Chapter 16 - A Glass of Champagne
“Beautiful, isn’t she?” Chess asked.
“Yeah,” Dylan replied absentmindedly. Then, he caught himself. “Wait, n-no!” he blurted, frowning.
‘As if I’d ever consider that girl beautiful,’ he thought, watching Anna stand around in her dull clothing, surrounded by guests in glamorous dresses and well-groomed suits. ‘She’s nothing to me but a headache.’
While Dylan’s head was filled with troubled thoughts of Anna, Chess had assumed his gaze was drawn to someone else: Rin, one of the beautiful noblewomen amongst those Anna was serving. “According to Ena, most of the guys in the village have already confessed to Rin,” Chess began. “They were all turned down, though. Her standards are so high that the instant she realizes she doesn’t like the man, they’re out.”
Ena was Chess’s sister. She was a couple of years younger than him and best friends with Rin. He neglected to mention that, in the past, he had tried asking Rin for a date using Ena as a proxy, but he ended up getting rejected. Currently, Rin was wearing a red dress, looking like the fanciest woman in the party. Men’s gazes followed her wherever she went.
“Should I try talking to her?” Chess asked.
Dylan shrugged indifferently, quite frankly uncaring. “If you want.”
Chess started walking to Ena, joining her in the pleasant conversation she was having with Rin. A moment later, while Dylan was sipping on champagne with some of his other friends, Chess brought Ena and Rin over to speak to them.
“Say ‘hi’,” Chess said. “I’m sure you all already know each other, but this is my sister Ena and this is Rin.”
They exchanged a few short greetings.
“I’m Turner,” one of Dylan’s friends said. “I think we met last time. At that party held in Sir Sten’s name.” Turner politely bent to kiss Rin on the back of her hand.
“Is that so?” Rin replied coldly.
“I’m Dylan.” Dylan smiled cordially and then followed Turner’s suit, kissing the back of Rin’s hand. As he did so, Rin’s blood-red lips curved up into a smile of her own.
“I’ve heard about you,” she said. “You left home three years ago.”
“Are you back to stay?”
“For now,” Dylan supplied vaguely. His response piqued Rin’s curiosity.
“Does that mean you intend to leave again in the future?”
“If no unfortunate events are forcing me to go, then I’m planning on staying in this village. However, life doesn’t always go the way you want it to. I don’t wish to be labeled a liar should the time come, so I’ll leave my departure as a possibility for now,” Dylan explained in good humor. However, as he spoke, he grew confused for a moment, caught off-guard by Anna’s gaze meeting his own.
“I see,” Rin smiled, nodding her head.
Rin and Ena then continued conversing for a good while with Dylan’s group. However, since it seemed like all of Rin’s attention was directed toward Dylan, Chess couldn’t help but look a bit sad.
Noticing his friend’s expression, Dylan tapped Chess’s shoulder twice. “I’m going to rest for a bit before I go back home,” he whispered.
“Why so suddenly?” Chess replied, incapable of keeping his pleasant surprise from leaking into his voice.
“Just ‘cause. I’m a bit tired today.”
“I understand,” Chess nodded. “Be careful on your way home. I’ll see you next time.”
“Have fun in my stead.”
Dylan asked the ladies of the group for forgiveness before leaving. Unaware of Rin’s disappointment, he retreated, blending in with the rest of the party’s guests.
Anna tried her best to sustain the smile on her face as she served the guests of the party. Although her legs hurt, she knew she would only bring herself further down if she started complaining, so she hid her grievances.
She lifted a tray she held in hand above her shoulders and traversed the area. Bumping into guests and dropping the tray was always the servant’s fault regardless of who might have stepped into the accident first, so servants always had to remain conscientious of their actions.
“Hey, bring a glass of champagne over here,” someone called.
Anna came forward, heeding the request and presenting a group of young men with her tray. They appeared to be slightly intoxicated, having fun like the rest of the party’s attendants, except they were chuckling amongst themselves as they looked upon Anna.
One of them was a man who was all skin-and-bones with a face like that of a snake. He stretched a hand out for Anna and his gaze locked on her like a serpent would their prey, sending a shock of unpleasantness down Anna’s spine.
While pretending to reach for some champagne, he brought his hand down upon the tray, making the five glasses perched upon it tip over and spill onto Anna’s clothes as they toppled onto the floor one by one.
“Ah!” Anna exclaimed, surprised. She stared, stupefied, at all the glass shards now littering the floor.
“That’s why you should be careful,” the thin young man whispered. His voice sounded disgustingly slimy, creeping near Anna’s ears.
“I apologize,” she murmured. “I’ll clean it up right away.”
The older man from earlier, having heard the sound of the crash, came running forward, frowning with his forehead creased. He looked around for a mop and broom. Anna attempted to look for them as well, but he stopped her, informing her that changing her clothes would be of greater help to him. He indicated that she should head for the door and leave.
Anna bowed her head. “I apologize,” she said once more. Then, she did her best to cover her wet dress by lowering her posture before escaping the party area.
The pungent scent of champagne coated her from the height of her chest to the bottom of her skirt. While shaking out all the droplets still clinging onto her hem, Anna mentally cursed the snake-like young man with all manner of bitter insult.
Nevertheless, she figured that perhaps this development might prove fortunate. Now, she could rest a little while she pretended she was changing her clothes before heading back into the fray. Anna was trying her best to think positively.
“Hey,” came a voice.
Unfortunately for her, things didn’t work out.
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