Chapter 54:

Ch 54: Damask

I was Born the Unloved Twin

I have run into an issue with all my kitchen experiments.Bookmark here

Don't get me wrong, every other Friday is still pizza days and we're getting some interesting additions introduced into the menu. Fresh-grilled flatbreads are still the most popular additions but pitas have gotten more use since we figured out how to turn them into chips without burning.Bookmark here

But uh, it may not be able to sustain itself at this rateBookmark here

I've gained a sort of pet name among the camp, specifically the kitchen. I have been called many things in this world, many of them not so pleasant. Never before did I think I would be called Little Bread Wizard?Bookmark here

Are you kidding me?Bookmark here

It may sound flattering at first but it's actually not, primarily because they don't actually call me the 'wizard' part and I have no magic powers at all. It's like rubbing salt into my healing wound.Bookmark here

With that, they're calling me shitty cutesy little pet names like, 'chip' 'bread roll, 'honeybun' and 'little ball of dough'. What am I? The Pillsbury doughboy? Is this a fat dig? I am perfectly healthy for my age okay, babies are supposed to be squishy!Bookmark here

I honestly don't know how that happened but I have no one to blame but myself. As willing, even desperate as the kitchen staff is, I'm the one giving the orders to bake, bake and bake some more.Bookmark here

After essentially turning both our manor kitchen and the training camp's cafeteria into bakeries, we've come across a supply problem.Bookmark here

We're fast running out of flour.Bookmark here

Typically there are employees to help do supply ordering and logistics, such matters are too bothersome to the head maid or butler let alone the family.Bookmark here

It's not until the stock was concerningly low of flour and other essential ingredients that anyone even bothered to even tell me. I'm trying to offset a famine here, not start one due to low storage.Bookmark here

It is partly my own blind ignorance for not being involved enough in the process. Contrary to my young miss role I'm not an unreasonable little princess. Of course, this info isn't obvious to everyone, I'm a toddler!Bookmark here

A strangely well-spoken one but somehow I have the feeling I'm not the weirdest thing most of the main Ventrella staff, not the mention the troops, have ever encountered. I hope then that they give me a bit more trust and leeway in coming to me about these sort of things.Bookmark here

I know it's hard to believe but I'm actually decent at organizing.Bookmark here

I have spreadsheets and the resume portfolio to prove it! Well, not anymore. I don't think resumes are even a thing there, huh. How does the hiring process happen then? Good old connections and introductions?Bookmark here

Well, that's terribly inconvenient then. Underproductive to the hiring market too.Bookmark here

Anyways, in that case, I have the greatest credentials in this world right now. I'm the rich little miss of the Ventrella family. Money and power baby!Bookmark here

With my soul being a normal person, I don't have that 'throw money at problems' habit. Quite the opposite really, I've rarely bought anything that wasn't on sale. I would always figure out the best money to value on groceries and restaurants. Once I had to cash in and carry a very high figured check for my boss and suffered intense heart palpitations the whole time.Bookmark here

Being born rich in this life is still like a dream for me.Bookmark here

But I'm not trying to mess up the market and economy here, that would just create unnecessary chaos. Nor do I want farmers and suppliers to be forced to keep selling up items at cheap stable prices, though that is preferable if I'm the one buying up supplies.. Bookmark here

I want to go to the source of this supply shortage and go on from there. Who knows, maybe I can find more ingredient sources or even figure out how to increase productivity. I have no memories of Rosalia truly surveying the land or any agricultural information. Only relying on reports gathered from another source.Bookmark here

Such things are essentially the key to preventing, rather than just offsetting, a future famine across the local area. It's turning into a more and more important issue the further I think about it.Bookmark here

Which is why I am convincing father to take a little trip surveying the local farmlands!Bookmark here

Yes, it's field trip time!Bookmark here

As a typical noble the previous Rosalia didn't really have that many hands-on experiences with her territory outside the high end circles. That was left to her father while he was still alive in her childhood.Bookmark here

The common people, the workers, what their lives and conditions are like and thoughts to improve them were all theory and up in the air.Bookmark here

This isn't necessarily her fault, it just wasn't expected of a woman of her station to pay attention to such things outside of books and theories. Rosalia actually did well in her lessons but even if history is important, it's a huge difference between lessons written by old out of touch nobles and the actual reality. Queens lessons were mandatory but visiting farmlands,? Not so much. That's some pretty bad queen lessons honestly, to ignore the majority of the population to focus on memorization and etiquette of the few, the 1%, is terribly irresponsible.Bookmark here

She hardly noticed when the famines rolled through, noblewomen tend not to.Bookmark here

They were nothing major by our modern standards but some years there would not be enough food to go around. The results are as expected. This was something that the citizens of this world are long used to, death and suffering is inevitable. These 'minor' famines were considered more than normal.Bookmark here

Not only were there deaths but it would severely weaken the people as a whole, the power source of the world and economy. This sort of thing I had forgotten since it had little to no effect on Rosalia's life and memories.Bookmark here

