Chapter 107:

106: It was a rainy day

I was Born the Unloved Twin

It was raining.

The clouds have gathered, the heavens pouring down its blessing. The beasts hiding in their holes, their dens, scents washed out.

What a good day to hunt.

"Can we really fish them out like this?!" whined a pale boy. His little hood and rain cloak a bright fluorescent color, something that glowed easily for people to spot at a glance. No precaution was spared, for Gable's own state of mind.

"On this day, early on, yes we can. They'll be restless and gathered at this point." he speaks as he moves, a large floating lantern by his side lighting up their path.

The little ones glowed, jars of fluorescent light and moss dangling in the air by their small heads. A respective coloring of blurred blue clouds and sparkling summer green. It was Gable's magic that made it float, but Lukas's memory that made it glow.

That's why it took so many blue jars to match the light of one green. Lukas's practice jars, made again and again till he could get it right for someone else's. Then never again for his own.

They were working on it. The boy was still young. They could work on it.

"But all the stupid stinky cheese made from the weird baby can't be used! Nothing can smell nada!"

"The lures can be focused and used for another day. Without the rain. But you must know Lukas, that there are many ways of attack. Many ways to lose as there are to win."

"Grrr, if you say so Gable. Is that why Cap is away? Attacking?! Like this? Is he coming back? What about dinner? Will he be back then? He promised me a bear paw bigger than myself!"

"Yes, he's leading some men into an active cave with them. The rain won't bother them down there, nor the scent but they do weaken certain beasts. It's a good time to strike first."

"Yeah yeah, when do I get down there and not the boring stuff out here?!"

"Perhaps, when the first few waves are finished. After the rain stops. Besides, I think you've bagged plenty of kills today. The both of you."

"Boooooring. They're all stuff we've seen before. Right, Amar?!"

The smaller boy turns away from the darkness afar, taking a second too long to nod along to his friend.

"Is everything alright Amar? A monster in the shadows?" hummed Gable, as if all-knowing in the silence. A teacher waiting for the students to figure it out on their own.

"What?! I thought this area was clear? Where where! Let's go get it! Can you smell it? In this rain? Cool!"

When Lukas bounces off, he's stopped by Amar's smaller frame, far too still and silent. Questioning, he calls out his friend's name again.

"Are you cold Amar? You're shakey. I think we're done now Gable, let's go back and get soup."

"Yes, I've been saying that. Now come along, it's nothing you two can hunt. Nor should you."

"Can we have bacon sandwiches today? I like those best. Can we dip them in your cheesy soup? I can't eat your cheese soup with the stupid baby around because then she ruins it all and puts her head in and that's duuuumb. Even dumber than me and I do a lot of dumb stuff."

"Yes Lukas, we can have those sandwiches. Be nice, for children younger than you often are that way. Amar, don't fall behind too much now."

"Amar and Rosa aren't and they're both littlier than me."

"I mean most, there are always exceptions. To anything. Many things in this world, no matter what you believe the truth, universal, exceptions exist waiting to be discovered if they're not already."

"Ooooooh! Okay!"

Though they walk, the smallest darkest child keeps stalling. Looking back to the void.

The rain pours and it's near impossible to sense a thing. But he can't stop shivering.

"'s the wrong sound." he shakes, forcing himself to move forward.

"Hurry up!" shouts back Lukas, running around in circles, puddles splashing where he steps. It's the luxury of a child, this simple fun. A magic he hopes he'll always keep, even in the dark. The little lights glowing at various strengths, creating the appearance of stars and wisps.

"Okay! I'm coming!"

Amar takes one last look into the dark. Eyes wide, too full of hope that should be dead. Dead and gone. It's with a broken shudder, a prayer maybe, that he dares to whisper.


Only the pounding of the rain answers back.

It's impossible.

Exceptions to this don't exist, no matter what Gable says. He knows this.

He turns and runs. Follows after the living. After the little sparks that Lukas lets off like the splashes of puddles. The great big glow of Gable's magical lantern, strong and established. With power and wisdom beyond all their years.

The sound is all wrong. Even if the slithering, clangs, and ringing are undeniable, they're not her.

His mama isn't here. He knows better than to chase after the dead.

"Come along now."

Gable speaks, shields them from the storm in a way they can't explain.

The gate appears, shimmering into existence, and so does his home. Warmth.

The children clamor in noisily on a rainy day. All is right for a moment more.

More than they ever had.




I feel like a stupid cat.

In the world, there are many possible toys and amusements. What haven't I've seen in the modern world with the power of the internet? Amusement parks, VR, hell even a simple smartphone with apps.

Yet here I am, so easily amused by Father's trash.

But just look at the size of this snakeskin, it's practically whole! Whoooo, the details of the scales still imprinted on the thin layer. My, there's even a dark tinge of color and pattern on it when snake skins tend to be very pale. What an amazing find.

I had found it in the corner by my unfortunate study spot for the day. The play desk shoved up against the walls to keep me undistracted and well within view by my father. There it was, just in the corner. Like a lost artifact in one of my father's cabinets of curiosities, which he not so surprisingly had a lot of.

Sure, there are a lot much more interesting things in his collections, just none lying on the floor for a toddler to grasp.

Oh what a specimen, what a terrifying beauty the creature wore its skin must have been. Ooooh just look at it, nearly perfect condition. This is something you can't just find on any nature hike.

