Chapter 90:

Ch 89: Salted Caramel

I was Born the Unloved Twin

"No...not fine!"

Do you know how hard it is to subtly whisper and shout? While crying?! It's as extremely distressing as it is difficult.

It's awful horrid in how I'm the one sobbing! Wrong kid! The wrong kid is being comforted here. Anyone walking in would get the completely wrong idea about just which kid is getting abused!

"It's fine. It will be fine," says Amar kindly, patting my head.

It's all wrong. His little wrists are all wrapped up. I can't stop flashbacking to every single time I've seen this boy, trying to remember every single bandage or wrapping that he would occasionally sport. What was a training injury and what was...this?

"You're not fine!" I hiss.

"Yes, I am?"

"No. No you're not. You're a liar. That's what you do. You lie. You lie all the time with your pranks and you lie to Lukas when bad things happen to you. You lie and it doesn't work on me!"

"There there, let it out. It hurts a lot, right? You're crying."

Am I now?! Ohhhh I haven't noticed through all the choking and hiccuping I'm doing. What a deduction!

"You're doing it again!"


"Lying! You lie all the time by not saying anything! Liar!"

This boy is always lying even when he keeps quiet. He goes around and around, throwing people off with crowed pleasing answers that don't mean anything and I should have known. I of all people should know something was so awfully wrong. Magical fantasy world or not, this isn't how normal kids react to anything.

I, the biggest liar here, the biggest liar besides my batshit crazy grampa, should have known.

That soft unassuming smile finally breaks. In that split second Amar's face falls blank in an unreadable expression. He looks gaunt like that, without anything to distract from his pitiful current state. He looks like a mummy for real, bandages and all. It chokes me in frustration how we ever thought that it was ok? In the shadowy dark, his owlish wide eyes take on a toxic green tinge, as if they've been poisoned along the rest of him.

Until they blink, once, twice, then the scariest part happens.

He starts laughing.

Shit shit shit this stupid kid! Brain-damaged! I officially declare him brain damaged due to head trauma, the lack of blood and who knows what else! What else is wrong? Who knows, because this child just takes it?

Why am I the one still crying? It should be you crying, not laughing! Wrong reaction! Ahhhh where's a tissue when you need one! Or maybe a pediatrics brain surgeon.

"Can you do me a big favor, Rosalia?" Amar quietly whispers through his giggles, as if it's another one of his silly pranks.

A favor? How about I sick grampa on this 'master' Darius and Damia? How's that for a favor?

Chop chop, literally. I'll do it. I may be a modern person but I know the punishment system for criminals here. This more than counts, we got two prime victims of evidence here. The dungeons? Flogging? Oh no no no this deserves so much worse.

I'm not Lilyanne. I'm not so nice and weak. Chop Chop off with their heads. Just let me at them! I'll turn them into a Sunday roast!

Ok, fine. I'll send grampa to do it because I'm three and tiny and squishy and I really can't stop sobbing.

All I can do is nod angrily. Do you see my expression? I am livid!!!

For reasons I can only chalk up to child abuse and brain trauma, Amar fails to keep it in and burst out laughing even harder. Honestly grinning and giggling, the twinkles of life and delight back on his tiny face. If I didn't know any better I'd say he was laughing right at me, actually, wait he is. Why? Because there's not enough blood to pump to reach his brain!!!

"Ahaha, you're doing a really good job Rosa. But can you cry louder? I know you can. I can't stop you from telling later, I know that. You heard too much and I can't stop you. So right now please cry a lot, make it really loud. You can even play Lilyanne again if you want?"

What's that supposed to mean?!

You want me to throw a big fat nonsense baby tantrum here!!! Right now?!!!

I'm doing my very best to keep it in but it's impossible through all this hiccuping! Curse this toddler body with it's overrun emotions and senses! I don't need to act like Lilyanne, this is me actually crying! How dare you reduce me to such a state?!

"That's it. Cry lots and lots, be really loud and annoying. You're really good at that? Oh, but you should drink something before it really gets bad? It tastes bad right?"

