The ballroom inside the Helstea Manor had been lavishly decorated with colorful string tapestries hung along with other fine embellishments on the tables and stage to match. The elaborate placement of the orbs that made up the chandelier sparkled, creating a serene ambience as the guests started entering through the towering front doors.
I was dressed very formally for the special birthday party the Helsteas and my family decided to throw for Ellie. While this world did have formal wear that were very similar to tuxedos from my old world, this world did not have ties. Instead of ties, handkerchiefs were wrapped underneath the collar and tied fashionably. Sporting a black suit with a white-collared shirt underneath, the only bit of color in my ensemble was the light blue scarf I had tied underneath the shirt collar. I wanted the black handkerchief but my mother insisted that I should wear blue to accentuate the color of my eyes.
With my gaudy blue scarf and windswept hair that had been thoroughly cemented by whatever paste was made to style it, I felt like some sort flamboyant show dog.
Since the ballroom was located in the opposite wing from our rooms, Ellie had no idea that we were throwing her this party. She was under the assumption that the both of our families were going out to a fancy restaurant so she was excitedly getting ready with our mother and Lilia, who came back for the occasion.
Sylvie was sleeping inside my room, her body still getting used to the big change she underwent recently. She resisted going to sleep until she had my verbal guarantee that I would save her some leftover food.
“Welcome. Please come in.” Putting on a gentlemanly smile, I welcomed my little sister’s lady friends she met at school, a duty I was assigned by my mother and one I wasn’t too fond of.
Met with shy giggles and red faces, I kept a gentle smile on as more and more guests started trickling out of their carriages, accompanied by a driver and a chaperone.
The attendees of my sister’s party consisted of her female friends, the female friends’ chaperones, which were an older group of people, and either my parents’ friends or Vincent and Tabitha’s friends. By eight in the evening, most of the people on the list had arrived and my mother notified the maid that she and my sister would be coming down shortly.
“Well aren’t you dressed all neat and spiffy?” I turned around back toward the door to see Gideon in his signature brown lab coat—a cleaner one at least—and a set of new goggles hanging on his neck.
“This is quite a pleasant surprise, Mr. Gideon.” My smile must’ve tipped him off because he grumbled under his breath before replying, “You darn well knew that I would try and see you again, didn’t you?”
My smile never wavered as I use my hand to guide him towards the refreshment booth. “I’ll admit it was unexpected of you to utilize my sister’s birthday to meet with me though.”
“Bah! You and I have a lot to talk about and don’t you forget, I’m not leaving you until I’m satisfied!” He, once again, began grumbling before trotting over to the refreshment booth, asking for an alcoholic drink right off the bat.
Elijah, who I saw talking with a chaperone girl that was a bit older than us, walked towards me, his shoulder slumped.
“My third time trying to strike a conversation with a girl and they all so kindly made convenient excuses to go elsewhere,” he sighed, his crooked glasses further emphasizing his dejection.
Before I had the chance to start teasi—comforting him, I was interrupted by a loud voice.
“Everyone, please get ready! Lady Alice and Eleanor are both on their way here!” the maid announced before she signaled to turn off all of the lights.
“…Mama, I thought we were going to go out for dinner? Where are we…”
“SURPRISE!” a synchronized chorus of voices exclaimed.
With the chandelier sparkling on and an array of artifacts popping off in colorful lights, my little sister’s confused face turned from initial surprise to pure joy. Her eyes widened and cheeks blushed red as her hands instinctively went to cover her gaping mouth.
She didn’t have too long to indulge in her moment of astonishment as her school lady friends all ran up to her and gave her hugs, almost carrying her away along with Lilia, giving me a meaningful gaze before disappearing.
“Good job welcoming all of the guests, Art.” My mother came up to me, gently patting my head before some of her friends pulled her away to leave me wandering. I spotted my father with Vincent and some other importantly dressed figures, talking business and other various uninteresting topics.
Waiters walked around, handing out platters and cups of various foods and drinks. I was munching on something akin to a bite-sized sandwich when the melodic chime of a glass being rung pulled my attention. My father, wine glass in hand, was onstage, his cheeks slightly rosy and his eyes relaxed.