I just ...want...a closer look...without being teased to death. Is that too much to ask?

Apparently so, for my father so cruelly holds it up high. Teasingly tossing one end out and about as if it were a shiny ribbon or even, a cat's toy.

I just want a little look, you dropped it in the first place. Stop making me jump for it! Oh to the left. Arrrrg, almost had it!

Still, Father sadistically waves the poor skin, ruining the specimen further with wrinkles. It's not a ribbon, why does he keep making me hop after it? Someone get this guy a real pet!

"This is actually quite fun. I can see why people produce children." remarks Father, making me go in small circles for it.

Who does he think I am? Lilyanne?! Oh hell no.

When I turn to plop myself away, back to face the wall, the sadist that is my father tries to tempt me again by dangling the stupid snake molt.

"Hmmpf!" I turn away with my booklet, bent on ignoring him.



"I'll let you sit on lap and observe."


"Now this is quite familiar, though it's much more pleasant on you than your mother." he dangles the not a cat toy.

That is not a good thing. You shouldn't be getting your wife pouting mad in the first place. Then you gotta spend the next few hours or even days coaxing her. Even I know that much. What kind of awful schoolyard flirting is that?

It's not cute at all, but hey what do I know? I've been single and unattached my whole life, or well lives, all of them. A formal and empty engagement does not count. I kinda died all of them.

Wow, am I depressing this morning! Is it because it's all gloomy and raining outside?

Anyways back to work, the sooner I get this latest batch of worksheets done, the sooner I can go back to doing my own thing. Like planning a wedding!

Ah, it's so wonderful that the prideful matters of a certain silly accountant and my kitchen maid has been settled. Nothing some bare naked honesty and wine-fueled night locked in a storage room can't fix for a couple.Oh hohoho~

Sometimes Mother does have good ideas! But I still don't trust her alone with the tailors so I really do have to hurry up and get to the parlor.

Or I would if Father wasn't still trying to get my attention by dangling a shed snakeskin at me, tickling my cheek. Hey, this is not how you deal with women? Or anyone in general? I was ignoring you. This stuff is generally gross to girls you know?

Seriously, how the hell did a weirdo like you get Mother to marry you?

"....I didn't." he deadpans, interrupting my thoughts. Ah, this habit again.

"....don't actually answer that, Father. I really don't want to know. "

"Glad we agree then my dear Chip, for I am not quite prepared for that conversation nor any of such matters."

"It's very improper a subject yes.”


He drops the twirling molt right on top of my head, temporarily blocking my vision. Homework will have to wait as I struggle to untangle myself from the specimen. Oh my lord, it's quite sturdy despite appearances. What a curiosity, it's still moist and malleable! What a strange thing, usually that's quite impossible unless it's fresh.

Yes, this is much more interesting than any annoying thoughts on such subjects....say my own marriage. You know, the thing that kinda determined Rosalia's life.

"Can I have this, Father? It's not part of a collection of anything is it?" I press, straightening out the skin as flat as possible.

Father gives a nod as he regards me with the look a doctor would give a mutated species of bacteria. Like I'm a mild and yet intriguing surprise to research.

Wow, I am depressing today.

Must be because everyone ever is out 'hunting', despite the weather, and having wonderful adventures while I'm trapped in here. Taking lessons. Again. Guarded as much as I am waited on, hand and foot. The price of this lifestyle, of being a little miss.

Well, that's fine. I'm a noble lady with soft skin and fine manners. I didn't want to go romp around in the wild anyways.

Or go checking out the hunts and hauls of the local monsters that don't exist in a nonmagical world. I already died, got reborn into another world with no useful magic, and studying.

I don't even get to see how many teeth and claws the wedding roast may have. It's not like I could hunt anything good with my skills anyways. I bet the brats are out there being absolute monsters, smacking down meat and loot. Doing some stupid maybe cool stuff without me.

I am not depressed about that at all.

"Is that what you're on about since this morning? Don't worry my dear, I'll be sure to allow you a view of a safe specimen or so when they pass through." Father cruelly teases.

How comforting....I bet he's going to turn that into homework somehow too. I'm not sure if he's even working back there or just finding more ways to mess with me. Maybe just doing nerd things. The worksheets and readings seem never-ending today. They're almost enough to distract me from the fact that I'm cooped indoors and not checking out anything cool or doing something more productive.

Like finalizing a wedding menu!

I stick the mostly flattened snakeskin into my baggie. This is the part where I resume my work like a good diligent student. Ready to checkmark my schedule down accordingly.

But I'm not.

Ow ow ow, this is not toddler material. What kind of shit is this nerd making me read and recite? Well....for the most part, let's just think of this as revision...very intense revision. I'm no genius, no photographic memory, or anything extra up in here.

Which should be absolutely illegal given my other world status. Hey um, cheats, where are you? Anything? Anything at all? Oh why bother.

I'm already learning so much...manually... under Father's strict hand.....and whatever the original Rosalia may have already learned before is getting revised, slowly. Bit by bit. Book by book.

I really miss the internet. So damn much. I was always a good student but who reads over and memorizes things in full anymore when search functions exist? But it doesn't.

Not here. Curses.

Okay, that's my boredom limit. Time to go bother the nerd. Make sure he's actually doing his work and not just oh I don't know, organizing a secret collection of bones or something.

"Father....are any of those.... human?" I grimace at the case.

