Chapter 13:

13: Choices Choices

I was Born the Unloved Twin

The dining hall is a large but simple affair. Crowded but lively with more than enough food going around. As much as I like peace, this natural environment suits me more naturally than dining in a stuffy mansion. I'm a commoner in heart and mind after all.

Lilyanne and I are still in the process of teething and the savory bread rolls served are the perfect to gnaw on. The maids initially softened them with some soup but as I was missing eating like an adult, or just having texture in general. I grabbed a whole one without any repercussions.

It's a really surprising discovering that both Lilyanne and I seem to enjoy. There are orders to have them delivered to our household regularly now, compliments to the chef.

After a relatively peaceful lunch, primarily because everyone was distracted with eating, the tour continues in more detail.

While there are no exciting matched fights going on like I've fantasized it was still very worth seeing. Through the mess, there's a sense of organization here. Like a graded cultivation school with many subjects and majors that one can listen into to or join if they feel up to it. Unlike a bored little girl, I take in everything with eager eyes. Give something to work with here, some excitement!

There are obviously parts and places we're not allowed to see but it's been a more than satisfactory day, especially with my brainstorming. The maids are also more than ready to call it a day, their nerves caught up to them a few hours ago.

Useless things really, I'll get rid of them form my immediate service as soon as I'm old enough to do so. For now it's either just putting up with them or avoiding them. I sneak out enough for that.

"Before you head home, I've taken the liberty of preparing a little something for the children."

"Oh? What's going on ol Geoff?"

"Nothing much, just a little game. Something nice to finish with"

Uncle Geoff makes a signal and a crowed of various school aged children appear out of nowhere. They're all carrying different items or baskets and placing them spread out on the once empty field in front of us. A particularly rowdy bunch of younger boys catches my attention.

The main reason being their overall playful rambunctiousness stands out among diligent students lining up the items. The second being that I recognize that shock of amber carrot hair, which leads me to even more dread.

It's one of my conniving cousins, Phillip, and his disaster group of friends.

In the future, Phillip carries a very gentlemanly but overly flirtatious appearance. It was something that women fell for and men underestimated about him. Even Lilyanne, though that's not saying much given her 'pure' easy to scam heart. He looked like nothing but a rich playboy but behind the scenes, he's a terrifying schemer. Till my death I could never fully unwrap nor figure out his depths. There's no cousin I'm more worried about than him.

He never schemed against me directly, he never bullied me but he was the one who put his sword into my back. It was certainly him. Don't think I didn't see his indirect plots in the surroundings. He knew I knew, in a way we were playing a cold famial game of deadly ping pong.

For those reasons, Rosalia never trusted him and she was right. But it was still a shock to get stabbed in the back, literally.

I recognize one of his little friends too, the overly pale boy. He knocked me down in a block when I first thought I could run and escape. Stood there like wall, I didn't bother begging him to help, to let me go.

It's not like anyone ever would.

The rage in me stirs. If I was a beast, if I had fangs, they'd be growing monstrously sharp right now. These feelings. It's a feral monster on chains, collared up but clawing on a dingey cage. It's bitter but I don't care right now. I couldn't stop it even if I wanted to. I can't take my eyes away.

One of them in the gaggle must feel me glaring. A child I don't recognize looks over at me curiously. I can't place a future self yet but what does it matter? He's with Phillip, thus most likely a future enemy. They all are, just in varying levels of cannon fodder, soldiers and actually dangerous individuals to look out for.

But right now he's just a child and like a child he innocently waves at me. He can't be all that much older than me, a few years, about the same age as Phillip? But he makes those silly faces you make when you catch a baby looking at you in public. I can't help but deflate from my anger at that.

No good, I'm just baby. I have time to plan, to protect myself.

Patience, I have to be be patient. There's nothing I can do right now being as young as I am. I need to play nice and bide my time, strengthening myself.

The brat keeps making silly gestures at me till uncle Geoff sends them away, complete with their task.

Phillip and his friends laugh and tug at him but the Innocent brat waves and mouths at me "bye bye" as if I could understand him. Stupid kid, normal babies wouldn't be able to.

"So are all these presents? For my little girls, oh you shouldn't have!"

Grampa speaks in a teasing tone that says he already knows everything.

I'm still confused about what's going on, the ground is littered with random items, from toys to books to weapons that small children most definitely should not handle.

"Well one or two items. I missed their first birthday but just couldn't decide on a gift. Then I thought, why not let them choose."

"Oh I see, how interesting."

I see it now too, it's that test. The one where you place a few items in front of a baby and watch what they crawl too. The item they choose is a prediction for their future careers, say if a child picks up a pen they will be a sort of scholar or scribe. A toy sword for a soldier and so forth. I didn't know people actually did that, it's all nonsense.

"I see quite the spread here Geoff."

"Yes I've arranged a little bit of everything I suppose. You can never be too sure"

"Down you girls go then, I want to see what you two will pick!"

Ah is grampa talking in general or directly to me again? His words have a strange enunciation to them, this is a message isn't it? On that innocent babies like Likyanne can't possibly understand. I'm being targeted again!

This thing is all nonsense but I'm not a real baby here, isn't this like choosing my starting pokemon then!? Ack the pressure!

Luckily for me, Lilyanne is taking the initiative and crawls off first. I'm more than ok with watching her choose first. She giggles and stops to clap her hands in amusement but after a short time the thing she picks up is a paintbrush? The crowed oos and ahs at her choice.

Ok, I'd be a little more creeped out if she wasn't sucking the paintbrush like the drooly baby she is. Later on Lilyanne will be called an art prodigy. She was a very accomplished painter, and Rosalia could never catch up and realistically admitted defeat against her sister in this area.

It's all coincidence right? Right just nonsense.

My choice won't be nonsense, grampa knows bout me and he'll be judging carefully. It's absolutely nerve racking! This has to be some secret test. I can't just pick randomly here!

I calm myself in the only way I know how, silly comparisons. What would I do if this was a game? What would I do if this was my starter item? Hmmmm.

Well... this though process is not helping. My usual answer doesn't count. I would just find a cheat code online and get multiple items. I didn't have that much free time to suffer through every tedious part of the game when cheats and guides exist.

Wait, can I do that here? Well here goes nothing.

I toddle off, scouting the items on the floor as if it's a buffet. You have to scan and plan out your selections before you put it on your metaphorical plate. Get the good stuff.

The first things I grab are right next to each other so I pick them up simultaneously, one in each hand. It's a gold coin and the roll of bread that I liked. There's more than a few curious eyes watching besides grampa.

"Oh well that's new."

"I never seen a child choose like that before."

"I suppose she'll never go hungry nor want for anything?"

But I'm not done and the crowed watches curiously as I place the items on my skirt. I hold it flared out and stock up on whatever the cloth would fit.

I add a feathered pen, an exotic sheathed dagger, a small telescope and a pretty looking cup. All small easy to fit things.

"Pffft! BHahahahah oh lord isn't she's a greedy little thing."

"Isn't she just grabbing what she likes?"

"Oh that most definitely reminds me of you Roland."

"Hey what's that supposed to mean!" yells out my grampa, his voice not at all offended. Good, I haven't failed whatever he's testing me on just yet. If anything he sounds amused.

When there's no more room I gathered and bunched up my skirt, securing the items and grabbed one last thing with my free hand.

A whip


Author: Who thought it was okay to place these kinds of things out for children?