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While Leon moved into Elise’s room, Alix was given a guest room down the hall. She was in the same private wing of Elise’s estate as the other two, but she was also placed far enough away as to not be disturbed if Leon and Elise were to get too loud.
Alix’s room was opulently decorated with marble tiles and statues, murals covering the walls made of colored glass tiles, and luxurious furniture, chief of which being the enormous bed. As soon as Alix walked into her room, the bed was so inviting that it almost demanded she lay down for a while, so she dropped what few things she brought to the capital and collapsed on the bed. She was so exhausted that she fell asleep in minutes.
It took a servant knocking on her door the next morning to invite her to breakfast for her to wake up, and even then, she was still sluggish and sleepy. As she gathered herself, though, she was surprised that she was able to sleep so well in this new place.
‘This is a remarkable bed, to allow me to sleep so readily…’ she thought to herself as she struggled to her feet and out of her dirty clothes. ‘Then again, it makes sense that the ultra-rich would live in such comfort and luxury…’ Yet, even with that thought, she still felt at peace, as if she was welcome, which was certainly not the case at Fort 127. There, she was only able to sleep because of Sam, and later, Leon.
Alix walked into the attached bathroom and marveled at the facilities, from the magically advanced toilets and sink to the huge white marble bath. The bathroom alone was larger than the tent she and Leon shared with Sam’s squad.
However, the good mood that Elise’s estate put her in immediately vanished when Alix saw herself in the mirror. It wasn’t her body or her looks that depressed her, though; rather, it was the streaks running down her face that drew her attention.
She groaned as she hurriedly wiped her face. ‘At least Leon isn’t here to see me,’ she thought to herself. Ever since the battle ended and she left the fort, she’d been occasionally crying in her sleep. Sam had been like a cool uncle to her, and her mourning was all the more intense now without mortal danger to distract from it. She hated crying, though, especially when it was in her sleep, as she couldn’t do anything about it. She was certain Leon had seen her a few times with the tears still on her face when they were coming south, but he had been courteous enough not to mention it.
‘Come on, knights are stronger than this!’ she angrily thought to herself.
After wiping her face, she quickly washed her face, then started putting herself together for the upcoming day. She slapped her face a few times to fully wake herself up and to banish the last traces of sadness from her mind, then let her usual smile appear.
‘I wonder what breakfast is like here,’ she thought as she forced herself to move on.
Breakfast was, for the servants in the estate, a rather subdued affair. For Leon and Alix, however, it was a pampered and exciting event. They weren’t eating in the main dining hall, but rather in a small room in Elise’s wing that only had room for about five or six guests. Despite the lack of formality, there were still about half a dozen servants coming and going with dishes made of sparkling porcelain and silverware made of actual silver. After the table was set, the servants then brought in a veritable feast of eggs, bacon, and all sorts of other breakfast foods for Elise, Leon, and Alix to take as they pleased, pairing it all with milk, juice, and water served in crystalline glass cups.
Leon and Alix could only stare at the procession of servants that did all this, with Elise happily watching them and giggling to herself. She especially enjoyed showing off for Leon, even if this wasn’t even close to what would be prepared for a formal occasion.
Elise walked over to her table and sat down, then looked over at the still-awed Leon and Alix and said, “Well, don’t just stand there, come and take a seat!”
The two immediately sat down at the round table, and the servants who were waiting in the corner of the room walked forward to begin serving the food with almost exaggerated grace and politeness. The knight-and-squire pair were a little overwhelmed, but once Elise started eating, they, too, dug in. Alix tried to go slowly so she could watch Elise, while Leon struggled to not tear into his food, as he still vividly remembered Artorias’ lessons on table manners.
The meal was eaten in relative silence. Alix and Leon had gotten used to eating Legion rations, and the meal they had in the Tower the day before hadn’t quite washed the taste of those rations out. So, they ate as fast as they could without making a mess, and Elise watched with an odd sense of glee at their obvious joy.
As for herself, she had worked up an appetite the night before with Leon, but she was still done with her food long before the other two.
When they were finally slowing down, Elise broke the silence, asking, “So, what’s on the schedule for today?”
Alix looked to Leon to answer, as he was her knight. Leon answered, “Well, there isn’t much. Some training after breakfast, then some more training before bed. Nothing else, really.”
