"OH, LOOK AT you," Petunia mocked, practically cackling as she hid behind her fan. "What's with that face, Lady Alyssa?"
"She must've been splashed dumb!" One of the girls that stood with Petunia exclaimed, giggling.
"It's Alice," Alice finally said through gritted teeth. Taking a deep breath, flashed Petunia yet another smile. This one, however, was filled with poison. "But I guess a bitch like you probably didn't learn how to pronounce in class so it's fine. At least my parents had more originality than to name me after a fucking flower."
When the colorful words spilled from Alice's lips, Petunia and her little gang of girls stopped laughing immediately. Their jaws dropped, eyes going as wide as saucers as they stared at Alice in disbelief. The general rule of thumb when fighting in the noble circle was always to hide daggers behind kind words. However, Alice had shattered that rule with just one sentence alone.
She didn't pull her punches one bit. Nor did she care to.
"You!" Petunia's exclamation was clogged in her throat. Her lips scrunched as though she had just bit into a lemon, fists clenched as she closed her fan in one swift movement. "How… How dare you!"
"You're just a nobody," another girl from the sidelines piped up. She scowled at Alice, wrinkles appearing on the bridge of her nose.
"Just a distant relative of the Ragans. And yet you act as though you're from the direct line!" Another backed up in disbelief. "Showing such an attitude, too. The nerve!"
"It's alright, Lady Petunia," the first girl tried to comfort Petunia, patting the back of her hand. "Peasants often use offensive words because that's all they own."
"Not when I have her tongue for it!" Petunia growled.
Seeing the girl practically leap forward, Alice thought quickly on her toes. She sidestepped the launching Petunia, casually swerving out of the way. Silently, Alice watched as Petunia's hands met with thin air. When the latter realized her mistake, it was far too late. She was already lunging forward, her body toppling over, pulled down by the marvelous work of gravity.
Petunia collapsed on the table of hors d'oeuvres, sending some plates flying into the air, the food soaring in all wild directions, and the table folding in on itself. The lady's weight, paired on with the heft of her ballgown, had been too much of an impact for the table to bear all of a sudden. It couldn't remain on all fours, falling to its side as Petunia went crashing down with it as well.
The other girls present all gasped in horror at the sight and the ballroom silenced itself. Everyone had their eyes on the girl on the floor, her dress splotched in all shades and colors now, and her hair in a mess. The most undisturbed one was Alice, who stared coldly at the lady who laid there in defeat.
"What is going on?" A voice asked.
Immediately, the crowd that had gathered to watch the disgraced lady parted like the red sea. Spade walked through, his back straight and eyebrows furrowed in all seriousness. Behind him was Dorian, looking equally as stoic.
Spade's eyes first went to Lady Petunia who was sprawled on the ground, severely embarrassed by otherwise unhurt. She had started to sob, tears trickling down her cheeks as she crawled onto all fours before sitting on the ground. Trails of black left marks on her face, most likely the great work of her mascara and eye makeup. Whatever beauty she wore on her face previously was all gone, now replaced with utter abhorrence.
"Your… Your Highness…" Petunia greeted in between sobs and hiccups. She wiped the back of her hand across her eyes to get rid of the tears, worsening the black streak even further. To the side, Alice suppressed a snort of laughter. "Lady Alice pushed me onto the table! You have to believe me!"
All at once, the previously silenced ballroom erupted into an onslaught of murmurs and whispers. Everyone cast dodgy looks at Alice, some sneering, others scowling as they shook their heads in disapproval.
Of course, why would they even stop to listen to Alice's side of the story?
Petunia's father was a well-known member among them while Alice came from an unknown background. The only backing she had was that of the Ragans, and even then, she was a mere distant relative that might not even have the blood of nobility. There was no doubt that they would choose to trust Petunia Devon.
"Lady Petunia, please get up," Spade calmly said instead, not replying to Petunia's accusations.
Petunia blinked once dazedly, as if struck with awe. She gazed upward at Spade's handsome face, reaching out her hand as though she thought Spade would help her to her feet. However, the next words of his only cast a bucket of cold water over her head, drenching her in disbelief.
"You're soiling the carpet."
That was it. Alice was no longer able to hold in her laughter. A tiny wheeze escaped her lips. She caught it quickly, expertly slapping her hands over her lips. However, the laughter that danced in her irises couldn't be missed. Spade, who had heard the sound Alice made, slowly spun over. Agonizingly slow, he made his way over before removing Alice's hand from her lips, holding it in his own palm.
"Are you hurt, little bird?" Spade asked affectionately.
His eyes scanned Alice's figure all over, examining her for any possible injuries. Then, his eyes fall on the red stain on Alice's dress, his eyebrows rising a little as he gestured to the wine spill.
"What happened? It's such a shame that the dress got soiled so quickly. I just got it for you," he remarked.
To some, Spade's words might have seemed like an offhanded comment. However, the subtle implications of the prince's words hadn't been missed by Petunia nor the crowd of nobles that hungrily watched the show.
Prince Spade was the one that had bought Alice her dress. She didn't just have the backing of the Ragans but also the support of the second prince of Gladiolum.
"Y-Y-Your Highness…" Petunia trailed off, staring in disbelief. In her state of shock, her hand was still poised in the air, unmoving other than the slight quiver due to growing fear. "W-What?…"
"I'm fine, Your Highness," Alice replied. "I—"
She hadn't a chance to even complete her sentence when Spade placed a finger on her lips in a bold show of endearment.
"Didn't I tell you to call me by my name?" He asked, ensuring that his words weren't just for the two of them. Everyone in the vicinity heard it loud and clear.
The word of royalty was indeed powerful. With such a show, Spade had won the crowd in Alice's favor using just two simple sentences. The tune the nobles now sang was very different from when Petunia first exclaimed her pitiful fate. All of a sudden, Alice was the victim and Petunia was the culprit that had started it all.
"So, how did you stain your dress?" Spade continued to press his question. His eyes darted, glaring at Petunia from the corner of his eye. He didn't even spare her the luxury of having him turn his head over. "Which vermin was it that dared touch you?"
"It was just an accident, I'm sure," Alice answered fairly. "Lady Petunia accidentally spilled some wine on me when she tripped on the snacks table." Then, she turned her attention to the lady who still sat on the floor, blur. "Isn't that right, Lady Petunia?"
With so many people staring, there was nothing Petunia could say. If she publicly disagreed with Spade, it would only mean she was declaring war against the royal family. Even if she was a candidate to be Prince Hartley's bride, it certainly won't spare her from judgment. In fact, it might even doom her chances even further.
Thus, she could only lower her head and her pride. Her fingers curled inward, hands tightening into fists as she gripped her soiled dress tightly. Her messy hair fell over her face, curtaining her defeated and dark expression.
She could only swallow her anger, submitting to her miserable fate. Through gritted teeth, she said, "Yes."
And there it became clear who exactly was the predator and who was the prey.
i have a new story up: [silver crowns]. do check it out and let me know your thoughts~