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Chapter 102: Grape Debate.

The world is upside down.

Not just the fact that I'm living as an immensely wealthy toddler in some very old world high fantasy, doomed to a forsaken fate as a bedeviled villainess in the 7 layers of political hell. Not that my whole world has been turned topsy turvey surreal since I, a rather normal modern person by many standards, have died and been reborn into this body and position, far from what I've ever known time and space-wise. Forced to play infant all over again when I am clearly a mature adult, scarily beyond my years and above all reasonable expected developmental progress. Those are all accurate too.

However, I have been over that again and again in my head and thus have stopped thinking about it too much. Concluding that it brings me no benefit to dwell past a certain point of knowledgeable consciousness. Rather it's quite detrimental to any of my endeavors for a progressive and peaceful life, especially as a very small and useless child.

No, my world is upside down not for any of the expected reasons in my head.

It is upsidedown because I am quite literally, upside down.

I'm practicing my headstands.

"Okay, let me go."

"But you'll fall? Your balance is still off Rosalia. If you don't move your weight right, you'll fall in ...um...4? 4 seconds? I think?"

"Shut up and drop my legs. Experience is the best way to learn. I've already mastered the wall and you're only helping with the next baby steps."

"Leaning on a wall? That's, really really off on balancing?"

"Drop me! I know I know, I'm getting too dizzy from holding this position. You're wasting time."

"Oh. Ok?"

Without any further warning, Amar lets go of my legs and back. I'm left with no support but my own squishy body's balance, the weight making my head ache as blood continues pooling in my face. I fight off the trembling in my arms.

"1...2...3...4..."

I didn't ask for a count you shitty brat!!!!

"My young lady!" yelps Abigail, huddled under one of the arcades, a safety zone where I ordered her to stay put.

"Ah, good job. You lasted two more seconds than I thought!" claps Amar the moment I go tumbling down. Gee how encouraging.

"Of course I did! It would have been longer if it weren't for you!"

My world is still dizzy as blood is redirected from my head to the appropriate areas of my body. It's still chilly outside in this courtyard, and the garden grounds here aren't exactly warm. After working up a sweat with morning exercises, it's not so bad.

I haven't been allowed out back to the troops lately. Which means no obstacle course or drill sergeant runs from Tamera. It won't do to let myself get soft, or well softer. It will only hurt more when my workouts begin again. The amount of hidden guards has apparently been increased on me. Thus no more sneaking out on the wagon rides. I can only exercise at home.

Why are my parents so oddly overprotective of me now? Things are not going according to the plan at all and the plan has hardly even begun. I'm only 3!

Okay, stupid question. It's because I'm 3 and I've already managed to poison myself...twice. Consecutively the last two times I went to the troops. Yes, I see how my parents aren't quite willing to let me try for lucky number three.

Which I would like to defend myself on. It's not my fault!

Rather isn't it more this kid here?!

"What is my fault now?" asks Amar, poking me from where I lay dizzy.

"Everything."

"Oh. Ok."

"How many guards are there now?"

He looks up, left, right, then left again, like a child learning how to cross the street.

"Not including those four we can see? Um seven? I think it's seven. Did I get it right?!" Amar shouts up the last part to the open skies of the courtyard, cupping his hands to amplify his soft voice.

It echoes in the enclosed closed space, four walls with buffers of columns and garden plants surrounding us. A cloister with tall pillars and open space, making one almost forget the fact that we're not actually outside.

My house has quite a few of these courtyards, along with open and closed arcades. When the days weren't winter cold, my frail twin sister could spend her afternoons taking her tea in one of these enclosed gardens, sketching a piece of art against the shade of the terraces. My mother was even more fond of them, scandalously basking in sunlight, ruining her fair skin when she thought she was alone. They're quite pretty spaces once the green fully returns with flowers back to blooming.

When we're met with absolute silence, not even a chirp of the morning birds that were probably scared off, Amar nods satisfied with the implied answer.

"Right, seven then. Write that down Abbey."

"Right away my young lady!"

Abbey shouts back from where she's been comfortably parked. Under the arcades that surround this courtyard, seated on a carved stone bench attached to the blank warm sandy walls. When grampa gets a little too rowdy, one day in the future, a mosaic will be built there. Painting over the cracks on that wall with patterned stones. Making a pretty picture above where Lily would sit, painting, taking tea and eating sweet grapes.

