Chapter 16:

16: Let's Negotiate

I was Born the Unloved Twin

The once happy atmosphere of this sort of idiotic family has soured dramatically with the arrival of the marriage proposal. Bookmark here

How annoying.Bookmark here

I was expecting much more peaceful days than this. Don't tell me this little engagement is the defining factor that casts Rosalia aside in her last life? It's way too soon for my childhood easy mode to end. Bookmark here

It's only going to get much worse than this, later on. I suppose I need some tougher skin.Bookmark here

Everyone is down, worried or feeling too awkward to comment on anything. The whole house is keeping silent. Which makes everything even more awkward! Not even Lilyanne's dumb cuteness can rectify this.Bookmark here

Geez, I'm the one who's going to suffer the most in the end, so people relax a little.Bookmark here

With the news of the Royals of the North's proposal, countless of other copy cat engagement requests have arrived in the mail. None of them will come to fruition but at this stage, we're being overwhelmed by them. Bookmark here

Father looks like he wants to burn them all on the spot but he's too duty-bound and responsible to do so.Bookmark here

Every household wants a piece of the great hero pie and since there's two of us they might as well try.Bookmark here

Geez, I can't imagine what it was like for mother back in the day...oh wait I can. Grampa would straight up just be yelling at people to stop asking and then threaten to beat them up. Maybe he wouldn't warn them, he'd just go smash something. Yeah that sounds about right. He probably scared off a good portion.Bookmark here

Only the hero can get away with that, but it was a different time and a different political atmosphere.Bookmark here

Mother understands, being raised with rank and running in the same social circles as other noblewomen. Father, well obviously father would know the most with his family background. Bookmark here

He's oooooold nobility, whatever that means here. Yes yes yes, I get it is all supposed to be very important from Rosalia's memories but I've never been good at that sort of thing.Bookmark here

There are too many unspoken annoying rules to play by, to avoid or benefit from. It's stress-inducing but understandably necessary in politics. I can watch it well enough but I never wanted to be in a historical political drama. People usually end up painfully dead in those.Bookmark here

As silent as it is in the main house I can still hear the usual band of gossipy maids spill when they think no one else is listening, or well no one old enough to understand. Bookmark here

"This isn't something you can just easily refuse."Bookmark here

"But why would anyone want to?! A Prince! Imagine that."Bookmark here

"What's a royal to a good hero nowadays?"Bookmark here

"Who do you think they'll ask for?"Bookmark here

"Well typically it makes more sense to go for the firstborn, age of succession and all that."Bookmark here

"But the prospect of the dawn child-"Bookmark here

The wooden door slams open and a familiar hefty but matronly figure comes stomping in. Bookmark here

"Stop all that right this minute, we don't speak of such nonsense in this household! The children are just that, children. See to it that no one in this house hears such gossip again."Bookmark here

"Yes Ms. Gerta, sorry Ms. Gerta."Bookmark here

Geez, I'm trying to nap here, toddler body or not you can only stand so much noise. Ms. Gerda, you're actually being louder than all the gossipy maids. But I won't mind it out of the grudging sense of respect and gratitude. The rumors always bothered Rosalia in the past, it was an uncontrollable weed the fester deep in her chest. The gossip she heard everywhere, even in possibly imagined whispers, never helped.Bookmark here

I should up the pranks on the maids, I've been too easy on them lately.Bookmark here

In the mess that is our mail, a letter from Grampa has arrived. It states that he's tied up at the moment and will meet us at the Spring conference grounds. I can't recall if any of this happened last time, it's way too far back in Rosalia's memories.Bookmark here

The Royal Northern middle residence, however, was something she unfortunately remembered. Every other year or so, when the opportunity was. It was a disgustingly opulent palace despite it not being their main home, with no blank space nor corner left not decorated.Bookmark here

I should "accidentally " smash even more of those ugly things this time. It's an awful and very breakable place to house children, especially to serve as a background in every arranged play date. Every few years or so they would try setting up such...event... between my fiance and I. In order to better merge the marriage of course, as if we could grow to like each other as childhood sweethearts. How gag inducing.Bookmark here

