※ This story is not about Dungeon City Akatia.
A letter has come from Muno Territory asking for my attendance in a ball that will be held at Duchy Capital.
I would love to pretend I never saw the letter, but as it also asked for my assistance in increasing personal connections for Muno heir, my little brother Orion, I could not just overlook it.
"What is wrong nodesu?"
As I gloomily sighed with the letter in my hand, Tama and Pochi called out in worry.
"You can talk to Pochi about your problem nodesu."
"Oh, I'm all right desuwa. It's nothing major anywa--"
"Karina-dono, you should talk with these two. You might find a new perspective by talking to other people."
An artifact created by an ancient magic empire [<<Intelligent Item>>] Raka gave me that advice.
"It's really nothing big. I just received a letter asking for my attendance in a ball desuwa."
"Like ball catching~?"
Pochi and Tama tilted their heads and their entire bodies together.
They looked so cute I was smiling before I realized.
"No, that's different. A Ball is where nobles gather around to dance and eat together."
"Pochi loves both dancing and eating nanodesu!"
Pochi and Tama twirled around and started dancing.
"Oh you two are so good at it desuwa."
I liked to dance too when I was small.
It all started that day, the day I attended my first ball--.
<TLN: Catch the latest updates and edits at Sousetsuka .com >
"Soruna-anesama, what's Duke-sama's ball like?"
Our Muno Barondom's simple wagon trod on the main road while shaking.
"...Oh, where to begin I wonder."
Soruna-anesama looked gloomy, unlike me who was really looking forward to the ball.
The me at this time was too frolic to notice ane-sama's state.
"Hasn't Ane-sama gone there many times before?"
"When I was at the royal capital--at Dona Baronet's place, it was mostly balls for lower class nobles, so they weren't really extravagant. I'm not yet a debutante too, I've only been to a ball hosted by Duke-sama at the Duchy Capital before I moved back to Muno."
"Duke-sama?! Whoa! Ane-sama, that's amazing! And then, and then?"
My eyes were sparkling at the tale Ane-sama narrated and urged her to continue.
"It was a very dazzling place. It was so bright as if it was in the middle of the day with dozens of hanging chandelier emitting lights like they were coming from a hundred magic lamps. Those lights reflected by the candlesticks and tableware below made the scene looked like I was in a world of dream."
Imagining how it would like, I couldn't hold my mouth from opening wide in astonishment.
"The ladies and gentlemen attending the ball were wearing green silk garments, lower class nobles at the capital just cannot compare. Those outfits were adorned by so many jewels sparkling like stars in the sky. Every one of their fingers have jewels so big, it almost looked too heavy to carry even."
"The dishes served were also beyond luxurious. So many cuisines I had never seen before in my life lined up endlessly, your sister had no idea so many food existed in this world before then."
"A feast! Were they tasty?"
Ane-sama wouldn't reply back my innocent question.
"I'm sure it was very tasty. Those dishes fill up all the tables, and every time a large platter had been half-emptied, a new large platter full of freshly cooked food would get brought in."
"What are they going to do with the leftover? Are they saving it for tomorrow's lunch? Oh then you can eat a lot the next day too!"
As someone who was living a frugal life in Muno Territory, the idea of discarding food never even crossed my mind then.
"Karina, you're such a good girl."
I had no idea why I got praised, but I really liked getting praise from ane-sama.
"Did you make friends?"
Ane-sama's face stiffened up like a Noh mask as I asked her that.
"--It is not shaking anymore. We have reached the Duhcy's highway it seems."
"You're right ane-sama! We're on a wagon but it's not rickety rackety anymore!"
Oyugock Duchy's well maintained roads were a thing of wonder to me who only knew shaky roads at Muno Territory.
For that reason, I failed to notice how ane-sama had abruptly changed the topic.
"It's knights! Ane-sama, there's so many knights-sama in silver armor!"
Our wagon passed through Oyugock Duchy's fullplated armored knights.
Our wagon was being escorted by Muno soldiers as well, but all of them only wore leather armor, thus those knights in their metal armor looked like they sprung out of fairy tales to me.
I remember how one of those knights murmured, [Cursed Land].
The me at the time had no idea about anything, but even the bubbly me could sense that it was nothing good from father and ane-sama's gloomy mood.
And that turned into conviction as we arrived at Gururian Castle, the venue for the ball.
"Is that the 『Cursed Land』's?"
"Have you heard about rumors of nobles moving to Muno Territory meeting an unnatural death one after another?"
