Ch 121: Uniforms are just cute.
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'But we mustn't! Oooohhhh. It's just not...God could never forgive me'

'God created us, us, man and woman. You are my North, my South, my East and West, the sun of my morning and the night to my day!"

'But your honor! I'm but a poor fallen noble, turned maid, to the nunnery now and you the duke, brother to the future king! Ahhhh nooooooo~ My vows~Oh! Oh my Lord~'

'Say yes, say you're mine. Marry me. For I am your only god as you are mine, call but my name upon your sweet song of-"

'Ahhh~'

"What. The. Fuck?! What are you watching now?"

At the sudden voice, Jung-Hyuk, or bossman as his staff and crew tended to call him, jumped and screamed out of his seat.

There was no procedure for dropping and rolling upon getting caught slacking at work though. Meng simply raised an eyebrow and nibbled on her boss's tea snacks, turning up the volume on whatever he was watching in his office. Not just that, she turned on the comcast, to put it all over the big screens across parts of the bar.

From outside, there were a few disgruntled groans from the daytime employees mid watching something else as they did prep work for the day.

"Cool, we don't need subtitles for this."

Meng poured a cup of tea for herself, taking no qualms with helping herself.

"Oh booo, it's nothing juicy! Unless you count them bedroom eyes. It's just not one of your Korean romance dramas, but just as bad. So is she a nun or a maid? Both? Why are they dressed like that but speaking in bad British accents?" she commented at the screen.

"Don't trash my movies! The proposal scene, it's ruined, you ruined it! What the hell are you doing in here?!! Give that back!" the older man screeched from the floor.

Meng didn't even bother looking down, lazily munching on another sweet cookie.

"Ah. I'm helping you lose weight. Cookies and madeleines are not on your calorie diet plan, bossman. Jung-Soo says to tell you the new pizza oven is here and needs your signature. Works great. So is the shipment of that fancy imported tequila. "

"That doesn't give you the right? You greedy little goblin thing - my snacks! My family. My life! Give it back." a grown adult man cried, seemingly helpless.

"Shut up. I don't get paid enough for all the work I do, you're practically ripping me off! I'm worth at least 3 internal employees and a personal secretary. Where else are you going to find a productive genius like me! Now get out there and sign shit. I'll tell your mom you snuck out baked goods, don't test me." she ranted as she made the threat.

Bossman didn't stand a chance.

With a crying face, all he could do was hurry out of his own office before that terrifying girl did anything worse. The heavens must have it out for him. Nothing ever went right in his personal life. Who told him to hire this little devil? Sure she wasn't wrong. She was a diligent worker and did far more than her current payroll, despite still being a student, though he's pretty sure she eats her weight in pay. But would it kill her to be a little softer and nicer?! Some respect where respect was due?!

"Stop cussing me out in your head and get out. What kind of boss watches shitty period dramas while everyone else is working? Huh?! Want me to dig for your porn too?!"

"Aigoo, I'm going! " he ran off, practically chased out.

Another lemon sweet madeleine disappeared into Meng's mouth, she was a growing teenager after all. Leaning back in the office chair as if she belonged there, she clicked on the computer screen, opening up emails and doing most of the internal logistic work as the drama played on. Other than the really bad timing she walked in, it didn't seem that bad?

Okay, that's a lie, but in the it was so bad it was actually good kind of way.

The costumes were so historically inaccurate but oh so pretty.  Bossman watched and played a lot of this kind of shit. From KDramas to otome games, maybe she'll bother and ask him one day if he happens to know the title of that one thing.

The game or show she doesn't remember. Bad End.

Yet it still bothers her in the back of her mind. A puzzle she couldn't quite figure out. It wasn't this fake British or French stuff she could recall, maybe something Romeo and Juliet themed? Kinda. It was tragic? At least for that Rosalia or whatever girl. With magic and fantasy stuff.

Anyway, exam season was just over so she's going to have some decent stress relief hate watching this. Noble ladies and gentlemen in their fancy clothes and fancy tragic love games.

 Ha ha ha, how hilarious.

Oh ho ho ho, how scandalous.

The office door originally wasn't closed, there was no noise when a slim and neat young man walked through, exuding an aloof and slightly deadly aura with each step of his long legs. Ebony black hair, skin as white and flawless as freshly fallen snow, an appearance far more white and delicate than the sharp character beneath.

"...I don't care what crap my brother watches but why the hell did you have to put it on for everyone? I can feel my IQ dropping." the middle brother walked in with a dark face, slamming the desk.

"Jung-Soo! Oh my! Aiya, how are you so terribly handsome even when angry? I love your shoes! Your horrible brother slacking off on his own business to-"

"Save it your bullshit."

Well, she tried.

Ordering around bossman was as easy as breathing. The older but weaker man practically asking to be abused- er, organized, and helped. To even think about going against Jung-Soo however, was asking to be toyed with to death.

Meng admits that the first time she really laid eyes on the older boy, she thought he was an anime character that came to life. That sleek fashionable frame, cool aura, even a well-placed beauty mark, creating a single black teardrop under those foxy eyes. All topped off perfectly with a pair of shiny glasses, yes he made the ideal Megane character.

Too bad, his personality sucked.

The eldest brother was too easy to bully and honestly quite hopeless. The middle brother was a soul-sucking black-bellied abusive class president type. Good luck to whichever fool falls for that.

Only cute little J.J. could redeem them in this family.

