I was Born the Unloved Twin
Gable is gone!!!
Well, it's not like he's really gone but he's gone! LEft back home to his little part of the woods! Mother, grampa and I had a terrible cry even before we left because we miss him so much already! This is one of the few things I just as venomously agree with Grampa on, Gable stay!
But alas, my favorite person in this world is very well practiced on saying no. In fact, he told us all the calm down with the puppy eyes and that he will see us often enough anyways.
I don't remember that from the last life so no! Not acceptable! He must visit much much muuuuch more often. That or allow me to visit if I can find my way back of course.
Despite his protests, we had a grand dinner for him on his last night with us, pizza included.
Lukas' secret relations is on the hush, even to the boy. So is his 'apprenticeship'. The others back in the troop know's he's being picked up for an apprenticeship but they don't know for what or with who. Only Amar, who was there, knows and he's amazingly good at keeping quiet when he wants to, not just for a child. Ah, it's a little scary.
Still, it's a wonderful opportunity to be living with and learning under Gable of all people. Not just that but I think it will be good for both of them. Lukas for getting the caring guardian figure he's never had, even if he doesn't know it yet. And Gable, well for many reasons I don't know about. But it will be good for him, a blank slate of a child like Lukas will liven really liven things up for him.
I don't really know what sort of gift I can give to Gable, something that he doesn't already have or can just easily get on his own. Despite his constant reassurance, I felt bad at only being able to offer him soap, even the nice limited stock ones. I threw in a lot of cold cream and the new shampoo bars I've been working on too. Things will be a lot harder without his magical touch to help speed things up.
For Lukas, Amar and I gave him his going away gifts on his last night. A lot of things will be provided by Gable I'm sure but I knitted too large a beanie for myself and made it rollable for him to grow into. It even has a fluffy pom-pom at the end to hold an amulet charm. With Lilyanne and Gable's help, I was able to enchantingly charge the common hat for added durability and warmth.
Socks too, because he's really bad at keeping his socks.
Ice magic training has to be cold work right?
Amar's gift to him also not so surprisingly included new socks, though his looked to be crafted from some fluffy beast fur.
"What's with all the socks you guys!?"
"Don't destroy these ones too fast okay?"
"I'm not that bad! Geez."
His other much more noticeable gift was a small curved blade that looked useful for herb gathering or cutting off some vital arteries. Besides a colorfully stained wooden handle, it didn't look particularly fancy but even I could tell it was made from quality metal. The awe on Lukas's face confirmed that.
"Take good care of it ok? There are wet stones and some oil and everything. "
"I know Amar, I've seen you do it a thousand times....thanks."
His short growing limbs flail and grip us into a little bear hug. It's somehow not awkward at all, even though he hugs a little too tight. Ah how familiar, a group hug.... I haven't had one in a very long time.
"I'll use your precious knife a lot ok Amar, and wear your hat when I'm out Rosalia. I'll even try not to lose all your stupid socks!....Thanks, I never got presents from other kids before."
His voice is too loud up close but I can hear a hidden sniffle behind it. Not Amar though, he doesn't hide his wet tears at all and the group hug gets even tighter. After all this time in close contact with these kids, and being the size that I am, I can't help but feel as if we become something like friends. I only hope the best for this hyperactive little boy.
Did he get this in the last life? Can it compare with what he had with my cousin Phillip? Did he even meet Gable last time around? I don't know, and I can't find out. Gable is right, the past should stay in the past.
I can only hope for a better future for everyone, myself included.
And then Gable was gone, and so was my unexpected little friend.
It's not like I'm trying to be a busy bee. It just turned out that way. God damn it, didn't I say I wanted to take it easy in this life?
Well, it can't be helped. Gotta work hard to build up that nest egg for when I fall into ruin and must flee this house. I feel like just turned into a middle-aged person working toward retirement.
Since Lilyanne is fully recovered I'm free to live my lazy little life in the mansion as I please, as long as I go to bed normally. Can't risk Lilyanne getting sick again, what a relief that the cure is something so easy! Funny, if they didn't isolate us so much in the last life, the past Lilyanne wouldn't have had to suffer so much. It really was my influence.
Two years old really is too early for lessons, she should be practicing her cognitive and motor skills instead. Lilyanne isn't capable of retaining any info yet and I have no time to play dumb. The academic tutors assigned to us basically are getting paid to do nothing.
That won't do, I hate wasting money.
So yes, Lilyanne's useless lessons are still going on- but they're been sort of compromised. I never forced he tutors to teach my entire kitchen staff to speak, read and write properly. I simply have them on rotation to watch and observe.
However, if those tutors are smart they'll follow my unspoken orders and adjust accordingly to a kind of 101 level classes. Besides a few of the chefs and some older kitchen heads, none of the kitchen staff and common servants can really read. The literacy rate is an issue here!