But that has happened yet, none of that has happened yet. Will happen for a number of years.

There are a bunch of annoying vines, wrapping around the rooftops of the walkways, hopping from column to column. As it gets warmer they'll flush green and full, back to life, some bursting with flowers and fruit. Cut the vines and a cloudy sap will seep out. Gather and boil that to make a mild sugar substitute, as we often did for our daily bread on the kitchens.

The green grapes grew year round, seemingly overcoming the common sense of seasons. Green ones are sour, even when they're sweet. A punch of tart on the tongue. The crazy old man in my memories laughing as he pops them fresh off the vine and into his grandaughter's mouth with his filthy rough bare fingers.

Lilyanne only ate the served purple ones, flush royal on a delicately decorated platter. Full, plump, and sweet, carefully washed in freshwater and imported straight from grampa's vineyards. She didn't eat the unexpectedly wild ones that twisted in and around her very own home.

"Are you hungry? Doesn't your mama feed you enough?!! Ahahaha! Nevermind all that, eat up eat up!" grampa would laugh and tease till his hands were sticky and my still tiny tummy was bursting. When he stopped by that is. The sporadic old man practically a guest in his own house.

After that, grampa got the very strange impression his eldest granddaughter preferred green grapes.

Poor thing. Royal sweet purple grape baskets for dear Lilyanne. Whites and sour greens for Rosalia. The contrast was quite devastating, even if he obviously didn't understand the blatant show of favoritism. Grampa sucks at that kind of thing, always has.

He also had the impression that Rosalia was particularly fond of dry rub beast meat jerky? You know, the kind that old men eat with alochol or take on long trips. Those were often in her basket? Or really weird foreign snacks that no one else in their right mind would touch? Oh, the dry bread rolls from the troops? I mean the last one was absolutely true, those are delicious for dipping, but still. She just ate whatever he gave her ok! Especially in those early days.

Of course mother didn't feed her, why would she? That's the servants' job. One that they often failed at.

These are very strange memories. They feel very real, as if they were personally my own. I suppose they technically are, so as long as I inhabit this body.

At least I won't have to worry about being starved again. Nope! Not happening! Food is life and I rule these kitchens with a toddler hard fist!

I will not have to rely on grampa feeding me green grapes or funny swiped rations in this lifetime, thank you very much. Not like he would. He knows I'm not really Rosalia in this lifetime.

"What are you mad at today?" asks Amar upsidedown, flipping himself over in that headstand I have yet to master.

The kid is a horrible instructor, which is why he can only be a henchman trainee.

"Everything." I groan, trying to ready myself for the next attempt.

"Ok? But you're looking really hard at the side roofs over there?"

How is he walking on his hands like that? Not fair! Hey hey hey get back here.

"I'm not mad! Now help me again."

"Ok.Sad?" he asks, flipping back to help me with my balance.

"No! Where do you get all these weird ideas? Maybe I'm hungry? Exercise always makes you hungry."

"Oh, that makes sense. You get cranky when you're hungry."

"I will kick you."

"Nah. You're too slow."

I fall over again during the next flailing attempt at a steady headstand. Great. Just great. No Abbey, I am not hurt, please don't move and hurt yourself in your panic. I'm coming over there and giving up for the day. Time for a second breakfast.

"What kind of grapes are better," I ask bluntly, the memories apparently still bothering me.

"Par-pardon my lady?" stutter my young maid, already rushing to clean me up with a towel.

"I said, what grapes are better? What color?"

Abbey drops her mouth open, seemingly scared in answering, and looks helpless towards us.

"Oh, did you want to eat grapes?" asks Amar, identifying the still dead-looking grape vines twisted around. He nods his head as if that explains everything. Another one of my cravings. It's far already too late to save my reputation as a glutton.

"I would never my lady!" cries Abbey, surprising the both of us by dropping down on the floor.

I sigh, here we go again.

"Abigail, I command you to get up. We've talked about this, no extra bowing, especially to your knees! The floor gets your clothes dirty. There are b-"

"My- my apologies young miss R-Ro-Rosalia."

