Chapter 88:

Ch 87: Bad time

I was Born the Unloved Twin

Alfonso really has prepared everything to the point it's concerning.

Does our old butler ever have time to rest arranging all the little things for this family?

He's in so many places at once and when he's not then he's accompanying Father with his business. I know I shouldn't underestimate anyone, especially the elderly, but how the hell does he do everything? How much is father paying him? Would this mansion even be able to operate without him?

Somehow I get the feeling the answer is no.

An extra large wagon has been dispatched in addition to the regular schedule to send a portion of these 'bacon wings' to the troops since there's no way my family can eat it all. Crazy cooking staff included.

I practice thinking without speaking out loud on my ride, it's a bad habit and I'm getting too relaxed with it.

Of course, chewing helps keeps my mouth busy. I'm also careful not to stuff too many snacks into my mouth in case I make myself sick on the wagon.

Since we just got a huge influx of meat, particularly the pork variety- it was incorporated into the snack basket. I'm sure my staff was busy all alright, busy grilling bbq. Such a luxury it is to be a Ventrella cook, so much fresh, technically frozen, meat in the middle of winter.

It's also a little creepy how the snacks are getting pretty customized. There are these crispy breadcrumb cheese balls, rolled with the sweet bits of our praline bacon disaster and some thyme like herbs.

They're absolutely delicious and suit my tastes and mouth size very well. That's fine.

However, there are some fatty thick-cut pork chop sandwiches on very dark multi-grain bread, which Lukas is destroying with glee, thus distracting him from eating all the bacon pops. What strong teeth he has for a child. Wonder when they'll fall out?

In between bites we share some version of walnut nucato, a honey and spice boiled thing that's then shaped and toasted. Ah makes me crave Chinese food, mmm honey walnut shrimp, so addicting. Maybe next time? Now that's a dish I fear will cause a ruckus.

Even without saying anything, it's understood to save some for Amar. Not just because they're using him as a tasting guinea pig, but also because he's a rather small child. I do believe my chefs aren't just so much abusing his poor overly sensitive nose as they are trying to fatten him up. Are they planning on baking him Hansel and Gretel style?

From the snacks in here, isn't it obvious what suits which kid more?

These two boys are around my kitchens too much, either at home or at the troops. It's to the point that everyone thinks we're friends. Are we friends? Isn't it weird to interact so much with kids when I'm mentally not one? I had younger friends before but isn't there a too great power imbalance that detracts from forming sincere relationships?

Eh who cares, I settle as I bite into a lighter and smaller sliced sandwich.

"Ack this one is spicy!" snorts Lukas, definitely choking on it.

"No it's not. It's just mustard."

I take another bite, yep that's mustard spread alright, and some lightly pickled cabbage. Some pickled onion? How luxurious on the amount of black pepper. It makes the heavy food refreshing and easy to eat, just a bit of a kick. Not bad.

"That's the part that hurts, ouch ouch ouch my nose. I'm not weird like you or Amar that like foods that hurt." he sticks his tongue out, breathing through his little mouth.

Food that hurts, wow what an amazing description. Thank you, Lukas. Ah yes, who can resist the classic taste of pain.

Mustard is a different sensation but let's raise Luka's spice tolerance now that I've found chilis. I just need to get a steady supply of them. Spicy food isn't popular here but it will be with me around.

The little boy complains but yet he still eats the whole thing. Amazing.

Lukas is an interesting character that he seems to be able to take a lot of things without even a blink. It concerns me because he is still very much a young child despite the fairy tale fantasy life he seems to live in. Let's review those stats of his. Great strength, endurance, and rare ice magic? They're all good traits for heroes in training but doesn't he sound a little too OP in the making? AH but he does have a portion of Gable's blood running through him.

It's quite easy to forget the fact that this big-mouthed boy is an illegitimate prince, born from the womb of an already married woman. The woman who was supposed to be my mother in law. What a mess.

Of course, I haven't forgotten, these are some pretty heavy details.

It's just not a lot I can do with that sort of information. It's dangerous knowledge yes but what can I do with it, let alone right now as I am.

Did Philippe know?

Not the child he is right now but the cunning businessman he would come to be, did that man know the secret truth behind his henchman's identity. I'm trying to imagine it, being in Philippe's head, guessing what he would do or how he would think.


At the time he shouldn't have known because he failed to use Lukas at all.

