I Was Born The Unloved Twin - BestLightNovel.com
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Today our lovely mother is dressed very sharply.
Cute hat, cute cloak, cute parts and pieces that make up for a st.u.r.dier outdoor outfit. Definitely not a garden stroll dress. Scandalously, it has splits hidden in it to reveal too much leg to be proper for a n.o.ble lady and my old favorite beast leather riding boots!
They were so comfy and never stained with mud, blood and more! Very good bone-crus.h.i.+ng stomping boots. Huh? So that's where I got it from? I've never seen mother possess, let alone wear them before so I always thought Alfonso just...you know never mind, I don't really want to know.
My my my I guess her closet isn't all that bad when we can actually navigate through it.
Why is she wearing that if not out to .... oh dear this spells trouble.
Father ran away again and hasn't been seen for over 24 hours.
I think mother is done waiting. That lonely window where I often remembered mother longingly waiting by for father's late return somehow shattered.... The maids are still sweeping up the remains of not only gla.s.s but mangled broken iron wrought bars.
Maybe I shouldn't have interfered and tattled at the time I did... It made it worse when he didn't show. How was I supposed to know when he he pulls off one of his horseback escapes?
So mother is not pleased. When mother is not pleased, no one in this household live in peace.
All efforts to either stop or distract her have failed. The stables have been called while my sister and I have been arranged to be thrown away into grampa's hands.He'll take us to the vineyard first while mother....
...Just what is mother going to do?
I don't know how she intends to find my father. Or what she will do to him when, not if, when she catches him. But I think this is another thing that's better not to know, ever.
Even the crazy old man feels safer right now.
"Safe travels, may it be easy on you mother." I curtsy, instinct screaming to be it's not mother's safety I should be wis.h.i.+ng for.
"Mama! Lily wanna go wit mama!" Lilyanne jumps uselessly.
She hops up and down, crying and tugging at mother's skirts, begging to be taken along. Innocent to the horrors that await anything involving the contenders for grossest parents in this universe.
From the dark corner, a depressed grampa is crouched down growing mushrooms because Lilyanne did not return his overwhelming love and affection. What a loser.
"Oh no no no this is your Papa's 'special' time~ Be good now my loves." She kisses us each goodbye, even grampa.
"Maria! Wait! It's dangerous out there! Take this!"
"Papa I'm a grown lady now I don't need
"Buuuut baaaby girl, it's just one enchanted s.h.i.+ny. Pleeeease, to ease your poor old pap's aging heart? Gable would feel better if you were careful too! Look It's so well polished."
"Hmmm...well it is s.h.i.+ny....and darling really hasn't been playing fair as of late... or ever. Hmmpf. "
Mother actually stops to considers it. Grampa has pulled out a G.o.d d.a.m.n warm hammer out of the mushroom corner, holding the giant handle as if it were toy, and she's actually considering it?!!
"You can never be too safe Maria! And just look how pretty it is. "
"Does it come in another color papa? To match my dress?"
It's a HAMMER?! It's never going to match your dress?!
But like a magic clown trick, grampa pulls out an even bigger mallet, with spikes. It comes in a shade of silver so polished and s.h.i.+ned that it could be used as a mirror. That seems to be acceptable to mother's tastes in today's accessories.
She carries it by the strap as if it were a little purse and wetly kisses us all once again.
I stare in horror until she finally leaves. Then I turn to stare at grampa.
"....Why... are you like this?"
"If I actually knew, we wouldn't be here pumpkin."
"Mama!!! Nooooo mama! Don't weave Lily, waaaaaah mama!!!!"
Grampa and I look from the rolling toddler on the floor to the very closed front door, back down to the toddler who rolled her way to the said door and keep b.u.mping into it...repeatedly.
"Hmmm I say it's safe to blame you for this one pumpkin." grampa scrubs at his chin.
"Me!? That's what I should be saying to you! How is any of this my fault?!"
b.u.mp b.u.mp b.u.mp. Why does she keep doing that?
But like the thoughtless lunatic he is, grampa ignores me to pick the both of us up and off. At the very least it stops Lilyanne futile battle with the closed door.
At first, one would think grampa was taking us down to mother's quarters, but a turn at the bright atrium leads us down a forbidden path.
