"When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years." ―Mark Twain
"Yes you can," Puss insisted, "Simply use your charm, the tailor's daughter's in charge if you charm her, you should be able to afford something decent," he explained. Jake looked appalled.
"I won't charm an innocent girl for free clothes!"
"Trust me, this Tailor's daughter could make a sailor blush," Puss corrected dryly, " But you've a pretty enough face and build that you should give her a run for her money--it's your only noteworthy trait," Jake blushed, how did his cat learn to say such weird and embarrassing things, and how did he even know rumors about the tailor's daughter anyway.
"Besides that, even with clothes, I'm a commoner, how will I get an invitation to the King's ball?!" Jake tried again.
"Actually, you're quite a close friend to the King,'' Puss said matter-of-factly, leaving Jake speechless,"That reminds me, as a return gift, the King gave us some wine, I went ahead and sold it so the amount should also help raise our total value." Jake's mouth dropped as the cat gave him 5 silver coins, never in his life had he held five silver coins at once, it was an amazing feeling. "So go on," Puss shooed him in, "Oh and if possible try to retain enough so I can get a hat, yes?" he said.
The discussion with the young tailor went surprisingly well, seems she always had admired Jake, and somehow he managed to get her to make a fine outfit, for only 4 silver coins, much to Puss' joy, it meant he could finally have his hat. Jake was a little less impressed, considering he had finally gotten his hands on 5 silver and in one go 4/5ths of it was gone, and all he had to show for it was one outfit, defeat, ladened his shoulders.
"Cheer up, Master," Puss chimed tilting his hat over his head slightly with his paw, "For my work is not done yet~" Jake sighed. Those last few months had been hard on him, he was a working hard at the farm, and then Puss was always talking stuff that didn't make sense, it hurt his head trying to understand why his cat would think, he, a miller's son, would be close friends with the king.
"So you said, I have an invite to the ball," Jake tried to understand what was going on in his strange cat's life.
"Yes, we have an invite to the ball," Puss said pointedly, "The king said it would be a shame if the dear Marquis of Carabas could not make it, after singlehandedly providing half of the delicacies present." Jake's jaw dropped, there were too many plot holes in that sentence that he missed. Who was the Marquis of where? What delicacies? And how did that relate to him? Puss sighed tiredly, and faced his master as if speaking to a child, "Remember this well, before you make a fool of us at the ball, you're the Marquis of Carabas, and you have graciously sent me to deliver to the king delicacies for the King's ball,two Saturdays from now. As such, he's asked me, your servant, to invite you to the ball for the courting of his daughter." Jake's mouth didn't close at all during the explanation, each word seemed more extravagant and unbelievable than the last. After a few moments passed, somehow he managed to get a few words out.
"So...I'm allowed to go into the castle...to court the Princess?" he asked.
"Yes," Puss agreed, "She has a pretty good impression of you, but I fear, when you meet it's up to you to wow her, there will be other suitors," but Jake wasn't listening anymore, a part of him that had given up hope of seeing his princess again, was now rejoicing, even if she hated him (which would suck) if he could just see her again, he figured it'd be worth even a thousand nights of hearing Puss nag and connive!
"Why do I get the feeling you're thinking something unbelievable and rude about me?" Puss asked dryly, to which Jake gave a genuine smile.
" You know I'm constantly amazed at how well you can understand me," Jake teased, Puss cringed back recognizing his words, and gave him a catty grin.
"Now that we understand each other, shall we prepare you for the ball?"
Since they didn't have any money, there was only one way to get to the King's ball and that was walking. Puss suggested they walk in his normal clothes and he'd change off when he was closer to the castle so they wouldn't look worn, there Puss rented a carriage, and since it only took them a few feet to the entrance it didn't cost more than a few shillings, which still hurt Jake's pocket considerably however, the prospect of seeing and maybe speaking to his princess again, made the painful thoughts go away almost as fast as they came. Puss was having a hard time reminding Jake of his position of a Noble by the time they reached the entryway, and his excitement was overflowing. He was dressed in a fancy dress shirt with golden buttons, his pants a dark red, and his hair looked messy yet elegant, he could pass for a prince any day. His impeccable bone structure helped make him look even more handsome, and the shirt did little to hide his muscular build underneath, needless to say, the second time he came to the castle, no one was ignoring him.