“Ahem! Before the party officially begins, I would like to thank you on behalf of my precious daughter for coming here tonight!” As my father spoke, I spotted my sister blushing in embarrassment as her friends giggled and clapped at this joyous occasion.
“Please start the music!” My father signaled towards the back of the stage where five musicians stepped out with their instruments. I was surprised to see that the instruments looked nearly identical to the string family instruments in my world, with two violins, one viola, and one cello musician stepping out with a pianist behind them. The piano was shaped a little differently and as they started playing, the sound it produced was much deeper and richer than a regular grand piano.
“It would bring great joy to see my beloved son and daughter have the first dance!” My father raised his glass higher, his eyes narrowing into a tipsy grin as he requested something that could potentially be disastrous to this party. I turned to my mother, who bore a look stricken with panic, because neither her nor my father had ever given either of us dancing lessons.
I caught my sister’s face, petrified in horror, as she realized she could become a total embarrassment on her birthday. Keeping calm, I took confident strides towards where my sister and her friends stood.
“Will you honor me with your hand for a dance?” I bowed, slipping off my gloves and placing a hand out in front of me; I heard various squeals and giggles from her friends but I ignored it.
Ellie, still fretful at the turn of events, couldn’t find the words, so she just nodded her head, accepting my hand and eliciting a round of applause.
As soon as she was in my hands, a crowd formed around and their applause died down as the soft flow of music became louder and filled the room. The music was slow and rhythmic, making it easy to follow along. Her once panicked face gradually turned calmer as she realized she just needed to follow my guidance.
My right hand holding onto hers and my left gently placed on her fragile waist, we circled around, her light coral dress fluttering gracefully. Each step she took mirrored mine as we waltzed around the small dance floor formed around us by the dazed crowd. I was calm and poised, dancing and swaying to the song with grace, since dancing had been something I was required to learn for any formal occasions as a king.
I couldn’t embarrass myself as a figurehead for my nation now could I?
My sister’s face gradually shifted from a tranquil calmness to an excited glee as she truly began enjoying our dance. Her skin glowed from her smile and perspiration, giving her a radiant feeling to the crowd. Twirling her around as if we had rehearsed for a grand performance, the musicians played along with our dance as if they were drawing inspiration from us. As the last verse of the song was coming to an end, she followed my lead well, coming to a beautiful halt synced perfectly with the musicians.
The applause and cheers of the audience—some of the more intoxicated adults even whistling—washed up the soft panting of my sister as the both of us bowed, hand in hand.
“That was wonderful!” “Truly splendid!” “What a great performance!” Sounds of compliments and praises from all around us caused my sister’s smile to grow even wider as we soaked in the limelight.
“Brother!” My sister couldn’t hold in her excitement as she jumped into my arms, almost knocking me down in surprise. Her innocent and pure laughter rang contagiously as she flung her arms around my neck.
“Holy crap! That was great! Where’d you learn to dance like that, Art?” Elijah ran up to us, his narrow eyes gleaming in excitement underneath his glasses.
I just gave him a shrug before gently placing my sister down. Giving her a pat on the head I said, “Happy Birthday, Princess.” Giving her a playful wink before my intoxicated father picked her up.
“Haha! My beautiful princess and my handsome son! What a great performance!” My father must’ve been drinking more because he was even more flushed than he had been on stage.
“Owowowow!” My father let out a howl of pain as my mother pulled him down from his high horse by grabbing his earlobe. “Do you understand the disaster this could’ve caused if Art didn’t happen to know how to dance?” She whispered.
“I learned from Jasmine while being an adventurer. I thought it’d be useful!” I lied, only getting rid of half the suspicion of my keen mother.
“Don’t mind, don’t mind!” He managed to wheeze out as my sister, who was put back down, scurried off to her friends. My still-angry mother dragged my intoxicated father by the earlobe back to where the adults were.