I give them effort points for not expecting complete strangers to just get married like that but those tea parties were absolutely awful. The snacks served were good but overall 2/10, would not do again.Bookmark here

They were the most awkward moments of Rosalia's life.Bookmark here

Think of it as a series of bad blind dates. Play dates at this stage. Bookmark here

Early on the dumb prince would just sit there silently with a scary look on his face, though to me it looks more like he was constipated. Bookmark here

When she managed to muster up the courage to make small talk or ask questions she would be lucky to get an answer more than one syllable long. And it would only get worse as they got older.Bookmark here

Just to be clear Rosalia never loved her fiance, in fact, I don't think that girl ever knew romance. All those years and not a single crush! Not like I can talk.Bookmark here

There were too many pressing matters that took precedence over crushes in her head. I don't think she ever had the luxury of doing so.Bookmark here

She was a proper and innocent girl I suppose, even if she had a lover it wouldn't have been healthy. Not with the way she was so desperate for her family's love and approval.Bookmark here

It was to be a political marriage and Rosalia was resolved to do her duty. Bookmark here

Everything she did was for her family, even as she acted out cruelly or rashly it was out of a sense of keeping up her honor and position as a Ventrella. Wasn't that the least she could do for her family if nothing else?Bookmark here

How pitiful.Bookmark here

She learned her lesson too late, she should have been selfish from the start. Like Lilyanne.Bookmark here

Well, it's a good reminder for me at least. No matter how pleasant of time we may have I should never trust this family. Of course, I should never really give my love to them. It would be fine to play along and improve my situation but, well, the past Rosalia was enough of an example.Bookmark here

I've been too careless in my time with them, we were on vacation after all. But I'm awake now.Bookmark here

Which is why I'm sitting here in Father's chair waiting for him to return. Normally I would sneak out of his study around this time, there's a rotation of places in the mansion visit and the best times to not get caught. While the library is much larger and has more books, the material in Father's personal study is more interesting. Quality over quantity.Bookmark here

The door creaks.Bookmark here

"Welcome home Father! How was work?"Bookmark here

"Rosalia? How did you-"Bookmark here

"Sorry~ I wanted to talk to you before but I needed to think."Bookmark here

"But the locks-"Bookmark here

"You have free time now, yes?"Bookmark here

How disappointing, the wonderful confusion on his face fades into a mild resignation. Bookmark here

You adapted too quickly father. Question things some more! It's not very satisfying watching his reactions. I was simplifying my language as to not frighten him too much but at this point, I might as well forget it. My parents have little to no reaction to my unnatural grasp on spoken language. I don't know what to make of that. Bookmark here

No no no, act cute, act like a child...somewhat. This is my temporary charming point! You're only this level of childishly cute for a short time in your life.Bookmark here

"How long have you been sneaking in here? There are important documents an-oh never mind. Very well, Rosalia, I'd be happy to have a talk with you at this time."Bookmark here

"Yay!"Bookmark here

"May I have my chair back though?Bookmark here

"Of course father, pwease have a seat. Allow me to call tea? You haven't had any since coming home yet right?"Bookmark here

No reaction at all, he's just used to it at this point. I think everyone is over this year. How odd? Well on to the bribery.Bookmark here

The servants were quick to bring the scheduled tea and treats. I'm much more fond of the kitchen and serving staff than the rest of the household. They never rat me out and let me tinker around as I please. Of course they'll do most if not all the actual cooking work, I'm just there to give selfish suggestions on what I want to eat or how to make certain things. Bookmark here

They may be the whims of a toddler but my suggestions are very popular. Of course they are, I'm from the 21st century. Let's jumpstart the cooking methods of this world, I want to eat more variety! At this time all the cooks start fighting who gets to attend to me when I show up in the kitchen.Bookmark here

I don't see the point, they'll all exchange taste tests soon enough. Bookmark here

Today's tea time snack is specially prepared for Father, a salty and savory sort of man.Bookmark here

I had the kitchen essentially make baked pizza pockets with dipping sauces made from the local ingredients in this land. You can't mess up pizza and pockets are easier to serve for snacks. I even played with the dough and sprinkled in the filling myself.Bookmark here

