It’s blazing hot. The columns of monarchs shed their embers upon my mansion as they soar across the sky. Prancing flames are all around. My parents scramble through them to put me out of the predicament. Dark smoke that fills the scene forces me to cover my face with my arm, obstructing most of my sight. When my mom lags behind, my dad returns inside once he places me on the terrace. That is when the mansion crumbles upon them. I couldn’t forget the sight where I reach for my dad, to no avail.
And they perished. Along with the mansion. Along with their wealth. Along with my people. Then that crimson-eyed lady emerges from the flame, striding to my direction. Her hand reaches out for me, her flaming hand. The heat has stripped me of my strength. I am in no condition to struggle back.
So I give in…
What happened? I thought as I regain my vision. I think I was mopping the floor. Then…
It’s warm and damp in here. I find it hard to open my eyes. The air that I breathe out feels similar to those in hot air spring. Along with my barely moving limbs, are the bone crushing pounding on my head. It took me another minute to realize that something soft is pressing against my forehead, a wet towel I guess? I lift my hand to meet my neck. For a moment, I thought I was lifting the base of fresh dishes, but it’s actually my skin. Ah…I take a deep breath as I face that I am now confined to this cushion bed.
Cushion bed? I thought I’m lying on my mattress in the bunk. It takes some time for my vision to clear up. As I gaze upon the room once more, it turns out I’m not in the bunk for the time being. I’m somewhere else, I think…Judging from the lavish interior with carved furniture, I’m still in his mansion.
I struggle to sit up. The cloth that I thought to be a towel fell to my lap. It’s a fever compress. My forehead starts to flare again as I remember, that thanks to my exhaustion I couldn’t really tell where I was going. It is before I slipped and slammed my head on the floor. Everything is black thereafter. There’s a window to my left, just beside a fancy bookshelf, that led only to darkness. How long have I been out? What time is it?
How flared up I become when I look at the time.
“Oh no…his dinner…”
But I can’t make it. Sitting like this has already consumed a huge portion of my strength. As the pounding on my head grows stronger, I couldn’t force myself to stand. Especially when my whole body is as flaccid as wet petals.
It is when the door creaks open. What comes after is a sight that I can’t believe I get to witness. It’s the trolley that I used to serve the Primus’ meal, and he is behind it.
“Huh…?” A silent ensues as we stare at each other.
He shut the door and brings the trolley beside me, before tapping into his utilizer and draw it close to my neck. That is when I flinch, as soon as the back of his left palm touches my skin.
“Lie down. Hold still.” He says, drawing his hand closer.
I do what he said. Then his utilizer reaches my neck. From the corner of my eyes, I can see it projecting a number into the air. The Primus, seemingly astonished by that number, sighs as he closes the projection.
“This place is a five-maids work. Why insists in doing all of them by yourself?”
“I’ve messed up plenty of things. I thought I must not fail any further.”
“Well, look where you are now.” He responds, grabbing the compress while rubbing his fingers. He puts it on the bottom-most tray of the trolley, before opening one of the metal cloches and puts a plate full of biscuits on my lap. I stare at them for a moment, processing the implication that he has prepared this for me.
“Have at them, before the main dish.”
Main dish? Did he really bring me an entire dish? Well I don’t mind if he didn’t bring me a dessert, that’s too much of an expectation.
Seemingly impatient for me to consume the biscuits, he nods at them. Of course, my hesitation is at its finest. But given my condition, his generosity, and how south everything had gone this far, I have no choice.
I take a considerate bite off the first piece. The biscuit has a sweet taste with a delicate coconut scent. It takes me three bites to finish it. When I take another piece, he strides to the other side of the bed, closer to the window that led outside.
“How are they?”
I decide to finish the second piece first before replying.
“It’s excellent, sir.” It actually tastes like normal biscuits, but I feel the need to appreciate his effort a bit more.
“No, it isn’t.”
Oh well. Turns out he himself is aware.
What should I expect? It was a fortune that he even went through the trouble to bring me these.
“Was it supposed to?”
He nods in silence, before stepping to gaze out of the window. “They are jollies under Sofiana’s hands.”
I stop chewing as soon as I heard that. “Pardon, sir?”
“Um,” I think I know what happens next, but I’m not sure I have the strength to drive it out of me. “Is she…”
“Gone.” He says, his gaze still fixed to anything beyond that window pane. “She left me on a stormy night, not long after the end of my conquest.”
