Chapter 60: A deal
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After a hearty dining and some miscellaneous discussions, Rosalia retired to her room early to rest. Though she knew it would come to her meeting the lord in charge of this region, she didn't expect this person in particular. The one who would help her return home, if she could sufficiently persuade them - Alicia. Her impression of Alicia was that she was a caretaker, educator or someone very close to her. But what bothered her was the name. The names Alicia and Alice were far too similar to be a coincidence. Were they sisters? If so that could mean she is a human, a small favor on the scale. Remembering Goldia's introduction, she knew her mother was named Alice. Following the obvious line of thinking she thought she would meet Alice as she seemed to be the ruling lord based on how their daughter was basically treated like a royalty around the village. What she thought to be someone inconsequential suddenly turned out to be quite the opposite. She didn't know anything about the other party. What they wanted or what their motives were. She simply didn't have enough information. Regardless she only had to accomplish one goal, to prove herself as someone with a lot of worth and they could simply reap the rewards for bringing her back. Easier said than done, considering she didn't know a thing about what they may want. Finding the right answer was going to be tough. She had some time to think things through. At most she had half a day.

She laid down on the bed staring at the low ceiling. As the fatigue drained and comfort set in, the lull of sleep gradually grew on her. With a full stomach for the first time in a long time, combined with how it was warded off the first time by Goldia knocking on the door, the onset of slumber would not be endured this time around. When the pale glow of the moon shining through the lone window gently caressed her shut eyelids, she stirred within her sleep. Erelong they began to part letting the lunar shine through, further rousing her. As she stretched her body and collected her thoughts scattered by the rest, realization struck her. She had only meant to let rest her body a smidgen before poring over her options further. She hoped to learn more about Alicia from Ashlan, Goldia and the villagers if she could. However now, seeing as how deep into the night she was, it was apparent that she had missed supper and the dead silence meant that the whole village was asleep.

Since she had just woken up, returning to sleep was difficult so she thought of ways to secure Alicia’s assistance.

‘I need more than just riches… Fame…? Useless. Titles… perhaps…’

Evaluating the resources that would become available to her after her return Rosalia was quickly assessed the worth of what she could offer to entice the other side. Although there were a choice of options, none of them stood out in particular, each of them had their downsides. She could see how everything she thought of falling apart because of small but important details she didn’t know exactly. In a moment of insight an idea came to her…
‘Should I lie…?’ Bluffs, false promises, schemes and tricks were inseparable from the life of an aristocrat. There was no reason for this not to work but… her guts told her a terrible premonition. Although there are risks involved once she was back in her father the lord’s domain, she would be in a better position to negotiate allowing her to devalue her pledges. Surely they wouldn’t like this… however she would have been safe within her own realm… right?

    After careful consideration she decided against the notion instead opting for a different approach, one that she didn’t like any better as although it was the safest pick, it had the lowest chance of success. The worst comes… she would have to make her own way through the treacherous exile’s forest. The decision was the complete opposite of her previous one, complete honesty and sincerity with added favors. Her noble training screamed against trading her family’s favor for what is basically a lowly escort’s job. It was a terrible deal on her end but…
‘That’s all I’m worth right now huh…’
She settled on trying to learn more about the other during the meeting and hoping that they have something they might want from her…

Sitting behind the desk wistfully staring out the window in front of her, she peeked at the distant moon. She remembered her time imprisoned as the moon’s glow was her only companion in the night. Although she had escaped from her cell… she was still trapped.
‘Is there truly no other solution than to simply hope for the goodwill of a stranger?'

A long and restless night of pacing was ahead of her…

 


 

    Come noon, before Rosalia could gather any substantial knowledge about Alicia from the villagers, word of her arrival had started to pass around person to person. A visit from a person of status was always consequential so the reaction wasn’t all that too surprising, it would be the same if she or her father made a visit around the fief. However she was perplexed to find out that Alicia apparently took extra care to make her visits furtive to the village residents, spare few of close acquaintances, and she was already within the premises. But when she thought about it, it seemed quite like her Rosalia thought. The leads she got from the villagers and even Sir Ashlan himself were vague and contradictory with no one knowing for sure.

    As she was at a loss unsure what to do a familiar goat came to her on its own. It appeared as if it wanted to lead her somewhere, still confused and after some time thinking she started following it. The brisk pace of its steps combined with it turning around every now and then. She was led away from crowds and the settlement to find her rushing out into the woods. Right away she found herself near a clearing. A small stream of shimmering water cascading down layers of stone, a long log was cut in half to make a simple bridge across. Nearby canopies filtered enough light in addition to the running water nearby made the area pleasantly cool. Across the small bridge sat a pergola with lattice work roof. Within it seats and a table were prepared, as if inviting her in.

    She had seen numerous well tended forecourts and backyard gardens of various noble estates, from trimmed hedges to exotic flowers. Ergo, she was well literate in terms gardening. In spite of that she was still drawn in by the beauty of the secluded sanctuary. She was used to the sculpted handicrafts of gardeners and had little exposure to natural beauty crafted by mother nature herself. As she drew near the bowers:

  • “Rosalia?”

Small eek of surprise escaped her mouth as someone spoke her name behind her, frantically turning around to face the one who called her out; she was utterly mystified. A maiden with a silky, platinum tress and eyes like the enamelled sapphire of an exemplar lapidary. She almost let slip her tongue and nearly called her Goldia. None would reprimand her either for she was a spitting image of Goldia, or more appropriately it was the other way around.

