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Last chapter saw the Xianxi race, the proud and strong-willed quarter of the Isla’s people, rallying to the call of their aged shogun’s desire for dominion. Equally assured that his time had come and that he had strong allies to aid him, Shogun Ishiyashi set loose war upon the land which had only begun to recover from the past abuses of the now incapacitated Count in his Black Castle. If you have no idea of these things, please read the earlier chapters. Increase my readership!
In the home front, Roland found the burden of not seeing his beloved Cecilia (Professor Butters, The Squeaky Clean Legacy) too much to bear. However, plunged as he was into the test by the alluring Mila – who apparently was in league with Cecilia’s unyielding father – Roland nonetheless proved that his heart was solely given to the love of his life. For now.
The Generation 2 Heir, Arthur, began dutifully searching for a spouse as per the rules of the Legacy. Consulting the gypsy matchmaker who had, after all, brought his brother and his love together, Arthur received a rather cryptic message: he needed to forge a union with a princess if his Legacy were to bring forth any hope at all. For, little though Arthur knew it, his life was closely tied with princesses. But I am getting ahead of myself. And now, we press forward.
Sister Clara was not feeling well. She had joined the Order despite her family’s nonchalance regarding the matter. She had taken leave of her superiors to manage the Orphanage run by the government of the City of Serena. She had used up whatever inheritance she would have gained in performing the duty the City had neglected – Sister Clara took it upon herself to raise the orphans on her own. But everything was ready to fall apart.
For instance, there was the matter with little Zane. Devereaux he was by birth, as the papers made clear; such an unfamiliar surname meant that he was among those from Beyond-the-Sea. And yet Sister Clara found him a most engaging and delightful child. While most of his age would do nothing but run along the whole day, Zane displayed a certain precocity beyond most of his peers. True, he enjoyed playing as much as the next child, but he would always take time to pause and, with much polite coaxing, ask Sister Clara to read him a story every evening.
She had heard about little Zane’s story – from the rumors passed around by the children, of all the unlikely sources. By the sound of it, he had a horrible mother who, in their home Beyond-the-Sea, did something unspeakably evil unto him, and that she was after Zane even now. But it was beyond Sister Clara to comprehend how any mother could fail to love such an adorable child. In fact, the concept of a mother not loving her children at all could not even enter into her mind.
But Zane was alright... mostly. Not that he was a particularly nasty child – far from it. He was able to get along with his peers as well as elders. Although a little withdrawn and serious, his more outgoing friends, like Eowyn, could get him to join them in a game or two. And yet there was this incident...
“What did I do, Sephy?” Eowyn yelped in pain as the silver-haired Xianxi boy poked her hard in the chest. “Do not call me that,” the other replied in a low growl. “Besides, I do not like you.”
Seeing that the girl was about to cry – once more – Zane said, “Don’t mind him. He’s just too bored, probably.” The boy called Sephy was very withdrawn, after all, spending most of his time playing chess or reading and calling upon his Mother. Whoever she was. “Here, let’s play Mary Mack instead.”
“Don’t dare interrupt, Sea-bred kid,” the Xianxi boy snapped, choosing to harass Zane instead. “Or do you wish to pick a quarrel with me?” Apparently satisfied with himself, the boy called Sephy was about to turn his attention towards Eowyn once more when–
“Lay off her!” Zane spoke out, moving to swat the bully away, but the latter was fast. He stepped backwards, avoiding Zane’s warding blow. Sephy replied tauntingly, "And what would you do if I don’t?” “I – I will fight you!” “As if you can fight me. You’re too nice to even punch anyone, assuming that you could.”
Something must have snapped in Zane’s being. While he would have normally backed down, he never was one to let anyone bully another person. “Fine. I am taking you on–” “Sephiroth! Zane!”
“Thank goodness LiaLan caught wind of you two! And Seph, you have made poor Eowyn cry again! Whatever am I to do with you?” “I am sorry, Matron.” “You do know that it is not proper to go about pushing other people around, Seph. I expected you to know better. And Zane, I know you meant well, but do not go biting the bait!”
But Zane and Sephiroth’s quarrel was not the only thing that vexed Sister Clara’s mind. The bills have arrived, and this time she had already exhausted her share of the family fortune. Where now would she be able to obtain funds to keep the Orphanage running? At this rate, Sister Clara would soon be forced to–
But no, she could not close down the Orphanage. For the children – all the poor, abandoned children, even Sephiroth – this derelict, unkempt, two-story building was their home, and Sister Clara’s embrace was their comfort. Where else would – could! – they go? And how would the children fare otherwise? Mean though he was, Sephiroth, the matron fondly boasted within her, was such a very smart boy. A brilliant strategist and tactician. And lo, even her little darling Xianchen was not far behind him! ...
And LiaLan – goodness, she grew up to be a pretty and dutiful young woman! And she was decidedly intelligent, too! Why, only within one day she had managed to be at the top of her class...
And Zane... poor Zane... he finally found, to a certain measure, the home that he never had in his own land. By the elves, that kid was absolutely thrilled to make friends with everyone in the Orphanage! And, setting the little mishap aside, he had been courteous and warm to everyone...
Surely, surely something could be done. For the children. The phone rang.
“Good day. This is the Orphanage, yes. Sister Clara speaking.” ... “Yes, yes, we are still up and about! ...for a little while. Oh, no, no. Nothing is the matter.”
