Then, several weeks later, I was finally discharged from the White Lily Court, and was taken up by Uncle Lancent.
I did not return to the mansion Edi and I lived in, but returned to my home parents’ home, the Adina Estate. My family insisted that, seeing that Edi was gone during the day, I, who was not yet fully recovered, should not be left alone in that large mansion.
Whenever Edi came to the Adina Estate to see me, he was obstructed by my dear family, and couldn’t even get to my bedroom. I only knew because of the sympathy gifts that managed to reach my bedside.
Thanks to my spending these several weeks with my family, I hadn’t been able to see Edi’s face even once. The apologetic gifts of flowers and tea leaves managed to provide me with a small amount of comfort during my days restricted to bedrest in my family’s home.
「By the way, madam, I have heard some good news.」
「Good news?」 I echoed.
I sat up in the bed. I had been devoting myself to embroidery in an effort to kill time when the wet nurse, as if suddenly remembering it, said that. What kind of good news, I wondered. She nodded affirmatively in response.
「Apparently, the princess is going to be holding an evening party soon.」
「An evening party? The princess?」
That was the first I had heard of it. Since that incident, the princess had come to visit me in the White Lily Court just once. So she had been planning such a thing. Up until now I had been to a few evening parties, but this would be the first that the princess had hosted.
「Yes. I’ve heard that the date isn’t yet decided, but they seem to be planning quite a grand affair. I think madam will receive an invitation though.」
「Yes, I think I probably will. But…」
Even without looking in a mirror, I knew I was making an awkward smile. An evening party thrown by the princess herself was something that anyone would want to attend. But right now, I couldn’t bring myself into the mood. My injuries that were supposed to be healed already still stabbed with pain, and brought me to a standstill.
「Would skipping it on account of illness not be acceptable? Even if I were to go, I would only kill the mood.」
「I’m sorry Suzette. Let me sleep for a bit. We’ll talk about this again next time.」
「…Understood. Sleep well.」
Cleaning up my embroidery implements, I pulled the sheet over myself. For a little while, I could sense the presence of the wet nurse, seeming like she had something more she wanted to say, but after a while she left quietly. At the sound of the door closing, I closed my eyes once more.
–I wonder what exactly Edi is doing at this time.
I opened my eyes once again, and looking up at the ceiling, for some reason became very troubled by that.
I gently stroked the bracelet around my wrist, with its magic gemstone the same color as Edi’s eyes. It should have been cold to the touch, but for some reason it seemed to be filled with warmth. Perhaps, if I were to use this bracelet, I could easily contact Edi. But I didn’t know how, and he warned me about using it, so I shouldn’t.
「…How insensitive of him.」
It would be nice if he could at least hear my voice. I Whispered to him, even though he shouldn’t be able to hear me, and then closed my eyes one final time and drifted off to sleep.
Then, several days later. I had finally been allowed to roam around the house when the invitation arrived.
Without hesitation I cut the seal off of the red envelope, and the faint scent of the princess’s reminiscent perfume filled the air. 「As expected of the princess」 my mind muttered, as I took the stationary out of the envelope. Reading the contents, I sighed. The majority was a form letter, but at the end, the princess herself had added 「I am looking forward to seeing you there.」 For some reason my mind froze. I gently traced that one sentence with my finger, and as expected, it did not go anywhere.
「The princess must have been quite worried about me. I probably ought to show up to show her that I’m feeling better.」I murmured quietly, and the wet nurse, who had been standing at my side, brightened considerably, and nodded vigorously.
「Certainly, that’s a good idea! And madam, it will cheer you up!」
「Fufu, maybe. It would be nice if that happens though.」
There was little time until the party. It would be nice if I grew to look forward to it more, as if it were another person’s affair.
Before long, the day finally arrived. The day of the princess’s evening party. The signs of rain that had been gathering up until yesterday vanished, and a refreshing atmosphere filled the royal capital.
I was sitting next to the window, looking idly outside. The sun had already started its descent, and the sky was beginning to turn orange. If I didn’t start getting ready soon, I wouldn’t make it to the party by the designated time. But the wet nurse hadn’t shown up yet. The thought of starting to get ready on my own briefly crossed my mind, but I had left the planning of the dress I’d be wearing today to the wet nurse, so I wasn’t able to do anything.
「I wonder if everything is alright.」
Wondering if I should go to the wet nurse’s room, I stood from my chair, but at that moment,
「Madam, I’m quite sorry, but would you mind opening the door?」
「Hm? Oh, okay, I’m on my way.」
Surprised at the good timing, I headed to the direction of the voice. Opening the door, I saw, carrying several boxes, the wet nurse. Piled on top of the biggest box were two or three smaller ones, and the petite figure of the wet nurse carrying them was almost completely hidden.
「Su, Suzette? Is everything okay?」
「Yes, there is no need to worry. Pardon the intrusion.」
The wet nurse tottered into the room, placed the boxes on the bed, and breathed a sigh of relief.
「I apologize for my lateness. These finally arrived, so let’s get you dressed.」 the wet nurse said good-naturedly, smiling widely. I was very confused. Looking between the boxes on the bed and the wet nurse’s face, I could only tilt my neck quizzically. What did she mean by 「finally arrived」? In contrast to my befuddlement, the wet nurse proudly indicated to the largest box.