It's important to steer his growth in the right way, away from his nasty brothers. Otherwise, all his natural cuteness will be wasted! Such a good and innocent boy, such a rarity in these times. It would be an unbearable sin if he grew crooked and uncute under these terrible natural influences in his life.

"...You know I can hear you, right? For someone who claims to be so smart, those were some of the stupidest things I've ever heard. Including this shitty drama."

"Oh my. Oppa~ Even your ears are so handsome~ Did you get new glasses? No? That's how smart and handsome you make everything look. Look, I finished the emails, order sheets, and even set up the next event page! All done! I'll just go now..." she hurriedly stuffed the rest of the sweets into her mouth and got halfway out the door.

"If you're done with work and exams, then I have something for you to do." he halted her escape.

Damn it. So close.

Truth be told, she just wanted to hurry up with all the tasks so she could go relax. Exams were rough for any student, but Meng felt it was even more difficult for her. Sure, it was her fault for pushing forward with full course college units at her age, but anything to grow up and be truly independent a little faster. It's still a headache though.

That's why messing with bossman was so fun! He needs someone to kick his butt beside his family once in a while anyway.

But there was no running from Jung-Soo if he gave an order. Somehow, he was even scarier than his mother, and Meng's been chased and beaten by that woman multiple times already. Once with a slipper, thrice with a baguette, that time with the kimchi...

Jung-Soo sighed, already guessing what the teen in front of him was thinking from the suspicious grimaces on her face.

"You have 10 minutes to clean up, get yourself as decent as possible," he said, crossing his arms.

"Why?"

Meng looked down on herself. She thinks she's already as cute as she possibly could be as a working student. A slightly dirty apron, unwashed hair, and dark eye circles were part of the look. She's doing amazingly well for running on ....5? Five hours of sleep! ....In the last 2 days.

Man, she loved coffee.

"Because I hate myself but a deal's a deal....and stop defending that little brat! That's what Eun-Jung will get here to pick you up and.....fuck I'll text her to bring something for you....just go....wash up. And stop watching this shit show. "

So rude.

She gets practically thrown into the upstairs shower, the door slamming on her as Jung-Soo stomps away. She has no idea what's going on but apparently, she's on a countdown to get clean. Hot water did sound good?

Meng didn't even get to turn off that water before the bathroom door slams open again.

"Where is she?! There's no time and oh, oh there you are Mengmeng. Here quickly. "

"Er...what?"

The eldest Park sister had her quickly manhandled into a towel and speed dressed like she was a small child. Which given their age difference of well over a decade, she probably saw the younger as such. Eun-Jung normally had the kindest face and most mild-mannered disposition. Right now though she had some very fast hands.

"There's no time to dry your hair. So let's go for the just off the beach look, with a little spray. Pull it up in a bun so it will be curly later. You're so young, so you don't need much makeup but let's bronze those cheeks just a bit. Stay still and close your eyes."

"...Unnie please don't stab my eyes out." Meng pleaded in her seat after getting a pale little summer dress over her head. Eyeshadow brushes out to tickle her face threateningly.

"It's fine. Light brown and peach suits you more at this age, highlights at the tear line. We're going with that 'I woke up like this and you didn't'. A little more mature, but naturally."

"Okay... But why?"

"Special request~ We watched too much of Jung-hyuk's dramas last night!"

The older woman was a legitimate traditional beauty, even as she stood there threatening Meng with some sharp eyeliner.  A tranquil face with even delicate features, a graceful neck, black pearls with long monolid eyes, and long silky black hair that Meng honestly felt more than a little jealous of. Her own head was a natural sun damaged brown to the point it looked dyed, especially at the ends. Maybe she should cut it? That would be more convenient and save money?

But when the older woman smiled like that, it looked quite similar to J.J.'s sweet innocent smile. Something Meng admittedly was quite weak to. So Meng stayed put and let her do as she pleased. At least till there was nothing else poking at her eyes.

"The game is starting in 10, you're already going to be late."Jung-Soo burst in to usher them down and out the door, Meng barely getting her sneakers on.

He put a take-out cup of milky coffee in Meng's hands and closed the car door. His elder sister already starting the engine.

Maybe she didn't get enough sleep after all? That it all felt like it happened in a blink?

"Ummm..."

"How were your exams? Hard? Of course, it is, you're doing so much already. Drink your coffee and have a little nap, Mengmeng. " the older girl smiled amicably as she drove past the speed limit. Flooring it on yellow lights and cutting corners on red.

Meng felt it was safer to just turn off her brain and nod along. Have some coffee, close her eyes, ignore any potential accidents waiting to happen. What did she know? She didn't even have her learner's permit yet.

If Eun-Jung was taking her to an organ trafficker well then she was dead anyway.

From hard-learned experience and too much time on the internet, she knew that 15 minutes was ideal. 15 minutes for caffeine to take effect in the body. 15 minutes to nap without getting groggy. So that's exactly what she does. Chug down the too bitter drink and knock out.

Either the internet lied or she overslept past the time because she was so mentally out of it when she was shaken awake. The car parked in what looked to be a school parking lot.

"Up up Mengmeng! We're fashionably late. Now hold still, you need a little lip gloss. I have your backpack right here for that casual look. Oh, you can let your hair down now. Hmmm, wait, how about with a headband too? Just let me check the glove compartment. Perfect!"

"Is this...J.J.'s school?"

"Right! Now let's go, I'm sure we can still manage to get some decent seats."

