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It was considered improper to lounge in bed, post at ten in the morning. Yet, Mahiru didn’t care about what it would say about her character for once in her life. It was the day after the Crete ball that commonly marked the start of the marriage season for the Ton. That alone was enough of a reason for her miserable state. 

 

She had failed to unmask the stranger that danced with her during the party. And the weight of the punishment was pressed heavily on the forefront of her mind. Even now, with the blinds still shut with sunlight peeking through the frames, her sisters screaming so loud that it can be heard from her room above them, Mahiru could only think about that night. 

 

After the conversation with Crete’s Tendou Maya and Tsuruhime Yachiyo, the first plan of attack was allowing Ichie to scout the rogue bachelor. However, the stranger was then stolen away by none other than Yumeoji Fumi herself, most likely to question why she was dancing with a spinster such as Mahiru. A part of Mahiru wondered if she heard the comment of being the Diamond in the water. Regardless of what they discussed, the rescue from Aurgia’s house Kocho Lalafin made matters too complicated for Mahiru, let alone Ichie, to intervene. 

 

All through the night, all of the Procyon house and then others were too curious about the mysterious bachelor and began questioning not only her but House Crete’s involvement. Only to realise that the time had struck past midnight and they all had to leave. The impish blond bachelor had escaped their grasp. And in turn, Mahiru landed herself in the awkward position to secure them with a kiss. 

 

The mere thought was enough to bury Mahiru’s face further into the pillow. The explosion of warmth on her face was too big for her internal shame to smother it. And oh, all the shame she had felt. For her to be made a fool from her own curiosity and offer a scandal right on the silver platter, to think she has grown smarter with her heart ever since the failed match. 

 

What would happen if Lady Starlight found out and it was in this morning’s gossiping column? What if Mahiru’s hard-earned reputation she has built for herself after the failed marriage collapsed upon this simple mishap? She already postponed Aruru and Misora’s debut to mitigate the backlash of her scandal, not to mention her endless work of being a chaperone for others in the season. And now, all of that hard work was possibly down the drain pipes. 

 

 Damn her curiosity, damn her and that roguish bachelor. 

 

Mahiru sighed, releasing herself from the pillow she shoved into her face. What was done was done, and now as one of the eldest of the house, she must do her best to overcome whatever would happen next. Though as she started to sit up from her bed, stretching her tired limbs, her eyes glanced to the mirror on the other side of the room. 

 

“But a diamond is always a diamond as gems never rust. If anything they become more precious over time.”

 

At the thought, Mahiru looked away, eyes focused on her nightgown as she tried hard to fight the blush on her cheeks. It had been so long since she felt that sense of charm and adoration from another stranger. Yet, as scandalous as that statement was, she hated how it made her feel wanted deep down. 

 

Damn that bachelor… 

 

Shaking her head, Mahiru stood up, slipped her feet into her soft slippers and headed to the door to call upon her servants. However, Mahiru paused as commotion behind the door grew louder and louder until it was slammed open, followed by a distinct yell of Misora screaming Aruru’s name. 

 

“Mahiru!” Aruru gasped, breathing heavily as she continued to duck and dodge Misora’s hand leaning over her. Against Aruru’s chest, protected like a newborn babe, was a scrunched up folded paper. 

 

“Aruru,” Misora warned through a hiss as she continued to act more aggressive in her attacks. The sight shocked Mahiru; Misora was always one to try to act appropriately in front of her. Though the blush on her cheeks, either from anger or embarrassment, said it all. “Don’t say a word.”

 

“Girls please,” Mahiru sighed, her voice edging with that maternal weight she always held as a kid. 

 

At once, the two of her youngest sisters glanced at her. Aruru was leaning her back against the vanity desk, elbows touching the reflective plane of the mirror. She wore a sheepish grin, but the apology in her smile didn’t reach her impish eyes. Misora looked appalled at being caught with her hand trapping Aruru on the waist and the other gripping her wrist. The sight was enough for Mahiru to smile, though she wondered why Ichie wasn’t here to stop them. 

 

Now that Mahiru had them under control, she smiled at them, opened her mouth and—

 

“Mahiru chan you’re in the column!” 

