Chapter 89:

Ch 88: Aftertaste

I was Born the Unloved Twin

It hurts.

Ah, it really hurts-

This feeling of sickness, this consumption. All of me has been digested and dissolved down into a stinging mess, there is nothing worthwhile left. Hasn't been for a long time now, if there ever was anything at all. I'm a shell of numbness, a thin shell filled with fleshy liquid pain. I can't do a thing about it. I can't even bring myself to move.

What's the point?

What's the point if I move? All it does is hurt. It's not worth it. As time and time goes on I increasingly feel that nothing is worth it at all. It's just me here.

Just me. Just like I wanted.

So what if I die like this?

It hurts a lot though. I dislike discomfort in any form. I can take a lot, time and time again I've proved I can take a fuck ton. I don't want to though. No one is born wanting to suffer.

It's lonely.

My lips burn as I try moving them, there's not even a drop to wet them. Bile has crusted and it's all I can smell, all I can taste.

Disgusting. All of me is so disgusting.

It hurts and I'm too dazed and numb to do anything about it. Cottonmouth and cotton stuffed head, I'm weighed down with something a lot heavier than lead. But it's just me, all me.

It's cold.

Really really cold. If I try I could probably come up with something better to describe the chill that grips me. It's not worth it though. It's not worth it to shiver so violently either but I can't really control what my body wants to do. Is this it then? Do I just die like this?

Alone. In pain and all alone.

My guts are rolling but it's more uncomfortable than anything, being as numbed as I am. At least I'm not on the toilet. Now that's a bad place to die.

I'm being dramatic again but it's a long time a-coming. I can't say I don't mind it but, I'm not surprised. If I die like this. This much is within range of my expectations.

Will anyone miss me? Other than my project manager of course, ahaha....How long till they notice? Who would even notice?

Dad....finally has another life now...finally. I hope his new family can do what we couldn't, can make him happy. How freeing. So this is peace? What a great weight off my shoulders.

Mom? She must still be so angry with me... it's been years but....ah and she's so busy with Hengfei...he's at that age now huh? That's good... How long has it since I visited?

I should at least see least least him.

I'm always too busy nowadays. Busy paying the bills. But there's a good amount saved up now right? A good bit...

It's good now right? No one needs me anymore. I want to say how nice, that I can finally be free now. But that's not true...they'll miss the money I send them.

It's wet.

My own face is wet, I blearily notice. Am I crying? I still have the strength to cry? How funny. It doesn't hurt all that much so why am I crying? I've been through worse. Come on girl, stop being such a little bitch and stop crying.

You don't have any reason to cry. You're fine. You're more than fine.

It's lonely.

I'm really weak. Still really weak huh? At a time like this, where I can't even bother to get myself up or even do anything, I have the gaul to cry. Over what? Being lonely? Being alone? I wanted to be left alone, finally. This is all I ever asked for.

So selfish. I haven't learned my lessons at all. What a stupid girl I am.

It really is really hurts...

There's not much I can do like this except curl into myself even further. Smaller and smaller into a bitter ball of nothingness. Maybe if I'm lucky, I'll disappear. Then everything will be gone, the cold , all the strange little aches and pains. All of it.

Like a magic trick.

How wonderful would it be if something like magic could exist? Could make it all disappear? All of me is a fuzzy static, sand and lead, the lines blurring. If it's like this can I go away? Can I use magic and make myself disappear, somewhere far away? Where no one knows me, not even myself.

How silly, it's like I'm a child again. Back when it was all so much simpler. a child...I'll play a trick....a magic trick...

1...2... 3...

*knock knock knock*

That's...not right?

The knocking increases with a fever, echoing clearly in the darkness. With my head like this, I can't even tell where the sound is coming from. There's a door here...

More importantly, who would be knocking?

"MengMeng? Are you home?! It's me! Mengy? Shit, I can hear your phone in there. Meng are you ok?!!!"

Phone? So that's what the ringing was? It's not just my head...oh funny. Did I try to get up? Because that hurts even more. Not inside, but outside? Ow my head. It's a different kind of hurt, not so bad really. I've been through worse. I'm such a wimp to be hurt by that.

Ah I'm tired...the floor is cold.

"Meng! Shit shit shit, fuck it."