"It's fine, sit up and calm down."

Have you ever seen 3 year old calm and comfort a 13 year old. We must make for a very hilarious sight of master and servant.

"It's because grapes are expensive? They're saved for wine and stuff here right? Everyone eats them but no one can say they do?" tilts Amar, looking up for confirmation.

No matter how much you do that, the secret guards aren't going to answer you know?

"Eeeep! No, ne-never, I would ne-neever dare steal from my-my lady! I-I would never dare to steal!"

Ah right, I forgot about that. Abbey came from the capital and from a working-class family, there would be little chance for her to swipe some grapes there nor are they very affordable to a common salary. Here and around the farmlands, they're primarily used to make precious wine and alcohol, with only a small portion of it suitable for sale as a luxury food.

Just like Amar mentioned though, everyone around here eats them secretly, even the farmers.

It's a grape, how hard can it be to pop one in your mouth and just go? As long as they don't go overboard, people tend to look the other way as locals enjoy a sweet portion of treats here and there. Though for some odd reason no one dared to eat the grapes that grew around my house. Not even the maids known for their swiping. Huh, wonder why was that?

Were they really that sour and unpleasant?

"Calm down Abbey. Sorry I asked. You can try some grapes later when they come back into season."

"Eeeep!"

"Calm down already. See those vines up there." I point up, hopefully not to a secret guard hidden who knows where. "Soon they'll bloom. They're just the green kind but if you let them grow without tapping too much of the sap they'll get sweeter. We can eat those until the ones the vineyards send arrive."

"M-my-my lady." sobs Abbey, looking ready to cry. There there now, please don't. Not again.

"Oh! Ok. Thanks Rosa." Amar smiles, brightening up at the thought of sweets.

At least he's good at eating his fruits and veggies, unlike another henchman in training. Who is currently under another round of Gable enforced punishment. Good. Train him well Gable.

"What type are they?"

"Huh?" I can't help but voice out my first reaction.

"You said they were green grapes? Are they the long ones? I didn't think they're the round sweet candy ones? The ones made into raisins or the ones with really thin skin? Or are you talking about the little sour ones you make into sauce and verjus?" he gestures with making an ok sign his fingers, indicating something even smaller than I'm used to seeing.

I pull on his ear and twist.

"How many grapes did you steal to know all that?"

"I don't? There's not a lot of fruit around the troops? Unless you count what's in the death forest? Definitely not any grapes, or green grapes?"

"Hmmmmmm?"

"The Lord commander's grape fields are all the way over there and there? I think?"

An acceptable answer enough to release the boy, that and the height difference is making it annoying to pull down. Grow up faster little body of mine. My arms are very tired from exercising this morning.

"I don't know what kind they are, they get big and small and they just grow all over my house. No one ever eats them."

"Oh, they must be very sour?"

"I think they're fine, not as sour as a cherryberry, but if you eat too much your stomach hurts. The seeds are small enough you don't have to spit them out?"

"Is it something your grampa planted? For wine? The brewery under Gable's and Lukas' house?"

"I never saw it, no one ever harvests them or eats them but me. They just pop up randomly, even in the off-seasons. You can see some of them are already growing if you climb up to where it's sunniest. "

"Oh, okay? Sounds good."

I consider it as we walk along the arcade and through the courtyard, past smaller courtyards and halls, back to the main kitchens. What kind of grapes are those little guys? Does it matter? Nope. There are more important things on my mind.

Like planning a wedding! Or preventing my future tragic death. Or planning a wedding!

Shame that the bride and groom are fighting. Ah, those classic pre-wedding nerves and death threats. Ah yes death threats, an essential element to every couple ready to take the next step.

Barbara has been very depressed lately. The sheer opposite to how a blushing bride to be should be! Her mood only continues to tank as the locals get ready for what they call the local hunt.

After winter, hibernating wildlife and beasts come roaring back to life. Many of them are cranky from their sleep and quite ravenous. They're both weakened from the lack of food and far more aggressive than other seasons. For some species, it's also mating season, which further explains the aggression. The males roam the lands, marking further territories and into human settlements and villages. Later on, when females have their babies, stumbling onto a threatened mother beast and her cub is the equivalent of a death sentence.