What do I remember about the future Lukas? What other clues are there?

That pale boy in the future was just that, another mob who blended into the background. Easy to fade into the wall, or act as one.

That person wasn't Lukas, not as I know him.

He was tall yes, strong, definitely yes, but nervous. Like a twitching dog, sick on something. Aways nervous about something, he could only relax with Philippe's stern hand behind his back and whispers in his ear. He took orders, not like a well-trained soldier but a betting ring fighting dog.

All brawn, no brains and reeking of some sense of desperation. It was pathetic, he was pathetic. Those were my impressions of the then barely grown Lukas.

That Lukas never used his magic, not once. No ice.

Now isn't that something?

It's possible that Philippe was smart about it, hidden such an ability away. However, that's not Philippe's behavior. He would have shown off in some way, even subtle, he would have used it to advantage. The potential of having such a rare elemental mage is too much to pass up.

Philippe couldn't have known, and honestly, I believe the Lukas of then didn't know either. Just like me.

Even though my ability is absolutely useless, it explains so much. Why magical artifacts just seemed to run into duds, why I had to keep spending money in order to achieve some effects. I was the drain, the void. We're the same, we didn't know what we had.

More than that- I just can't equate the child I see here into the man he will supposedly grow up into?

Lukas is loud, he is simply attention grabbing and so full of energy that if it were magic he could power an electrical plant for a city. His eyes, while young and bright, are the same as Gable's stormy blue-greys, barely considered a blond because he has feathery clouds for hair and maybe that's where his head is too, up in the air. Despite his irritating traits, the boy could easily grow up to be handsome.

More importantly, he doesn't doubt himself in his actions. Sometimes I fear he doesn't think much at all, relying on keen instinct more than anything.

The original Lukas was an anxious grunt and looked the part. Strong jaw but broken jaw, tall and thick as a wall, with a head shaved like a golem foot soldier, and a crooked misshaped nose that I figure must have never healed right after a fight. Because the little boy in front of me has a perfectly Gable-ish one, tall and fine. Scars yes, there were numerous scars in addition to the permanently sunburnt skin all over his head and body.

The grunt was a mighty tank of a warrior, and it showed.

There's no doubt in my mind they're the same person but it's disorienting and saddening to see now. With Philippe's money surely he can afford a few more healing sessions and some better care for his henchmen.

This is a vain thought but did he maybe disfigure Lukas on purpose? If a growing Lukas showed even 1/3 no even a mere 13% of the beauty that Gable possesses, then perhaps it might have been too much to Philippe to bear?

Actually I wouldn't put it past him.

After all, no one is as handsome and charming as Philippe! Nooooooo one!

Oh ho Ahahahaha!!! That sounded just like him in my head, ahhh I just need some flower petals in the background like he would have his entourage carry and throw around. Where did he keep all those flower petals? Did he have a henchman with floral abilities?

It was really a pain to order my servants to sweep the train of petals every time he visited.

Honestly, objectively speaking Philippe was an aristocratic sort of handsome. A different and admittedly more elegantly beautiful look compared to the stupid rock prince.

Damn the prince charming with his stupid royal blue eyes and a stupid strong chin and stupid handsome blah blah blah bleck.

Anything touched by the stupid prince turns stupid, so it doesn't matter. Philippe did have a more refined and scholarly air around him. Like a fine cultured connoisseur of the arts.

He would surround himself with many beautiful men and women around noble society yes but it was all to elevate his own image. Everything he did, every connection he made was carefully planned and benefitted him in some way. Likewise, when he schemed and sabotaged, it was always in a way that showed his best angle.

Yeah, I really don't like what Philippe did with Lukas at all.

"Ow! Rosalia why are you pulling my face?!"

"Thank your lucky stars, do you realize how much you resemble Gable? You have his eye color, you have his nose, maybe cheekbones? Yep definitely more cheekbones than the stupid prrrrr...yeah. It's only these little things but you can't waste any of it!"

"What aAH my nose!!!!"

"Yes it's a very good nose, do not waste it!"

"How do I waste a nose?!"

"If it gets broken you get to a healer immediately! Call Gable or grampa or someone! Don't let it be ruined again!"

"I don't get it but okay! "

"Ouch! Lukas why are you pulling my nose?!"

"You started it!"

"Ow ow ow let go already! Ow not my cheeks!"

"Eye for eye, nose for a nose says Cap!!!"

