As he grabbed his robe and walked the short distance towards his room his heart was still in as state of disarray. That sort of situation, he had no experience in dealing with it.
Being seen naked like that, as expected it isn't a matter that could be easily forgotten.
He sighed and tried shaking the feeling out of his head.
Once in his room he looked through his clothes and tried to decide what was appropriate.
He never had a servant help him put on clothes like other Nobles would have. His mother felt that something so simple he should be able to do it himself.
And he agreed. As someone from the Grayborne family, how could he stand not being able to even put on his own clothes by himself? He hated the thought of needing another person's help for something like that. Like some child.
He skimmed the closet and chose a royal blue tailcoat, a matching vest and black pants.
The rich color made his maroon hair stand out more and complimented his golden eyes. Though, this wasn't intended by him, he merely liked the color and style.
The formal attire was finely tailored to his measurements and felt like a second skin. Comfortable.
After it dried he ran a hand through his hair. He rarely had to use a comb since it was naturally smooth. And most of the time if it wasnt it would still look perfectly acceptable for public appearances. His father was the same.
Once he laced his shoes Lyle casually walked toward the main entrance, where a carriage currently lied in wait.
His mother and Iris stood in front of it.
Iris looked at her brother in a scrutinizing manner.
She didn't like his current appearance. "Big brother, why couldnt you have worn something more off-putting? Like rags or something similar? This current appearance is a good look for you. As expect of my big brother. But that simply wont do. It cant be that you want to marry this little Sofia brat?"
She looked wounded, her voice miserable. She shook her head.
His mother cut in. " Don't mind her. But she's right, you do look quite handsome in that outfit. Go change. " She smiled serenely
Lyle looked at them incredulously.
"Now, now, don't you listen to them my boy. You look great, well done. Now, lets go." His father waved a hand to the driver and off they went.
Iris found that her mood soured every second as they got closer to the Alderton estate. Iris looked at her brother. Nn, indeed, he cut a fine figure in his current attire. Though, no matter what brother wore he would always be the object of everyone's attention. Brother was that sort of person.
This was why Iris had to protect him from those vile swarms of women at his birthday all those months ago. Those damn harlots, they took advantage of brother. Brother, as per decorum, had to accept any offer to dance he recieved that night.
Those girls, they knew that. If Iris didnt step in then who knows how many times they would have asked him to dance?
Brother was an exceptional, no, superior male and though he didnt know it himself he attracted many gazes that day. Iris remembered it well, those girls who snuck small glances at him and whispering to each other as they did.
This Sofia person was the worst, though. Brother actually seemed to have some good impressions of her, but Iris knew she was simply no good.
Whatever happens, she had to protects brother from her evil, conniving hands.
Some time later they met at a large estate.
They were greeted at the door by an elderly butler.
" Ah, Your Grace, we have been expecting you." the butler welcomed father.
"Is the Marquis still here?" Asked father.
"Sadly he had to return to his lands to the south."
"I see. A pity. Well, is Lady Diane available to talk while the young ones have their time together?"
The bulter replied, "Of course, Your Grace. She is in the Drawing room. I trust you can find your way there?"
Father laughed. " I believe so. Come, my love. Lets go."
Mother looked distressed, "But--The kids--"
" Don't need you to surpervise us, " Lyle said drily.
Iris cut in. "Go on, mother. I will of course keep watch over them. " She snorted coldly. Brother frowned at her. Ah, just now she may have been a bit too cold. She had to watch that, or else brother's opinion of her could drop.
"Very well then. I'll leave it to you then, Iris my dear." With that, the two parents left.
"Young Lord Lyle. " The only man turned to brother and bowed respectfully, as anyone should upon meeting brother.
"Please, young Lord, follow me. Lady Sophia is waiting in her private living quarters. "
Brother frowned at the use of the word, "Lord". Though that was the correct usage of address given he was the only son and heir of his father's title, Iris knew he preffered "young master" as being called a Lord was a bit too formal for his tastes.
" Inviting big brother to her room, what is she planning." Iris muttered as they began to follow the elderly butler.