“My condolences, sir.”
He then leers at me.
“It is since then that I became the slacking man you see for the past three days. In the absence of an offspring, how could one’s ambition remain without their other pair? That is the reason why my meals are way off the norm, and why vegetables never made to one these days.”
Surely what he is doing is bad for his health. But if he is consciously doing it…
I really don’t like the implication.
“You wish for organ malfunctions to take your life.”
He nods. His face might be concealed behind his mask that he is wearing. However, it is apparently useless, in terms of hiding his feeling, when one comes this close with him.
“All so that a pious girl could remain under my protection. She knew that I was determined to cast her out of my doorstep, and decided to leave beforehand. When Sofiana heard this, she decided to take her place and left me instead.”
Clearly, he’s the Primus. His hostile stance toward the believers, those who believes in divine powers and worship them, is a common knowledge to everyone in the continent. His decision that moment could be purely out of spite to the girl just for being pious.
“Why she’s even there in the first place?” I ask him.
“Sofiana picked her from the street. A fragile girl who has nowhere to return to. She raised her, for the remainder of her teenage, like she is of her own blood. She gave her protection, like how all mother should to their children. But still, a thrall is a thrall. Unless they let go of their belief, they won’t ever find my fond gaze shining down on them.”
That just sounds like a household quarrel that doesn’t end well. But the loss of loved ones will always be painful, regardless of the cause.
It is not long that I wonder…
“Who is the girl? What is she up to now?”
His response isn’t immediate. But it shook me, as soon as it comes out.
That left my jaw open for a moment. And I think my biscuit fell from the clutch of my fingers to the plate again. “The maid colonel?”
“Correct.” He says, turning to me. “She is under direct command from Microv himself, my right-hand man. That is the result of his care for her. I was fortunate that he is willing to supervise her.”
What? So she was his daughter all along? Well not quite, since he doesn’t acknowledge her.
I nod in silence, picking the piece that I dropped.
“Have your tea, the closest mug to you.” He continues.
“My gratitude, sir.” I reply, turning to look at the mug he is referring to.
I take a sip of the tea, which turns out not to be a tea after all. Sure, the liquid has a somewhat black feature. But it tastes somewhere between bitter and sour.
The Primus then steps away from the window. He drags a stool beside me and sits there, taking a deep breath.
“That’s actually not a tea. It’s a guava leaves extract. My father used to make it whenever I fell ill.”
Whatever it is, I hope it hastens my healing just like what he is implying.
“Feeling better?” He asks.
“I think…” My body is still warm, my head is still pounding, and my limbs are still as weak as noodles. But they seem to be not as bad as they were. “I think I’m recovering.” I continue.
“Don’t forget the main dish.” He says.
“What did you bring?”
He strides over to the trolley and hands over another plate covered with a metal cloche. Seeing that, I put the remainder of the biscuits back on to the trolley to make room for the plate he is handing. What lies under the pot is, an omelet I suppose? It has a perfect circular shape, with noodles protruding out of it.
“Many have thought of my inability to cook. They’re about one percent wrong. And this is the product I am most proud of.”
“You made this yourself?”
“It’s a mix of two eggs and an instant noodle, baked inside the chamber of a rice cooker. Nothing special.” He says striding back to the stool on the other side of the bed.
Now that stare falls upon me again. Apparently, he wants me to taste this dish that he made. I couldn’t help it. Letting him stare at me like that for quite some time isn’t good for both of us either. I begin to slice a piece and puts it in my mouth.
“This is…” I say, as soon as I’m done chewing. “Delicious.” And yes, I’m not playing around. Even with my fever tongue that was supposed to alter any taste that comes to it, this omelet still tastes over the top.
“Glad you like it.” He says.
“Were you making this too back then?”
“Only when Sofiana isn’t cooking, which is a rare occurrence in times of her presence.”
“Ah…” I respond, putting another piece into my mouth.
This woman, Sofiana, seems to be an essential person in his life. I mean, she is his wife. And he seems to cherish her more than his own life. To think that their bond is severed by a difference in view…I wonder whether she is scarred by her decision as well or not. This view of his, where did it come from? How could it root deep into his flesh and blood?
“By the way…”
He turns to me while rubbing his finger.