 

And all of her thoughts died in her throat. Ah. That’s why Misora was so aggressive, and that was why Ichie wasn’t here at the present moment. This was related to Lady Starlight, and Mahiru was part of the column. 

 

“ARURU!” Misora screamed, but Aruru was already wiggling away and barrelled her way to Mahiru, shoving something into her chest. 

 

Mahiru gave it a glance but failed to look at it any further beyond its elusive and cursive title with its two-pointed stars in the centre. 

 

“I’m sorry Misora!” Aruru pleaded, already on her knees begging for mercy, a regular comedy skit she picked up from Ichie. “But you know how important this is to her!” 

 

Misora sighed, rolling her eyes as she grabbed Aruru’s arm and lifted her up to her feet. “Don’t go on the floor, you’ll ruin your dress with that.” 

 

“Aha,” Aruru grinned, bouncing on the balls of her heels, swaying to and fro. It’s time like this that Mahiru forgets that Aruru is eligible for marriage, oh how her sisters grow up so fast. The thought was a nice distraction from the rest of the panic going on within her head. “But I’m not wrong with my previous statement!”

 

“You are not,” Misora sighs, crossing her arms as she looks at Aruru. She taps her feet impatiently before fiddling with the cuffs of her jacket. Mahiru knew those tells instantly, Misora was not only nervous, but she was impatient. “But still, it’s too early for her to know.” 

 

“On the contrary,” Aruru chuckled, sporting the Cheshire look she picked up from Ichie. “It’s never too early for her to know.”

 

“What are both of you talking about?” Mahiru asked, the pamphlet of Lady Starlight’s column still hidden against her chest. She wouldn’t dare to look down at it again lest she faints from the sheer shame of her exposed bet. 

 

Misora and Aruru turned to her; the tapping of the feet and the swaying stopped. “You haven’t read it yet, Mahiru?” Misora asked, her brows pinching together in confusion. 

 

Mahiru snorted. Why would she read Lady Starlight so eagerly, knowing she’s key to the gossip? “About the kissing bet between the bachelor and me?”

 

There was a sudden squeal, and Aruru’s face had a grin so wide it filled up most of her face. “Oh my god, I forgot that happened—” She giggled, almost fanning herself for whatever ridiculous reason. She leaned into Misora with another chuckle, “Oh my god!!!” However, whatever squeal Aruru could’ve made further was silenced by the chilled stare Mahiru sent her way.

 

 “Aruru.”

 

“I assure you Mahiru,” Ichie said as she entered the room. She took off her hat, handed it towards a servant nearby as another one helped her remove her coat. Judging from the attire and the way she’s breathing heavier, it was clear that Ichie not only went outside but ran. “The column doesn’t include any of that, the dance itself yes but nothing about the discussion you two had.”

 

“Is it true!?” Aruru pounced, running across the room, only stopping when Ichie held out an arm for her to latch on it. 

 

Despite the heavy breathing and flushed face from the sudden run, Ichie’s grin quickly matched Aruru. “Yes— I had confirmed it with Tendou san herself.”

 

“IS SHE HERE!?” Misora yelled, catching Mahiru by surprise by the sudden outburst and energy. However, instead of running towards Ichie, she moved past her, peering outside her bedroom door. Meanwhile, Aruru’s grin continued to widen, her laughter dancing across the room as she went to Mahiru’s window and peered through the curtains. 

 

“She’s making her rounds first.” Ichie chuckled, and once again, Mahiru had a feeling that she was either being pranked, which wouldn’t be the first in this house, or she was the only one not in on this silly joke. 

 

“Okay stop with the pranks now.” Mahiru sighed, glancing at all of her sisters with a heaviness in her chest. “And explain to me what is going on.”

 

There was silence as eyes glanced between Ichie, Misora, and Aruru for a moment. “She hasn’t read it yet?” Ichie asked, a brow raised. 

 

Misora shook her head, and Aruru answered the question verbally. “She thinks it’s about the bet.” Instantly, Ichie snorted, and that broke the last straw with patience. 

 

“Okay that’s it,” Mahiru growled, “One of you will tell me what’s going on right now, or else I won’t chaperone any of you for this season.” 

