I dragged Vincent along with me as I chatted up with the ladies of the court, the princesses who were invited for my birthday gala - honestly, I talked with just about every girl in the ballroom, not just anyone with a position.
What I was try to do was get Vincent interested in anyone of them. I am not even going to pretend what he so much didn't see in ladies, but if I had anything to say about it, it's going to stop today.
"Your Highness!" Some lady cooed as she fell into a courtesy. She had fallen into a courtesy before I could see who was speaking to me. Her brunette hair was piled on top of her in a mess of into curls. Her flashy sunny yellow gown had a deep neck - kinda ironic, how I explained the color of her dress. Flashy.
"Ur-" I struttered, never having seen this lady before. I hadn't even heard the valet calling her name.
"Lady Monique, is your mother not here." Startling that Vincent knew the name of this lady whom I didn't, I looked at him in question.
"For today, Master Swen is chaperoning me." The lady giggled heartily as she stood up straight. Her eyes were a sharp green color that reminded me of a stray, wild cat. Her lips were coated in thick red lipstick and her skin was a pale fair color. I guess you can call her beautiful, by most mens standards. But for me, I felt she'd have better luck in a whore house than with Vincent , whom, it was clear, she was after.
"And where is master Swen?" Vincent asked, his teeth clenched as his deep ocean blue eyes swept across the ballroom, searching for this master Swen the two were talking about. He was tensed, poised as if ready for a fight. His hand was also hovering too close to his sword, like he was contemplating whether to pulled it out or not.
Just then the door leading to the ballroom were open once again and the valet called, "Duke and Dutchess Wenceslava of Mangandaall!"
Hearing the familliar name, I looked back to see as the Duke and Dutchess stepped gracefully into the ballrom and made there way down the stairs. In harmony and sync. I noticed even Vincent paying close attention to them.
As soon as I had left my parents in the library and joined Vincent - who was staying for me outside the library doors - I had dragged the man to the privacy of my chambers and told him what my parents wanted. I had even showed him the portrait of Princess Zigra Wenceslava. So he knew why it was important for me to meet her parents as well as her.
I looked at Vincent puzzeled. If Duke and Dutchess Wenceslava were here, where was their daughter? My future fìance?
A moment later the valet announced, "Lord Ilarion Radoslaw and Princess Zigra Wenceslava of Mangandaall!"
And then she stepped inside... in the arms of a man.
He had midnight black hair, brown eyes and tan skin. He had a lithe build and looked to be about the same height as me, 5'10".
My eyes however were starstruck by the fair lady in his arms. A beauty beyond comparison. She looked different from the portrait, more reserved and much more beautiful.
Her midnight black hair fell in ringlets, an elegant waterfall, to her hips. Her make-up look minimum, but that only added to her appeal. She had turquoise eyes, rimmed with eyeliner, mascara and dark green eyeshadow that matched her dress. Only the edges of her eyeshadow was done in black, giving more vibrance to the turquoise of her eyes. Her lips were a sweet rosy color and not the seductive red that mostly all the ladies in the ballroom wore. She had a beautifully cueby figure, made more prominent by her dress.
I did note that her dress didn't have a deep neck, nor showed any cleavage. Her form fitting sleeves fell 'till her wrists and her bodice was form fitting. But from waist down, the gown flared out and swept the floor as Zigra made her gracefully desent down the stairs, still in the arms of Lord Ilarion Radoslaw.
"Who invited the 'night queen'?" Lady Monique - who precense I had honestly forgotten - piqued up from beside us.
Vincent and I looked at each other before looking at the brunette lady, who was scowling at the desending couple.
"Night...Queen?" Vincent asked her, sounding like he was testing the words. He cast me the same puzzled look I cast him. He turnes back to Monique with a frown between his brows.
She looked away from the two with a grimance, which quickly turned flirtious when her eyes landed on Vincent. This would have been funny if what she was saying didn't sound so spiteful. "Oh, you haven't heard the rumors?" She questioned, makong her eyes wide, probably to look innocent, bit came off rather crazy.
When both me and Vincent shook our heads, she clapped her hands excitedly. "People say that the lady is a witch, how every make to come in contact with the lady falls in love with her... and she's not the easiest person to get along with. You know with her apathic nature and all. Also she never wears bright colors, always gloomy looking dark gown, only. How freakish?" She asked the last part shuddering.
I could actually see how always wearinbg dark cold,it's would look freakish to her, she looked like a person who wore flashy things to always be the center of attention.