「If the madam wouldn’t mind, would she care to open this and have a look?」
At her urging, I untied the golden ribbon around the biggest box and removed the lid. What was inside took my breath away. As if magnetized, I stretched out my hand and removed the contents. Sleek, and marvelous to the touch, I was at a loss for words.
It was a dress like no other that I had seen before.
The upper half was an extremely simple piece, dyed a faint orange. It exposed a little bit of skin, but as if to make up for that, the cloth was shaped to tightly hug the body, and then flow down. For this world, in which, between the two, the trend was to hide the body line, this dress had an extremely rare shape.
For me, with garish scars all along the front and back of my torso, wearing a dress that exposed the skin was out of the question. For the wedding ceremony, I did wear a dress with an open back, but I let my hair down, and was wearing a veil. Also, the attendees were all close friends, so it wasn’t a huge problem. But this evening party was a completely different story. With scars from the spirit, and from dark magic, I couldn’t bring myself to readily expose this ruined body. As if it had predicted my fear, this dress tactfully and completely hid all of my scars.
The pale orange of the upper half transformed as it reached the lower half, turning light purple, then darker, finally becoming more blue. Asymmetrically under only the left breast, several layers of cloth draped out to the left and right, drawing pretty lines. Between the gaps of those drapes, several layers of a deep purple lace formed a panier. Unlike those high skirts that young girls wear, which are made to draw the eye of others’ whenever they move, this was purely an accessory, designed to show off itself, not what was underneath. As proof, on top of the translucent deep purple, which did not obscure the body line at all, several gold and silver ornaments were inlaid, calling to mind stardust.
「This, this is…」 I muttered, dumbfounded. The wet nurse smiled triumphantly.
「It is a gift from Agedilus. He requested that you wear it to tonight’s party. Those smaller boxes are filled with things like accessories and gloves.」
I didn’t know where to begin my surprise. The fact that that man went out of his way to have this dress made. The fact that it was for me. Up until now, for things like birthdays, he had mainly given me books, and with the exception of that magic gem bracelet, this was the first time he had given me any accessories, to say nothing of a dress. I couldn’t imagine what face he could have been making when he had this made. I guess this was the reason that he hadn’t come to visit, he was preparing this.
「Now, madam. If we don’t get you ready quick, you’ll late to the party.」
At the sight of me frozen in disbelief, the wet nurse smiled broadly. I managed to nod at that, and followed the wet nurse’s urging to undress. I threw the clothes I had been wearing off to the side, and the wet nurse got to work expertly fitting me into my new dress. This went by in a blur, and I had no time to even get a word in. When she finished with the last button on my back, the wet nurse gently slapped me on the back.
「Now that’s done with. Next, please sit down. What kind of hairstyle would you like?」
「Hmm. I’ll leave it up to you.」
I sat in front of the dresser and the wet nurse began to style my hair, and then apply makeup, with familiar hands. This time was more elaborate than usual though, an extravagant hair style and a youthful tone of makeup. As all of this was happening, I sat obediently. Seeing the me in the mirror that did not look at all like me was a strange feeling.
Inside the smaller boxes that Edi had sent were accessories, from a necklace, earrings, to gloves, even shoes, they truly contained a whole set. And like the dress, I could sense that they were high class items at a glance. At the wet nurse’s urging, I put everything on, and finally, the outfit was complete.
I very rarely, …no, I had never before worn this number of such expensive things, and I unconsciously stiffened. As if trying to get me to relax, the wet nurse smiled proudly, and nodded several times at my new appearance in the mirror.
「It really does look good on you.」
「Thank you. This is the first time I’ve worn a dress like this. It’s kind of embarrassing.」
「You should wear it with pride. I cannot find any fault in Agedilus’s selection.」
Moving from the dresser to the full length mirror, I checked my appearance, but for some reason I couldn’t calm down. Even though I held the wet nurse’s sense of aesthetic in complete confidence.
Each time I checked my appearance at a different angle, the drape would sway, letting the deep purple panier peek out and glittering with silver and gold. It was quite an unusual dress. Basically, this design couldn’t be made normally. Even as the Head Royal Court Magician, how much time, over how many days, must this have taken Edi to make?
「What sort of turn of events led him to make this, I wonder?」 I unconsciously muttered. The wet nurse smoothed one of my sleeves and made a wry smile.
「Madam, I don’t think that’s a good way of saying it. Please at least give him the opportunity to explain.」
Even if she said that, it wasn’t like I needed an explanation or anything. From the start, it wasn’t like I was angry. The muttering of my inner thoughts must have been visible on my face, because the wet nurse’s smile deepened and she muttered,
「Agedilus really does have it tough.」
I was completely vexed. In response to the question mark that I plainly displayed, the wet nurse would not say any more on the subject. She took my hand and said,
「Now then, madam, we ought to be going. The young master is eagerly waiting.」
Pulled along by the wet nurse, I left my bedroom and we headed to the living room where my younger brother Fernan was waiting. He would be my escort for this occasion. Many times up until now, for evening parties like this, he was the only one I had to be my escort. Since now I was married, I thought it was no longer necessary, and was planning on attending this party alone, but at his strong insistences, going 「What if something were to happen?」, in the end I would be relying on his escort just like in the past. When I opened the door to the living room, my brother, who had been reading, energetically stood and ran over.
Perhaps I was biased because he was family, but my younger brother had inherited the refined facial features of our father, and dressed like he was in the noble fashion, must be quite popular with the ladies. Despite that, there had yet to be one about his love story. The reason was possible, no, definitely, none other than me.