Thank you editors: jam, mook, dodo and Jasmine
The breakthrough started with the dress. It was the dress for Erna Hardy’s debutante, to be worn at the royal palace.
Brenda Hardy looked at Erna’s dress with a slightly perplexed look. In terms of being pure white, she faithfully followed the tradition of debutante , but the appearance was not at all docile. How deep was the neckline? It was a scene where she would make her debut by showing half of her shoulders and breasts to the whole social world.
“Anyway, she’s an unusual woman.”
Brenda Hardy mumbled with a sigh and leaned back deep in the wing chair.
It was Countess Meyer who suggested such a dress. Her opinion about how a more modest, that is, an ordinary debutante dress, would be completely ignored. It would be great to see a young girl making her debut when she turned twenty, wearing the same dresses as her younger siblings. She was angry all the way to the tip of her head, but since it was the truth, it was hard to find words to refute.
In the spring of around the age of fifteen, the girls of the noble families of Lechen made their social debut at the founding party. Although sometimes they were delayed for about a year due to personal reasons, there has never been a lady who made her debut so late. Although there were excuses made that it was because she was weak and lived in the countryside, no one would believe it.
So, if she is going to stand out anyway, it’s better to make an unconventional move.
The dress with puff sleeves and a voluminous skirt that draped slightly over the shoulder was definitely beautiful. The chiffon hem that was padded on the skirt was slightly dyed with a light pink color, which made the dress, which might otherwise be simple, look brighter. It was as if the owner of the dressing room had kept her promise to bring a dress that looked like a freshly bloomed flower.
No matter how you look at it, it’s not a debutante dress worthy of a humble parent’s daughter, but Viscount Hardi, the father who burned with ambition to revive himself by selling his daughter, was not in a position to pay mind to feeling unfairly criticized for that.
Brenda Hardy, who had hardened her heart, rang the bell on the table. The maid, who had left for her errand, soon returned with a young maid who served Erna.
“For Erna, you have a job that you have to take responsibility for. Can you do it?”
“Yes, ma’am! Just leave it to me.”
The maid with a nervous face answered loudly.
“Alright, that’s a great attitude. Nice to see.”
With only a smile on her lips, Brenda Hardy slowly got up and walked towards the maid.
“Let me put this dress on Erna. If you don’t bring Erna in this outfit before the departure time, you’ll be fired.”
* * *
Biern woke up earlier than usual. Yes, it was noon, which was far from the usual wake-up time, but for him it was like an early morning.
“It is good, my prince. Thanks to this, the servants of the Grand Duke’s residence were able to avoid the tragedy of being rebuked by His Majesty the King.”
Mrs. Fitz made an unusual joke to Biern, who had just come out of the bathroom. There was also a gentle smile on her face, which seldom showed emotion.
Biern smiled brightly and walked into the dressing room with a wide stride. The servants, who were preparing the clothes, stopped working for a moment and then turned back and bowed their heads. There was no more smile left on Biern’s face as he responded to the greeting with a light nod.
As Biern, who had changed clothes, stood in front of the mirror, the attendants began to move busily. The sunlight shining through the window became brighter as they went out with the complicated and colorful formal attire. Biern looked at the golden dust floating in the light with narrowed eyes.
Even if at least one troublesome prince doesn’t show up, tonight’s ball will go on without any problems. Biern was well aware that his father’s threats were just bluffs. The revered King Philip III of Lechen, his benevolent father, could not do such a thing like put a sword to his throat.
Nevertheless, he decided to attend. The price of having everything equipped and enjoying a smooth life is a law that must be paid. Maintaining the minimum amount of responsibility that was different from bondage. It was the proper line of life he had been keeping as a Dneister.
“It’s done, Prince.”
The deacon, who adjusted the shape of the last veil, said slowly.
Biern caught a glimpse of his own reflection in the mirror and turned around. Just by gently pulling up the corners of his lips, his face changed in an instant.
Biern began to take a refreshing step towards the central porch of the Grand Duke’s residence, where the carriage was waiting. The faces of the attendants who followed were lit with the light of admiration and joy that they had recovered after much effort.
“It would have been better to go to the capital a day earlier and stay. I am afraid that you will be late for the ball because the road is blocked,”
Mrs. Fitz, who had followed all the way to the front of the carriage, said anxiously.
“That’s not a bad thing.”
“Should I ask for something to happen to block the road?”
Biern sat in the carriage. Contrary to his mischievous attitude, his movements were agile and elegant without being superfluous.
The carriage carrying the Grand Duke left Schwerin Palace with the attendants seeing off. It was a sunny late spring afternoon, the scenery flowing out of the car window was like a picture.
* * *
“It’s all because of you. Because of you!”
As the palace began to appear across the street, Brenda Hardy burst into anger. Viscount Hardy, who barely sighed, glared at his wife as if embarrassed.
