"Her Royal Highness is in charge of hosting the first ball of the season this year and he is an important guest to New Albion." His father was cleaning his monocle before wearing it and taking the papers his assistant handed him to read.
"'The first ball'?" Mattheus blinked and parroted. He was aware the "season" the Earl mentioned was basically the time when landed nobles came to the Capital after the harvest to socialize until winter was over. But he thought the season had already started, considering how busy Edgar had been the past week.
The assistant, a Sir Hugo Wenht, answered instead. "Considering Her Majesty is pregnant and Princess Bellaine is young, the Duchess is the natural choice to be hostess of the first royal ball of the season."
Sir Hugo misunderstood but he, nonetheless, cleared up Mattheus's confusion. Considering the foreign diplomat from Mithral and Edgar's mutterings during meals about alliances, he was getting the idea that it wasn't all parties and gossip during the social season.
And Mattheus was woefully unprepared, he thought self-deprecatingly. This kind of… politicking took a certain mindset. While he was always able to keep up with and understand politics and current events, he simply did not have it in him to be duplicitous.
Mattheus also felt a bit guilty, even if it had been the Original rather than himself that was a traitor, considering how everyone around him so easily gave information that not everyone would know. The Crowns clearly trusted the youngest child when they maybe shouldn't have.
Pushing the lingering guilt aside for the umpteenth time, the young man inquired about the ball, which seemed like a possible opportunity to speak to the Duchess.
After all, the quest was still to find and greet the woman.
(Maybe Brunilda would help him unscramble his chaotic thoughts about possessing Mattheus Crown and all it entailed.)
A bit later, the Crowns currently in the Capital were at the Earl's office in the residence. The issue was, of course, Mattheus's change of color and amnesia.
After Earl Crown had finished reading Baron Endlewood's report, the white-haired nobleman had abruptly started quizzing Mattheus. The questions, after a few of them were asked, were clearly to test the knowledge Mattheus Crown was purportedly supposed to know as the youngest Associate Professor in history.
Needless to say, after Mattheus failed to answer a majority of the questions, there was a tense silence.
The youngest Crown, quite frankly, felt like he was at the Dean's Office considering he and Edgar sat before Albert IV, with a large wooden desk between.
Edgar himself was, ironically enough, more nervous than Mattheus was. Once again, Mattheus thought Edgar was such a mother-hen that did not match with the dashing appearance.
"Sorry, Mattheus, maybe it's not such a good idea to attend the ball under current circumstances," Albert IV eventually said.
Edgar startled. "Ah?" The viscount turned to look at his younger brother. "Mattheus? You wanted to go to the royal ball?"
"Father, I have to disagree. Considering how I remembered who both Brother and Father were when I saw you two, it's obvious that visual cues jog my memory the most. I understand we need to keep my… condition discreet. But the best solution is for me to recover as fast as possible. What faster way to jog my memory of society than to attend the ball where everyone I should know about is attending?"
"And what if a peer of yours tries to engage you in conversation?" The earl tapped at the report set before him twice as emphasis.
Mattheus grit his teeth before recalling something. "I was able to cram enough knowledge about human biology and medical practices in a week to become a medical intern. I can memorize the theories and all the answers to your questions before the ball. As for practical applications… well, it's not even sure I can even do what I was previously capable of with my change of Color."
"The ball is in three days, Mattheus," Edgar informed with worry and concern.
The youngest Crown could only stubbornly jut his chin and give his father a look of determination.
There was a long moment of silence.
"Father…" Edgar started.
Albert IV raised his hand, silencing his eldest before he spoke. "I suppose Mattheus has a point that he is essentially starting from the beginning again by going from red to silver. If we take precautions, the benefit of regaining some memories would be worth the risk…"
"I can stay close to him, Father!" Edgar offered. "And this would be Mattheus's first royal ball as an adult, so I don't think there would be a large risk as long as he is careful."
"You have your own cadre to deal with," Albert harrumphed. "Mattheus, you should still at least study the basics the next few days. I'll send Hugo to you with some books to read. We will talk about your attendance when your mother arrives. She'll have a better idea about this."
"I understand, Father."
It was as good as it was going to get under current circumstances.
The impression of the elder Crown couple was strong enough to the remnants of this body that Mattheus got vague memories just from the mention of them from Edgar before.