“Why did you hate those believers so much?” It’s hard to believe for a moment that I just brought myself to ask that. I stare back as his gaze turns into a glare. Perhaps he has no intention to share that story to anyone. But my curiosity keeps gearing. “Was it because you’re a man of science, that you’ve come to resent the thought of divine presence?”
“No.” He stands and strides to the middle of the room, his sight fixed to the ceilings to the right. “It not that I don’t believe in divine powers, that I drove their screams and tears. It’s something more personal.”
“Does it hurt if I know?”
“They are responsible for the absence of my daughters.”
He really doesn’t acknowledge the maid colonel as one.
“They took them away, two consecutive times.” He says, leering at me. “And no matter how hard I try, my daughters will never be safe, until those thralls are purged from this world.”
Which means there is a possibility of truth to the event told by Eri.
“And all your atrocities, only to make space for your daughter?”
“For each of their dying breath, my sprout shall inhale upon them and bloom to the skies with exquisite vibrance.” He turns to the window and steps before it again. “In addition to that, there would be lesser opposition to scientific fruition.”
“They are in denial to the prosperity that you sow?”
“The old senate were devout thralls. My province was once a state-of-the art among the others. We saved the nation from collapsing. Our secret was none other than renouncing the core belief they held dear to allow technological development beyond the boundary. But they didn’t like it, and decided to get rid of me.”
“But you beat them to that.”
He nods. “Thanks to the technology that I’ve developed.”
“What is it?”
“Classified. It’s not for you to know.”
I nod gently. “I understand.”
“One thing is that it’s keeping me alive until now. I will not pass away, until the last of the thralls’ banner lies under my feet, torn by the might of my Androids.”
How long have that thing extended his life, I wonder?
“When is the last time you lost your daughter?”
He raises his right hand, unfolding his fingers one by one starting from his thumb.
“Fifty-three years ago.”
Fifty-three years? Considering that he has been a father for several years during that time, he has to be at least about eighty years old now.
“What happened to her? Is the unfortunate you just claimed to had befallen her literal, or…”
“Rather. Those thralls have instilled their values on her. She embraces them with great vigor and confidence, believing that it could bring salvation to civilizations. That is before she abandoned us. And as she delved further down those values, she left an even greater mess for me to take care.”
He strides before a sizeable silk cloth, apparently hung on to something, in the middle of the room. There seems to be something hiding behind the cloth which I just noticed. The Primus pulls that cloth off, revealing a large picture of a gorgeous woman in crimson clothing, clad with lavish decorations that speak of her royal nature. On top of her head is a diadem that somehow seems familiar.
“Do you recognize who this is?”
I do recognize her, based on my father’s description. The founder of the Terran Vindicators, Katrina the Great. He used to tell me about the woman when I was little. My father was in charge of several merchants, and they all find great success in her theocratic realm.
“You were the father of the founder of the greatest believers’ realm in existence?”
“Not only the greatest, but also the most sophisticated of the thralls’ states.” He says, gazing at the picture. “She was once a frail high-schooler, who is dying from starvation, that I found in a dead city. I’ve raised her for six years before she left. During which, she accomplished a remarkable feat.”
“So she was great before her title.”
He nods. “An Android with long, straight peanut hair. Her sweet crimson eyes and her flawless features would be the first thing you’d note about her.”
Crimson eyes? For some reason that rings a bell. The nightmares that I was having, where my parents perished in a twister of flames. A woman with crimson eyes, gazing down upon me, reaching for me.
“I was in supervision when Katrina labored to create her.” He continues. “The Android took her place when she passed away.”
“Tribhuwana the second.”
“Her name is Sylvana…” He says. “She had conducted a massive raid that devastates our frontier’s logistics over the past six years. One of the most devastated sectors, I believe, is your settlement.”
He knows about that? The devastation of my birthplace…The evening where I lost everything.
“My village seems to have clung onto you.”
“Because Sylvana was there, overseeing the destruction herself.”
Those crimson eyes, so it belongs to a Vindicator empress all along. My family is taken by the same faction that allows them to prosper…A realization that petrifies me. The empress might have done that in retaliation of what the Primus has done. So the question is…
“Why did you let that happen?”
“My power requires further consolidation. That shifted my focus from the front.”
“But you’re the most powerful man in the world.”
“But I’m still a man. I’m no divine.”