"He did not say that! It's eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth you dufus!"

"Foot for a foot then! I'm an Adventer!!!"

"Ow, ow what? Advent...avenger?"

"Yeah that!"

"Why are you like this?!"

"Hahaha Gable yells that a lot too and I still don't know what the right answer is but I get really strong from bacon and meat and butter and milk and bacon and ow!"

This is how the gatekeepers saw us as we arrived on the wagon. Two small children pulling each other's mochi cheeks to death.

I should have taken baby sitter Georgie to supervise after all. It's quite painful as Lukas doesn't seem to know any basic manners. This is not how you treat a lady! This is a dirty brawl! Ow ow ow not my eye, don't take the quote literally you little monster! Gable do something about him!

"What... in a gorgon's vertebrae are you two doing?" taps a teen boy, as dark and gloomy as this winter day.

"Rosalia sneak pinched attacked me so I had to rattleattack back!" Lukas complains as we hop off the passenger wagon.

A lot of people at the gates today. They must have sent a messenger bird about the incoming supply restock.

"I did not! I was warning you for your own good and what is a rattleattack- oh never mind. Good afternoon Vincent! Are you on gate duty today? Your hair looks so much better but it's still a little dry, ah but it can't be helped in winter. Would you like to try out this new tester of mine? I call it conditioner."

The listless looking teen may be considered a legal adult in this world, but the way he sits there at the processing desk, rolling his eyes, is very pubescent all right. Before Vincent would at least try to pander to me but after nearly a year of being his 'patron', he's come to be a typical employee. Slacky and relaxed after getting comfortable.

...Okay so maybe it was the live knife throwing practice that did it. It was Tamera's idea! You're young Vincent, exercise is important even if you are a full-time emo nerd.

Ah, I'm just surrounded by younglings. If not for this toddler body I would say I feel so old. My soul is old so it counts, no matter what Gable or grampa may say.

"Rosalia stop trying to lick everyone clean! Let's go find Amar, I wanna give him bacon wings."

" you even know what you're saying half the time?"

"Of course I do!"

"Then please explain to me what LICKING people clean means?!"

"Duh, cats and merlaps always are trying to lick themselves and other animals around them clean and you're always rubbing soap and stuff and trying to get to get people to take baths and all. Geez I thought you were smart?"

"Why am I a cat or a merlap!?"

"Because you eat raw fish and I eat good stuff like meat so Amar says you're the merlap I'm like a wolfpup which is super cool. Amar said so and he makes more sense than the adults! It does make sense because wolves are cool and I'm cool and you're really hissy and grouchy like a merlap beast and-"

By the power of bacon pop, I command you to shut up. Food basketball time, she readies at the line, she shoots, she scores! The crowd goes quiet, sweet peace and quiet.

As an apology to my witness I slide the conditioner jar over to Vincent with the usual terms, let me know how it goes. Just because you're a dark and gloomy soon to be future powerful necromancer to be doesn't mean you can't have lush lovely hair while raising the dead.

"Sorry about that Vincent. Have a sandwich? Do you happen to know where Amar is today?"

Maybe it's the conditioner, maybe it's the cold delicious offer of snacks but the teen gives. Vincent shakes his head with a tired sigh, finally indulging me with a small but sincere smile as he points to the snack basket with his feathered pen.

"It's...sort of a bad time right now. I don't think Amar can play with you little ones today. Maybe another time?"

"Oh why is that?"

"He, well he's busy at this time-"

But before Vincent can fully answer Lukas is already wailing.

"Awww is he stuck in training with your gross master again? If you're the one telling me that he's busy then yes. Pooooop, he can't eat bacon wings then! Or anything!"

"Training? It's so bad he can't eat?"

"Nooooooo after, when Amar goes with the dark creepy hood teacher that does potions and teaches Vincent and stuff he can't eat after. The training is really super tough and it makes Amar all tired and sad and no fun to play with. "

"...A potions instructor trains Amar?"

"It's like your kitchens! Sometimes they take Amar and makes him smell stuff and name it and who knows what and Amar calls it training but training is suppose to make you strong even if you're tired and--"


Quicker than I expected from Vincent's weak skinny frame, he's grabbed Lukas and me into a dark and shady alcove. Which is probably like a nice and inviting corner to Vincent.