As she stumbles out of the car, trying not to rub the sleep from her lightly drawn eyes, Meng couldn't help but coo and marvel. It was a Junior high school, full of prepubescent children.

Oh just look at all these young little kids in the spring of their youth! So messy and awkward but so cute.

Meng wasn't a very tall girl herself, but against these kids, she could still mostly stand high. Besides, at this age, they were just so small and adorably cringe!

The girls walked over to the green field, towards where all the noise and people were. There an extremely rowdy but almost professional game was going on. A black and white ball flying across the grass, two teams of schoolboys viciously fighting after it.

Before she even got to the bleachers she could see a familiar little head of black hair even in the midst of all those sweaty boys of various heights and stages of growth. Her eyes easily focused on a shorter child that seemed to fly across the green and white field. A too-large jersey hanging off his frame, reading 'Park' on the back, number 10 pinned to his top. He shouted out in such serious concentration at his little teammates in play, giving their all in chasing after the ball.

"Kyaaaaa~ Awwww so cute! Jung-Joon is so cute in his little uniform! They're all so...Why is he just so cute?! I totally forgot about his game today. '' Meng couldn't stop the uncharacteristic squealing that escaped her mouth.

She was tired ok? Her defenses against all this cuteness were at an all-time 0.

Luckily it was quickly drowned out in the cheers and banter all around them. Parents and classmates showing their support to the corresponding teams, and their not so little players.

Looking at all those kids trying so hard and even more of them cheering in the stands and sidelines made Meng feel so old. But at the same time, their energy was infectious.

She didn't have this sort of experience when she was this age. It was all so novel. Like something out of a show or movie. But more than that....she couldn't help but breathe out in wonder. At how healthy all these kids were, running around like that.

These kids were older here, but it was still so different than the children's grounds at the hospital. So very different.

It was something her little brother could never be a part of. Even if he wanted to.

Even in the middle of a cheerful crowd, Meng felt off. Even more lonely maybe. Grey in a world of color. She felt the lingering weight of guilt, the distance of being removed from everything.

Like she obviously didn't belong.

Because she didn't. All these happy families, and happy kids running around, she doesn't know this normality. Never had it herself, maybe never will.

"Aha! Here!" Eun-Jung finally stopped, settling on a spot to pull out the camera, ready to record everything.

Meng looked over to the woman with mixed feelings. This part, she could see and relate to. If it was for Heng-Fei, who now insisted on being called Henry for whatever reason, Meng could see her acting just as silly and doting. Driving halfway across town, video camera in tow.

It came with the territory of being an embarrassing big sister, huh?

She smiles softly in thought and goes back to watching the game, unaware of any older teenagers nudging each other, pointing her out in their own games off the field.

It may have been a Jr. high game but plenty of older siblings and relatives attended. The atmosphere lively as it was oddly intimate in the crowded space. People moved and bustled across the stands all the time.

So Meng definitely didn't notice for quite a long while when a thick teen in a letterman jacket purposefully took a seat next to her on the stands.

"Hey."

She was way too busy cooing over how serious these kids were running around in their cleats and jerseys. Especially their little Jung-Joon, gathering cheers and fangirls of his own. He was especially eye-catching in just how plain adorable he was.

There was even a time where he caught sight of them up in the stands, happily waving from down from below before getting back into play.

"Hey!" the gruff voice startled her, being shouted right into her ear.

That hurt, but it got her attention finally, just like the guy wanted.

"Yo. Haven't seen your pretty face around before. Which one you here for?"

Meng would guess him to be about 17 or so, a bit older than her but younger than most of her classmates, judging from the buzz of chin acne and the school jacket. This rude boy was over twice her size and she instinctively inched away.

"Number 10." she looked away, answering curtly and going back to the game. Even the referee was more interesting than whatever this guy was playing at.

"Oh, nice. Your bro? Not bad for an Asian kid. That's my bro down there with the leg work on strike. He's joining football once he gets to high school. I mean, it's a tougher sport but eh I think he'll be able to handle it. Grow some." the jerk flexed as he stretched. His thick legs widening out to claim more space, in something he probably thought looked as impressive as it was imposing.

Meng didn't bother acknowledging. Never feed the trolls, not even a scrap. Besides, nothing about her said she was in the mood to be talking up to strangers, especially right now.

"You uh, feeling cold in that dress there?" the guy cocked his eyebrow, sight going from bare thighs at the edge of her dress to the pale peeks of her shoulders.

"No." Even without seeing it, Meng could feel goosebumps of tired disgust rise. Here we go again.

"I could let you borrow my jacket? For the night."

"No. Not interested. "

"It's a pretty sweet jacket. Varsity. Because you know, I'm on varsity. In football. Girls always be asking to try it on. Would be pretty big on you, you know, that nothing else on kinda thing. I bet you'd change your mind if-"

"No. Do I know you? No."

The smart thing to do would be to get up and walk away, hell switch sides with Eun-Jung. That's what common sense says to do, avoid the guy. But the Meng senses say sock him and break his hand if that thing dares to try touching her.

"Aww don't be like that babe. You just look like you might be cold." said paw really does reach out for her exposed shoulder and Meng was just waiting for the first contact to throw this creep over the bleachers.

Doesn't happen though. Not when ball meets face.

The game ball to be precise. Groans and screams sounding out as it goes far out of bounds and into the stands. Somehow it didn't lose much momentum from the field at all, slamming the varsity boy in the head, distorting his face hard enough to knock him down in his seat.

