I don't really know him
There was a horse race going on. One on which not just Lord Endymion would try his luck, but also her cousin Motoki.
Standing on the side with Reika, she had to admit, she was enjoying herself.
"Oh, Serena!" Reika started, when Lord Endymion saddled his horse. "Isn't he just gorgeous!"
Serena laughed, "I take it, Lady Reika, you are not talking about the horse, but it's rider."
Reika looked at her shocked, "Of course, Serena! Whom would I be talking about other than my Lord Endymion? He has such passion and he can be so fierce and brutal. And he is the best rider in the world!"
Serena sighed, knowing how devastated her cousin will be when he learns that still all her thoughts are for Lord Endymion.
"Do you not have to admit, Lady Reika, that my cousin, Motoki, is a fine rider himself?" she pressed. She had to push Reika a little, just to see her reaction.
Reika turned to Serena, "Serena, Lord Endymion is not just a fine rider, he is the best! And Motoki lacks the passion!"
Serena sighed again. "Believe me, my cousin can be quite passionate once his walls have broken down. And don't you think he is quite good looking?"
"Not as good looking as my Lord Endymion." Reika concluded. "But, Serena, if you fancy your cousin so much, why do you not marry him?"
"Because I don't love him." said Serena bluntly.
"And do you think you love my master?" a well known voice broke through to Serena.
"Mr. Knightley", Serena exclaimed, hugging the dog.
"Mister Knightley?" Reika asked, "His name is simply Knightley."
"But he prefers Mister Knightley." Serena stated as a matter of fact.
At that Reika turned to her with a question in her face, "And how would you know that?"
"Well," Serena shrugged, trying to figure out what to say, "I just know."
"You are weird, Serena." Reika concluded and turned her attention back to Lord Endymion.
Serena bent down and talked to Mr. Knightley, "What do you think, Mr. Knightley? Would my cousin Motoki not make a good match for Lady Reika?"
"Poor Motoki", Mr. Knightley woofed. It was obvious that he did not like Reika.
Petting his back, she turned her attention back to the race as well.
Unknown to her, this conversation was overheard by someone who was quite pleased to learn that Serena did not love her cousin and that she tried to bring Reika closer to him.
When evening came, the dinner guests came with it. But this time, Serena would be very surprised.
And to her astonishment, her cousin was there and his dinner companion was none other than Lady Reika, though she dreaded the thought of her own dinner companion.
But she should be surprised once more for Lord Endymion's mother did not get her way this night. Tonight, Lord Endymion made sure that it was Zoicite who was her dinner companion.
And Serena really enjoyed herself. She found Zoicite very entertaining, especially since he was a deep thinker and had more to talk about than just gambling.
Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw her cousin and Lady Reika. When Zoicite followed her gaze, he asked her what she thought.
"Oh, Sir, I am absolutely delighted to see that Lady Reika seems to give my cousin Motoki a chance. I would have hated to see him rejected twice within such a short amount of time."
"Twice? What do you mean?" Zoicite asked, interested.
So she told him how Motoki offered marriage to her in order to get out of her situation after her father's death.
"I am quite impressed, Miss Serena. Not many young women would have been as brave as you have been and rejected the offer of marriage in your situation." He complimented.
"Oh, believe me, Sir, I sometimes wonder if I've done the right thing. It would have been an easy way out and it would have cost my cousin his happiness. But when Reika was only going on about Lord Endymion I wondered if I really have done my cousin a favour. So you can understand why I am now even more pleased to see that Lady Reika seems to give my cousin a real chance."
Zoicite had to admit that Reika was quite obsessed with Lord Endymion. "Do you think he wants her?" He wanted to see Serena's reaction.
"I do not know of the affairs of Lord Endymion's heart." Serena answered honestly. "His reputation is quite alarming for any woman who seeks a faithful husband and he keeps her close. Whether he is interested in her or her body, I do not know."
Zoicite smiled at her wits. He liked her. She was clever and had a good humor. She knew how to answer a question. Yet he was a bit distraught that she would think that badly about him. "Don't you think you are a bit condemning, Miss Serena?"
"Sir, I am far from condemning him. But I do know very little about him myself. That is why at the moment I have to rely on other people's opinion about him, until he seeks to show himself to me."
To say that Zoicite was impressed was an understatement. He really was thinking now that it was fate that brought Serena in Lord Endymion's life. She would be just the person he needs, he thought. She was not just clever and bright, but also fair in her judgement and soft in her ways. Her heart was at the right spot and he could feel that she would be a support to him, if, like she said, he would choose to open up to her.
"Miss Serena, you do know I am a friend of Lord Endymion's, so I do hope that you do take my opinion into account as well. But I can promise you one thing. Whichever woman will be fortunate enough to become his wife, he will be a faithful husband to."
The seriousness and urgency in Zoicite's voice made Serena laugh.
"Sir, you do not have to persuade me, but rather his wife to be! He might be betrothed to me by gambling luck, but I'm certain he does not feel so in his heart."
"What makes you think so?" Zoicite wondered.
"Do you love someone, Zoicite?" Serena asked.
"Well, I love my sister, I suppose." he answered, not knowing what point she is getting to.
"Do you want to spend time with her?"
"Yes, of course!"
"Would you want to spend time with her, if you would not love her?"
"No, I would not." Zoicite understood Serena's thoughts. "So you think, Lord Endymion does not care for you because he does not spend more time with you?"
"In fact, the only time he spends with me is when he is accompanying me to this very room. To this day we rarely have spoken a word to each other. As he noticed once, I spent much more time with his dog Mr. Knightley." Serena said as a matter of fact and yet slightly amused about the fact how fond she was of Mr. Knightley.
Zoicite could not answer her and chose to change the topic, "Miss Serena, would you care for a dance?"