It's a hustle and bustle out there as some people load up the shipment frozen meat. With a quick look around to make sure we're not noticed, the twiggy teen drags us further into a private corner. Tapping on a stone twice, he makes something flash like a bubble around us and just as quickly as it appears it disperses. Kneeling down with his hands gripping into our shoulders, he looks at Lukas in the eye.

"Lukas, whatever you heard from Amar you cannot repeat. Amar isn't supposed to talk about it, at all. If it gets out then it's him that will get into the most trouble."

That....that just sounds suspicious.

"I know it's a secret training! He didn't tell me or want to tell me so I just followed him a lot and a lot till he tricked me in the livestock trough that one time but I figured it out! If no one else knows then he won't get in trouble so Rosa don't go telling anyone else ok? I don't want him to get in trouble because of me but it's super secret training that sucks because he can't come to play or eat with the rest of us at all sometimes for days and it's stupid that no one notices or the adults say its okay but it's not okay.."

"....Vincent, what is Lukas is talking about?"

The grips around us shake and collapse while Vincent stares at Luka's blabbermouth with great fear, exasperation and a hint of curiosity. But it's mostly just him getting paler by the second.

"You really mustn't speak like that. Ever! Do you understand Lukas?"

"Okay! I won't say a word about the really shitty secret training that makes Amar all sick and tired and miss out on normal training or playing. I really won't because Amar says if I tell anyone then he'll stop playing with me so I definitely won't!"



Vincent is looking increasingly mortified with some expected concern towards Lukas' secret keeping skills. Normally I would be too, but right now I think the biggest subject of concern isn't even here. This is not at all criminal sounding, oh no not at all.

"It''s complicated. My master is a very private sort of person in his work. Extremely private, I can't disobey him either. But please, you really can't be talking like this, it will only make more work and trouble for both me and Amar. "

"Lukas. I'll give you all the bacon pops, now tell me everything you know."

"But ....I think I said too much again....I talk too much. I forgot and I don't want Amar to stop being my friend. I don't wanna. Can we go find him now? Or can we give him bacon wings for later? Bacon wings are really good and strong and Ga-er my master says it's good for growing and Amar always gets even skinnier when he goes on missions without me but Gable won't let me go this time so we gotta get it to him now and-"

"Lukas breathe! I promise that you'll be fine and Amar won't just stop playing with you but breathe when you talk."

I don't like the sound of this. I don't like it at all. This is getting worse with every line of information. Has Lukas been keeping these concerns in him all this time? Rather he doesn't realize the weight of them.

"He's losing weight on missions? When he's actually away from... but how..."

For some reason now it's Vincent's turn to be confused and concerned. I don't know what to think, when it's his 'master' that seems to be the main lead in this case that sounds increasingly like a kind of child abuse.

"Yeah it's stupid! It didn't happen in that big march north last year or with Rosa's pizza or Gab-master's food because I was with him but when I'm not it happens a lot before. So before he leaves I was gonna make him super fat and healthy and then he'll be good to go! Geez I'm so awesome a friend."

There's something about the contrast between Lukas innocent feelings and what is the most concerning thing I've heard about Amar, head-smashing included. This is weird. It's way too weird. It sounds long term.

"Vincent.... you know more, a lot more right?" I can't help but inquire.

Of course he does, while my first recipient of funds has a competent business face, he doesn't like interacting with many people and is nowhere near as practiced as people like my father. He practically screams insider information in his nervous body tics. But what is there to be nervous about?

Vincent sighs again, blowing his practically emo dark hair out his face, and debating internally on how to word himself.

"Just know that it is a type of training. I went through something similar. I know it doesn't sound good in this field... it's complicated and it really isn't my place. The kid knows, Amar knows. I can say that much. "

"Does this stupid training make you all boney!? Because I want Amar to be strong so we can go on lots of cool raids and trips together and you're really weak and boney Vincent! I don't like it."

"No! It's a different sort of skill set!"

Vincent flicks of Lukas's forehead. I get one too since I'm so distracted with my internal thoughts. Too much processing going on to properly dodge, but it doesn't hurt.

"Why is everyone attacking me today?! Rosalia, I like Tamera a lot more than Vincent so you're smarter there but we can't visit her today because she's strong I really don't wanna get hit by her and-"

"If I ask my master to maybe see if Amar can take a break to see you, will you please for the love of death, quiet down. "

"I- mff" *smack*

"Why yes Vincent, if you could please. Thank you oh so very much."