There is a concerning sound besides my own head. Of crashing and rummaging, maybe walls breaking. How funny. Was my breathing always so loud?

Then god said, let there be light. Blinding painful light, ow ow ow does it hurt. Eyes shut now, eyes shut forever. No light please, I can't take it.

"Meng! Holy shit how long have you been like that!? Fuck you're burning up!?"

How fun. I'm flying, up and dangling into the air. I must be.

It's loud now. Everything is in a state of dazed and confused. I feel like a child's plaything swung around here and there. How funny.

I must be a very loved toy, I think? The hold is ever so tight. Gentle enough it doesn't hurt at all, but really really tight. Slowly my senses awaken with the fresh but comforting scent and the sensation of floating. I can begin to tell that it's actually not a giant child's hand that holds me like a toy doll. Rather they're arms. Warm arms. Strong arms.

Put me down, I'm heavy right?

"You're not heavy at all, aish...How did you let it get this bad? Why didn't you call me earlier?"

I'm dropped on something firmly soft. Ahahaha what a contradiction? Is it a cloud? Is it my couch? Who knows.

Something fluffy is wrapped around me and it's warm. Something cool and refreshing squirms around my face. It's not longer refreshing when it's up at my teeth, clanking them.

"When was the last time you ate? Or drank anything. Water now, it's good for you."



"...don't wanna...hurts."

"Ahhh you're so damn sick, I want to laugh but I can't because you worry me too fucking much. Please Meng? Drink up? For me? Pretty please?"


Drops in a drought. Then a flood. My heart is only so large. I can't hold so much, not like other people. Forgive me, I can't take it. I'll overflow. Then what will I do with the mess left?

"Good girl! A little more? Come on? I'll make you food and we can get some medicine in you."


When I blink the world hurts a little bit less to look at. Smiling crescent moon eyes beam right at me and I take that back, it's still too bright. Ow ow ow.

"You did take medicine right?"

Medicine? There's no need for medicine....I don't need that?

"...I'm fine."

"You..." he sighs, "are a very troublesome girl. I figured when you weren't responding to my calls or all. Or anyone's."

"I'm...not sick. poisoning. Yeah. Bad food poisoning....I'm gross right now, but fine."

"You have a fever."

" poisoning. Bad night....Niles too...John? Quang? Definitely Niles. No more all you can eat wings for me."

"Mengmeng, that was two nights ago. Everyone is fine, even Niles. You're sick now."

"Oh fucky...did I miss work? Bossman gonna have me shaken not stirred."

The tall boy takes a deep breath, hands pressed together as if in prayer and asking some god for strength for whatever reasons. Which now sets off my balance because those very nice hands were the only things keeping me sitting straight.

Ah but pillows, good pillows. Nice soft pillows. Huh did I own that plushie? Very cute.

"One...I beg of you never to say that again ever but especially if we're talking about my brother. Any of them. Two, you don't technically work for him anymore but you probably did miss work today. Your project manager called the bar because he couldn't reach you. It's Friday."


"Why are you still so fucking cute like this?"

"...Because I'm cute."

"Right right, Mengmeng is the cutest, even when you're stupid sick and absolutely running a fever. Can you stay nice and cute right here as I clean up and put things away? My mom made lots of your favorite kimchi and all sorts of banchan to spare for you."

"...yummy. shitty brat...don't talk to me like I'm 5..."

"Ah Meng, don't get mad! You'll fa... aaaand back up on the couch we go. Up up. Here's your blanket, and take this plushie? Good hold that, now sit still. Do you want music? Netflix? The Office ...again? You're really funny you know, don't you get enough of it at work? Do you want a Ghibli movie? Yes? Should I make you some soup?"

Nod no nod yes, no yes, nod no, nod yes again I don't know. But this is nice, I'm fluffy and warm. My tummy rolls in many types of pain but the thought of actual food brought to me makes it brighten up.

"...Curry rice."


"Curry rice with soft egg."

"Absolutely not. You eat too much of that. Don't think I don't see your trash can overflowing with curry boxes."

" make it the best."


I'm sick and dying supposedly but now it looks like someone else is actually dying. Why are you on the floor? Is there any need to be dramatically clutching your chest like that? It's not like anyone shot you. Get up and feed me food you fool. Preferably curry rice.

