Chapter 31 ∞ Dragon’s Flight
I was initially glad with having Erenol over, but I found her presence growing a little…annoying over time. She was tailing me wherever I went, asking me all sorts of questions and whatnot. That was other than Maun, who, for some reason, lacked will and independence. Erenol was more of the type who wanted to imitate everything I was doing because of the ‘senior apprentice’ idea of hers—which was ridiculous.
I was given the time to heal by the mistresses. They didn’t give me a lot of work over the past few days, letting me do whatever I liked. If I wanted to seek out a particular mistress for a craft I was interested in, they would accommodate me without a word of complain. They forbid, however, going outside for the meantime, which wasn’t really a big deal for me. I was an introverted homebody who liked to spend time with the arts—whatever I felt like doing.
Honestly, I was leading such a carefree life.
It was much better without these two. Good dragons.
It was a Saturday, which also meant that tonight was service night. During these days, my mistresses were very busy working on their own crafts, practicing their routines. As courtesans, they excelled with entertaining with the arts, each specializing in their own areas. Of course, usually, it would be my Mistress Neilly, my mother Hellenia, and my Mistress Marian who were practicing due to their specialization in music and performance. My other mistresses? Not so much.
Mistress Neilly’s beautiful dances were captivating, so I never missed their dress rehearsals. It was why I sat in the dance room, sitting in my spot in the corner like I always did. As an ungraceful duck, I could only watch the swans fly.
I also happened to have two other ducks with me.
Erenol was a jaw-dropped, drooling mess while Maun had the widest sparkling eyes. I was very annoyed with having my privacy and alone-time so compromised by these two that I had the most displeased face. In fact, I would think I literally looked like the “-_-” emoji. Not even Mistress Neilly’s dance could put a smile on my face.
When the dance began, I noticed a lot of things. The routine today was quite different. Mistress Marian and my mother Hellenia were playing in chorus, like they always did, but the beat was a little more edgy and aggressive than it usually was. They usually would go for a calming rhythm, one that would induce the audience into a state of ‘oblivion.’ However, this one was a particularly heart-pumping performance. It had its viewers sitting in place unwittingly choking from forgetting to breathe. This dance was like a snare—the rope one would willingly tie to one’s neck.
To top it all off, she used her signature move at the end. The Dragon’s Flight. One foot came raising in a straight line as both her hands spread wide. Her spine bent back into a perfect arch, the muslin scarves billowing about her figure like a coiling dragon. Her hair fanned out beautifully, the curls delicately bouncing as they stretched and sprung back.
Every drop of beat, the rising rhythm. It was as though it was made to match the beat of the heart, manipulate it to an extent, and make it stop in one sweep.
I didn’t realize how lethal this could be. My mistresses were usually such sweet creatures. Who knew they could actually extend some claws?
I wasn’t the only one affected. Maun and Erenol seemed to have had the same reactions like myself. Nevertheless, the moment it ended, they immediately broke into applause, looking at me with such excitement that I could only roll my eyes. I clapped as well, but my appreciation also carried a bit of incertitude.
“Evy,” my mother spoke. “What’s with the face?”
“Something’s different…” I said.
“Well…” Mistress Neilly put down her muslin scarves, letting the breezy fabric fall about her resplendent figure. “We decided we should change it a little. You know what they say about changes? A boat that rides the waves fares better than the one anchored to the floor.”
“It’s still great,” I commented. “I just don’t think my heart can keep up with it.”
The mistresses laughed.
“Great? That was amaaaazzziinnnnggg!” Erenol roared to the heavens.
The comment was so ass-kissing that I had the urge to vomit. Oh well. I had the same reaction when I saw it for the first time.
“Can you teach me?” she asked sweetly, eyes like glittering jewels glowing with enthusiasm. “I want to learn how to dance like Mistress Neilly!”
“Oh yes, do teach the girl for a bit…” Mistress Marian stood. “I forgot to do something. Better go and do it before I forget once more!” she chirped, leaving her harp behind as she made a dash for the door.
“Come over here,” Mistress Neilly beckoned Erenol over. She gracefully pulled on her muslin scarf, folded it once, and draped it over Erenol’s shoulder. “Show me what you have, dear one.”
Erenol nodded confidently and pranced around like a little sprite. There was not much rhythm in her steps—just indiscriminate moves. My mother Hellenia began to play a joyous song with her flute, matching the cheerful disposition of my lifelong best friend. After a bit, she imitated the graceful twirl that Mistress Neilly had done earlier—the backbending, low sweep of the hand that it nearly touched the floor. The muslin tapered about the graceful curve of her fingers like a rising dragon, its svelte tail racing across the skies.
My eyes widened. “Dayum.”
Unfortunately, Erenol lost her balance and fell on her butt. She laughed it out and stood up to try again, oblivious to the surprise that flew across the mistresses’ faces and mine.
That move…It was one of the hardest to execute moves in the dance with its demand on flexibility, balance, and grace. In fact, it was a little unrealistic to do. Without proper training and talent, it was impossible to carry out. Considering how she was able to nearly succeed after seeing it once…her potential in learning the craft was enormous.
I frowned a little. She was more talented than me in this aspect.