I gaze down on my lap, noting the most prominent possibility that would occur if he had prevented the event that evening.
“My parents could still be alive today.”
“I guess the thralls have taken what’s precious for both of us.”
“No.” I exclaim with a higher tone. “You’re the reason my precious are gone.”
The Primus stands there in silence. Based on his expression, I think I just snapped at him again.
Damn it, not the second time.
I sit here dumbfounded. He went through all the trouble to bring all these provisions to help me recover, and yet this is how I treat him?
In the next second, I already drop the main dish back to the trolley and cower under the blanket. I can’t stand this. I’ve crossed way beyond my boundaries. I am ashamed of myself. I wish I never exist.
What happens next however, subvert my expectations.
“I’m sorry.” The phrase that I heard, followed by a pat of cloth on top of my head. “Please consider your medicine before shutting your eyes for good.”
His steps then grow dimmer, before the door creaks open. As soon as it shuts gently, I shove the blanket by a little to peek over it.
He’s gone, leaving me the remainder of the provisions on the trolley and another compressor on the blanket, where my head supposedly was. Just beside the pillow is a band filled with four pills. Perhaps it’s one for tonight and three for tomorrow. Because this fever came from exhaustion, I believe it shouldn’t take too long to recover. I take a deep breath before putting a pill on my tongue and shove it down with the guava leaves extract.
Not long after, my vision sways again. I hope that’s the medicine taking effect. I rest my head on the pillow and put the compressor on my forehead. I relax my muscles as my drowsiness drags me to nothingness.
The pitch-black view beyond is filled with splashing waves. The girl stands still with her eyes wide open to the nothingness as the wind flows past her.
“Vittoria.” Fred calls out to her, who is standing at a solitary point on the shore.
She turns around. “Thank you for coming.”
“Of course, you said you need this.”
“Fred…” She says, suddenly turning her gaze down.
“I…wanted to explore this island.”
“Oh…” Fred sighs, seemingly unimpressed. “You have any problem with us?”
Vittoria crosses her arms, gripping her elbow in a slightly cowering manner. “No, it’s just…”
“This island might be a remote one, but it’s still enormous compared to me. And my existence so far only covers a tiny bit of it.”
“So you’re curious to what’s over there on the other side?”
Vittoria nods. “At least there will be something new in my journals when I got home.”
“You can afford a ticket home now?”
“By the end of next week.” She says. “I believe I can cover most of this island in less than that timespan.”
“I see.” Fred replies. “We’ll just help you prepare then.”
“I’d appreciate it.” Vittoria says.
Without Fred noticing, she lurches forward. In the next second, she is already sticking to him, arms wrapped around his waist. Fred stands still for a moment, having a hard time perceiving what just happened. That is before he wraps his arms around her shoulders. The heat of their skin interfering with each other amidst the cold night gust, keeping them warm.
“Safe trip, Vittoria.”
Bad news for today is that I wake up a bit late. Good news is that it’s not too past his breakfast time. And the fact that I’m waking up feeling better tops that even more. I button up my collar and tuck my pin on its center.
I stumble upon him as soon as I leave the bedroom. His silent gaze falls on me again. As much as how things went for the last couple of days until last night, I’m still his maid, tasked to serve him during his leave. So, I commit to the standard procedure.
“Sir…” I say, bowing down.
“You seem to have recovered.”
“I’m about to make your breakfast.”
He turns around. “Make sure you have yours just after. Then return to your bed.”
“That’s an order.”
“Y-yes sir.” I nod with vigor.
“And…” He says after taking a step away. “That green dish you made me yesterday, I want them again this morning.”
That…left me astonished. It’s a statement that I don’t believe I would hear. How blooming my heart becomes as soon as that left his mouth. Yes, I made him his preference. But alongside that I still slip in a plate of vegetables. The fact that yesterday’s dishes are the leftovers of those he didn’t touch the day before, which I only warmed up for the day, brings an even brighter glee within.
I stand still, processing the excellent news, making sure that I’m not in one of my fever dreams. No, I’m not. How he suddenly changes are beyond me for a moment. But I’ll just appreciate it. Whatever he found or whoever he met out there when he spent the night outside, I owe them a great deal.
So I rush to the kitchen, tagging along my excitement. For a moment, that fever of mine isn’t felt.