It happens so fast Meng doesn't even have time to scream or laugh.

She does right after though because god if that wasn't comedic timing she doesn't know what was. She takes the moment of confusion to sneak a few wild kicks at the guy while he was down, fake screaming to cover up her gross laughing.

Thank you universe, she thought with a sick sense of humor.

Down on the field though, a time out was immediately called. The kids crowding around the players fallen on the ground, the whistle blowing out more than once to force them to make space. Mentally Meng thanked them for their amazing aim, unintentional or not.

That was until she saw just who was one of the kids on the ground.

"J.J.!?!" she stood up, trying to get a better view if not get the hell down there herself.

What the hell? Was he alright?! Did another kid kick or slide into him?!

The sweet boy had grown on her over these couple of years, so much so she worried over him if that wasn't too bold to say. The panic she's sure was similar to what she would feel if her own brother met any accidental injuries.

Surprisingly J.J.'s actual sister found and pulled her back down. A calm reassuring smile on her face.

"...He'll be fine." Eun-Jung tapped at her camera, showing not a single care.

Very reassuring yes.

"What happened?" Meng worried, watching as a coach and a standby medic inspected the downed boy.

Eun-Jun looked down at her camera, then into the crowded right where Meng was just sitting. The ball still rolling till someone threw it down. The bloody nosed casualty getting medical treatment down.

She really didn't know what to say to make it more obvious.

"I'm just so glad the ball didn't hit you. It was so close. What are the chances?" she smiled a little too cheerfully.

"Holy shit, is he really going back on the field right away?! They're just gonna slap a bandage on him and call it a day? They're not even going to penalty anyone?!"

Eun-Jung kept silent. It's alright she decided, this naive side of Meng was surprisingly cute as well. So young and cute, Eun-Jung tilted her head in thought and satisfaction. Her youngest brother had quite the fight later if he was really serious but it was fine. Rather let's just enjoy this sweet time right now.

"Fighting J.J.!" Eun-Jung cheered, not just for the game. Righting back up the camera to record absolutely everything for future prosperity. Besides, it was more fun than watching her mother and brother's shows.

On the ground, matching black eyes looked up to the stands. Her 13-year-old brother smiled like springtime come to life, still full of childish youth. He stared forebodingly a little too long though, specifically making eye contact with his sister.

"Mengmeng, keep close to me~ It's soooo crowded! What if another accident happens?" Eun-Jung laughed, pulling the much shorter teen girl right under her arm.

"Wait wait wait what about the other team, why aren't they getting any penalties?! That fall wasn't for nothing?!"

"Ah so cute."

The rest of the game finished with a hitch after that. A full 90 minutes with a resting interval. To many people, sports fans, and parents reliving their youths perhaps, it felt a lot longer and more dramatic.

To Meng, she was just sleepy, but doing her best to show support for the kids. It was their last game of the season, no their school careers! It was J.J.'s and his fellow classmates last year before moving on to high school!

Youth was just so fleeting. Meng would keep awake, fueled by coffee, loud crowds, that and those kiddy soccer uniforms were just that cute.

It wasn't all that big of a deal for her, but she understood how important this was for a lot of people. So when the final minute counted down and the home team managed to defend their two-point lead, it was to great fanfare. Kids were crying on the field, their parents crying harder. Someone or three was probably having a dramatic flashback. It was basically a teen sports movie ending going on here in this Jr. High.

Ah youth, Meng clapped along, too tired to really be bustling and cheering along with this wild crowd of students and enthusiastic family members.

She had no idea that her dispirited laziness only made her stand out looking all the more elegant and delicate, something no Jr. high girl could replicate. Eun-Jung's rushed but hard work didn't go a bit to waste.

Soft slightly curled beach waves stayed messily perfect, framing an even softer pretty girl, eyes emotionally red and teary. That in said movie, she made a striking figure, the beautiful female lead bathed in a white spotlight that made all surrounding crowds invisible.

Confetti rained down from seemingly nowhere, blowing and sprinkling across everyone for that picture-perfect scene.

"Meng!" one of the star players reached out, desperately running up to through confetti and cheers.

He ignored all celebrating teammates, well-wishers, and even lovely little admiring classmates. In that moment, finally, no one else mattered.

The named girl of course still had no idea about the apparent movie drama she was in. But she played her part well. Serenely stepping down, dress and hair slightly blowing in the breeze, framed with cheap confetti as if there were blooming flower petals rustling down.

They met at the edge of green fields in a great embrace, the shorter youth with a running start. The entire world blurred to serve as their backdrop.

"We won! I-we- I, we won. I did it!"  he panted, clinging on even through the adrenaline and exhaustion.

"You did. Good job!" Meng patted affectionately at his windswept hair, not minding the dirt and grass stains fresh on his uniform.

That was healthy growing kids for you, ah so cute and energetic. When Jung-Joon looked up to her with that tender face and those sparkling wide blown eyes, hope and elation all mingled together in his precious expression, she hugged him back even harder, to hold back from squealing 'kyaaa' again in public. Now that would be embarrassing.

He pulled her in closer to the middle of the green field. Somewhere a less suffocatingly noisy but oddly where even more confetti rained down despite the lack of people.

"I won..." he reached down, taking a bated breath before decisively clasping her two hands in his own. A great part of him gleefully shaken when he noticed how they were almost larger than hers.

"I think that's pretty obvious at this point."