Like clogging a drain I stuff another sandwich into Lukas' mouth. Very effective. It's quite easy to interrogate Lukas yes but on the other hand, his opposite weapon of annoy only works to a certain extent.

"I'm serious. You can't speak out like that or let others misunderstand. Look I get it I really do, I deal with dead creepy things, it's not exactly holy magic. I don't mind what people say but my master is far worse about it even though he can't do what I do. It really is complicated, thus all the secrecy, I also believe you know how competitive the professors are around each other. "

Vincent's words spill out as if they had been blocked by something in him, sentences piling up with some difficulty behind his teeth.

That's true. There's some competitive rivalry among certain members of the troops but I assumed that was rather normal, for both students and scholars. There are rivalries all the time in schools or honestly any institutions. Why I can say I had my own share of rivalries with my cousin....ohhhhhhh.

"I see, it's that bad huh?"

"Whatever you're imagining Rosalia, it's much worse. Much much worse. They're so petty and awful, like children. No worse! Even worse than you, no offense of course."

"None taken can tell us, you know?"

I don't miss the awkwardness in his speech, even more so than usual. While I can't say we're particularly close, we've known each other long enough for him to drop the pandering around me. He doesn't doubt my intellect and I won't judge or make his job any harder. I know how hard it is for a creepy necromancer to make it out in this easily terrorized world. Not the specifics but I can very well guess.

I'm a villainess after all.

But I guess that point is a mote, something is making his life much harder. He seems to be stuck between a rock and a hard place.

"If there's something wrong or you feel is wrong, you can tell me. I...won't tell my grampa if that's what you're scared about or I can go straight to grampa if need be. Just...can you tell us? I don't know what's going on but I don't think it's just training." I continue.

With a sigh, Vincent flicks both of us on the shoulder and normally we would react. But this isn't the time for jokes. We're honestly worried here.

"It's not my place to say, I have my duties....but for you two, I'll try. I'll go ask ok? Wait for me by the kitchens if I manage it?"


What else can we say to that? Even Lukas can only silently nod, however, there's a furrow in his forehead as he shuts himself up with another sandwich.

By the time Vincent walks us out of the corridor and back to the main courtyard, the sandwiches are gone and he can finally talk again.

"I don't like this," he chokes around the last bite, ready to rapid fire out his complaints as soon as Vincent was out of sight. "it's stupid and we prolly won't even get to see Amar because he's always too tired after lessons with the hoody master."

"... what exactly does Vincent's master teach? And does he have a name?"

"I think it's like Dario or Darius or something poopy like that. I don't know, I'm too small to take his classes and I don't want to. Potions are boring and Gable has me studying enough!"

"Too small? So he only teaches older kids? What's he doing with Amar then?"

"I told you, Amar's gotta sniff herbs and all sorts of weird stuff for his chores. They split us up according to what we can do sometimes and they play this stupid game where they make him name all the stuff in something and it takes foreeeever."

"How do you know this again?

"Duuuuuh, by spying! I'm so cool and sneaky but I can't get in. I tried and I did it so much that Amar just came out and told me then he told me not to go around Hoody's area anymore because super secret training was dangerous so I said ok and-"

Ah yes the powers of annoying and persistent, also very effective. I don't think anyone can be immune to that given enough time.

This should be the part where like a good healthy adult, I teach Lukas a lesson of respecting boundaries and personal space. But that is not a lesson for today!

"You know where it is then? Let's go! I don't think our chances are very good from the way he sounded Vincent won't catch us if we go around right?"

"Finally! I knew you were cool enough to go with my plan."

"What plan, you didn't even say anything."

"Nooooooo it's my plan and I'm the hero and now you're my super small sidekick for the job!"


"Let's go save Amar from Hoody master! Then we can eat bacon wings!"

You know what, sure. Whatever you want Lukas. Lead the way.

Lukas is a true child alright, not arguing with that. I will just follow along. My hand-eye coordination is getting much better but I am still only a toddler, after all, short chubby limbs and no real way to mask or disguise myself. I'll be relying on you slightly less short and chubby creature. Unlike me Lukas is actually 'strong' and even worse, he has magic.

Life is really unfair.

It's honestly really hard to keep up with the older boy but since our objective is stealth, and we're in my grampa's garrison camps, it's not a full out run. Turn this corner, run over there, hide behind this wagon, play it cool when we're spotted, all very normal children games. Sneaky dark alleys and baby parkour.

