Chapter 8 - The Invitation
“My God.” She was astonished. She had cleaned up her act and tried to build a favorable reputation, only for it to land her on a list of crown princess candidates. The crown princess wasn’t even a character in the original novel—she’d never even been mentioned. The author had only written about the love story between the male lead and Lucine.
So, then, why was she being considered for Crown Princess?
“There were many girls on the list besides you, too,” Ian added.
“The emperor made this list himself?”
Aris had been placed in a carefully curated register of the most eligible ladies in the capital, and somehow, this made her very pleased. While she had no desire to become the next crown princess, it still pleased her for some reason to know that people knew she could. However…
“What’s the issue?”
“It’s not that. The real issue is just…” Ian trailed off.
Ian held her hand tightly, hesitating.
“Just tell me, Father.”
“…The crown prince was supposed to choose from that list a partner to dance at the ball. But instead, he decided to invite every single lady on that list to a tea party.”
“I tried saying you were too young, but it was no use.”
That must be the reason her father looked so distraught—his little girl had been selected as a candidate for the post of crown princess.
Aris nodded in understanding. “What kind of person is the crown prince?” she asked. Having never paid much attention to the palace’s workings, she knew next to nothing about the prince.
“He’s a very calculating man.”
“Calculating?” She repeated.
“He’s quite fond of women, but only takes them as mistresses.”
Suddenly, Aris’s mouth was filled with an acrid taste. The crown prince sounded like the type of man she did not want to associate with. She took another sip of tea and smiled thinly.
“Since we are a noble household, and you are such a beautiful and sweet girl, the emperor seemingly wanted you to become the crown princess,” Ian added.
“Oh my.” She hadn’t expected that.
“Either you or Louison’s daughter.”
“Ah, the young lady?”
“Yes.” Her father nodded.
She had heard rumors of how the girl had just celebrated her 13th birthday and of her astonishing beauty.
The original novel had not mentioned who the crown princess was. After all, the main characters of the novel were the male lead and Lucine.
“When is the tea party?” Aris asked.
“Oh, there’s not much time left then.” Aris mulled over her thoughts for a moment, noting that she would need to get fitted for a new dress. She would also need to decide what kind of makeup she would wear.
Ian’s expression seemed to darken. “If only I had more power… then you wouldn’t have to go through this.”
“Well. This will be quite a headache for me,” she admitted.
Realizing that he would be sending his daughter to a place she didn’t want to go, Ian paled.
“Where will the tea party be held?”
“Since it is a special occasion, it will be held in the Spring Garden, where flowers bloom constantly,” he explained.
“The Spring Garden?”
The Spring Garden was one of the most stunning gardens in the palace. Flowers bloomed there year-round, giving the illusion of eternal spring. Aris had always wanted to see it in person, having seen only illustrations of it in magazines.
This could be a good experience for her. She was growing tired of being cooped up at home anyway. If she was to be forced to attend the crown prince’s tea party, she might as well take a detour and check out the Spring Garden.
‘There’s no way I’d be selected anyway,’ she thought, lifting her teacup to her lips. ‘Ooh, perfect form.’
It was only yesterday that she had learned tea etiquette, and she’d spent the entire night practicing the proper motions. All that practice seemed to have paid off; her table manners were executed with the utmost poise and grace.
“Don’t worry, Father. I’m sure there will be ladies far prettier than I am, and the Crown Prince may not even find me to his liking,” she said to Ian reassuringly. Her sweet words calmed him somewhat.
“I suppose that is a possibility…”
“Anyway, I heard that Lady Violet was quite the beauty. I’m sure the crown prince will be drawn to the most gorgeous lady in attendance.”
“But how can any woman be more beautiful than my daughter?”
Aris smiled bashfully at his words. Sure, in her father’s eyes, she might seem like the most beautiful girl in the world, but she saw herself objectively.
She had appealing features, but that was about it. She wasn’t a breathtaking beauty with flowing golden hair and twinkling sapphire eyes. She was just another girl with plain brown hair and dull brown eyes.