“No, no, of course we are not having financial problems! No, why would you ever think that? There are no grounds for closing us down, worry not.” ... “WHAT?”
“I... I... this is... heavens... I... I cannot... breathe–”
“WHOA!” “Some place this is, Matron! But why are we here? Who do we visit?” “No, we visit no one, children,” Sister Clara, apparently still hard of breathing, responded as amicably as she could. “This is our new home.” (Modified from Knight’s Tale Manor found at MTS2)
“Th-this... our new... h-home?” “Yes, Hyperion. And mind your stutter. It is unbecoming of young men such as you are.” “HOORAY! We have a new home! HOORAY!” “Now, Xianchen! Whatever have I taught you about proper etiquett– oh never mind!”
“Wow, Matron,” LiaLan confided. “This is unbelievable. I mean... everything. Wow.” “I hardly can believe all this, myself,” the matron admitted. “but one question... how did we come by all this?”
“Now we have our own arts and hobbies room...”
“...A clean, spacious outdoors, ideal for running games such as Cops and Robbers...”
“...And a small, but refreshingly serene orchard.”
“And now you even have your own business: Sister Clara’s Sweets!”
“Was it all due to the call you received the other day?” concluded LiaLan. “Who can our mysterious person be?” “No, not a person,” Sister Clara spoke in a whisper – an elated, blissful kind of whisper.
“A god-sent benefactor.” Haha. Yeah right. Well... it’s the least I could do. Being Ruleroftheworld (and Jo’s adoptive parent) and all that.
And it’s not as if I’m being entirely altruistic. My sim-kid does need a more suitable environment as she visits her old friends. Well, all’s well that ends well. I think. Now, moving on to my other daughter...
“But I’m not your daughter.” No, literally you’re not, Jeanne; it’s only a manner of speaking. If you were then I’d be ashamed. Setting you loose upon this Isla... what was I thinking? “Plot?” Erm... hey look nice tribal pillars outside. Yeah. So, how’s it going, honey?
“I’m through with College.” What!? You can’t drop out just like that, Jeanne! Sure, now that you’re no longer in the running for Heir you don’t need to– “Now you’re just pulling my leg. No, I meant I’m done. I graduated. Summa Cum Laude.”
“Yea, and I think I have done rather well, myself. I built me my sandcastles...”
“I strengthened me my magic and rid me of those cutesy sparklies...”
“I fixed me my hair... and I saw it was good.” And I finally caught proof! Solid photographic evidence! Not so boyish and reckless are you, now, Jeanne? “Pssh, trifles.”
“I made me my hut from grants and scholarships. Oh, by the way, if ever I come to establish my line, this is where my children and my children’s children dwell, and here they shall build up on what I began.” Okay, okay, I get the point. Now enough with the King James Version ‘I made me’ speeches.
“Well, all in all, I think I have done rather excellently. And now I’m going back... home. Well, whatever lot you decide to put me in, anyway. Not my family’s house, though, seeing I’m not the Heir–” It was a lost case ever since your birth, Jeanne. And while I do not regret Artie’s primacy, I am sorry. Especially sorry that you’ll never be living with your family again.
“Eh. I could always visit. Besides, this ‘motherlode’ deal does not seem so bad. ...Not that I need it, though. I’m awesome enough for that.” Oho! Is this a challenge? ...You really sure you don’t want the life of luxury? “Yeah! Little to no money cheats, no maxmotives, the works. A mini-Legacy, if you will.”
“Ah. It’s good to be back. And the family house is within sight, too. Very well.” Least I could do. So what do you plan to do now? “Maybe a little rest and relaxation before I go and fulfill my LTW, perhaps? After all, good guys like me do deserve a break and–”
“All those against Xian’an must die!” “Long live the Shogun!” “Get her!” “Hiya!”
“The Shogun say whut?” I... er... I don’t think now’s the time for sass, Jeannie. “Angry Xianxi troopers. Right. Congratulations, Creator guy. Even I find this an odd welcome. And I hear Voices and speak in anachronisms.” Oh, just go and greet them.
“I am sorry – I am not accepting visitors at the moment. Do try again later.”
Jeanne’s sister Ysabel was having a very good week, on the other hand. She had reached her senior year in College, for one; her brothers Arthur and Roland have finally become juniors. Their domestic affairs were also coming along nicely. Bel-bel’s newfound mastery of flower arranging enabled her to produce the far-famed snapdragons, such as those their mama had at home. The wondrous plant with its wholesome aroma made living in the household much easier.
Bel-bel’s personal life, too, was on high ground. Her long-time object of admiration, Lenard, was a pleasant and much-welcome company, and their relationship was going strong. “Huh. I am sure, man as I am, that this behavior is certainly not ladylike, much less fit for a princess.” Sometimes, though, Ysabel would forget who she was.
But perhaps Ysabel had an excuse in losing her composure for that moment. It was not every day, after all, that a man of means and high upbringing would declare his true love and ask for one’s fair white hand in marriage.
Yes. It had been a very happy week for Ysabel, indeed. Moving on...
The House their papa had established was now at the zenith of its popularity. Having an army of pledges furthered the comforts the three enjoyed. For instance, Ysabel, Roland, and Arthur could very well spend the rest of their College years without doing a paper nor an assignment. (From time to time, though, the three would insist on doing these all on their own, especially Roland.) The odd mascots and clingy cheerleaders were a small price to pay, all in all.
