Chapter 5: Majority part 2
The area that had been set up for the party, as party it was, had been meticulously cleaned and decorated. The polished wooden floors had been scrubbed and cleaned to an extent so as to have an almost liquid-like reflection to it, and the pillars of the dance hall were wrapped in the blue and black of Nath’s house’s colors. He sighed as he saw the guests that had all gathered there, ostensibly to wish him a happy birthday, but more likely actually there as it was a social gathering that allowed everyone to either flex their political standing or else raise it. His father had been very clear on that matter, and Nath was glad he had told him, not that he was particularly shocked at that, after all, he had been to quite a few Christmas office parties, and there were two types of people that went to those events willingly, there were those that went for the free food and alcohol, and those who went because it was a good chance to interact, impress, and generally kiss the ass of whoever sat in the big chair.
It was rather comforting that such human activity happened even here in this other world, it indicated that his attempt at fully integrating into this society was not misplaced or hopeless. Still, he would have liked the event to have been smaller, but his mother had informed him that there was no way that could ever happen seeing as if she were to not invite someone they would take it as a slight to them or their house. To which Nath had pointed out that it was his birthday and if he only wanted to celebrate it with his close friends and family he should be able to do so, after all, the party was for him and not for the guests, right? His mother had only shaken her head and told him that there would be a rather lengthy guest list, and he should be prepared to interact with the crowd.
Which is what he was steeling himself to do right then and there, and he was finding he was having significant trouble with that particular task. He closed his eyes, breathed in a deep breath, and stepped out from around the corner of the hallway he had been hiding in, as hiding was all it really could be called and out onto the floor. As he did so a cheer went up in the crowd and several glasses were raised in toast of what was supposed to be the center of the celebration appeared on the floor. Nath smiled back at them, wondering if they realized it was a salesman’s smile, the carefully crafted mask he had made in order to interact with the general populous when he was working. If any of them noticed then they made no mention of the fact however as he walked out and several people reached out to either shake his hand or to slap him on the back as he passed through the crowd. This was apparently part of the ritual, and it would seem as though it was a pointless as the rest of it. A glass was thrust into his hand as he walked through and without thinking, he downed it in one gulp, the burn of liquor there and then gone as it slid down his throat and then lit a small fire in his stomach.
He of course didn't wish to get drunk, seeing as after the party was done he would be expected to go hunting for his first beast and consuming his first essence, and for him at least it would indeed be the first essence, seeing as he had as of yet not quite figured out how to draw the actual essence out of the crystal that his father had given him five days ago. He was pretty sure part of the issue was the fact that he hadn't ever seen someone do it, not that he harbored the hope of visually seeing someone pull essence out of a crystal would have actually taught him anything after all this was magic, which was by its very nature something that defied logic as he saw it. Perhaps that was his proble-
Someone stepped out in front of him, a woman that looked to be around the same age as he currently was, if he had to place a guess that was. She wore a dress that had, to Nath’s untrained eyes, two layers, the inner layer was a creamy off white, showing at the breast, arm, and the main split down the skirt allowed, and the outer layer, which consisted of mainly a corset-like section and attached skirts was a shade of red. It went rather nicely with her skin color, which was a few shades darker than his own, and seemed to set off her eyes which-
He blinked, making sure he was seeing things correctly. He had seen a number of deviants, each with some form of mutation or alteration that made them look more like the animal from whom they had taken essence, but each time it was still hard for him to really get used to. This woman, her eyes were golden, and slit vertically like a cats’ and like feline eyes seemed to glow slightly, to go with those eyes she had a long, beautiful mane of blonde hair that flowed nearly halfway down her back, which, unlike most of the women he had seen here at the party so far was not done up in some elaborate nest of braids or cascades, hers was natural, free, with the hair that went across her face cut straight at just above eye level to no doubt keep it from obscuring her vision. Atop her head sat a pair of cat ears, these as golden as the hair from which they sprouted, and much to his amazement and amusement they swiveled face him as she stepped out directly in his way, he fought back the urge to push the hair out of the way to see if she still human ears in the right position, did she have two sets of ears? Or were here human ears simply missing from that location?
