───For some reason, it was Stella who first noticed the anomaly.
Lilisha had come to this villa on short notice, but a welcome party was held for her nonetheless.
The maids accompanied her as her personal security under the guise of helping out, and they scattered themselves throughout the mansion of the count.
“Sorry I’m your partner for tonight, Princess.”
“Not at all. I’ll be in your care, Kite-sama.”
Kite was all dressed up for the evening party. It was not actually his first time to appear in a party as her escort, so he had grown somewhat accustomed to it, and while he attracted curious gazes as a hero, he was spared the contemptuous gazes of those who considered him uncouth.
The evening party began with the host, the Count himself, giving the greetings as he introduced Lilisha as the guest of honor, then the buffet and the socializing with the small gathering of nobles began, and the second princess showed that she had talents beyond magic, exhibiting modesty and the ability to change people’s impressions calmly, allowing her to overturn her reputation, though some remained skeptical.
The princess herself carefully chose her attire, and with the maids’ utmost effort in “dolling her up,” she became the center of attention, not just in name but in reality, and people gathered around her.
She was now no longer just the guest of honor in name but in substance as well.
Lilisha skillfully handled the situation, gracefully evading any commitments or promises as she remained self-centered without uttering a single word.
It was a bit too late for her to improve her image, after all. She had merely changed her mind and was trying to fulfill what was expected of her.
Though it could also be said that she had finally realized how her bad reputation could affect her older sister and her kingdom.
“Wow, that’s impressive.”
“Yes, it’s wonderful.”
“Ahaha, thank you very much.”
Neither the princess nor the maids had realized it, but Kite actually had a knack for dealing with people in this kind of setting.
He effortlessly avoided people he had no interest in with a smile and spared
The girls only realized this part about him recently, so they were a little anxious, but they didn’t let that show on their face.
According to the boy, who had gotten close to him for some reason during this half month…
『This guy might actually be the biggest problem child, you know. He’s like a walking button that could launch diplomatic smiles as missiles!』
Of course, the Falandians had no idea what missiles were, but his sense of unease got through to them, and they realized that the hero did not merely have a powerful Status and a strong sense of justice.
So they started teaching him the various common sense and morals of this world that they’d been negligent in teaching him, hoping that things would turn out alright.
But of course, that wasn’t actually relevant tonight.
The anomaly arose when the small orchestra started playing and the social dance began.
Among Falandia’s social circles, it was customary to dance with one’s partner first, but a guest of honor must dance with the host’s representative. Adhering to this tradition, she first danced with Kite, then extended invitations to several nobles, including the Count, for a dance each.
After a short break, someone asked the princess for a dance.
Stella was distributing drinks then, and it was in that moment that warning bells rang in her head.
“P-Princess Lilisha, please dance with me.”
It was a young noble likely around ten. He had shining golden hair that rivaled Lilisha’s, and he extended his hand to her as he awkwardly invited her for a dance.
Neither the princess nor any of the surrounding individuals took his action to be impolite. They only looked on with warm and affectionate smiles.
──Who is that child?
Stella alone was filled with an inexplicable anxiety and doubt as she asked that question to herself.
This party had actually been reluctantly organized, but not holding a welcoming party when a member of the royal family was visiting would affect the count’s reputation.
It could even raise suspicions about his loyalty to the royal family.
That was true even when it concerned the ill-reputed second princess.
But while they could not hold a shoddy party, they could not hold a large-scale party and neither was there a need for it.
In that regard, the scale of this party, the grandeur of the mansion’s decorations, the appearance and contents of the served dishes, the number and quality of the gathered nobles and influential figures were all indeed sufficient.
Regardless of the count’s motives, there was no room for anyone to complain.
Whether he’d intended to or not, he had fully demonstrated his connections, popularity, and abilities.
That’s why it was strange for a child to be present.
Though this wasn’t a formal affair that has been prepared over the course of many months, there was still no reason for a child too young to have made their debut in society to be present.
It would have been one thing if it were an event held merely among family friends, but the guest of honor was royalty.
Moreover, it was the capricious and ill-reputed second princess.
Who could have sent a child to such a place without even teaching them proper manners?
Surely it wasn’t the count, not when he prepared so impeccably.
Even if a child had indeed been brought here, no Earthgant noble in their right mind would have allowed him to approach the princess without an introduction.
Yet the guests only smiled indulgently at the child’s impropriety, amused, not a hint of reproach or disapproval.
But what was most concerning was that no one, not even Princess Lilisha herself, found that odd.
Something was wrong.
But while Stella thought that, she also couldn’t help but think that it wasn’t worth worrying about, but then───pain ran through her.
It was a piercing pain, and she felt it come from beneath her clothes, from the pendant that hung from her neck───Or at least, that’s how it seemed.
The voice of a woman seemed to whisper to her, “don’t be fooled.”
It was strangely convincing, and Stella used that expressionless face she ever wore to hide her wariness as she called her
At the same time, she realized that she couldn’t contact anyone ‘outside’ and clenched her teeth in frustration.
However, this was their territory. As the head maid quietly made her resolve, she quietly gave orders to her subordinates, who had inconspicuously gathered.
At the center of the ballroom could be seen men and women of varying heights dancing.
Lilisha was at the average height for a Falandian woman, but her partner was a boy that was only about 10 and was clearly inexperienced in dancing.
Despite his clumsy movements, however, Lilisha gracefully accompanied him and slightly bent down.
The surrounding guests stopped dancing and watched with an eerily warm gaze. It was as though the princess and the boy were the stars of the night.
Some noble missus even let out breaths of admiration and smiled.
Before long, the guests had formed a circle around the dancing couple, and the hall became their stage.
The boy awkwardly danced while the princess compensated for him.
They danced like that until the music ended.
“Thank you so much, Princess!”
Then everyone clapped, and the boy expressed his gratitude with a carefree smile.
Lilisha returned that with a smile and said.
“Not at all. I had a lot of fun playing around with you too─────Mr. Little Troublemaker.”
Their hands had come into contact because of the dance, and now, Lilisha took advantage of that to suddenly raise the child’s hand and struck the floor with her heels.
In the next moment, the magic formation carved into the center of the hall emerged and vanished, the mana infused within were like sparkling jewelry as they scattered into the air and dispersed.
It was a captivating scene, but there was no here who had the leisure to be captivated.