“So you are coming over? You certainly may, of course. Yes, that is excellent.” All this prestige they owed to the Heir Apparent. No more the overly conscious, reticent young man dwelling under Jeanne’s mighty shadow, Arthur had come out of his shell and grown to be a self-assured, charismatic figure. And he certainly had a way with making good friends.
“I thank you for the warm reception, Arthur.” “This is not worth thanking, Lenard. Any friend of Jeanne – as well as of my other siblings – is much welcome. Moreover, I have come to learn of you and my sister Bel-bel. I cannot be any happier.”
“And Jasmin!” Arthur exclaimed enthusiastically, seeing the other person that came along with Lenard (who had visited for the third time this week). But even Arthur saw the apparent gloom in his old gypsy friend’s features. He chose, at the moment, to let the expression pass. Perhaps he could yet cheer her up. In any case, he knew he was happy whenever she would come by. “So what brings you here?” he went on. “What news from home?”
But no smile, no twinkling gaze, flitted across Jasmin’s features. This time she had come as an omen of doom. “Ill news,” answered she. “Ill news, Arthur.”
“Once again darkness falls upon the Isla. The Shogun of Xian’an has set loose a grand army with a single purpose: to extend his power all throughout this island.”
“Resistance is failing, Arthur. With no leader to unite the people under one banner, the fighting bands are subdued, one by one, by the superior Red Army and its great armament.”
“While we gypsies wonder where the Xianxi draw their strength in arms, and who supplies them with their fine steel weapons, all speculation is in vain. Even as we speak the Isla is hemmed in on all sides. Soon, very soon, all will be lost.”
At this, even Arthur found it hard not to succumb into despair. Holding his friends hands and pressing them tightly, he asked, “And what of my papa? What of Jeanne? Are they all right?”
“They are doing well at the moment,” Jasmin replied. But there was uncertainty in her voice. “Last I heard, Damian and Jeanne have separately driven the enemy back. But Damian is still loth to openly sally forth. He still fears the day the Isla’s powers learn of his line, and thus holds his own behind his walls. Jeanne, meanwhile, may be the best swordsman in the entire Isla – but she is human, too, and her strength wanes. It might well be a matter of time before... before...”
“There is no need to worry. If anything, we do know that Jeanne can take care of herself,” Arthur said, even though he himself was at dire straits in keeping his voice even. Indeed, such was the effort he exerted in speaking that he was unaware of his hands still keeping Jasmin’s in their keeping.
“Everything shall be all right. The darkness does not fall upon us yet. Not upon me. Not upon you.”
“You have always believed in me,” Arthur spoke at last. Everything was clear now. “You have always encouraged me, stood beside me. Had you not persuaded me to search for a sign, to pursue the Heirship... well... I would not be here right now. And yet you aided me all the way. And now say I, Jasmin of the Gypsies: I am now ready. Ready to be Heir. Ready to further my father’s Legacy and set things right. Ready to bring about a new era of peace and prosperity. And I would have you by my side. Together, we shall do great things.”
“Arthur... I... I... I do not know what to say.” “Then may I suggest that you say ‘yes’?” Arthur prompted. A fig for the cryptic message of him having to find a princess and such. He knew, in his heart of hearts, that what he was doing was the right path.
“...Yes, Arthur. We shall set things right... together.” “...Truly? Great!” And upon hearing all these, Ysabel turned away from the scene with a smile. “Finally,” she breathed to herself. “For a while I was worried that all their clandestine meetings were for naught.”
“Now, if only Roland would desist in his constant skilling and have some leisure, then perhaps all three of us would be content.”
Bel-bel spoke the truth – of late Roland kept mostly to himself, rolling this and that want to skill, and then trying his best to earn the said skill points. In fact, these days found Roland spending his time reading and painting and – doing that which he once detested the most – playing chess.
And, contrary to his Aspiration, Roland seemed adverse to the prospect of contact with other women. Those who were audacious enough to hug him, such as the clingy cheerleader, he spurned flatly, though he would later on apologize for being discourteous. It was either that, or he would pick up a fight with them. But it was more of the former.
And, above all these things, Roland continued leaving Arthur out of his nightly sojourns. Now, it was at the Aleithian Landing: the College port. Roland gazed at the ship anchored there, ready to sail with the new graduates the next morn, arriving in the afternoon with new students. What would it be like? he asked himself. What would it be like, taking this ship, and then sailing far, far away...
And yet where shall I go? Roland continued with his ponderings. Where shall this ship take me? Will it bear me to where She is? Will I then land upon strange white shores? And will I then see Her waiting with beaming eyes and loving arms?
Or would it lead me to stranger shores, to lands black with death? Or else to the meadows unending, where the virtuous shades dwell, where the Stream of Forgetfulness flows? Ah, then I shall drink of oblivion, and suffer no more!
Nay, nay – that would be an offense to Her very memory. And, alas, it is the only thing left of her for me now. Nay, I shall stay in these shores and bear this burden, and remain Roland. “Roland?” “Yea, truly. Roland. He who shall wait in vain for She who might well never come back.”
“And he who is doubtless a Romance Sim, sighing elegantly foolhardy phases like those.” Roland was taken by surprise – not so much by the speech as by the speaker. “This... is this a dream? Or is it you, Cecilia?”