  • “Oh, sorry, didn’t mean to spook you there. Bad habit of mine. Please have a seat. I hope you don’t mind my… roundabout way of bringing you here.”

Though it was the first time she was seeing her she could guess who it was. Following the suggestion she seated herself on one of the pergola benches.

  • “I know who you are so, allow me. You may call me Alicia, no ti- actually there are few titles I possess officially and unofficially… but they aren’t important. Let’s just say I’m a… parent figure to Goldia, and I must thank you for entertaining her.”

‘She’s related to Goldia then? I could guess… besides looks, sneaking up on someone out of nowhere also seems to run in the family… Evasive about her heritage… Is she cautious of me?’

  • “Verily it is not something worth mentioning.”

  • “Love to treat you to a cuppa but unfortunately I do not have the leaves for it.”

Her vocabulary seemed to be much more loose and relaxed than the pompous speech of an aristocrat, if somewhat inappropriate for someone of her standing, creating a mix of impressions. However the etiquette and knowledge she possessed were not prevalent among the common folk. Rather it just seemed to her that she was simply much more down to earth compared to the others of the cream crop of society.

  • “I’ve heard about your circumstances.-”

This was it, this is what she was waiting for. Before she could open her mouth to speak her piece…

  • “-And I cannot afford to help you.”

Rosalia’s heart sank, her hopes dashed in a moment with mere words alone.

  • “Not today anyway.”

In just seconds Rosalia had died and resuscitated, obviously none of it surfaced on her face. She managed to keep a neutral expression and wanted to give herself a pat for not giving away her emotions to Alicia, but unfortunately for her Cold Reader had different ideas.

  • “You see, my presence is direly needed here right now. Please understand that aiding you with your particular issue is simply not my first concern at the moment.”

Reading between the lines was an essential skill in any level of talks and Rosalia wasn’t no stranger to it. ‘There it is, she will help me… but I don’t possess enough merit to take precedence… Prove myself huh. I knew this was coming…’

  • “How regrettable. If it can be helped, is there anything I can do to expedite my early return? Once I return, I can arrange an ample reward for your endeavor.”

Almost as if expecting her offer Alicia replied immediately without a moment’s contemplation.

  • “Nothing that will advance it nearer than tomorrow no.”

  • “I see…”

Many things were churning around in her head leading to a pause  in the conversation leaving only the sounds of the cascading water in the background remaining. Rosalia let out a long drawn out sigh, she could rest easy now knowing that she at the minimum would still be arriving home. She would still prefer to go back early however.

  • “Seems to me that you miss your home quite a bit. Could you tell me about it?”

The question seemed a little odd, but harmless nonetheless so she entertained the conversation. During the talks she was mindful to only let divulge nothing more than what someone could learn by just walking around. As the talks naturally came to an end Alicia appeared to be satisfied with what she learned.

  • “I believe you stayed at Ash’s place? Tell me, how was your night?”

After a short lull she seemed to be changing the conversation to something else.

  • “I’ve had the most thoroughly excellent rest.”

 Thinking about it now, despite the straightforward appearance the linen, bedding and the blanket fillings were soft and of superb quality never seen before. They were a contributing factor in her oversleeping and losing precious time to obtain information.

  • “How about the dress? Is it to your liking?”

Unsuspectingly she spoke her mind frankly.

  • “The way it stretches and conforms to the figure is quite marvelous. It fits just right, not too loose, not too tight. If I could I would like to give my praises to its creator.”

For the first time, Alicia’s facial expression changed into a pleased smile.

  • “Why, I’m sure it's weaver will be very happy to hear that.”

‘Weaver…?’

  • “I’m sure you’ve noticed that there were more of them in the chest of your room?”

  • “Ah, of course.”

  • “Since you like them so much, you can take them with you.”

  • “Really?!”

She had blundered by raising her voice and showing her excitement.

  • “Yes, really. Think of them as a parting gift. A question though… if they were in good supply do you believe they will find their vendee?”

  • “Absolutely. I think they will be in high demand among the high society.”

  • “That's good to hear. I hope to deal with clothing of all sorts in great numbers for everyone you see. I was wondering if you couldn’t help me with that.”

  • "It would be my pleasure."

  • "Of course I do not plan to exclusively deal in clothing. When the time comes, we will expand our range of specialty products."

  • "Can I assume that these products will  be of similar quality?"

  • "Naturally."

  • "Then you have my utmost support."

Standing up, Alicia prepared to leave.

  • "That was a very fruitful meeting. We shall move out early tomorrow if that is alright with you."

  • "Of course! Thank you very much!"

As Rosalia watched her figure disappear into the forest she thought to herself…

'I've been had. She planned out this outcome from the start. She did not reveal what it was that she really wanted until the very end. This time I got off easy, but going forward I have to be careful… at times it felt as if she could hear my thoughts… shrewd and terrifying… I do not envy whoever has to negotiate with her…"

Hello there you degenerates, it's your favorite author, smooth brain mcfuck shit here. I am uploading this from my phone at 1AM localtime and therefore unable to correct any mistakes until morning. You may have also noticed the missing Google docs link.

I should've gotten about two chapters out by now but I was bottlenecked by my inability to write an exchange that doesn't sound like it was an A.I generated conversation between a sociopath and a stalker serial killer. But things can now finally move forward and I can stick to my preferred method of storytelling, through worldbuilding.

I was going to add a nice image but that will have to wait.

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