This year has been really eventful for both Rille-nee and I, but the year was coming to an end and the world was about to welcome a new year.
I turned 13.
There is no concept of birthdays in this kingdom, and everyone just adds one year to their age on the same day that the year changes. This meant a child who was born just before the end of the year has no time to be 0 years old. But well, age was only a rough guide.
There were many events happening to celebrate each other’s births by giving gifts to close friends and throwing parties and the atmosphere in the capital was lively just like on New Year’s in Japan.
We had never given gifts to each other before I came here. All we did was have a nice meal, but when I saw other people doing it, I wanted to try it out for myself.
I wanted to give gifts to my school friends, Rille-nee, and Gis-nee, but that was hard to do since I was always trying to buy school supplies with my meager savings. I don’t have time to work a part-time job.
So, I made a birthday card with a simple message and gave it to people.
But I had a lot of things to tell Gis-nee, so hers ended up being a long letter.
The postage cost wasn’t cheap either, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell her about everything. I put a few flowers that are shaped like stars, which are unique to this region and even bloom in winter, into the envelope.
Well, only Rille-nee and Alec were pleased with my card.
The rest looked at it with an expression that said, “What the heck is this?”. It’s the feelings that count.
Rille-nee gave me a ribbon for my hair.
She said, “It’s about time you start dressing up, Aime.”
It was my first hair accessory.
So, I decided not to cut my hair and started tying it up in a ponytail. My hair was still only the volume of a small bird’s tail feathers, but it will grow longer with time.
Most of the people around me didn’t react to my change in hairstyle, but Alec, the gentleman, said I looked cute. I feel like he’s made of 100% kindness.
When I get a job, I’ll buy something for Rille-nee and Gis-nee with my first paycheck.
And then, Alec offered to give me a gift in return…
“Shall I buy you a dress?”
I refused without hesitation.
He didn’t say this out of the blue.
The Magic School also holds an evening party to celebrate the New Year.
When I saw the notice, I thought, give us a holiday instead of holding an event. Yes, there was no special holiday. There are classes even on the day of the New Year’s party.
Girls need to wear dresses to the evening party, so I grumbled that this was an event that would exclude me, so Alec offered to buy me a dress.
That’s way too expensive to gift me in return for a card!
You’re not my fairy godmother are you!?
I firmly refused and he seemed a little sad about this.
I’m grateful that you even considered giving me a dress.
The night of the event has arrived.
“I’m impressed by your thick skin.”
Cliff said sarcastically when I came in dressed in my usual robe. We were in the main hall that was used for the exams.
The scarlet carpet, chandeliers and countless decorative lamps made this hall look completely different from before.
“I only came because I was told that there would be dinner.”
I countered as I stabbed the roast meat.
I didn’t want to break the dress code either, but everyone here is a student, and they all know that I’m poor.
I decided that there was no need to miss dinner, so I came here in shame. Surprisingly though, I wasn’t that embarrassed when I arrived.
It was a buffet with a sumptuous meal and even an orchestra.
The boys were dressed in black tuxedos and the girls in colourful, fluffy dresses. They were dancing elegantly to the music.
It wasn’t bad to have dinner while gazing at a scene like this.
Cliff and everyone else came up to me while I was admiring this piece of art.
“Why are you dressed like that!?”
Mary looked just like Cinderella’s tormenting stepsister with her eyebrows raised like that.
She was wearing a chic dark blue dress that went well with her silver hair, and her hair was styled in a way that showed her nice forehead. She looked really pretty but she looked like a wicked witch. She had an intense look in her eyes.
“You don’t have a single dress!? You’re spurring me on with your vulgarness.”
“Leave me alone. ――― Hey Matty.”
I ignored my mean friend and said hi to Matty, who was hiding behind Mary. He was probably Mary’s escort tonight, but he was hiding behind her like always. He was dressed in a handsome outfit though.
But why did you guys gather around me?
“Did you come here to ask me to dance?”
“You’re talking like that because you can dance, right?”
“Nope, not at all.”
I’ve never danced in a situation like this before. I had been invited to parties when I studied abroad, but we danced to pop and the music wasn’t graceful like this.
I prefer pop music and easy-going music if I have to dance. I think people can dance however they want as long as they enjoy it.
“I’m not dancing with a commoner who can’t even afford a dress.”
“Then why did you come over here to see me?”
“To take a break. Then, I saw someone who was dressed like a fool, so I had to come say something.”
“Me too. You’re being so disgraceful. Why didn’t you at least wear a frilly skirt?”
I don’t need your advice. And Matty was laughing quietly. I’m going to tell you this, but a uniform is also a formal attire.