Roland impulsively reached out for her cheek to know whether he was awake or walking in a dream. Her cheek was warm to the touch, and the hand that met his was flowing silk. “This... this is real...” he gasped, his mind still numb. And yet Roland’s heart was exulting, perceiving that its pair was indeed within embrace. “How ... how is this possible?” he asked. In response, Cecilia said, “I rode a ship as soon as vacation began.”
“Papa had me enrolled in the Academie Le Tour beyond your people’s Sea. I am grateful, as there is no college with finer standards of learning.”
“And yet I found myself lonely there. There was no one familiar around.” “You know, I think I know what you feel,” Roland interrupted. “Well, Artie and the others are here, but... everything is different without you around. It must have been hard for you, too.” “Yes, it was,” confirmed Cecilia. “But I did find company, at length.”
“Hey,” the girl said in casual greeting, slicing a juicy pancake with her fork. “Good morn,” came Cecilia’s polite response, choosing to ignore how inappropriately scanty the dormie was attired. “May I sit here?” “Yeah, sure. It’s a free University.”
“So...” the dormie went on speaking. “That’s your butler?” “...Yes.” “Eh. Personally, I find butlers too much expensive. Waste of money – and food supplies.” “I see.”
“But really, what you need to survive here is a best friend. Sure, I might not be as cool as your bonafide Legacy people are, but... well, I’ve seen you around, alone. You might want company, mine to be exact.” Cecilia acceded to Roland, “Aravis was a little... brash, true. And yet she was also right: I was alone and I had no one about. And... it seems strange to say, but I felt drawn towards her. It was as if some Hand was pushing me to accept her offer of friendship.”
“After the second semester Aravis and I managed to be fast friends. She was also fond of the Smustle, which, as Papa said, aids in ratiocination. And yet even she knew that even her company was insufficient.”
“Ceci, don’t tell me you’re going emo. Or changing your hair color,” quipped Aravis, who had noticed that the former had stopped Smustling and gazed towards the distance. Seeing that her stab at humor failed, the dormie then added, “Hey, don’t you want to talk about this? I might turn out to be a god-sent help, you know.”
“I soon found myself narrating... well, what conspired between us both.” Roland found himself blushing even as his eyes shone with new hope. “So... you have missed me, after all?” “...Yes. I have.”
After hearing Cecilia’s story, Aravis had in mind only one possible answer. “So why don’t you sail back to see him?” she pointed out matter-of-factly. Going on, she said, “I mean, I love the ALT campus as much as the next guy, but who’s keeping you from having a vacation elsewhere, right? I mean, Ceci, we’ve just finished our finals. Now’s a good time to get a move on, right?”
“But... I am not sure if Papa would approve,” Cecilia countered. “Sailing alone to meet him... it might appear un-ladylike. I do not want to disappoint my Papa. I want him to remain happy. He has been very happy since we have arrived in the Isla, years and years ago. I think he had found peace, for the first time since Mama died.”
For a moment, unbeknownst still to Cecilia, Aravis’ eyes widened upon hearing the said information. However, before Cecilia could notice it, the dormie was already speaking. “Oh, Ceci. It’s really great, you being concerned about your Papa. But sometimes, you have to think of your own welfare. Your own happiness is important too, you know.”
“And with that,” Cecilia concluded, “she stood up and waved her hands, as if whisking me away. ‘Now what are you waiting for? Go!’ she said in goodbye. And the morning after, I took the ship and headed here. I know not how to explain it, but it was as if someone I know was whispering into my ear, telling me that I have done the right thing, coming here.”
And yet Roland’s mind suddenly thought of the implications of Cecilia’s arrival. “So... does your papa know of this?” he inquired hesitatingly. “Yes. Of course. ...Papa does know that I am on vacation,” the other answered with a smile and a would-be casual wave of her hand. But Roland observed that Cecilia’s eyes on that instance seemed glazed, as if they were windows with the shutters closed.
But it mattered not for now. The two held each other in mutual embrace, both joyful in finding their love unchanged. Or, if it had changed, it was for the better. “I was nearly driven witless without you, I would have you know,” Roland murmured. And Cecilia replied, “If only we could stay together here.”
“Then why should we not?” All melancholy was gone as Roland addressed her, a plan having presented itself to his sound yet elated mind. “L-let us go to your papa, Cecilia, y-y-you and I. Then... then we can make a case for us, and I... I shall ask for your hand.” “I... I do not know.” Only now did outright uncertainty come out of Cecilia’s lips. “Papa... I fear that he would not approve...”
“But p-perhaps... perhaps he would,” Roland interrupted, sinking down on one knee. “Perhaps if he sees how devoted I am... then he would have to agree, would he not?” “Roland? What... what are you doing?” Cecilia faintly asked.
“Cecilia... I know we Romancers are supposed to fear commitment. And I assume your papa knows this, too. And yet... lo! I do not fear this: I have wanted, ever since, to love and be loved, and to spend the rest of mine life with you, and none other. I have been sure of naught but this, and only this. And so, here I am, neither twitching, nor stammering, nor flinching. No – Miss Goodytwoshoes, will you marry me, and, to spite the world, make me a very happy man?”
“Yes!” Roland laughed in relief. “’Tis well. Now, we shall be informing your papa about this by the morrow, shan’t we?”
Afternoon, the next day... Cecilia Goodytwoshoes could have thought of a thousand reasons to believe that everything could go wrong, that everything would not be right. Her papa could have had someone else in mind for her. Roland was Romance, and her papa might not approve. And until now, her papa had no knowledge of all this.