He collapses close enough that I can take my foot out of the fluffy blankets to poke at. But there I go again, either from my own messed up sense of balance or from the playful evil hand that has yanked my vulnerable ankle.

Noooooo it's cold.

Long fingers tickle as they slide up my bare leg, his breath feels hot against my sensitive skin... That's it. It must be the sudden exposure to the cold air that makes me shiver even worse.

"Didn't I say be good? You can't attack a guy like that, I'll think you're seducing me?"

That deserves a kick in the face.

I feel weak but the damn joker's defenses are even weaker so smack smack, take that. Geez, I'm honestly concerned about this kid. Sometimes I swear he's asking for it.

Have you been watching too many Korean dramas with your mom and brother again? Those sorts of lines are really bad and cheesy in real life you know. There's a reason the bossman is still single as a dog. One day you'll really be assaulted by the girl you like using those kinds of lines on her, so as an elder I have to kick some sense into you.

Shouldn't your sisters have taught you this, instead of me?

"Will this much prettier sister be good and stop cutely stepping on me if I give you banana milk? You're sick and my heart can't take it."

"Dork. ...Make it a coffee milk."

"Your tummy is weak right now? Banana now and coffee in the fridge?"

"You brought me both?"

"Mmm! Yep, the whole packs, and my mom's stews. 2nd bro gave me the ok to take off tonight and check in on you."

"Aiya, when did you get so smart and handsome?! Very good, our Jung-Joon has grown up so well. Banana milk it is!"

"I've always been smart and very handsome? Why do you only admit it when I give you food, sweets or alcohol?" he sighs again, looking like an adorable PG version of a bartender when he stabs the little straw in my flavored milk box.

I try to grab the chilled offering with all the strength I can muster but everything is off. The world is still spinning. The world is nothing but my messy apartment and an overgrown banana of a youthful college kid waving my beloved sugary drink in front of me. I don't know if it makes him look more hateful or good looking.

Even sideways I can tell he's teasing me, getting up close to smack a peck to my cheek. How cheeky, literally.

"Medicine first Mengmeng. Say ah."

"I hate you."


"...fiiiine, ahhhhh."

"Good girl. Drink it down."

I can't yell at him for treating me like an infant because it's banana milk time after the hard to swallow pills. How perfect, this is the best medicine of all. I should give him a lesson about humility and a lot of things but banana milk is too delicious. I'm alive again. I'll let it all go with the addictive magic of banana milk.


With another indulgent smile, my pillows are fluffed and my blankets are rewrapped before he heads off to put away whatever it was he brought. More banana and coffee milk I presume.

All too soon I'm sipping at the bottom of the box. My throat feels much better now.

A lot of me does.

My guts are still rolling and I can't really tell my fingers from my toes. I'm sick, I'm still very much sick as we have established.

But it's not that cold anymore...

...I really am pathetic. Getting like this at my age, getting so bad that I drag an innocent kid from his Friday night because of the trouble I make. Jung-joon and his family have always been taking care of me in ways they didn't have to. All this time.

When did that happen?

When will I grow up? When can I let go?


A sweet humm of confirmation comes from across the room, behind me where I can't see.

"I'm sorry....I'm fine now. I'll take better care of myself...."

"Will you now? That's good."

"I'm fine... you don't have to do this. I took medicine now. You can go. It's the weekend right?"

Laughing bells ring, light and charming if not for their mocking tone. How evil, I was being considerate and here this shit is laughing behind my back. Fine, get enslaved by me. Clean my messes and make me dinner. No life for you.

Ah but I really must be sick. I truly realize that I do have a fever because I can now feel the intense heat on my face and head.

"You're right, it's the weekend." the voice sing songs, and I want to fall asleep to the melody.

I fall over again on the couch, but it's fine. It's nice like this. How odd...what was all the fuss and pain from before? I really am such a dramatic soul.

It's really nice like this.

The artificial glow of lights is eclipsed by a comforting night like shadow. When I tiredly blink up, far more tired than I recall, it's just Jung-Joon, a sole person and not say the full moon or some poetic shit like that. Not the moon at all. That's just silly.

If it's just him then I can afford a little rest right? A little more sleep? That's all I need, then I'm fine again. I must have pulled too much overtime again, that's how I got sick. Is it the medication making me so sleepy? How silly of me.