 

Ichie’s eyes widened. “Hey, hey Mahiru chan~” Mahiru rolled her eyes at the added honorific. Despite being an adult and in parliament, Ichie only pulled that stunt whenever she was in trouble and needed her help. “I know you don’t like reading Lady Starlight, but believe me— this is more good news than the last time it featured you.”

 

Mahiru’s eyes narrowed. The bar Ichie set was a low one. Considering the last time Mahiru was ever involved with Lady Starlight was when she first appeared. The scandal that made Lady Starlight known was when she announced that her wife-to-be was cheating on her days before their actual wedding. “You swear?”

 

Ichie nodded, her golden eyes showing nothing but sincerity. “I swear on my honour.”

 

(“What honour?” Misora muttered underneath her breath with a slight laugh before being shushed by Aruru next to her.)

 

Mahiru let out a long sigh but slowly proceeded to open up the paper, ironing out what crinkles she could with her hands. “Alright, I’ll read this once and then we will not say anything on the matter.”

 

“Except if you want to talk about it?” Aruru interjected, her smile still wide as before but twice the excitement and anticipation. 

 

“Except if I want to talk about it,” Mahiru conceded. She sat down at the edge of her bed, angling the paper so that the words would be clear in the sunlight. 

 


 

LADY STARLIGHT

 

Anonymous Caller. 

 

There is a certain tradition amongst the six influential houses regarding the marriage season. The most obvious one occurred last night as the greatest of London’s society gathered at the House of Crete, known to always host the first ball of the season. Naturally, I was included in the VIP for who else is none greater, such as when delivering the truth within the season? 

 

However, yesterday night, the Ton’s curiosity on my identity was overshadowed by another mysterious presence that lurked in the house of Crete. A bachelor of short stature but a handsome face, blonde in their looks but jewels of red in their eyes. The Ton knew not their name. However, they were seen as amiable to the House of Crete. Discussing not only with their youngest Tsuruhime Yachiyo and the in-law, Kocho Lalafin but with the top bull herself, the most infamous rake in the six houses: Tendou Maya. 

 

And yet, this was not the scandal that caught the Ton’s attention. The house of Crete is known for its eccentricities and charisma. Its connections to society stretch from London to the highlands of Scotland. So another mysterious blonde figure is simply an off occurrence, a curiosity but uncommon like seeing a rainbow in the sky. 

 

The reason why this stranger caused such a scandal within the Ton is simple. The bachelor offered Lady Mahiru Tsuyuzaki of Procyon a dance amongst this season’s debutants. 

 

A few years ago, such an action wouldn’t be as shocking as it is now. Back then, Lady Mahiru was eligible for such a stunt as she was once considered a diamond of the water when she debuted. However, since the scandal of Sargent Knightley, her once betrothed, before in kind terms, had a failing match with Lady Mahiru. For better or worse, Lady Mahiru had been regarded as a spinster. 

 

And yet, last night, she was on the floor, dancing like she was a debutant all those years ago… 

 

Of course, this column is not to shame nor talk scandalously about Lady Mahiru’s part. In my humble opinion, dear reader, it is great news to see a Spinster so young have a chance of romance again. No, this column answers the question everyone in the Ton was asking. Who danced Lady Mahiru? Well, dear reader, the stage is set, and the context of scandal has been talked about, so let us begin. 

 

At the very start of the column, I mentioned that each house has a tradition when it comes to the marriage season. For Crete, their tradition in society is to start the season with a minor scandal. Particularly when they debut.

 

 Even though I never commented on it at the time, I still remember when Daiba Nana of Crete appeared with flour on her dress since she was baking. Not to mention when Kocho Shizuha debuted, she was kissed outright and courted instantly by her now-wife Kocho Lalafin. And who could forget that Tendou Maya duelled three men in her own backyard and won? All because she overheard them call the Diamond of the water at the time Lady Yumeoji Tamao, a whore. 

 

The intensity of these scandals varies from bull to bull, but still, there is a reason why the House of Crete is the starting place every season. People love a good scandal, and the house of Crete is the perfect setting for such drama. 