I give up, I officially give up with trying to figure out this kid and this entire situation. I'm just going to sick grampa on everyone. Chop chop murder. Then throw you all at Gable for therapy or something.

"Stop all that racket at once!" shrieks the blood sucking witch, slamming open the door.

For the first time, I get a clear look at her. A woman so beautiful that she can make babies cry from a look alone. Even in rage, her facial muscles look as stiff as her hair, fashionably ironed and stabbed into place. That's the most I get before Amar twists me up and around into a baby hold again. Completely blocking my sight and quite frankly my breathing, that is if his body wasn't so damn boney!

I see everyone's urge to feed him now if the obvious poisoning wasn't enough. All the bacon wings, you get all the food. Once I chop chop these scum villains that is! Let me at them!!!

"Apologies madam Damia, she's only a baby."

"Well get it to stop! She's already bloody, get it to stop or else it won't pass by Lord Geoff and whoever else isn't ours."

"There there Rosalia."

Liar. A sneaky hand pinches right at my thigh, where the burning pain is still raging, causing me the screech much louder. Fine, you want me to cry? You want a show? I'll give you a show!

"Waaaaaaaaah! AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!"

Amar flinches in something that isn't entirely a lie, the pinching eases.

On one hand, this child is so very pitiful and abused to the point of obvious brain damage. On the other ....what the hell? What gives?

From the unseen subtle motions in his arms, Amar motions for me to continue the tantrum. At this rate, though it's no act. I am very angry, confused, and feeling many many more overwhelming things. What sane person wouldn't cry?

"Get her to stop!"

"It's the poison, madam. Argemone, horse chestnuts, othalam, redoul, unripe wallflower, and melianthus nectar were all in today's dish. I got the paralysis down and got her to breathe again but she's still in a lot of nerve pain.

"Is that all?!"

"She's just a baby madam, that dose was for me. Even with the blood, the fever must hurt a lot. I couldn't get her to drink a sleeping drought like Lukas did."

"Such noise, how aggravating! ....Oh but....if it hurts so...then perhaps a bit of leeching would ease the poor thing's pain. Yes...yes it's a medical treatment, we must release the excess bad blood."

What? No bad blood hungry witch.

I can't see her but the air in this space has changed, Amar's skinny arms grip me much tighter.

A turn so soon and sudden it's a little nauseating. Suddenly I can see the bloody Botox witch up close, madly grinning with lipstick stained teeth.

For my own sanity in this helpless play, I will pretend that it is lipstick. My rage is already boiling at the sight.

"You dare defy me boy?"

That's when I see it. Her outstretched arm is connected to a veiny hand, far older than her face appears. She holds on to something strange and grotesque, a cross between a syringe and a living leech. Rows of circular teeth and all. Said sharp teeth gnaw and stick out from a new bloody wound on Amar's back shoulder.

Again. He takes it without even a wince.

"No madam Damia. There is not to be a wound on them, those were sir Darius orders. They're supposed to be cured without a single wound, to show his unmatchable potions and healing skills." recites Amar.

He tries to press my head down to look away but I can't.

That leech thing, whatever it is, is sucking blood so rapidly that the flesh of his thin neck is turning as pale as a corpse. The crazy lady had it out for my blood, that spot where I just was. It was blocked but here Amar is bleeding again. How does he still have any blood in him? How has he not passed out from anemia yet?!

"Madam Damia, the price of your beauty tonics and potions are very high no matter what. Wealthy ladies line up for them, but sir Darius is very stubborn and only focuses on research he likes. He can only rely on his reputation as a plain medicinal potions brewer, not like your fame and skills madam Damia."

"Tsk. Supporting my brother- you're all ever so loyal."

The mad woman withdraws with a fat leech vial of swishing blood. A tremor of pain, not mine, shakes me as the leech mouthed syringe finally releases its host. The suction releasing with a horrible popping sound from the pale torn flesh.

She samples a portion of the liquid as one would down a shot glass before licking her lips in satisfaction.

"Ah but I can't be too angry at you sweet boy. You're just too delicious, I could eat you right up. My brother is far too stingy with you." she croons, down at us with a perverted gaze.