I hit the stove and brings the necessary ingredients on the table. As soon as the dishes are on the table, the Primus leisurely walks in. I again bow to him as he sits on one of the chairs.
“Sit down.” He says after grabbing a plate.
He gently shifts his gaze at me. And that’s a confirmation. I shouldn’t resist any further. So I sit down a chair away to his left. My fever kicks in again. I think I was too vibrant with the dishes that my condition is shoved away. Although temporary, it’s enough to make my head unbearable.
Suddenly he places a plate before me.
“Enjoy the meal.”
“Do you really want me to have my breakfast alongside you?”
“I don’t see the issue.” He says, scooping several pieces from the dishes.
“But those dishes are meant to be yours.”
“You made them. We can have an equal split.” He says, opening his metallic mask. The azure tear on his right cheek is visible again. A fissure on his feature. “On top of that, you’re still recovering. And I believe my dishes have better nutrition for your metabolism.” He continues, inserting a spoonful of spinach into his mouth thereafter.
Hearing his statement makes me feel horrible. This trip has all been a mistake. I believe it won’t go like this had I’m not the one in charge.
“I want to apologize sir.” I say, gazing down on my lap.
He doesn’t say anything, probably still chewing the piece that he put inside his mouth.
“About everything. Including my attitude last night. I believe they all have driven you upset. And it feels wrong if I could just get away with them. Perhaps I deserve more than just the punishment for the desertion.”
I hear him sigh as soon as I finish that sentence.
“There are no charges for making me upset.” He says.
“But the colonel…the caution to not make you upset is the last thing she addressed during the briefing. And was laid with great emphasis.”
He halts midway and places his spoon back to his plate, his fingers are still latching to the other end. “Because I’ve done a terrible thing to her.”
I remain in silent as I glances upon his face that turns to sorrow.
“My anger was at its peak, for the first time since I lost Katrina. Then she spilled my tea on my favorite book, when I was reading them. Knowing that she is the reason Sofiana left, my safeties are off. Then a mighty blow on her left cheek, so powerful that it topples her, so powerful that blood gushes out of her mouth and nose.
“Worse is, she doesn’t even attempt to defend herself. She just gazed at me with her glittering eyes, with her slow breath, as I clench on her collar when she is on the floor. If Microv and Derrick isn’t there, she would be gone by now.”
So that’s the story behind the bruise on her left cheek. What a pity, a woman as elegant as her having her grace defiled by a man who couldn’t hold his anger. I mean everyone have a limit, beyond which they would snap. It’s just unfortunate that she was there when that happens to the Primus.
“Anger can really turn people into something terrible.”
He nods. “I was so consumed, that Microv has to deliver a blow of the same magnitude to restore my sanity.”
“How does she behave before you now?”
“She would still greet me with vigor, even though I never return that radiant warmth of hers. I couldn’t bring myself to see her, thanks to that scar which screeches for me every time I see them.”
He then let go of his spoon and put both of his hands on his face.
“As much as I don’t like you for screwing over my meals, I don’t intend to let that happen for the second time. Getting away from you is a way to prevent that.” He sighs.
Ah…so it turns out, he was protecting me when he left the mansion that day. It seems like the inconvenience of this leave fell on both of us.
“That’s the reason why she is hellbent on telling everyone to not upset me.”
“How about last night, when I dismissed you by hiding under the blanket despite your effort to care for me?”
“You were mad at me for something that I did. That shouldn’t count, considering how common that occurs.” He says. “But I will if you don’t have these dishes as soon as possible.”
“R-right sir.” I was so focused at his stories that I forgot to pick the meal for myself.
“By the way,” He says when I lean forward to grab the dishes. “How do you end up on Creatio Genetrix?”
“You’ve heard a portion of my past. I don’t think it’s fair if you don’t share yours.”
I place my plate down and stare at it for a moment.
“Where do I begin?”
“I heard your parents are the wealthiest there.”
“My mother owned a vast swath of land with several workers. My father was a business man who has plenty merchants abroad, even in the Vindicators’ land.”
“What happened next?”
“I was the only survivor of the incident. The Vindicators are about to take me, until they stumble upon one of my father’s merchant, who paid a high price to ransom me. I call him Uncle Bark. He is in debt since then. His colleagues cut communications and declare their independence. Right now, I’m still unaware whether or not he is done with his debt.”