Despite not being home all that often, grampa does of course have his own wing, complete with courtyards and rooms. It's a rather small wing compared to my parents, and branches off the fork of mother's at the greenhouse-like open s.p.a.ce, to grampa's side of the atrium.
But just by belonging to grampa, does it have the deepest darkest most dangerous risks.
Only the most senior servants may go down here, only they can survive the surprises lurking inside.
From appearances, it looks not too different than the rest of the house. If I could call it a house? That's Ventrella standards for you.
Outside the halls and corridors are clean and well maintained. The courtyard gardens are not just well-trimmed but overflowing in well-placed vines and seasonal blooms. Complicated tilework and mosaics cover where an accident may have occurred, making the wing more and more elaborately beautiful with every part and piece that may break. There are more pelt fur rugs and the furnis.h.i.+ng is much tougher, st.u.r.dier but not unelegant in their simplicity or disruptive in the nonexistent book of interior home design for this world.
Everything is fit and ready to welcome the old master of the house.
Inside the rooms however....is an entirely different matter.
That's right, it's a labyrinth of storage! Grand rooms fit for a banquet instead used to host perilous piles of stuff. Stacked into oddly balanced towers, it's a mystery that could be hidden in there. Treasures or traps? Prototype inventions of ma.s.s destruction or mystical items? Souvenirs from travels abroad could mean anything from harmless trinkets to deadly weapons or even gross body parts?
It is not for the weak of heart or body. A person could meet their cruel end or worse for just dusting through grampa's stuff.
There are rumors of men going blind or even insane peering into those hidden drawers.
There are tales of maids vanis.h.i.+ng without a trace, as if whisked away with a cursed artifact.
Worse of all, there are heros who were once our houses' servents. Those who gain all their powers, magic or not, thanks to a chance encounter with something in these dark rooms.
It's the worse sort of gaccha game.
And yet people dream of playing. Oh the be a.s.signed cleaning duty in grampa's quarter! It is both a life-changing lottery as it is a test of will and endurance.
They're mostly all talk, the real dangerous stuff is locked away elsewhere. Some people may be mentally scarred but no one went blind from seeing anything. Maybe they got some dust irritating their eyes? And no maids actually went missing for too long. Though one did refuse to return from wherever that magic artifact took her. I heard she took over a far away island and unlocked some sweet magic powers. Ahem.
Grampa is a messy person, while his standards on what is dangerous or not is pretty messed up. Things happen.
Thankfully today is not one of those days to live out another rumor to be. Grampa takes us straight through the hazardous storage maze and to his personal resting quarters. Up over the peristyle gardens and possibly man-eating plants to something of a lounge. A very overly masculine and simplified version of mother's ornate parlor.
"Play?" Lilyanne sniffs, asking as grampa sets us down.
Immediately she drops to pet her hands and face all over a fuzzy spotted rug that was once a leopard-like beast. Rolling all around it as if it were a comforting blanket without mother here. The more I watch this toddler the more disturbed I become. Hey, uh is this normal? Are all three-year-olds just this weird or did the grampa crazy genes infect Lilyanne this time around?
"As long as you stay right here kiddos, grampapa just going to find something. Hmm not that. Hmmm no not there either. Remember don't touch anything outside this room!"
Strange things are flung and rummaged around. From foreign swords to monkey paws, off grampa goes to last-minute pack whatever it is that he needs. I a.s.sume he means not to touch anything that might have fallen over from his rummaging.
I play with the awful collection I do see, swiping anything valuable and missable into my s.p.a.ce bag.
WHat? It's not every day we get safe pa.s.sage through the maze of stuff. It's not like grampa would miss anything?! Just look at all this gold laying around like it's nothing spare change, which to grampa I'm sure it is.
"Rosa dis too! Lily want dis one too." my sister tugs at my arm, distracting me from my petty change gathering. She points to a sizeable half-dolphin shapes creature fountain made of a swirling bluestone, spitting out water from the blowhole.
"Lily, we can't take everything. That and it's too big."
"Rossssaaa, I want it."
When she pouts and turns those watery cow eyes at me, it almost physically hurts. She's so cute that it turns working brains stupid. If I was a harem boy I might have snapped and done everything in my power to break the dolphin from its watery pedestal and present it to her all wrapped up in a bow.
But now, I have a much sadder role. Her sister and lifelong babysitter.
