A Fleeting Moonlit Dream (4)
Had it not been for his swordsmanship class at the academy, Lorist would still be locked in the young mistress's room and drawing more designs for her. The mistress's two servants, after seeing a number of Lorist's drawings, changed their attitudes towards him immediately and were suddenly more attentive towards him, making sure he had everything he needed, much to Lorist's surprise.
While he was still there, he let the three women pick out 24 dresses and 8 party gowns out of the fifty or so designs he had drawn and spent an entire afternoon teaching them how to cut and sew. The women would then be working on the 32 sets of dresses for the time being. Lorist named the lineup the Autumn Goddess collection and planned to use that as the debut clothing lineup for the store.
Before he left, he also encouraged the women to use their imagination and make any amount of changes they wanted to the clothes as they saw fit when they were making them. Lorist explained that it would help prevent people accidentally wearing the same dress. For example, wouldn't it be extremely awkward to dress identically to another person in a ball?
"Every woman was a unique angelic being that had descended from the heavens and it is only fitting for them to each wear different, unique clothing to bring out fully their magnificence and beauty. Even if the base design for the clothes is similar, with small alterations here and there, each dress would still remain unique, understand?" Lorist proclaimed.
After Lorist had left, Miss Windsor noticed that her two handmaidens were stunned by the speech and a look of admiration could be seen in their eyes. Feeling a little elated and grumpy, the young mistress rebuked them, "What's wrong? Have your hearts been stolen by him?"
Suzy repeated the line to herself in a low voice, "Every woman was a unique angelic being that had descended from the heavens... What a great saying..."
Lina sighed and scratched her head in frustration, saying, "Young mistress, I know it's wrong to think so, but Master Locke looked so gentle and handsome when he said that just now. I believe that he's the kind of person that charms you more the longer you get to know him... You have really found a great boyfriend."
The young mistress sighed lightly and said, "It's a shame most men out there are only all talk and pales so much in comparison to him. We should start working harder too. These clothes will determine the future of the Windsor house."
"Yes, young mistress. We'll give it our all," said the two women, nodding.
After two days, Lorist paid them another visit and was surprised at what he saw. Have they turned into rabbits? Why are their eyes red and why do they look so pale? Upon questioning them, he discovered that they had been pulling all-nighters and have only slept as little as eight hours all this time and often neglected their meals. Although they were worn out, they only managed to produce four sets of clothes over three days and nights of hard work.
With a palm to his face Lorist said, "Silly girl, can't you hire someone to help you out? At this rate, you wouldn't even finish the Autumn Goddess collection when spring next year comes! How are we supposed to start the business?''
"Aren't we supposed to keep the designs secret?" the young mistress argued with much fatigue in her voice.
"Weren't you planning to rent part of your mansion out? Why don't you make that a small workshop and hire some skilled seamstresses across the neighborhood to do the sewing after you guys finish cutting out the parts of the clothes. For the most part, you only have to monitor and guide them. What's the point of earning any money if you'll end up too sick to spend it?"
Nodding, the young mistress agreed, let out a big yawn, and went upstairs to get some rest. At that moment, the two servants only had one thought in their minds: Wow, Master Locke is looking manlier than ever!
Having given his instructions, Lorist monitored their progress for a few more days and was satisfied with the current production rate of the clothing workshop. He then started to plan how he would decorate the two shopfronts on Rotary Street.
After a period of brainstorming, Lorist had drawn up a rough plan for the decorations. His only concern was the cost was a little high at roughly 60 gold Fordes. He subsequently broke into an argument with his girlfriend over the issue.
The young mistress believed that they shouldn't spend so much money on the decorations of the shop and that it only had to be clean and simple. "We're only selling clothes. There's no need to poke a hole in our wallets for useless decorations!" said the young mistress.
Lorist pressed on and said, "We can only raise the price of the clothes if we decorate the shop lavishly. We must show that the clothes at our store have been spared no expense and deserve every gold coin listed on the price tag! To do that, we must ensure that our store looks elegant and classy. Besides, the money spent on the decorations would be earned back easily after selling one or two sets of clothing."