So the hunt is necessary to disperse these marked territories and reduce the chances of any dangerous creatures from getting too close. Reducing their numbers a safety concern each year. It used to be a certainly dangerous but necessary evil, taken on by the strongest of a village.

Nowadays after the prime that was my grampa, it's like football season. A sporting event. Especially in Ventrella territory.

The troops enter the forest directly, as deep and far as they can. There they locate and set up camps around any dungeon spots or places that might den or spawn dangerous beasts. To them, it's a hunt in the truest sense. Where they bag the biggest or rarest creatures, counting up the profits and bragging rights. Dragging the things back home whole as a trophy or cutting their treasures up, taking back only the valuable pieces and parts. Some things can be dried and grounded up into potions or magical items, others can be sold to be made into luxury items. It's quite interesting how creative rich people here get showing off the hauls of these hunts and raids. Anything from the giant ribcage bone carriages to gowns made entirely out of tiny delicate fairy-like wings.

I say this because Rosalia has purchased both of those things and more, as have many other wealthy nobles.

Yay for supporting the adventurers I guess.

With troops getting the worst of the monsters in early, spread out across the land for fairness, the common people have a much safer time hunting the weaklings that pass through the gaps. Things that hero wannabees and seasoned hunters would find too tedious to bother. A waste of their strength and skills.

The gaming season attitude has long spread to the average Jon or Joe. Every farmhand and their fathers want a piece of the hunt. Unlike the soldiers under my grampa, who get a portion of the profits deducted, it's every man for themselves. The meat, the fur, anything involved is theirs so long as they catch and kill it entirely. There are no real rules. Just kill it and split up the goods among your hunting party.

Like anything in this world, it is still quite dangerous. Even if it wasn't a magically tampered world where things like 'swamphide eight legged bears' existed, hunting is just a dangerous thing in general! Anyone and everyone is at risk of getting tusked, antlered, or clawed to death if not just eaten. Oh, getting crushed to death is also a common one! Can't forget that. One unlucky sit and roll of a full grown farm hog is enough to kill some careless adult men. Stick some layers of fangs, horns, and a lot more aggression on those things and we might as well evacuate a village.

I may sound a little insensitive even if it's the truth, after all people have lost their lives. Including Barbara's first husband. If he never joined that hunt all those years back, if he was just more careful or a little less unlucky, he would still be here today. Barbara wouldn't have had to been widowed so young or have left her village at all to seek employment in my residence. She most likely would have been a very normal housewife in one of the local villages, raising a small herd of her own babies.

Ah yes the outdated dream of many women. Babies. I don't get it but hey I'm just a bad transmigrated tourist here.

So far though the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Common people pick up their pitchforks and whatever they can get their hands on, ready to pick off the weakened leftovers. A hunting trophy to call their own. If they're lucky, it's something that can be sold or scrapped for good ingredients to craftsmen. If anything, it's some extra meat at the dinner table and fur to make into clothes or bedding.

Many men, no matter their status, find it a prime opportunity to prove themselves. Which is exactly what happened to Barbara's fiance.

Joining the great old hunt to provide a nice offering to an intended lady love. It's a common flaunt. The greater the catch, the greater the sign of love and devotion. A way that a man can prove himself a protector and provider of a household. It can be a courting gift to a prospective couple. Or it can be peace offering to your wife if you're already married. You know, this world's equivalent of wining and dining.

It's a raw steak and a coat all in one?

Not to say women can't hunt too! There are literally no rules. Gender, weapons, anything goes. If a little old lady can go out and beat some monster to death with a crooked broom, well that's her bragging rights. You go broom granny!

"I remember her? From that farming village, we all went to? Isn't she making a lot softer better brooms and selling more of them now?"

"Amar! Shut. I'm thinking about Barbara! And yes, her broom business is doing better. Oh hohoho ho, those tips I gave her really did work out."

"Oh. Sorry. I hope she's still making the monster killing ones too, the stablehands say they like them."

"Well I guess if they sell well during this time of year."

Ahem. I got too distracted in my thoughts again. I'm trying to notice where the pattern is when I speak my thoughts out loud. Mine is especially bad in this little body. I can't compare if the original Rosalia ever had such a habit around this young age, not when she so rarely spoke or interacted with anyone. It's excessive and feels like people are reading my thought. An annoying level even above the usual muttering habits that everyone has.