Then, just a little.

"Meng? Are you asleep?"

What does it look like? I want to snap as I usually do but I'm too comfortable like this. His soothing tone of voice doesn't really disrupt me, rather lulling me further into my blankets.

"Meng...I'm going to throw away all your instant box curry because that stuff is terrible and I can just make curry anytime you want. Is that ok?"


"Meng....I kinda broke your door but it's all good if I just fix it again, right? Should I stay over again just to be safe? You really do need to move out to a better place, the money isn't that much of a difference?"


"Meng....I'm going to take that as a sign to do whatever I want~ Are you okay with that?"

Sure. Do whatever you want. Silly kid. This pillow is really good, ahh.

"Meng....At the end of the day, all I want is to marry you so we can do the little stuff together. Even when you're feeling bad or unwell, all of it. We can cook together. Dance around our home, do our skincare routine, play music, laugh, bake and be just happy together. That's all I want, it doesn't need to be like a movie. I just want to spend the rest of all my little moments with you. Maybe forever. Definitely forever."


"But you're asleep again and you can't hear me, even if you weren't you still can't hear me."

It's like a lullaby. Drifting me deeper into a sweet dream.

"You- take responsibility. That or give me a proper rejection already. It's been over 10 years by now- actually 11 years, 4 months and 28 days. Say no to me for real....that or stop being so pretty! Ah both aren't possible....I'm stuck like this, right noona? I can't even move because you're asleep."

A ridiculously sweet dream.

"I can't move. You sleep so peacefully and I can't move from you at all. "


"*sigh* Even when sleeping you talk out loud? So troublesome. "

"....don't... leave me...too..."

"Fine, you win, you win again. I won't ever move, I won't leave. I can't. So sleep well where I can see you, ok?"








Breathing hurts.

It's disorienting, not knowing where I am, or who I am.

Really...who am I?

How many people are there inside my head? What makes a person? A soul?

From the tiny little hands in front of me and the blood that soaks my small front, I would say I'm not that adult living in a peaceful and convenient society. The kind where non-poisoned curry comes in a box and familiar confusing bartenders bring me fun flavored milk. This isn't that world at all and I am no longer that person.

I died.

I disappeared, just like I once wanted. I've gone somewhere far away, to a world filled with magic and even more troubles than the ones I left behind. The world I left behind.

What a terribly nostalgic dream. I heard that time and age makes everything look hazy, as if it was so much more beautiful in the past. Then that would explain it. Why that dream was so sweet.

But it has nothing to do with me anymore. I am no longer that person. I don't carry her weight anymore. I can't see anyone anymore.

We no longer exist in the same world.

Tears burn my static face as I stare up at the dark cramped ceiling. It takes me a blearily long time to recognize my surroundings, seeing as how I can barely move. Wood and hay, a provincial and filthy place.

This isn't my apartment with its running water and wifi connection. Banana and coffee don't even exist let alone the crack like milk boxes.

How terribly sad. That sweet taste doesn't exist in this world.

I smack my lips at the residual blood. Slowly I feel myself come to, regaining bits and pieces of myself and my senses. A twitch of the fingers, of the toes.

I can move again.

The room is dark but white daylight finds its ways in here and there. If I turn my head far enough, a mirror image of another blood and vomit drenched child breathes on a ratty cot. Lukas. Thank god he's breathing.

That's right. This is a fairy tale world where magic exists and I'm filthy stinking rich.

Little boys can make it snow and little girls can heal with nothing but their glowing hands. I am Rosalia Therese Ventrella, I am three years old and I am the villainous character in this story.

We poisoned ourselves and are now trapped in the creepy suspicious facility in some seedy corner of the camps. A place that keeps a small kid hostage as a guinea pig, for real. These aren't the jokes we make in my family kitchens. This isn't smelling for burnt soup or how much pepper is needed in whatever.

This. What poisoned us, what forced Amar to break down into an actual child his age, into sheer tears. This is abhorrent.

They're making him eat the poison.

It's long term, it must be. Training my ass. Lukas said he had to sniff things out? They're making him eat the things. Like a true lab rat. Vincent...Vincent said he went through something similar. Weak, scrawny and oh so isolated Vincent. It all makes sense.