Father is not too picky of an eater but commoner's food seems to fascinate him if all his staring at the winter marketplaces was anything to go by. What's more common than this classic children's favorite? Except, for the fact that pizza doesn't exist in this world, at least not that I know of. If the staff's crazed reaction means anything, the reception of this dish will be popular. That just goes to prove that pizza is delicious anywhere!Bookmark here

"Another one of your concoctions? You're not bothering the cooks too much are you?"Bookmark here

"It's okay! All of the kitchen staff are very nice to me, they won't let me leave since we got back."Bookmark here

".... can't say I'm surprised. Well might as well get on with it Rosalia dear. What did you want to speak of?"Bookmark here

"Relax and have something to eat and drink first, it's been a long day for you. Be careful they're hot!"Bookmark here

Besides I made these myself for you to try. They're a yeasty herbed dough rolled up with seasonal ham, cheeses, and afresh tomato sauce. If you dip them into the other sauces then it will create a whole new flavor! Take those tastebuds!Bookmark here

Mmmm pizza.Bookmark here

For a long while, longer than I expected, father didn't say a word as he tried the snacks. He just chewed silently.... hey isn't it hot? You can exhale a bit you know? He had at least 4 pizza pocket, with one in each of the 3 sauces, before washing them down with tea.Bookmark here

"Now, what do you want?"Bookmark here

Ah, what a letdown. Maybe pizza as a dish won't go well here, at least not with nobility? I still have a maiden's heart here, a little praise would be nice. A little dejectedly I call for the servants. Bookmark here

"Then I shall have the tables cleared for our talk."Bookmark here

"Leave them."Bookmark here

"...."Bookmark here

If you actually liked them would a word be too much?!! Just say so, who can understand you like this?! Am I supposed to reach the minuscule muscle twitch on your face? Geez this may be where Rosalia got her bad communications skills from.Bookmark here

"Thank you for your time father. It's unavoidable to mention that since the news of the marriage proposal and the treaty it may entail, the house has been unnaturally gloomy. I don't blame you nor mother, you must be going through a great amount of stress and have other matters to juggle."Bookmark here

"Your language is too impressive for a brat even if you are mine, that old woman would just love you. I can tell."Bookmark here

"I'm happy for your praise father, it would not be possible if not for all your support and the aid of the tutors that Uncle Geoff has supplied. While I also have high hopes for my education that is not the matter at hand."Bookmark here

How rude, a brat? I'm your child here. Who talks like that to their children in these times? Oi does 'that woman' refer to your mother? Why does that sound like an insult? Damn this shitty family. Perfect nobleman my ass.Bookmark here

" Hmmm not bad for your age, you need to practice on controlling your facial expression but not bad. I was better at your age but your advanced language lesson attempts compensate. Do go on"Bookmark here

Shitty father! Were you a poker-faced brat with a shit mouth too!? Oh, I can imagine that quite well actually.Bookmark here

"Many thanks, father. I'd love to humbly receive your wisdom but ... I understand that it's hard to peacefully avoid a match In that case, between Lilyanne and me, I understand the choice that you and mother must make."Bookmark here

"Rosalia ...are you saying that you wish to marry the pri-"Bookmark here

"No!"Bookmark here

It comes out harsher than I intended but I can't seem to fully control myself just yet. This part of Father's advice is regrettably correct. There are parts of Rosalia, feelings of rage and regrets seeping out. Father raises an eyebrow but speaks nothing of it between his tea.Bookmark here

"I'm sorry... allow me to be clear. I do not want to marry the prince. I do not want to marry anyone... I want to be left free. But I know that's not always possible, and between Lilyanne and I, it would be safer to choose me."Bookmark here

"And what makes you so sure of that?"Bookmark here

It's a waste of breath to explain it all, he already knows. But hey it's a test.Bookmark here

Careful of my speech, I try to speak as clearly and as controlled as possible given my current age and tongue. I still lisp around some longer more complicated words but hey it would be weird if I spoke completely like an adult. Bookmark here

"You already know. Even with Lilyanne's Dawn and any future blessings, it is still improper to marry out of order. The North is not for superstition but they are all about tradition. Lilyanne can stay safe with protection from the church. You and mother must have contacted them by now. That just leaves me."Bookmark here