"Now, you look the part, Master, but ensure you act the part," Puss warned, sitting on his shoulder before hopping down. They reached the top of the stair case where Puss handed the soldier their invitation and the announcement was called.
"Presenting the Honorable Puss In Boots, and his Master the Marquis of Carabas!!"
"And master," Puss said as the two made their decent down the stairs, eyes on them as rumors of the Marquis had flown around the Royals level quite a bit, "Good Luck."
They reached the ground floor where nobles came over to greet them, Jake had never been so glad for Puss' "crash course of torture" that he endured for the past two weeks where he learnt all Puss could teach on Court etiquette and speech. The women flirted with him, but he had also learnt how to handle them...'like a gentleman' and by the time he made it to the middle of the room, there seemed to be an even larger crowd of people flocking to speak to him, some even presenting their daughters, although for him his eyes were on no-one but the Princess, who stood way too far off with her father by her side, seemingly oblivious to him.
"Master, just what are you doing?" Puss chastised, Jake pulled the fake smile he had mastered perfectly since his mother's passing, as he continued to greet people he did not know, who had apparently heard all about things he had never done. "The Princess is over there!" Puss continued to state the obvious.
"You know, contrary to popular belief, the Marquis is not as invincible as you make it seem, these people are bombarding me, there's no way I can leave, not to mention, I have never even met the princess, what could I possible say?!" Jake hissed back, ensuring no-one heard him complain to Puss. The people there all seemed to think extremely high of the Marquis as if he had slayed dragons for breakfast or something, yet he was barely even able to get the occasional egg. Puss hissed softly, jumping away, leaving him to continue the conversations he was quickly growing weary of, this had been the closest he's been to the princess in months, and he could barely see her from across the room. In a way it was even more depressing, like so close, yet so far.
"Sir Marquis," Puss said unnecessarily loud, with a bow, gaining the attention of the crowd surrounding him, "I believe we should greet the King and Princess now, as to not be rude." The ocean of people seemed to part for Puss and Jake exhaled.
"I do believe so as well," he said, trying not to make his relief evident, " I do hope you'll excuse me," he told the hoarders, who nodded in agreement, before he turned to go where he had been longing to go from the moment he got there, by the side of the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. He was only vaguely aware of the fact that Puss was trailing behind him, about less than a foot. They reached the king, who was currently engaged in conversation and they were both backing them, knots turned in Jake's stomach, this was the closest he'd ever been to her, what if she didn't like him, what if she could tell there wasn't a noble thing about him? What if? Before he could scare himself into running away there was a soft grunt, and he looked down to see a determined looking cat, and some knots undid, Puss got him this far the least he could do was not chicken out here.
"Your highness," Jake said, with practiced eloquence so that it rolled off his tongue, as if he'd been around royalty his entire life. The king turned and saw Jake bow slightly in front of him. Puss also bowed, deeper however, as now both the king and the Princess were facing them. A smile tinted Jake's lips, as he gave a slight bow to Princess Elena, "I am the Marquis Jake of Carabas, it is a pleasure, to finally meet you," he said, his eyes lingering on the face of the princess for a second longer before turning his attention to the king with all the effort he had. In those two seconds, he was having a hard time thinking pass how beautiful she was, she seemed a bit surprised from seeing him also, but even her surprise was miraculously beautiful.
"Ahha, you are the Marquis that I have had the pleasure of hearing so much about," the king said, a genuine smile crossing his face, he looked down briefly at Puss, who bowed slightly, then he looked back at the Marquis, "You have saved me a tremendous trouble, delivering us those delicacies, I greatly appreciate it," he continued.
"It was my pleasure to give, Your Majesty,"Jake continued smoothly, "Puss in Boots has been in your care quite often it seems, and you've treated him well," he easily pulled it away from the topic he knew little about and went back to his ever popular talking cat, as Puss suggested. Surprisingly, the king burst out laughing a deep jovial laugh.