One that could be mistaken for a modern woman's jewelry case, except for the clear glass top showcasing the very much not jewels.

"Of course. Why ever would I have something so mundane- no perhaps I should be more concerned why that of all things is your first thought." Father looks down at me again with that look reserved for mutated bacteria.

"So....not humans?"

"I see no purpose in keeping such specimens, our bones aren't very valuable nor malleable. Unless it's a study. Ivory, however, now that's a different matter. It's very likely more profitable to refine the goods and wastes from the hunts than to just sell them uncleaned."

"Is that why your accountants are allowed out on the hunts even though it's dangerous and they're all squishy nerds."

"Partly. They're not all accountants nor as yielding to the flesh my dear. It would be unwise to collect only one type, as well as irrational to risk a group for potential loss."

"So the nerds can be out to inspect the goods on-site or at least in camps?"

"Something like that. I believe it would prove to be far more effective. The lot of those oafs damage their kills far too much."

Now that I can believe. Sure the main point was once to kill hungry hormonal beasts, reduce their numbers. But these days people have the luxury of just bagging kills and making some pocket money from them. You can't just sell a pelt full of bloody holes and burns.

My grandfather's troops act as the organization, the closest thing to an adventurer's guild to our members. Common people and non-troops members have to find their own markets to sell goods they don't keep and use for themselves. It appears that this year, my father has taken a much more active part in organizing the logistics side, even sending out his own people.

People like Barbara's fiancee, Nicola. Which is another part of the misunderstanding between the happy couple? Meh, they worked it out. It's an unprecedented level of organization and active supervision for the troops issued hunts. With 'camp' centers set up for villagers to sell their parts and catches directly. A middle man of sorts.

Makes sense, someone has to buy the goods that everyone is out hunting. Otherwise, it's just stew meat and scrap material. It's not like the average person can determine the most valuable parts of all these different species, nor dismantle them properly. The vast majority of people don't even know what parts are even generally used for, including me. More the specialty of Vincent or some other alchemist and similar profession. Practically witchcraft in the eyes of the ignorant.

A portion has always automatically gone to the troops, to keep up expenses and make profits. We're not a charity. With that in mind, Father's new plans being implemented is actually a business smart approach.

It's not as glamorous as slaying some mystical dinosaur beast on the front lines, but money and logistics are what actually makes the world go round.

What a strange though not unwelcome butterfly effect.

No matter how much I tiptoe or hop, my current height prevents me from getting a good look at the current case. The little bones and teeth sectioned and labeled like a museum's catalog. It gets even worse when Father pulls out a shiny ivory fang, like a shark tooth, dangling it around for me to jump at.

I'm pretty sure Father is in great need of entertainment because I think he's enjoying making me jump. Why there were even books assigned for me to find today in addition to just reading them, forcing me to toddle around stepping stools and too high bookcases.

Wait a minute, do my pumpkin undies show easily in this outfit?

Realization strikes me like lightning. I hastily plop back on the ground, partially frozen in the mortification.

Oh dear lord, they do.

May the gods of this world take me now to bury in shame.

I've been hopping around like a defenseless schoolgirl in a fluttery skirt. The kind I have always refused to even cosplay as an adult. On a child, it's equivalent to a cute animal in clothes. Oh no, oh god no. My pumpkin shorts of cuteness, my revolutionary kiddy undies, these were not meant for the eyes of others. Let alone the cold calculative eyes of my lord father.

"Are you alright down there on the floor Chip?" he looks down at me with a shining smile.

When I look up, I can see so much, like that shelf I was just on, or that ladder, or to that other bookcase. Causing me to clutch my floofy skirt down tighter.


"You will have to speak clearly, my little hot cross bun, on to what it is you deem improper. Try again."

That irritatingly handsome smirk is full of malice. Full knowledge and no shame over what he's done.

I want to scream. I've been made a show of. A stupid pet. I bet if camera phones existed, there would be an embarrassing video of me right at this moment, being uploaded on the internet full of cute cats and stupid chubby toddlers.

I, a highly educated adult woman with multiple lifetimes experienced, have been had. Played. I really am a weak and defenseless little girl, doomed to a life of abuse by this most likely evil father.

Where did my high defenses go? Where is that infamous woman known throughout the company for chasing off any creep in the inter-meetings and all public events go? I knew every trick in the book. Smart men feared me by reputation alone. Stupid ones destroyed, their egos shattered and recycled. My project manager constantly begging me to let other men off, even just a little mercy. Yet here I am getting panty shot.

What skill. It can only be...from a player.

Yes yes, a secret fiend experienced at playing women! The checklist all marks off, so long as no one knows about his nerdy side. The schoolyard tease with the face of a hellish fallen angel, a medieval equivalent of a politics playing smooth CEO. What scum! How could I have been so blind?

Women of all classes must have thrown themselves at him! Rosalia's memory, they did. So that means they still do? Not that they ever succeeded, nor would this stupidly doting husband ever cheat but some of their blatant attempts yeah.... let's not ponder about that much right now. That's enough grossness for this time period.

To think Father was this sort of man under it all, it actually all makes sense now!

Perhaps Mother actually suffers greatly behind the scenes?

Oh she must! I mean I suppose she does always gets sort of jealous easily but that's just a given when your man is...that.

How many noblewomen have fallen for your ploys and got ripped off hmm?! I'm calling it right now! How awful it must be to be played by this nerd, either way.