"Ask grampa or something. Where would we even put it?"
"No Lily, we can't have a water fountain in our bed. That will be very wet and uncomfortable."
"Try to fall asleep in the fountain Lilyanne. Go ahead. Climb in and tell me that belongs in our bedroom."
"Okay! And den you have to get it for me, pwomise?"
"Surrrrre Lilyanne! In fact, bring the dolphin right over to me and I'll magically fit it into my tiny purse. Just break it right off and carry it over. "
And so goes the little heroine, who can't even climb over the fountain's marble smooth edge to the water let along make her way into the center.
Sometimes sense and explaining just does not work, especially if the subject is Lilyanne. It's much easier to let her face reality the hard way. That worked on the stubborn teenaged her, why not the toddler?
Huh, I wonder if I should be concerned how she's no different in that aspect?
As I go back to picking up loose gold, coins and even seash.e.l.ls, as they're a foreign currency, the original's memories play for me the case examples. Of the not so bright moments of Lilyanne Ventrella, the fairest flower of the land, and the abuses she suffered over the years at the hand and mouth of her evil twin sister.
There was that time I told her my horses were actually cursed people, and very enjoyable company compared to her. So she went crying and tried telling all the stable animals to 'reveal' themselves. Much to the poor stablehands confusion. When I told her they needed a kiss to undo the spell, she nearly got her face bitten off.
Or that time I told her pretty baby girls were born from eating the most beautiful flowers. That our mother ate a rose and lily for each of us. She went out and got sick from eating our garden. The gardeners were aghast to find their prep.u.b.escent young lady crying bitterly as she stubbornly chewed in the flowerbeds.
Some of it was for the greater good, her own good.
You don't tell a teenaged girl to stay away from boys pursuing her, you scare the h.e.l.l out of all of them. SO what if I may have gone a little overboard on occasion with the secret guards. If they were stupid enough to fall for my petty little tricks, all the more reasons.
Shame it didn't apply to that stupid fiancee of mine. But it was also my fault. My oversight and my arrogance that let it get that bad. I never thought that boring rock was ever a legitimate canedite for her harem. I didn't think either of them capable. The beautiful airheaded girl captivated anything the moment she blinks at them. It was easier to ask who wasn't in love with her at that time.
I never thought it was serious. I never thought Lilyanne would be swayed by him. Tru love? SOmething I would know nothing of?
True, but they're idiots. All idiots. They deserved to drown in-
"Waaaah Rosa!!! He-urp-lp!"
Somehow Lilyanne has gotten over the first hurdle while I was looking distracted! She successfully climbed over the bench and made her way into the fountain. The problem is that she's tiny and actually can't swim.
Oh come on!
"Lilyanne! Stand up, come on stand right up and hang on, it's not actually that deep. Big sister is coming."
"Keep your mouth clothed you dummy! Head above water."
Ah really, you can't just keep your eyes off her. Not in any lifetime. She keeps getting into all sorts of trouble on her own. I climb on over to pull the not exactly drowning girl out.
She's just stronger than she looks. Really now, if she didn't squirm and cry so much I feel like I really could have pulled her out with minimum trouble. My strength is adequate enough but it really is slippery up here.
Thus when grampa comes back in really not that long amount of time, it's two soaking wet toddlers under the flowing fountain. One very tired and unpleased one, while the other cries her head off in pain and panic as I choke maneuver all the water out of her lungs.
"Why Rosalia! I'm so proud of you two, so full of youthful vigor! But I don't young Lilyanne is ready for an underwater battle to the death? Perhaps next year, when your both bigger and st.u.r.dier!"
"Hurry up and get us out of here your old crazy! Lily can't swim and it's too slippery to climb back out!"
"What do you mean she can't swim?! When your mama was your age she could breathe under-"
"We're not mother!!! Just what?!"
In adult sizes, the fountain really isn't that large. So it comes to no surprise when grampa reaches us in one step and scoops us out with nothing but his own hands.
Next time I'll dare Lilyanne to be less stupid, as not to drag myself into any messes. Or at least less of them.
From across the room, I hear a familiar ringing sound.
The fake phone at Gables!
It rings almost two times before grampa crosses the room to pick it up, with both a still choking Lilyanne and I in his arms. A small decorative bell seems to blink itself to life.
