Phantom: "No, it's a chinchilla."
Stranger: "It looks like a rat!"
Phantom: "You look like a rat."
Phantom: "It's a chinchilla."
Old woman: "Oh my word! Is that a rat?!"
Phantom: "No, I'm a fairy. But people call me a little rat all the time."
Meanwhile, Oliver meets with his last client of the day.
Dungeon: "I know what's going on in there. You're a slave in her house. I don't know if she has others besides you. But...she's set in her ways. I think she's losing her mind the older she gets. You have to get away from her soon."
Oliver: "That's...not really an option on my part at the moment."
Dungeon: "Sigh...I guess I can just be glad she hasn't reproduced. The lunacy can at least stop with her."
Oliver: ".....I suppose you're right...."
Evening rolls around. Surprise - a birthday for Amaranth! And boy, is she excited!
Amaranth: "Wanna see what else I can do?"
Jakkson: "...Maybe in the morning, Amaranth. It's getting close to ten and you have school in the morning."
Amaranth: "....School? But...I really don't want to go to school."
Jakkson: "Everyone goes to school, Amaranth. It'll be fun. But you have to get some sleep for it, so your brain's awake."
Scowling but realizing Woofie's right, Amaranth heads up the stairs to get ready for bed. Jakkson gazes after her until she disappears at the top of the stairs, letting out a big sigh. She doesn't even care about his ugliness. Even in his werewolf form, she sees him as any other human being. If only the whole world saw him that way...
Oliver: "I just woke up, Am."
Amaranth: "I just woke up and I'm wearing a shirt."
Oliver: "Girls have to wear shirts when they wake up."
Amaranth: "Why? Cuz we have boobs?"
Oliver: "...You're not supposed to talk about that."
Oliver: "No. I don't."
Amaranth: "Hey, Toof, when you go to the salon today, can you get me a new dress? A really, really nice one, with ruffles! And I want it to be--"
Oliver: "I'll see what I can do, honey. Now you need to be going to school."
Amaranth: "I don't want to go to school today."
Oliver: "You haven't even been before. School is really fun. The bus is waiting for you."
Amaranth: "...Mom, do I have to go to--"
Oliver heads out to the salon and Phantom goes outside to tend to his garden, leaving Jakkson alone with Midnight inside. Jakkson knows these situations well. He knows what's going to happen. Only now, they make him more and more uncomfortable. Ever since that confrontation with Oliver, Jakkson's been mulling over Oliver's words in his mind. What if he's right? What if Midnight is only going to get worse? What if Amaranth truly does become in danger? Can he really stand around and wait until it's too late?
Jakkson: "Seems that way. We've both been busy."
Midnight: "I hope you don't think I don't care about you. I've been wanting some alone time for quite a while."
Jakkson: "....Have you?"
Midnight: "Of course I have. Seems like the whole world is turning on me. At least I can still rely on you."
Midnight: "I need you to do something for me, Jakk. It's just one more thing to get off my mind and off my plate. I have a lot to work on. The military is almost mine."
Jakkson: "...I guess I can see about it."
Midnight: "You guess? Jakk...can't I trust you?"
Jakkson: "Yeah, you can trust me."
Midnight: "Wonderful. I'm glad you're still on my side, Jakk. I need you to call up Smugglesworth Prep School."
Jakkson: "Where's that?"
Midnight: "It's in Bridgeport, a couple day's journey across the ocean."
Jakkson: "Okay. What am I supposed to say to them?"
Midnight: "You'll be enrolling Amaranth, of course. Make sure you enroll her through high school too."
Midnight: "...You're loyal and you're sexy, Jakk, but you can be so dumb sometimes. The only thing Amaranth will do at this point is get in the way of my plans. We certainly don't need her around here. Then once she gets shipped to Bridgeport and graduates high school there, she'll be so enamored by city life that she won't want to leave. Then she's out of my hair forever."
Jakkson: "But she's....she's your heir, Midnight. If she's not here, who will carry on the Overlord legacy? Who will you pass it onto? It doesn't make sense to gain control of the military and then lose it after you're gone."