I didn't know how to explain to Mother just how...tittilating... some of her nightgowns were, like the flimsy one she wore last night when Lilyanne and I so suddenly burst into her quarters. I don't think she knows. I honestly don't think Mother really knows what she looks like as she still prances and spins about with Lilyanne in that provocatively tight and frilly thing. Either that or she really does have no shame.

When I tried....asking, she just gushed how they were special commissions, surprise gifts from Father. Or how she felt soooooo loved that he was thinking of her when he bought dozens of them. Bleck.

Ah, I knew there was a reason why they were so nice compared to some of the rest of her closet.

I am beginning to actually feel sympathy for my mother. Though perhaps ignorance really is bliss.

How awful. Last night I feared I passed out in shock and shame, thus avoiding any more awkward confrontation outside Mother's chest.

But here I am today, seeing Father's true colors. I know I certainly suffered from this type of man in my past. You really can't trust appearances! Even more so if the man knows he's good looking and knows how to use it just right. It's essentially just a type of serial killer!

Awful, just awful. This hidden type of pervert is the worst.

An unwelcome unassuming face pops up in the recess of my mind. Very unwelcome.

A bright face that really should have been ordinary. Sometimes I wish it was, so he would stop using it against me. Soft black hair, like bold brushes of calligraphy ink on skin as clean and fresh as a white paper. Paired youthful countenance of a young boy still growing into himself, into a man, fresh and strong as green bamboo. In another world, his charming features were rarer than any gem.

A disgustingly sweet voice that seems to tickle, that itches all the way deep in my ears so much it somehow followed me another life.




"Noona! Why did you hit yourself? Ah don't do that, your cheeks are already very red and very cute."

The college student decided at that moment to not only slap herself again but to physically push the sudden appearance at the table away. That would solve her vision.

"I'm just tired from studying too much Jung-Joon. I'm seeing things."

"What sort of things?" he asked, clamoring back up to his seat.

"Stars for one."

"Ah, that's just from looking at me right?"

With far too much confidence for a young teen, the boy points to his own smiling face. Invisible sparkles and flowers swirling out in the visions of many people, including but not limited to Meng. She felt a headache coming, yes it must be a headache.

"...You. Don't spout out lines like that. Have some shame. Understand?" she makes to pinch and pull at his cheeks, the baby fat still soft and full on the younger boy's face.

"If I say no, do you keep personally teaching me like this? Up close?" he grinned in her hands.

"No, I'll twist, like this." and she does.

Despite the sounds of 'ow ow ow' and the physical distorting of a perfectly fine face, the teen laughs and makes no move away from the petty abuse. In fact he might have gotten even closer.

His much older brother peeks out from behind the bar counter, only to grimace and cry, turning blue.

"You two! Stop being so disgusting! Not in my bar, actually not anywhere! Oh god eomma was right."

"Oi bossman, stop exposing Jung-Joon to your bad tv shows. He's only in high school and he's being corrupted like this!" Meng retaliated back, demonstrating with the kid's pulled cheeks.

"Exactly he's only in high school! Stop flirting back with a minor! Ah if only I had known this would happen all those years ago." the older man yelled with a pointed finger.

"Ai, what did you say?! Say that again you perverted old dog? Flirting! See you're teaching him improper things again. Don't listen JJ, don't turn into a loser like your brother either. Jung-Soo is ok but not that one."

"What?! What was that you little scammer!? Jung-Joon, listen to your hyung, don't fall for such an ugly and terrifying woman!"

"Hear that? That's the cry of a sad single loser who'de rather binge watch harem animes and dramas than work on his own personal life. You must never fall down that path as an attractive man, okay?"

The switch between argumentative yelling and soft instructions was almost comedic, but one that was rather common around here. Their moods were influenced around easily. At least it was never boring.

"Hmmm ok. I'll be an 'attractive man' for you. I have to be to catch up." the handsome teen smiled, reaching to lightly hold onto the girl's relaxing hands in place.

His own hands finally large enough to over encompass hers. When he leans in, it's a very purposeful sort of soft and gentle, still holding back. Like one afraid to scare off a skittish animal, yet overwhelmed in how adorable he found her. It made his smile as light and refreshing as the spring breeze.

"Good boy." she happily patted, not noticing how he openly stared back or even what his statement meant.

Even if she noticed something, she really didn't. It's how this bad comedy could go on. At the very least the mood was oddly pleasant to all who stumbled upon the scene. So pleasant it was violently uncomfortable to the main witness. As much as Jung-Hyuk liked his shows, he felt like gouging his eyes out, maybe crying.

"Oh god they're even worse. Break it up, step away from the minor before I call security."

From the other room, the supposed daytime security yelled back "I still ship it!"

"Thank you! We'll set sail as soon as my wife admits it, you're all invited to the wedding. Hey Meng, what do you want our ship name to be? Also, I was thinking maybe 5 kids. No? Too little?" sang Jung-Joon cheerfully, much to the deepening frowns of the other two.

That got him another pinch and twist from the 'wife'. As well as a string of curses that sounded like 'illegal' and coughed up blood from his still very single eldest brother.

"This is quite bad. Maybe I should be more worried you'll turn into the opposite of bossman instead. Do you talk like this to your classmates too? Leave those cute innocent highschool girls alone you flirting fiend. What the hell has puberty done to you?" Meng released the teen's now very pink face from her grasp.