"Don't be like that, Iris." Brother told her.
Iris clenched her fist. "Big brother, you dont understand. This is her own room we're talking about. Not some simple Solar or Drawing room where one would normally entertain guests. This is different. " Iris narrowed her eyes suspiciously. This girl, how bold.
" Iris. " Brother called suddenly.
"Yes, big brother?" Her reply was immediate
"Behave, or when we leave you won't be allowed to follow me for at least a week."
She stopped dead in her track, her mouth probably hanging open. "What?! Why? Big brother, such a thing, just why?"
Ah, big brother, why would you even say such a thing?!
But, if he told her to stay away, she would. If her brother wanted that, she would have to comply. Though it would hurt to do so, she would of course listen to her one and only brother.
She thought of resisting somehow but she knew that look in his eye too well." Ah, big brother, fine. I'll try to hold myself back but if she oversteps herself then I wont let her get away with it." She relented, running after him as he had continued walking without her.
"Good. " He patted her on the head.
Iris smiled. Heh, big brother should do that more often. Maybe at least one hundred times a day. She should work on ways to have him increase the frequency.
After a minute or two of walking, they were left at a large wooden door. "Well, my young Lord, here you are. Lady Sophia is inside with some refreshments. Please, go in. If you'll excuse me, I have some duties that need attending to. "He bowed and left.
Brother opened the door.
Beyond, a large room with many windows showed itself. The room came in two divided space. One was the bedroom the she slept in, the other was a room that hosted a ebony table and ornate silvery chairs that were padded for comfort.
In one sat a young girl, slightly younger than brother, with long dark hair and light gray eyes that shined with an inner light.
She smiled at brother upon seeing him enter, "Ah, Lord Lyle! How nice to see you again! Please, come sit."
She motioned for him to take a seat. She completely didnt seem to notice Iris' presence. She instantly flared up with rage, but held back as per her brother's orders.
" Our previous conversation was cut short. I apologise for that." Brother told her. Hmph, brother, why are you looking at me as you say that?
Brother noticed something. He pointed toward the flowers on the table. " Those are orchids, yes?"
She nodded. "Yes, they're my favorite flower."
Brother's eyes flashed and he made a vague smile. "Is it? Interesting." He turned his golden eyes on the girl. " You have good taste in flowers. " Brother complimented.
"Ah, thank you. Here, try some of these cookies. I made them myself." She said casually.
Iris stopped her brother. "Big brother, don't. They could be poisoned."
Iris saw that Sophia finally seemed to notice her. She didnt look happy.
Brother laughed. " Iris, I really don't think thats the case." He took one and bit into it. "Hmm, delicious. See, Iris? I'm not dead, am I?"
Iris shook her head. "No, i'm not worried you would die. I'm worried she slipped something even more terrifying inside." She glared at the other girl, who was smiling in amusement.
" Ah, I see. And what, pray tell, do you think I would have slipped inside?"
"Aphrodisiac" Iris shivered at the mere word. Her brother stared at her in shock.
Though Iris was young, her mind had surpassed most her age, as had her brother's. So she knew of many things, including that.
" And why would I do so?" Sophia's smile widened.
" Of course, so that brother would commit an act that would force him into a marriage with you." Iris replied.
"Iris, what did I say about behaving?" Her brother sent her a warning.
She paused. "But, big brother, this is a perfectly valid concern!"
She tsked. "...Fine."
Brother turned toward the Sophia-bitch." I'm sorry for my sister's rudeness."
Iris grit her teeth.
Brother, to lower yourself and apologise to such swine, I'm not sure whether to be impressed at your boundless humility or angry at myself forcing you to do so in the first place, she thought.
"That's fine. Why take a child's words to heart?" She oh-so-slightly emphathized the word "child".
"Thank you for your understanding."
"Of course. Well, I can tell that you have some questions. Go ahead, ask."
"Now that you mention it...I do recall wondering at why Marquis Alderton would extend the proposal. "
"Oh, such a thing? Easily answered. It's because I asked him to." She shrugged.
Brother smiled, but it was strained. "And the reason would be. . .?"