"Oooooh h.e.l.lo!" Lilyanne waves into the screen, nose all snotty.
"Cap! Ahh! The stinky baby!"
"Lily no stinky, Lily is Lily."
Despite it being just a screen, Lilyanne curiously swipes at the thing. The child on the other side holds his nose and backs away. But unless the screen is actually a porthole, he's perfectly safe.
"Cap cap cap did you find it?! Hi Rosa! Look at this tooth! It's really loose and makes chewing any bacon kinda funny. But I can eat lots of scrambled eggs or potatoes and mola.s.ses but Gable says if I eat too much mola.s.ses potatoes it will get stuck to my tooth and then I'll swallow it! And then I can't let Cap keep it and stuff because it will be in my tummy or p.o.o.p. But we can-"
"Potato? p.o.o.p?" Lilyanne understood exactly two things from that.
"h.e.l.lo, Lukas. Grampa....make him stop." I pat at the old man.
"Lukas my boy, does Gable know you're on the scry?"
"I don't know! Gable went out this morning after you did so I don't think so but Gable knows a lot of things. He said not to tell you because you're a dummy but he'll maybe be back in 5 years."
"But that's a very long time, I'll be like 11! I think he's lying because he also said we're having little white sauce meatb.a.l.l.s tonight because my tooth is thiiiiis close to falling out and-"
"Grampa this is not stopping him." I complain, uncomfortable in my dripping wet clothes.
When I turn up to the old man, he seems to be going through the 7 layers of grief and relief. Tears already welling up in his big brown eyes. Oh great, way to make me feel even grosser!
"Lukas. I love you so much. Please don't ever go anywhere." grampa whimpers disgustingly.
"I can do that! But I Iove you even more cap!" Lukas exclaims, arms raised wide behind the screen.
How precious, grampa has brainwashed this innocent simple-minded child. How evil. But in return Lukas attacks with suns.h.i.+ne loads of cute cheerfulness. Impossibly wide smiles and arms raised as if for a hug. Such a sight would take down my cute-wors.h.i.+ping mother in a minute.
The cuteness is so intense it prompts an even grosser sound from somewhere inside grampa's chest. I think he's dying. Good.
"Lily too! Grampapa love Lily too!" my sister tugs impatiently, waving her little arms between grampa and the screen.
"Of course my wittle pumpkin-pants." grampa nuzzles at her face.
However, from the matching grin, waves and stupid eyes stuck on the screen, I think Lukas might actually be winning the cuteness battle today. Something Lukas retaliates against my sister with gestures and a...
"But I loooooooove him thiiiiiiiiiis much and that's much bigger than you!"
"Yes! I'm cooler, bigger, and smarter and-"
"Nooooooooooo. No no no!"
We're going to be here all day aren't we?
Hey old man, stop being so happy about little mochis fighting over you and get on with it already. You're not a girl in a love triangle?
"Grampa let me down. Grampa, I wanna pee." I excuse myself in my impatience. Otherwise, I'll be stuck here all day, caught in the whims of all these crazies.
The squirming and threat of a toddler in need of the little girl's room grant me the freedom I so desperately seek. Grampa's booming voice echoing behind me.
"Right to the bathroom and back Rosa. Don't go touching or exploring or just touching anything!"
Jeez, who does he take me for? It's about time to give that s.h.i.+tty old man a reminder of just how not an infant I really am. My head hurts too much from all the things I remember and don't remember.
Odd I know, but so is life. Afterall I never saw myself wrestle rescue Lilyanne out of our own fountain? Should swimming lessons me next on the itinerary? Or should we focus it all on her common sense? Hmmm that may be too much work.
Grampa's rooms may not be as dangerous as the rumors make them out to be but that's not to say there's no risk at all. With one wrong touch, I could be instantly buried in stuff, toppled over their Tetris piles.
Just treat it the same as going through anyone's attic. At once both a historic treasure hunt and a nest for spiders and disaster.
I navigate past the towers of better off unknown items to the baths. There I can rinse and wipe myself off from fountain water.
To think I need a bath this early in the day already?
I should just enjoy the peace while I can. This whole life is a headache. I guess I can say it's always lively around here?