"I say not, Marquis, certainly we have been in the care of Puss In Boots," he said, "My daughter, Princess Elena has become quite fond of him, "he said motioning to the princess, Jake took this moment to steal a quick glance at her, and smiled warmly again, only turning his attention back when the king spoke. Puss had warned him, win the father over first, do not lose your head thinking of his daughter, he recalled it quickly, that was one thing Puss badgered on about, and it was proving difficult, he wanted nothing more than to just gaze into her eyes until morning came, but yet, he would fight it, Puss knew what he was doing...he hoped. His eyes went back to the king quick enough, in time for him to continue, "Puss In Boots, thrilled us all with many tricks and acts, he said you asked him to show us after he had learnt a new one, "he laughed again, "Saying, it's hard work being a royal, they deserve something to laugh at, at some point," Jake managed to maintain his smile, thankful for his poker face, as he heard yet another unbelievable thing about his cat. Certainly, he had told Puss that, while they were talking once about the increase in taxes and how it meant he'd buy less food for Puss. Puss suggested, a bit upset, that they should spend less on jesters and the like and he had responded that they needed a laugh in their line of work. Although, he had said it a bit mockingly as he always did when he spoke with his cat, it wasn't meant to be repeated, and definitely not to the King.
"Yes, it can be hard, I'm glad that you enjoyed his performances though," Jake said, it was really all he could say, as far as performances went, he'd never really seen Puss do any unless you counted catching mice as a performance, although with the traps he set perhaps it was, nevertheless it was a topic Jake wasn't aware of. "So, what was your favorite performance, I had been meaning to ask," that was a lie, since up to the point he didn't even knew Puss performed, but...there was a bit of silence, and Puss warned to keep them engaged, they had to find him interesting or else the Marquis wouldn't be exciting anymore.
' No pressure,' Jake thought to himself as he tried to keep his face pleasant, despite he was thinking how all of these things could go wrong.
"I enjoyed the juggling act, the fact that Puss In Boots can juggle and flip about is frankly amazing," Elena put in, Jake's eyes left the king's instantly, her voice was way to distracting, forget what Puss said, there was something fundamentally wrong with trying to ignore this beauty.
"Yes, I must say that is one of my favorites as well," Jake responded quickly with a smirk on his face, "Although I fear calling him amazing, least it goes to my Puss In Boots head," he said lower, leaning in a bit so she could hear him. If Puss had spent half as much time with the royals as he had let on, then there was no way that side effect of Puss wouldn't show up, and she would understand. As expected the princess giggled softly, and Jake grinned feeling as if he won the lottery by making her laugh, his eyes traced down to the small cat on the ground who's expression said ,' I heard it all' but a small smirk seemed to suggest he was forgiven, because Jake had spoken to the princess.
"Perhaps, Puss In Boots is a bit...over confident, but he's definitely my favorite cat," Elena responded with a smile on her face, Jake mentally forced myself to pull back, before he did something stupid and lean in closer to the Princess of the Country and tried to kiss her.
"And mine as well," Jake said, standing completely erect now, still facing the princess.
"Oh, you have yet to meet my wife," the king put in, earning back Jake's attention, although, he was fighting it, in the end he changed his position so he look at both of at the same time, while the King signaled his queen to come over. A woman perhaps middle aged walked gracefully over to the group, wearing a long elegant, purple dress, and beautiful gold crown, she was almost as beautiful as her daughter. Puss bowed first deeply, but only by a millisecond, because Jake bowed also, ensuring he wouldn't mess up. She smiled across at him as well.
"And you?" she asked, her eyes darting to Puss, then him and then strangely enough her daughter.
"This is the Marquis of Carabas," King Thomas introduced proudly, a full smile on his face, Jake smiled politely at her,momentarily wondering about the strange name Puss had given him.