Why doesn't she understand such a simple principle? Lorist was rather frustrated at her adamant refusal. After that, Lina secretly told him that the young mistress was seriously lacking in funds and only had about 10 gold coins left in their savings. She wasn't even sure how she would finance the clothing workshop as well as her household with the amount of savings she had left.
Suddenly coming to an understanding, Lorist merely nodded and left. After several hours, Lorist returned with a large bag and placed it on the table. Gently gazing at the young mistress, he said, "You could've just told me that you lacked the money. I'm your boyfriend for Sol's sake, there's no need to bear the burden by yourself. We should face issues like this together. These here are my savings, 160 gold coins. It should be more than enough to pay off the expenses of the clothes shop for two to three months."
Staring at the bag with her large, beautiful eyes, the girl leapt into Lorist's embrace and broke into tears of joy, tightly hugging Lorist as she cried.
Lorist lightly pat her on the back a few times. He understood that recently, she has been facing huge psychological stress ever since getting the news of her family's conundrum, was refused help from almost everyone she sought out and even contemplated suicide. After he had saved her, she started to see Lorist as a beacon of hope for her family and started dating him in hopes that he would participate and contribute to her family's resurgence.
While she was rather confident in the quality of the few clothes that they had produced, she was still worried about how to run the business. The extra money spent on hiring other workers only served to increase her anxieties and prompted her to be in a hurry to sell the clothes so that she will have enough money to keep the business going. Furthermore, she was hesitant to ask Lorist for help as she had dated him not out of true love but with the intention of using him to reclaim her family's dominion.
As her sobs intensified, she let out all the bottled feelings within. The two handmaidens could only watch as Lorist continued to calm her down. "Come on, stop crying. You'll start to look ugly when your eyes start swelling. What would I do with an ugly girlfriend?"
Breaking into a small chuckle, she slapped Lorist on the back and said, "Why you!", but continued to bury her face in Lorist's chest. Her crying slowly subsided and she fell asleep in the end.
From that day onwards, she asked Lorist to start calling her by her pet name, Wenna, as it was quite absurd for a boyfriend to have to refer to his girlfriend as 'young mistress' all the time. Lorist gladly did so as per her request.
Two months later, the newly renovated Windsor Apparels and Accessories started operation. However, within three days of its opening, it did not have even one customer. The reason was simple, the decorations and furnishings rivaled that of a palace's. Although the shopfront wasn't that big, it had four neatly-dressed Silver Swordsmen standing guard at the entrance. The goldcloud tiles on the doorstep only served to increase the store's imposingness and made most people subconsciously avoid the place.
Worried sick and not having any appetite, Wenna blamed Lorist for over-decorating the shop and causing the 32 sets of clothes in the Autumn Goddess collection to unsold. As she was about to break into another bout of tears, Lorist merely stretched lazily on his seat and said, "Calm down. It's just not time yet. We're not like other clothing shops. If we manage to sell even one set, we can last another month. We don't have to meet a daily quota like those other shops to even break even. The moment we get our first customer, our sales would instantly soar as well."
"Pfft, who would believe you..." grumbled Miss Wenna as she stared at the entrance with much anticipation.
On the fifth day, the one person came to check out the shop. It was the male owner from the jewel shop right opposite them. He has been quite curious about their clothing store ever since it opened, given that they even had four Silver Swordsmen guarding the place.
Having resisted his urge to find out more for a few days, he finally gave in to his curiosity. Upon reaching the entrance, the guards pointed at the sign on the entrance that said that men were not allowed to go in alone without being accompanied by a woman. Another line of words were written in gold below the first statement: This establishment serves high class ladies and the accompanying men are expected to behave gentlemanly at all times.
The man could only return to his store, annoyed. His wife was curious about his bad mood and asked him what had happened. He told her about how he was refused entry at the store and his wife offered to accompany him to the store later along with their daughter.
