."

"Yes my Lord."

A scroll longer than a man unfurls, the contents squished thin and cramped even in elegant seals. Vincent feels a migraine coming on. There's no need for reading, as the paper curls around his body, the touch translating all contents straight to his brain. He jolts, reels from the sudden hammering of mass information. Stiff knees knocking, he's forced to break out of the soldier's rest in order to balance himself from falling. Still having enough sense to do that much.

" appears to me that my troublesome daughter is quite fond of you and your experiments, sharing her allowance so unrestrainedly. All for good reasons now that I had a chance to take a look for myself. You're not a fool. Why I say you've done rather well for yourself in your circumstance."

The Lord rises from his seat, gloved hand twirling a feather pen tip as if it were a plaything. He makes his way personally around the desk to where the edges of the scroll finally release itself. Standing over Vincent's now shaken frame.

"I meant what I said. I do enjoy your work, in fact, I would like to support you not to reveal as you so fear. There are many lines of opportunity for you, with varying degrees of danger of course. Should you so wish to take them? I only require your utmost loyalty."

His wrist is gripped, a press in the right spots shocks Vincent into opening up his previously clenched hand. Blood and warmth rushing back in when they shouldn't have. The feather pen is placed into his open palm. One by one those long gloved fingers close his own.

" This is your chance, swear your loyalty and work for me personally. I'll allow you to stay and play with my dear daughter as if nothing had ever happened, after all, there is no 'proof' of your actions. You just need to tell me everything "

A voice smoother than the silk that clothes it, promising the very same vein of hatefully envious riches. Far more than what he's set fire to land. Those hands personally guide his own right to the red dotted line.

"In your own set time and terms, give me everything. What you've done, what my Rosalia is making you do, what you need. Just let it go and I shall handle the rest."

Vincent shakes, personally, he wants this. This was the chance of a lifetime, there were no stipulations, nothing he has to sacrifice further, nothing he can't do.


"...Don't....don't go after him."

"What's that?" smiles the Lord, acting magnanimously. As if he sincerely didn't understand even after all the information he must have gathered behind his man servent's sleeve.

"It was all me. I planned everything, I benefitted the most, and dragged whoever I could into this. So don't..."

"Oh of course. The brat! How could I have forgotten?"

It was impossible to miss how his wrist tightened, how bone creaked and trembled. When his fingertips started bleeding, he doesn't know, can't feel it under all this pressure. If the teenager wasn't so focused on himself and the intimidating hand on his, he might have noticed a heaving sigh and tired shake of the head from the manservant.

"Don't worry, you can tell me all about the brat later on. Every single little detail. I wouldn't require all that if I was going to kill him now? Though it would be preferable if he disappeared. "

"...Can you do that? Can you get him away? Somewhere safe...away from this place?" his stutter came back, words shakily spilling out.

"Well..." Frederick grimaces, already displeased at his own circumstance, " if my wife allows it."

Vincent signs the line, blood and all, before his body finally gives.




"Achoo! Oh dear, it's chilly in here!"

Despite her furs and no indication beforehand, Mother sneezes and shivers. With a clap of her hand, the fireplace is further fueled, giving the sickbay a toasty air.

"Achoo!" she sneezes daintily again, taking an embroidered handkerchief to her nose.

I suspect she may have caught something in the whirlwind that was today. From being an exhibitionist in her nightgown this morning to riding the whole snow-laden way to the troops on horseback. It could be anything.

As if it were contagious, Amar sneezes too. Huh, maybe it is colder than I thought in here? I wouldn't know, I'm good in my blanket and tiny pillow fort. Unlike my mother's normal reaction, it looks like it physically hurts the boy to sneeze and he's gripped with holding it in. His breathing harsh and thin little frame huffing as red flushes his warm face.

He looks absolutely pathetic and that immediately wins him +200 cuteness points in Mother's book.

"Oh dear!" she fusses, bouncing around from his bedside. Doing nothing but making the little occupant even more uncomfortably fearful around my mother.

Which is fair, given that's my own reaction to her.

Despite being a mother of two small children herself, she carefully tucks and observes the boys how one would watch newborn kittens in the animal shelter. All sparkly eyes and full of grossly cute awwwwws.

Hey Mother, not to sound petty but uh, your own child is right here. Hello? Mother? Mother please stop staring like that, you're making Amar shake even more. Mother.....there's no extra mochi fat on him?