"Lukas I am not jumping a roof gap this big, we can walk."

"But it's cooler!"

"Down and around, now."

"Awwwww boring!"


"Oh yeah, I'll be quiet now. Not a peep."


There is some baby parkour I refuse to partake in. It's one thing to climb and hop from here to there. Ninja roof jumping though? At my current level? That's just asking for trouble. Nor is it very stealthy.

Twist and turns we go, silently across empty courtyards and increasingly empty pathways that are steadily getting smaller and smaller.

It's winter right now so it's understandable that people are more indoors and out of sight. However, it's really obvious that we're getting into a less popular area of the encampment. Soon there's not a single soul around to bother sneaking part.

The cloudy sky and gloomy seasonal weather are only making this place look increasingly dark and creepy with its stone architecture. Sturdy and more damage resistant, which is great in a place full of such violent disasters and people, but very cold and depressing.

Even as the alleyways darken, I can make out a distinct and delicious smell growing stronger and stronger the further we go.

I can feel my mouth salivating despite already having snacks earlier. It's just this smell, it's somewhat familiar. Like the echos of a dish, I loved from another world. Rather than following Lukas muscle memory, it feels as if we're following the increasingly potent scent.

Cinnamon. Cardamon. Cumin. Onion. Garlic. Fennel. Fragrant bone stock. Black pepper. Basil.

A mixture of rich and subtle things I can't accurately identify. Not with so many wonderful things.

No matter. My foodie senses are tingling, energizing my body to move even faster.

"There! That one." points out Lukas in his loud whisper.

Lukas lead us straight to the source of the wonderful smell. The building is simple, all dark stone blocks in a pretty much rectangular shape.

A smaller second floor and third flood sits on top of it, which would make a decent vantage point over this part of the garrison. In comparison with some of the other warmer mixed buildings, this feels sterile and concrete. No decorations, nothing to making it welcoming to people, as professional as an industrial lab.

"There was an area like this in the troops?"

I can't seem to stop my brain to mouth process in the awe.

"Yeah it's all boring and stuff. No one but boring teachers come here, it's not even where they make the potions. There's a lot of them, the adults call them rew and search but this one is super boring and no one likes it." Lukas explains more than I ask for easily.

"Research? It's a research department."

"Yeah that."

"Wouldn't they need some better security, I see no gates or anything."

"Why? No one ever comes here." Lukas waves his arms around, highlighting the desolated area.

Truly an industrial complex corner. A place I had never known about let alone set foot in. It looks like I'll need to do a lot more exploring locally. How many gaps and things did the previous Rosalia miss in her villainous princess garden? My god, I'm really no better than Lilyanne.

We circle about the iron bar windows, seeing no one through the peeks and cracks. It feels as empty as the alley.

"I smell food but I can't see or hear anyone! But it smells like Amar in there! But I don't see him, is that just the food?" wonders Lukas.

"Did they leave? Did Vincent actually follow through...."

I want to trust Vincent, not just because he's my investment and researcher but he's not all so bad. He's not like Tamera or anything but it's different, people are all different. I don't know. The line between employer and employee needs to be clearer but that's a little hard to define when I'm this small and adorable.

Lukas jumps around a bit, looking both agitated and excited.

"I don't know! But I never went in before, someone always stopped me. Let's go!"

Oh yes, sure let's walk right into the, not at all creepy, research lab. The horror movies didn't warn about this at all.

"Greaaaaat idea Lukas." I can feel my eyes rolling. "But how oh how will we ever get in, it's not like we can just walk right up to the probably locked front door and....oh."

"Oh what Rosa? What is it? Did you figure out a way in!? WHoopee I knew you could figure it out!"

"...Sssshhh, watch this."

It's a little tricky I admit, I am no super spy. However, I know enough to roundabout looking for a back door, which is usually much easier to break into than the front. It's just common sense.

That and from working years in a modern bar, I would know.

The doorway is narrow and creaky, looking weak and easily breakable compared to the front.

I definitely feel something, like walking into a barely there spider web. Unlike with Gable's place, I can see something, an almost transparent web. It feels like I could so easily tear a hole through it, just enough for me and Lukas to fit through.

But I have a better idea.

It's a little silly, a little childish, but I want to take the whole thing apart. Starting from the bottom, I rip and pull the whole thing apart. It really is like cleaning cobwebs. Easy to tug and utterly crumple into nothing.