Hmph, they’re so naggy… Well, I guess I’ve made some friends. This is very emotional for me when I think about how it was in the beginning…
They took a break while chatting until the song was over, and then they were invited to return to the centre of the dance floor at the beginning of the next song.
It got quiet rather quickly, how lonely.
Apparently, both girls and boys can ask partners to dance with them and the one who is being invited can’t refuse.
I’m certain of this since Matty, who was shy, was puzzled when a girl asked him to dance but he didn’t refuse her invitation.
So, if someone keeps getting asked to dance, then they have to dance the whole time.
In fact, Alec was suffering from this problem.
A chance to dance with the prince was rare, even for a noble, so there was no harm in upselling yourself to the prince for your future. Their invitations might be pushy, but Alec was only a student here and they were allowed to do this.
Perhaps, this was my fault.
Noble girls will naturally think that they can treat him friendly if they see a commoner being friendly with him. Especially since Alec has been getting more comfortable with his surroundings.
From a distance, I could clearly see that they were aiming to dance with Alec next while they were dancing with others.
It was an interesting sight. Sorry, Alec.
The Prince’s aide, Rock, was also targeted by the girls.
Lock on, I couldn’t help but yell in my mind. Oh, I’m talking nonsense again…
Maybe he noticed that I was looking at him while smiling.
I noticed that Alec was getting closer and closer to the edge of the dance floor as he danced and as soon as he finished dancing and parted ways with his partner, he turned around and held his hand out to me.
“Will you dance with me?”
Eeh~…? What kind of shaming act is this?
I’m not wearing a dress, nor do I have glass shoes, but I have a fork in my hand and a plate full of food. I also have food in my mouth. Anyway, I should quickly swallow my food.
“I don’t know how to dance.”
“It’s pretty simple.”
“It doesn’t look like it is. I’m just here to eat, so don’t worry about me.”
“You won’t dance with me? But I wanted to dance with you, Aime.”
Don’t be sad.
I turned him down when he asked me again, huh~. I’ll feel bad if I turn him down a third time.
It would be tactless of me not to dance when I’m invited to dance at a dance party.
“――― Then, just one song. Be prepared since I’m going to step on your feet.”
I put down the plate and took his hand and he smiled.
“You’re light, so I’ll be fine.”
He really is a gentleman, but it’ll probably hurt if I step on his feet, so I’ll be careful.
I don’t know the steps, so I’ll just follow his lead and move according to the mood. The surrounding area was filled with elegant music.
We must look pretty funny. I’ve gotten used to being at the centre of attention.
Alec whispered as we danced.
I didn’t step on his feet thanks to his skilful lead.
“I never thought I would get the chance to dance with a prince… if you think about it, this is like a dream.”
I really feel like the female lead of a fairy tale.
I whispered and Alec laughed.
“I’m glad I was born a Prince if that makes you happy, Aime.”
“I’m not that happy about it though.”
“I’m just kidding.”
I laughed when his expression stiffened.
“I’m honoured to dance with someone as great as Alec even if you’re not a Prince.”
He was born as a noble with his generosity and kindness.
Someone who knows how precious he is surely knows how to value others.
I’m so lucky that I was able to become friends with such a person.
“It’s almost been a year.”
I muttered again in a relaxed tone as if I was being rocked in a cradle.
Today was a glamorous and fun evening but it wasn’t all cheerful.
It has almost been a year since we entered the school.
We are reaching a level where we can converse in Mitoan. It has been a short, but long road. In spring, it will be decided who among us will become mages.
I was told that it was unlikely that all of us would become mages.
Those who have the aptitude will then begin to train to become mages while those who don’t will either study theory or give up and leave the school.
Chancellor Leonard told me that one could still do research at the institute even if they don’t become a mage, but I learnt that only a handful of people can do so.
Only those who are so smart that being unable to use magic isn’t a disadvantage can continue to do research.
These people work together with the mages to develop new spells and research properties of magic stones.
So, those who aren’t willing to take up the challenge will soon leave the school.
Do I have what it takes to become a mage? And how many of us will be left come spring?
“I hope we can all become mages.”
Alec uttered his gentle wish.
They harassed me and there are some who I haven’t been able to reconcile with, but I have been studying with them, eating the same food as them and living side by side with them for nearly a year.
I know that everyone has worked hard. It would be nice if we could all become mages.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to learn how to fly?”
“It would… but I already feel like I’m flying.”
He replied weirdly to my joke.
“I always feel like that when I’m with Aime.”
“What’re you on about?”
I don’t understand what he’s talking about, but it can’t be anything bad.
We finished dancing to the song and bowed to each other.
I watched as Alec was dragged off to the dance floor again then sneaked out of the party and returned to my room when my stomach was growling.
That was my New Year, and I felt somewhat lonely.