Chapter 89 – Introductions… or not.

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Sweeping into my view, right in front of me, was an elegant girl who I guessed was likely also a third year. She had gorgeous blond hair in a half-updo piled up on one side of her head and lightly spiraling side bangs that were perilously close to classic ojou-sama drills.

Rod cleared his throat, his eyes flicking over her shoulder toward me, before he faced her with a smile. “Lady Josannah, you truly look lovely tonight.”

“Oh, Your Highness! You flatterer!” She covered her lower face demurely with her fan to prettily demonstrate how much she was embarrassed to receive such high praise.

“Your Highness!” came a willowy red-headed beauty from my other side. She advanced as well, stopping him from proceeding any closer to me. “You’ve chosen to attend a ball again! It’s been too long! I’m so happy you’ve made it!”

“Lady Simille,” he said, with a frozen smile that left me worried he might have contracted some facial muscle paralysis disease. “Yes, I do get busy. I should show up more often.”

“What a pleasant sight, Your Highness!” declared a satin-skinned angel with auburn tresses approaching from a bit behind him. She also closed within sword distance… okay, she didn’t have a sword, and neither did the other two, but they had him pretty neatly boxed out now. His eyes looked over to me again, a bit distressed, before turning to acknowledge her. He seemed to be developing a slight spasm to the jaw muscles too.

A slight bit of laughter almost escaped me.

“Your Highness…!” came a northerner brunette from the left. 

“Your Highness…!” a vermillion-haired beauty with a Dorian accent advanced from the right.

I heard a chuckle to my side. I turned my head to see Amelia standing next to me, with Clara and Erin in tow. She took me by the elbow. “Come on, Tiana. We’ll let this be his punishment for cheating on you.”

She pulled me away as yet another girl joined the crowd around Rod. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see his hand briefly raise toward me, then one of the women blocked my view.

I frowned at the princess as she hauled me away, then leaned closer and said, “You shouldn’t say things like that. Rod and I don’t have any public relationship to each other, yet. The engagement announcement isn’t for another two weeks.”

“I know, I know,” she answered airily, waving her closed fan in the air as a sign of negation. “It’s supposed to be a big secret. Even though my father and your mother keep telling people.”

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“Are you angry?” Clara asked me, sounding worried. “I mean, about the prince?” 

“Nobody has told me yet what it is I’m supposed to be angry about,” I replied. “I gather it has something to do with Miss Mireia.”

“Well…” Clara hazarded, “you need to know it’s not her fault.”

“She’s letting it happen!” Erin retorted. “I know she’s your friend, but…”

“She can’t do anything about it!” Clara insisted.

“You two!” Amelia interrupted. “Especially you, Erin. Clara’s right. Miss Mireia is a victim, and powerless as a commoner to do anything.”

Erin muttered, “She could still at least try to speak up.”

“Can somebody let me in on the big secret, please?” I asked, getting a bit annoyed.

“Well…” Amelia began.

“Your Highness!” A handsome blond lad with broad shoulders called from behind. He had two other young gentlemen with him, also in the male ‘Student Formal Attire’. A dark-skinned fellow, probably from the southern islands, and a boy with a plain face but a muscular neck. I could tell he was a fighter of some sort; you can tell it from how a guy holds his body.

Amelia looked troubled, said, “Sorry,” to me and turned to face the blond. 

Clara and Erin, glanced toward me with worried looks while following her. I gathered that the boy was probably someone they had to acknowledge. But while he was saying some pleasantry to Amelia, Erin leaned close to say, “Just remember that anything you hear tonight about Mireia from anyone other than Rod or us is probably a baseless rumor.”

I joined them in facing the three as Amelia was responding with a warm tone, while extending her hand, “Earl Hamnus, it’s a true pleasure.”

Earl? I wondered. The fellow was no older than us. And then I connected the name. Tiana met an Earl Hamnus during our foray into the west. He was a dignified older gentleman. Had something happened to the old guy? It would be strange for him to retire with the heir still this young.

He took her hand and gave her a dashing bow. “Please continue to call me Dremin, Your Highness.”

“Lord Dremin, then,” she answered with a princessly tilt of the head as she retrieved her hand.

I was about to ask about the Earl that I knew when one of his companions, the dark-skinned fellow, touched my arm. Leaning in toward me, he said in a low voice, “You’re young, so you must be new. You are supposed to stay respectfully back when the princess is visiting with nobility.”

A hand landed on my upper arm on the other side. I looked over that shoulder and saw a pair of house knights. They wore differing uniforms, so I’m guessing they were house knights. The one with his hand on my arm began gently pulling me away from the group while giving a sideways nod and a gesture with the other hand that meant, step over here with us.

Everyone here had seen Lady Chiara and I taking the knight pledge. They now knew these dresses were uniforms for lady royal knights, and of course, Amelia’s attendants would be royal knights. It was easy to understand the mistake they were making.

Not wanting to cause the young men any embarrassment, I let the house knights draw me away. I was planning to explain it to them on the side, but…

“What are you men doing?” Amelia demanded, causing all of the men to freeze. 

Her offended voice might have been due to the fact that they had laid ungloved hands on my bare skin. Even if it was just my arm, it isn’t done with a noblewoman. If they needed to touch, they should have gone for my long gloves.

“Your Highness?” the young master who had spoken to me asked her, sounding a bit bewildered.

Amelia looked at me, widening her eyes slightly, and said, “Why aren’t you saying anything, Tiana?”

The three nobles were now looking quite confused.

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“Your Highness?” Dremin asked in a puzzled tone. “Isn’t this woman your attendant?”

I heard giggles from both Clara and Erin. Amelia laughed outright.

“Attendant?” she asked the young man, sounding baffled. “Tiana, introduce yourself!”

Amelia, it was a perfectly natural mistake, I wanted to tell her, feeling bad for the gentlemen.

I smiled at the three gentlemen and did a curtsey while stating, “My Lords, I am Tiana Pendor of the Royal Knights. I’m pleased to make your acquaintances.”

“Why did you introduce yourself that way?” Amelia puzzled.

“I’m in uniform, Your Highness,” I noted, holding the smile. 

I really am supposed to introduce myself as a knight while I’m in uniform. I’m representing the king, not my ducal house. I was hoping that sticking to that policy would clue in my slightly air-headed foster sister to not embarrass them.

But my hope to back out and let the guards tell their masters later, in private, was evaporating under the heat of her indignation. Amelia let out a dramatic sigh and rolled her eyes, clearly preparing to introduce me to them. Fortunately for them, Mother’s voice came from nearby, just at that moment. 

“Tiana! Come over here, dear. I have someone to introduce.”

After the students finished filing in, the parents had also entered the banquet hall. I turned to see that both the king and my mother now present. I felt some surprise that there had been no announcement of the king entering, but perhaps he considered the one announcement during the ceremony to count for both events.

I turned back and curtseyed to the group. “I do apologize, Your Highness, My Lords and Ladies. My mother is calling.”

As I escaped, trying not to break into giggles, I could hear an exchange between two of the young lords.

“Isn’t that Lady Sasara?”

“Did that woman just call Lady Sasara her mother?”

My high-powered hearing can be fun, sometimes.

- my thoughts:
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There is no paywall. This chapter will unlock two weeks after it was posted.

So if Tiana is daughter to the Royal Escort and first daughter of a major duchy, why is nobody recognizing her? Two things: their parents all kept them isolated from her, and her existence as a royal knight is slotting her into a completely different role in their minds. Most of them have no clue who she is.

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