She put on an overly concerned face for show, sighing into her hand for real. She swears he's getting worse every year.

From the metal stairs, another slim figure spoke out as he cooly descended.

"It's too late. He's always been like that. You just refuse to notice the obvious." spoke Jung-Soo bleakly, as if he were reading the morning news.

Meng let out a fake gasp, turning back to Jung-Joon to squish at that abused face again.

"Ah even Jung-Soo says you're a player, what horrible gossip have I not heard? What have you done?"

"Hmmmm, I guess the female teachers like me more? I get food from girls in home-ec? Oh and after practice." the youngest offers without much thought.

"Acceptable then." agrees Meng. As if food could forgive all sins.

"But..." JJ trails off sadly, instantly breaking her mental montage to all the delicacies she's eaten on some other sap's dime.

"But what? Oh no, really what did you do?"

"...But they're not anywhere as sweet as my Meng."

He reaches again, this time to take a delicate hand into his own. Turning it over to press an open kiss on the soft sensitive side of her small palm. Something she had no choice but to feel in full, from the line of his nose to the edge of a sharpening chin. He was losing that cling of childish softness.

"....Jung-Soo, Bossman... permission to discipline your youngest."

The request was met with a mixed reaction between the two brothers. A mix of "oh god please!" and "eeeh he might like that but go for it." Something that was more than good enough for Meng to shake off and smack the growing boy silly with that very same palm. Soon it was stinging enough from hitting hard joints and solid muscles. Soon she no longer felt the phantom sensation of teasing lips or slimming edges.

It was so cute when he was younger, heart-meltingly so, but now that puberty was really hitting, JJ was no longer just an irresponsible child. Such a shame he refused to learn.

"I swear you can't go around spewing stuff like that so casually. One day a girl is actually going to fall for it and you're going to have to deal with the fallout of that. Are you legit stealing lines from your mom's dramas? Use that limited brain on your studies instead you numbskull!"

"So um, is it working?" JJ puppy pouted, looking reminiscent to the kid she once knew. Then she just couldn't stay mad.

"Study. Get back to work, finals coming up for everyone. Hand over your bio lab so I can check it. I better not find you messing up answers on purpose again." she smacked him again for good measure, numbing her abused hand from feeling a thing.

"Yes noona~ Do want to come over for dinner later? I left my English essay in my room. Can you check over that too?" he placated, acting cute.

"Sure, if it's quick and your mom doesn't sack me into doing stuff again. I still have projects to finish detailing and I'm nowhere near done packing or organizing."

"...Yeah...yeah, I know you're leaving soon...So it's fine if we just lock the door again, right?"

From not just the bar, comes choking sounds, groans of pain, and even squealing noises from somewhere in the back kitchen.

As Meng looked over in confusion and mild concern, for her boss really was choking, JJ's doting expression quickly flipped as did his middle fingers. Raised right at his elder brothers, where they both could easily see his grim expression. A real teenager alright.

When she suspiciously turns back, the fingers and death glare was suddenly gone, replaced with a puppy dog grin. Either way, she flicks him on the forehead before going back to ignoring the kid.

"Don't get cheeky."



"I was wrong. Come anyways? Please."

"I didn't say I wouldn't." she finally scoffed to his pleas, physically moving his head to turn back on his school work.

She observed this strange space around them. Too quiet, yet just right in the day time, all before the bar opened at night. This space she's been more than working in the last couple of years. The people, strangers turned regulars into her life.

It felt surreal.

"Are you going to visit your brother before you go?" remarked Jung-Soo, laptop already pulled out. The man either not bothered or deeming it safe to take a seat at the table Meng and JJ occupied.

"Hmm....yeah. He's out the hospital right now....feeling better. After my last final, I'll go. It works out."

"Yeah, stop by our house later. There are pears and some stuff that will be nice house gifts to take back." he smiled, gentler yet no less refreshing than his younger brother.

The pen Meng was marking with halted, as did her breath. One beat, two, she swallowed dryly, refusing to feel touched by something so simple. Lingering guilt followed though she nodded with thanks and a smile she knew didn't look too plastered on.

Make it natural.

From where he was counting the inventory, the boss's booming voice sounded out.

"Your mom has been remarried for a few months now. How's it going?"

"Seriously?" came a disembodied voice from behind the sliding kitchen door, followed by some giggles.

"Shut up!" snapped back the probably most disrespected employer in town. But that was part of the reason Meng had even stayed for so long. For sort of kind and hapless man, even if he was a loser.

"Better. My uncle's's getting better. Thanks for asking."

"You still keep in good contact? Good, bring nice shit back. Don't give your mom room to complain about. "

"...Yeah. Thanks bossman."

Deep breathes. Meng takes deep breathes because it doesn't bother her. After all these years, it shouldn't still bother her. Not just her parents' divorce, but the lasting effects it had. She's an adult now, it doesn't bother her anymore.

No one mentions her father, maybe it doesn't come up, maybe they all knew too much. Meng tries not to let it bother her how much she's probably pitied. Always has been. She swallows down her pride like acid reflux coming back up, again and again.

JJ silently leaned in again, resting his weight on her side and knocking her thoughts sideways. In recent years, his height shot up, towering over her where he once used to fall short. Just another gap between them that he's overtaken. His body heat still penetrating, even through the A.C.

"Is she happy?" the teen asked, soft against where he leaned.