Even though she was still taller, when she smiled at him, just for him, Jung-Joon felt on top of the world.

"It doesn't have to be right now!" he shouted, a little too caught up and a little too loud. But he had to make sure he was heard. Meng was just so bad at listening.

"Hmmm?"

"Even though it can't be right now..." he grasped her hands even tighter, holding them up "...but can you say you'll wait for me? I know it sounds weird, I know it's selfish, I know you think of me as a kid even, and I can't say how long it's going to take, but-"

"Sure! No problem. I can wait."

She smiled so beautifully that he didn't know what to do with himself. Confetti danced and he was going to combust and dissolve into it, just so he could be the pieces of sunlight and floating paper petals nestled in her hair.

"I love you! Meng... I really love you!" he admitted, hugging her full force.

Because really what is a boy supposed to do? His heart had already burst, already working too fast from the game. Now it was gone, broken up and all hers. He was young but he knew that much, it was all going to be for the girl in his arms.

"Ah yeah yeah, I love you too." she choked.

She tried not to blush at how wrong that sounded. Jr. Highers were as shameless and they were strong these days, so excitable too.

But he was just so ecstatically happy, so heart-wrenchingly cute, that Meng allowed him to hug and nuzzle into her as tightly as he wished, even when it felt like her lungs were getting squished.

It was taking kinda long though?

Didn't he ask for her to wait so he could go celebrate with his friends? It was an important time and there were so many of them, even ones Meng was friendly enough to know by name. And don't think she didn't notice those little girls batting their eyelashes and pompoms at the attacking midfielder.

Oh well, that's part of growing up too.

This confetti was going to be annoying to get all out of her hair later. Maybe she really should just cut it all off? Was she going to need another shower since J.J. was all grassy and sweaty? Small matters

Since this was an important winning moment for him, she could indulge his silly whims a bit more.

She did wonder what they were eating in celebration tonight. Barbeque maybe? What about dessert? She could go for some bingsu and- hey wait what the hell?

"What are you doing idiot!? How?! Ahh, don't! It's dangerous! Ahhhh!!!" she screamed, feeling the solid ground leave her feet. The happily laughing boy spinning her up in place.

And so confetti continued to flutter upon this pair, unaware to each other's true thoughts but blissful in the moment. Wishing that, even though it would eventually end, as all good things do, that they could hold on to this just a bit longer.

Not too far from them, at a subtle vantage point, the camera had a great angle filming. Eun-Jung squatting out of sight like a professional wildlife filmmaker

"Oh, this is so much better than watching dramas."

And cut.

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I'm sleepy!

Perhaps it really is unwise to be so active at my age. A toddler's body demands a lot, from food to sleep. I was having a great dream about old times. One where I was about to eat some epic Korean barbeque and topped off with delicious shaved ice for dessert.

I miss that shit. I miss modern food, Asian food in general.

Rice. I want rice, and rice paper, and coffee, and pat bingsu. Just the works. Waking up in another world is extremely hard, especially when it's vaguely medieval somewhere.  I can't even go run off and cry over a pot of pickles. That stuff is all at home and I've very much still in this city center with my parents.

So sleepy. Let's go back to dreamland. Maybe if I'm lucky I can go right back to where I left off and actually taste something. Mmmmm.

I just don't want to be awake for this. I don't want to be here at all.

"Am I supposed to take it then, that my and my daughters' presence is met with simply a governess?" Mother says in an eery tone of voice. The one loaded with honey and the not so subtle threat of pain.

It's that dreaded time on the schedule. What I could not avoid this year, even if I got poisoned, silenced and bedridden for it.

It's the annual playdate with the stupid prince.

You know? The thing I'm technically engaged to for now?

Father is currently at work, some court or meeting place discussing all the important things. International politics and policies, liaisons, military allocations, trade and trusts, the things I would normally be doing if I wasn't 3. Or did the whole dying at 17 thing.

Now that I think about it, it’s quite irresponsible to put those sorts of duties into the hands of a teenage girl? Even worse, why was that teenage girl more effective than over half the grown old men in that court? Who put those dumbasses in charge? Nepotism?

Ahahaha I'm so funny it's just plain sad. Ahh, let's not stress myself out too early with thoughts about that. Nothing I can do in this current body.

It's not like I can draft up a list of sins and draggable cases of corruption per prime person that previous Rosalia discovered in the future.

Well...I already did. My ledger is in my baggie! For references in case I forget something, any little detail can be a helpful cheat in my future. But I can't just leave it under my father's office door. That would scream suspicious, put me on the stakes. The first witch trial, featuring the tiniest accused toddler on stand. I'll go down in history, not in the way I would like.

Not like I'm the psychic one, though Lilyanne's occasional prophetic 'visions' are quite faulty when they're out of context. Like most psychic things are. Gonna need grampa's, though preferably Gable's, help to pass this info on convincingly when the time comes.

Maybe I can fake it? That's asking for a lot of troublesome work though...

As annoying as it is to be infantilized and shackled along like a true baby, it is much easier to leave things to other people. Especially since my body isn't quite what it used to be. I'm so tiny and weak, and when it's nap or mealtimes, my body seems to operate on mindless instinct.

So I simply yawn as Mother stares down the entourage of the stupid prince, a personal line of pale foreign babysitting maids, and an official-looking old governess. While Mother has brought her own, so we're not outnumbered, it is quite an imbalanced power display.

