Chapter 72: Interlude III: Lady Patricia
I was the daughter of a rather well-to-do merchant trader, whose main business is moving the stock of others about and exchanging money.
To be honest, it’s not unexpected for a woman with such a background to end up the wife of someone with some sort of status, but being selected to be the etiquette instructor and an attendant of the Earl’s Lady herself was something I had never imagined before in my life.
My friends and acquaintances from before my marriage often like to gossip about what life in high society must be like.
But for my side, such gossip is a dreadful bore to be a part of.
In the first place, My Lady didn’t have a graceful reputation.
Gossiping about how absolutely horrible it must be to attend to such a dreadful woman; do they really expect me to take part in such an endeavor?
In the first place, even disregarding my own personal feelings, objectively speaking, lambasting the Earl’s Lady sounds like an action that one should only perform if one were interested in becoming unemployed – or imprisoned.
Secondly, Lady Estella is certainly not an easy woman to get along with, but the rumors are vastly, grossly over-exaggerated.
Perhaps my acquaintances merely want to believe that high society is exactly like the sensationalist novels published in the gossip papers, but a woman who actually flies into a temper to the degree of inflicting bodily harm on someone – do they really believe such a woman would be tolerated in the country of Valed, even if she was the Earl’s Lady?
But somehow, rumors of the Lady flinging tableware and striking servants spread like wildfire.
Although, certainly, she did strike a page once for intruding into the Earl’s family’s personal quarters, I’ve always felt it was more out of fright than temper.
Whether or not her reaction was reasonable reaction to the situation is… debatable, however, the page himself was also in the wrong for neglecting to follow etiquette.
Furthermore, it showed a gross disrespect from that page’s mentor, that he instructed a still new, untrained hire to bring a message to the Earl’s family’s personal quarters.
Only servants who have served the Dellarose Household for at least three years are allowed to even approach their rooms.
I struggle to believe that the page’s mentor allowed this situation to occur unknowingly.
At any rate, the page and his mentor were both dismissed unceremoniously, according to protocol and basic common sense, but somehow, it became a story of the Dellarose Household terrorizing their staff.
I was always somewhat speechless when my acquaintances seemed to find pleasure in guessing at the ways My Lady has mistreated me, but I was never able to get them to understand that they were mistaken.
“We understand, you can’t say too much,” they would say, with knowing looks and exchanging glances.
I don’t think it was too difficult to understand why my ventures out to have tea with my former acquaintances became less and less.
I truly detest those kinds of people who enjoy the miseries of others.
Only a few of my closest friends had the presence of mind not to say the things that were in their hearts, and it was only those people that I bothered to keep in contact with.
Coincidentally, or simply as a matter of convention, these friends were also the ones who shared my views and tastes.
Not only were they dissatisfied with the amount of gossiping the others did, they were also fairly disgusted with how the trends are, and therefore weren’t as likely to look down on Lady Estella’s absence in most societal events.
“You are so lucky to be Lady Estella’s attendant. We might just be a rich merchant’s house, but it’s much harder for me to get out of attending those high society parties. Keeping our alliances fresh and making new connections and all that. I’m so sick of dressing up like a clown every night…”
Ludmilla complained, eating a biscuit very inelegantly, despite my disapproving look.
Not that my disapproval matters, since I’m not her instructor, but it’s an occupational hazard.
That’s right, it’s not just me, there are actually quite a few women who are tired of Valed’s trend of garish colors, wide skirts, and corset waists.
Women at a party aren’t like beautiful flowers blossoming among the men; rather, the clashing of bright colors hurts the eyes, and the widths and breadths of the skirts are getting ridiculously wide.
At this rate, women will start getting stuck in the doorways before the trend finally moves on to something less offensive to the eyes.
It wouldn’t be so bad if each dress was a bright, vivid color with swathes of fabric; the problem was that each dress was at least a minimum of three bright, gaudy colors.
While I can tolerate the dresses that seem to have some thought put into patterns of the clashing colors, there are many designers that are simply following the trends without concern for quality.