“Then you have plenty of time to come into the city with me!” Elise said happily. She turned to Alix and said, “You’re more than welcome to come along, too. This guy lost most of his clothes up at your fort, and I’m going to drag him along to get some replacements.”
“Huh?” Leon asked in confusion. He and Elise hadn’t agreed to that.
“You need new clothes, my love, and not the plain kind that you’re wearing now!” Elise responded.
“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing now?!” Leon asked indignantly.
“They’re too simple. If you’re going to be interacting with nobles—which as a knight, you will be—then you need something with a little more flash,” Elise said with a smile.
Leon frowned; he didn’t care what the other nobles thought of him, and he cared even less about what they thought about his clothes. Besides, he greatly preferred the comfort that came from simpler clothing. He wouldn’t need to spend all day dressing like he would if he wore something weighed down with gold thread.
After a moment of he and Elise staring at each other in silence, Leon said, “I suppose I can compromise for one fancy outfit. The rest of what I get will be some regular shit.”
“I can live with that,” Elise replied. “So, are you coming?” she asked of Alix.
“Yes!” Alix almost shouted. “I mean… I would love to accompany the two of you…” she said much quieter. She hadn’t made that big of a deal about it, but she didn’t have that many clothes, either.
Elise giggled a little at her enthusiasm, then, seeing that Leon and Alix were finished with their breakfast, made a subtle gesture to the waiting servants to collect the leftovers and the used dishes.
“Would it be a problem if I joined the two of you for your training?” she asked Leon. He, of course, nodded his assent, as did Alix when Elise turned to her. “Wonderful!” she said happily. She then dragged Leon back to her room, while telling Alix to get changed and to meet them in her training room. She also ordered a servant to act as a guide for Alix, should she need one.
Much of the rest of the morning was spent with Leon and Alix sparring, and Elise happily watching—though her eyes were mostly on Leon, imagining him in various clothes to try and see what would work with his look.
Around eleven, Leon and Alix stopped their training to wash up and ready themselves to head out into the city. They were only slightly delayed when Elise took the opportunity to have a bath with Leon, but they still got outside in due time.
“This is the place?” Leon asked, looking at the grand edifice of the tailor Elise had led him and Alix to.
“This is the place,” Elise confirmed with a smile. “This is where almost all of the high nobles get their clothes made when in the capital.”
“I… don’t think I can afford this place…” Alix said quietly as she stared at the building. It was made of shiny polished granite and black marble, with a courtyard that had a fountain as a centerpiece. Everywhere she looked screamed at her that this place was extravagantly expensive, and she was only a first-tier squire in the Legion; she did have some money, but she guessed she’d be bankrupted before she could buy a single thread from this tailor.
But, Elise smiled at her and said, “This is my treat! We’ll get you something good, don’t worry about the price!”
The three walked into the building. As befitting the place of business for some of the most respected fashion designers in the Bull Kingdom, the inside was just as magnificently decorated as the outside, with murals covering the floor, walls of enchanted glass and gigantic marble columns that gave the entry hall an open feeling without letting in the heat and dust of the city, and gorgeous marble statues showing off some of the most popular clothing designs the tailors working there provided.
“Lady Elise!” came a cry from behind the front desk. The speaker was a young woman, Leon guessed in her mid-twenties, who wore a modest dress that was incredibly similar to one of the dresses on a nearby statue. Her purple-dyed hair was pulled into a loose plait and draped over one shoulder.
“How can we help you today?” asked the attendant.
“I need to get my friends some new clothes,” Elise politely answered, making sure to smile at the young attendant.
“Of course, please follow me to a private room!” the attendant said. She led them into a quiet room that had been lined with dark wood and given soft lights. In the center of the room was a small platform that was half-surrounded with mirrors and could be completely surrounded with dark red velvet curtains. This platform had numerous dim magical lights, to help whoever was trying on clothes to see themselves in any kind of light.
After showing them into the private changing room, the attendant left to fetch one of their best tailors. She was back in a matter of minutes, with a middle-aged woman in another dress that Leon recognized from the entry hall. Her pitch-black hair had been styled much like the attendants, tied into a ponytail and pulled over a shoulder.
“Lady Elise! It’s so good to see you again!” the tailor said as she and Elise hugged each other in greeting.
“Miss Gisela! I’m glad you’re here today!” Elise replied.
“Whatever can we do for you today?” Gisela asked.