"What am I watching?"


To Lukas or anyone else, it must look like I'm playing with air, but there's something magical here and I don't want to set off any traps or alarms.

The door gives way easily, without me doing anything but give a gentle push. Now that gets my little companion to quiet down immediately, though his jaw does hang open. Without speaking a word I give a triumphant little huff, the passage clear.

Let's go.

Contrary to the outside, it's a lot messier in here. The interior darker wood beams and hanging herbs and specimens all around. Rather than being cool and witchy looking like Gable's place it just feels like a whirlwind of a mess. The only thing I can say is that there are a lot more jars and pots with some murky hard to decipher inscriptions.

I could probably stay a day in this room and not be able to get through all the little things that litter it, so let's not waste time.

Besides, the smell is far more enticing and it's getting closer.

Unlike before, Lukas has adopted a very careful manner, stepping ahead of me again. Not sensing anymore web-like magic-related locks or barriers I graciously allow it. We take every step with caution, regarding our surroundings for anything that may be dangerous. It really is silent and empty in here, no signs of anyone at all.

It only takes us one room, before we find the source of the smell.

The counters are full and cramped with even more items, mainly dark clay pots and the occasional smokey yellow glass bottle.

A very tall stool is pushed aside as if whoever was sitting there had to hop down.

The bulky wooden table where the stool rests against stands out, completely clear of anything but a small lead looking pot and a single half-full wooden plate and spoon.

It looks partially eaten, this ominous-looking brown sludge over dry rice. It looks gross, I know, but it smells like heaven.

It smells like curry.

Ah ha! I knew it!

"He was holding out on us. Again!" I growl.

Curses Amar! That brat is always managing to hide sweets and snacks! I'm not surprised at all that he's been playing with this substance of the gods away from our maybe greedy eyes.

We just like delicious things okay?

More than that I'm surprised that the concept of the dish 'curry' exists here in this world. Well, that shows ignorant little ol me. I really can't rely too much on my previous self's biased memories.

I absolutely love curry rice! The modern soul in me is crying from the lack of a lot of beloved dishes but especially curry rice. It's many a child's favorite dish where I'm from. It's made even worse now that I am a child again.

"What?! Again?! It smells so good," drools Lukas.

"Amar was definitely here, the chair is that tall and every other kid went home. And these spices?! It had to be him."

"Smells like him yep. Imma eat it all."

"No wait, save me some!"

It's a little pathetic but hey we're kids. Also, Amar needs a little bit of punishment. Some more revenge. I swear that kid gets away with too much.

Instead of fighting with bacon boy over the first bites, I climb on top of the table to slide the heavy pot of still warm curry right into my baggie. No mess by the powers of unexplainable magic.

"It's really good! I never had anything like it! Ever!" Lukas exclaims, vibrating in his seat on the stool.

Well, of course, you haven't child, even I the young miss of the Ventrellas never got to enjoy anything like curry in all 17 years of my life. What a sad existence.

This isn't my beloved curry rice. The rice is too long and dry, the curry itself smells foreign and consists of many unrecognizable ingredients. I would say it resembles more of the classic Indian curry house offerings than my own standards. This isn't my box rouz or a cute cafe, or even a comforting homemade pot of my favorite curry. There's also no egg on top.

Yet it is still curry rice! Hallelujah!

I didn't know how long it would take for me to gather enough ingredients and be able to experiment making my beloved curry but here it is! So good it smells so good~

The first bite from the stolen spoon makes me feel like I've been shot point-blank with overwhelming deliciousness. A spiced sucker punch right where it hurts! The tender meat, the melting of flavors over the starchy veggies and how well the rice absorbs it all is absolutely indescribable. Hallelujah, this is the taste of curry!

Of course, my tastebuds are pretty young and sensitive because there's an unfortunate bitter aftertaste. I also note the metallic taste that may be due to the pot, bleck. There's a lot to improve here but really not bad at all.

It's the second bite where I get hit for real.


Hands around my throat, holding me down as the plate flings and splatters across the room to the wall. Before I can register a thing, or even the childish fingers, still bigger than my own, stuffed in my mouth, my gag reflex works immediately. A strong press into my little chest further forcing me to wretch up more than just the curry.

It hurts so much I see stars.

Lukas can do nothing against the sudden attacker, not just because it's Amar but because he too is getting the same treatment. Amar has him pulled and knocked over on the table, forcing him to vomit in every brute way possible.