"Thank you for your praise madam Damia." Amar still holds on tight.

A hand resembling bloody claws pets at his hair, a single elongated pinky nail tracing over the edge of an eyelid. It gets so increasingly close that it has me wincing instinctively. Stretching myself away.

"Remember, you can always come over to my side anytime you change your mind little one. I can provide you with so much that my brother can't. The trade is always yours to make, for one of those."

The way she strokes his head was the way one would inspect fruit at a market. The way she peers, trying to get a clear look at his eyes, the object of her sick desires.

"Thank you for your kindness madam Damia." he says simply, head bowed down. Those nails still far too close, trailing on soft skin gone pale from blood loss.

"Such a polite boy~ if only my own children were so easy. Life is so unfair, for that cavorting harlot to pop out such a good child like you."

She chuckles in a way that can't be described as anything but evil. As she moves, the clings and clangs of her jewels sound out.

It's the insulting mention of his mother that does it. It must be, and for good reason. It's what gets Amar to reacts, snapped like a rubberband. The dead blankness that he's been maintaining this whole time sharpens into something deadly. Something that reminds me of just how scary this kid can get. But it's shadowed from her, bent how in an angle only I can see.

He twists at my skin, prompting me to continue the Lilyanne tantrum cry.


"Tsk Tsk they're such a pain at this stage. Vincent! Oh Vincent dear- see to this noisemaker and clean our favorite subject up now!"

Her steps echo, from the weight of her heavy dress and all her accessories. Vincent stands pale at the doorway, head down and subservient. He waits for three breathes after she leaves before quietly shutting the door and clamoring to his knees before us.

"Vincent....good you're here. I think Rosa's really thirsty by now-"

Without a single word the teenager has a yellow bottle violently forced down Amar's throat, some of those contents splashing right on me. I can't spare the effort to react to even be surprised, not after that freak show.

"Everything, down everything you god awful brat."

Despite his harsh words, Vincent's hands tremble gently, one hand supporting the back of Amar's head and his eyes worriedly inspect the blood drained wound on his back.

"Bleck! Can I put Rosa down first? This is one of yours right Vincent?" chokes the little boy when he swallows half the bottle down with a grimace.

Healing potions, the stronger the more bitter I recall.

"Shut up, of course, it's mine. I wouldn't risk any of master's mislabeled brews. Now drink."

"Sorry Rosalia, did you want some? It's not very good but you're still in pain right? Vincent's potion's will help blec-"

"Shut your mouth and drink everything! God damn it can you worry about yourself first?"

Even when Vincent has me put down the cot as gently as possible, he's back on pouring liquids down Amar's throat. Then pulling down the kid's shirt to patch up the gaping injury.

"Wrong one" coughed Amar, wobbling on his feet before giving up to fall into Vincent's arms.

"Shut up and stop being stubborn." seethes Vincent, spreading a mushy green paste onto Amar's bare back. That gets Amar to whimper as I would imagine since upon contact the wound starts steaming. Literally steaming.

I try not to stare too hard at the other fading and healing wounds on his body, hints of pale scratches on tan skin, ugly discolored splotches. They scream prolonged abuse, something somehow more physical than his own peeking bones.

"I'm not? That one won't do much...nor any if your usuals. Can I have that?"

" didn't."

He shudders as he turns Amar over to paste the cut on the boy's face. Shaking him as he forces Amar to look in his eyes, that or inspect his increasingly overblown pupils. Eyes like that can't be natural I finally realize, wide and black like an owl.

"Tell me you didn't."

Amar giggles, a smile half sheepish and all trouble. Dark blood, so unnaturally dark it's almost black, starts dripping down from his nose.

That can't be healthy.

"It's time now." Amar smiles in bright joy, teeth, dimples and all.

He looks giddy, maybe delirious. He looks like a child about to get a treat or go on a field trip. As if this was all good fun. The blood drips down his face at an increasing rate.

"Fuck shit fuck! No no no, it isn't finished- it's wasn't supposed to.... not yet you little...- shit!" stammer's Vincent. Rage and fear all mixing into one voice.