“What? Now, do you want to blame me and say that I am responsible for other people’s wagon accidents?”
“If you hadn’t taken left our townhouse in the capital with bank debt, we wouldn’t have entered the palace in such an unsightly manner on the day of the prom!”
Viscount Hardy, who was tired of his wife’s voice who was raising her voice without losing, couldn’t resist any more and shut his lips firmly. In the midst of the commotion, Erna only looked out of the window with a half-dazed face.
Schwerin was a city adjacent to the capital, Berne. It was said that it was not too far to go by wagon, but their arrival had been very delayed more than expected due to the accident. It was obviously a big deal that the ball had already started, but to Erna, even that fact seemed like a distant world.
It would have been better if the road had not been opened forever.
Erna looked down with eyes that were about to cry. To arrive at the royal palace wearing such a shameful dress. She felt like jumping off the carriage.
As soon as Erna saw the dress, she resolutely refused. If it wasn’t for Lisa, who cried and begged her not to go back to the countryside, saying that she would be kicked out as of today if she didn’t wear this dress, she would never have worn such vulgar thing.
Erna, who could not go to the ball as if she was naked, and could not let the innocent maid out, offered a compromise of her own. It was to cover the shoulders with a lace shawl. Although not very pleased, the Viscount, fortunately, took a step back and gave in to her.
“You have to do well with what you learned, Erna. Do you understand?”
As the carriage passed the grand entrance of the palace, Viscount Hardy insisted on it.
Learn? What did you learn?
Erna tried to retrieve her memory somehow, but it didn’t work out as she wanted. Meanwhile, the palace was getting closer and closer. Erna’s two hands clutching the lace shawl wrapped around her shoulders were trembling as if they had convulsed.
* * *
“Viscountess! What the hell is this?”
Countess Meyer exclaimed nervously when she saw the Hardy family rushing up the stairs. It was after the royal couple had already arrived, and the introduction of the young girls who were debuting this season had ended.
“It turned out like this because of a wagon accident. Are we really late?”
Victoria Meyer, viewed the Viscount as asking a pathetic question, hurriedly ran down the stairs.
“What is this shawl?”
“I’m sorry, madam. This was the best we could manage.”
Brenda Hardy, who was paying attention, quickly made excuses. At best, Erna had her upper body covered with a shawl, hiding the purpose of the beautiful dress.
“I wouldn’t have been able to get this kid in the wagon without a shawl. You couldn’t imagine how stubborn she was.”
Making lousy excuses.
Countess Meyer shook her head nervously, grabbed Erna’s wrist first, and hurriedly started climbing the stairs. She couldn’t handle this little, weak girl. Brenda Hardy’s incompetence made her shake with anger.
“Countess, give me a little, a little bit of time… … .”
“Hey, Miss Hardy. His Majesty the King is already here, how much more time do you need?”
Erna sighed and begged, but Countess Meyer did not waver. Anyway, it was impossible to get rid of this kid’s rustiness in that short amount of time. Rather, the odds of winning are higher if the appearance of an innocent country girl is presented as a charm.
“Please tell me.”
She gave orders to the servants guarding the front of the banquet hall. The heavy door engraved with the white wolf crest, which symbolizes the Dneister royal family, slowly opened and dazzling lights and noises poured out.
“The House of Viscount Hardy arrives!”
Following the servant’s loud voice, the eyes of the nobles who filled the spacious hall were focused on them all at once. At that moment, Victoria Meyer had a gut feeling. That this side would benefit far more from appearing like this than being introduced as one of the many young ladies. This crisis turned into an opportunity.
Countess Meyer, who exchanged glances with the Viscount Hardy, who followed them in a hurry, took the shawl from Erna, who froze like a statue. Erna, who realized this too late, struggled to capture it, but it was nothing more than a gesture to no avail.
“Let’s go, Ms. Hardy.”
Countess Meyer pushed Erna’s back with all her might with a cold command. The beautiful prize she was given this season was tossed aimlessly into the dazzling light.
* * *
She couldn’t breathe well.
That was all Erna could barely think of. Even when she was just standing silently, her heart was pounding like it was going to explode and her breath caught up in her throat.
Erna took a hard breath and raised her head. The incredibly spacious and splendid hall was filled with people as splendid as this hall.
Erna, who barely supported her shaking legs and took a step, came to a stop again after a while. It was because she remembered what she looked like.
Erna shrugged her shoulders and looked around as if asking for help. But all that caught her eye were unfamiliar faces and dizzying lights. After a while, it faded like a painting which got smeared.
What should I do?
Erna looked around once more, trembling helplessly like a prey thrown into a den of wild beasts. It was then that the servant’s cry could be heard, announcing the arrival of a new guest, amid the murmur of onlookers.
“Prince Biern is entering!”
The ripple caused by that name swept the entire banquet hall in an instant.