“Button Ruby, button!” Shiroi said while her fingers moved strategically from place to place on the blue gown.
“Ruby! Aren’t you ready?” a distant voice asked.
“Yes, mother!” Ruby replied with a yell. She buttoned the last two buttons on her collar, kept her stomach taut as Shiroi tightened a jade colored sash around her waist, and then inhaled. Shiroi placed the final piece, a hat, on Ruby’s head, after which Ruby quickly thanked her. Ruby dashed away, leaving Shiroi in the room alone. After all, Ruby had a party to attend.
“In, in!” Jane Melonscone said as Ruby approached the carriage. Ruby ran in front of her and quickly sat inside. Jane followed behind her, but in a much more dignified manner. She was a proud noble, why would she run? The passengers sat inside and gave the word, and then off the carriage went.
“Now then,” Jane Melonscone said, “are you ready?”
“Yes mother. I’ve done what you asked, I’ll fulfill each item. They are simple tasks. May I enjoy myself afterwards?” Ruby asked.
“Good. You may, but I have a couple items to add. First, stay away from Count Darney’s two boys. If they approach you, and I know they will, lecherous boys that they are, ignore them. Viscount! Does he think he can let his sons even look at my young girl?”
“Is one fifteen, tall and blond, and the other thirteen, medium height with dark hair?”
“Yes. Count Darney has been extremely suspicious as of late, and his two boys seem to be trying their hands at courting any young lady. You’re too young, of course, but I want you to be cautious nevertheless. I don’t want you accidentally caught in any schemes that man is planning.”
“Yes mother. And the second matter?”
“Marquis De’un is coming, much to my surprise. I want you to try speaking with him. You don’t need a pointer from me on this, any speaking will do. Just try to engage him in conversation.”
“Just speak? And who is this marquis? I haven’t heard of him before.”
“He’s a slightly older avian. He rarely leaves his home in the southern province, much less often does he come to the capitol. He controls an important area, and there are some concerns if he decides to retire anytime soon. But he is a very odd person, apparently. I’ve never made his acquaintance, and I hear not many have. Though he’s older than me, apparently he detests conversing with mature people! So, you should try.”
“But mother, why? Are you planning on taking his land afterwards? I don’t want to be a part of that,” Ruby said, respectfully objecting to her parent.
“No, that land isn’t, well, stay focused child. It’s to make his acquaintance. And to find out why he is here. Maybe he’s here since it’s the first party of this size since King Fidel’s passing. But that alone doesn’t satisfy me. Ruby, just see what the old bird is up to. Or, better than that, find out if he knows who the future king will be. He’s quite good friends with Diren, apparently. Imagine that!” Jane laughed once, thinking it ridiculous how a hare and an avian could be close friends. Of course, she did have additional motives, but why would she tell Ruby?
From what Jane knew, De’un, having been a recluse, didn’t hear of Fidel’s passing as soon as it happened. The land that De’un lived on was actually annexed by Fidel’s father, after which the avians there lived peacefully under the rule and name of Rising. Fidel had also met De’un years ago, and greatly enjoyed his company. Fidel acted immature and positive, traits that endeared the ruler to De’un.
Seeing that he heard so much later after the fact, De’un must have been sad at the recent news of his beloved ruler’s passing. This was important because his land was a unique area, practically its own avian nation, and it governed itself for the most part. Without having a respectable leader at the head of Rising, De’un and the avians may secede from the nation. Jane knew this, and so wanted to have Ruby, the future queen, build a rapport with the avian, in order to secure another part of Rising’s future, and her own legacy. Jane may have had her own thoughts of what was truly going on that she hid, but she hadn’t lied to Ruby, for who knew what this avian might say. Or if he would even speak at all.
Soon the carriage arrived at the estate of the host, Duke Tourney. Like most nobles, his estate was large and magnificent. However, Ruby’s rank was above that of a duke, so she wouldn’t dare be impressed by the various precious items that littered the front of the estate. She stepped out of the carriage, put on an expression befitting her settings and status, and walked a single step ahead of her mother.
When greeted by the host, Jane replied and spoke a few words with the duke who had a good rapport with her, while Ruby’s acknowledgement was simply looking at the host when welcomed. She acted just as Madam Jane Lucrene Melonscone wanted. It was part of her duty, after all. Many of the people in the next room would be just like her if they were of the same status. But most, no, all were lower; therefore, they would all treat Ruby like a precious object that they weren’t to be honest or casual with. If they made a mistake, the Melonscones’ power would crush them. If Ruby made a mistake, or revealed a family secret, others would scheme against her.
Faced with the absoluteness of hypocrisy and deceit if she dared to be too casual, Ruby had to make the only decision there was: be a high-noble. It wasn’t something she had to become friendly or emotional for.
Va’il stepped onto the masterful carpet and looked around at his surroundings. Food, fountains, and musicians of all the highest caliber entertained the surrounding nobles. All were dressed in garb similar to his own, in terms of expense.
“A little overwhelming?” Kelin asked with a smile as his friend stared and gaped. The estate was enormous, the halls were wide, and the size of the single room that everyone had gathered in was staggering. Hundreds had gathered, but there was still plenty of breathing room. The artworks on the walls could have ten admirers each, along with each gold or silver bust or statuette. Seeing that Va’il wouldn’t comprehend much, let alone have time for looking at all the majesty of the surroundings, Kelin pulled him along to meet Teena, who he had already spotted.
“Amazing,” Teena said, in much the same stupor as Va’il. Kelin sighed. Here were two supposedly common children at one of the most prestigious, exclusive, and important events of the year; the situation was absurd. Eason was noble, but he didn’t have a taste for the finer arts, so it was no surprise that this event was the first extravagant thing Teena had been to, or so Kelin thought.
“You two… I don’t know what to do with you,” Kelin said.
“Well, what are we supposed to do?” Va’il asked.
“Socialize. Well, you shouldn’t. I should. At least, I need to say hello to my brothers. Turns out they are here too. Then to go handle Darney’s two boys. Boring stuff, really. Want to meet up somewhere when I’m through? Maybe by the fountain with the deeri statue, remember seeing that one?” Kelin asked. He was looking anxious. He had quite a few things to do, and although he wished he could hang out with his two friends, he couldn’t.
“Sure, I remember,” Va’il said. He looked to Teena, who had broken out of her trance.
“Meet us as soon as you can, Kelin. Thank you!” Teena said. Kelin smiled at her and then walked off. He was soon lost in the crowd of people.
“So, where to first? You see something interesting yet?” Va’il asked.
“Food!” Teena said with a giggle. It was an excellent impression of Pete, minus the girlish laughter. Va’il couldn’t agree more. Soon they set their sharp fangs upon beef, fish, oysters, tomatoes, petal soup, apple cider, and cherries. They had planned on taking more than just a small sample, but they were full after just a few of the appetizers. Looking on at the unfamiliar but surely better dishes, they felt slightly sick.
They did get a few strange looks here and there, but no one tried speaking to them. If they had acted like proper and upright nobles, they may have been asked their names, but being completely unknown, their actions, and the fact they looked lupus gave them a certain unapproachability. If they’d known more of Rising’s structure, they’d have understood that there weren’t many noble lupus in Rising, and the ones that were there were more the type to approach rather than be approached. They went outside to catch the chilly winter wind, which somehow soothed their stretched innards.