"Left foot forward…no! ….start again! Right foot next to your left. That's a step. …left forward again and bring your heels together…we have to get it right today! You only just did the first four bars of the pavene dance."
Tohru's arms stretched out like rigid branches of a tree. The front of her dress felt too hot and her shoulders were sore. Emiko has been tutoring her in the ways of high-class society since last night. The plan was to fool Kyou at the upcoming ball.
"Since you kept stepping on his toes last time, he won't suspect you if you dance perfectly tonight." Emiko had reasoned.
"Let's take a break." Emiko said, and when noticing Tohru standing, said, "You can sit with me"
Servants were not allowed to sit when someone of much higher class was present. Sitting with a princess at the same table was unheard of. Emiko was giving her special favour.
Emiko frowns as Tohru sits. "The way you dropped into the chair is going to give your class away. No matter how tired a lady is, she always sits with poise."
Tohru tries her best to sit down properly for the next five minutes, until Emiko gives her approval.
"So you told Prince Kyou about your childhood memories, mother and how 'bread and flowers satisfied you'?" Emiko thought it was unfathomable for a Prince to be interested in anything so unsophisticated.
"He never interrupted when I spoke." The thought of him being so tender made her heart flutter slightly.
Emiko starts to tell Tohru what she overheard lately about Kyou, "he was the son of his father's mistress and by law should not have gotten a title. But his father favored his mother so much he made an exception in Prince Kyou's case. Prince Kyou was doted on just as much as his brothers. Now he's here to choose a wife from either me or my sisters and inherit my country…Fortune smiles on him…and to have a face so beautiful is a crime."
Tohru remembers how his eyes would burn on her even when she wasn't looking at him. With quickened breath, she instinctively feels trapped like a prey in a corner. I can't believe he has so much influence even when he's away.
Meanwhile, the kitchen is busy preparing for the ball. The head servant was very anxious about doing well to reflect good behavior on herself. She had a terrible temper and the stress made her worse.
"Madeline!" She shouts, "are you having a life crisis?! Do you think it's that easy to work here? I'll push you off this ship if you don't polish these silver so hard that I can see my self in them!"
"Yes ma'am." The poor girl trembles and is too afraid to say her name is actually Monica.
"What's the bloody use of shining spoons when they'll be covered in saliva anyways?"
"What did you say?" The head servant puffs herself up, ready to strike down anyone who dared to go against her.
"You heard me." Arisa marches up to her, hands at her hips. Being a good foot taller than everybody in the room, the head servant had to crank up her neck for a look at her. Long streaked hair, strong arms and a pair of eyes that said I'm not afraid of anyone.
"How dare you speak to me that way?" Even the head servant is faltering she decides to try and save her honor. She straightens her back and glares back, Hmp! I'll show you who the boss is!
"How do you want me to say it then?! You think pretending to be the Boogie man will earn you respect? The reality is I'm not a baby you can fool! Don't think treating people like garbage will allow you to run this place? If you give respect don't expect to give it back!" as she spoke, Arisa got louder and louder; stepping closer as she spoke.
Arisa's speech seemed to have rallied all the other servants behind her. They were tired of being treated bad already. Arisa's confidence just made them pick up their own. The head servant was so frightened she ended up being backed up against a wall.
"W-w-well…" She sputters, "I…I won't s-stand for you talking to me like that! I can have you removed from your position for treating me with so little respect! Now go to work this instant! You've been assigned to serve food for the gaurds."
"Yes ma'am." Even though Arisa obeyed, her tone was of one who couldn't care less for authority.
"You've got guts to go picking such a tough bone." Someone whispers to Arisa.
"I just don't like bullies." Arisa says as she prepares the food. "These soldiers eat a lot…aren't you tired? It's alright if you go and take a break…I came in late anyways."
"Really?" The other girls leapt at the idea of a rest. "Well thanks! See you later!"
Arisa watches to make sure the girls have left her alone and then pulls out a little bottle.
"Let the real party start tonight." Arisa whispers as white powder sprinkles over the food.
"Why is the Princess personally preparing a maid for a ball?" Voices floated in the air.
About ten or more maids gossiped as they try on the dresses Emiko has lent them.
"What's so special about the short mousy thing anyways…pass me the brush would ya?" This time it is Ella that speaks.
A couple of girls crowded around a small mirror to apply makeup.
"Enough about her…let's get ready for the ball! I'm gonna get Prince Kyou to dance with me to-----!" Anna boasts as she lines her lips.
"Excuse me! Coming though." Sarah shoves Anna aside and begins to apply mascara.
"Hey! You did that on purpose—"
"Who told you to hog all the space?!" Then in a smaller voice whispers, "If you wanna dance with Prince Kyou you'd better fix your lips."
The ball finally begins. It is taking place in the huge ballroom on the first deck of the Aurora; the finest sailing vessel in the country. The area is big enough to hold 90 guests, 30 servants and an orchestra. It is finally starting!
As orchestra performers tuned their instruments in the pit under the stage while singers are warming up their voices behind the curtains. Waiters mingle the crowds of guests offering delicious appetizers.
"I hate how we can't join in the fun. I'd love to be flocked by beautiful women." It was the whisper of one waiter to another.
"Be quiet or else I can't hear the gals being announced…try to guess which gal's a maid and which are actual dames."
Rose Pink, satin blue, sunset red and sunlit yellow flows in like a dazzling vision. Ribbons, lace and pretty smiles fills the room with stunned responses.
The old regal gentleman announces each girl's name as they walk down the staircase.