Elise turned to Leon and Alix and said, “My friends are looking for some formal attire, as well as something comfortable to wear every day. They’re both in the Legion, so I think they might also need some training clothes, too.”
“Well, let’s see what we can do for them,” Gisela said enthusiastically. She walked over to Alix first, to inspect Alix’s looks and body, to try and figure out what might look good on her. A pair of assistants entered the room, and Gisela began ordering them around. One was sent off for fabric samples while the other began to get measurements of Alix’s body, much to the young woman’s embarrassment.
“Oh, don’t mind them,” Elise said, “they need to make sure your clothes are perfect fits, after all!”
Alix frowned but allowed the measuring to continue. When the assistant was done with her, she moved on to measuring Leon, who looked even less thrilled than Alix to have a stranger touching him just about everywhere. But, he retained control over himself and let the assistant finish her work without releasing killing intent or anything else of the sort.
After that, it was a flurry of changing into a wide variety of clothes behind the platform’s curtains for Leon and Alix while Elise and Gisela watched and offered suggestions. By the end, they had been there for over three hours, and Leon was left exhausted. Alix had some fun trying on the new clothes, but even she had had enough when it came time to leave.
As they were leaving the tailor, Elise leaned in to whisper to a profoundly unhappy Leon, “You looked great in that suit, you should wear it for me sometime…”
“I think it might be a long time before I wear that gaudy thing,” Leon answered, glaring back at the tailor. He and Alix had both bought some fancy clothes that would need attention from Gisela before they were ready, while they both walked away with bags full of more normal—and in Leon’s case, monochrome—clothing that didn’t need much work from a tailor. Their ornate clothing would be delivered to Elise’s estate before they left for the Bull’s Horns.
“Are you saying you don’t want to go to parties with me?” Elise asked teasingly.
“Going anywhere with you is a delight,” Leon answered with complete seriousness. “However, the idea of going to any kind of party is rather unappealing to me…”
“Well, I’ll figure out a way to get you to wear that outfit,” Elise replied with a sinister smile.
“I think she’s right, though, you did look pretty good in it,” Alix said.
“I… uh…” Leon sputtered, not knowing how to respond.
“See? Are you going to argue with both of us?” Elise asked.
Leon wisely shut his mouth and stared ahead of them, causing Elise to laugh and Alix to chuckle a little. If Leon weren’t her knight, her formal commander, then she would’ve probably let out quite a bit more than just a chuckle, though.
“Lady Elise,” Alix began, tactfully shifting the topic away from Leon’s wardrobe.
“Please, just call me Elise,” the other lady replied.
Alix smiled, and asked, “Elise, I’ve been noticing the same hairstyle a lot, is that just the fashion down here?”
Leon blinked in confusion, but a quick glance around at the crowds of people around them revealed that most of the women indeed had their hair styled in the same way as Gisela and the attendant. Leon hadn’t paid much attention to it, but he was sure that most of the ladies didn’t style their hair that way before he left for Fort 127.
Elise glanced around as well. Her own long shiny red hair was loose and allowed to hand over her shoulders and down her back, making her rather unique in terms of style compared to the other ladies around.
“Well,” Elise explained, “the First Princess made an appearance at court about three weeks ago. She wore her hair like that, and it seems she made quite the impression on the courtiers. Over the past few weeks, the noble ladies have started wearing their hair like that, and it’s only spread from there.”
“Ahh,” Alix whispered.
She and Elise spent the next few minutes talking about hairstyles until they returned to Elise’s estate. After that, it was time for meditation training. Alix spent several hours in Elise’s training room quietly meditating while Leon practiced trying to change his mana into lightning magic. Elise passed those hours in her garden, staring at nature enchantments and trying to make them more efficient.
In the neighboring wing of the estate, her mother watched with an enormous smile on her face. Even after they’d left after morning training, she’d kept an eye on them. After a while, she called a servant over to her and instructed her to relay an invitation to Elise to invite her and her guests to share dinner, so she could get to know them better.
*Puts feet up.
"Yup, December is going to be a nice, chill month for writing. Gonna take a little time and rest with no scheduled bonus chapters on the horizon."
*3 bonus chapters unlocked on December 8th.
*Looks at Patreon now, less than two weeks later, realizes that we are now less than $100 away from 3 more bonus chapters.
*Reaches for keyboard, gets back to writing so as to not dig too deeply into chapter stockpile.
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