" I want you. Need I any other reason?"
Iris couldn't stop herself. " You know nothing about big brother, so simply casually saying you like him, I won't let you get away with it!" She snarled.
Iris moved, but her arm was grabbed by her brother.
"Lady Sophia, as we only had a short, very brief time together I simply do not believe you could like me to the extent of asking your father to send a engagement request. Therefore I can only assume you want to marry me for my family background and influence. Such a thing, I can't accept that. If it were me your own background would indeed be a nice bonus. But nothing more. Were you the real Sofia, I would say that if this was truly your goal then I am sorely disapointed in you. "
Iris tilted her head. Her brother, he said something pretty important at the end there? Real Sofia?
She didn't quite understand.
Apparently neither did Sophia herself.
" Oh? And what do you mean by 'were you the real Sophia'?"
Brother smiled. " Exactly that. You, my dear girl, are not Sophia."
"And why do you say that? ...No, what I should be asking is: When did you notice?" Her eyes narrowed dangerously.
Brother laughed lightly. " I had a hunch when I saw your eyes. They were a much darker shade the last time we met, an almost steel gray. Yours are lighter, like moonlight reflecting off a fine blade and just as sharp. But I wasn't sure until you said your favorite flowers were orchids. At my prompting Sophia told me many things about herself during our short dance the night of my birthday, among which was that her favorite flowers were Irises. Something we shared."
Hearing, Iris smiled happily. Her entire face lit up.
The fake Sophia-bitch looked at brother in disbelief. " That party was months ago! How could you remember something so trivial? The number of people you had to talk to must have been in the dozens even if you excluded the girls you had to dance with. Among the swarm of faces, greetings and other small talk, how can you remember the exact shade of a person's eyes and their favorite flower?"
Iris looked at her disdainfully. Brother is an amazing person, of course he would be able to do so. This girl, she underestimates brother too much.
Although normally people would find it hard to recall something like that, this was big brother they were talking about.
But Iris was a bit miffed that her brother did indeed remember such things about a girl. Big brother, he shouldn't have to give any thought to some girl other than her.
Brother shrugged, " It was a long time ago, but she was interesting. And as a noble in general, it helps to remember such things. Establishing good connections is a wise idea, and remembering details like that can leave good impressions of yourself on others.
I also remember the names and topic of conversation that i had with the other children that day. The adults didnt talk to me much but father taught me the names, interests and other details of the adult nobles some time ago. My information on the adult nobles is always up to date."
Iris frowned. So, her brother remembered the other girls' names too? And the conversation he had with them?
The fake Sofia-bitch, as Iris had now firmly thought of her in her mind, let out a small noise of wonderment. "Amazing. You know, the other noble kids our age wouldnt take such things seriously and merely do what they pleased with their parents' authority, becoming spoiled brats."
Brother refuted. " No, such things are only for children of lesser nobles. True noble like you and I, whose bloodlines can be traced back for countless generations, are obligated to hold ourselves to a higher standard than those nobles who would abuse their power. Ah, actually, we have a duty to punish them as well should. "
He said this with absolute conviction,
Iris nodded. She herself didnt care much for such things, but if her brother believed in them then it is something that she should believe in as well.
"So, I ask, for what reason did the Alderton family send the engagement request, who are you you really, and why is the real Sophia not here?" Brothers eyes turned sharp.
Hehe, brother looks especially cool right now with such an expression. Hmm, with his royal blue tailcoat that contrasted well with his maroon hair and those golden eyes of his, he indeed cut a very dashing figure.
Iris wanted to be patted again, ah.
Fake Sofia-bitch's eyes sparkled as she looked at brother. Iris wanted to hit the look off her face. " As for who I am, I'm Sofia's twin sister, Cecelia Alderton. You wouldn't know me, few outside the family do. For now. When we turn 13 both of us will make our debut together. But for the time being not many know that Sophia has a twin. I don't like attention, so I never made an appearance in high society."
Brother nodded. " I see. Nobles dont take much interest in the children of other nobles until they make their debut anyway so it is believable that not many would know of you. I wonder, did my father?"