"Yes, of course. My little brother was going to enter the government service at Muno Territory, and my whole family went against it."
"Will we not get cursed taking part in the same ball as these people?"
The only one greeting us upon our arrival was the viceroy, Viscount Shimen, all other nobles would only whisper maliciously behind our back, none dared to speak to us nor approach us.
In fact, they would quickly scuttle away whenever we would try to greet one.
"Soruna, I have to go greet the people here. I'm sorry, but could you look after Karina for me?"
"Yes, father. I shall enjoy the food together with Karina."
"Yup, that's a good idea. Make sure you don't leave the venue, okay."
Father said that and then left to make the rounds for his job.
"Let's go Karina."
I was curious about the people dancing in the hall, but I couldn't say it out loud, confused by the unusual state ane-sama was in.
"Whaa, yummy! Ane-sama, it's so yummy!"
I was a bit reserved that it was buffet style, but all the feast that couldn't be found in Muno castle had me frolic and forgot about everything else.
"She's like a starving cattle."
I choked on sweet by mistake at that harsh rebuke.
Ane-sama hurriedly passed over a glass of fruit water.
"No graces befitting of a noble."
"But of course. These cattle only have half of noble blood running through their vein, they are crossbreeds."
"Half? You mean one of their parents is a commoner?"
"I see, I see. So that is the reason they managed to narrowly escape [No Life King]'s Curse."
"How dare mere crossbreeds play pretend nobles! Punishment is due in short order."
The noble sons and daughters disparaged our commoner born--an illegitimate child of a noble to be exact--mother.
At this time, at my first exposure of unbridled malice, I wasn't really aware of what was going on, I just believed that I had done some sort of terrible mistake and could only tremble in fear from the bottom of my heart.
Ane-sama went in front of me to cover me.
Despite being frightened herself, she spread out her tiny body to hide me from sight.
"Hmph, the little sister's a steep cliff, but the elder one possesses some truly magnificent assets."
"Aren't those too big. It goes around to vulgar when they're that big to me."
The pimple-faced noble boy smirked and grinned while looking closer at ane-sama's face while the plump boy pushed the long glass he had on ane-sama's chest.
--Gotta protect ane-sama!
Just as I ran out from behind ane-sama while thinking that--.
Someone stopped me.
"Speaking of vulgar, have you guys seen a mirror lately."
This someone took the glass pushing ane-sama's chest, and pulled away ane-sama from those boys with a lax attitude.
"Toruma! Dare you go against me, the heir to Bobi Earldom!"
"Sure I dare."
The boy called Toruma answered right away at the noble boy who was misusing his family's authority.
Yes, this was how I met Uncle Toruma.
"Heck if I could overlook those who would disparage an innocent lady, make her cry, and even go as far as shamelessly molesting her in public, moreso when it's in a party sponsored by my family."
Despite his bumbly attitude, uncle Toruma's words were filled with anger.
"What mishap have you got yourself into now, Toruma."
Just as the situation was about to explode, uncle Toruma's elder brother, the heir to Viscount of Shimen, uncle Hosaris spoke out to him.
Unlike uncle Toruma, he has never visited Muno Territory, so I don't know much about him.
"Hosaris-dono! What sort of education do you have at your house."
After hearing the noble boy's protest, uncle Hosaris glanced at a nearby butler who quickly came up to him and whispered the circumstance in his ear.
"I see, so that's what's going on--"
Uncle Hosaris murmured.
"Punish him quick if you understand!"
"That's a nice idea."
Uncle Hosaris looked at uncle Toruma with a cold gaze.
"Toruma, you shall have more etiquette education as ordered by father."
"U-umm! Toruma-sama only covered for us--"
Ane-sama was trying to defend uncle Toruma when uncle Hosaris lightly raised his hand to interrupt her.
"I understand the situation."
Then uncle Hosaris turned his gaze at the noble boys.
"Ronbel-dono is an outstanding statesman, but it appears parenting is not his strong suit."
The noble boys who were expecting apology from uncle Hosaris stiffened up when they got their expectations subverted.
"W-what'd you say! Are you slandering us?!"
"Do I have to spell it out for you? Today marks the end of our association. Turn around and leave, now."
"Y-you think you your Scroll workshop business can succeed without the help of Bobi House?!"
"That is no concern of yours. The earl may expect a messenger with our declination from our family head, my father at a later date."
Ane-sama who felt responsible to the unexpected situation called out.