"My, my, I am honored to met you," the queen said, there was a mischievous twinkle in her eye, and her eyes flicked briefly to the side at her daughter, but Jake wasn't given the time to look also before she continued, "You're as handsome as Puss In Boots said," she mused, Jake could feel his cheeks tint slightly at the compliment, as they often did, but there was something about the mother of the woman you like saying it that made him feel ten times as embarrassed. It didn't help Puss always said his pretty face was his only strength.
"Thank you, Your Highness," Jake managed to get out, bowing slightly to hide his growing blush, it was definitely too embarrassing.
"My, would you like to be one of my daughter's suitors, you're so polite and handsome I'm sure she won't mind," she brazenly continued, and Jake could feel his hands fist attempting to make the pain sate his blush, "I definitely won't mind a cute guy like you as a son-in-law, imagine what my grand kids would look like," she mused.
"Mother~!" Jake heard Elena hiss softly from beside her father. The harshness in her tone seemed to help to reduce his blush, the fact she was so adamantly against him was definitely a blow. He looked up briefly from his bow, to see Elena her face a bright red, as she looked across at her mother in what he assumed was a glare mixed with surprise, mixed with...embarrassment? His eyes stayed on her for a moment, as she focused solely on her mother, then when their gazes met, her eyes widened and she turned her head to back him completely, leaving him blinking at the back of her hair, as her arms folded slightly over her chest.
There was soft mumble beside him, and Jake looked down to see his cat looking as if he was about to laugh, he didn't find it funny, in fact he wanted to be anywhere but there right now, so he could consider what all of this meant...man he wished he had more experience with women.
"Oh, Elena," her mother continued her undaunted pursuit, "Since the Marquis has been so kind to us, sending us delicacies and letting Puss In Boots entertain us, perhaps you should show him our prized garden," she suggested. Jake stood up straight again and looked briefly at Elena who's shoulders seem to slump at the thought, and couldn't help but feel bad that he gained that kind of response, he didn't want to force her to be with him if she didn't want to. It was supposed to be enough he got to see her, this was enough, he decided.
"You don't have to put yourself out like that," Jake responded, looking at her mother, yet speaking indirectly to her. He was pretty aware that she had stiffened slightly. "Your well wishes are enough for me," he said honestly, Elena's mother's eyes widened slightly, then went over to her daughter who still was not looking at us. The queen relaxed a bit and a small smile crossed her face.
"I see, then I shalln't force you, Mr. Marquis," she said, she was speaking to him, but there was again an indirect sense that Elena was the one being spoken to, even she noticed as she turned slightly back. Jake smiled politely back, giving a light bow.
"Are you sure?" Elena cut in mid bow, Jake froze and looked up at her, she was looking directly at him, and her hands were fist slightly around her dress, "I...I don't mind showing you, it's quite beautiful," she said, a soft blush rising to her face, Jake stared dumbly at her for a moment before Puss poked him with a claw, causing him to glance down at him quickly.
"If Princess Elena wishes, I'd be honored," he breathed out, looking back at her, her face tinting red again, and he was reminded of when he first saw her amidst the garden with the children.
"Well, then," a voice cut in, and Jake turned abruptly to the person that seemed to appear out of no-where, it took two blinks before he realized the voice came from the King, who was standing less than a foot from him, as he gawked openly at his daughter. Crap...Jake tried to pull a tight smile, only for the king to return it with mischievous almost dangerous eyes, and he could feel knots begin to form again.
"We'll let you kids go now to the gardens," the queen cut in. Elena nodded slightly, "But don't go too far in," she added earning another nod. The king's eyes stayed on Jake however.
"And I for certain hope we shall have a chance to talk after, Marquis," he said, it was friendly enough, but something in it sounded like a threat, 'Don't do anything to my daughter, or else this talk could go south.' Jake went with a nod.
"Of Course, Your Majesty," Jake said, as Elena started to walk off, signalling for him to follow. He was between two minds currently one was ecstatic he'd have time alone with Elena, the next, was terrified, because in that time, what if his secret came out, what if he incurred her father's wrath, what if he incurred hers? He wouldn't have Puss as a distraction now...
"It's this way," she said.