For the head of the house and their family members, nothing was lacking. Even if there were peasants dying out in the fields, it wouldn't affect the nobles besides some raised food prices.Bookmark here

That just doesn't sit right with me.Bookmark here

Again don't get me wrong, I'm not a naturally good person who wants to save everyone. That's impossible, but more food and less overall dying going on, the better everyone will be off. This place is my home now, and I want it to be a good peaceful place for me to live.Bookmark here

There's also the selfish reason of raising the Rosalia reputation points. I didn't exactly have the best reputation among commoners, scratch that I was a flat stereotypical devil child that grew into a villainess.Bookmark here

Who came up with that kind of shit in the first place? I blame the church.Bookmark here

Of course Rosalia, as spoiled and wasteful as she was, really didn't have devil powers. I think that I was just the scapegoat, the celebrity that the masses could easily place their hate and frustrations on. Like a bad reality TV show star that people could point their fingers and gossip at.Bookmark here

Again I blame the church.Bookmark here

So if the people aren't hungry then there will be less unrest and less future trouble for me.Bookmark here

There's also my immediate concern of getting more ingredients. What do you mean we're out of flour? I'm trying to improve our standard of eating here, this is a very important checkmark on improving quality of life.Bookmark here

Of course, we could just pay a higher market price to buy up remaining grains and stock. But what a good reminder it is to check up on the farmlands and markets. I'm not paying more just because I can afford to do so now. Not if it means messing up the market and making it harder for the common people to feed themselves.Bookmark here

I was ready to present to father bright and early the next morning a simplified list of reasons why we should be making this visit but he agreed before I even finished my first sentence.Bookmark here

"Very good, let's go."Bookmark here

"Huh? Wait wait that easy?"Bookmark here

"Yes now let's be off, it's still early and there's much to be done, yes."Bookmark here

"Wait? Right now!"Bookmark here

Luckily I always carry my interdimensional bag with me because father simply picks me up and heads down to the stables.Bookmark here

A manservant arrives leading a strong looking mixed breed mare with the coloring of a Yellow Jersey horse. I recognize the mare as Damask, one of the mated pair of steeds that father brought with him from his home, when he married mother.Bookmark here

Damask and her mate Gino are very recognizable not only from their reddish coat and diamond face markings but because as huge as these things are, they're very dog like.Bookmark here

I recall vaguely how after mother and father died, things were moved around and some horses were sold off. Damask and Gino were offered for a high price even though they were no longer considered in their prime then. It's not like anyone could ride them anyways, not without father.Bookmark here

But they're a good breed, both beasts infused fast yet loyal to humans, perhaps they could still produce some young. Even the Bicchieri, father's family offered to take them back home with a price.Bookmark here

The steeds refused any attempt to move or relocate them. Yet no matter how fast or adamantly they run off, they would always return to circle and stay around the mansion. Even back then I remember people shaking their heads at the pair of horses when they were spotted lingering, then make a prayer towards my presumed deceased parents.Bookmark here

Waiting for their master, they would say. If that's true, then it's very Hachiko of them. I'm a sucker for dogs and animal stories thus I can't help the small surge of affection at seeing this not so old horse.Bookmark here

The familiar reddish mare, now over a decade younger than I last recall, trotted enthusiastically up to us, half dragging to poor stablehand. She's much smaller than her mate, short for her breed but just as fast, and easily bent down to affectionately nuzzle father's face. Her coat a few shades brighter red than father's own head of hair. They make a very suitable picture together.Bookmark here

See, just like a dog! Or well a horse, some horses are affectionate no?Bookmark here

She even wants to be petted, which father immediately gives while I watch as an older stablehand pack her up a tad bit more than just ready for riding.Bookmark here

Then to my surprise, the old head Butler Alfonso pops in.Bookmark here

"Your excursion bag and briefcase sir, base provisions have been packed and a messenger bird has already been sent out. "Bookmark here

"Excellent work Alfonso, have the guardsmen follow us after they're ready."Bookmark here

"Yes Lord Frederick, they're expected to catch up with the carriage in no more than 2 hours."Bookmark here

"Very good then, anything else Alfonso?Bookmark here

"A change of clothes for both you and the young miss Rosalia, sir. "Bookmark here

"....."Bookmark here

I'm left gaping in silence, how did father get everything impossibly arranged so quickly? How was the pre-planned already, it must have been to have everything so ready?Bookmark here

"I'm sure our Lady Maria temper shall ease through the day."Bookmark here

"That's what I'm counting on Alfonso."Bookmark here

Oh that.Bookmark here

"Father, are we running away from mother today? Is she still mad about the clown thing?"Bookmark here

Father finally puts me down to prep his gear and change out of his shoes into a more reliable pair of leather riding boots. He also removes his coat for something less valuable and eye catching, something or a warm dark brown leather that compliments his figure rather dashingly.Bookmark here

I actually like this handsomely rugged look. Not bad father, not bad at all.Bookmark here