"Not to mention, she turned Eighteen a few months ago, and anyone who spent the night in Sterllinghall Castle says that she haunts the Castle at night. Probably perfoming spells and what-a-not. Anyway, that is why everyone calls her night Queen." She went on, obviously not noticing the startled looked me and Vincent shared as she was busy glaring at the crowd at said princess.
"Your Highness, Sir Dwayne!" An elderly man greeted us with a courtesy as he joined the three of us.
"Master Swen, a pleasure it is to see you." Vincent instantly greeted, bowing down to the elderly man with the greying hair and cognag brown eyes.
I only nodded my head, clueless as to who this man was as much as I didn't recognise the Lady Monique - from what I understood of there previous conversation, the two had come together. And somehow, this man was someone important to Vincent, he'd not have bowed to the man otherwise.
I looked closely at the crest in the mansion chest and felt a pang in my chest when I recognised the crest of Vincent's hometown. I looked up at my friend in concern. Sure, I didn't know much about his old life, before he found his way to Vensilvania and knighthood, but I knew whatever happened to drive him away from bhome was bad enough, than he didn't even want to be recognised by his true name.
Or rather, his true surname.
I'm one of the very few who know that he used his mothers maiden name and not his given surname. I'm also one of the many few who knows what that name is.
What puzzled me the most was, why is Vincent treating this man with so much respect when I know he hated anything to do with his old home? What did this man have so much on Vincent. I didn't like beingin the dark, sure. But what I hated most was that I couldn't tell if he was paint because of this encounter or not.
"It is good seeing you doing so well. I heard that you are the lieutenant to Sir Doniel Wayward, commanding officer of Vensilvania." The man, Master Swen, as Vincent called him, said, sounding proud. He patted the back of Vincent hard enough that the man winced. This caused me to chuckle, gaining the old mans intelligent gaze onto myself.
"Prince Leo, I hope you don't mind me calling you prince Leo." Me stated. Exactly he wasn't asking, he was stating it. For some reason, I got the vague feeling that agreeing with him was in my best interest. "It is nice to meet you your highness, I've heard a lot about you from little Monique here. She says you're Vincent's most closest friend." He smiled in a way that sent chills up and down my spine.
This man was a regal enemy to have. Cold and calculating and deadly to his opponent. I got the feeling that his old age didn't do anything to deter his fast reflex and skill with a sword.
"Yes sir, that would be right." I told, feeling like I was speaking to someone much more superior to him. I saw Vincent lips quirk up for the tiniest moment, before he had his balantly bored mask back on. Oh, he was enjoy this wasn't he? Let's see how he'd fair with the ladies shall we. Then I'll be the one amused.
"While I'd love to stay and chat, I need to introduce Monique to the King and Queen. A good day to you lads." He said, givijng one last bow and dragged away a protesting Lady Monique.
"Who was that?" I asked Vincent the moment the pair was out of earshot, shooting him an incredulous look.
Vincent sighed, a sigh that seem to make it's way out from the sole of his feet. One that sounded like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. "That was Master Iletchen Swen, the man who taught me the use of a sword." He said in a gravelly voice.
His tone suggested there was more to the story than he was willing to tell. "Not now, Leo. I'll tell you some other time. Too much people are around." He told me, shaking his head before I can ask anything.
Nodding my head, I turned my attention back to the gala.
"I'll hold you to that." I told, my tone teasing as I tried to spot the midnight haired beauty again.
"You do that." He added, like me turning his attention back to gala same as me. His eyes too scanned the crowd, I was sure he was looking for the princess to so he could get rid of me and brood all alone in some dark corner - where no lady or anyone can find him.
"In that case, I'll go look for your future fìance and you entertain your guests." Vincent told me suddenly, a pointed directly in front of us.
Confused I looked at where he had been staring and groaned out loud to see Lady Nettala towing her daughter over to me. "Forget it Vince, we're-" I started to say, looking at Vincent, only he was no longer next to me. I looked around, but he was nowhere to be found. URGH! That guy needed to get his priorities straight. I can't believe he just left me alone to deal with this.
Then again, maybe he realised what I had been doing all this time and he was taking revenge.
Of course he noticed what I was doing. He was anything but an idiot.
"You Highness!" Greeted the two ladies who had just reached me. I looked around to see them getting up from courtesying.
"I thought I saw Sir Dwayne with you." Lady Nettala's daughter asked, looking around with a pout. I instantly understood that she was after my friend and not me. She was here because her mother had dragged her over. This would make interacting with the lady that much easier. I didn't have to worry about her falling for me, not unless she was a good digger. Then I'd would hate marry her anyway.