I was expecting a much more relaxing time as a toddler though, not going to lie. This is the part of life where nothing happens. Or at least that's the way it's supposed to be. Instead, I have a very concerning heroine, and a possibly even more concerning rest of my family. No, cross off that 'possibly' and make it a definitely. There's a lot the original child that was Rosalia missed in the people who make up her household. They're the same characters, yet they're not? I still don't know how to feel about that.
Then there are all the minions and mob characters that have gotten involved.
It might have actually been easier when all I had to worry about were other n.o.bles plotting.
Well....hopefully I won't get to that point. I either cut it off early on or I'll be long gone by then. Ahhh but what use is all the money in the world when everything in this world just sucks. What am I going to do without not just this family's money, but the magic cheat items they have me spoiled on?
Say I make off with a great fortune? What the h.e.l.l am I going to buy when the markets are so rural and empty?
A one way ticket back to my old world? Ha!
....I should stop thinking. It sometimes goes down a weird route.
I don't know how to feel about it either. It was sad, but not so bad. I was at the stage in my life where most people would consider 'established'. I had savings in the bank, a nice credit score, too much overtime but an established job that was sometimes fun. When I wasn't dying over it that is.
I was always too busy to feel lonely. Even though I've always been bad at making friends, I met all sorts of people in strange places. Some of them refusing to go away. What bad taste they all had, sticking around someone like me.
I could have seen them more.
I could have taken more time with them.
No one in particular! Stupid! I meant all of them!
...Ah...I actually had a lot of them, huh? When did I come to actually care about people other than myself? Beyond my debts? That was stupid of me. I f.u.c.ked up too in too many places, then I left all of them.
Good riddance. I wasn't a good sort of influence on anyone. I won't hold anyone back this way.
That's good. That boy could finally leave behind that running joke. Ah did he finally bring home girlfriend for his family? Haha, the elder brothers had no hope so only JJ is left to...ahahah I won't think about it though. I won't. It's too weird, too strange. I won't think about the bitter bile swirling inside me if I think about it.
I won't think about how sick it makes me. I'm disgusting enough.
For him though, I could have talked to my parents more?
Sucked it up. Tried to fix the things we never spoke about. Make it easier for Heng-Fei, because it was never easy enough for us throughout the years. Never. Even though it was painful in more than just awkwardness.
That life was really painful. Good riddance.
There were years worth of things caught in my throat. Like I swallowed a bone and couldn't force it down or back up. Indecisive. Uncontrollable. Things I couldn't say even when it's too late.
This otherworldly little girl and I are the same in that aspect.
We watch and wait, choking on something that feels like it will kill us from the inside. We watch as bad things happen all around us, and even if we run it doesn't stop. So we suffer in silence, we drown in it.
I dunk my head under the warmed up basin of water. Scrubbing myself soapy clean, as if I could wash away these thoughts.
It's just so frustrating sometimes. How these useless thoughts come out of nowhere. They have no right affecting me the way they do. They have no right dragging me down.
I have too much to do to establish myself again. No time for moping!
No one is going to help me pick up my messes. In the middle of the night or when I'm nastily hungover the next day. No one bringing me banana or coffee milk or anything. Nor should they have to! It doesn't exist in this world for one, and two no one is that foolish.
Why can't I stop thinking about some idiot?
Alright, I have decided to go take out these very negative and unproductive feelings on another bigger idiot. Say a grampa sized one! Genius. Great plan little ol me.
The world has so many unknowns. I'll find my own bananas and coffee, and if it doesn't' exist I'll use up all the resources grampa and father have to offer. They owe Rosalia that much! I'll make my own sugary empire and get h.e.l.la rich off it!
Yes so many plans. So much to do. Can't just stew over them.
Speaking of which baths are really inconvenient here.
For my current size, I use the kiddy basin. But it's still a slip and slide around grampa's spa like bathroom as I dry off and get redressed. Everything is just so large. I know full well that this is a luxury I won't find much anywhere else.
While my bottomless purse is truly a life saver in this world, in any world, I do wish I had magic. Imagine how easy life would be if I could snap my fingers and have a 'clean' spell done. Or anything?
We may have magic in this world but it's far from making up the lack I feel from modern conveniences.
There are times where I observe the 'luxurious' enjoyed by the wealthiest here and sigh at how lacking everything is. The technology gap is just too wide. One would think magic would have some more cheats here but no, it just makes things weirder if just absolutely unfair for the rest of the world.