Meeting his mother in person though, was a bit overwhelming. The vague idea of "a woman that reigned as a socialite" in no way encompassed Countess Crown.
She was a woman that could have been the queen consort. It resonated in his brain.
"Mother," he greeted after blinking out of the flash of phantom knowledge. "I hope the trip wasn't too tiring? Here, please rest your feet."
The bland expression on the beautiful, ageless face gave a slightly bemused look. "I've sat for most of the journey, my darling Mattheus," she responded primly though she did smile and sit where he gestured.
"Nonetheless, no matter how advanced the vehicle has become, I doubt it was comfortable sitting for a long period in the moving car, Mother. Vincent."
"Yes, sir," the valet replied as he started setting out some tea.
"Rose tea with honey," his mother observed as she brought out a fan and covered the lower half of her face. Only her eyes looked over the lace edges of the fan, focusing on Mattheus.
Mattheus only smiled. "The vitamins and sweetness of the honey will go a long way to help you recover from such a long trip in the car. And it is also Mother's favorite."
Honoria Crown tittered before snapping the fan close to reveal an interesting expression. The woman was smiling but experiencing a sense of disbelief.
"You certainly became more charming after losing your memories," she remarked.
The countess continued. "Though I wonder if it's because you're using all those etiquette lessons as a shield?"
His smile turned a bit strained while her gaze turned knowing as she reached over and added honey to her cup of tea.
"Do you dislike how I am now?" Mattheus asked, feeling a bit awkward, as Honoria took a sip of her tea.
"Oh! How could a mother ever dislike her child, Mattheus? You are my baby boy, I will always love you even if you might not remember certain things anymore."
"Mother…" He felt a bit embarrassed and a bit confused. That kind of unconditional maternal love was a bit of a foreign concept to Theo.
"I don't think there will be much of an issue to you attending the ball either. I just have to teach you how to misdirect the conversation so they never really notice the amnesia. Not that I think the secrecy will be all that necessary after a few weeks."
"I've been told you have been studying well? That I would be able to call you a Doctor soon?" the countess smiled teasingly.
"Once you're more stable and on your feet again, the amnesia would not matter anymore. We won't announce it, of course, but neither would we deny it." Honoria sniffed daintily, "Your memory loss is not shameful or an embarrassment, darling. I daresay the fact you are so proactive in learning new things and re-learning others is a matter to be proud of."
"I-it's not that amazing, Mother. I am just doing what I must."
She narrowed her eyes over her cup of tea, though she was clearly still amused. "Humble now too? How wonderful."
He supposed it was a good thing Countess Crown took over choosing what he'd wear to the ball without him asking. It left him to just tag along with the rest of the Crowns while trying to figure out what exactly to say to have Brunilda notice it was Theo inside the body of Mattheus Crown.
"—a nice girl and introduce her to us, Edgar?" Honoria Crown remarked.
"Mother," Edgar was exasperated. "I'm just twenty-four."
"Your father was not much older when we married," their mother immediately riposted.
"Illarion is the same age and he's also unmarried. And he's the head of his house!" Edgar argued, looking slightly harangued.
As Mattheus witnessed this low-volume squabble as they were introduced at the doors until the couple split up from their children, he was very glad he was now the youngest son rather than the oldest.
'I feel sorry for Edgar but please continue to be my shield from nagging. I will pray for you,' Mattheus thought in good humor.
He spotted Duchess Sophily without too much difficulty considering the opening speech. Now, how to—
"Are you okay, Mattheus?" Edgar asked.
"Yes. The flashes of memories don't actually hurt me, Brother."
"So you are remembering some things?"
"Mostly putting people's names to their faces." It was not a lot but also essential to keep this charade up. He sometimes also got random trivia, like Daria Blake cheats on her husband often or that Gregory Winston was deathly afraid of snakes.
The knowledge was, quite frankly, a confusing mess.
"Edgar, should we go with our parents to greet the honored hostess?"
"They are drifting closer to Duchess Sophily… Alright."
After replying that he was fine when Honoria asked, the Crowns moved toward the Duchess. She was in a much more extravagant and beautiful gown compared to what she wore at the Plaza but still had that rather elegant-looking blue cat near her if not in her arms.
The Crown couple greeted the Duchess and it was soon Edgar and Mattheus's turn.
He knew exactly what to say too. "Greetings to your—"
A shrill feminine scream from across the ballroom cut him off.