ELEANOR LEYWIN’S POV:
“Your brother is so handsome! I’m so jealous! I wish my brother was like him; he seems so nice!” The friends I’d made at school were all complimenting Brother and me about the dance.
“Hehe! I told you he was great!” I couldn’t help but smile with pride at being Brother’s only sister.
“Yeah, he’s awesome! I bet the both of you practiced a lot for that dance! It looked SUPER hard.” My best friend, Nicole, was really excited.
“U-Umm yeah! But our teacher was really good so we got it down really fast!” I lied, looking down. I thought it would be weird for them to know that only Brother knew how to dance, not me, when it should be the other way around.
My heart was still beating really fast from the dancing. It was really tiring but also really fun because Brother led me through it so well that I felt like a professional dancer.
“You’re grinning really big, Ellie,” Nicole smirked at me, elbowing me with her arm.
“Hehe! Let’s go get some food!” I needed to look busy so some of the guys here wouldn’t ask me to dance.
ARTHUR LEYWIN’S POV:
I slumped in a corner, a glass of apple cider in my hand. The dance gave all the more reason for the adults and chaperones to come and greet me, some hinting for a dance. Putting on a smile and speaking in a higher pitch than usual to sound more respectful could get tiring.
I spotted Elijah dancing with a girl that looked around our age—maybe a year younger—probably one of the older friends of my sister.
I guess he finally managed.
“Hey, you must be the Arthur that everyone’s talking about.” A blond-haired boy, rather tall and poised, leaned against the wall next to me.
“Then I guess I must be.” I managed a faint smile while I took another sip of my cider.
“My friends are all jealous of you for stealing the attention from the girls here,” he snickered while sticking out his hand. “My name is Jarrod Redner. I heard a lot about you from Lilia at school.”
“Ah, you guys both go to Xyrus. As you already know, I’m Arthur Leywin, pleased to make your acquaintance.” I received the handshake before my eyes spotted Lilia, who came towards us after seeing us together.
“Before she gets over her, am I to assume you guys are either dating or that you like her?” I said in a low voice so that only we could hear.
“You’re pretty sharp, aren’t you? Yeah, we’re part of the student council together, she being the secretary and me, the treasurer. I’m trying to pursue her and I’ve expressed that many times already.” He let out a sigh before smiling and waving at Lilia.
“She may look a little plain, but she’s a good girl, that Lilia. I hope you treasure her well,” I said simply.
“Well I hope to get the chance to do that someday since she’s rejected me all three times so far.” He chuckled, a hint of disappointment escaping his face.
“Hey Arthur! I’m so sorry I couldn’t get the chance to say hi to you at all today! I’ve been so busy since as I got here earlier, and you were busy with preparing too!” Her face was flushed and by the way she spoke so quickly and excitedly, I was beginning to understand why Jarrod came up to me.
“I’ll leave you two alone.” Jarrod solemnly walked away, a hint of jealousy in his eyes, not even looking at Lilia as he passed her.
“You look beautiful today,” I noted, clinking my glass of cider with her glass before taking another sip.
“O-Oh… I mean, thank you!” Lilia was really jumpy as she started fiddling with her turtleneck light green dress that was embellished with frills and subtle trimmings. I hadn’t seen her since before she started attending Xyrus. Lilia had matured a lot this past year and a half, her childlike face slowly becoming a bit more refined.
We started talking a bit more about her school life when I started teasing her. “You must be pretty popular at Xyrus. Do you have a boyfriend yet?” Even my sister would sometimes tell me about boys who liked her, gloating that she was popular.
“N-No, of course not! I don’t have anything like that yet, haha.” Lilia was desperately waving both her hands, signaling ‘no way,’ which made me laugh.
“You’re still young so take your time and meet the right guy. But you better bring him to me first so that I can approve before you start dating him!” I poked her in the arm.
A shred of dejection showed on her face before she quickly covered it up, saying, “Yeah, I will! Just don’t be too hard of a judge!”
“Ahem, mind if I borrow the, young lad?” I looked up to see Gideon walking up to us, something akin to a polite smile strewn across his usually scowling face.