It's why an active kid like Amar stays so skinny despite everything we give to him. It's why he has a habit of hiding away snacks like a squirrel saving for winter. Why he's so secretive and seemingly immune to obvious abuse. Why he doesn't react to pain or stress, any kind of pain, like a normal kid.

How do you top abuse like getting force-fed poison day in and day out?

Shit. The signs were all there.

I force myself to breathe, to calm myself down. Getting agitated now would do no good, as I recall I was just most like lethally poisoned. My breathing of all things stopped for god's sake.

What was even in that curry? What a fast acting agent. How terrifying. If that or something was used in an assassination the target may be dead before help could even arrive.

There's a lot I don't know about this world. The local wildlife, the magical injections that twist things out of my common knowledge, practically whatever was not served to Rosalia on a silver and gold platter. Too much I don't know about and it pisses me off. Could the previous me even be called a worthy villainous when she was so damn blind to the workings of this world?! She didn't even know the troops had such a research facility!

In my anger, I force it all still.

You can't think clearly with rage blinding you. That was another fault the original goods to this body had, blinding red rage. When she loses control there it goes. But anger isn't a bad trait to have, on the contrary. One has to condense it, focus it and sharpen it into the deadliest sort of weapon.

Empty thoughts.

Check my surroundings. Figure out what I can do for now. What is my best course of action? What is even the state of my body?

I can move but not well, though I can force myself up my legs are truly numb. Putting any pressure on it shoots a thousand piercing needles right through the nerves. There's no way I can stand, let alone run.

They can't kill me here. I'm a Ventrella. Whatever messed up shit is going on here, they can't kill me in my grandfather's own territory. There's also no need to.

What happened here was an oversight.

Two uninvolved children stupidly ate some poison. They stumbled into a lab and touched things they shouldn't have, thus hurting themselves. I'm fine. Lukas is...unconscious, but fine in terms of the repercussions.

It's Amar that's in danger.

He knew just what to do after we consumed the curry. The most exceptional thing, however, was the blood.

We drank his blood, right from his slit veins. How messed up is that?

I may not know all that much about this world's poison standards outside of the approved alchemy lessons, which was honestly just a type of chemistry and brewing, but blood of a child is usually not on the list of cures. For anything.

Somehow of all the things, Amar could have done after literally wrecking our stomachs and digestive tracks, he chose to knife himself up and feed us his own blood. As if that would make it all better.

I'm getting a headache just thinking about it.

In the utter silence of the space, I can hear some mumbled voices. There are people out there, on the other side of that door. One of them sounds like Vincent, strained and distressed but still very much Vincent.

I can't move my legs.

The cot is already on the floor so it's not a hard or noisy fall. But it hurts, it hurts even to crawl. My arms work fine but not my legs, every drag of pressure feels like I'm sliding across a floor of broken glass.

It hurts so damn much, everything hurts and I can't move my own legs.

Without my permission, acid hot tears continue to run through me. I bite my lip to not make a peep, not a single sound. It hurts so much more than this little body hurts.

I can't move my own legs.

Don't leave.

Don't leave me?

What kind of god damn nightmare of a dream was that? What was that sick sad fantasy disguised as a memory? My desperate little brain even added in such a touching confession at the end. Don't be stupid Rosa girl.

Everyone leaves eventually. Everyone leaves. Even I left.

I left him.

I left everyone.

"You want to leave?! Fine! Leave and don't come back you ungrateful slut! How dare you try to break us up!"



It stings. I deserve it.

"You think you're so good now?! You think just because you make a little bit of money you can order us around after you run away like that! You're just like your ba'! Money money money! I gave birth to you! I raised you and saved you from that bastard and this is what I get?!"

"Mom. Don't be like this. We can't...we can't keep living like this. You can't keep doing this to Hengfei."


"Don't call me your mother when you show no piety! I have a son! I don't need you or your ba' I don't need any of you!"

"Mom, please. I'm doing it for Hengfei and you. Money and jobs don't just come falling out the sky, I need to go out and work! It's not a fantasy! You don't just become a filthy rich doctor with some good grades!"

"You too stupid!! You don't work hard enough to make it! You're just like your ba', a failure!"