She was a full head shorter than he, and she reached out a hand, a hand which could be rather called a paw if Nath was being honest. It was larger than what her hand would have normally been and was covered in fur that ran all the way up to her elbow, that was not the strangest thing about it however, no that he to ascribe to the fact that she had four fingers not five like a person, though each of those fingers was thicker than two of his own. Out of curiosity he glanced down and saw instead of a shoe poking out from beneath her dress another cat-like paw, and he found himself wondering if her leg anatomy was Digitigrade or plantigrade and exactly how far up the fur ran. And to top it all off he saw the flickering movement of a tail behind her back.
Aside from his observations as to her deviancy as it were she herself was a striking woman, thin face, high cheekbones, smooth skin, and a small nose, she had wide hips, or at least it seemed that way as the corset accentuated them, and modest bust size, perhaps a slight bit bigger than a b or something? He took all this in in a second with a single pass up and down her body before his eyes fixed on hers, he gave her a smile and accepted the offered hand, or paw, or whatever it was called, performing a half-bow over it. He was about to speak when she did so first. “You don’t remember me do you?” she asked, her voice was soft, and slightly lower than he had expected, but not deep by any measure, just not the voice he had pictured her having in his head.
“Unfortunately, no, I do not remember,” he said with a grimace, “I do apologize for that, but it is beyond my control,” She looked at him straight in the eyes as though searching for the truth in that statement. “I assume from your asking that I did at one time know you?” he asked, one eyebrow raised in query and she gave the ghost of a smile.
“You could say that,” she said, “after all we have been engaged since the both of us were ten years old,” she said, and he felt the surprise on his own face as well as the tensing of his muscles. Something about the way he looked seemed to confirm something for her and she looked slightly more at ease.
“Truly?” he was able to choke out of his constricted throat, and she nodded in confirmation. If that was true then one of life’s biggest choices had been taken from him even before he had been aware that it was gone. He examined that, examined how he felt about that, and was surprised to find out he was both a little upset and a little relieved. Though he was upset to have a choice like that taken from him, in his previous life he had made that dissension twice, and both times it turned out that he had made the wrong choice, perhaps having someone else choose for him was a better option, clearly, his own decision-making skills in that department were flawed.
“Truly,” she said.
“Wait,” he said looking at her in a different sort of light as a thought occurred to him. “I had my accident what, nearly two and a half months ago?” he asked and this time it was her turn to stiffen slightly. “This is the first I have heard of any engagement, the first I have seen you at all, to be honest, why exactly is that?” he asked, he knew word traveled slower on this planet than on his earth, but two and a half months would have probably been enough time to inform her, so long as she didn't live ridiculously far away, which he somehow doubted. People in medieval times tended to marry in and around the area in which they lived.
“You and I-” she paused before continuing, “you and I are not on the best of terms,” she said as she tucked her self in at his side, her hand slipping through his arm, and his coming up to cover it, just like his mother had relentlessly drilled into him these past five days. He looked around and found a corner that seemed less occupied and started to walk that way, leading her to it as it were, this seemed like a conversation that was better done in private anyway. As the two of them walked in silence he wondered at how bad the relationship between herself and him had been if she had not even sent a letter when informed that he had been seriously injured. As they reached his chosen destination he turned to look at her, she was an attractive young woman, and he supposed she needed to know at least a little of the truth, and of what he suspected.
“I-” he paused and then looked at her, “I don’t even know your name,” he said, and realized with an internal wince how blunt and standoffish that sounded. If she noticed however she didn’t show it.
“My full given name is Elianora Tilly Murtain, I am the second daughter of Viscount Manfred,” she said, and Nath did the mental arithmetic that allowed him to translate that position into something he understood. If he was remembering correctly a Viscount was a judicial position, much like a judge or something that presided over an entire region that an Earl controlled, and was the fourth in rank of the peerage, directly under an Earl and above a Baron, which meant she was from a rather important family, likely more important than his own in fact.