If the staff bring along their children too, well as long as they're well behaved during 'classes' it's no issue. Homework is optional but for the most part, everyone seems to be taking it very seriously. Well, it's understandable. free education is a rare and absurd idea here, especially in the workplace.
If I know people it's that they love free stuff.
Hey, the employee benefits in the Ventrella's household are really stacking up here.
After organizing the company education of this household there are all my 'arts & craft' experiments. Abigail's record taking is actually very good for an illiterate little girl, she can only improve with my assignment of "attending to Lilyanne" for daily lessons.
My soaps are not only well stored and organized but all accounted for in ledgers. We're currently on batch 6 of soap and batch 2 of the new 'shampoo' bars. It's beginning to look and smell like a Lush store in here and the stock is only growing.
I'm even working on an oil-based more typical bottled shampoo recipe as we speak.
How much cold cream do we have? I don't know! Alot? ERrrr we have recorded up to when I got Abigail that ledger when I came back.
Most of the cold cream is given straight to mother. Not only is it for her personal use and beauty, but I'm also using her as the best kind of advertising. Mother really doesn't have to do anything. She's already the natural belle of the ball, or well whatever the event is. She's popular, beautiful and generally very well regarded in society. Where could I get a better model?
Despite what mass media and communications school taught me, the best advertising is really the lack of it. The most expensive luxury brands I remember would never carelessly stretch out their presence. Too much or the wrong type of exposure would cheapen their brand appeal.
For now, I've asked her to stay absolutely quiet if anyone asks her on her beauty secrets. If any other noblewoman goes fishing for how her skin and hair are absolutely glowing, even without any cosmetics, she is to keep mysterious and elusive, even to her friends.
After some more time, she may carefully gift a few jars to people of her choosing.
Maybe send some to father's side of the family? Especially grandma Bicchieri, now she's a hard one to win over. As an act of goodwill? They're filthy rich! I need to network here!
This plan will really raise the value and demand for my 'cold cream'. I'm not kidding when I say I want to turn this thing into white gold. Once that luxury product line opens up I can safely and steadily trickle soaps and other products into the market.
The surprising part is how well mother actually listens to me She even said:
"This is a gift from my precious baby daughter! I know how much work you put into making mama these presents, of course, mama won't give such important things away easily!"
Well, mother has been acting odd since, well essentially after we went to the capital. But she must be feeling guilty or something after that whole 'Rosalia disappeared for 2 weeks into the deep dark woods' thing. Yeah, Gable made it sound worse than it actually was.
Also, it may be my imagination but I think she's trying to get me to call her "mama" with the way she keeps speaking in 3rd person. How strange, she already has Lilyanne for that, doesn't she?
"Hmm maybe, but maybe she also wants to hear it from you? It's nice to be called close things like that right?"
"Ugh, you are definitely the wrong person to ask."
"Eh? Why is that Rosalia?"
I get knocked off my feet with a smart swing of his staff, ack damn it. My butt is small and the floor in this training area of the camp is cushioned but I still don't like the taste of defeat. It's not even a match, Amar is just nice enough to help me practice with my staff. So what if I chat rant a bit, though a simpler version, it's stress-relieving. It's also too brutal to fight with Tamera, ah can't she be more gentle with lessons?
"Again! And show me that one trick, with the twisting!"
"Hmmmm I don't know, what's the magic word?"
Well, normally one would expect the answer to be 'please'. But seeing as this person is somewhat of the same type as mother, the answer he wants to hear is 'big brother'. Which I am absolutely not doing.
It's much easier to just charge and attack.
And while he does beat my little butt 100% of the time, the brat is too nice about it. He's not so much beating me and he is gently poking me to tip over, what's worse is that he's not even doing it in that infuriating way Lukas does.
Ah, I wonder how Lukas is getting on?
"Me too, I hope he's getting along ok. He makes a lot of ruckuses but he's actually pretty shy in new places. But Mr. Gable is very nice, even for an adult."
"Gables the best, I miss him so much. Ack everything is so much messier without him. There are Lilyanne and grampa, and the soaps, and it's messier with the staff part gone with reading lessons, then mama's being weird and I don't even know about -"
"That is a lot, hey you did it. You called her mama!"
"Slip of the tongue, now be nicer to me, I have a lot on my mind!"
"But I don't see how that has anything to do with practicing your staff? Eh, am I being 'not nice' ?"
And I'm smacked onto my butt again, ah a long-range weapon really is useful but only when you're on the winning side. Still, I'm getting a lot better with sing staff type weapons sparring with someone closer to my own size. It also helps that Amar is easy to bully into teaching me much slower and easier compared to Tamera.
Doesn't mean the practice is actually easy though.
"Are you still alive?" he pokes me with his stick when I finally stop getting back up.
"Okay then, do you want to get juice at the cafeteria?"
*huff* "In a....minute..."
While juice sounds absolutely divine right now, I'm still trying to catch my breath here.
I weakly wave my hand to show that I'm listening, just busy breathing.
"They want me to go on another raid soon."