 

This is why, by dancing with a spinster after being gone for years on a Tour, the fourth oldest of the house of Crete, Lady Ootori Michiru, created a remarkable minor scandal to start the season. After all, being gone for two years is a reasonable excuse for not knowing who was eligible or not, no? 

 

Of course, I understand, dear reader, why you must be confused at such a bold statement. But really, when I lay down the truth, would you not agree? Lady Michiru and the stranger have the same stature of height, similar hair colour and a similar shade of red for their eyes. Of course, last time we saw Lady Michiru before her Tour, she sported rather feminine clothing, dresses and frills, for example. Not to mention her hair was long and often in braids. In fact, her height and her braids are considered distinct features. 

 

Did you notice, dear reader, that the stranger, whilst in masculine wear, held a small braid even when wearing a small ponytail? Did you also notice that the only person the stranger danced with the entire night was Lady Mahiru? A woman who was extremely close to Lady Michiru before going on her Tour. 

 

The identity does explain a lot, doesn’t it? How Tendou Maya managed to converse and not flirt with the stranger, the familiarity with Tsuruhime Yachiyo among others. The way they were able to escape the eyes of the Ton and move around like they knew the setting with the back of her hand. 

 

Of course, the personality shift from being shy to bold enough to pull this stunt is something the Ton needs to get used to, but I don’t regard it as bad. Confidence is attractive, and it seems that the Tour has certainly woken up the beast within Lady Michiru that is already present with her older siblings. 

 

But what is the most important takeaway from all of this is this. By dancing with Lady Mahiru, Lady Michiru is signalling that she is looking for a match. So watch out ladies, maybe spinsters and scandals aren’t the only things Lady Michiru is looking for this season.

 


 

Mahiru read the pamphlet, not once, not twice but several times. Her eyes roamed the latter half more intensely than the first as something sunk deep within her gut until Mahiru had to lean out, palm on her bed, to stop herself from fainting. 

 

“This is a joke?” She laughed, for what else can she express this amalgamation of relief, joy and shock in her chest. She looked at Ichie, knowing that whatever she would say would be the truth. “This is just some conspiracy theory Lady Starlight made, yes?” 

 

Ichie shook her head, and Mahiru mirrored her actions, except the shake was more frantic than calm. “Oh no no no….” Ichie came to her side immediately, but Mahiru didn’t have any time to focus on her, not when her pulse raged between her ears and all she could hear was her own thoughts. 

 

It was not that she was glad that her oldest and her closest friend growing up was back from her Tour. Lord knows how much Mahiru missed her quiet but calm presence, and the Lord knows how much she would’ve loved for her to be around when the news of her failed marriage appeared years ago. 

 

But at the same time, the annoying presence of that bachelor, of the strange Lord— the reason why Mahiru was still in her bed and nightgown. That cocky, arrogant and teasing flirt. That couldn’t be Michiru— surely one Tour can’t change a person’s personality too much, can it? 

 

Oh, but it explained it all, the way the stranger mentioned a vague sense of their history together or the way they were easy to talk to despite how difficult they were. Even now that Mahiru thought back to that night, the way they talked— it was so similar to the lady she grew up with, except different. It was less subdued and more expressive. 

 

Despite every part of her wanting to deny it out of clear shock, Mahiru couldn’t deny it. The Lord— the Lady— she danced with last night was none other than Ootori Michiru, her greatest friend. 

 

And just like that, the words that Michiru spoke to her last night hit her like a train. The way she was right in saying how Mahiru would change her mind when she knew who she really was, or how it was a pleasure for them to meet, even in that unfavourable circumstance. 

 

But what got Mahiru’s air in her lungs, squeezing it out of her, was the lines in Lady Starlight’s column and the words Michiru whispered to her softly as they danced. Lady Starlight argued that Michiru didn’t know that she was a spinster, hence why she danced with her. 

 

“But a diamond is always a diamond as gems never rust. If anything they become more precious over time.”

 

Except, Michiru did know— and she still danced with her. 

 

And the implications of such a statement, and what it truly meant, was enough for Mahiru’s head to go fuzzy, old feelings of glee and hope and all things romantic that she once buried rose back to the surface of her mind. And within a few seconds, Mahiru fainted on her bed, her face red with warmth and her heart racing like she was the Diamond of the water again.