For a lady, mother of one of the betrothed, to be met with simply a governess without a word of warning ahead of time, is quite insulting. Even if the other party is a queen, royalty even, as a parent and prospective in law, leaving a matching correspondence, a letter, is the least that could have been done.

Normally these sort of rules and trifles don't personally bother Mother. Either that or she doesn't always notice, lots of minor things fly by Mother pretty easily.

But something like this is too blatant.

The governess doesn't even bow, merely curtsey, as if she were a higher more respectable station than a servant for the other party. No matter the power she holds back in the North, in their fairytale frozen rock castle, the appearance she puts on in front of my mother is easily seen as impudent.

If this was a good drama, Mother would order one of her maids to slap the woman. Then they could all get in a maid slapping fight.

But that is not reality. Boo boring.

Instead, the governess remains still as a statue, face as lively as stone, while a pair of stewards blows some trumpets and read off the 'official' apology, ghostwritten for the queen, on why she's not here and blah blah blah. Get to the apology gifts already.

Everyone knows the Ventrellas are already rich. A literal chestful of coins means nothing, it may even be seen as insulting, as if presenting us with some pocket lint. It's only me that wants to roll around in a room of my own money.

To show no ill will or damnable insults, the servants present not any money, though that would be very preferable to me, but lavish displays of useless wealth.

Two chalcedonies carved statues, translucent and as beautiful as the finest marbled jades, shaped into a pair of horses were presented. The cost of the stone alone is well worth over its weight in gold, let alone the artisan's hands. Art, something my family much appreciates, being a patron of many projects in any lifetime.

I think that fund went up much faster sooner though, given how many pretty bridges Father is making. It's fine? Just so long as they're not easily breakable.

They'll make excellent little....door decor?

While they certainly look expensive, it's the thought and supposed intention behind the gifts that matter. The stewards follow up with bolts of thick fine fabric more suitable for making cozy blankets than clothes. Halos of knotted silvers and gold, meant to rest on a lady's forehead like an informal tiara. Tins and chests of precious herbs and medicines suitable for straight brewing.

Translation, they're telling us to calm down and have a cup of herbal tea essentially.

There are no suitable grounds to get mad even. The gifts are well thought out for our family and easily can be taken with good intentions towards health, in informal knotted jewelry a promise still of a union.

Well played.

"Oh my, well, we can't just have it at that. Now, do we?" Mother doesn't even clap, her maids stepping forth like it's a tense arms deal.

With them, they carry forth bars of gold and decorative glass bottles, treasures themselves, filled with wines and honey. Bolts of pearly white freshly processed spider silk. Chests of sunny heat stones and pretty lutes and instruments carved out of various colorful material.

Translation, we're much richer and nicer than you. Also, you're cold and boring.

While it hurts my shallow pockets to let all this money go, it's a game that must be paid for.

In the long term, it's a statement that in no way were we cheap, greedy, or unpious, taking advantage of the royal family's favor, at least on the surface. In the short term, any little thing can be taken as a petty face slap of honor.

I hate it, it loses money!

To add insult to injury, Mother smiles and thanks the stewards and some presenting maids personally, stepping over and ignoring the governess to address these lower-ranked servants. Like it was Halloween candy, she passes out ribboned and bowed little sachets.  The pouches filled with dried flowers, jingling with the beautiful sound of coins, money!

I am suddenly more awake.

After all, everyone likes tips but not everyone gives them. The soft colorful ribbons and packaging were also a fun little treat, the stewards and pages gingerly tucking the pouches away with thanks, already planning on how to present them to any sweethearts they may be courting. More importantly, money!

Gimmie!

To my grabby hands, Mother dotingly passes an extra scented sachet for me to play with. Score, extra coins for my trouble.

"Play nice now Rosa, Mama will be right outside. Lily say bye bye~" she pulls up Lilyanne as if she were sending me off to war across the door, which she technically is.

"Yes, Mother."

"Lily wanna play with Rosa!

"There now girls, it will be just for a little bit. Lily, have some tea with Mama! Rosa kissies~, and don't make anyone cry my love, mua mua."

Urg, what about me? What if I want to cry upon seeing the hidden away baby prince stupido?

But Mother minds it not, kissing every available surface of my face, retying my baby bonnet, and handing me off the march across the doorway to where my cursed fiance and I will be trapped for an hourglass.

It could be more, but we've always tearfully declined in our youths. It really is no fun trying to talk with a breathing rock.

Refusing any maids to carry me, I step forth all by myself. Impressing everyone with my grace and manners. Haha, I'm three, not eating dirt is already pretty impressive.

The table of refreshments is very disappointing today. Normally, they're the highlights of my mandatory playdates, but it's mostly local sweets today. If I have to play with the foreign prince, I should at least get some new goodies to try.

At least the couch looks soft, perhaps I can catch a quick nap?

"Hey!"

Hmmm, am I forgetting something?

Oh, these fruit-filled spritz cookies aren't so bad? Oh and that baked kuchen, hmm let's have a slice of that.

Sugar is expensive so let's put some of those sweets in my baggie for later.

Amar likes fruit jam and just cookies or small treats in general, while Lukas likes richer satisfying cakes. Constant snacker vs big meal eater. Any pound cakes around? Have they made any custard? That's the good stuff from the Northern kitchens. Gotta bribe and feed the minions. I'm such a wonderful evil boss.

"Hey!?!"