Midnight: "After I'm gone?! Don't mock me, Jakkson. I'll find a way to gain immortality, like my father always wanted. I don't need Amaranth distracting me from that either. So...you'll call Smugglesworth?"
Jakkson: "...Yeah, I'll call them. Amaranth will probably enjoy it there."
Days pass, full of fun and delight for Amaranth. As much as Woofie and Toof beg her, she still refuses to do her homework. She hates school - why would she ever want to work on it at home? On this day, much to Oliver and Jakkson's dismay, she's skipped school entirely. Phantom, however, enjoys a playmate for the day.
Phantom: "To the arboretum! It's the most amazing place in the world!"
Amaranth: "Is it indoors? I hate going outside. It messes up my hair."
Phantom: "You don't like your hair getting messed up?"
Amaranth: "I hate having my hair messed up."
Phantom: "Is that why you kicked me in the shin the other day?"
Amaranth: "You need to learn to stop messing up people's hair."
Amaranth: "Looks nice."
Phantom: "Aren't the gardens beautiful?"
Amaranth: "I really can't see any of it, Bizzie. These hedges go up to the top of my head."
Phantom: "No bother. Come on, let's go into the arboretum! We can talk to Baby's Breath, and look for fairies behind waterfalls, and even watch a gardening competition!"
Amaranth: "There are waterfalls in there?"
Phantom: "Everything wonderful is in there."
Amaranth: "Yeah, I guess."
Phantom: "Didn't you like it?"
Amaranth: "It was like I was still outside. And I don't like being outside."
Phantom: "I like limes too."
Amaranth: "You're not even listening to me right now, are you, Biz?"
Phantom: "You're right, I should make key lime pie sometime!"
Phantom notices a rockin' house party at his old apartment. Excitedly, he turns into a little ball and joins the fun. Amaranth laughs, then takes the taxi home. The arboretum was boring, but Bizzie gets so excited about everything that it was semi-enjoyable. Once Amaranth arrives home, she changes clothes to turn into a princess. She loves presiding over the royal court - she lives in a castle, so why not be an actual princess!
Amaranth: "Well, I was just pretending..."
Midnight: "Don't even pretend it's your castle. Because it's not. And it will never be. Now go do something useful."
Midnight walks away promptly, ignoring the hurt in Amaranth's eyes. Amaranth wishes she could spend more time with her mother, but it always seems like she doesn't want to talk to her. Amaranth really just wants to play princess with her - Mom can be the queen and she can be the princess and they can preside over the royal court together! But...it doesn't even seem like her mom likes her...
Jakkson: "...I'm sorry, honey. Mama's busy a lot. I think she just doesn't have time."
Amaranth: "Sniff sniff...am I an ugly princess, Woofie?"
Jakkson: "You're the most beautiful princess in the world, Amaranth."
Amaranth: "You're just saying that! You don't really mean it!"
Jakkson: "Amaranth, listen to me...I'm going to be completely honest with you. You. Are. Beautiful. Don't you ever doubt that about yourself. You're prettier than any princess could ever dream of being."
Amaranth: "...Am I really, Woofie?"
Jakkson: "Always. Now, I think I have an idea that'll make us both feel better."
Jakkson: "Eh, maybe. I think mine has freezer burn."
Jakkson: "...Thanks, Am. I'm glad a pretty princess like you let an old werewolf like me share ice cream with you."
Skipping now, Amaranth flies back into the house, on a self-esteem high as much as a sugar high. She smacks right into Oliver, who's just gotten done drinking his plasma juice.
Oliver: "Well, Woofie's wrong...you're the prettiest princess in the universe."
Oliver: "Aw, come here, you little stinker."
The next morning is a tense one, or at least it seems so to Oliver. He feels much of it exuding from Jakkson. The last couple of days, Oliver's felt like Jakkson's been hiding something from him. It annoys him. The last time this happened resulted in being two-timed by Midnight, which put Oliver through more grief than he ever cared to have. Frustrated, Oliver scrubs some grime off the sink, listening to Jakkson's and Amaranth's conversation at the table.