“So why did you leave?”
“I don’t want him to spare a coin or two to feed an extra mouth for an extended amount of time. So I worked as a housecleaner on a local bar and gathered as much as possible to travel further inland, toward ArC’s capital.”
“How old are you when you left?”
“I was thirteen at the time.”
“Why the capital?”
“It’s the safest place I could think of. I don’t want the incident on that evening occur to me for the second time.”
Indeed, the decision to leave is a hard one not because I’m not up for the obstacles that awaits me. Leaving the person who had saved and determined to protect you, so that you could live in a guaranteed safety, is selfish. Even though I promised him that I would return with more wealth and assist him with his debt.
“I was fortunate that a lavish restaurant would hire me. It takes another year before I heard that the Creatio Genetrix are recruiting maids. At that moment, I was grateful that they accept children like me.”
“Everyone is wounded by the conflict. It’s a system that I applied when I was a governor. A workplace for orphans. Glad to hear those sleepless nights also got you out of trouble.”
That makes me owe him even more. In that case, one might see him as a ruthless dictator. But one shouldn’t deny that all of his misbehavior resulted in the order and prosper of his realm.
“I guess I’m in your debt.” I grin at him.
He nods. “What are you planning to do?”
“I’ve been saving to buy my own land. To restore my family’s wealth. To restore what I’ve lost that evening.”
“How about the man that had you ransomed?”
“That…” I can’t believe I have to say this. “Once I have accomplished that objective.” Even then I’m still not sure whether I’d have the chance. And there’s also a possibility that he is already gone by the time it happens.
The Primus nods as he ingests another content of his spoon.
“Whatever you’re up to,” He says after he’s done chewing. “Give it all of your heart, the way you’re willing to change me. This is my appreciation since you seem to be determined about it.”
For a moment, I couldn’t believe that he just said that. A silence ensues. What are the odds that one gets to sit side by side with the most powerful man in the world, having a breakfast, while sharing both of their past? I couldn’t know for sure, but it has to be incredibly tiny. It feels weird. Few days ago, we were quarrelling. But now it seems like we’re father and daughter. This could be the experience that he wanted. Even though he knows me only for a couple of days, I have no reason not to play along considering everything that he has provided for me, both directly and indirectly.
“I want you to take your medicine after this. Then you shall return to your bed.”
“But who will do the cleaning? The laundry? The dishwashing?”
He sighs deeply, covering his forehead with his left hand. “Who do you think will do it?”
I really despise the fact, and my question is just a way to confirm whether he has someone else to handle the maid duty.
“Uh…” And I don’t think there’s any.
“I haven’t moved a lot in a while. Shouldn’t be a problem.”
“You making the breakfast is enough. Now finish your meal, have your medicine and return to bed.”
Well, how could I insist if this is the case?
“As you wish, sir.”
“Excellent.” He sighs again.
I turn to see his plate is empty. He does possess such an appetite this morning.
“Did you know that Katrina almost died one day?” He continues as my spoon is about to enter my mouth.
“What?” I halt my hand.
“I had to trek all the way north to harvest the only magical flower that could cure her.”
The noise of the roaring waves fills the scene. The skies are elegant with their reddish gradient. Thanks to the horse that Fred provides for her, she could make her journey to the shore on the other side of the island in several hours. It would normally cost one half a day to get there via hiking. As soon as she reaches the shore, a speedboat tear through the waves, making its way toward Vittoria.
It lands along with six armed men and a girl with ArC’s maid uniform.
“Sorry you have to trek this far. This is safest point where we could land without raising any alarm.” The maid says.
Vittoria steps down from the horse. “It’s fine. I take it that you’ve taken care of the other maid then?”
“They’re away from our worries now.”
“Great.” Vittoria nods. “This place only has a number of militias. And they’re not as well armed as us.”
“We should be able to take them with ease then.”
“They might be well trained though. I suggest you keep your men entrenched after they have secured a position inside the mansion.”
“I’ll trust them to you I guess. Their shock of knowing the truth should be our advantage.”
“They won’t know what hit them.” Vittoria says.
The maid nods. “It’s Hana by the way.”
“Vittoria, in case you forgot.”
“Your gear is on the boat. We’re heading there once you don your crimson. Then we’ll rest and commence the attack on the next night.”
“Understood.” Vittoria says.