In truth, I was actually quite limited in terms of when I could make appearances at social gatherings.
The first was my birthday. I was the star of the event, so it was obvious. It was a good day, close friends would gather at my house and they would all pamper my genius self, even more than usual. Mishuli’s birthdays were much more modest affairs and celebrated with family only. These were fun in their own way, and every year I would plan the entire party.
Other then that, there were times where I would tag along with father and meet close family friends, or the reverse, which was to greet them as guests at our home. That was about it. In this country, I was not likely to expand my relations with other nobles until I enrolled at the Royal Academy. I would make friends there, and those connections would continue even after we graduated. This was why so many enrolled, regardless of gender, even though it was not required by law.
And so, while I was the direct descendant of one of the greatest nobles in this country, I did not have too many friends and acquaintances as a nine-year-old.
Such was me, and yet there was one official event that occurred annually, that I was allowed to participate in.
“It is so nice to see you again, Count Istar.”
Gracefully, I pull my leg back at the perfect angle as I bend the other knee lightly, my hands just slightly raise the hem of my skirt, and I bow. Mariwa had beaten it into me, and I had done it hundreds of times now. And now that I had been praised by Mariwa, my courtesy had passed the realm of perfection, it was like a work of art that dazzled the eyes of all who witnessed it.
“I’m delighted, Lady Christina. The last time we met was, um…”
“I had the pleasure of greeting you at our humble home nearly one month ago. That you seem to be in as good health as ever brings me much joy.”
He was one of the few grown-ups I had seen regularly ever since that first encounter two years ago. I was wearing my ladies disguise now, and so I sent Count Istar a sweet smile.
It was the annual palace ball. I had met Charles here for the first time, but in fact, it was also a ball for those of the upper class to celebrate the ending of the Foundation Festival, which lasted five days. And every year I would come here with father. I was a credit to him, and because of that, it was one of the few social functions that I could proudly make an appearance.
“Oh, that is right! But a child of your age tends to change so much in just one month.”
“Do you really mean it? I know that you have a most splendid son, I thought you would surely find watching the growth of someone as inadequate as me to be most boring in comparison…”
“Oh, no. My foolish boy is nearly twenty years old now, there is no comparison to you, who looks lovelier every time we meet. Why, I look forward to watching you grow whenever I visit, much more than I look forward to meeting your father, anyway!”
“My, what an honor you bestow on me.”
There was nothing vulgar in Count Istar’s praise of me. This very stout man was as great as he was large. Father could learn a thing or two from him.
Speaking of my father, he clearly knew that I needed no one to oversee me once I entered my lady-mode, and so he had gone off somewhere to talk with someone else.
“Your father knows that you are capable of handling yourself now. I hope you know that it is because he has so much trust in you, and not that he is uninterested? After all, it a well-known fact that Duke Noir dotes on his daughter.”
“…Yes. I know it very well.”
He must have seen it in my gaze. He may have been poking fun at me a little, but I gratefully accepted his kind consideration. He was subtle, yet discerning and was thoughtful of others. Count Istar was a rare person who I was actually fond of.
“Thank you very much, Count Istar. I hope that you will continue to visit us.”
“Yes, of course.”
We take each other’s hands as a sign of friendship. After saying goodbye, I was alone once again, and started to look around the room.
The party was now in its second half, most people here would have finished greeting all their acquaintances. Father seemed to be quite involved in whatever conversation he was having; I was sure he could be left alone for a little while longer.
Well, then. It shouldn’t hurt to escape right about now. I think as I head for the exit.
I left the hall with its dancing ladies and gentlemen and made a little detour.
Once I reached the hallway that faced outside, I made sure that no one was looking before moving towards my actual destination. My genius ability to plan and to act finally got me to the gardens, and while there had been no planned appointments, there was already someone there.
“Ah, Chris. You came.”
He said, his face beaming in the night garden.
He was the third prince of this country and my friend-cum-fiancée. Unlike the first time we had met, he had arrived first.
“Yes. Just thought I’d do you a favor, Charles.”
It was the night of the last day of the Foundation Festival.
And now began an exclusive social event for just me and Charles to tie up the ending of the festival.