Jakkson: "I'll see what I can do. I can try to sniff out some gems, but I don't know exactly what I'll find."
Amaranth: "Well, try to find a diamond! Ooh, and if you find a pink diamond, that's even better!"
Jakkson: "That's the school bus. You'd better go catch it before it leaves without you."
Amaranth: "Sigh....I hate school so much...."
Jakkson: "Do you have your homework done?"
Amaranth: "I gave it to Bizzie to do it for me."
Jakkson: "Bizzie did all your homework for you?!"
Amaranth: "No, actually he set it on fire and used it to smoke the bee house."
Jakkson: "Sigh. Of course. Off you go now."
Grumbling, Amaranth trudges out the door to catch the school bus before it leaves without her. Immediately Jakkson gets up and grabs Oliver's arm. It's with such sudden force that it startles Oliver.
Jakkson: "I need to talk to you in the dungeon. Right now."
Oliver: "Alright, just let me finish cleaning the sink--"
Jakkson: "No. Right now."
Jakkson practically drags Oliver down to the dungeon, making Oliver wonder what in the world is going on. It's hard to read Jakkson's face. Is he angry? Concerned? Sad?
Oliver: "What are you talking about?"
Jakkson: "About Midnight going too far. About Amaranth not being safe here. Midnight wants her shipped out to boarding school in Bridgeport. She told me to make the call and enroll her."
Jakkson: "That's what Midnight wants."
Oliver: "...Jakk, this....sigh. Why would you do this? Why would you ever agree to this?...When is she leaving?"
Jakkson: "She's not yet. I haven't called to enroll her. That's what I needed to talk to you about. Clearly Midnight's not going to let her stay at the castle for very long, so Amaranth needs to disappear. But I don't want her by herself in Bridgeport, and I know you don't either."
Oliver: "...So what do you suggest we do?"
Jakkson: "We do what you suggested we do last week. You need to take off with her. That way....that way she's still under your protection."
Jakkson: "That won't work, Oliver. For one, we'd be the cruelest men in the world if we were to escape with Amaranth and leave Phantom with Midnight."
Oliver: "Well, obviously, Phantom would come with us."
Jakkson: "Someone needs to stay behind and figure out how to deactivate the chips underneath our skin. If we all run, she's just going to push a button and we'll all be on the ground until she finds us. Then Amaranth is in even greater danger, and heck, Phantom's body probably isn't strong enough to handle the shock waves. Then we'd be responsible for his death."
Oliver: "...Then I should stay behind and try to figure it out. You take Amaranth and Phantom and run."
Oliver: "She hates me, Jakk. You honestly think you'll be able to convince her?"
Jakkson: "...She uses me for my body, Oliver. I can distract her for a little while."
Oliver: "....Then am I taking Phantom, or is he staying with you?"
Jakkson: "It'd be best if he stayed with me. That way..."
Oliver: "...If she does turn on the pain, he doesn't get affected."
Oliver: ".....You need to be careful, Jakk. You need to be really careful. Amaranth loves you. Don't do anything stupid."
Jakkson: "I won't. Keep her safe for me. I don't expect to say goodbye forever."
Oliver: "It won't be forever. If you'll excuse me. I need to go to the Vault of Antiquity and consult the globe. I need to know if tonight's a good night to run or not."
As Oliver runs off, Jakkson goes upstairs to collect the laundry. He grabs some clothes off the bathroom floor, then is grabbed from behind. Startled, he turns around to find Midnight.
Midnight: "Have you called Smugglesworth yet? It's been a couple of days, and the girl is still in the castle."
Jakkson: "Yes, I have called. Forgive me for being late with it. Depending on when the boat comes in, she'll either be dropped off tonight or tomorrow night. Oliver's going to do that."
Midnight: "Oliver? I ordered you to do that, Jakk."
Jakkson: "Well, uh...I just thought I'd...spend some more time with you. I figured you'd rather have me around the house than Oliver."