"Sir, while I was a passionate dancer back home, I have grown slightly weary of dancing in this society. I am afraid my feet would not be happy about any more men stumbling upon them." Serena felt comfortable enough with Zoicite to be her joking self and he had to admit that he quite enjoyed her wits.
"May I receive the chance to prove my own dancing skills to you?"
As Serena could see that he was quite excited about the idea of a dance, she gave in and did not regret it. Zoicite was indeed a very good dancer and leader. They flew across the dancefloor, both having a wonderful time.
Serena was quite pleased to see ever so often that her cousin and Reika seemed to have a wonderful time too. Only she did not spot Lord Endymion. But then again, neither did she spot his mother.
Unknown to them, Lord Endymion and his mother had quite a heated discussion going on.
"Mother, what do you think you are doing? Did you think I would not get to know of you selling Miss Serena off for the evenings?" It was clear that Lord Endymion was quite angry with his mother and he did not hide it.
"I don't know what your problem is, my son? Do not tell me, you are interested in her!" If so, she would have to do something about it.
But Lord Endymion knew not to let his mother know his feelings. "This is not about how I feel about Miss Serena. This is about the fact that you are selling off a child that is under my care! I am liable for what happens to her!"
"Well, then marry her off!" Simple solution.
"Mother! Your criminal activity is going way too far!" he warned her.
"And what do you want me to do? Stop? Where would I get all the money from? No, my son, I need Serena as an income! And you won't stop me!" she challenged.
"Yes, I will! There will be no more money for you and every company you deal with will be told not to list you as a customer anymore." Simple solution. Again.
"Oh no! You wouldn't!" she couldn't believe it. How dare he! "If you do that, I will tell the world that you are a trickster! If you ruin me, you ruin yourself!" This always worked!
"Don't you dare play that card on me. There will come a day, and it is very close, where this card will no longer work. I am close to going to the police myself!" He shot back. If he would take away the power she had over him, she could no longer control him.
"So, I tell you one last time, mother, do not ever again sell Miss Serena off to one of your customers!" And with that he stormed away leaving a very upset and angry mother behind.
In her irritation and frustration she pulled out a letter for yet another huge sum for Serena. Hastily she wrote back, inviting the person in question to the dinner party the day after.
To Lord Endymions frustration, he had to leave Pemberley the next morning for an urgent call to business. Little did he know that his mother might be involved. So he left two of his closest friends behind, to look after Serena.
"But be discreet. I do not wish my mother to learn of your presence here." Lord Endymion ordered Zoicite and Kunzite.
And so they watched Serena for the day. Or at least they tried to. There was one time, when they lost track of her and panicked. She suddenly disappeared. But later the day, they found her again. The relief was bigger than the curiosity where she went.
To their amazement they also found her wandering off to the kitchen. They wondered if she was hungry, only to find her having a good laugh with the chef and her maid Naru.
Serena was quite pleased with the progress the relationship between Naru and Umino was progressing. Both of them were not yet ready to face the consequences of making their relationship known. They wanted to wait and see what happened first. Somehow, everyone could feel it lingering in the air. Something was about to happen.
Her visit to Mr. Darcy was as lovely as it could be. She absolutely adored that old man. And it still was so good to talk openly and freely of the moon kingdom. Mr. Darcy still thought it the best thing in his life, to have found the moon princess. But he also was aware that he soon would have to reveal a secret of his very self.
But first, he wanted to know, "Have you gotten to know my son a bit better?"
That change of subject startled Serena. "I am afraid he is still avoiding me. What I have learned though is that his friends value him very much."
"Yes, they do." he agreed. "But what about you? Do you value my son?" Mr. Darcy looked intently at Serena.
"I don't know. I barely know him. Despite his reputation, I think he tries to make an effort in being nice to me. But I still would not say that I know him." Serena was honest with him.
"I see." he mused. "Do you still have patience left for him?"
Serena laughed at that. "Mr. Darcy, you seem to be quite frankly trying to bring your son and me closer together. I do fear you might fancy your son getting to know the Princess Serenity in place of Prince Endymion" Serena joked. Yet there was an underlying tone of a question. She could feel there was something more to Mr. Darcy's need to keep her mind open for his son.
Mr. Darcy laughed, "You caught me in flagranti, Miss Serena. I indeed hope to keep your mind open to my son."
"May I be told why?" she wondered.
Mr. Darcy looked at her amused, "Miss Serena, you are the best thing that happened to my son in the last years. Whenever we meet he talks about you more and more and ever more fondly. You are a wonderful, sweet and charming person and the beauty of it is that you don't even realise that yourself."
Serena was really touched by his words. She could feel them coming from the bottom of his heart.
"And, how, do you think, I would be able to have your lovely company around me, if you were to wander off to another man? All that would be left of you for me is my son's words about you. My dear child, please do not condemn me to this fate!" Mr. Darcy tried to sound dramatic, but he could not hide his amusement.
When dinner time finally arrived once more, there was no Lord Endymion waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs.
'He must be out today, then', Serena thought.
She had to admit to herself; she was looking forward to seeing him. Not seeing him at least for these few minutes brought her spirit down for she knew, neither would he be at dinner itself.
That truly sent some shivers down her spine. She was all alone with his mother.
Lately she discovered that she indeed felt safe with Lord Endymion around. He has never taken any advantage of her, nor has he forced her into meeting any men. If anything, he protected her from his mother and her men.
She even felt comfortable around his close friends, especially Zoicite. But with Lord Endymion gone, so would be his close friends. She would be alone. Mr. Knightley would not be allowed into the dining room and Mr. Darcy would most certainly not appear.
And right she was. This evening she was all on her own - with Caroline.