"Spit it out! You have to spit it out!"

The pain has me heaving and the disgusting scent of bile and the intermingled contents of my stomach fills the cramped room. When I can do little more than dry heave, when I can begin to regain a bit of my breath, I'm knocked and threatened with a hand to my little throat again.

Amar looks so hurried, so desperate. His eyes such a shock of deadly green that it brings me back to that day nearly a year ago. Has it really been that long, that short? I don't know.

I don't fight it as he pours some yellow-tinted water down into my mouth.

"Drink it! Drink and spit it all out."

Lukas can barely get out the start of a question before he's attacked again, more sickness being wrecked out of his small frame before the water drowns him.

"Again, drink it again. Again! You have to. Please please please just drink it and get it out! Again!"

The sickness spills again and it's a wet putrid mess. It all happens so fast that I'm still in shock. I can't even comprehend anything more than that Amar is crying.

This is the first time I've seen him with this many expressions on his face, let alone crying. Truly sobbing with fat wet globs of tears. It makes me suddenly realize how little emotions he shows overall.

He looks as hysterical as a child that small can look, intense fear and panic over a heartwrenching breakdown. He's a mess. Lukas and I are the ones getting punched and gutted with our own vomit but he's the one who looks to be in the most horrible pain.

I want to breathe, after all this vomiting I want to catch my breath but I can't. I can't even dry heave. It's as if all of a sudden I've become paralyzed, numb.

"No no no, no" he sobs, wet hands pressing on my chest. I can see it but I can't feel it, as he tries to get me to breathe again.

I can't feel anything. I can't move. Panic doesn't even have time to rise up in me, for I have become frozen to it all.

The taste of bitter bile and hints of blood still persists through my mouth. It makes me want to gag but I can't, I honestly can't.

A short distance away from me I see Lukas, still sick and regurgitating. I see it in perfect stillness as he shakily downs the water, repeating the process again as Amar instructed. But his frame shakes as if he has a bad chill, and there's frothing at his mouth increasing as he weakens. It couldn't have been more than a minute but the seconds stretch on so long. Soon it's red that he spits up. It looks like blood.

Blood, I can taste more blood in my mouth, spilling up from me.

"Spit it out, that's it Rosa. Just spit it out. Spit it out and breathe!"

I feel like a rag doll, with limbs of heavy grains of sand. A shaky hug or a Heimlich maneuver, then more blood is squeezed out from me. It's disgusting. I must be disgusting but Amar only breathes when I finally do. It's a delirious relief as I spit bright blood all over him and the boy painfully smiles with his eyes.

It's the most sincere smile I've ever seen from him.

The relief is short-lived as the drowning torture repeats itself and he's back on Lukas, forcing the other boy's guts to upheave.

I still can't move. Lukas can't stop vomiting. Amar can't stop crying even as his hands, his entire body frantically moves to save us.

Has he always been so skinny? I don't notice it when it's just us but his arms look like mere sticks pressing on Lukas, and his frame is so small.

It hurts.

Not just where I was punched and beat in the gut, nor in my acid burning airways. It hurts so much, like a sickness spreading. Everything burns with increasing intensity and I can't help but feel as if every labored breath sends an angry swarm of fire ants through me.

All I can register is fear, pain and the metallic taste of blood.

"Drink it. Please. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. You can' have to drink it. You have to. " a broken whimper calls to me.

The blood in my mouth is no longer just mine, for it's much warmer and oddly sweet. When did Amar get back to me? Why is his wrist cut and bleeding? Both of them?...Ah one for me and one for Lukas. How dramatic.

More than that, why does he look to be in so much more pain? We're the ones the fucked up and got poisoned or something right? Why does it look like this bleeding boy is the one who's actually dying?

It really hurts.

I can feel myself fading, even as warm flesh pressed against my mouth and fresh blood runs down my throat. It should be disgusting but it can't be helped, I can't even move a finger. It takes everything I can will from myself to swallow it down.

My senses go one by one but before they go my mind registers Vincent's frantic screaming and the solid steps of an adult man calmly sliding into the room. He really does wear a hood, so much I can't make out a single feature aside from cold thin lips.

They move and sound comes out.

"Well now. I suppose you've finally learned your lesson about finishing your food. Am I right boy?"

The small grip on me tightens and sleep wins.