And yet... everything felt right. No, no, it was not knowledge coming from Reason, no. Every workings of the universe, every single one of its myriad laws, would be against their relationship: them falling in love was an anomaly in the first place. But as they clasped hands, she felt sure: sure that this was what was meant to be.
“Well... here we are.” And, out of jest, Cecilia added, “There is still time to turn back, I would have you know.” “Yes, and I choose to press on,” Roland said, putting on his most confident air. Not that he was downright nervous, but even he must admit that the task upon him was daunting.
“Ah, you are back home, Miss Goodytwoshoes. Good morning – I trust College was all right?” Roland was momentarily stunned in disbelief. “You have a butler?” he gasped, forgetting all decorum, blankly staring at the uniformed man bowing slightly to his mistress. “And we have company for today, I see,” the butler added upon seeing Roland. “Master Goodytwoshoes would be pleased to have guests.”
At that point, Roland promptly attended to his attire, brushing off invisible dirt. “Roland, what are you doing? Are you not Neat enough already?” “Oh, I am making sure there is absolutely no dust upon my person,” he replied lightly. “I have the notion that a single particle would ruin everything, immaculate as your place is.”
“Very amusing, sir,” the butler declared. “I thank you.” “Would you care to come inside, sir? Master Goodytwoshoes is already by the porch, waiting.”
Upon climbing onto the porch, Cecilia placed a dutiful kiss on her papa’s cheeks. “I am home, Papa,” she said in greeting. “Ah, yes. Welcome home, child.”
“I trust that your pursuit of higher education is coming along nicely? I would not be inclined to consider that my daughter falls behind her hitherto salient standards.” “I am doing well, Papa. I have brought Academie Le Tour’s report cards for your perusal.” “Trèsformidable. Now, would you care to introduce me to your gentleman companion?” “Papa, meet Mr. Roland Mercator. He is... well, I am enamored of him, Papa.”
“Is that so?” Mr. Cecil Goodytwoshoes’ tone betrayed no emotion as he went down to greet Roland. “Methinks I have heard of that surname in these parts of late, Master Roland. But that does not matter here, does it now?” he said, offering his hand. It wasn’t the welcome Roland expected. “I guess not...” what should he call him? “Mayor... sir.” “You may address me in the common form. May I invite you to come inside?”
“You are comfortably seated, I hope?” Cecil inquired in the same even voice, his daughter right beside him as he faced Roland. “Yes, sir.” “That is well. And now,” Cecil leaned in closer, “I must be straight to the point, I am afraid. What are your intentions regarding my daughter?”
“M-my intentions?” Roland repeated. Whatever did Mr. Goodytwoshoes mean by that? “My objections... I mean... corrections... er... intentions...” “Do speak on, Master Roland.” “That is to say... my intentions are... are... purely honorable, sir.” “Indeed?”
“Yes,” Roland said, drawing courage from that conviction. “Ever since I first met your daughter... You might not believe it with your reason, sir, but... I... I knew she was the one. No, it was not because Fate ordained it... but it was because I decided so, sir. Romancer as I am, I made the decision to be chaste, to be loyal, and to commit myself unto your daughter, to the woman I loved. Love. Yes. I love your daughter, sir, and I would like to ask for her hand in marriage.”
With only the slightest of nods, Cecil then turned towards his daughter. “Excellent rhetoric, was it not, my dear child? Not a single word out of place. Yes, yes. A very learned response from an excellent Romance Sim, I must say. What say you, Cecilia?”
Seeing that she had to reply, Cecilia answered, “...Yes... Papa... but...” “But what I do not understand,” Cecil softly but decisively interjected with a shrug, “is the reason why young Mr. Mercator, handsome and wily charmer that he is, would strive with might and main to seduce my lovely daughter, the single blossom of my life? Has he not enough... women of more appropriate stature... to keep him company?”
Roland had been vaguely worried ever since he was greeted by Serena’s Mayor, but nothing could have prepared him from this blow. “What – what do you mean, s-sir?” he inquired apprehensively.
“Hmm. I find this terribly odd,” Cecil pressed on. “Suddenly, it seems, young Master Roland cannot recount the incident I was referencing to. Perhaps the loss of memory is not the domain only of the elderly, after all. What think you, Mr. Newson?”
“It seems that a memory fades when convenient, sir,” Gavin Newson answered. “I see master Roland has an engagement ring – that, sir, surely is convenient enough a reason to forget, sir.” “Ah. Now memory has slipped past my grasp, too, Mr. Newson. Would you care to remind me what that certain matter concerning Mr. Mercator was?”
“Certainly, sir,” Gavin obliged, his eyes glinting in triumph. “Only a fortnight ago I was going my merry way, sir, manning your textile factory. And then, thinking it would do well for me to glance upon the window – to check whether some last-minute shoppers would come in – I managed to observe Mr. Mercator going about the Rue de Rouge, that place you have had closed, sir. And then, before I knew it, he was... how should I put this well, sir?... he was... kissing that witch, Mila. Heavily, on her hand.”
“That is a heavy accusation to make, Mr. Newson,” Cecil remarked. Even then, his tone was still neutral. “Do you stand by this statement of yours?” Drawing himself to his most formal stance, Gavin answered, “Yes, sir. I saw that scarlet woman approach Mr. Mercator, sir, and he accepted her flirting, sir. And I made sure to summon you, sir, and see for yourself, sir.” “Ah.”
