“One, two, three! One, two, three!” The countess standing beside me repeated in a chant, counting the beats with a high-pitched voice.
Donning a light, flowing dress, she flicked her dark green hair back as she thumped two wooden sticks together synchronized with her counting.
I scrambled to my feet trying to follow the rhythm she had set.
Right foot, left foot… left foot Wait! Did I do it right
Desperately trying to keep up, my feet twisted beneath me and my eyes grew wide in panic, “Ahh!”
“Oh no!” I almost fell to the carpet if not for the new maid slash dance partner, Ella, catching me at the last second.
“Are you okay” She asked.
Ella was the third daughter of a much lower aristocratic family that served the emperor, and he himself had personally assigned her to be my chambermaid after he deemed her having great conduct and unmatched skill fitting for my needs.
After the incident where the maids had pushed me down the stairs, he took it upon himself to do the selection process, which prompted a series of protests from the head maid.
Obviously, the emperor ignored her complaints as if he didn’t hear her at all.
Since my arrival in the central temple, whispers regarding the emperor’s apparent favoritism towards me started going around and it did not take long until it spread throughout the palace.
Since this would be an open event with a lot of guests, some patrons would surely witness the emperor and I’s closeness despite our attempts in being discreet.
Lina told me when the news spread, the maids who had tormented me in the past shook vividly in fear, anxiously worried that their lives were at stake now.
Because of the maids’ tangible fear while lamenting over the fact that I was not acting as a doll anymore, Ella tended to her duties diligently as if I really did belong with the royalty.
I’m relieved that she was treating me with great care even if it’s because of the exaggerated stories she managed to hear, and it doesn’t matter since I wouldn’t be seeing her after eight months anyway.
Thank you for catching me, Ella.” I righted myself as Ella supported my elbows.
I didn’t notice the countess was approaching us as she remarked in a strict voice, “The next step is done with your left foot.
What’s the issue”
“I got confused.
Would it be alright if I give it a go again”
Let’s get to it.” Countess Luboa began counting again as she clapped her sticks together.
Repeating the numbers in my head, I slowly put one foot at a time.
But deep down I was already crying inside. How long have I been practicing! In the back of my mind I knew I needed to busy myself with something other than work, and I had already accepted the emperor’s invitation to be his partner for the masquerade after being swept off by his irresistible charm.
Who knew he had all these planned out I certainly underestimated the emperor’s meticulous ways of handling things.
Moments after he had invited me, I came to realize the amount of things I have to be prepared for for the next couple of weeks.
In two weeks, I would need to learn the ball dance, royal etiquette, courteous exchanges, long royal genealogy and even step-by-step skin care.
I stood alone, basically forcing myself to stay upright as I let my situation wash over me.
It was clear this was more than I had bargained for.
How could preparing for a gala take so much time and energy The things I have to do are just insane, I might as well do manual labor.
All these for a masquerade— and the fact that my identity would be concealed behind a mask.
During our conversation, the emperor realized the mask he’d be wearing would prove to be useless since his unique, golden eyes would instantly give his identity away, and what he came up with in order to blend with the crowd was to use magic to change his hair color.
As if his strong physique and blatantly arrogant behavior would go unnoticed with just a mere hair dye.
It was only time until the people realized that the emperor was within the vicinity.
And the royals themselves had eagle, peering eyes.
There’s no doubt they would recognize him the moment he stepped foot at the gala.
While, I on the other hand, need to fit in as much as I can.
Sticking out like a sore thumb was not an option, so I have to learn the etiquette befitting societal gatherings, which of course, would require a lot of work.
I appreciate the emperor providing me with all the preparations I needed for the gala despite its complexities.
I know it couldn’t have been easy to recruit royals who are willing to teach basic etiquette and dance to someone who didn’t share the same royal blood as them.
He managed to provide me all these a day after he mentioned the gala, which further proved the extent of his power and authority.
He also mentioned that the dress he pre-ordered for me would arrive sometime next week, and I’m guessing the head maid had arranged everything on his behalf.
It seemed like he had everything all planned out down to the smallest of details.
And if I let my imagination run wild, I would assume he’s hosting the masquerade solely for me.
If someone heard my thoughts, they would surely throw an axe in my direction.
But the more I think about it, the more it appears like my assumption was right.
I mean, who in their right mind would host a masquerade just when summer’s about to start, when people were about to sing in exaltation because of the warm weather I think he intentionally guised it as a masquerade just so I could enjoy the gala.