Amar shrugs, looking honest to god innocent with his too-large eyes now. As if it all never happened, all this just didn't happen. That is, if not for the blood.

"Rosa found out, Lukas too. They got's okay if it's me but they got hurt. It's too much. They're not gonna listen? Lukas is sleeping but Rosa's gonna tell and then it will be too late. There will be no next time?"

"Shut it and drink now!"

In his panic, Vincent struggles to fish out a tiny vial of golden liquid that swirls with violet specks. Once uncorked, Amar takes it without any hesitation, only the bitter squint he makes when tasting something particularly foul.


"It wasn't wasn't finished you insane brat! It won't...there's no antidote- there's no antidote for that!"

Amar takes the wrecked scolding with a few nods, as if it were just Georgie nagging at us, and goes to rummaging around his pockets looking for something. His face brightens as he finds a candy, a familiar wrapped caramel, and tosses it into his mouth.

An inappropriate time to shout that I knew he was hiding more of those away somewhere.

"It's fine. I'll be fine-... my body will work it out. Eventually." he chews, doing nothing for Vincent's panic.

"By the goddess and death hold, your body might not last!!!"

"Ssshhhhhh Rosalia's still here you know? Oh Rosa, do you want a caramel? Sorry, I wasn't lying to you before when I said I didn't have anymore. I just didn't have any more hidden at Gables. "

"Stop trying to distract me, Rosalia's good! She's not....Shit, how much did you take?! When?!"

"Just now. When I went out and you were getting collected. Sorry, you had to do that again. I had to take a lot if I wanted it to reach my heart and blood fast enough because I knew Damia wouldn't be able to resist drinking from me today- sorry Vincent. I ate all your bulbs. Don't be mad?"

Rather than anger, the necromancer pales even further, as if that was somehow possible. I don't need to be in the loop to know this isn't good. The information overload hitting me all at once.

"You did what?!"

The more Vincent panics, the more he stutters. He's really so young still.

"What's going on here? How bad is this?" I break in, finally not able to stand the drama going on around me.

I feel like going mad, the rage and complicated emotions in me swirling with no way out. The crying did nothing to ease it, rather it only makes me more frustrated. I feel like hitting something, or someone, a lot.

"Ah Rosa, don't be mad too. Candy? Open your mouth? Ah...she's really mad."

Peace offering denied. The candy bounces to the floor, sad and ignored as I've just been.

In the past few hours I have been tricked poisoned, put through the wringer, poison hungover, witness to the worst case of human experimentation in this land, almost stabbed for blood myself and been forced to cry and vomit myself dry. Then cry some more for no good reason.

After I'm done with those villains I'm coming for you two skeletons. Especially Amar, the primary source of all this suffering and quite possibly the poster boy of child abuse. Some candy isn't going to cut it. Far from it.

Vincent himself looks twitchy. As if he would be attacking the brat in his arms if Amar wasn't in such a bad state or hadn't just poisoned himself, again. Horribly from the sounds of it.

"How bad?" I repeat, being generous.

" tastes bad." offers Amar, the phrase almost sounding like a question again.

Everything out of the little liar's mouth is now henceforth denied. It doesn't matter if he's not lying by a technicality. All denied. That's the worst part about him, always avoiding the truth. I turn my glare over to the only other victim in the room. There's no need to say anything to threaten.

Don't you lie to me too Vincent, you really can't afford it with a Ventrella. We can do this the easy way or the hard way.

"It's bad. It's very very very bad and Rosalia I need you to not panic." rebutes Vincent, holding a blackening handkerchief to Amar's still bleeding nose.

"I'm not panicking."

I am perfectly calm as I should be in this very simple not at all horrifying situation. I am calmly thinking what to do with everyone.

How to extract information from the hoody master and crazy Damia. What to do to stretch out their suffering and dig out their roots and contacts. How to make Vincent and Amar finally break and squeal on the things that should not be happening to them, or to any child. How to handle sleeping piggy behind me, how to explain it to Gable. To anyone. What to make for dinner tonight? How much I'm going to have to chop.