"I don't think other people having muttering habits is normal? You're the only one I know Rosa. Maybe your mama?"

"I said shut! This is creepy!"

"My-my lady's sp-speaking habits are wonderful! Young Miss?"

Excuse as I find a dark corner to go mope in. Maybe until I get old enough to stop this stupid loose mouth.

"It's fine. You're not as loud as Lukas?"

"Absolutely wonderful my-my lady! You speak so much and so sm-smooth!"

"Your mouth is fine Rosalia. Lots of really funny things come out of it. It's funny."

"A-a-a noble sign of your lineage my young mi-miss!"

"Don't worry, it's a lot better than your mama's. Not as scary. Don't be sad Rosa. Come on? Come out of there and let's go eat. We can go ask for grapes for you? Green ones? Currants?"

I'm very busy moping in here, but it is time for a second breakfast as is the custom on the days I wake early to workout.

"I'm not craving grapes or anything," I mutter a little grumpily. On purpose I say. On purpose!

"Uh huh, ok. If you say so." nods Amar as he and Abbey stop comforting me to straight out drag me from the dark arcade corner where I was going to stay till I grew into a proper villainess who can keep her mouth shut. That or until mushrooms grew there. Whatever came first.

This is truly a bad habit to have. As a villainess it puts me at risk of monologuing all of my potentially evil plans to any protagonists at the last moment, ruining my plots and cutting off all my pathways. The human equivalent to a self destruct button on a ship.

I shall blame grampa.

Mother came from the loins of grampa. If this is her fault due to this body's cursed bad draw of genetics, then it is also grampa's responsibility. Thus, like always, everything lies with grampa somehow. Great, I feel better already.

Somehow though, my nervous maid got the wrong impression.

Poor Abbey, always well-meaning and overworking to the point that it makes me cringe.

"Th-The young noble miss de-demands grapes!" she shouts the moment we enter through an archway to the side of the kitchens. In her forced breaking voice, it sounds like a high pitched choir of strangled mice.

I facepalm as Amar giggles softly, grin peeking behind his own hand.

The nearby kitchen staff on duty turns to the noise, then eyes down on me, the shortest creature here except for any cooking animals.

"No no, I really don't demand it. I was just asking opinions earlier which kind is better." I counter, feeling a bit warm in here.

There's a collective sigh and everyone is free from the duty of wrangling fresh grapes in the middle of what would be the equivalent of this world's February to early March. I mean it's possible, but it would most likely involve grampa's vineyards. The kitchen staff starts getting loud as people discuss an academic conference of food.

"If we're talking grapes, only the deepest duskiest purple ones would do right?"

"Like you ever had any of those! They're the hardest ones to get anywhere near let alone sample."

"I honesly find the ones with a reddish hue to the purple more attractive. Like a blushing maiden."

"Why are you blushing you pervert? I don't even like grapes all that much, mulberries are cheaper and better."

"White ones make the best verjuice. Crush and simmer them."

"But we're talking about the eating varieties. It has to be sweet reds. Darks are too rich for my blood."

"Why eat when you can drink? The best grapes are the ones that have turned into wine."

"Here here!"

"Agreed!"

"I'll drink to that!"

Great. They're nice and distracted. I'm not so small and helpless not to be able to seat myself. The long communal table one of the easiest things to climb up, though I do need a few cushions to reach the table. Climbing the counter is only for cooking and instructing. If I'm just eating I shouldn't draw so much attention and get in people's way. A kitchen is a dangerous place full of sharp things, fire and oil.

A resin glass of dark red orange juice pours right in front of me.

"Huh, Barbara? What are you doing here when there's a wedding to plan?" I ask in surprise.

"Oh. It's nothing young miss. Still, quite a bit away, there is much to speak of between adults. Got to say, sorry there are no grapes to juice today. " The kitchen-maid gives me a modest smile, the twitch of anger appropriately disguised underneath.

Ahhhh I see she's still fighting with her man. Tsk tsk tsk.

"That's okay." I sip at the still very yummy juice.