"I know more than you! You can't give him the care he needs! You can't ruin us you can't ruin Hengfei like this!"

"If I knew back then how you would turn out I would have let that bastard sell you! That was good money! I should have just let him! This slut! This all never would have happened if we had just let him have you!!"


"Where did I go wrong? Aiya, where did I go wrong, why did I marry such a useless man and have such ahhhhhh my children ahhhhh ahhhh they're all wrong and broken. Why?! Whhat sin did I commit in the last life?!"


"Don't call me that if you can't be here! If you can't be my good child!"

"Mama! Meng is back?!"


A boy's voice breaks through the women. In their sudden silence, the squeaking of wheels is all the more obvious. He sounds healthy, youthful, and so innocently concerned. The wheels squeak particularly loud at the rusted breaks of his chair.

He can't walk.

I left him too. I of all people left him.

Shit shit shit why now! Why are my memories hitting me all now!?!

I had to leave! I'm not our dad! I had to leave. I had to leave for me, for money, for the bills. To find a better hospital. To get better him treatment. To get away from mom because I can't I can't I just can't... It's not that I didn't care?! I cared too much and that was the problem!

I couldn't take care of Hengfei that way and then who would? Who? Everyone leaves! That's how life works okay?!

Everyone leaves.

Now I've left for good.

If only my legs were dead weight. If only they were just that. They burn and sting because the nerves are still alive. I can still heal. In this magical world, you can heal practically anything.

How convenient. How miraculous and tragic.

The skin to my lip breaks because I can taste fresh blood once again. My blood is metallic, not sweet, and I reach the wooden door with a small thump. Like a convenient medieval fantasy, it's not solid at all. The cracks between peeling wood panels provide me with more than enough holes to see through.

I silence myself by swallowing.

There are more pressing matters than dealing with some old aftertastes, bitter but gone. That me is gone. It's just....what I wouldn't give for some coffee milk or something right now.

No overgrown sweet-talking brat to break down doors and save me now. I should forget about it, for my own good.

"What a waste! So much wasted blood" cries a strange woman.

Even from the floor, I can see that she is beautiful. Fashionably pinned up hair, heavy velvet and fur-trimmed dress, and nails that click and clack a shocking length of dark red. She whimpers like a child to the man in the hood, who has his back faced towards me.

On the side of the room, Vincent twitches but otherwise remains perfectly still. Perfectly seated in front of his master.

"Oh how could you let this happen!? What a waste! I was so looking forward to my next bath!"

"Dear sister, how many times do I have to tell you that bathing even in diluted blood does nothing to turn back the clock of time. What you're experiencing is a deficiency of a substance called iron, which womenkind go through when they reach that age."

"How dare you insult a lady! And it works, I can verify it! All your poison blood does phenomenal works. Why that's why I can so easily keep the edge on that dreaded duchess over yonder! I hear she goes about draining young peasant women. "

"How droll. Yet you're wasting precious samples. On baths."

"Different concerns. My research is the kind that sells."

"Yes. The high price that women pay for the illusion of beauty. How monumental."

"It's what funds the fun! Oh, don't you agree Vincent dear!"

"...Yes Madam Damia."

It is only then that Vincent speaks. It is only then that I notice the shock of pale and exposed flesh, his arm hooked up to a strange contraption with pumps and glass.

They're taking his blood.

I don't have time to be surprised. Not that I am. It was kind of obvious with the whole bleeding thing earlier. But where is Amar?

"You'll have your potion to cure all poisons one day. We're getting oh so close with that boy. Do let me have him when your done, I just can't wait."

"I will not 'let you have' such a rare subject all because of your petty grudge."

"Oh what? Darius! You wound me! To bring up such old drama, why I'm above that. It's not just about that bitch. He really does have such beautiful eyes! What jewels they would make! It would look so wonderful in his mother's necklace! So satisfying!"

"Nor your vanity Damia."

The necklace sits heavy on her fair neck. Layers and layers of sparkling gems in intricate chains and foreign shapes. The strange and absolutely mad sounding woman plays with a single fat teardrop gem the purposeful gap between the throat and neckline. As if she were really considering replacing it with someone's eye.

"Just one?"

The hooded master loses his patience, slamming his work on the table, glassware clattering and violet webs spreading. The woman shrieks as if touched by something awful and I don't miss how Vincent flinches.