Roland had never lied before. And even in this hour, had he wished to do so, he would never had known how. “...Yes. It – it is true. ...I s-stopped her only – only w-when it was t-t-too... too late.”
“Mr. Mercator asked what I did mean earlier, did he not? There it is, my dear Cecillia. Straight from the man’s own mouth.” “...” “Mr. Newson, would you kindly escort young Mr. Mecator out of my estate?”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Roland, really,” drawled Gavin Newson. “Here’s the gate, now.”
“Good day, sir.” “...” “I hope your visit to my master’s manor had been most pleasant.”
Well, Gavin Newson, for his part, did have a good day, as he himself noted, humming a merry tune as he picked up his brother Garrett and tucking him into his crib. “All right, Ginger?” he asked his teen sister, who judged he, did not share his happy sentiments. “...We need to talk, Gavin,” the other replied tersely. “Right now,” she added.
“What were you thinking?!” Ginger hissed, her face screwing up in anger as soon as they were no longer within the sleeping toddlers’ range of hearing. “I thought you work for Master Goodytwoshoes – now you have ruined his daughter’s life! Just what in the blazes prompted you to con Mila into framing Mr. Mecator?” Gavin’s gay mood evaporated at once. “Stop being foolish, Ginger,” he snarled. “I am just looking out for what is best for the Master – and what is best for us.”
“The best–? Gavin, you are mad!” Ginger was now hard-pressed with keeping her voice down. “You know the Mayor does not hold with dealings with... with... women of ill reputation! And he loves his daughter most of all – just why would you think he wants her heart broken?” “Why? Why?” Repeated Gavin, his face turning ugly. “Because the Master is far-sighted, that is why. Too far-sighted.”
“As you know, Master Goodytwoshoes is a brilliant mind, a great strategist. He thinks far beyond what’s presented, and that’s how he gets things done: never in a hurry, everything well-planned, well-prepared. But me? I’m a street rat who has to be quick if he is to live at all. And there’s the difference, Ginger. I’m no strategist – and elves be thanked for it. Because even the best-laid strategies could be beaten by one tactical shot.”
“Think, sister, think. Think of the world we currently live in. Already war is at hand. Those who are caught unprepared would be taken by storm, even as Master Goodytwoshoes had predicted.
“And the best way to prepare ourselves is to make sure the stronger party is in our debt. Be realistic. The armies of Xian’an can’t be beaten back. Fighting against the Shogun is impossible – the Black Count is unable to lead his armies ever since his defeat, and the Mercators are whelps hiding in their holes, too afraid to come out and play.
“And the people Beyond-the-Sea? You know how they are: always concerned with their own petty quarrels. You know how they never forget their grievances in their long homes. How they never forget their own pride, their own strength, even now that they are in an alien land, an alien world. In this manner Caesars continue conspiring against Caesars, Legacinas argue with Bohemians, and Fitzhughs stand only for Fitzhughs.”
“So, as Master figured out, we could not trust our lives with any of the said factions. We must curry favor with the Xianxi. After all, it makes for good business.”
“And, Ginger, you know what the great thing is? No one is any the wiser about our schemes. So things stand, sister. So far, Master has been remarkably excellent with his long-range ideas. But we – you and I and all our siblings – are not profiting fast enough. So I decided to push things a little further.”
“Roland Mercator is a Romance Sim, handsome and chivalrous – very easy to manipulate. Mila is the most alluring of her... profession. True, Master Goodytwoshoes could never see himself working in league with her girls, but I have made sure she would work for our cause, anyway.”
“And without the Mayor’s blessing,” Ginger chuckled darkly. “Hmph. Well done , Gavin. Who knew you had initiative?” “You may scoff, but I win a throw in the process. It’s only a matter of time before their chemistry wins over their senses.”
“Poor Cecilia’s heart would be broken, I am sure of that. Too bad, but she’d have no choice but to move on, wouldn’t she?”
“And that would be where I drop my little suggestion.” Pleased with himself, Gavin made a bow, as if he was back in the Goodytwoshoes Manor once more. “‘Sir, a word, if I may?’ I shall say. ‘Do go on, Mr. Newson,’ Master would reply. And I shall answer, ‘I am sure your daughter’s heart bleeds, sir. But may I make a suggestion? After all, a heart mends the fastest if it has a new love to cherish.’”
“Master would see the brilliance of it, of course. Prince Hongsun of Xian’an is an honorable, sensible man, and he is soon to inherit the power of his father. Surely the union of Serena and Xian’an is something that will appeal to the Mayor’s mind.”
“And then, as you yourself could figure out, Master would reward us all richly. His fortune increased a hundredfold and his daughter soon to be Queen of Xian’an – nay, of all the Isla! – he would find the time and the generosity to make me a Duke and master of seven castles. And it would be a better world for us all.”
“So, now, dearest sister,” Gavin concluded his harangue, now going for the offensive, “you see how my tactics shall bring further wealth to our family. But perhaps you would care to remember how my short-term brilliance had already made things happen.”
“We no longer live in a rut of an apartment. Our walls are now covered, our floors repaired, and our younger brothers and sisters have decent beds and cribs to sleep on. “And all this would not have been possible if I had not been grasping and cunning. Had I remained meek, content with small wages an hour, content with not making my small little moves towards success, then we would still be hungry right now.”