"Something like that, but best not to be caught by her today."Bookmark here

"That doesn't sound very healthy."Bookmark here

"No I don't suppose it is, but you haven't seen your mother petty and angry. Would you prefer that though?"Bookmark here

"No, no thank you. Let's go with your running away plan."Bookmark here

At that moment Alfonso appears again presenting us with a tiny pair of boots and a short common looking jacket to go over my frock.Bookmark here

"Is that for me?"Bookmark here

Obviously, no one else can fit it. I allow father to pull me up and sit me down so they can replace my dainty little sandals for the booties. As quickly as they prepped me up, that was when I noticed a mortifyingly familiar piece of cloth.Bookmark here

"No!"Bookmark here

"Now Damask may be smaller but she's still far too large for you to be riding normally. "Bookmark here

"I know that, I can ride with your just fine father!"Bookmark here

"Yes yes you probably can my little rascal but for your safety and everyone's peace of mind-"Bookmark here

"You are not getting me into the baby sling" I seethed.Bookmark here

The shitty gramps is a terrible influence, father must have gotten the idea after seeing grampa strut with Lilyanne bundled to his person around the camp. No, no I refuse, I am not a real baby or even a puppy dog to be slung around.Bookmark here

"Well then my Rosalia, can you ride my Damask?"Bookmark here

I shake my head immediately at the beast who's coming up to lick and nuzzle at father's head to his amusement. Is that sanitary, I think not? Her entire mouth is certainly large enough to gobble a human head in one gulp.Bookmark here

Nope nope nope.Bookmark here

"Well, then would you like to wait a few hours and follow along with the guard in the carriage wagon? It won't be our nice cushioned one since I don't intend to take long."Bookmark here

I shake my head even harder, nope nope nope.Bookmark here

"I'll most certainly get sick on that carriage"Bookmark here

Not risking it, I'll be stuck with motion sickness for a good part of the day and then what's the point?Bookmark here

Father makes that fake 'not mocking' expression as if he's pondering over his options. It's hard to take him seriously with his hair half messed by an overly affectionate horse, though by now it does stop nuzzling him so much to give me a curious look.Bookmark here

I hope it's not thinking of eating me.Bookmark here

"Then would you prefer to stay home with your mother today after all?"Bookmark here

For a brief second my mind flashbacks to the carnage of yesterday and that's enough convincing for me. Nope nope nope.Bookmark here

"Baby sling it is then."Bookmark here

"Very good choice Chip, into the thing you go. It's much more comfortable than horseback riding, I assure you."Bookmark here

"Do you have to call me that?"Bookmark here

I complain as father stashes me like a mother kangaroo. Oh the shame, no one here is allowed to speak of word of what they've seen ok! I'm using my young miss card here, no embarrassing gossip!Bookmark here

I'm pretty sure father's authority overrides that though.Bookmark here

"Would you prefer 'dough ball', I'm rather fond of that one too."Bookmark here

"Stop stop stop, father! No one really calls me that!"Bookmark here

"I beg to differ, my dear little hot cross bun. Everyone calls you that and every other bread under the sun. Besides I'm quite fond of 'chips', they're a tad hard to chew and snappy but surprisingly delicious. "Bookmark here

"I am not a little hot cross bun..."Bookmark here

"Chip it is then."Bookmark here

Father pinches and pats my dough like baby cheeks before he expertly climbs up and slings his leg over his giant dog horse.Bookmark here

"Take care now my Lord, a good day to you young Miss Rosalia."Bookmark here

"Thank you, and a good day to you too Alfonso. Do send a messenger bird if anything comes up."Bookmark here

Yes yes, mother's scolding isn't as terrible on paper. My poor ears.Bookmark here

With a light kick, Damask carefully begins to turn and trot out the stables. Funny, I usually see her and Gino speed out of here, to the point I can barely see them, with father. He is carrying a bit more cargo today, must be extra careful today with me on board.Bookmark here

I get a quip in before Damask really starts speeding up like I know she will.Bookmark here

"See father, Alfonso doesn't call me any funny bread names."Bookmark here

"That's because he already calls you 'soap suds' when you're not listening."Bookmark here

"What!?!"Bookmark here

"Hmm the sling is nice and tight then, any discomfort at all?"Bookmark here

"What's the soap bubbles thing?! Father?"Bookmark here

" I'll take that as a no, alright then we're good to go. Come on girl!"Bookmark here

"Eeep!"Bookmark here

Then we're really off! The once careful mare went from a 0 to 100 real quick. I think I'm actually glad for the baby sling tying me securely to safety. He doesn't need to with the sling but one of father's arm is still holding on to support and steady me. It's warm in this sling, so close against his chest.Bookmark here

After the first 20 or so horrifying minutes of hiding face first into the sling, it's actually a pretty fun ride going this fast. The scenery is blurry and the wind hurts my eyes if I keep them open face forward for too long but my heart beats not in an unpleasant way.Bookmark here

Then it's nothing but rising sunshine, the rushing breeze and the subtle scent of bergamot heavy tea, gunpowder, and a bit of the horse, all around me.Bookmark here

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