Besides I didn't have to worry about propoals right now. My mother and father had someone in mind and by the way they seemed adamant I give her a chance, they wouldn't change their mind so easily. At least, not unless their hands are forced to. So all the flirting wouldn't hurt.
That is why, plastering a charming smile on my face, I turned to them.
And so the first hour after losing Zigra in the crowd was sent, before I spotted Vincent hiding amoung the shadows of the staircase. Excuesing myself from the three ladies surrounding me, I snuck under the shadows of the staircase to join Vincent.
"Still didn't find her?"I questioned, sipping from the wind glass in my hand. I leaned casually against the wall, following Vincent's example.
"Crazily enough, the lady keeps eluding my line of sight. The moment I see her, she vanishes within the crowd. Almost like she's hiding on purpose." He stated, not at looking startled to find me leaning against the wall next to him. In fact, he didn't even glance down at me as he answered me. He kept his eyes glued on the gala.
"Huh? I thought you were hiding from me." I told, a smirk playing in my lips as I took the opportunity to tease him.
He shrugged his shoulder, but the message it conveyed was clear. 'That too.'
I glared at him, then shook my head. It wasn't worth it.
"Very well then, you keep watching. Mother would have my head if she sees me missing her precious -" I told him as I started to make my way back to my guests. But I was cut off by a small 'oft' that came from Vincent's direction, but sounding more feminine.
I whirled around to see the very lady we were looking for leaning against Vincent - clearly having tripped and fallen on him.
"I'm really sorry. I should have been looking where I was going." She told in a monotone, her face devoid of any emotion, as she quickly moved away from Vincent. Pulling a white handkerchief with black and purple flowers embroidered in it, she held of out to Vincent.
What surprised me about her handing him her handkerchief was that instead of pretending to wipe him clean - to get closer to him - she held it out for him to take and do the honors himself. How many times I must've seen ladies fall over themselves to do the guys bidding?
"T-that's quite alright my lady." Vincent strutted, he actually strutted, looking like he had no idea what to say.
Sure, Vincent had a prejudice against the opposite sex, but never so bad that he couldn't interact with them in a normal level. In fact, from the way he spoke to the opposite sex, you'd never say he had a prejudice against them.
So what was so special about this particular lady.
Waving away the handkerchief she held out, he simply kept the, now empty, wind glass on the staircase and brushed away the wonder spilt on his shirt and flat, like it was no big deal.
Nodding her head, still no emotion crossing her face - shutters pulled down her eyes too - she re-pocketed her handkerchief.
"I truly and sorry sir." She told, her voice as devoid of emotion as her face. It was so blank I couldn't even tell if she was truly sorry or not. There have been enough times ladies have pretended to trip over themselves just to get close to him. To get his attention - which was so hard for them to get
That is why her blank face puzzled me so much.
If she was after Vincent, then we'd have a problem.
Since my parents want me to court the princess, it will be hard to do so if she is after my best friend. Usually, them being after him wouldn't bother me so. I would actually encourage them to pursue the guy. Even with Princess Zigra, if my parents hadn't given me a deadline and all that nonsence you court her, I'd have encouraged her to try to break Vincent out of his shell.
Not what was I to do?
Zigra threw a look behind her at the ballroom. There was something about the way she looked back that seemed like she wasn't looking at the ballroom, but rather for something else. Whatever she saw made her grimance as she turned back around to face Vincent.
I'm not the only one who noticed as, just barely, Vincent's eyes narrowed with suspition.
It's when she turned name around that she noticed me standing there as well. I could tell she was surprised to see me there too, as she took a startled step back.
Touching a delicate hand to her heart, she hurriedly straightened up. She gave me a curt nod of her head. By how she hadn't fallen into a courtesy, I could tell that she hadn't recognised who I am yet.
This could be good.
I gave her a smile in return. The same charming smile I gave to have ladies fall down right, left and center. Only Zigra seemed immune to it as the blank expression didn't leave her face and she didn't so much as flutter an eyelash.
She looked like she didn't even notice my smile. Bitting her lip in thought, she case another fleeing look back at the ballroom. That's when her eyes fell on the Vensilvania crest embed on the coat Vincent was wearing, right over his heart. Her eyes slowly trailed up to the lieutenant badge, before trailing down to the sword on his hip.
"I know this is improper, but would you care to dance?" She questioned near Vincent, her face an emotionless mask as it had been the entire time. She didn't even grace the man with a smile to charm her request.