“Now, Ginger, if you don’t mind, let us end this talk. We have already disturbed Garrett and Georgia’s sweet dreams.”
It turned out that the toddlers had already been done with their nap, and despite all of Gavin and Ginger’s attempts to get them drowsy, Georgia and Garrett were not inclined to go back to sleep. Reckoning that they might as well spend the time to teach the little ones how to walk and talk, the eldest boy got Garrett to walk while the eldest girl sat down with Georgia for talking lessons. “Come on, my little Georgie, say it!” Ginger said encouragingly. “Say Bot-tle. Bottle.”
Ginger sighed. “Oh, what must I do with you? ...come to think of it, what must I do at all?”
“True, it was hard for us to get by back then, but... ...but we were happier before. We were a family then, Georgie.”
“But now? ...I am not sure, but... I am afraid Gavin is now caught up with his shrewd tactics and grand visions. It is only a matter of time before he realizes that... that he has no more time for us at all.”
It was not a good day for everyone, after all. It was over, Roland told himself, as he sighed to himself right outside the Goodytwoshoes Manor that night, still unable to decide where to go. He was a Romance Sim – what did he expect? Gavin Newson and Mr. Goodytwoshoes were right – even if he willed it, he would be unable to be chaste. And now that was laid bare, and he... he surely had broken Cecilia’s heart.
And then, as if in perverse mockery of his plight, a cloaked and hooded Mila arrived. “I had a feeling you would be here,” she spoke, her husky voice barely concealing panting. “I should have known you’d be hanging around the Mayor’s house.” “What more do you want?” Roland said through gritted teeth. “I already am ruined. This is what you want, is it not? Are you not in league with the Mayor and his creature?”
“No.” Not now, anyway, Mila thought. True, Gavin Newson hired her services, but... “The Mayor ruined our livelihood. Anything that will vex him, I’m in.” And it’s something I have to do, she added to herself. “So... are you saying that you can help me?” Roland ask, allowing himself to hope a little.
“Yes,” Mila said, nodding. “There is something that you need to know, Roland – something that holds the key to the Mayor’s dealings as far as his daughter’s concerned.” “What – what do you mean?” asked Roland. “Is this... some sort of trickery? You have caused me to fall, Mila, and if this is another ruse–” “There is no time, Roland! Look – are we in secrecy? Is there no one around?”
“This has been kept secret until now, Roland. Now, I don’t ask you to think better of me or not.” I hope you do, though. “But you must consider what I have just said.” “I... I will look out for it.” “Yes, that’s what I hoped. You must follow me, now, Roland.”
“But... where to?” a puzzled Roland asked. “And... do you wish me to follow... now?” “Yes, now! And just follow me!”
“All right, all right! I am following you!” “And hurry up!” “But if this is roguery...” “Then kill me, if you deem it necessary. Just keep up!”
“Darliya, you cannot be serious,” violet-dressed Nimaya said in mild reprimand, seeing the attire her close friend wore to the gathering. But, if anything, Nimaya’s words only made the scantily-clad gypsy happier.“What? I have to look my best! Surely the men of Xian’an would not mind.” It was all Nimaya could do to restrain herself from tearing at her hair.
“Oh, but be serious, Darliya! In case you have not realized, our current situation is dire! Look, even as we speak our men stand guard all throughout our Last Refuge. We , the Arkyari, are on the verge of annihilation!”
“Exactly! I am serious!” Darliya, vaguely aware of one of the guards staring at her, replied, shaking her ample hips. “If I don’t dress up like this, how can I convince our men to repopulate our race?” The gypsy called Nimaya only hung her head in defeat. “Reasoning with you is futile. Well, let us tarry not. The Council awaits.”
“My dear friends and children,” the tired, solemn voice of Trisha, their aged Head, rang throughout the damp stone ruin. “We are given no respite by the hand of Fate. As you know, the evil Count Alfonso is caged, at the moment, in his black castle. However, Xian’an has risen to where of old the Count stood. The Isla suffers – and our people most of all. Once again we are persecuted. And I fear that this Council may be our last.”
“But surely,” Mynaea spoke, “What the Great Mother has said might as well not come to pass. Hunted as we Arkyari are, is it not true, however, that we are a race of lore, and that power is still within our people? Can we not stem this dark hour?” Trisha answered, “Yes, Mynaea. We might yet be spared – if we take the proper course. But what that course is,” she added, in an uncertain tone, “even I know not. I am at a loss.”
“The Matchmaker has arrived, Great Mother,” Jasmin quietly told Trisha even as she spied the old gypsy take her place. “Ah, yes. That is well,” the Head said, nodding. Then, turning slightly towards the newcomer, “Is it done? Have you sent the message?”
“Oh, I have, yes,” the Matchmaker answered, glad as she was that she had done her part. “The boy Arthur asked for a date a few times – begging your pardon, Jasmin: it was before you two... well. But only part of the prophecy, High One, mind,” she added. “I feared that the entirety would be too much for him, right now.” “It is just as I hoped,” Trisha agreed. “Even I do not understand the entire verse.”
