The group of women closest to the door could see into the room and gaze upon the princes, something that excited many of them as they eagerly waited to be let in. Some were even almost jumping up and down with excitement, especially as they watched Layla leave Wulfric. Saiya was currently at the front of the group and she simply observed everything around her, watching Layla leave and wondering when they would be let in. For the first few minutes she waited patiently, but after being made to stand there and just stare at the empty chair in front of Wulfric, she decided to take a chance. Before she could be stopped, she slipped into the room and confidently began to head in Wulfric’s direction. There were some gasps of shock and confusion, but she was in front of the crown prince before anyone could stop her. This was something she found interesting and concerning.“Apologies for the sudden intrusion, Your Royal Highness, but it did not seem like they were about to allow the next group in any time soon and I found that quite inefficient as there were hundreds of women waiting to meet you. So I decided to take initiative in order to not waste any of your valuable time.”
Saiya said as she dipped low into a curtsy. As she stood back up straight, her eyes met Wulfric’s and she gave him a warm smile. “I am Lady Saiya Ansari, adopted daughter of the Grand Vizier.”
She introduced herself before glancing at the chair. “May I take a seat?”
Wulfric had taken a few moments to think what the possible reasons for Layla’s short distraction during their conversation might have been. During his own moment of inattention, there was a disturbance in the crowds. Wulfric zeroed in on the cause of it, and saw Lady Saiya make her way up to him. No one thought to stop her, or to advise her to wait her turn – just as no one had thought to disarm that foreign warrior who’d entered as well armed as if he were aiming to battle. Really, it was enough to give anyone a complex about security.
As the prince tracked her with his gaze, he saw what his brother had meant when he’d said her movements betrayed her proficiency. Though her gait was more akin to a dancer’s, one would be a fool to believe that that was all she was. It was quite subtle, but yes, he could
see her as a fighter. Granted, he might not have noticed that in her short walk towards him had Auguste not pointed it out. She did not carry any weapons openly, but that did not foreclose the possibility of her having any that were hidden. Wulfric was neither bothered nor concerned, but it was one more mark in favour of him getting into the habit of always
Regardless of his thoughts, he offered Saiya one of his patented smiles, and briefly stood up to give her a crisp bow. “Well, I do appreciate efficiency,”
he said, amusement creeping in, though the statement was truthful. Adjusting his tone to one that was more appropriate for a polite conversation with a stranger, he added, “Knowing when to take initiative is admirable, too.”
He glanced at the sour or scandalized expressions of those gathered behind her before returning his gaze to the lady in front of him. “Especially when you do so despite being surrounded by such a…competitive bunch, shall we say.”
He chose a neutral phrase, because he was certain Saiya wouldn’t enjoy it if he likened the women there to rabid dogs. Unkind, and unfair to some of them? Admittedly. Nonetheless, it was an accurate comparison. Yet one which was to be kept in the strict privacy of his mind.
At her introduction, and following question, Wulfric nodded. “Welcome, Lady Saiya, and please do take a seat.”
He had not known she was adopted by the Vizier, but merely made note of the information without reacting to it in any way. “We did not have the chance to converse yesterday, but my brother did in fact mention you to me. It seems you’ve left an impression.”
The light tantalization in his sentence was purposeful, and he watched how she responded to that tid-bit.
After a brief glance over her shoulder at the annoyed crowd of women, Saiya took a seat and gave Wulfric her full attention. “I do suppose I may have painted a bit of a target on my back.”
She said with a soft, amused laugh. She had little worry over that, however, as she had a feeling that many of those women back there were truly little threat to her. She smoothed her skirt out as she listened to him speak, a slight moment of surprise hitting her as he mentioned the impression she left with Auguste. “It’s good to know our little dance left an impression.”
She met his gaze with a coy grin.“And now you have a chance to deepen that impression,”
Wulfric smirked.“You know, this little event is quite interesting and unusual. Is this something that you do often?”
There was a curious tone to her words.“If by ‘this’ you mean meet and greet events, or those whose aim is for my brothers and I to consider potential marriage prospects…Then there are indeed many,”
he replied neutrally, though he was curious why she
was. “However, one exactly like this one? There has not been one before.”
Tilting his head, he decided to prompt, “Why? Is it truly so unusual compared to social events you hold in Genasea?”“If there were merely noblewomen here to meet with you I would say it wasn’t quite unusual, however…”
Saiya paused as she briefly glanced over at the young woman rushing away from the youngest prince, dropping onions as she went. Her brow furrowed in a bit of confusion for a moment, finding the scene odd and slightly humorous. “It seems the invitation is also extended to the common folk and that is what I find unusual.”
Her attention turned back to Wulfric, a genuine smile on her lips now. “It is also admirable as I find it wise to get to know those you are to care for as a ruler. Doing so helps to keep the peace and makes for an admired and loved king.”
She explained, fully aware that who she spoke with was the crowned prince.
A clatter interrupted their conversation, and Wulfric turned his head much as Saiya had. Apparently, the girl with heterochromia was suffering from an affliction much worse; clumsiness. Clearly, she was a peasant. However, the dress she had somehow
managed to procure was passable. Which was the only reason Edin hadn’t thrown her out initially. After this blunder of hers, though…
Ah, and there the girl went dropping onions now. No doubt Callum found this charming.