That's a lot of work though, especially to provide for more than one magic run household. Grid water systems are no joke. That also possibly means sewer systems and ahhhh we're going too far out of my common knowledge. Knowledge that is not always practical in this fantasy backward land.
But it certainly gives my brains a lot of much more productive topics. Much better than mulling over the past, things that can never change and will never change. Much better than thinking about -
Ahhh there we go again, lalala I spent too much time in here. Time to get some fresh air and whatever nonsense grampa has in store for us! Let's focus all we got on surviving the crazy old man and this trip to the vineyards. I will absolutely need it!
I make my merry way back, navigating through all the curious traps and treasures. Looking is free but touching is not. Curious though.
But grampa's room is not the same as my father's office or underground studio. So I won't. I absolutely will not touch and open any pandora's box.
Almost, I really almost make it.
It's not like I touched anything. In fact, I made it through most of the rooms just fine. I even got to the inner garden, the d.a.m.n dolphin fountain in sight. I just need to cross this one courtyard and I'm home free.
But an absurdly pretty b.u.t.terfly flutters by, drawn in by the scent of spring blossoms. I, in a similarly mindless fas.h.i.+on, am drawn to its unique color gradient and delicate beauty.
I am also very sure it's not the fanged variety.
The almost unnatural sparkle of royal purple-pink contrasts against rims of black on the wings. Out under the open sun between these four inner walls, I felt it was as safe a place as any. Besides, I wasn't touching anything. I was just going to view the beautiful specimen for a little while longer. Much nicer than what must have been waiting for me back with my own little twin sister.
Do whatever I want. Isn't that what I decided for this life?
The creature flutters past the tropical imported bulbs and the common flowering lilies of the valley. Over the star-like dark peonies and around an ornamental pepper. Finally landing itself along a row of slightly lavender like thistles that towered high above me. The highest points were even taller than grampa.
They weren't the prettiest things in the garden, far from it, but the lovely little creature settled under the spiny stems to the joints of the leaves.
There clear nectar seemed to pool like dew drops, a slightly sweet smell reaching even my human senses. The b.u.t.terfly fluttered slightly but seemed at peace. Delightfully enjoying the food like a fairy does in some child's dream.
Until the leaves closed in on it with a sicking crunch.
Carnivorous plant. Got it. Great selection you got here grampa.
This is the part where I should move on.
If anyone asks, I do not get closer to observe the not so slow and honestly quite gruesome digestion process. I do not ooo and ahh over the shadow impression of the struggling crippled b.u.t.terfly in between thin green leaves seemingly melting away. What kind of nerd would do that? Ahaha, man how do those leaves that small hold up against the force? Nice.
What's not so nice is what I spot in between stalks of a carnivorous thistle. An oddly shaped lump.
Ahhhhhhhh dead body!
There's a dead body in and under the garden! It shrunk and it's getting eaten! Ahhhhhhh!!!
Grampa! Clean up after your s.h.i.+t better! No one needs to see the evidence!
Perhaps it's due to my sudden screaming. Perhaps this is actually a horror story, like the kind I've been mercilessly forced to imprint and fear, and I've been cursed to be the leading screaming pretty face.
For whatever terrible reason, the dead badly buried body groans and s.h.i.+fts, as if turning over. It's horrifying undead form reaching out, a disgusting twig arm branching from the dirt and green. Oh my G.o.d the dead body is alive, no no no that's not what dead things are supposed to do?! AAAHHHHH!!!!
Being unfortunately well versed in many forms of horror, from big-screen movies to no sleep-inducing podcasts, even scarily 'fun' parks, all which I can blame on the Parks, I know exactly what not to do if I don't want to die right here and now.
I stand my ground.
Turning my back on it is just asking to be chased down and attacked. I refuse to die a scream queen!
Carefully, I reach into my sense defying bag. Not for my most dangerous or lethal weapon, but the one I'm most comfortable with.
With its long-distance reach, I strike first. Intending to damage the ghoul and incapacitate it before making my escape.
Around the 16th violent smack without any repercussions back, I suspect the ghoul isn't as bad as I thought. Especially when it starts going "ow, ow, ow?" in a very recognizable little voice, soft as it is.
"Oh no. What are you doing buried in grampa's garden- oh nevermind. Ahh s.h.i.+t, er are you alright?!"