“The Hand of Fate upon the firstborn son heavily lies: His life visited shall be by princesses, thrice. Of his blood shall the first be, born of a mother’s rearing. In silence she stays, but ever aid unbreaking. The second shall help him end bloody strife And bring an age of order, if she be his wife. And of the third–”
“Yes, yes, this is good and all,” Darliya suddenly interrupted, and accordingly everyone’s gaze turned towards her. “But really, this is not what we are supposed to do!” Nimaya had had enough. “If you were in charge, Darliya, you would have us all be dancing in front of men, covering only the bare essentials.” “That is fun, but... no, that is not what I have in mind.”
“Until now we have done nothing but to ‘Watch and Wait’. No offense, Great Mother – for you are doing excellently – but this inactivity is what hastens the Isla’s decay, I think. For is it not our responsibility, as the Learned Ones, to go out and share our knowledge and power to those who have it not, and are in need of it? So what I am saying is that we should put an end to our hiding. If we are to perish, then let us perish in the hope that others might carry on the Light we bore! ...right?”
“Darliya, that... was the wisest thing you have ever said!” “I try to be a surprise,” the other said with a shrug.
“Darliya has a point,” Nimaya seconded. “Think you not? Let us make our presence known. Not that I say we all go out at once and turn ourselves over, but... well, look at the Matchmaker. She passes herself off as a pretend-mystic selling worthless tokens and dates–” “Hey, young woman! I resent–”
“Not now. But as I am saying, we can try and pass ourselves off as harmless charlatans! That way, the powers that be would not consider us dangerous, and we can go about sharing whatever we can share!” “Yes... that would be good!” The murmur of assent spread throughout the Council table.
“That is sound advice, yes, Great Mother?” “Yes, child, yes,” Trisha replied, her own voice now showing a hint of hope. “And we certainly have Darliya to thank. Nimaya – bear this in mind. Not all who dress so scantily equally lack knowledge.” “...Yes, Great Mother.”
And at length, the Council as one agreed that henceforth the Arkyari would hide no longer. The time for Watching and Waiting is no more, and now the gypsies should all go forth to Guide the hand of Fate for the good of the entire Isla.
But as Jasmin stood up to leave, Trisha took her hand and pinned it down, stopping her. “Wait,” the Head said. “We should talk.” “But I should–” “We must talk.”
“All right, Great Mother,” Jasmin obediently replied. “We shall talk.” “Yes, we shall. Now, years and years ago, you came by young Damian Mercator’s house and spied a young boy, the firstborn of the Mercator line,” the older gypsy began. “You remember this, do you not?”
“Yes, I do remember, Great Mother. It was the first I saw Arthur – and even then I knew that, as with his sister, Jeanne, Destiny lies heavy upon him. Ever since I have kept watch upon him.” “And you have done well, Jasmin,” Trisha said. “Arthur could not have turned out better.”
“And yet...” Trisha of the Arkyari paused, momentarily unsure of what she should do, what she should say. Unable to look at the other, she went on, “The prophecy, Jasmin. Now you have heard, at the least, two-thirds of it. Surely, by now, you know who the second princess is.” “That... that is impossible, Trisha. She is a princess no more.”
“You should know better, my dear. Even now the prophecy is already at work: you two have already fallen for each other, as my trusted sources say.” “Darliya...” “There is a time and place for everything, Jasmin. But let me finish – you ought to understand: a princess can be said to be one in two ways: figuratively and literally. Ysabel Mercator...”
“...she is of the first kind, I know.” It was now Jasmin’s turn to be unable to look at Trisha. “And you, my dear, are of the second sort. And from that there is no escape. You know this to be true.”
“But... but my family has long since lost the Kingship,” Jasmin pointed out, unwilling to give up without resistance. “My father... he was not the best of kings. It was only right for the Mercators to depose him. And now, by virtue of this, I am no longer royalty.” “Aaah, but your right comes not from your father, Jasmin. The Heliopatri were only men who took on the role of the Elf-King. But your mother...”
“... is an elf,” Trisha definitely pointed out. “And, as you know, the Elf-King’s daughter. And the blood of the Elf-King, who is King above all kings in the Isla forever, flows in you, too. And that is why you know, as I know, that the Elf-King’s sword responds not to Arthur alone. He earned Excalibur by his family’s valor. But you, my dear... you possess it by right of blood.”
“Jasmin... my people adopted you as you fled your burning home. But that does not make you into an Arkyar. Forget the White Gypsy, Jasmin.”
“Be who you are meant to be. Be who you truly are.” ...to be continued.
Credits: peasant007. The Devereaux Legacy. profbutters. The Squeaky Clean Legacy. Zane, Lillian, Cecil, and Cecilia all have major roles right now.
DocGirlP. The Bohemian Legacy. Orikes. The Pseudo Legacy. smoothiequeen87. The Fitzhugh Legacy and A Villainous Apocalypse. Blite27. The Ten Caesars. CC by Modthesims2, All-About-Style, XM Sims 2, Rosesims, Parsimonious, among others.
Well, yes, I must also credit: Squaresoft. Final Fantasy VII. Disclaimer: I do not own Sephiroth. He only appears for storytelling purposes. And there is a party that I do not give credit to, yet. All for storytelling purposes.
And here’s Eowyn (Montaigne) and Aravis (Delmar)! Obviously they’re no natural townie and dormie, respectively, as they were my genetic simulations of... my characters and some townies (the Holden Bohemian and Remington faces). Can you take a guess where they come from? Hint: do their facial structures, especially Aravis’, remind you of some people? Happy Simming!