"A single vial of that child's blood can cure half of the poisons currently known to man, magical or not. Given a few more years of careful work and it could be all of them, even the ones unknown! Where else do I find a specimen like that? Where else can you find me a living body like that! Even Vincent here isn't immune to so much and he's my best work!"

"Oh don't be such a bore. That devil has a harem, it's not that impossible to find another one of his seeds."

"Very well then sister dear, do cross the mountain and bring me back one of his horridly guarded offspring, who aren't DEAD! Just try it. If you somehow manage to not get yourself horribly killed or worse, see if you can refrain from gouging their eyes before making it back over here "

"Oh fine fine, I'll stop asking you for his eye, let me go, this is bad for my skin!"

"It's not a joking matter Damia. He's only seen at most 6 winters. Give me enough time and I'll perfect the serum yet with his blood and body as the key."

"Yes yes, I heard it all before. That's what you said with Vincent years back. Oh don't feel bad Vincent dearie, I still like your blood. It's so very good a base in many a potion. So very good for a lady's skin."

Vincent stays silent, the best thing to do. What we learn is the best thing to do to stay safe.

I'm going to be sick.

I know I was just sick but listening to all this wrecks me in whole new ways. Human experimentation honestly isn't too surprising given the general course of history. Seeing it in person, however, is awfulness I can't even begin to describe.

It feels familiar.

Like a self-centered little girl, I can't shake the creeping guilt that entangles much like those webs.

I do that.

I make Amar smell and eat stuff for me.

I make Vincent and all these people try out my skin or whatnot vanity experiments. Not to this .... a vicious extent but...I do that. And those kids just take it. Like they're taking this.

Vincent sits so still, so resigned. As if he were a mannequin than a living person. The dead look in his eyes doesn't come from his magic, I know that now.

Blood, they're using blood in potions. Living human blood from methodically poisoned children. What type of sick world is this that lives in the shaded alleys on my own supposed home territory?!

What goes into potions?

I have some intermediate knowledge yes, I can make this or that here or there even without the aid of magic. But really, who knows what goes into a potion. There's no real regulation? Or a check for human blood of all things?! Do we all just really think it was just some magic mushroom soup and a bit of pixie dust in a bottle? How do we know?

The potions that I've used in my previous life. The ones I've taken for my own beauty or whatever reason. Was it made from the blood of kids like Vincent? Was it made out of Vincent? Amar?

I'm going to be so so sick.

"Have you finished your task boy?"

From the shadows drop a mummy. Bandages wrapped around skinny arms, too stark too pale. Amar looks too pale in this light, tired and far smaller than Vincent. Washed out and rung, diluted from his usual toffee and caramels.

"Yes sir Darius. Lord Geoff has been informed and your planted medics are on their way. "

"The story."

"You saved them. An accident. It was all an accident. We were playing and bad things happened because of me. Because I didn't finish my training."

"That's right Amar. It is all because of you."

Steps that seem to glide around the small boy, the billowing dark cape helping with the illusion of swallowing him entirely. A gloved hand reaches out to graze the mere bandages on Amar's arms, before tilting his little head up. This is the part where the cartoon villain breaks out into song. It's just that bad.

"And it's all because of you that they're alive. See what good you can do? That your body can provide? Like those children, I can save so many more lives in the future. All thanks to your blood."

"Yes sir Darius." comes Amar's well-trained reply.

It sounds wrong in a voice so childish and young.

"Did you drink anything?"

"No sir Darius."

"Healing potions. Of any kind?"

"No sir Darius."


He drops the finger and thus Amar's limp little head.

The woman taps at the machine hooked to Vincent's flesh impatiently with her too long nails. She rolls her eyes at the call of her name.

"Don't look at me, I didn't give him any. I would but noooooo you're so horridly strict on the quality control."

"Quality over quantity sister dear. The body must process the poison to become immune. If you heal them, what's the point of training them? I'm making them strong, better, especially you Amar. Your blood was made for this."

"Yes sir Darius."

Monotone, every answer from Amar is monotone. The tears and terror from earlier have all dried up He acts like a puppet with its strings cut. Eyes blank and face like the dead.

It's wrong. It feels so wrong.

