༺ Ball (2) ༻
The coming-of-age ceremony ended safely.
Walking down the corridor towards the waiting room, Vera suddenly blurted out such words while holding Renee’s hand.
“…I think that was too much.”
His tone was curt.
Renee tilted her head at his words.
“I think it was too much to also use your power.”
“Oh, it’s only as big as a fingernail. It probably has little effect in reality, you know?”
So, Vera is worried.
As Renee casually answered while having such a thought, the expression on Vera’s face grew slightly gloomier.
It was because he had nothing to counter with.
After all, there was no way he would have something to refute because the words he said while pretending to be worried were just a complaint saying that he didn’t like it.
Whether it was Renee using her power for Albrecht, or Albrecht, who just smiled and happily received it, or the nobles who praised the scene, he didn’t like any of it.
Vera chewed his lips at the rising emotion and quickly brushed it off.
“…If that’s the case, then it’s fortunate.”
It was right to believe that Renee’s power should be used for the sake of the world. It was enough to consider all of this as just a show.
Vera berated himself for being overly sensitive to trivial things.
…No, he added another excuse to the boiling emotion.
‘It’s because I don’t like the Second Prince’s smiling face.’
It was an excuse close to self-justification, but he didn’t mind. As long as it brought him peace of mind, it was enough.
While he was still lost in thought, Renee spoke up once again.
“Is the ball in an hour?”
“Yes. There’s no need to go in right as it starts, so you can take your time to get ready, Saint.”
“Vera will also change clothes, right?”
“The priest uniform is enough for me.”
Renee’s head jerked up. There was a hint of disappointment in her tone.
“Even though you’re making me wear a dress?”
“I’m the Saint’s aide, so there is no reason for me to dress up.”
Renee’s brows furrowed at Vera’s nonchalant answer.
“I dislike that.”
“Vera should change as well.”
Those were a bit… very forceful words, but Renee was stubborn. It wasn’t that she had any other reason.
She simply wished that Vera would wear a tailcoat since she would wear a dress. It was an emotional reason without any logic. Even though she wouldn’t be able to see Vera after he changed, it wasn’t important.
The one important thing was ‘Vera in a tailcoat’ and ‘her next to him’.
Renee couldn’t bring herself to express her feelings as they were, so she added a plausible excuse in a slightly grumbling tone.
“…You’re supposed to dress appropriately for the occasion. So, you have to wear a tailcoat to the ball.”
“If Vera doesn’t change, then I’ll go like this as well.”
Renee’s hand began to squeeze Vera’s hand. It was a move with the intention of saying ‘let’s see if you dare to say no’.
Vera’s face clouded as if troubled by the tightening grip, and eventually, he nodded.
Renee smiled from beneath her veil, satisfied with the answer she’d gotten.
As they talked, they arrived in front of the waiting room.
Renee let go of Vera’s hand, groped along the wall to find the doorknob, and then vanished into the waiting room after leaving some words.
“Then see you in a little while. I’ll make sure to check if you’ve changed.”
The door closed.
At that moment, Vera couldn’t help but wonder how she would check it.
Vera’s waiting room.
Inside the small room. Vera, who was scanning through the wall where several suits were hanging, furrowed his brows and started to worry.
Since Renee wanted him to wear a tailcoat, he had to make sure that he chose it well.
There were no people to help him change, but it was okay.
Wasn’t he Vera, someone who had dealt with numerous nobles and handled valuables in his past life? He was capable of choosing an appropriate attire for this occasion on his own.
‘No bright colors.’
Vera knew that he had a dark aura. Wearing bright-colored clothing could create a sense of discordance due to his pale skin tone.
‘No primary colors.’
It was a matter of preference. Vera didn’t want to wear anything that would brightly stand out.
So, all that was left were three black suits.
Vera examined their designs closely and chose the neatest and most unadorned suit among them.
For the accessory, he opted for a brooch that could give a point without being excessive. It was chosen and adorned in the form of a cross to prove his status as a figure from the Holy Kingdom.
He neatly brushed back his hair, which had always hung in front of his eyes. Standing in front of the mirror with that appearance, Vera adjusted his clothes with satisfaction.
‘This will do.’
His naturally excellent physique made him look good even with just this much effort.
It could be seen as a self-praise, but he didn’t mind. After all, a modest audacity could be a good source of confidence.
After checking the remaining time until the ball with the clock hanging on the wall, Vera took a deep breath and left the waiting room, heading towards Renee’s waiting room.
