Chapter 12: Etiquette (1/5)

The carriage came to a stop shortly after Elric and Monster finished their negotiations. They must’ve reached their destination.

Elric felt calm. Earlier, Monster guaranteed that no one would be able to see or hear through his disguise. The demon hadn’t the power to alter his body in any way, but it was capable of altering how others perceive him. For example, Monster could change how others thought how Elric sounded. 

This was risky in the sense that a skilled telepathic magus would be able to sense traces of distortions.

The only safeguard for this was for Elric to be more cautious. In that case, Monster had another trick Elric could rely on. A spell circle was planted in Elric’s throat, or at least that's what Monster said. The spell circle would be able to alter the frequency of Elric’s voice into a suitable pitch. This way it’d be a simple matter for Elric to use this to sound more like a woman. 

Elric thought about how his teacher, Crazy, was able to quickly fire off incantations in a single breath. The concept between both these magics had to be identical in application.

The door to the carriaged opened outward. An attendant was there to help them down. Kebrilio alighted the carriage first, though with more difficulty than Elric found hard not to laugh through. The magus’ large body was barely smaller than the door frames to the carriage. Sitting in a carriage must’ve been tortuous for the grand magister.

Kebrilio was only a foot off the ground when he turned around. Facing the carriage, he raised his left hand toward Elric. 

What was he doing? 

“Oh, right.”

Elric nearly forgot he was supposed to be Fantasia, Kebrilio’s niece. 

Thinking back to what s(he) remembered from her lessons with the princess, Elric gently brought her own hand to clasp Kebrilio’s and slowly alighted from the carriage onto the steps below.

The elegance of his actions captivated all who saw her alight, but none were as surprised to see it than Kebrilio. Not only was his actions graceful and lithe, but everything about Elric right now seemed like a goddess had descended upon the earth. So beautiful was he that everyone came to a stop and stared for a while.

And stare they continued to do while Kebrilio led Elric past the gates and into the corridors beyond.

The two eventually came to a stop in front of a crescent-shaped gate. Once more, Elric was reminded of how partial Karthians were to this aesthetic.

The doors opened to reveal a vast expanse of grassland. Like a soft carpet of verdant-green, the grass extended across the ground with several other types of fauna to be seen growing everywhere. Violet lilacs, ivory tulips, aquamarine sunflowers, and other common flowers grew all over the place. Not a single one of these flowers were particularly rare or expensive. Rather, they were a common type of flower, but the harmonious blend of them made for a sum far greater than its individual parts. The scenery made Elric feel completely at rest and comfortable.

What kind of person was the owner of this garden?

A two-storied gazebo, constructed from smooth red bricks, stood transfixed at the center of the garden. This gazebo didn’t have the windows that spanned from top to bottom, but rather, regular wooden windows that had an iron planter affixed to them. 

The two strode straight into the first floor of the gazebo, but not before the doors swung open to reveal a richly-dressed woman in bluish-gray.

“Salutations and welcome to my humble abode, Ser Kebrilio.” The woman curtseyed.

“Ah, Countess Merlise. I’ve brought my niece Fantasia as planned. If you will, please educate her as much about upper society etiquette as you may in the next six days.”

“Oh you flatter me. This young lady seems to already be perfect in my ways. But no matter, I will polish off the rest of this precious gemstone.” The countess replied.

“Then allow me to excuse myself and bid you  good day.” Kebrilio bowed once in polite gratitude to the countess.

“My dear niece,” He smiled to Elric, “be well and learn from Countess Merlise.” It was a little sickening how sweet his voice was. Waving his hand, the magus then turned to leave the place.

“Please come in, lady Fantasia.” The countess invited.

Now inside, Elric finally had a good look at the one reputed to be a specialist on upper-crust etiquette.

Admittedly, she looked nothing like what Elric imagined. Rather than being dressed in richly clothing, the countess wore a simple frock that was lacking in most of the decoration and other additions one might see in court attire. The only thing that could perhaps be considered as decoration on her frock were the moon-shaped lace hemmed into the folds. Compared to her, Elric’s own attire was completely overdone with gaudy decorations, golden threading, and silk.

He also couldn’t accurately determine the countess’ age. Past her prime, most likely, if the wrinkles by her eyes were any indication. Her jet-black hair was also put up in a simple bun and secured by a simple black hair net.

That being said, Merlise did wear some jewelry. She had matching pearl necklaces and earrings and also two simple golden rings on her fingers.

At the center of the gazebo stood twenty other young ladies of Elric’s age. They were all standing orderly in two distinctive lines. All eyes were on Elric when he came into sight with Merlise. Afraid of being discovered, Elric looked dead ahead in hopes all would be fine. His body even began to tremble a bit at the attention.

This trembling was noticed by Merlise, but misinterpreted to be stage-fright and social anxiety. “Worry not, lady Fantasia.” Consoled Merlise, “These ladies will be your companions. You’ll all be supporting one another in the coming days.”

It alleviated Elric’s concerns greatly to hear Merlise’s words. She was soothing to the ears and comforting in demeanor (had it been Crazy or the princess that said it, Elric would’ve fainted from shock).

A curious eye wandered around Elric’s person. Merlise’s finger tapped at her chin as she leaned forward, “Lady Fantasia, have you not any change of clothes…?”

It panicked Elric to be under the countess’ scrutiny again. Of all things responsible, however, he didn’t think his lack of outfits would’ve been it. Deciding to pass the buck off onto Kebrilio, Elric smiled at Merlise. “Oh, my uncle chose this dress for me himself, is there anything unsuitable with it, milady?”

Elric’s words put a stop to Merlise’s own. How could she possibly say that Kebrilio had no taste? That the earrings were absolutely ostentatious? She shook her head in distaste for the grand magister. How could he dress his own niece up like a fluffed pillow? It was a shame that lady Fantasia had such a crass uncle despite his importance to the court. How lamentable indeed. Fantasia certainly had the grace befitting a highborn. Her expression calm and her appearance soothing, Fantasia was pleasing to the eye even despite her attire. But not even the garish attire was enough to outshine the noble underneath.

The other young ladies all sympathized with Fantasia. It was a crying shame to have a buffoon for an uncle when she was so pretty. But inversely, it also made each one of them slightly relieved. If Fantasia wasn’t limited by the garish outfit of hers, how would any of the young ladies here outshine her in the upcoming Day of Triumph celebration?

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