No matter how unsatisfying it must be to pinch and abuse the frightened silly child, my mother still continues to do so with those sparkling eyes.

When Amar lets out a teary hiccup at getting violated, voice sounding like a doomed baby animal, I swear I hear a high pitched internal scream rumbling from her chest. She takes a few steps away, a few breathes to recover, popping a nearby pillow to everyone's great surprise.

Amar does his best to make himself even smaller, inching away lest he be that pillow next. Which given this rate, seems likely.

The hiding in bedsheets does nothing but make the child look even tinier and cuter, peeks of fluffy brown hair and soft skin still tempting my mother to hug and squish. After a long time of nuzzling torture, when she's seemingly satisfied, she rushes right over to feel up my own cheeks and delicate toddler softness.

"Hmmm." Mother hums, squishing me entirely.

It would be ticklish if it wasn't so terrifying, maybe painful. I feel like a ball of fresh mochi getting worked into shape. Ow ow ow oh my poor cheeks. I can only waddle my arms in mad protest, given my current condition. A bizarre chanting resounds from mother's mouth like she's in a trance, something that sounds like "Cute cute cute oh my own child is also very cute very good, different good but still very very good cute. Ah but the difference!"

Either from my own used up fight or Mother's boredom, she drops me back on the bed before moving onto the next subject.

Lukas is the readiest challenger, the thickest and squishiest, the only one left in mother's odd game. The boy looks ready for the fight, puffing up his chest in that frilly white baby chemise. However, when clean and groomed, his cloudy almost white hair sits straight and tamed, decreasing his total size and intimidation factor. Clear bright eyes look straight to the hugging pinching beast, something I don't know if I should call brave or stupid. From under the protection of covers, Amar peeks out, watching the tense start to the final round.

It's Mother that attacks first!

"Kyaaaaaa so cuteeeees!

She squeezes and squishes, Lukas' body mass molding to her monstrous hands. Something that would have me choking by now, yet he does not go down. Using that mochi sumo mass, he grips back! It's a chest bump, he's put his whole weight into it and grapples!

The high pitched 'kyaaaa' roar cannot be contained, mother has gone into a frenzies battle mode. Flinging the poor child back and forth in a high speed momentum, aka a snuggle! How will Lukas counter this one?!

He hangs on, stubborn and strong. Oh, the brave fool. He goes for the neck, both steadying himself by position and ensuring no more blockage to his airways. He's already going pink in the face from the fight, a clear sign of damage taken but Lukas is anything but an easy quitter. From his slippery half hazardous grip, he gives a squeeze, a brave thumbs up towards the audience.

Amar shakes his head, already giving up on the boy and I agree. Though it was a worthy fight, it's too late, stage three has activated. He shouldn't have hugged back.

"HUGGIES!!! KYAAAA~ ♡ ✧* ✰ 。* Oh you're so precious!!!!"

It's the mini tornado, the spin of death! Mother can barely hold herself in, hearts already radiating out of her, the biggest one in her open mouth. Even if Lukas wasn't held tight in her grip, he would be sucked in by the gravitational force alone.

Oh, I can't watch. Down under the covers I go. RIP Lukas, it was nice knowing you. Your sacrifice will not be forgotten.

"Buttercup, there's word that young Frederick has passed through the first gate and.....Maria....dear....what are you doing to Lukas?"

Gable! Blessed be Gable we are saved!

"Oh Gabbey! ♡ " halts my mother, sparing someone's life.

All of a sudden though, she makes a very strange expression. Her innocently blank face going looking from a swirly eyes Lukas, hair back to full fluff, to a silently confused Gable. She squints, holding the defeated mochi in her arms even closer, as if to get a better look at his fair eyelashes then back to Gable. For comparison, she even holds him up in a puppy hold.

"Gabbey dear? Did you and papa somehow manage to..." she starts, shaking the almost unconscious child, as if that was somehow both the question and answer.

Gable gives a choked cough, but not before swiftly rescuing a limp Lukas from her grasps. Once again Lukas has escaped death, he may live to see another day. It might be the distress at an unresponsive Lukas but he looks to be turning almost just a pink. That or I'm just imagining things.

"Very funny Maria. Now let's not....stress... out the children any further."

"Oh, of course, Gabbey!" despite what she says, Mother's hands are already inching their way back to Amar's bed.