“I feel like Lady Estella has the most sense out of the women in high society; if you have to wear a dress like that, why bother coming out to make a fool of yourself?”
Ludmilla was simply laughing bitterly at the state of fashion, but … in the near future, it was like Lady Estella was proving her right.
The dress she wore for Queen Henrietta’s Celebration was … stunning.
A pale pink that seemed understated, and yet, in the field of bright colors, it also felt like the only dress you could gaze at without feeling like your eyes are burning.
After that …
Like the Queen’s Celebration was her debut, Lady Estella began to appear more and more often in high society, and each dress was even more stunning than the last.
Not that each dress topped the last dress each time; or rather, it was difficult to directly compare them due to their drastic difference in fabrics and constructions.
Instead, each dress showed off her own natural, slim beauty, lending itself to her height and grace, but all in different ways.
Furthermore, although the first few dress still swung the skirt out a little, as if barely making an effort to follow the vast skirt trend, at the Yule Festival, Valed’s greatest exhibition of high society fashion, Lady Estella’s dress got rid of that entirely, clinging to her body and giving her a sensual elegance that very few women would be able to mimic.
And no one whispered about her ignorance in fashion; no one could.
What could you say about such perfection?
It was like a fairy had emerged wearing a dress made of snowflakes, formed out of the Sapphire Mountains themselves; and this wasn’t simply my fawning over the Lady.
The moment Lady Estella had entered, under the expectant looks of everyone who understood that the new trends were coming from the Dellarose Earldom, a hush fell over the entire hall.
No one could find words to explain this dress that defied convention and expectations.
By the way, I and all of Lady Estella’s attendants, as well as the Barons’ Ladies, were also wearing Dellarose original dresses.
After that, demand for trends from the Dellarose Earldom only increased.
The Dellarose fashion ateliers began to emphasize something called ‘dressing for your shape,’ and cautioned women against blindly following the trends, and instead searching for the dress that best suits you, from the tailors that knew the best.
Although I have never regretted being Lady Estella’s attendant, I was truly grateful from the bottom of my heart that, with my own position, without needing to rely on my husband’s position, I was granted the privilege of utilizing the Rosetta Atelier, the Earl and Lady’s own, personally sponsored fashion atelier for my own personal dresses.
“Fufu, even though you didn’t care for fashion at all, before,”
Lady Bella laughed as we went out for our day off, shopping around for jewelry to match the dresses we would be wearing for Lady Estella’s next tea party.
“It’s hard to be interested when there weren’t any options to be interested in,”
“Well, it’s true that you’re tall and slim, like Lady Estella, so Rosetta’s dresses certainly suit you well. I wish there were dresses that flattered you better while dancing.”
Lady Bella does like to dance, compared to me, but … is that even something possible? A dress that’s designed to look good while dancing?
“I’ll go ask Fluvia-chaaan~”
“Lady Bella, calm … she’s already disappeared.”
If you’re going to return to the Estate, at least take the carriage… although I’m glad she didn’t just take off in it and leave me behind, but ….
The Young Lady startled me by truly making a dress that was gorgeous when Lady Bella soared about the dance floor.
Although it hugged Lady Bella’s hips, the skirt had many soft pleats that would swirl as Lady Bella turned and glided about, making it look like she was constantly moving about among an ever-changing cloud or mist.
At the end of the evening, I couldn’t help but look at the young girl with some suspicion.
“Oh my, Lady Patricia, are you also thinking about cuddling Fluvia-chan? I won’t give up my place, you know?”
And just what place is that?
I ignore Lady Bella’s usual nonsense as I say,
“… Lady Bella, what do you think about the Young Lady?”
“Oh my, where should I start -”
I have to cut her off before she starts babbling.
“I mean, what do you think about her maturity?”
“Eh…? Isn’t it fine? Even if she’s a little mature for her age, she’s still cute, after all.”
You call that ‘a little mature’?