Mmmm what a luxury. Such a crimson red fruit, the ultimate blood orange! It tastes more like raspberries. Very flavorful and refreshing. Such citrus would be terribly expensive in the world I'm from while it's a common local specialty here. The climate and soil in the surrounding southern areas suited for growing all sorts of citrus.

While I'm drowning myself down in juice, thinking of a way to approach the topic, Barbara smoothly pours two more cups. One slides towards a shakey Abbey, trying to turn down the gesture, the other to a bright-eyed receiving Amar. Kids just love juice.

But what is this?!

From behind her apron pouch, Barbara sneaks out a softball sized thing. Trying to roll it subtly under the communal table towards Amar.

"Thank you!" he smiles, suddenly brighter than the sun. Ow ow ow. Barbara and any nearby kitchen maids squinting in what I assume to be their daily dose of Vitamin C for kiddy cuteness.

What illegal drug deals are going on now? What have you done to my good kitchens?!

I switch over my empty cup for Amar's untouched one. The threat made clear in my glare as his little heart breaks from stolen orange juice.

"Forgive me young miss, tis of the last pomegranates in the storage. They won't last past the end of the month." chuckles Barbara, pouring back up the empty glass. Something Amar grabs immediately before I can steal and chug that down too. How rude.

"Pomegranate? We're stealing fruit from the kitchens now?" I make to swipe.

Not only do I miss him, but like a very failed minion in training, surely one of the world's worse, the brat dares to stick out his tongue at me. Then hops away to the other side of Abigail, with both the juice and the stolen fruit.

I know now that he would betray me for a pomegranate in a heartbeat. For shame.

I am concerned about my future already with henchmen like this. But like my little sister's education, all things must take time and careful planning.

I hear a sniffle and choked sob, looking up to Abbey expecting the worse. It's a false accusation though, for my young maid is actually not responsible for the tears. She sits a little questionably, nibbling on her porridge, but innocent none the less.

Barbara tries to excuse herself, lowering her head low, handkerchief already to her face.

"What's wrong?"

"Pardon me my young mistress, I just-"

"Sit."

I make to hop and stand on the table, reach over to gesture, and order the kitchen maid down. If it's a real order, no one can really disobey me. Maybe Georgie, but he's gotten cheeky over the year. It's awful. Everyone needs a thorough education on how to be good minions to a lady. But that is a matter for another day. There a wedding to save.

She only takes the seat when the surrounding staff silently continue on with their duties, pretending like they know nothing even though they're listening to every word. Great workplace environment. Can't be helped.

"It's just....even little boys have things they're stubborn about....not to mention men." she looks up tearily over at Amar, who may or may not be stuffing his face already.

Tsk tsk tsk.

"It's your fiance, you don't want him to join the hunt and he refused. You don't want him to because it's dangerous but he's ignoring your feelings and said he'll go anyways. Now you're mad and fighting." I guess, though at this point it's pretty obvious.

Anyone with ears can piece together the puzzle.

The woman gives me a rather open and shocked face, before breaking out in a helpless sort of laugh.

"Ahh as expected of our young Miss. Rosalia. Already seeing so much. You're truly just like our grace, your grandfather."

I was about to nod, yes yes I am very wise, but the connection to my grampa makes me near fall over. What?! Who's that you say? Um, what?

Is the Rosalia translation filter working right? Did I knock something in my ears during today's headstand practice?

There's no room to interrupt with a correction, that earlier statement is impossible. For Barbara meekly dabs that handkerchief to her eyes again.

"He's never raised his voice at me before, not even a bit. Or ignored me like this. This...he must be so mad. Oh where did that soft darling go? I don't understand? If the hunt is to bring something for me, then I don't want it. I don't want any of it. I just want him to stay by my side. Is that too much to ask?" she sobs, prompting the easily emotional Abigail to sob back in cries and tearful comforts.

Oh dear.

My first reaction is the urge to take whatever is nearby, say that spoon, find this man, and wack him with it until he makes Barbara stop crying. For how dare he? If your partner, a person you promise and intend to be with, shares such concern why then he ought not to worry her further. Listen to your wife!

But that is just my own toddler brain with little self control speaking. I cannot literally smack a grown man into listening to his wife. What kind of marriage would that make?