"I ....would think so. Happier." Meng doesn't shake, and if she does, it's stabilized by the other weight half holding her without her permission. Something she's hardly noticed at this point.

"Hmmm. Okay then. To a happy marriage."

Meng bites her lip but one glance is all it takes. One turn and glance at those black moon eyes, lazy in the light, looking up at her with such honesty that she chokes on everything she's just swallowed. It comes out before she could even think about it.

"I still don't even know what that means."

"Hmm?" the teen hummed seemingly lazy, his arm tightening around her waist.

"No, nothing. Here, you did a good job but rewrite your conclusion, I can tell you just got lazy and repeated yourself."

"Meng...are you-"

Another voice shouts out from the other room, interrupting with the start, "My ex-wife is crazy and I love her. We were happy together and we're very happy separated."

"Jones, that's because you're both gay." Jung-Hyuk signed from behind a section of the bar.

"Great marriage, worked out super well. Ended even better, her new wife is just adorable" responded back the security guard.

From the sliding door two women, one old, one young, popped out their heads ready to join the conversation despite their boss' squawking.

"My moms weren't married most the time I was growing up but I don't think it mattered much. Things didn't really change at home after it was legalized, they've always been tight like that." said a dark skin Asian girl, a few years older than Meng, snacking on fresh chips.

"That's so sweet Hailey. Now I divorced him after he slept with my sister. Of course, she told me he wasn't even any good, aye that patán. I could have told her that after 20 years. We still raised up three good kids, sent them to college. Marriage wise, eh, not so bad. We had a good run." similarly munched the older woman, a bit of an accent to her.

"Do I pay you all to eat and chat?!"

"Booo. Don't be a bore."

"Vete a freír buñuelos you holgazán."

"Aww come on boss, don't be like that. You know what you need? To get boned, look so my ex's wife knows a girl who maybe doesn't think she likes women anymore so-"

Red faced, Jung-Hyuk uselessly blew up at his employees. Not that they listened. Jones was still trying to set the man up.

"What everyone is trying to say, is that no one really knows what it means. It can be happy, sad, or whatever you make of it. Personally, I think it's just light domestic abuse." calmly stated the middle brother, not even looking up from his laptop.

When he does, it's with warm eyes and a sly knowing smile towards the awkward pair at the table. The expression was so familiar that Meng breathes a sigh of relief, the strange tension in her gone. Possible the result of the comforting warmth still on her side and all the jolly banter all around her.

"From your mom?" joked back Meng, offering a small thankful smile.

"Yeah, sure. Our eomma," chuckled Jung-Soo, pushing back up his glasses.

Even though the soft smile he offered looked more like a judgemental smirk. Can't be helped, that's just how his aura was. At least he was some very good eye candy Meng sighed to herself.

"Do you know what I think?" pushed Jung-Joon, sliding a pile of books between his brother and the girl in his arm. If it wasn't obvious enough, he stacked the pile higher, building a little wall.

"Consensual domestic abuse."

"I don't trust what you think."

Jung-Soo and Meng answered at the same time, their words overlapping. JJ pouted, play acting as if he was actually wounded.

"Aww, don't be like that. Really? I think most people get it wrong. Being together, just staying by someone's side...isn't that a nice dream? If you could just stay by that person's side, even if the past already happened and the future is happening before we can catch our breath. I think it would a miracle if I could live through it all with anyone. So, can it be with someone I picked? Someone that makes me even want to think 'Ah, can it be you? Please? Can I have it be you?' ....Is that too simple?"



Somewhere, wolf whistles sounded out. It sounded like Jones and Hailey before a hot-headed man yelled at them to all get back to work setting up for the night. Somehow though, he left his little brothers alone. That family immunity maybe, not as if he could ever win against them.

"Not bad." relented Meng, offering a head pat on the much taller youth. "Keep that up and you'll turn out better than bossman for sure."

It was simple yeah, far too simple for reality. But if it was this kid, with eyes and dreams higher than the sky, she hopes he gets it. She hopes he gets the world.

"Hmmm, you know what else I think?" titled Jung-Joon, expression entirely too blank and serious.

"...What?" she didn't trust it, but somehow she was already entirely wrapped up in his arms? When did that happen?

"I think married couples pull off shit like this."

He goes for her ear, a long loud smack, with the barest hint of teeth scratching along the lobe. A kiss of apology, of a wish, at the pink edge. He really wished he could hold on longer, reluctant to part as blood rushed up for that alluring red blush. But he wanted to live another day, maybe past graduation? So....

"AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! You! Get the hell back you fucking little shit!!!"

"Scuse me, sorry Paula, excuse me~"

"Fuck! I'll bury you in the parking lot, asphalt be damned! Sorry Paula. Get fucking back here so I can Gfkdaljalf#!@!!!"

As they clamored over the bar and through the back kitchen and corridors, another regular to their bad comedy, Jung-Soo still didn't look away from his laptop.

"Domestic abuse." he sighed, right again.

A bad comedy plays in my head like an old videotape, the image squeaky as it rewinds.

Even if it was real, even if I pressed and kept my finger on the rewind button, it wasn't going to work. Nothing would rewind. I can't rewind myself back to that time. To any of it.

"Chip? Are you still sulking?"