Obviously I take that as a no, hopping through the stalks to where apparently someone tried burying Amar. It's impossible but he looks as if he's been here for days with the way greenery has grown all over him, from twisting vines to tiny mossy clover petals. When he rubs a hand over his face and closed teary eyes, lumps of dirt crumble and fall away but the green and flowering clovers remain. Especially on the top of his sleep messy head.
It's a kodoma? I've hit a kiddy korok spirit?! Oh no I've committed a grave sin in harming the cute!
Amar half yawns and half groans in pain as I try clearing off the plants. After all we're right next to a carnivorous flesh eating row of them! But the vines are strangely tough and stubborn, having wrapped their way around his neck and limbs.
"Why are you always in weird trouble all the time?!" I wipe away at what I could, revealing more human children underneath all this dirt and plants.
"....so loud...too bright."
"It's not sleepy time. Come on and help me get you out of this, ack! This is dangerous?!"
My feet sink into the oddly soft dirt, the feeling comparable to a gelatinous quicksand. If I don't hop around to change spots often I might as well get buried myself. What the h.e.l.l?
The green covered child, who I thought was a corpse, blinks even greener eye slowly. Squinting at the sudden daylight, he tilts his head in questioning.
"Rosalia? Where is this?"
"I should be asking you that! Why are you buried here!? Where did you go last time?! Why are these things so hard to get off?!"
"Oh okay. ...They don't feel all that bad?"
"Ah. It's too late for your brain. You're going to die. You're going to get eaten by a stupid plant if you don't move and, just, grampa! Grrrraaaaampa! Get over here and do some saving!?!"
"...It doesn't hurt?"
"That's what all people say when they're dying. Now get up and start cutting, you're stronger than i am! Grampa! Hurry up already- Oh just...here!"
I pull out blade and work at the vines. The skin tough and gnarled. The action however causes Amar to yelp and back away in pain, much more so than when I was whacking down with blunt force.
"Okay. That one hurt?"
"Oh no, it's fused with your senses. Oh no."
"Rosa? Rosalia it really doesn't hurt like this, I think it's a good plant? Rosa, you should put down that knife. Rosa?"
What a horrifying houseplant the crazy old man has planted in our good home. It has infested itself into Amar, a mere child. Unable to think or fend for himself. Somehow it has brainwashed him into defending it. The parasitic weeds must be rid off at once if I wish to save my minion trainee.
A minion who seems to be trying to be burying himself further away from me. Trapped with no other way to go.
"It's for your own good, Amar." I promise, steadying the awkwardly too large weapon in my hands.
There's no time for hesitation, even if the ground is sinking slippery and I have mud and vine guts splattered all over me. It really is for his own good that we get this d.a.m.ned thing off, especially at the neck.
Now stop squirming and stop making this even more difficult for me to aim!
Unfortunately, the knife drops uselessly as I'm lifted into the air.
"Now now pumpkin, your stance still isn't good enough. Nor is it a worthy battle! He's not back to full health yet."
"Grampa?! What took you so long?"
"Ah of all the places you go poking your nose and knife in, I should have known. As expected from my grandchild! Ahahaha!"
"Grampa put me down! Put me down and get Amar the h.e.l.l out of there before he turns into bug juice!"
I yell in the memory of an innocent b.u.t.terfly that started it all. One that went crunch and is probably digested down to nothing recognizable at this point.
But grampa simply laughs at me. He either clearly does not understand or this sinking mud hole does not contain the same species of carnivorous plant. They're just neighbors and not anywhere near as bad, judging from how Amar still dazedly blinks up.
"That would be bad." the old man agrees finally, nodding to me. Then down to the brain dead brat. Clovers and fresh baby vines blooming evergreen, threatening to bury him whole once again.
"You wouldn't want to die that way? Not like that. There's a lot more to see you know."
When I stop struggling long enough, I see that young green eyes are actually rather red. Red and puffy. Like a bad case of allergies. Like the aftermath of ugly wet tears I've never seen.
"There's only one way to find out kiddo." Grampa pats his head, clovers and all, and makes to stand.
"Wait wait wait, we can't just leave like that. Are you insane?" I wave wildly, pointing to the kiddy garden plant. But all grampa does it make a show of turning and walking away.