"Why would he be mad?" asks Amar, biting into whatever's on the hot plate just slid to him, practically unaffected by the show in front of him. Typical.

Hey wait a damn minute, why does he get french toast??! I mean it's not really french toast, being fried up with fragrant olive oil, nor is it called that. But it's a pretty luxuriously sweet way to use up old stale bread. That's not breakfast, that's dessert! Even more so when I smell traces of spice, spying garnishes of drizzled honey and orange zest. That! I want that one too! Don't anyone dare give me plain porridge when that's available on the menu! What is this blatant favoritism? I'm your little boss!

Oh, I get a fresh plate? With strawberries? Oh yes, that is better, thank you.

"I don't know, I don't understand. Maybe I was never meant to be wed." sniffs Barbara, trying to reign her emotions back in.

"Why would he be mad? I heard he didn't even get mad when the other lady he was married to ran away?" Amar reaches over, stealing a strawberry. Hey!

Stolen fruit aside, that's very blunt. Anvil to the head blunt with how it knocks everyone down. A very inconsiderate mention of the previous spouse. See, I didn't even mention Barbara's dead husband. There are ways around all that. But this is a dumb child that has no idea what he's saying, ever. Even when he lies.

"That other lady took her dowery and his money with her and he wasn't mad. He said that maybe he be madder if she knew where he really kept his savings. Funny right? Oh, you look like you never heard that story? "

"You. Shut. Barbara doesn't want to hear that. No lady wants to hear about that!"

"But he's not mad? Why would he be mad?"

"Because men are stupido, I don't know! He wants to join a stupid hunt but he's not a soldier or a farmer or anything physically buffed for this. He works accounting! He's a nerd! He's going to get killed even worse than Barbara's first husband. I think our Barbara is stronger than him. She would have a way better chance at surviving at anything." I make to gesture at Barabara's lovely stock bone chopping arms. Such wonderful arms,

Then I slap a hand over my mouth too late, slowly looking over to confirm that if Amar's words were an anvil to the head, mine was a dropped piano. Down 18 flights. Barbara is looking even lower. Looking away I see all kitchen staff in a 50 ft radius quickly scrambling to pretend they weren't just gasping in glee.

Gossipers, the lot of you! None of this gets out!

"Oh. That does sound stupid? But why would he be mad?"

I'm going to hit this boy with a bowl of porridge. Abbey move over.

"No no, it's all true. Truly from the mouth of babes. It's all true." signs Barbara, looking quite dead inside, an aura of gloom darkening deeper and deeper.

Um....um, how to fix this? This is not the time to be awkwardly stuffing my face, I know. I'm just stalling. Brain food yes. Delicious brain food.

"It...it all s-sounds so-so sc-c-scary." choked out Abbey, unfortunately, caught in the middle this whole time and probably 2 seconds away from a nervous breakdown.

"Yes. Yes, I am very scared for him. Terrified. I would do anything to stop him. Even if it means calling this all off." sinks Barbara. I'm not sure how she's sinking the mood even lower than it is but she's doing it.

"So you're not mad? You sounded mad?" asks Amar, munching on sweet fried toast.

It was better when he was poisoned silent, much better.

"Of course not, why would I be mad? I'm so so scared it's going to happen all over again! Not him, not Nicola. I've made my peace with the past but I wouldn't be able to take it if it happens to Nicola! Not to someone I love-"

Dramatic gasping echoes from multiple sources around the room. Anywhere I turn, my staff have all given up on pretending like they're not totally immersed in this drama. A few already have their handkerchiefs and tears out. A few are nibbling on nuts like it's popcorn. The windows and doors are open with laundry maids and stablehands crowding. Someone is sobbing into an empty pan, echoing the sound. There are whispers that sound suspiciously like "ooooh this is getting good" or "I knew she never cared for her that man" and even "I wish MY husband got crushed to death by a swamp boar back when I was still young and pretty."

The household staff of the great Ventrellas everyone. An unreachable standard of professionalism and grace.

"Sc-scary." squeaks Abbey, terrible uncomfortable in the dramatic silence as all eyes focus in on the scene. She drooped in her seat as if she could slide to cower underneath the table unnoticed.

"It's scary," I repeat, comprehension dawning. "He's scared. He's scared! I don't know why but he's scared of the same thing."