The man that picks me up is obscenely handsome, even if he is a red head. Sleeker and wealthier than any guy I've ever worked with, and my old company handled some insanely loaded people. I always got the priciest designer gifts from them, even if I had to sit through some awful meal times. I should thank my lucky stars I get to use him, this father, as both a walking ATM as well as some golden eye candy. Even if I do have the suckiest identity in this world.


"There there now, papa was wrong. Here now you can see all the shining teeth in this case here. Don't try to touch as not all of them are safe for bare skin."


"That's my girl. Now can you tell me how much this specimen here would go for in the current market in an unprocessed state?"

I let Father distract me, coax me even. The various little treasures in the cabinet of curiosities a lesson as much as it is fun. The abstract idea of money, how much such things could earn me, as well as the sparkling gems and magical beast cores, soothed my greedy little nerves.

That's right, money makes the world go round. Even my own. Yet I finding myself still frowning.

"How much am I worth?"

"...What was that Chippy?”

"How much was one Rosalia worth? My engagement. How much?"

For a moment, it's just a staring match. Golden eyes pester mine as piano fingers brush my admittedly red-tinged bangs back. They're longer than any man I've ever known, though it may just look that way due to my current size. They're longer and oddly paler than even Jung-Joon's.

It's really been three years huh?

At this point, that brat is the same age I was when I died. He's finally caught up huh?

"Oh Rosalia."

The man I currently am forced to call Father wipes at the moistness under my eyes. Ah don't touch me so carelessly, it stings. What if I get an eye infection? Who knows what you've been touching lately.

Despite my body's protests, he carries me down to a flat glass case. A yellowed detailed map pressed carefully flat, making the stains and tears all the more visible. The most details centering around one particular landscape. Ventrella territory and its surroundings, growing blurrier and vaguer at the edges. There was even a burnt mark at more than one corner but that didn't diminish the sheer amount of notes and arrows in empty spaces of the hand drawn map.

It looks like Grampa's handwriting.

"How much do you think it's worth?"

I wrinkle my nose at the filthy thing.

"The paper or the actual land? If that's Grampa's, then that thing can go for millions at a collector's auction."

Father smiles, still petting my hair annoyingly as if I were a pet cat. My answer in the range of his expectations. Really now, I wonder what I can say that would actually surprise this man. Other than the truth that is my birth, my existence.

"It was once considered worthless. This territory. The highest amount of magic spots, beasts galore, a forest of death expanding across leaving the open plains barren. Even if you could reach it by sea, there was little good to be found. The people waiting to die."

I'm not liking this comparison after my very impulsive question. I really should have known better than to ask this man. He is after all, the one who sold me.

Just like him.

Even though they're different, so vastly different....why is it...that I compare them? This man isn't my real father. He's classy, handsome, and securely wealthy. He has a wife who loves him, who he loves back, a happy marriage whatever the hell that means. He sold me, he legitimately sold me in this world that accepts arranged marriages. What father does that?

"What kind of scum would do that?!" shrieks a voice, a scratchy playback in mind.

A useless sort of man, too kind for his own good and really not boss material at all. This strong slightly chubby man, possibly handsome if he shut his mouth, over a whole decade older than me. Than who I was once.

"You! Don't go along with it so easily you stupid little girl! If your parents told you to go jump on a knife would you do that?! Aigoo! Ai this is not how I saw my day going! Ah run faster, don't waste my efforts!"

I remember. It was raining that day and I lost a slipper. I was so out of breath I felt like I was drowning. Do you know how hard it is to coordinate running like that?

"Don't fuck with me you weird old man!" I was angry.

"The hell!? I'm still a handsome young man! Oppa, it's Jung-Hyuk oppa. You should be thanking me and calling me oppa! What the hell was that man back there then?! Your grandfather?! You were going to fuck with that instead?! Ah kids these days."

"Shut the hell up!"

"You shut up you brat! What are you like 13?"


"Ai, do you know you cry so ugly!? Your dad is such a stupid man, trying to sell off such an ugly girl! And the idiot pervert offering money? For an ugly brat like you?! No eyes at all!"

"Shut! *hic* the fuuuck up!"

"Yah, if you have the breath to cry so much, run faster! Keep up with me! It's okay. It's okay to just run. You're a very ugly girl so it's okay to just run away, you don't have to do that for trash. I don't know your situation but you don't want it right? That's why you're still running with me. So it's okay, it's going to be okay. Bear with it and just run, just a little more. It's going to be okay."

It was raining, it was a mess. It was one of the worst days in my young life.

That's how I met Park Jung-Hyuk. Bossman.

That's how I came to owe him a debt that money couldn't ever payback. That's how I was forced crashed into a silly man's life, into that family. That day I ran away from my own dad, the one who above all sense, sold me. I ran through a storm and came across the strange warmth of a foreign bakery. Even from the showering cold outside, it smelled of baking bread and sweet honey.

That strange man, dripping water like a soaked dog, stepped right through that yellow-lit threshold, yelling in a language I didn't understand.

I was frozen, numbed by running far past my limit while pelted with that awful rain. I stayed frozen, stuck and unsure what to do. On what I had done. I had really ran away.

The door clatters noisily as it opens all the way. Golden artificial light temporarily blinding me.

A little boy stood there, all alone, just as frozen. I'm sure I must have looked like a mad witch to him. The girl from the well maybe, with drenched black hair and my pale dress uncomfortably stuck to my frozen skin. I couldn't feel my own bare legs from all that running. I couldn't feel my lips, salty despite the rain.