"Clean up those unruly children before they arrive but not too much. No one needs to get the wrong idea. Vincent is still preoccupied, you should thank him for taking your place today. After you wasted all that precious ingredient of yours. But I suppose some panic was understandable. One of them is the Commander's grandchild. "

"The Lord Commander's?! She's here!" gasps the horrifyingly beautiful woman.

The more I look at her the more 'off' she feels to me. A little like someone who had a tad too much plastic surgery, it looks unnatural.

"Wrong one, it's only the elder one." droned the hood.

"Oh well, I could still try out some of that Ventrella blood?"

His eyes are hidden in shadow but from her reaction, it's such a disapproving look that the creepy woman makes a motion of peace. Officially giving up her initial desire to stab and sample my blood with only mild reluctance.

How reassuring.

"Go on now Amar. You have permissions, oh but....given this situation, it appears you will no longer be able to go on your little hunting field trip. Or partake in such dangerous activities."

The creepy hood dances around Amar again, like a predator playing with its food. Some evil step mother about to sing and taunt the poor heroine.

"When it's announced that it's your blood that saved them, you will be perfectly protected. You will never have to work another raid in your life. You're too precious of a resource for that. Thank me boy, for I have assured your place with me so long as you live."

"Thank you sir Darius."

Amar steps away lightly as if there was not just a creepy looming adult all over him. Bragging about keeping him forever as a human lab rat. The only emotions in that room are the greedy hunger in that Madam Damia and the strained look of hidden pity in Vincent.

It's the wost sort of show, and I am far from entertained.

I should move, at least away from the door. A slide to the side to not make it so obvious I've been witness to this entire fiasco. If I was numb before, I'm stone cold now. My blood has drained with them, these children.

Before I do, killing intent spikes.

It gets worse.


A long nail or five scratches against a child soft cheek in her slap. More fresh blood spills from Amar's cheek yet the boy stands still, facing madam Damia only after the attack is done.

"Hehehe how dare you fail to address me boy."

How dare an old bat like that giggle as if she were a spring flirt. Her tongue laps at her own hand, tasting the innocent blood on her nails.

Vincent pales even further, weak fists clenching but utterly doing nothing. His head lowers in a mixture of emotions that rivals my own if not for the solid defeat in his bearing. Amar, as always, just takes it.

"My apologies Madam Damia. Thank you for the lesson."

"Oh your face, your lovely little face. What if I had gotten your eye? How careless of me! We should at least clean that up."

She only lets him go when a small vial of blood is collected from his face. As if she were wiping his bloody tears away. Her touch so soft when it was so cruel but just a moment ago.

He thanks her again.

It's wrong. It's all so wrong.

The door creaks open and closed again so quickly it might as well never have been moved. In less then the time it takes to blink I'm picked up, the pain in my dead legs reigniting with a fury.

I want to cry but I can't. I won't make a sound. There's only more trouble when children cry.

I won't give myself away like that. It's fine, this much pain is fine. I can bear with it.

It's so cold. Everything feels so cold, even where it burns.

"You shouldn't have seen that. You shouldn't listen." Amar whispers, setting me back down next to a still unconscious Lukas.

What a fine sight we all make. Bloody and beaten. I should have brought a baby sitter after all. But then....we would have never found out, would we? I bet this boy would keep silent even if he died

"Are you okay Rosalia?"


I shake my head furiously, holding my tongue, I have to bite down on myself to not make any noise. My senses coming back fuller over time, my stuffed up lungs ready to scream and cry.

No, of course, I'm not okay. Don't be stupid. It's not me that needs to be asked that question right now. It's not me that's in the most pain.

"Are... you okay?" I manage to choke out, broken and wet.

I won't cry, I can't cry now.

Amar's little smile is very cute. Very innocent and cute. If you didn't notice the slice to his face or the unhealed bandages tinged in grey, then you might not ever suspect a thing was wrong.

"I'm fine."

I choke and break.

That's the same damn thing I would say back then. The same damn 'fine'. Lies. It was all lies. I was never fine. I was just waiting for someone to notice. I wasn't ever fine. I'm not fine, you're not fine, Lukas down there is not fine, none of this is fine!

No screaming, no crying, it's the next line out his smiling mouth that kills me.

"It's fine. I'm used to it. "