"Can't help those that aren't ready Rosa girl."
"That's not how it works?! That's literally not how it works. You need help when you need it, not when you're ready for it!"
"Even those that can't help themselves?"
I feel that too close to my host's memories. I feel that in the scores of helpless weeds, worms, sucking out the life of our lands. Blaming, begging, pointing their filthy fingers at me in condemnation while lifting up another.
I feel it in how it drains me. Scares me silly like a knife to the throat, my blood burning anxiously inside.
"That's different! It's not even comparable. Crying for miracles ruins everything and everyone. They'll never come and you'll die like that. You'll die or worse."
It's not all inside me. It's spilling out, but from where?
My tireless mouth? My painfully numb legs as I run? The cut bleeding out from across my throat?
Who is even talking here?
The look he gives me is darker than sinking dirt. It echoes of lucid nightmares that have no right bothering me. It feels as if it would bury me alive just as easily.
After all that even, under the light of day, it feels....dull. No where near the threat that pulsed under my skin. Nowhere do I feel the fear I should for who this man really is. It just feels.... sad. Achingly sad.
Clovers and more bloom on where dirt streaks against this man. Climbing from fingertip up, green like overgrowth in the old cracks on a broken statue. The scars already there, like trodden land, following a forged path. They bloom as they crawl and I wonder if they would form a crown when they reach up top. Past broad shoulders and a strong cut jaw underneath that dark shade of that 5 o'clock shadow.
But they don't. With a flex tenseness of his arm, the vines electrify, turning golden and crisp. I fear the weight if there really was a foliage thick crown of gold resting on his head.
"Careful there Rosalia."
When he lifts his scarred burly hand, the gold leaf flutters and falls away. Ashes to the wind. When he brushes it through my awful curls for hair, gold dust swarms my vision. A blowing rain of it, brighter and heavier than a pile of autumn leaves. My head feels at once both drunk and heavily hungover.
"Careful not to let it eat you alive love."
I think that's what the sudden headache says, grainy in the blowing wind. It sounds like grampa's voice. But a lot of things do. I don't ever know what to trust in this world, not even myself.
How do I let something eat me up, destroy me eve, if I don't even exist?
I feel myself drop limp against grampa's chest the same moment I hear an outside voice.
There's a hiss, the low groan of a struggle. Tiredly opening my eyes, I look down to see grampa reapproaching the source of the m.u.f.fled pain. My head pounding with just the simple act of processing what I see.
Vines oozing sap like blood. A little boy with grit teeth and bitten lips pulling himself out with every cut. Some parts looking too much like human veins when it should just be roots. Some of the sap actually bleeds where b.l.o.o.d.y green meets the surface of skin.
I knew it wasn't a good plant. Dumba.s.s.
I feel my head roll, eyes forced shut, at the sudden movement, grampa leaning back down. I can't keep my eyes open, nor my consciousness going. It's as bad as any heavy hangover I've faced as an adult. Multiplied in the sensitivity I feel as a small child.
"It feels like cutting away a part of yourself and it is. Sometimes that's what you must do in order to move on. After you're ready. Maybe you'll never be ready and that's where you'll stay. But it never gets easier, not at the core. It's in too deep. I'm sorry. "
Grampa, stop talking. My head hurts too much for this.
Stop that painful noise, wherever it's coming from. Why is there such crying?
Make it stop.
Why won't it stop? Why won't grampa make it stop?! Why does it hurt? It's just an awful ringing sound and yet it hits as if bruises bloomed all inside of me.
This stupid plant.
I fade in and out, my head heavy and stuffed full of cotton as the stupid old man goes on his merry way. The last thing I truly register is how the air changed.
From something that smelled like too much cut gra.s.s mixed with home, to cool oak, deep and dark. The floor solid, echoing with each heavy step he takes. Pa.s.sing by in a blur are barrels upon barrels of wood, larger than the balloon floats another world away.
There's a limp child sleeping next to me. Definitely not my sibling, the lucky child. No, this little boy is too tiredly tear-stained and uncomfortably thin to be anyone else in this situation. I would think all of this horribly messed up, but my head hurts too much to think about anything.
I do however curse myself for not properly following all the warnings, even grampas. Be good. Go straight through and don't ever touch anything. Something incredibly bad might happen, who knows?
All those crazy rumors exist for a reason.