Yes I am very calm. Can an angry rampaging person think about all that? I think not.

Everyone but a still sleeping Lukas shivers at nothing. To Amar though the shivering doesn't stop. Vincent panics even further, digging for another strange vial and using it to scribble an inscription of faintly glowing runes on the shaking boy. From his forehead to his limbs, the mark on skin fading as if they were never there but the ones on his bandages take on a layered mess of black.

"Shit shit shit- Rosalia I swear, I'll explain everything but for now please you-" sputters Vincent.

"Can you do me another favor Rosa? Well a few? I'll give you all the sweets I'm hiding if you do? Promise. I really wasn't lying." Amar pleads as well as he can when pinned down in Vincent's lap.

There's too many plots going around. The bloody experiments. The strings of child abuse evidence stacking up. Whatever the hell is going on between these two with some poisonous bulbs with no cure, which are all sitting in Amar's stomach.

Sure, surprise me more. I dare you to.


Amar holds out three fingers, his other hand tiredly wiping away at the nose bleed.

"One...can you give us some time, before you go telling your family everything you heard. If Cap' or Gable hears right now it will turn out all wrong. "

"How's that Amar? How can it get any worse?"

I feel like laughing at just how insane this all is. That's how angry I'm feeling. Oh uncle Geoff where are you, get me to grampa so I can hurry up with chop chop~

It's Vincent that spills, the blockade that always seems to bury him finally unclogging. As feeble as he looks, there's a firmness to his words. Something resembling and actual will to live.

"Because your lord grandfather and the rest of troops will just kill them. The trial will either be another sick joke or your grampa will just kill them. Either way we lose, I lose. We can't lose any more. I'm sorry Rosalia, I'm so sorry for keeping so much hidden but you don't know what's at stake. All the research, all the connections and... I'll lose it all when they destroy this department. They'll upturn everything, destroy it. 10 years of my training, my life's work will be gone just like that. There's no other place for me, it's the only reason I stayed through that. I know it's wrong but this- what Master Darius has created. He's insane, he's horrible yes but this is the only place. " he begs.

I stay silent, taking in everything with an as open mind as possible. My personal rage and hunger for justice is not dampened at all but I understand there are things I don't know. I understand that things are messier than it already appears. Just because I can see where Vincent is coming from, however, does not mean I approve.

I do not approve of anything that goes on here, I won't let it go on. Amar is right. I won't listen.

My silent stare unnerves the teen, I know. I see from how he fidgets in all the little way. Whatever was left of his dark intimidating front in my mind is entirely broken. I've seen him at his worst, his most painfully vulnerable and he knows it. The demeanor screams shame. Guilt, shame, and so much unnecessary pain, from more than just the physical damage.

It's a feeling I know all too well. In any lifetime. It's something we don't like to admit, even to oneself.

"I...this whole plan. I know it sounds crazy. It's so so wrong and crazy, so much. It's too good to be true, too difficult but we can't pull it off if they're just executed like that or worse if we're found and-" he tries to start again, before Amar silences him with another finger.

"Two." he holds out, making a peace sign.

"Two...In front of sir Geoff and the medics, in front of everyone..." he means those scum, from the way he shifts his tired eyes to the door, I know he means the villains that are responsible for all this. "in front of least till you get back home, you have to play dumb. You can't let them know what you do, it's not safe here. You have to get better first, both you and Lukas."

Amar is beginning to breathe heavier, his little chest huffing to compensate. Color has returned to his still too pale face but it's in the flush of fever and not something good and healthy. The minute shivering won't stop, even with whatever magic Vincent is placing on him.

Stupid stupid stupid!

These kids really have something planned out. It's so bad they thought they had to do this all alone. That's what breaks my heart the most. That they couldn't just...go to anyone. The didn't go ask for help or anything. Everything was just between the two of them.

This whole time, how much pain and secrets have they been hiding in them the whole time? That little bleeding boy there has literally been by my side for this whole year. An entire year and nothing. The hurt and frustration boiling in me must be nothing compared to his.

I can't keep up the calm nor the anger. It's just sadness that flows out of me in waves.