While I couldn’t help the tinge of jealousy as I had been learning from Mistress Neilly for a lot, lot longer, my being reborn didn’t come with perfection. I reminded myself that, no matter how an all-around person I thought I was, people had their strengths and weaknesses. Erenol had a big potential in learning this craft. I didn’t.
It wasn’t like I was serious anyway. I knew from the start I didn’t have that much of a gift for dancing, being my grace-of-a-wading-duck self.
I stifled the ‘hmph’ that was threatening to rise from my throat, pulled back a little, and composed myself. On the other hand, I was proud of her. If this girl was still useless in this aspect, while I wouldn’t be surprised, I might still be a little disappointed. It was a good thing that the gods at least gave her something to be good at. Her life would be sad otherwise.
I looked over to Maun and saw that he was staring on with his naïve cluelessness. He clapped along the beat of the music, radiating that blinding joy that was reminiscent of a kid entering a toy store. Everything was new to this guy that I couldn’t help but wonder how his life had been up until now.
Seeing Erenol so busy with dancing and Mistress Neilly seemingly delighted having finally gotten a talented protégé, I stood to stretch. This was my chance to sneak off and do some stuff by myself.
Maun stopped clapping to watch me rise, his brows flying to his hairline. I didn’t wait for him, hoping he would stay behind to continue watching. This way, I could finally have some peace to myself.
But I thought wrong.
He got to his feet and tailed me as I headed to the kitchen. The pitter-patter of his footsteps drummed with those of mine and I couldn’t help the sigh that escaped me.
One duck down, one more to go.
I didn’t talk to him for a bit as I wasn’t really that type of person. Nevertheless, I made a sandwich for two people and offered him the other one. While he was eating, I got up and fetched some pen and paper and came back to the kitchen with them. As I munched away on my food, I drew on the paper various vocabulary signs I could remember, but I first began with the letters of the alphabet. For Veneryali, there were sounds that one wouldn’t find in standard English, so I had to invent some new signs to stand in for them. It took a bit of effort to draw them on my part and they still ended up lazily drawn and rough. Nevertheless, they should be understandable enough.
After making two sets of sandwiches for Maun and myself, I pushed the paper his way and tapped on it. “Memorize this,” I said, signing as I talked. “Don’t come looking for me until you can confidently say you know this by heart. Otherwise, I won’t talk to you.”
With that, I left him alone and set off to do my own stuff for the rest of the day.
Which was a miscalculation, because it wasn’t even two hours later that Maun came knocking on my bedroom door, holding up the paper I had given him to memorize. I was in the middle of mixing oils for a new perfume and reading books when I felt like stopping. I had left him knocking for two minutes or five before finally answering, irritated with how my long-awaited peace was broken.
“What?” I demanded.
I was tempted to throw a tantrum, but seeing that stupid smile on his face stopped me.
“You’re already done?” I asked.
He nodded and signed, “Yes.”
“Wow, you’re fast.”
Looks like I underestimated this guy. “Spell your name.”
He was a little clumsy, but he spelled his name just fine. There was hesitance and hesitation in his gestures which should improve over time. “M-A-U-N.”
“What about mine?”
He tried spelling it as well, but he got a few letters wrong—probably because he didn’t know how to spell my name at all.
“It’s E-V-Y-I-O-N-N-E,” I told him.
He signed it all flawlessly.
“In the future, just use Evy,” I said. “It’s a little mouthy, don’t you think?”
“Okay. I’m currently mixing some oils,” I stated. “I want to finish this one before anything. We probably might be called for lunch in a bit too.” I held the door, saw his clueless face, and shook my head. “Just come in.”
I left the door open for him. He hesitantly stepped in, looking around while scratching his head. I sank on the floor, kneeling before my floor table and resuming my work. It was a good thing I was taking notes this entire time so I was able to pick up right where I left.
I caught Maun brushing his nose and sniffing a couple of times. I couldn’t smell it because I had been in this room for a long time, but the scents might have grown overwhelming as I was working.
I looked over to my window and saw it open. I sighed again. “Ah…well…” I muttered. “I guess I’ll get some scolding later too.”
Nevertheless, I continued working and finally brewed a scent that I was satisfied with. To be quite honest, after spending a lot of time trying to recreate my past life’s mother’s perfumes, I finally had the guts to try brewing my own. This was a plain scent cocktail that could not stand on par with the ones I was previously brewing. The body, the fullness, and the harmonizing symphony was not there. This barely made the cut.
Disappointed, I sighed and moved to stand.
I caught Maun peeking over my shoulder and gasped in fright.
“Good dragons. I forgot you were there,” I muttered. “Dayum. At least make a little noise.”
He smiled sheepishly and pointed at the thing I was doing.
“I mix perfumed oils if that’s not already obvious,” I told him. I picked up the bottle I was working on and handed it to him. “It’s not a good mix, but indulge yourself.”
He leaned in to take a sniff and nodded enthusiastically.
“I don’t know what to take of that, but I’ll take it as a compliment.”
Knocks came on my door and my Mistress Lili’s head peeked through. “Evy, it’s time for lunch.” She saw Maun. “You come too, Maun.”
“Ah, you’re at it again,” Lili said. “Let’s leave the door open to air out your room.”