"You have nothing to feel responsible about. Associating with a house that has reared up fools incapable of the least bit of courtesy to a lady would only sully our Viscount House of Shimen."
After saying that, he really did expel those noble boys from the venue.
"Let's go somewhere else. Hard to relax here no?"
Urged by uncle Toruma, we transferred over to a break room next to the venue.
"Forgive me, it's all because of us."
"Eh no worries. They probably only used you guys as a pretext to refuse the business joint proposal. Nii-san could handle mediation without proper set up in his sleep. That etiquette thing earlier was also more cause how late I was saving you girls."
Uncle Toruma explained with a laugh to the apologetic ane-sama.
"Toruma-sama, we have brought you food."
"Thank you. Okay then, let's forget about silly stuff and just enjoy the grub."
Uncle Toruma let us enjoy the dish we were enjoying earlier.
"Toruma-sama, do you live at Gururian City?"
"I'm usually at the duchy capital. Only went to play at Gururian like once in a while."
"What kind of place is the duchy capital?"
"You can find anything there. But it's not fair if it's just me speaking. Karina-chan, what's it like at Muno where you live?"
"Oh umm, there's father, mother, Soruna-anesama, and Orion!"
Elated to be mentioned, I went on to ramble on random things to uncle Toruma.
Thanks to this incident, our relationship with Viscount of Shimen deepened, and the once unvisited Muno Territory would have uncle Toruma coming to play every once a year.
Hence, I remember how lonely I was when uncle Toruma eloped and stopped coming for several years.
It ended with a good memory, but the malicious glances and insults directed to the small me had placed an irremovable thorn in my mind.
Ever since then, father would cease participating in a ball hosted by Duke Oyugock, and neither me or ane-sama would beg for it even once.
"Pochi don't really get it but she gets it nodesu!"
Tama and Pochi had these difficult looks on their face as they nodded together with their arms folded.
"The best way is to overwrite bad memory with a happy one nanodesu!"
"Like Leopard-oneesan said~?"
"That's right nanodesu! So Karina should overwrite the ball together with Pochi!"
Pochi struck out the sucha pose as she said that.
She kinds of look like Satou when he tried to play it cool and invited me to a dance.
I reflexively smiled at that happy feeling.
I bend down and take Pochi's hand.
"Pochi~, not tall enough."
"Oh, oh no, it's true nanodesu. Pochi's stumped nodesuyo."
Before I could complete with desuwa, Tama moved right next to Pochi.
"Yeah nanodesu! Two fires make one flame nanodesuyo!"
Tama and Pochi started humming some kind of song.
If I'm not mistaken, that's the theme song of a [Roboamime] Arisa sang? Or was it an insert song?
As Tama folded her arms, Pochi jumped onto her shoulders, and then as Pochi's legs were locked into position, a mantle showed up out of nowhere wrapping the two.
"This is the friendship combined form, Gentleman nanodesu!"
Pochi spoke, her eyes at a slightly higher elevation than mine.
"My lady, may I borrow your hand nanodesu."
I replied back to the slightly mistaken invitation Pochi made with a ladyship etiquette, and offered my hand covered in white gloves.
"My? When did these gloves?"
"They showed up out of nowhere when that mantle was deployed earlier."
Raka-san couldn't even detect it--perhaps, Satou?
"Then, muzic starto nanodesu!"
Mia who was in the courtyard before I knew it started playing a ballroom dance music.
A delightful uptempo tune.
"Karina, just leave it aaall to Pochi nodesuyo."
"Pochi and Tama, you two can dance desuwa."
"Yes nanodesu! Pochi is an alluring dancer, she trained with Arisa in dancing so she could let's dance together with master!!"
Tama is in charge of the steps but since she forms the legs here, she won't speak.
I'll ask them to change up later and dance again.
The gloomy feeling vanished as I danced, and before I realized, I was enjoying the dance from the bottom of my heart.
"Come now, let's grasp the world of ballroom together with Pochi nodesuyo!"
"Ufufu, that sounds just lovely desuwa."
That day our dance continued with smiles unceasing, the courtyard ball went on until Pochi's and Tama's bellies rumbled.
The apprehension in my heart hasn't fully disappeared, but unlike yesterday, I no longer get depressed just from hearing the word ball.
As thanks for those two, I should bring them some meat dish on my way back from the ball as presents.
I'm sure those two would be delighted--.
With that in mind and with lighter steps than yesterday, I took a step forward toward the ball.
※Next update is planned for around the end of next month.