I point to myself and silence permeates the room. It stretches on longer than I would have liked, his stare reminding me of a strict job interviewer. Those things always made me unreasonable nervous and the fact that it's my intimidating father does not help.Bookmark here

Still, it's important for me to meet his gaze and not to back down. Bookmark here

"That is quite a lot you have been considering in that tiny oversized head of yous, and I won't, or should I say can't fault you on your reasoning. It's as close to the situation as a child like you can guess. But I must ask, the matter of Dawn?"Bookmark here

"Oh I already know it all father. Yes it was my young maids, gossip really gets around. "Bookmark here

"Damn, I should have them flogged and dismissed."Bookmark here

Hmmm was the flogging thing my father's influence? Maybe. Bookmark here

"Silly Father. People will talk, it can't be helped. There's no need to dismiss the mouths we know and repeat the process with new ones. They are rather noisy so I wouldn't oppose to a light punishment or cut pays."Bookmark here

"Your maturity and scheming are rather uncute... but it comforts me." Father regards me carefully, as if I were an interesting animal up for dissection. It's thorough and piercing, as if he was finally looking at me and not just my supposed role for once. Which is of course impossible. "Rosalia, more than anything I don't want to put us into this situation."Bookmark here

But the situation has already come to us- goes unspoken.Bookmark here

Here's the truly strange part, instead of continuing on, father moves. He physically moves, getting out of his chair and rounds around the other side of the desk. Bookmark here

Even though I'm already sitting in a decently high chair he has to kneel to look at me in the face. His hand condescendingly patting my head like the small child that I still am. Bookmark here

So close, besides being cradled as a baby or occasionally carried in his arms I don't ever recall being this close to him. Ho was never a close contact sort of person, even with mother the public display of affections are minimum or at least initiated by her, to which he'll stiffly but willingly receive. Bookmark here

I can see how even his eyelashes are amber red at this distance. How there's a little frown line scrunched between his hazel eyes. How's there's specks of green and gold throughout the brown. I can see the pores on his nose and the scar by his left ear, hidden behind auburn hair purposely left a little too long.Bookmark here

His hands should be soft given his status but from what I can feel when his fingertips touch my face, my neck, they're rough with more than a few callouses and scars. They're stupidly gentle though, not in the way that you are around fragile things but in the way you pet a stray animal for the first time. Careful, afraid, and a little trembling.Bookmark here

My breath stops, it's really too close. Bookmark here

"The life of a ranking noble has numerous burdens, more than any other person in this world, and it's only multiplied as a royal. It's....not going to be easy, it won't be a peaceful life. While I'm increasingly confident you will manage better than others, your sister included, if possible I would prefer to end this without a match.... I would never force you to make this choice."Bookmark here

HiccupBookmark here

Lies all lies, just what was last time then? What was that last life? Father is still right on one thing though, I need to practice on controlling my emotion. My vision is getting blurry. It's unavoidable but I have to show weakness in wiping my tears before they run and look even worse. Bookmark here

I swear he really does like those pizza pinwheels since he finishes off two more in the time I neaten myself up. No, I did not cry, it never happened!Bookmark here

"Thank you father, that would be the best scenario. But more likey.... we need to prepare a plan most advantageous to us."Bookmark here

"Oh? Accepting defeat so easily, that doesn't sound like my troublesome daughter."Bookmark here

"Surely esteemed father has heard of advancing by retreating?"Bookmark here

"I'm sure suitable arrangements could be made towards our liking. What do you have in your ridiculous little mind?"Bookmark here

Some things in this life really can't be avoided. And there's really no one big enough ripple I can make to truly change things. But if all I have is time, I can play it long term. If I take it as a strategy game, as a war, planting my traps and playing my turns right then I can survive this time. No, I need more than just that, much much more!Bookmark here

I'm a greedy little thing after all.Bookmark here

----Bookmark here

Author: You know her dad is talking the talking toddler thing a little too well. But then again maybe this is just that sort of crazy family. Who knows.Bookmark here

The staff are kinda used to it, since she orders them around so much.  They're used to worse from grampa.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.