“… Normal five-year-olds wouldn’t be able to design completely new, and yet completely beautiful concepts and dresses. Normal five-year-olds aren’t able to jumpstart an entire economy, or shift the trends all on her own initiative. I sometimes feel…”
I sometimes feel like the rumors of the Young Lady being possessed are true; I can’t say that.
Despite my self-control, however, it seems that Lady Bella is already aware of my thoughts.
The rumors aren’t too difficult to hear of, or think of, after all.
“… Say, Lady Patricia, what do you think about brain fever?”
“What … what do you mean, what do I think?”
“Hm… well, just simply that. What do you think of it?”
It’s a terrible, unknown disease. Who, when, and where it can strike are all unknown, unpredictable.
As I’m still trying to put it into words, Lady Bella speaks.
“I’m not saying that it’s true for all instances of brain fever, but what if… what if some diseases are simply a trial by the goddess?”
“… I fail to see where Lady Bella is going with this.”
“Well, it’s just a what if, so humor me. What if the goddess decided to bestow her blessings on someone? What if those blessings were an enhanced intelligence? And what if that blessing required a sacrifice of magic potential, and the brain fever was simply a symptom of that exchange?”
I was speechless for a moment.
That makes sense… of course it doesn’t!
Lady Bella’s imagination is truly … and yet…
It’s truly an outlandish ‘what if,’ but after hearing of this ridiculousness, I suddenly feel like Young Lady Fluvia’s eccentric intelligence isn’t so frightening.
Although I highly doubt Lady Bella’s theory of a direct trade, the fact is that the Young Lady suffered greatly and became a magic cripple.
However, she has now become an intellectual genius.
She doesn’t contradict the theory that the gods do not bestow two blessings on one person, so what right do I have to be fearful?
A little after I came to terms with our Dellarose Young Lady, the rumors of our Earl’s House were cleared away in a complete sweep.
Shockingly, a treasonous plot against the Crown was uncovered.
Although many of the details were obscured, what we were allowed to know seemed to finally avenge the dissatisfaction so many of the Dellarose Estate had to shoulder.
There were three main goals of the plotters: cause terror to the Crown, implicate the Margot Earldom as the culprit, and weaken the Dellarose Earldom.
Honestly, it’s very terrifying, because those three goals together meant only one thing: someone was trying sow discord among the three topmost powers in Valed.
Why would they do that?
I may be a woman ill-versed in political and militaristic maneuvering, but even I can feel that someone was attempting to ready the foundation for a Civil War.
Many people who had been propagating the malicious rumors about the Dellarose Earl and his family were executed along with the others involved in the plot as treasonous, slandering criminals, and Royal Decrees denouncing the rumors against both the Dellarose Earl and the Margot Earl were sent out.
Although there were certainly still people who believed that there would be no waves without wind, and that there was definitely something to the rumors if they persisted for so long despite being false, public opinion had vastly changed overnight.
With her reputation cleared, and her recent appearances in public as a leading figure in fashion, Lady Estella of the Dellarose Earldom rose to great heights, becoming a woman that women yearned to emulate.
Only we of the Dellarose Estate are left aware of how true and false all the various opinions are.
<a/n: It’s only supposed to be mildly implied, but … yeah, whatevs, I’ll be blunt in the a/n. Poisoning the Prince was supposed to make the Queen suspect the Margot Earldom due to their altercations, and Lysander knew about the setup. Anyway, since the Queen ended up mistakenly getting poisoned it ended up getting a lot more confusing for the investigation.
If I had more prompt updates I’d leave it to just the people who were able to piece it together to figure it out as a very subtle plot point, but … yeah, I doubt you guys remember when all that happened a year or so ago.
This is the final interlude for this section, and hopefully, most of the loose ends are tied up. If there’s still something left undealt with … I either missed it, or it’s yet-to-come.
The next section will be Fluvia at age 8, which should be a relatively short-ish part… probably. If everyone cooperates. Oh who am I kidding; like I have any control.>