Barbara gives me an incredulous look to the sound of a live audience gasping and reacting. Someone shushes loudly like this was a movie theatre. After this wedding business is all over I need to think of a way to keep the people here all better entertained. This is just embarrassing.

"If he was scared, if he had any sense then he would have listened when I begged him not to do this." the lead actress to this bad drama sighs.

"No, not scared of the hunt. You're scared! You're scared what happened to you will happen all over again. He's the same, you said you would leave him! He's scared you'll leave him, just like what happened to him!" I deduce, pointing straight to woman.

Okay this well-timed audience gasping is allowed for today, but it really does have to stop after this. This is not a theatre.

Oh....a theatre? Hmmm.

"But...but that's just silly. How could I ever...why anyone in their right mind ever want to leave Nicola?"

The audience gasping has turned to awwing, they've turned to mush at this mushiness.

"The other lady did." chews Amar.

Porridge bowl. Let me at him.

"She's a fool then." bit out Barbara, hands clenched and lips tight. Ah poor thing, and for all this to be so public too. Who knows how long this is going to be talked about?

"Okay, wrap up. You're both stupid fools that can't think clearly for many reasons like love. Great. Barbara, I order you to return to directly go talk to your fiance! Talk. For real. Be honest! Get both sides worked out. You are not to return to work without this worked out! Capiche?" I announce with a fork.

"My young miss....I thank you for your concern, all of you. But-"

Again the audience awws.

"But Nicola must be busy doing important work right now, unlike little old me. He's...he's educated...and ...and he could do a whole lot better than a widowed servant woman..."

"Shut! Hush hush hush, nope none of that." I declare, popping a strawberry into her mouth before anymore sobbing happens.

Ah, lots to talk out, as we can all see. This just proves my point.

"Do you dare disobey a direct order from me , the eldest young miss of the house Ventrella? The very house that not only you but your beloved Nicola are employed in? Who, on my word, can be dismissed with a ruined reputation, stained and blacklisted from any respectable place of employment so long as I please? Do you dare?" I darken, the arrogant voice of the Rosalia Ventrella making it's way out despite this body's young age. The Rosalia that had people whipped, flogged, ruined for life and the next 3 generations with a snap of her fan, a signature of her dipped pen.

"....No....no my young lady. Thank you young miss Rosalia. "

"Then dismissed! You're dismissed to go follow your orders. Orders that I personally made. Go get him!" out of blind impulse I hand her the fork, and push her up and forward.

Out of even blinder impulse, following the flow and momentum the audience rowdily cheers, pushing Barbara out even further. A small sea of staff members, causing a wave and commotion as they escort her like a hungry mob out of the kitchen and down the hallways and up the stairs to where a blissfully ignorant accounting department lies.

Sweet blissful silence returns, and I finally take back my seat to resume my meal gone cold and strawberryless.

"That was funny."

Abbey move, I'm going to kill this brat. He's already brain damaged, what's a little more to shut him up?! Gimmie that porridge bowl. Wait, why settle for a porridge bowl? There's the whole pot left unsupervised. Mad? Mad?! I'll show you mad. How dare you eat all my strawberries when I'm busy cleaning this up?!

No, I am not 'extra grumpy' just because I'm hungry?!!!

Ah.... there goes my tummy rumbling. Life is truly hard for a villainess young miss such as I.


CREATORS' THOUGHTS
CCmei CCmei

*author shows up late with free Mcdonalds again*

Sup.

*slides out the next chapter in a happy meal box*

----------------------

Will this random side couple work it out? Will Rosalia and her mother get to plan the spring wedding of their bored out dreams? Will Lukas ever finish all his extra homework bc he totes grounded for ice slide? Will Abbey ever mentally recover from the daily stress that is working here?

When is the local hunt? Do our characters get to join? Where is the papa Freddy nerdy time bonding moments? Where!? What happened to the main plot?!

Tune in next time on Unloved Twin. Anime creators hit me up yo~ I even have bonus content- aka the hoard of AUs.

So many Aus.....my profile is just filled with rants on the Aus at this point.

------------

Thanks for being patient, supporting and commenting. Thanks for staying this far.

I appreciate it all.

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