"I can't really tell!" The first waiter whispered. "They all look like ladies right
"Wait …that's Isabella! The chandelier maid." The second one pointed at a bright faced girl in a yellow gown.
"She certainly cleaned up." The first one whistled.
At the other side of the room, among chancellors, dukes and governors, Kyou stands with Shigure.
"Greetings to the both of you; Prince Kyou and Honorable Diplomat Shigure." A princess who was introduced to them at a party as a 50 year old maid approached them.
"Good God, her wrinkles are like the canyons on Mars." Shigure rolls his eyes after she left. "Are you sure she wasn't married because she looked pregnant."
"Yes I think that's a great idea Shigure." Kyou replies while looking at the girls who descended the stairs.
"Uh-huh." Shigure quirked an eyebrow, "say, are you paying attention?"
"I agree with you Shigure." Kyou nods quickly with his eyes fixed elsewhere.
"So…you are ready to suffer the eternal flames of damnation for stealing my wafers?"
"Whatever you think…" Kyou nods again.
"Idiot." Shigure mutters under his breath.
"May I announce…Princess Emiko!" The old gentleman yells. Emiko enters wearing a stunning red evening gown with a blue topaz pendant at her neck. A bright confidant smile were at her lips/
"Darling! You look sensational." Emiko is approached by friends.
"Oh thank you!" She scans the room for Kyou, confidant his eyes are on her right now. She sees him standing by his country's Diplomat.
"Prince Kyou!" She calls him but then realizes he's not staring at her but rather past her. She turned around to see a breathtakingly beautiful girl standing at the top of the stairs.
Shigure was still getting Kyou to agree with ridiculous things he would never in any normal situation. Kyou seemed to be preoccupied in thoughts for the last while.
"So you do agree with me wearing a dress is great fun?" Shigure was greatly amused by his new toy.
Suddenly Kyou widened his eyes and opened his mouth a bit. Shigure followed his gaze and after a moment said.
"She's a vision isn't she?"
At the bottom of the stairs, the old gentleman declared.
"May I announce Lady Tohru Honda!"
Tohru could feel her hands sweating and stomach in knots. She is wearing the most beautiful dress she has ever held in her life, a silk taffeta chine dress that seemed to float as she walked. Her hair is adorned with pearls and lilies. A white gold and diamond three stone necklace hung at her neck.
Do I look dumb? She wondered as she descended down the stairs. She felt so shy she couldn't look up. She's never worn such a beautiful dress before.
Ah! I knew it! I look silly! Tohru's cheeks flushed pink. She covered her cheeks with her hands and closed her eyes. Her foot fumbles on the last step and she felt her knees wobble.
Kyou felt himself instinctively running towards the head of curls that suddenly drop in to a crowd of people. His feet were quicker than his thoughts.
"Are you alright?" Tohru felt a hand grab her firmly and pulling her up.
"Prince Kyou is asking you if you are fine miss." A nearby guest reminds Tohru after a moment's silence.
"Y-yes." Tohru's voice wobbles.
"Then you wouldn't mind if I had the next dance?" I might not get a chance in the next five minutes. Kyou glances nervously around at all the young men looking at Tohru hungrily.
"Yes I would not….I mean no I would…" I can't speak properly anymore. "I mean…I would be delighted." With that last sensible answer, Tohru offered a smile.
Kyou gave a laugh at her nervousness and also his own--- for some reason he felt his palms a little too hot. Kyou couldn't recall when the last time something made him so anxious.
Tohru felt her cheeks flush as he led her to the dance floor. He placed his hand on her waist and started to lead the dance.
I can feel his eyes on me. Tohru noted nervously.
"You're a great dancer." Kyou remarked after a waltz. If she really is who I am looking for, then she's come miles from how she used to dance.
"Thank you. My teacher was very tough." My ankles still hurt. Tohru winces inside.
"Was she?" Kyou smiles, "Did she make you practice a lot?"
"Let's just say more than the average student." Tohru sighs.
"And you practiced just for tonight?" Kyou leaned closer and smiled, "As a member of the committee who organized this, I am deeply flattered."
He's so close I can smell his aftershave. Tohru felt a little lightheaded in his scent.
"Why?" Tohru laughed, "It's silly to be flattered by me when every girl here has been preparing for this ball with every ounce of their brains."
"I was looking forward to seeing you especially tonight." Kyou spun her in a twirl and then pulled her close.
Ahh! My face is against his neck! Tohru blushed furiously. I'm so close.
"This feels so familiar." Kyou whispers as his hands tighten around her waist.
"Yeah…?" Tohru felt her voice shake.
"It was at another ball, just like this…" Kyou smiles against her ear, brushing his lips against the skin. "And I was dancing with an incredibly gentle and thoughtful girl. She made an ordinary night into a fascinating one."
T-thump, t-thump! Am I a rabbit or something? Tohru could feel her own heartbeat pounding against her chest.
"And for no reason…she left," Kyou's voice darkened, "don't you think that is a bit rude?"
"Huh?" Tohru tried to push back a little but ended up even closer when Kyou pulled her back.
"And how do you think I felt after that girl left?" Kyou tapped Tohru's nose lightly, " Miss Tohru Honda?"
"I…I don't know…"
"She should be punished…with a thousand kisses." Kyou said in her ear.
"I think I should go now…" Tohru panicked.
Kyou paid no attention to her, "A thousand kisses…and then another more." Then in a lower voice he declared, "Here's the first one."
And with that, he kissed her