The admissions process itself was practically moot. I was already exempt from the transfer exam. I just had to wait for the head of the magic department to come check my attributes– the measurements caused a stir, of course, but when the principle informed them I was Lady Sasara’s daughter, that settled down– and the head of the military arts department had to certify me, which he did with a wave of the hand. He hardly needed to test a royal knight’s skill with a sword.
They also waived taking measurements for my uniform, because at this school, knights wear their knight uniforms. It made me think about the dangerous thing my mother had created to replace my formal uniform. At least I wouldn’t be wearing that…
Wait, did she possibly do something with my duty and mess uniforms too?
I needed to check on that when I got back to the mansion.
So basically, I really hadn’t needed to come, except that it said in the rules I had to appear in person. It was only lunch time when I was all finished.
Carson had planned for us to go to one of the cafés in town– despite its small size, the sheer quantity of aristocrats meant the town had several good eateries– but Amelia appeared out of nowhere and dragged me off to the ‘Royal Lounge’ instead.
It was inevitable, right? It’s yet another light novel touch that has me doubting the common sense of the cosmos.
Three royals currently attended the school, between lower, upper and advanced levels (read as: middle school, high school and college.) Naturally, the school had a ridiculously well-appointed spot for the royal children to take their breaks. I understand it’s normally called the “Peerage Lounge”, and is a retreat for the children of dukes, marquesses and earls. Such students still get to use it, but the school renames it whenever a prince or princess attends the school.
And naturally, being the Royal Lounge, waiting for me when I entered…
“Good day, Your Highness.”
“Ti, for the last time, call me Rod!”
# # #
Despite Rod’s presence, lunch was actually pleasant. I enjoyed listening to Amelia and her friends chatter, and mystifying those in the lounge unfamiliar with me and my relationship with the royal family. Rod looked a little dissatisfied with how little attention he was receiving from me, but I didn’t worry much about it.
I admit, I didn’t speak much. How could I? I had nothing in common with anyone in the lounge, Tiana’s childhood had left her with no social skills and Robert Stewart had no experience interacting with girls. As a conversationalist, I was toast.
Prince Gerard, who was a first year in the advanced school– college, in other words– showed up as well, and he also gave me uncharacteristically warm attention. So both of my royal “brothers” had done a complete turnaround in their treatment of me. What a difference three years made.
It was fun to see third year lower levels Clara and Erin nearly passing out from being this close to the crown prince.
They ought to have been accustomed to his presence. Erin was within her rights being here, as the daughter of an Earl, and Clara had the privilege to come here as a designated friend of Amelia, who could grant a handful of friends access. But, after he went to greet others, I learned from Amelia that Ged didn’t come to the lounge any more. He had stopped appearing during his first year as an upper level (again, that’s high school.)
When I asked why, she just said, “Let me tell you in private.”
Then Clara dropped a bomb on me. “My monthly tea party is this afternoon, in the lounge at my dormitory. You should come!”
“Um… I really planned to go straight back to the city after this…”
“Tiana,” Amelia said, imitating my mother’s ‘being-very-patient-with-you’ voice, “You need to get acquainted with your classmates. You’re three years behind making social connections, right now.”
Erin chimed in, “It’s only an hour drive back to the city. You don’t have to head back right away.”
The petite redhead instigator of this crisis insisted, “I’m sure you would love it! The girls who come to my tea party are all very friendly sorts!”
I realized I was sitting there staring at Clara with my mouth open. I think my body expected me to retort, but I honestly didn’t know what to say. They had me outnumbered and surrounded. I gave up and closed it.
This was not good, though. I had to say something. I turned to the princess. “Amelia, you remember when I was still holding birthday parties, don’t you?”
Her eyes narrowed for a short while, until her visible effort to put aside the irritating memories won, and she smiled again. “This is different, Tiana.”
“When you were still holding them?” Clara asked. “Doesn’t one always hold a party?”
Not holding one was unthinkable to a sheltered society girl, I guess. Clara had grown up the daughter of the Lord Mayor of the capital city. I don’t know anything about her father, but the King appointed the Mayor from amongst the second and third sons of major upper nobility, so she was an aristocrat like the rest of us.
I let a sigh escape my lips. “I stopped when I entered knight school. It certainly wasn’t worth the annoyance.”
“Annoyance?” Clara echoed, goggle-eyed. “Ducal house birthday parties are wonderful! And the ones for first daughters are the best!”
Amelia shook her head. “Clara… not for Tiana. Nobody shows up for hers.”
“Why???” Clara and Erin demanded in unison.
“Because of stupid parents,” Amelia answered. “Erin, you are the same age as us, and high enough status that Tiana’s mother almost certainly invited you. Probably she invited you as well, Clara. Neither of you know anything about it, right?”
“Uh… until the other day, I had never even seen Tiana before,” Erin answered, her brows bunching up.
“Exactly. Even though she grew up in Atius. As an earl’s daughter living in the same city, you should have seen her at any number of events, yet you didn’t even know she existed, right?”
“What happened?” Clara wondered.
“Your families probably sent back their regrets, just like everyone else,” Amelia stated, letting her anger show now. “Without telling you about it. Tiana’s parties were always just my brothers, my father, Tiana’s mother and a few of her friends. No soirée, no banquet, just a dinner and gifts. There was no way to do anything more that wouldn’t be awkward. And I’ve no doubt that your parents never once sent invitations to Tiana.”
“Why would they have done something so horrible to her?” Clara asked, baffled.
Amelia’s lips pressed together, so I answered for her, as gently as possible, “Because they were afraid I might capture their little princess and suck her blood, obviously.”
To be clear, I had absolutely no resentment about this. Tiana did resent it when she was little, but, as she grew up, she came to believe those parents had been right to fear her. So I had said those words without a trace of bitterness, either in my voice or in my heart.
Erin gave a slow, disbelieving shake of the head, while Clara blinked rapidly several times, then just stared at me.
Their reaction made sense to me. They wouldn’t hold the same level of fear as their parents, even before I came to their rescue.
Unlike them, their parents could remember when Duke Egon’s crimes scandalized the entire kingdom. I have no doubt they knew all about him, but it wouldn’t be quite as real for them as for their parents.
But Amelia turned to me and crossed her arms, effecting an I’m not taking no for an answer posture. “This time, their parents have nothing to do with it. You’re coming to this party. That’s final.”