Having seen enough, the prince returned his regard to Saiya. “This was announced in the newspaper, after all,”
he commented. He raised a brow at her following comments and demeanour. If she believed the inclusion of peasants was intentional, she had obviously not been there to see how the king had dismissed out of hand two such lessers. Alternatively, she had, and was giving her critique with exceptional subtleness.
Either way, her opinions on rulership were certainly closer to those Zarai or Auguste (…and probably Callum) would espouse. And she wished to gauge his
. “It makes for good publicity, at the very least.”
Privately, he thought that his father had a way of turning what could be ‘good’ into…something less so.“But I do believe there are better ways of caring,”
Wulfric didn’t bother hiding that he had issues with that phrasing. Certainly, a ruler had to care for their nation and its people, but if caring
was all that one was…It brought with it a host of issues. Such as having one’s authority diminished, having that kindness (or leniency) taken advantage of, or being entirely helpless when faced with difficult, harsh decisions.“Too, I doubt I will learn of people’s desires within this one hour something I do not already know.”
He took in the group of hopefuls, so full of dreams and fantasies. Some had ambitions more plausible, others quite possibly realistic goals. Individual differences aside, they were all united in one thing: There was something they wished to gain. Wulfric mused that if not that, it was fear of losing what they had which was the driving force behind human behavior. Then, there were those driven to desperation because they believed they had nothing to gain nor anything to lose. The latter group…in some ways, those could be the most dangerous. For their sheer unpredictability, if nothing else.
Quite soon, he was once again meeting Saiya’s eyes. “Though, as one of my teachers used to say: Every day is a day to learn…and one can learn even – or especially – from the most unexpected of sources.”
Half smiling, he deigned to offer a slight concession to her point.
There was one particular thing that Wulfric said which really stuck out to Saiya. It was good publicity, at least. So, appearances were important to him, this wasn’t anything to fault him over as appearances should be important…to a point. In the short time of speaking with him she had worked out a few things. First, he certainly was different from his father and seemed to take after his mother. She could see positives and negatives in this, but it wasn’t anything alarming to her. At very least, he would likely be a better king than Edin. What kind of kingdom would Edin leave him, though? Just from the brief observation she’d made of Wulfric’s father, if he remained king for much longer, Wulfric may be left with a kingdom on the verge of rebellion. Would he be able to quell that ire? Either way, one thing she’d learned from her own father is that no matter what kind of ruler you are, there will always be people that disagree with you and think they could do better.
Her second observation, Wulfric would go for the best match that would boost the appearance of his kingdom. Love was rarely in the cards for nobles and royals and it seemed the crown prince had accepted this. She had a feeling he would observe all of the top matches of this season and would choose the match that would best compliment the way he wished to rule. Wulfric was truly playing a game of chess and he was good at it. It was something she could admire, but it also made her sad that it was something he seemed to feel he had to do. Either way, she didn’t sense any ill intent from him towards Alidasht. He was simply playing the game he was born into.“There certainly are many ways of caring and all have their merits and downfalls. You may not learn anything from them with this event, but they in turn may learn something from you.”
Saiya’s voice was soft, kind, and was full of a genuine friendliness as she spoke these words. “You seem to have a good head on your shoulders, Wulfric. While we’ve only spoken for a few minutes now, you’ve managed to make quite an impression on me. I get the sense you’re going to do well as king one day.”
She knew she was being bold by using only his name and no titles, but she felt it appropriate for the moment. He seemed to be a bit different from his brother Auguste, but there was something about him that Saiya found charming. Like with Auguste, she hoped they would have more opportunities to talk over the season.
Wulfric inclined his head when Saiya spoke of merits and demerits, as it was reasonable. He thought it somewhat strange when she said that others may learn something from
him rather than of
him. But it was in line with what he had sensed of her preferences; namely, that she appreciated a personal, one-on-one approach. He raised a brow at her using his given name, but didn’t rebuke her. Nor did he care a whit what she or anyone else thought about what he would be like as a ruler. In fact, he tended to be dismissive of such evaluations at best.
In the back of his mind, an uncharitable thought of Just who does she think–?
susurrated, but he suppressed it. She was, in fact, a member of the royal family. Besides, he could recognize a compliment for what it was, and accept it as such. So, he gave a dignified nod, and simply said, “Thank you.”
Unlike Hendrix, he felt like rather than trying to earn his favour, she was acknowledging him as a future ally. For that, he could muster some genuine appreciation. Thus, he reciprocated with, “You also strike me as very sensible.”
His smile held barely any warmth, but it was enough to lend credence to his words.“Well, I’m sure there’s many others here that wish to have your attention and swoon over you, so I shall let them have their moment. Thank you for this, Your Highness. I truly enjoyed myself and hope we get to have more conversations in the future.”
She said as she began to get up, dipping into a low curtsy, and giving him one more smile before leaving his table.“It was enjoyable for me as well.”
Unexpectedly, he had
been engaged, no matter that it was a brief chat. “I am sure we will have the chance to converse in the future,”
Wulfric replied. He supposed he would not mind speaking with her again. Perhaps, he was
impressed, if reluctantly so. He gave a respectful nod in her direction as she stood up. Then, his table was once again vacated.