Renee’s waiting room.
Sitting in a chair in the center of the room, Renee shrunk her body and said with a flushed face.
“I-Isn’t the cut too deep…?”
She blurted out those words, thinking that the dress she had changed into was too revealing.
Her shoulders, neck, and back were all exposed, allowing the air to touch her bare skin. The fabric was so thin and clingy, making her feel embarrassed about how closely it hugged her body.
Fortunately, the skirt portion spread widely and the lower body was not exposed. But nevertheless, the embarrassment of showcasing her figure was overwhelming, skyrocketing without any sense of limit.
Realizing that the protective power of the priest’s robes were enormous, Renee was at a loss on what to do. Annie denied Renee’s words with a satisfied expression.
“Saint, you shouldn’t do that. Huh? Confidence! Be confident! You’re pretty, you know? With this, Sir Vera would be just blown away!”
Annie spoke in a tone reminiscent of a third-rate thug in a back alley.
“I told you. Men are weak to visual stimulation. The Saint, who has never worn revealing clothes before, suddenly reveals her body like this and boom!!! It’s more than enough to make his eyes turn upside down!”
Annie’s fist clenched.
“Ugh…! Of course, this may not have been your intention, but it was worth wrapping up tightly for the past three years! Unexpected charm! Reversal is important. Reversal!”
Renee’s head kept dropping. If she went a little further, wouldn’t she dig into the ground? Wouldn’t she adopt a posture resembling a mole calling its siblings? It was to the point that Annie had such thoughts.
At Annie’s words, Renee swiftly raised her head and straightened her back.
She also straightened her neck.
Her posture became so rigid that she resembled a wooden doll.
Annie felt a sense of uneasiness rising at that sight.
‘It’s going to be fine, right…?’
Renee was more embarrassed than expected. When one showcases their body, they need the audacity to show it off proudly, but this timid Saint lacked that kind of boldness.
Continuing her thoughts, Annie immediately overlaid her worry with another emotion.
It’s rather good. A shy attitude, and her assertive body in contrast. This could also be considered as a ‘twist’ in its own way.
“Saint, follow me. Pretend to fall!”
“P-Pretend to fall!”
“And subtle physical contact!”
“A-And subtle phys…ical contact!”
Renee’s lips trembled. The blush that had risen to her cheeks had spread to her entire body, turning her once-white skin a deep shade of red.
In the meantime.
The sound of someone knocking echoed through the waiting room.
– Saint, are you ready?
It was Vera.
Renee stiffened like a stone statue. Tension rose over Annie’s face, while Hela yawned.
Renee answered nervously. In response, Annie patted Renee on the back and whispered words of encouragement.
The door of the waiting room opened, and the first thing Vera did was to direct his gaze to the ceiling.
Silence filled the air.
In an attempt to somehow recover his mind from the shock, Vera poured out killing intent towards the ceiling and calmed his reasoning.
It seemed he had witnessed something quite embarrassing. No, not quite, but truly, really, very embarrassing.
“…Have you been waiting?”
Renee’s soft, trembling voice pierced Vera’s ears.
“Not in the least.”
Vera gave a robot-like answer. Meanwhile, his whole body gradually stiffened with tension.
Although it was for a brief moment, Vera couldn’t forget the image of Renee he had seen during that time.
A pure white dress. Wavy white hair, downcast blue eyes. One side of her hair tucked behind her ear, just like it was at the festival, revealing a bare nape. Her collarbone. Below that…
He tried not to think of anything. He didn’t know such a thing.
He closed his eyes tightly.
He had to turn a blind eye somehow. He hadn’t seen anything.
While he was comforting himself with that thought…
– You’re such a dunce!
Aisha’s words that suddenly came to mind stabbed Vera in the gut.
Vera’s body trembled.
He didn’t know why those words came to mind at this timing, at this moment and in this situation.
However, the words that came to mind above the embarrassment were so intense that it felt like he would be admitting to them if he turned away like that again.
Feeling his pride hurt for some reason, Vera uttered those words while hiding the trembling as much as possible.
“…You are beautiful.”
It was the first time for Vera to say such a thing without being asked first.
Renee’s body jerked. Her mouth opened slightly and her eyes widened with surprise.
Annie, who had been watching the scene through the gap of the still-open door, clenched her fists and let out a silent cheer. Hela exclaimed ‘oh’.
A moment of fleeting silence. Within it, Renee spoke, her voice trembling.
Renee took a step forward. Vera hesitated.
