Chapter 16: Deep in Trouble II (5/5)

It was rather hard to imagine that the niece of the Karthian Archmagister would come to be captivated by his political rival. He surely would never mention his name to her before, thus leaving her without a clue on who Hughesin was when she stumbled in.

Hughesin and Kebrilio. Their rivalry was like oil and water with how stubborn and headstrong Kebrilio was. Upper society knew this of Kebrilio and thus sympathized for the young dame. How unlucky she was to have such a man as an uncle, and how much more unfortunate she was to have come across a wolf like Hughesin. Aside from Hughesin, none other in Karth would dare touch even a single strand of hair of hers knowing her history. 

And yet what misfortune it was that she’d fall into the hand of Hughesin.

Merlise was the one most concerned for Fantasia. The young lady held a soft spot in her heart the moment the countess met her, really. She was different from the other lasses Merlise taught before—women with the same set of advantages Fantasia had were rare to come by, and Merlise certainly found it quite rare to find such people within the newer generation. Determined was Merlise to transform Fantasia into a dazzling gem fit for high society even before she knew of her circumstances. And to think that this young lady was connected to the son of a dear sister? How quaint! 

What wasn’t so nice was her knowledge of Hughesin’s character and the behind-the-scenes. She couldn’t approve of it at all.

The middle-aged women cherished and wished to protect her. But the younger ladies felt an acrid taste in their mouths. It was jealousy. Fantasia had taken away their knight in shining armor. Their handsome, masculine, strong, and charming hero had fallen for an underripe woman like her? The flames of jealousy burned away at their hearts. Were it not for the elder women impeding their paths, they would’ve long since circled Fantasia and begun their attack.

Elric, of course, had no way of knowing what in the world everyone else was thinking about him. The only thing he knew was that he was in deep trouble. The envious glares he was receiving from one half of the women made him uncomfortable and the motherly looks from the other half sent shivers down his spine.

Whatever was in store for him here, Elric didn’t like it. His eyes drifted off to the left-side of the lounge to where a series of clothing racks stood. All sorts of richly silks and fabrics were hung over the racks, most of them Elric noticed to be fashioned in the form of patterned dresses. To the left of those racks stood a certain individual, an elderly person stooped at the waist. They had a few precious strands of hair left on their head; a clear indication of their advanced age. Their face was covered with aged wrinkles going this way and that and nearly hid away a pair of eyes with an unnaturally perceptive light.

A ruler was gripped in one hand and a tape measure wrapped thrice around the other arm. The most eye-catching aspect of this elder was the chalk marks pocked all over the hems of their arm sleeves.

Escorted by the married women, Elric was forced over to stand in front of the clothing racks.

Calm-faced, the countess stepped next to him. One by one, she sized each piece of clothing and compared them to Elric’s person. If she liked them, they were given to the nearby maids. If she didn’t, then they’d be tossed over to the elder.

Soon enough and there was a mountain of clothing resting in their hands.

Only fifteen articles of clothing were chosen in the end.

The young ladies stood silently by the clothing racks. While they were each experienced in the field of fashion, the countess was an authority in the field and her eye would most definitely choose the best clothes for an individual.

But Elric wasn’t worried about that. His attention was elsewhere while the rest of the noblefolk surrounded him. The elder. Astonishment filled their eyes in a way different to the other nobles gathered. From that look alone, Elric felt fear well up inside of him. Had she seen through his disguise?

His self-pondering was cut short when the countess began the dressing.

Elric always knew being dressed was a tedious and tiresome affair, but he truly underestimated just how tedious and tiresome it could be. The countess had moved on from deciding which clothes suited him to actually having him try them on. Pushed into a changing room with his personal handmaids, Elric was forced into multiple styles of dresses one after another and then pushed back out so the noblewomen could opine their thoughts on the matter.

“Now is it always so difficult for women to choose what to wear?” He asked absent-mindedly as his handmaids busied themselves with another dress. Such a comment earned him the ire of every noblewomen there; many of them clamored about how Elric was missing out on one of the few joys in life, how being beautiful was for the sake of catching the eye of your beloved, how hard it was being a woman, and what a joy it was to allow yourself to be admired by the male populace…

Elric felt regret for asking such a question after all those rebukes. It wasn’t just the noblewomen he irked, but even his handmaids. Their treatment of him worsened by a smidgen after the question in ways Elric didn’t even think about. Every time a ribbon, belt, or binding was fastened, it was done with a modicum of force more than usual. The tightness around his waist was so significant that Elric briefly worried if he would faint sooner or later from it.

The kicker was the praise he received from the noblewomen when he stepped out. Many marveled at the fastenings and even suggested to the dressing maids that they should perhaps tighten it a tad more. 

To this, Elric felt nothing but tears.

The noblewomen didn’t seem ready to forgive him for his earlier remark even when the most suitable dress was finally picked out. They simply requested that they go through the dresses once more to be certain.

Only once the entire affair was over did Elric allow himself to let out a sigh of relief. Today had been an excellent lesson for how women lived in upper society. Thinking back now, the princess’ lessons were far more lenient than today’s, wasn’t it? Perhaps that was why the princess enjoyed putting people through those lessons so much, she surely wanted to vent out her frustrations onto others. 

Truthfully speaking, Elric wanted to vent out his own frustrations right now.

A target came to him quickly enough. The mustached man that was with Hughesin just the other day. And speaking of Hughesin…that was certainly a grandiose attire he was wearing. Surely his fashion sense wasn’t lacking, was it? Elric wasn’t sure since not a single person in the room batted an eye at Hughesin’s wear. That couldn’t be normal attire here, could it? 

His musings were cut short when Saludy spoke. “It pains my heart to not have a tailored dress ready for the Banquet, dear Fantasia.”

“Oh no no, I have plenty enough. This much is enough to last my entire life.” Elric responded.

“Preposterous! I daresay you should listen to me. Perhaps sire Kebrilio cared little for your garments, but that will not be abided in this estate.” Corrected Saludy. “Claire, if you would gather lady Fantasia’s measurements and get to her new dress, we shall be off.”

“The general measurements have been ascertained. If the young lady would walk a little, I shall determine the best manner of dress. A proper dress demands a proper eye to how one moves.” Replied the elder.

She must be a master of her craft since no other noblewomen objected. Incidentally, the countess declared a start to the beginning of today’s lesson right then and there.

Twenty-something young ladies, Elric included, stood politely there as the servants brought out the seating arrangements for the middle-aged noblewomen. Taking seats in them, the women chattered with one another while Hughesin and Somiret moved closer to the walls to observe.

Today, Elric could finally say he knew what it meant to be a noble. What it meant to have the eyes of everyone in the room. A fine thing it was maybe for his classmates, but certainly not for him! The occasional glares thrown at his way from them was noticeable to even him. Truly, this was not a sensation he enjoyed. But who else would possibly know his agony?

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