The door swung open and Cerin walked in to the penthouse with two guys trailing after her, smiling widely through the sweat beading on their faces. They were actually regular members of the gym and had volunteered to help on the condition of a week long discount at the canteen.
As it was for a reward rather than out of good will Cerin did not hold back and indicated where they should put the large packages with a passive expression her face, almost ignoring their existence.
'Ahh, I ended up buying a lot more than I needed to. At this rate I'll run out of money.'
Over the past few days her expenditures had exceeded that of her yearly budget. First with bribing Serana's mother to stay away from them, then Serana and Ryella's hospital stay and their medication then there was the sewing machines and the fabrics she had bought. There was also her rent and her monthly membership to the gym. Then she had also seen a crib on sale and had purchased that as well as a small bed for Ryella when she moved out of her mother's room. It wasn't anything fancy, just a simple wooden frame but it was still quite pricey.
Although the monthly allowance she got from her uncle and the income from the canteen was enough to support herself, it fell a bit short to take care of two or soon to be three additional people and Cerin couldn't really see where she could cut costs.
She could probably bring some food from the canteen home, but she was worried that they might react negatively towards some of the ingredients such as the Otum or the Afrender. which were mainly muscle building herbs.
As she was lost in her thoughts she didn't notice the small child huddled behind the couch, with just the top of her ponytail poking out of her shelter.
Ryella looked at her and her mother's benefactor who ordered the two strong men around with the air of an empress. The young girl was strongly reminded of the burly men that used to visit her grandmother's house often and threaten her own mother and so was doubly shocked when she saw them listening so carefully to the orders of Cerin. Once they were done Cerin wrote out two tickets and stamped them with her personal seal then gave it to them with a graceful half-smile that suited her 'cool' features,
The little girl looked on anxiously, ready to call the police if anything went wrong.
" show these to me or anyone on duty and they'll give you a 25% discount"
As it was only a gym canteen rather than a large restaurant the prices were already rather low with an average of 7 $ per large bowl, so that 25% brought each ,meal down to about 5.75$. The two men smiled brightly in return and lifted their caps off in gratefulness as they walked out.
Just before they left Ryella suddenly caught their eye. One of them reached into their wallet and brought out a bright red coupon.
" Miss Cerin you had a sister? why don't you bring her to the gym? I've got a new comers pass here if you think she'd be interested."
Ryella tensed and waited to be yelled at. At her old house her mother would always yell at her to hide whenever those scary men came over and would be very angry after wards if she didn't listen.
Cerin looked around, wondering who they were talking about and her eyes landed on the terrified kitten hiding around the corner.
She suddenly put on a bright smile, something the two men had never seen before and walked over to Ryella.
" Ryella, do you want to say hi to my friends?"
She shook her head ferociously and dove even further into the couch, trying to hide her presence.
Cerin laughed awkwardly at the apologetic looks on the boy's faces and began to hurry them out of the door, unwilling to drag this scene out.
She turned back to the little kitten who immediately began to scamper away but Cerin wasn't having it. With a running jump she leaped over the couch and softly tackled the little girl to the ground.
Cerin carefully adjusted her weight as she made contact and landed beside her rather than on top of her.
Ryella struggled in her grasp and tried to escape but found that despite Cerin's slender frame she was not at all weak.
" I'm sorry! I really am! I won't do it again, I swear!"
The child began to yell. she was so absorbed in doing so that she began to cry and squirm even more, nearly injuring Cerin in the process.
To Ryella the last thing she wanted was for Cerin, the mysterious woman who had appeared out of nowhere as their guardian angel to be angry at her so the greatest desire on her mind was to run away until she wasn't angry anymore.
Cerin finally grew tired of it and stood up. Carrying the little girl in her arms she suddenly tossed her in the air scaring her into silence.
While Cerin had been working out and was quite stronger than the average 19 year old it should have been impossible to lift and throw a twelve year old with as much ease as she did but there was the added fact that Ryella was a naturally small girl that had been put under strenuous circumstances that stunted her growth even more such as malnutrition and regular stress.
Seeing how the child who was only seven years younger than her was so light she quickly set her down on the couch and stood in front of her with her hands on her hips.
" I'm not angry Ryella… but what were you doing?"
Having given up on running away she squirmed in her seat under Cerin's gaze and finally said in a small and reluctant voice,
" I just wanted to make sure they didn't try to hurt you."
Internally Cerin wanted to scream at how cute the little girl was but restrained herself and said with a slightly amused lilt in her voice,
" Thank you Ryella but trust me-"
She paused and suddenly released a powerful kick into the air to back up her next point.
" I can defend myself if it comes to it...but you..even if it happened what would have happened if you had interfered?"
The young girl looked downwards, downcast at the scolding tone in Cerin's voice.
" Sorry. I just wanted to try and help you."
No longer resisting the urge Cerin took a seat on the couch beside her and enveloped her in a large hug, enjoying the feeling of Ryella's snub nose nuzzling against her collarbone.
" Right now, the only way you can help me is by getting healthier and doing well in school. Then you can help me out in the future as well."
Ryella nodded then said in a small voice that added to her petite charm.
" I don't wanna wait till I'm older though."
She looked up to Cerin with pleading upturned eyes.
" Can't I help you now?"
Cerin thought it over, on one hand she didn't want to discourage her by saying no but on the other hand there really wasn't anything she could do….except.
Soon because of school and other things she wouldn't be home as often and wouldn't be able to make fresh meals everyday for breakfast lunch and dinner.
But if she could at least show Ryella how to prepare a few simple things and throw things together if she did the prepwork then that would be a load off her mind.
" In that case, do you want to learn how to cook?"
Ryella's previously distressed expression was replaced by a glowingly happy one and her little eyes were almost squished into lines by her cheekbones. She nodded at hypersonic speed and followed Cerin into the kitchen.
Isn't Ryella the cutest? I think I might like her even more than I do Cerin tbh. >.<
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