Jakkson: "I can't wait. Now then, I should call and check on the ship."
Oliver: "...A possibility of misfortune tonight. Guess we're not running until tomorrow. And now, globe, one final question...I haven't been able to get away and come to you to ask yet, but I have to know..."
Jakkson: "Listen, I need you to save the produce you harvest tomorrow instead of selling it...Oliver is going to need it tomorrow."
Jakkson: "Shh! Just save what you harvest, Phantom. Please."
Phantom: "...But I don't understand."
Jakkson: "You don't need to understand! Just do it!"
Phantom: "Okay. Are you going to tell me what's going on soon?"
Jakkson: "Soon. But not now."
Oliver bursts through the door, startling both men.
Phantom: "Hey, Oliver, Jakkson told me to save--"
Jakkson silences the fairy immediately by clasping his hand over his mouth tightly.
Jakkson: "You have to stay quiet about this, Phantom. It's a...surprise that Midnight can't know about."
Oliver then grabs Jakkson's arm and proceeds to yank him down to the dungeon, much like Jakkson had done earlier.
Oliver: "No. There'll be misfortune if we leave tonight. It'll...it'll have to wait until tomorrow. It will give you more time to prepare."
Jakkson: "I'm not the one that needs to prepare, Oliver. I told Phantom to save some produce for you to eat while you're on the run. You need some sleeping bags too. You have to go and hide where Midnight's not going to easily find you. I'll work on getting the chips--"
Oliver: "No, Jakkson. You have to take Amaranth. You have to run with her."
Jakkson: "Oliver, we already discussed this--"
Jakkson stops himself when he notices Oliver trembling. What? Surely Oliver can't be frightened at this point. He's wanted to run off for a while now. Then he notices Oliver's face. Oliver tries to force a smile, but the tears start welling up.
Jakkson: "You asked the globe which one of us should take her?"
Oliver: "No. I asked...I asked the globe who her father is."
Oliver: "It's you, Jakk. You're Amaranth's father. You should be the one to take her."
Oliver: "It'll be okay. I'm strong enough to fight Midnight if I need to. You need to take her. I can't...I can't on a good conscience take her away from you now."
Jakkson: "...Okay. If...if that's..."
Oliver: "It'll work out. Like you said, it's not goodbye forever. You'll let me see her again, right?"
Jakkson: "You're as much of a father to her as I am, Oliver. You'll get to see her again soon."
Oliver: "Urrrgh...Amaranth? What's wrong?"
Amaranth crushes him into a hug.
Oliver: "A monster?"
Amaranth: "A monster! I don't...I don't want to go back to bed!"
Oliver: "It'll be okay, Amaranth."
Amaranth: "Can I sleep in your bed?"
Oliver: "In my bed? Where am I going to sleep then?"
Amaranth: "You can sleep in my bed. You're bigger and stronger and can beat up the monster better."
Oliver: "Hah! I guess I can. Do you want me to read you a story?"
Amaranth: "Oh yes, please."
Oliver kisses her on the forehead, then traipses upstairs to go sleep in her bed. He hopes he can sleep tonight. He needs to be awake tomorrow before Jakk and Amaranth leave. He has to say goodbye. She won't be gone forever, but he will still miss her more than he can say.
Author's notes: Wow, that was a crazy long chapter, but I feel like it flows. I tried to get most of Amaranth's childhood done in one chapter (like I did with her toddlerhood) in order to move onto Generation Three within a reasonable amount of time.
Without revealing story details, I can reveal that I'm not going to break the rules by having Jakkson and Amaranth "run away." I will still be in control of everyone, so I'm not switching families or anything. So, when Jakk and Am take off, it's not going to be cheating. I'll leave it to the story to reveal how it's done. :)
And yes, I have decided to reveal that Jakk is indeed the father (the only way you'd be able to tell is by Amaranth's nose - she directly inherited Jakkson's nose). But, of course, I can't leave Oliver out of the equation. I feel like they're both equal father figures to her.. Phantom's more like big brother. :D
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