“It is a pleasure, Ellie,” he said and noticed how one of her eyebrows rose in surprise at his assumed familiarity. “If you are not against it I would like to speak freely,” he said, and she nodded, one of her eyebrows still higher than the other, she used her free hand to wave him on. “Very well,” he said, squaring his shoulders, “I remember nothing, nothing whatsoever, aside from my parent’s faces and names that is, I can't even claim to have remembered Cara, truth be told, not mind you that I would ever tell her that, it would break her little heart and she is too adorable for me to ever consider doing that,” he shook his head. Over the past few months, Cara had clung to him like a drowning person clinging to a piece of driftwood, in fact, he had found her sleeping curled up beside him more than once upon awakening in the morning. “That means I remember nothing, including what estranged our relationship, or for that matter, if we ever had one, I can however guess at it.”
“Can you?” she asked, pulling her hand from his and crossing her arms, the one eyebrow coming down to join the other, only then to lower into a rather sinister look, her voice was dangerous, and Nath decided he needed to tread carefully.
“I have interacted with people, and it has become apparent to me that they are often surprised when I am respectful to them, which leads me to believe I was not the nicest of young men before my accident-”
“And you are now?” she snorted.
“I don’t know,” he said honestly, “I am who I am, whether that makes me nice or rude or any other attributable feature I cannot say, that is something only others can answer.” He shrugged and continued to push forward. “I was rather surprised when you told me that the two of us were engaged,” he said, “that would undoubtedly surprise anyone, but beyond that one of the first things my mother said to me when I woke up after the accident was, and I quote: don’t think I am stupid, I may not know where you are going on such late errands, but I do know what boys your age are like and if some maiden gets with child then with God as my witness I will force you to marry her propper, you understand me?” he pitched his voice in a poor imitation of a mother’s stern reprimanding voice, which caused the slightest trimmer of a corner of her lip, even while tears formed unshed in her golden eyes, eyes which burned with anger. “I do not know if such allegations are true,” he said bluntly. “But neither can I deny them, simply because I cannot remember them does not mean they did not happen, and as such, I apologize for what I might have done,” he stepped back and bowed, it was a full-court bow, one that he had read about in one of the many many books on the culture he had picked up and decided to read since coming here. It involved fully sinking to one knee and performing a bow as well while in the kneeling position.
“You did,” she said, and he looked up, the anger was there, but so was a sadness. “You did, despite knowing full well that we were engaged,” he slowly stood and looked her in the eyes. “To be honest, I have had several people in your father’s staff watching you,” he felt an eyebrow raise at the admission of seeding spies into another’s house and wondered if that was standard practice or if these were extenuating circumstances. “I have known about your less than scrupulous ways for some time, in fact, I have confronted you about them a few times never directly mind you, but you knew then what we talked about.”
“And I continued anyway?” he asked, finding that he was starting to not like Nath, which was not to say he didn't like himself or did it? Even in his past, in both of his marriages he had never cheated, he had been cheated on, and as such he knew exactly how Ellie must have felt and for that he was sorry truly, even if he had not been the one to do the actual act.
“Yes, I had once looked forward to this marriage, that changed over the course of the last two or so years, now...” she trailed off.
“If you wish to break the-”
“No,” the word was harsh, flat, and had a biting edge to it. “I am a woman who honors her word, I have agreed before God and I will not go back on it,“ she didn't snap at him, but there was no give in her words, and it was unspoken but it was perfectly clear she intended to hold him to as high a standard as she held herself. He was about to respond when she cut him off continuing. “As I said, I have had people keeping an eye on you, and the things they have reported to me,” she shook her head the hard countenance shifting to something less frigid. “If I had not known any better then would say they were talking of a different man.” He chuckled, and she looked at him oddly. “You find something about that funny?” she asked, and he shook his head, deciding to tell her what he had told his father around five or so days ago.
“I am a different man,” he said shaking his head, “If you strip away memories and personality, the loss is the same as death,” he said with a shrug. “That Nath is dead, and I can only be myself.”
“Which is why you are getting a chance, though only the one,” she said, her eyes telling him all he needed to know should he fail to meet her expectations this time around “we can discuss this in further detail later, come, we must interact with the guests before you are needed on the hunt.”