"Fine...that I can do. What's number three?"

The nosebleed finally gives pause and Amar struggles up in Vincent's protective grip. They look at each other, nodding and shaking their heads in an almost silent argument. From the way Vincent chews at his lip, from the utter desperation in his face, he's losing. He's losing against a kid over a decade younger than him. In hushed whispers, I hear the hints of 'no' 'tomorrow night' and even 'Yuna'.

I'm scared. I can't deny it. I'm so scared and it's not for myself.

What trouble this all is. As if just being me wasn't hard enough. What terrible heartbreaking trouble are all these boys?

With a little smile that hints of victory, Amar crawls out of Vincent's embrace and over to me. Over to Lukas, still dead to the world.


He drops a bag down from out of nowhere. A bag I'm familiar with yes. It's the same one I gave him once, stuffed with golden coins and my clumsy little soaps. The stupid gift card before he left on that stupid mission with the terrible scum that openly attacked him and cracked his head open.

How many are there? How many abusers are in this place? And why?

The bag spills open with candies instead of gold. A variety of caramels and other wrapped goodies that smell of sugar and spice. That's all. Nothing fancy or hidden underneath the multi-color sweets. Just a child's innocent secret stash.

"Three...if I'm not there when Lukas wakes up. Tell him I'm sorry. I'm really really sorry. Tell him he's better than anyone else, ever. No matter what they say. Tell him not to look for his parents anymore, because I think he has the best ones already. Tell him he's awesome. Tell him I'm glad he bothered me so much into being his friend, it was the best."

Amar smiles so hard it looks like it hurts. Like putting flowers to a grave he places half the spilled candies over and onto Lukas. As if he could stuff the boy with goodies to last a lifetime. When he turns to me, he pours the rest down my lap. It hurts, this rain of sweets hurts.

"Sorry Rosalia. Sorry I can't play anymore. Sorry. It's been really fun for me. Everything's been really interesting and fun. I didn't believe mama about your home at all, but I was wrong. It's been fun. Sorry, I forgot your snacks, sorry if I can't get you more. Sorry for tricking you so much. Sorry for making you cry."

I'm not crying, you're crying. What do you mean if you're not there? What's with all the shitty overdue apologies! Stop apologizing!

"AH, you can stop babying your sister so much? Because you're a big baby too, you're really a crybaby, and you should call your mama more? She likes it, a lot, same with your papa! You're all so funny when you pretend you don't like him most. It's nice, what you have. It's really funny, why a kid with parents like you wants to play with us. Lukas and I don't, so we notice. A pretty mama, a nice papa, a baby sister and even a silly grampa. A big house with lots of friends. It's fun, a lot of things I've never seen or done before. It was all really fun."

Stop. Stop saying it like you're saying goodbye.

"Yummy and fun. Everything tasted too good, food without poison tasted really really good."

He unwraps a caramel candy, dangling it in front of my face. As if that could distract me. Somehow the piece of candy enters my mouth. It's really salty. Sweet and salty.

"Thank you. It was the best."

The drip is slow. Blood falls from him again and this time so does Amar himself.

Vincent scrambles to catch the fainted boy, cries panicked and shaking. It all happens too fast, again. A loud bang erupts as the building shakes with footsteps. The door bursts open again with not only uncle Geoff but my grampa rushing in.

I've never been so relieved to see him. So happy.

Salty tears falling despite how dry and tired I feel inside. It's ridiculous that I barely notice Gable right behind. All I can cry for is for Grampa to hold me and make it all right. Even if it's all his fault for allowing such a thing to happen here, in our home. If there's anyone that can make it right and save anyone then it's this person. I want grampa to fix this, to fix everything I'm dying from. Chop chop or something. When he finally reaches me I sob madly in his too warm too rough embrace.

When I look again, Lukas is safely scooped up in Gable's arms, the older boy looking so pale and small. A mere snowball curled against a stricken Gable.

They're gone.

There's not even a shadow of Vincent when they were just right there.

Amar is gone and all that remains is the spilled candy on the ground. A disappearing bittersweetness still melting on my tongue. It's so damn salty.