"What already! Wow that's a good thing isn't it, that means whoever's in charge approves of you."
It should be a good thing, aren't people constantly trying to get picked on raid team and campaigns to amass all sort of street cred? The possible loot, treasures, and money to be made from success from any beast or dungeon raid were also very very verrrry important. It's not like they pay people in the training camp, well besides the instructors.
But Amar sounds so uncertain about it. Shouldn't he be jumping up and down at the honor and chance? Boys twice and 4 times his age would.
"Are you going to go?"
"Hey what's wrong?"
He stays quiet and goes creepily still. All of a sudden the kid feels distant, his presence nearly unnoticeable if he were not sitting right next to me. Institutionally I don't dare look him in the face, especially not in the eye, not right now.
"Hey, whatever it is you can tell me you know. I mean it's only fair since I complain so much about myself....I won't say anything."
The awkward silence stretches but I leave him that time and space, even if it feels like sitting next to a ghost. Eventually, Amar lets out a breath I haven't realized he was even holding.
"They want me to go because it's close to um, where I'm from. As a local, I'm useful. "
He says 'useful' with enough hopeful conviction to set me off, on what I don't know yet. It's just....not right.
"Your homeland? Is it far away from here?"
I don't dare ask if he has family waiting for him still, it's too risky, too insensitive.
"Do you want to go back?"
"...No, not really."
A complicated past is nothing new to the member's troops. Hell, a tragic backstory is almost a requirement for a lot of heros it seems. And this little brat seems to reek of one despite his easygoing cheerful exterior.
Amar is actually pretty popular among the folks here, with adults and kids alike. Yet he sticks, or well stuck, so closely with Lukas of all people, who can be pretty abrasive. I don't think I'm jumping to conclusions to think they're both a certain level of .... complicated, to get along as well as they do. Birds of a feather after all.
I wonder what that says about me.
"Okay then. Don't go. You left for a reason, so don't go back."
It should be as simple as that. But of course, things are never that simple.
"I think ...I think maybe I will accept?"
He sounds shocked like he doesn't believe it himself either. If I leave him to it we really will just be sitting in silence.
"Is it because Lukas left?"
"No, I don't think so? I'll be useful and it's not like it's forever, just a raid. I'm not actually going back...home. Yeah, I'm not going back there exactly, and I'll be with everyone, it will be ok. I think?"
"What's your favorite food!?"
"Name your favorite food, or thing there or whatever!"
Smooth Rosalia, much smooth. Sorry I just couldn't take that terrible tense atmosphere anymore. The kid looked so damn sad and lost while trying to gather his thoughts, ah damn it. Where's a professional therapist when you need one? Gable?!
I only get a blank blink before Amar answers almost immediately.
"Pizza. Pizza is my favorite food now."
"Eh, the pizza we made?"
Well, that's not too unexpected, pizza is a crowd favorite. Besides he sounds much better than how he was earlier. The air around us seems much more relaxed now, good distraction Rosalia.
"It's funny actually, pizza is one of the reasons I think I can go."
"Huh? I don't get it, why would that be?"
"It's super good, but really...it made me miss that place a little bit. We don't have your pizza but, it's something similar."
"A dish similar to pizza?"
Oh now my curiosity is really on and Amar laughs at my sudden alertness. I can go on with food talk for hours.
"No, not really. It's like two dishes actually. It looked a lot like one thing and tasted kind of like another."
"What! Tell me about them! And make it good!"
I get off from my belly and get into a more comfortable pose ready for market research storytime, leg crossed.
"Haha okay okay! One dish is almost all red because it's hot tomato sauce. There are eggs cracked in and cooked whole and you eat it with bread and stuff. Not bread like the kind here, but a lot like some of the pizza bread. "
"You mean it's flat? Unleavened?"
"Yeah, a lot of it is flat or it's really big and fluffy and you have to pull it and share with a lot of people. The other dish that tasted a lot like pizza is also flat bread, but the sauce is really thick and full of minced up spicy meat. No cheese though, but that's another bread! And the cheese tastes really good grilled whole. "
"Are you sure pizza is your favorite? The stuff you're talking about sound really good not going to lie."
Flatbread? Whole egg and tomato sauce baked dish? My 21st-century mind comes up with images of pita like loaves of bread and Shakshouka, which was really popular at brunches and in social media photos on the internet. It really is yummy.
"Yep! But I do miss some things a bit more. Like cinnamon! I hear it's super expensive so I never had it again here but back home it's not expensive at all and was everywhere. We had this soft rice and milk sweet with lots of cinnamon and it's not my favorite but.."
He sounds a lot better than before and I think that maybe Amar really will be okay stepping into wherever this raid will be. I half-listen to him go on with his childish but detailed descriptions.
I imagine it though, a place where the people look like him, all easy airy beach curls and easier smiles. Everywhere the place smells like cinnamon, spice and grilling flatbread that children can still get excited for.
If it's a place like that then I think things really will be ok.