I'm sure I must have frightened him badly. The rain poured on.

Stiffly, a small hand reached out and waved to me.


Golden light turns to golden eyes. The dark silhouette of that little boy gone, but a shadow, concentrated down to my father's pupils and the squeaky playback of my own mind. It sounds like the static storm of that day.

I think this heartbreak is my own. I think I've been holding it in for a long time, longer than I've been alive.

There's a warmth I can't ever get used to pressed against my forehead, those golden glimmering eyes far too close.

"The price of this peace, this land, all the wonders and potential that I see every day I've been blessed to stand here, is worth exactly that. Priceless."

Kisses at my eyes, tickle wet with shed and still dripping tears. I don't want it. This kindness I've never received, not even once. Not in any lifetime. I don't want any of it. I want to go back.

I don't even know what I want.

"Rosalia. Tesoro mio."

I cry like I did that day, drowned and out of breath. Ugly and silent. The kisses at my face breaking me to cry even more. The dam I keep patching up failing me in the violent storm that never ended.

This man doesn't understand. He could never. He's not from my world and he's not my father. He broke his own daughter's heart and now he's somehow still breaking mine.

I know. I've known. I've known for so long and it still hurts so bad I can't catch my breath.

The kind and loving father that I always known, had trusted, sold me out so easily. For his job, his promotion, money to save our breaking family. To save a stressed and fickle mom from breaking us further, to save Heng Fei and all the costs that came at keeping him well. To save his honor as the man of the house, he sold me.

Some connection, some superior. Said I caught his eye. Had for a while. Said he never had a daughter, let alone one as cute as me. Said he would love it if I ever came over to play.

That's what I was told, as if I was that stupid.

On that rainy day, my ba broke. On that day, he sold me to a man older than himself because money makes the world go round. Dropped off with nothing but that sping dress and sandals. Told that my dad would pick me up later. Like I was an idiot.

Rosalia would understand.

But that girl is dead. Dead, dead, and gone. She wasn't even born this time around. It's just me. It's just me, the girl that ran and can't stop fucking looking back.

"Rosalia." the lingering kisses, this softness doesn't end and I can't take it.

My cries don't make any sense, all nonsense and not enough breath. Gibberish only I can make out.


Why did you sell me?

How much am I worth to you?

How much?

"Priceless. My little treasure is priceless."

I want to scream into that well-groomed face that nuzzles mine so brazenly. As if he actually cares. I want to deafen those redding ears. I want to ask everything the original ghost of this body didn't get the chance to, was too scared to.

"*hic* L-liar!" I sob, choking on myself.

I want to ask.

I want to finally ask if it was worth it. I want to watch as he crumbles, breaks, because he lost everything and more, even his stupid pride. I want to scream and lie how much I hate him, for what he did to me. For what he let almost happen. I wanted him, us, back to the way were.

But I can't.

I don't exist in that world anymore. I can't confront my dad anymore. I should have while I had the chance, all those years. I shouldn't have just silently held it in, lying to myself that I moved on. I should have listened to everyone who told me otherwise, to Jung-Joon.

I can't see a single soul, not anymore.

Liars, it's not okay. It's not okay and it never will be.

"Chip. Tesoro. Little rising ball of dough. Rosalia. What's wrong today? It's not the hunt that upsets you. What makes my Rosa cry so awfully? Hmmm?"


"Hmmm, what have I done today? To make my little girl so tearful."

This man is awful, a true player. He nuzzles me with the experience of a man that has certainly made girls cry before. Cry and coaxed into the palm of his hand.

"You're awful-*hic* and I'll hate y-you *hic* forever." Yet I grip into his hold tighter.

"Ah, I see. Then I suppose I'll be contracted to make it up to you forever. No?"

Tight, his hug is so tight but somehow I feel as if I'm still lost and floating.

The tears still see no end. I suppose I really am the twin of the crybaby Lilyanne. Gripping and refusing to let go. It's like I'm no longer in control of this body.

Sometimes I'm not. Some of these things I feel aren't mine, though they mix and intermingle.

To the little unloved ghost I know is still lingering, merely sleeping, I know. I know what it's like when your parents, your father, is not a good person. I know it's a hard pill to swallow. I know what it's like to still love them, even if you don't know what that word means.

I know, and I'm sorry. I'm just as bad. I'm just as bad as you.

Soft lips, a married man's kiss lingers at my forehead. At too hot face and ears. When he rocks me like a child, I hit him for patronizing me.

"I'm not marrying him!" I really don't know what I'm saying.

"Oh? That? Well, I didn't really expect you to."

"Liar! I better be worth a lot! More than anything you own! I'm not cheap."

"Inconceivable. Did someone indicate you were? My daughter? Give papa a hint and I'll have them punished and sold off for a pretty penny to soothe your awful little reddening head."

"You're awful."

"I suppose my dear, that we are."

Currently, this body is not mine. For it only clings on, as foul as my mouth operates. My arms keep holding on as I bury myself into Father's hold. As if I could crawl into his chest and grasp that beating heart, begging not to be forgotten.

I just don't know who is begging.

Rosalia or me? I don't know who I'm begging either.

Just don't forget me.

You can sell me off, you already have. You can leave or watch me leave, both. Just don't forget me.

"...Don't forget me."


I think Father holds me the rest of the day, silent as he was. I don't remember, for I fell asleep. His steady heartbeat was louder than the static rain outside.