Chapter 4 - The Perfect Lady
Aris always made her efforts known. She would never practice her dancing in secret; instead, she made sure all the maids knew she was dancing. She had to show everyone around her how hard she was trying.
The dance instructor was fully aware of this as well. As Aris responded eagerly, the instructor’s cheeks flushed. How confident and delightful she was!
“The dance we will learn today is not for standard balls, but rather for masquerades, or when you are dancing with someone in private,” said the instructor.
“I must warn you, it’s rather risqué.”
“I want to learn it!” Aris replied, excited.
“How odd! Most other ladies say they don’t want to learn it for that very reason!”
“I think it’s good to learn a variety of things.”
“You’re quite correct.”
After delivering the perfect response, Aris smiled innocently. She was looking forward to learning the racy dance. She’d have to commit it all to memory and practice it again later that night.
Today, like every other day, Aris gained the adoration of everyone around her.
Ian gazed at the palace, which stood imposingly in the distance. He was drawing ever closer to it, transported by a carriage sporting the Horissen family crest. He was heading toward the palace’s Eastern Gate, the entrance used by nobles and other court members.
Today, there would be a meeting to discuss candidates for the title of crown princess. The crown prince would be of age soon, and he would need a bride. Ian thought of his daughter, Aris, who had smiled at him so brightly before he’d left.
‘My daughter is still so young,’ he lamented.
He knew she would soon become a debutante, but she was too young to get married to the crown prince.
In the Republic of Xenon, most men married in their late twenties, while most women married in their early twenties. Considering this societal norm, Aris was still far too young, but she wasn’t just any citizen. Children of nobles typically got betrothed in their teens and married in their early twenties. Ian knew this applied to Aris as well, but his mind could not help but still consider her just a little girl.
As the carriage came to a halt, the coachman opened the door for the marquis. Ian stepped out with his private guard, and the two slowly walked towards the Central Palace where the meeting would be held. Alongside them were other nobles, presumably all heading in the same direction he was.
Upon arriving at the Central Palace, Ian made his way through the halls slowly. The corridor was filled with sunlight, and Ian basked in its warmth as he breathed in the fresh spring air.
Ian’s reverie was interrupted by a man calling his name. He turned and saw a man with shining blonde hair and blue eyes standing before him. “Duke Essel, Your Excellency.”
The man was Louison d’Essel, Duke of Essel. He was close in age to Marquis Horissen and, while they were on a first-name basis privately, they were in court. The two took care to maintain etiquette when they were in formal settings.
“I hear the emperor has an announcement to make about the crown prince,” Duke Essel began.
“Yes, I’m aware.”
“How are you feeling?”
“Your daughter could be a candidate for crown princess.”
Ian choked at Louison’s words. “She’s too young.”
“Isn’t she 16?”
“Precisely. Aris is too young,” Ian insisted. “Perhaps your daughter will become a candidate, Duke Essel.”
“What?” the Duke asked incredulously. “My daughter is 13.”
Louison’s daughter, Violet d’Essel, was three years younger than Aris. It was far more likely that Aris would be chosen over Violet, but, with a calm smile, Ian said, “She’s only 6 years younger than the crown prince.”
Aris was not much younger than the crown prince either, but Ian stared at Louison unwaveringly. Both men were entirely certain their daughter would never be chosen to become the crown princess.
“My daughter still needs to get older.”
“As does my daughter, Your Excellency,” Ian replied.
With that, the two men headed to the conference hall together.
Juselle Ren Xenon, the emperor of the Xenon Empire, studied the list he held very closely. It contained the names of the most beautiful and well-bred ladies in the capital. Next to their names, there was a brief profile of each lady. The list of names had almost as many people as there were attendees to today’s conference.
“Yes, Your Imperial Majesty.”
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