Bleck. This flower-shaped marzipan is, I hate to say it, too sweet. Pffffft, it's like they just mashed almonds and pure sugar. No finesse at all. What a trap.

Is that a butter pie? Haha, everything is so rural to my modern eye.

Well, it's not like we can do fresh fruit bingsu or anything. Maybe if I get back to sleep, I can taste it in my dreams?

"Hey!!!"

Ah yes, the classic pulling pigtails move. Wonderful, I'm just swooning over this match.

Contrary to what I remember and expected, the stupid rock prince actually moved. So much so there's a pale kiddy fist pulling at my hair to try and force my head around.

I'm a big anti-domestic violence sort of person. So it's only right if I break his wrists right?

"What's wrong with you?!" I screech, twisting that wrist to release me.

"Ow! What's wrong with me? What's wrong with you?! You were all weird and- hey why is your head all red?"

Ow ow ow, somehow the preschool version of my fiance has managed to pull out a few strands of my apparently red hair. Owwww?!

"It's real?!"

A potato stands before me. Humpty Dumpty practically. With a little mop of straight blond hair, fists, and cheeks pink as a baboon's butt. I try not to look much at him for he never fails to annoy me. The stupid prince is currently but a tiny chubby version of his future self, the same face, but full and pale as an egg. Hopefully just as breakable.

But Mother says not to beat anyone to the point of tears again, and I'd rather not be caught by her.

"Of course it is, but who pulls out someone's hair?! You. Rude thing. Get away from me this instant. What? Too fast for you to understand? For the next hour that side is yours and this side is mine. We won't bother each other and that will be more fun for each of us."

"...Why are you so weird?! I'm going to tell my honorable Father and mutter I won't want to marry you if you keep doing that."

Huh? If only it was that easy!

I finally take a decent look at this mini version of my much-hated fiance. With a relieved sigh I can say there's no superimposition of Gable's beautiful face. Not that I worried about that before, I know what this kid will look like in his prime 'prince charming' days after all. With his general features bolder and stronger, Erik's hair was a couple of shades too yellow like an old stain, eyes too stereotypically blue and listless, a shallow pool you could barely get your feet wet in.

Currently, they look much brighter than I can recall, most likely due to only being a preschooler. Ah youth, hard to be too mad at kids this young. I still hate him but I can admit he has excellent mochi cheeks. They look very fat and hittable.

Why is this baby prince so arrogant though? He didn't act like this before? Not at this age at least?

Go back to being a constipated looking little rich boy on that chair over there!

"Hmmph," I slap his hand down and walk away to my side.

Never feed the trolls.

The maids in the far off corner standstill as wall decorations, not even reacting. Before I would worry about what they would see and report, but currently I'm so small I can get away with anything. What else do people expect?

I really would rather not waste a perfectly good hour having an awkward staring contest. Rather this would be a perfect time to nap. Climbing up to a cushioned sofa, I curl up to do just that.

"Hey, what are you doing?"

"..."

"Are you ignoring me!? You're not supposed to do that!"

If anyone else was looking on the scene, they might see a little white dumpling steaming up. While he is getting mad, he also looks at a loss of what to do or how to process this situation.

"Then what am I supposed to do?" I yawn lazily, readjusting my pillow.

"Look at me!"

"Then what?"

"You have to do it first!"

"Is that an order?"

"Yes! It's an order from me. I'm the prince you know?"

Lazily I peek open one eye, seeing that prime mochi stare up at me resolutely. As if he were expecting me to get down and start bowing on the floor in apology.

"No." I turn over, facing the couch cushions.

"What?! Why? But I said it's an order..." the squeaky voice sounds honestly quite lost.

Tch, spoiled rich kids are just so annoying.

"What are you going to do huh? Cry? Chop off my head? You're the prince so everyone has to do what you order or you chop off their heads right? People will listen to you because they're scared you'll hurt them and no one will like you. Is that why you pulled my hair? To get my head ready?! Then what? None of that is going to get you what you want or make me feel any better. Now be quiet and let me sleep. "

"I-"

"Shhhhh I'm tired."

"*Hic*"

Oh no, did I actually make him cry? That's the one thing Mother told me not to do! I didn't even get to beat him up?

Turning around, I'm forced to confront that yes, I made the kid cry. Baby stupid prince choking back confused wet sobs, his little white hand holding themselves over his mouth to not make too much noise, though he fails quite miserably.

If he was crying all out, I wouldn't feel an ounce of pity. But he's not.

As much as I hate his stuck up face, even as a child, there's something about it when he cries like that. Reminds me a little too much of one of the minions.

I feel myself sigh, goodbye sweet dreams.

"What? Did I really make you cry from just that?" I readjust my bonnet, making it more comfortable. The jig is up anyways, my hideous hair already found out.

Should I just chop it off again? Mother wasn't too pleased though...and it only got worse.

"*Hic* No! *hic*" the stupid prince stubbornly denies through his hiccups. It's particularly funny looking when he shakes his head with his stiff little high collar.

"Then what is the wet stuff coming out your eyes and nose?"  I sigh again.

It's going to be a long hour. Next time I make him cry, let's do it from afar. Somewhere I can actually run away and laugh over from.

"*Hic* I'm not!*hic. I'll be quiet. *hic* Really!"

"You just shouted."

Was he ever so loud? I swore he was much more rock-like and less baby bird? But then again baby prince isn't the freshest in Rosalia's memory. I guess there goes the theory he was just born like that.

"I'm not," he whispers shouts.