“Shall we go?”
Vera’s hand overlapped beneath Renee’s outstretched hand. While holding hands like that, Renee formed a peculiar shape by interlocking only one finger, neither interlocking hands nor holding hands.
The gesture felt as awkward as the atmosphere.
The door of the waiting room slammed shut.
Annie’s cheers of ‘this is it!!!’ could be heard from inside.
Renee urged Vera, feeling unnecessarily ashamed at the sound of Annie’s voice.
Vera’s head was still facing the sky, and his eyes were tightly shut.
The two blind people moved forward. Fortunately, among them, Vera was someone who had trained enough to move around effortlessly even with his eyes closed.
If they walked for 10 minutes like this, they would reach the banquet hall.
In other words, they had to walk awkwardly like this for 10 minutes.
Once again, Aisha’s voice echoed in Vera’s head.
Blockhead and Dunce.
Those two words condemned Vera. They relentlessly cornered Vera like a skilled swordsman, telling him to say something and to stop behaving like a cowardly fool.
Vera pondered. Aisha’s provocation wasn’t an immediate blow, but rather a provocation that stirred up a strong aftermath. It could be a weapon quite useful in prolonged battles.
Go and compliment… No, he couldn’t compliment Aisha. It seemed that tomorrow’s training would be a bit more intense.
In the rising impatience and his stabbed conscience, Vera opened his mouth again.
“Who chose the dress?”
Who in the world gave Renee such hideous clothes? Let’s ask that question.
“Marie and Annie worked hard to choose it.”
Renee pointed out two culprits.
Vera regretted inwardly. Both were opponents that he couldn’t touch.
“…Isn’t it too revealing?”
It was an answer that he blurted out without understanding what she was talking about.
That made Renee’s mind complicated.
‘Wonderful? What? Why? Suddenly?’
To say it’s wonderful in response to the question of whether it’s revealing… It seemed impure for some reason.
Renee’s body heated up.
Her reddish skin now resembled the color of the drunken dwarves at the northern tip of the mountains.
“…S-Still, wouldn’t people think it’s embarrassing for a Saint to wear a revealing dress like this?”
When Renee, whose brain was ripe with the heat, let out her inner worries, Vera’s eyes flashed open.
It was because he had a crazy thought.
They were almost at the ballroom now. There would be nobles there.
Those insolent things would get to see Renee’s attire.
His back shuddered, and anger welled up inside him.
With about 20 steps left to the entrance of the ballroom, Vera stopped dead in his tracks.
“For a moment.”
Vera let go of his hand and took off the suit coat he had been wearing until just before. Then draped it over Renee’s shoulder.
Naturally, through a series of processes, Vera came to see Renee’s outfit much more explicitly than the first time.
I need to take my eyes off. I need to look at the ceiling or the air.
…Even while thinking like that, his eyes, which failed to grasp the situation, involuntarily took in Renee’s outfit and her exposed skin. There was a mole below her collarbone, just above her chest.
Only after imprinting all of that in his mind did Vera tightly shut his eyes and said.
“…The weather is still cold.”
Nonsense came out of his mouth. The ball was taking place in a warm indoor setting.
Fortunately, Renee responded happily to the nonsensical excuse.
Pfft. A laugh escaped Renee’s lips. She was starting to feel at ease.
I’ve shown everything to the person who needed to see it anyway, so let’s cover it up now.
That sentiment could be considered as the foundation of her current emotions.
Vera was looking at Renee, who had finally become a little ‘less’ embarrassing, when he noticed the wavy white hair tucked inside the suit as the coat draped right over her body. He reached out his hand.
As his hand dug into her nape, Renee felt a shiver run down her spine.
Vera reached out and pulled her hair out over the suit.
Like surging waves, her white locks flowed down over the black suit.
Renee felt Vera’s rough hand on her neck, and Vera felt Renee’s warm nape against his hand.
At that moment, both of them experienced a tightening sensation in their hearts.
“…I think we can go in now.”
As if nothing had happened, the two stood side by side just as before and moved forward.
Turning the corner, they headed towards the entrance of the ballroom.
The attendant guarding the entrance widened his eyes as soon as he spotted them, then opened the door after bowing.
From inside, the sound of music, voices, and numerous footsteps flowed out.
It was a lively atmosphere befitting of a ball.
The attendant shouted towards the ballroom.
“The Saint and the Apostle of Oath from the Holy Kingdom are entering!”
All the sounds that were heard came to a halt.