Ch. 67 Blinded By Beauty (1)
The royal ball was held at Freesia Palace, which boasted the largest ballroom on the imperial grounds. Elena and Mirabelle, guided by the servant, passed a labyrinthine of splendid rooms, and already they could hear the muffled revelry of the party. Another door guard was posted at the entrance to the ballroom, and as he spotted Elena his eyes grew wide. The servant addressed him first.
“These are the two ladies of House Blaise.”
The guard was unable to take his eyes off Elena as he pulled open the door.
The doors of the ballroom, as grand as the palace gates themselves, slowly swung open to reveal the shining hall. Elena and Mirabelle glided inside, capturing the eyes of the nobles and causing them to whisper among themselves. It was the same for both men and women. Those who did not notice Elena at first were taken aback when she passed them, and the buzz grew louder.
“Who is that young lady?”
“Oh, see that necklace. It’s a red diamond!”
“Where was that dress made?”
Just as at the outside of the palace, Elena’s shining appearance drew in the excitement of the onlookers. Perhaps it was only natural. Although Elena’s dress was simple, one could not help but admire the quality of the work. From her dress to the jewelry gracing her body, everything was finely curated to highlight her beauty. While other women had splendidly attired themselves in the finest clothes for the ball, it was Elena and Mirabelle who stood out in bold relief amongst them all.
The sisters’ appearance quickly sent the ballroom fluttering with chatter. The sudden influx of attention pressed in from all sides, embarrassing Elena as she headed to the corner-most part of the room.
‘…I dressed carefully, so what’s wrong with me?’
She wondered if there was something on her face, but she trusted that Mirabelle would have told her first. She had never received so much attention in her life.
Elena settled at the edge of the ballroom, ignoring the myriad of eyes staring at her and picked up a glass of wine on a table. It was only mildly alcoholic, so she did not have to worry too much and primly took a few sips. Suddenly, she saw Mirabelle’s smiling face next to her.
“Is the ball as you expected?”
Mirabelle had been looking forward to the royal ball and seeing Carlisle all this time.
“Well, I don’t know yet, but I love that everyone’s looking at you. For some reason it makes me proud of myself!”
Mirabelle beamed in enthusiasm, and Elena smiled at how cute her sister was. If Elena was a beautiful rose, Mirabelle was delicate baby’s breath flowers. Though the two were somewhat similar, Elena immediately caught the eye, while Mirabelle had a more subtle grace. But roses weren’t the only thing that were beautiful. Mirabelle was still young, but when she matured she would surely become a very beautiful lady as well.
Elena looked tenderly at her sister.
“It’s because of you. Thank you for making me look beautiful.”
“Hehe, you might really be the Madonna of the ball.”
“I’m not really expecting it.”
“Tch, you don’t think so?”
While the two were pleasantly absorbed in their conversation, a familiar woman approached them.
“Oh, Lady Blaise. You look so radiant that I almost didn’t recognize you.”
Elena’s eyes turned to the woman approaching. It was Marissa Holland, the leading figure of southern society and the wife of the late Marquis Holland. It had been a long time since she saw her last at the tea party. Elena granted Marissa with a welcoming look.
“It’s a pleasure to see you again, Madame. “
“I also hastened to attend the royal ball. Many people came from the south as well.”
Elena looked around, and indeed she saw some familiar faces. When their eyes met, Elena gave a slight bow to the other noble children, who also bowed their heads in recturn. Marissa turned to Mirabelle.
“And this young lady has become more beautiful the last time I saw her. I felt it then, but I did not realize how truly beautiful the Blaises were. Let me know if you have any secrets to share.”
Elena demurred at the compliment.
“Yes, the Marquess is still beautiful.”
Marissa covered her mouth politely and smiled, then turned back with some curiosity.
“But the necklace that you are wearing…It is a red diamond, is it not?”
The one thing that noblewomen did not miss at gatherings were the dresses and jewelry. Elena nodded simply, understanding it would be a topic of conversation. There was no reason to lie. Marissa also likely already knew the type gem set in the necklace, but conversation was the hallmark of social circles.
“I see I am right. I can tell it’s a precious jewel. It suits you very well. “
While others might have wondered where Elena bought the necklace or if she had received the gift from a man, Marissa didn’t make any further remarks. She might have thought it rude to pry so deeply. It was because of her wise nature the she was such a powerful figure in southern society.
Elena answered abashedly.
“I’m pleased that you think it suits me. It’s actually a little heavier than I thought.”
Marissa smiled at Elena’s humble yet clever reply.
“Ho ho ho, young lady.”
While they were conversing with each other–
A sound of steady marching, and soon the royal guard appeared on a platform. Their appearance halted the activity going on in the ballroom. The herald proclaimed in a booming voice:
“Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress have arrived!”
It signaled the appearance of Sullivan, the Twelfth Emperor of the Ruford Empire. He strode forward, bearing no signs of illness at all other than a somewhat pale face. His illness was not known to many until the time of his death, and he did not look much different than usual.
Sullivan entered the ballroom with a soft and gentle air, as opposed to the usual ruthless auras of the previous emperors. The assemblage of nobles echoed in chorus,
“Hail to Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress! Eternal glory to the Ruford Empire!”
Before he sat down, Sullivan addressed the many nobles gathered here.
“I am happy to see so many of you present. Tonight we will officially introduce our Crown Prince.”
Perhaps because of Sullivan’s pleasant way of speaking, the mood in the ballroom seemed to brighten again. Next to Sullivan was a middle-aged woman standing in regal pose. Though Empress Ophelia was getting in age, she was still admired for her beauty.
“Your Majesty, you must be happy to have the crown prince back.”
However, Ophelia had sour look on her face.
“Yes, I feel relieved now that the man who will be the future pillar of the Empire has returned.”
“I am glad to hear that your heart is at ease.”
On the surface, they appeared to be a harmonious couple. Sullivan spoke to the nobles again.
“Now, let me introduce the Crown Prince, the star of today’s dance. Come forward!”
The moment his words ended–