"Of course. His intelligence network is superb, he wouldnt not know about something like this."
" And the engagement request?" Brother prompted.
"That. . . " Her face looked troubled.
Iris snapped. " Brother asked you a question. Hmph, just answer it, damn sow."
"Yes, yes. I apologise, big brother. I will remain quiet." Iris assured him.
". . ."
"Anyway, although it isn't really my place to tell you." Fake Sofia-bitch went on. "the reason for it is because Sofia has some "feelings" for you,"
Brother's face went blank. "What?"
"When my father discovered this, he seemed overjoyed for some reason and sent the letter. He dotes on her, gives her everything she wants. Which, right now, is you. So he sent that thing."
Brother seemed still in shock. Yet he recovered and asked, tentatively. "But, if thats true then. . .Why isn't she here?"
" She's shy I guess? When she discovered what father had done, she begged me to help her out. I agreed. I wanted to know what my potential future brother-in-law would be like. I'm impressed. I can understand my sister now. You have looks, smarts, talent and a powerful background. Hm, pretty much perfect." She nodded.
Iris glared at her when she said that. Did she now covet brother too? How arrogant! No, stay focused. Right now the real enemy is that Sofia-bitch. That girl, knowing nothing of big brother yet pretending to like him after merely one meeting, simply unforgivable!
" Glad to know I have your approval." Brother said drily. " But as fun as this was, if you are not the real Sophia, I don't see any reason to remain here. I don't know about her supposedly liking me, but if she won't meet me herself, then I shall take my leave. You can contact me again when she does want to meet me. Goodbye. " He stood up.
Suddenly. "P-please wait!"
Iris froze. Both her and brother looked at the closet across the room, and as we looked out popped a dark haired, gray-eyed girl who looked identical to Cecelia.
Moreover, as she stopped us, her arm raised in halting gesture. She, too, froze.
Her face went red.
Iris couldnt help blurting. "You were spying on us through the closet?!"
The girl's face went even redder and she stammered repeatedly, unable to form a simple sentence.
Brother frowned and drove in the final nail. "That's a bit . . .Weird. "
The girl made a small, muted cry. "...Ah..."
"Great, sis. You ruined that good first impression you had. If only you had stayed put. Good luck." Cecelia sighed and waved a hand, trying to leave her sister to face the situation herself.
How cruel. Iris even felt bad for the girl
"Y-you cant go!" She blocked the door.
"Hey, this guy is your potential fiance. You can deal with him. And didnt you guys have a good talk once before? Why so flustered now?"
"B-but that was. . .Cece, please." The girl whispered.
Brother looked at the entire thing with a strange face.
A sigh. "...Yes, fine." She turned to brother. "Lord Lyle, you remember Sophia, right?"
Brother blinked once, then smiled as if the girl hadn't just come out of the closet she used to peep on them.
"But of course. Lady Sofia, how nice to see you again. I was just talking to your sister, waiting for you. Now that you're here, we can begin to catch up from our previous conversation. If I recall, you were telling me about . . ." He began making small talk.
Iris couldnt help letting her mouth fall open. Did brother really intend to pretend that nothing was wrong here to save that girl from a bit of embarrassment? Wasnt he being a bit too generous?
Sofia-bitch smiled gratefully and soon the two were conversing smoothly. She laughed sparkled, making Iris annoyed. This girl, why was she looking so cheerful?
Cecelia sighed and muttered. "Damn girl, why didnt she do this in the first place? She wanted me to stay but now she doesnt even know im here. She was so nervous about meeting him again but they already seem lost in their own world. Honestly. "
Irid was in a daze. Ah, brother, are you really talking to a girl so easily right in front of your dear sister?
"Brother," She called out.
Brother didnt seem to hear.
"B--!" She was grabbed from behind.
"Come here, my dear potential sister in law. Lets let them talk privately for a bit while we go have a bit of fun~"
Cecelia, smiling a touch darkly, dragged Iris. She resisted but it was no use against this brute's vise-like grip.
"Ah, let me go! Brother, brother~!"
But the door had already closed.