An absolutely adorable whine of fear and panic comes from underneath those covers and pillows, stiffening the strange expression on mother's face even further. I can imagine the terrified tears that must be under there. While I do support the idea of punishing the little troublemaker in some manner, perhaps sicking Mother on him is a bit extreme.

"Ahem, I'll see them and their conditions now Maria. No need to tire yourself further. In fact, your husband might be in need of a good rest from the aftermath he's been cleaning up after." once again Gable saves the day. Easily picking up the shivering puppy dog out from his covers and effectively protecting him from any further 'huggies' from Mother.

Mother gets one last sorrowful squeeze of bare mochi cheeks, and an earlobe, before nodding and accepting that the boys need their rest.

Before she leaves she must, unfortunately, must squeeze out the last bits of life from me with a hug and some sloppy kisses before brightening up. "Oh of course," she mumbles, petting my hair a little too intently, the invisible hearts already returning.

"Good night now Rosalia. Be good and don't let anyone steal you out of bed, even your papa. Oh, I'll see to that fiend tonight!" mother smacks me goodnight with her lips one last time, however at the mention of my father she licks those bright lips and looks even scarier.

Mother, I don't think that's what Gable means by rest. Mother? Oh forget it, she's gone, skipping her way down and out.

My mother is a very strange person?

Actually, the title extends to every single one of Rosalia's family members. Everyone. Lilyanne is only a child but she's already quite....special. I already knew about her airheaded personality but I have to work hard in order to curb her easily influenced self in the right direction. Grampa can't be helped, it's grampa. He's most certainly more violent and ridiculous towards me than before. Everything from baby flinging to laundry washing. I'm most certainly developing a thicker skin from all this 'training', not that I have much choice. Don't even get me started on the nerd.

Hey hey miss original, are you still in there? Explain to me how this occurred? What happened to that neat and proper noble family huh? I'm beginning to fear it's not just my own meddling and Lilyanne's health that's changing things around here. What's going on?

Silence, the only sound I get belongs to Lukas' grunting cries at Gable. Typical.

From a bed away I watch the three souls who the original had near nothing to do with. Like a patient angel, Gable looks down on the boys. Inspecting a deceptively sweet and gentle-looking little boy on the bed while the energetic mochi like cherub snuggles into arm.

Outliers. Each and every one of them.

Somehow they have each integrated themselves into this present life. Gable, of course, was a lucky blessing. The primary schoolers? Eeehhhh it somehow just happened? Why are they still around? Why do I even allow it?

Really, I was not expecting any of this a year ago?.

The sight of their faces has somehow become familiar over this short amount of time but now that I think about it, it's very odd. Ahh but because the kids are high levels of cute I'll let it go for now. If it's from a safe faraway distance and they're all nice and clean, the boys are very pleasant looking kiddies. True little shotas with their own cute flavors. Plop on some fake angel wings and they make some not half bad accompaniments to Gable's godly glowing beauty.

From the bed Amar shivers, tugging at Gable's attention while pointing to me and ducking back out of sight. When Lukas looks back curiously, he immediately stiffens in Gable's arms, tensing and huffing to make himself look bigger for a fight. The little lump that is Amar stealthily worms its way behind Gable, as if trying to get even further away.

Really now, so rude.

"Rosalia...are you alright?" Gable asks, looking too good when concerned.

Ah the sight of such handsomeness is healing my internal organs already. But I'm fine for the most part, besides the obvious? I can't voice it so I tilt my head in questioning, making sure I show my best angles. Can't lose out on the boys in cuteness here. Not against Gable. I have full confidence in my cute face, it's Lilyanne's copy after all.

"Your mouth...."

Hmm? I make to pat my face at Gable's words. Oh, how unsightly of me! Gable just made too good looking of a scene I may have gaped and drooled a bit.

Oh dear.

I make to clean myself up but it's too late. Amar is cowering away, unwilling to even peek out while Lukas is trying to get down there with him. Even Gable is giving me a strange look. Ahhhhhh that shame! What have I done? What kind of weird expression did I make?

Eh even if it was weird is there any reason to act that far?

Ahhh it looks like I have already made my bed. Now I will simply have to lie in it. Down hidden under the covers I go, following the kiddies' example. Good night!



Author's note:

Happy Holidays this summer. Please enjoy.