In the end, he managed to enter the store with his wife and daughter, but he regretted his decision immediately, as the two women in his family had already been entranced by the mystical dresses on the mannequins as well as the beautiful, reflective crystals on them that sparkled under the subtle illumination of candlelight.
"Oh blessed be the heavens... What a gorgeous dress..." mused the man's wife.
"I really want to own this... It's like it came right out of my dreams... It has to become mine..." said the daughter with clouded eyes, unable to see anything else but the glory of the dresses on display.
Gingerly, the jewel shop owner took a peek at the price tag of the clothes and it made him shiver in fear. Since when have dresses cost a dozen of gold coins? And gold Fordes at that?
He looked back at his wife and noticed her standing by a mannequin wearing a black velvet dress that was accessorized by crystals with a glow that rivaled that of the stars in the sky, exuding a mysterious aura of majesty. The dress, priced at 188 gold Fordes, snapped the boss out of his bafflement and prompted him to pull his wife out of the store.
However, his wife's feet seemed to have taken root on the ground and didn't budge no matter what he did. Pointing at the price tag and desperately trying to snap her out of it, he pulled on her arm and said that they couldn't afford it, only to have his hand shaken off as his wife said, "I can afford it with my own personal savings."
At this moment, a voice that sounded like an angelic hymn rang out beside the jeweller's ear. "I'm sorry, respected customers, this gown, 'The Chant of the Night', can only be purchased by those with noble titles."
Elated, the man quickly dragged his wife away from that dress and for the first time in his life, he thanked the existence of the nobles who had helped saved him 188 gold Fordes, which would usually take him an entire year to save up.
But his happiness was short-lived as his wife and daughter ended up spending up to 60 gold Fordes on some other clothes in the store. The man did not understand why a piece of female casual wear would cost more than one gold coin in this store. In other common clothing stores, that kind of money could easily get them more than ten pieces of the same thing. But he understood from the fervid eyes of his wife that should he stop her from buying anything, he would be spending the whole night kneeling by the bed instead of sleeping in it.
Though, the visit to the store had not been a total disaster. Having made a purchase of more than 60 gold Fordes, the whole family was invited to the second floor for tea and pastries as the tailors made special adjustments to the clothes so that they would better fit their new owners. The man, sitting on a comfortable, luxurious sofa, was rather pleased with the service the store had provided.
Three days later, the jeweler brought his wife and daughter to attend a banquet organized by a merchant guild and noticed that they had become the center of attention of the banquet. Like a majestic empress and a gorgeous princess, donning their awe-inspiring night gowns, they attracted the attention of countless people and became the main focus of the partygoers. The jeweler suddenly felt that the money spent on the dresses wasn't such a bad investment after all.
From that day onwards, luxurious carriages visited the store one after another, sending countless ladies of all ages flooding into the store. With the boutique being overcrowded, Lorist had to politely refuse entry to the accompanying men and set up some tables outside the store so that they may have some tea there while they waited. It wasn't an uncommon sight to see noblemen having tea under the sun at Rotary Street in the following days.
At the end of the month, Miss Wenna stared with her mouth agape at the pile of gold coins on the table. "That's our profit for this month!?"
Lina said in a restless tone, "Yes, my mistress, it's already my seventh time answering that question. For the last time, all the 3083 gold Fordes on the table is our profit for this month!"
Jumping in joy and leaping into the arms of Lorist, who was gently smiling at them nearby, she gave him a kiss and said unceasingly, "Thank you... thank you Lorist..."
"Ouch, that hurts! Silly girl, you're biting me, not kissing! Wait, don't tell me this is your first time kissing someone? Let me show you the ropes then..."
The two of them started to make out without giving any heed to anyone else.
"Oh, how embarrassing..." said Lina, as she shielded her eyes and stared at the two lovebirds through the gap of her fingers.
 As the top god of the Grindia Pantheon is Singwa, the solar god of light and war, characters often swear in his name. Sol is also latin for the sun.