Huh, how familiar? I mean it's nowhere near as loud but quite familiar.

A part of Lukas always annoys me, from his loud voice and head on call to wild action, to being denser than any rock, though his head seems more up in the air than anything. When he gets things right, or things do go his way, he's almost unbearably haughty.

At least he laughs and has an actual personality.

Like a proud cat that caught the cream, a very fast very strong dog that ran off with your food in its jaws. But it's a safe percentile, otherwise, I probably would kick him out of my sight immediately. At his worst moments, maybe around 30%? That's how much I'd say these two brats can resemble each other, now that I'm really looking for it.

Otherwise, I wouldn't have noticed at all.

"Are you *hic* feeling better*hic* now?" the 30% bad Lukas sniffs, storybook blue eyes still dripping tears.

"What are you talking about?" I adjust the pillows even further, thinking about building a temporary pillow fort.

That could distract the kid? After all, he's only about 4 right now. Even the stupid prince has to have his honestly true innocent times, as dumb as he'll grow up.

"You couldn't *hic* come because you're sick." gradually, he begins to calm back down, especially now that he feels attention is on him. "Do you get sick a lot?! I heard you do!"

" ....What?"

"You're a baby and *hic* really small. I remember them talking and saying one of you was weak and always got sick. Then you couldn't come this year because you were sick real bad. You're still sick right?! That's why you're so sleepy even when the sun's up."

I slam my head into my hands.

I have done it! I have seemed to have gained the Lilyanne reputation! Oh, woe is sickly little me~ Not a bad direction for the stupid to go down.

"A little?" I fake cough, quickly adopting my new role.  "Everyone said I could have died over winter...Then they said I had to come today even if I felt-"

I let out a coughing fit, throwing in a bit of those teary eyes. Any percent of Lilyanne's famous waterworks looks awkward and awful on me, as judged by Father, but since this kid is so young and immature, it might just work?

Ok, that could just be me laughing so hard I'm tearing up. Ahahaha! Me?! The delicate sickly one? Ahahahahaha!

"No! You can't *hic* die!"

Hook, line and sinker. Man if only everyone was this easy. I made the kid start crying again though? How annoying, I barely got him to stop.

"They say I won't. *cough* If only I....rested enough." out of dramatic habit, I lay a hand over my forehead, leaning weakly into the cushion.

"Don't move! *hic* That's an order, *hic* you have to rests lots!"

"If only....it was quiet...don't come over to this side, I don't want anyone sick too~" I play dying and dead, letting out another gross coughing attack. Then proceed to 'faint' into my pillow as the stupid little prince eagerly agrees.

A four-year-old Erik is a lot nicer than any version in my unfortunate downloaded memories. If only he would stay this easy and obedient.

But even the most loveable child will grow up, once they reach their teen years and shoot up past you. They get wry, bold, attention from other girls, and utterly exasperating. They tease you to death with a joke that never ends.

He was still....very very cute though, no matter what age.

I turn over in my attempt to sleep. Even if it was just a dream....it was nice to see you, to see everyone, again. Even for just a moment, a moment longer.

"Kyaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!"

I don't know how long I managed to drift off but that horrible sound jolts me awake, as do some awful crashing sounds coming from outside. It sounds like an ongoing chase scene, full of car crashes and falling chandeliers.

Before I even notice it, the standby maids were screaming, taking the shocked stupid prince out and over the safety, another doorway to take them to their private suite. Before I can even get a sound out of my own shock, or complaints, a meteor goes crashing through wood and plaster and gold paint.

By meteor I mean minions?

Lukas screams, all 100% of him that's for sure. Running for his life in a bright blue version of his sailor suit, a tiny Donald Duck fluffed up and quacking angrily as he completely ignored the thousands in property damage he just committed to try speedrunning through.

Even more surprisingly, is the kiddy leash attached to his person?

On the other end of the leash, Amar seems to be half dragged half weakly hanging on for dear life. Riding the forceful wave that is a Lukas powered speedboat. The smaller boy not in his infamous dark blue original sailor suit but no less adorable. It's a white matching version to Lukas, the little blue flaps flying through the air as he goes zooming by.

What are they doing here? Did Gable adjust and dress them in those? It's so adorably well made! But it's getting ruined as they crash through walls and- oh, goodbye window. Goodbye minions one and two.

"Kyaaaaaa~ Come back!!! Oh, we're playing tag?! Oh ohohohoho~ So precious!!!"

Oh, goodbye, Mother.

Well now, I am in a damaged room, with amazing security apparently, and I have no idea how to explain anything.

Let's just take another nap. Yes. Everything will be solved after that.

"Rosa?"

My little sister shakily peeks through the unbroken door, very much too high. She's carried by a line of diligent maids as she looks lost and teary. Perhaps feeling abandoned by our own mother. Who apparently left her own innocent small children to chase after some cute boys.

Father won't be very happy to hear about this?

Uniforms are pretty powerful stuff though, especially sailor suits. It can't be helped. Cuteness simply rules the world. Even if I can't condone such behavior, I completely understand.

I clap for one of Mother's maid to pick me up, yes thank you, Noemi. I think it's time to flee the scene of the crime as well.

"Come on Lily. Let's go back and take a nap. Big sister has treats for you later!"

"Yaaaay! Okay, Rosa~!"

Let's just enjoy life while it's still sweet and simple.


I'm still alive I swear!

Tired but alive? And thus updates are slower than ever.

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