"Are you nervous honey?" a calm voice spoke with concern.
Sophie glanced sideways at her father and gave a small hum of acknowledgement in reply. They were currently seated in a private luxury car and travelling towards the Royal Palace Complex where the banquet was to be held.
The duke had picked up his daughter in the evening and brought at least half a dozen dresses for his precious girl to try on.
Sophie had taken one look at the price tags on some of the outfits and nearly had a heart attack!
One common theme was that not one single outfit showed any part of her cleavage or excessive skin as in the words of her father,
"If any of those horny dogs dare to look at you in a funny way. you must let your old man know at once!"
Sophie gave a self-deprecating laugh as she knew that none of the upper level nobles would ever want to flirt with a hybrid even one with such a strong backing as her.
But she had to admit the transformation of her body often left her staring at mirrors with an almost transfixed expression. There was a lovely flaming red dress that made her look like an enchantress of sin that she decided to wear.
Cough cough.one could still hope! Although it was not exactly boys that her father needed to worry about
The trip should have only taken about two hours to arrive at the location of the main palace, but the security was extremely robust and even a duke had to clear several checkpoints to gain entry to the complex.
Gaia was several times larger than Earth and as the home planet of humanity, it was the obvious choice of residency for the royal family. The members who lived in the complex were those with the qualifications or the favour of the emperor.
The Royal Complex consisted of a large walled off zone which had a spectacular main palace where the emperor lived and numerous smaller side palaces where the harem and the children would reside.
They had finally arrived at the entrance to the main palace and her father kindly held her hand to help her step out of the vehicle without stumbling. Sophie was not the biggest fan of the high heels that she wore but it seemed to match the rest of her outfit.
She walked towards the palace at a casual pace and admired the design of the buildings. Even compared to the luxurious mansions of the noble residences in the capitol, the imperial palace stood out.
It was immensely huge and tall where one would have to crane their neck to see the top of the spires that jutted out towards the heavens.
The road leading to the palace was entirely paved with gold and beautiful sculptures of animals, monsters and beasts were sprinkled throughout the garden.
The banquet today was to be held in the king's audience chamber which was spacious enough to fill all the invited guests of both the lower and the upper nobility. This was for the older generation while the younger guests would be directed to one of the side palaces for another gathering.
Being slightly late did not seem to bother the Duke as he confidently walked pass the bowing guards while Sophie hurried behind him like a little shadow and entered a series of doors until they arrived at an enormous chamber.
There were two exquisitely crafted golden thrones with sculptures of dragons and phoenixes at their feet, but they remained conspicuously empty as the king and queen would not be making an appearance before later that night.
Several guests had already arrived and Sophie could feel curious stares burn into her when she accompanied her father into the room.
She felt that whispers would have broken out were it not for a casual release of qi from the duke that caused all the gossip to die down instantly.
No one wanted to get on the bad side of that madman.
A visibly nervous servant approached the father- daughter pair and offered his service to escort Sophie to the youth banquet. The chilling glare from the duke caused cold sweat to roll down the poor man's cheeks.
"Sophie. make sure to let all those boys know that your father is one of the most powerful men in the Federation," the duke warned his daughter once more.
"Bye dad! Have fun!" Sophie gave a small wave before she got the pleasure of receiving yet another lecture from her overprotective father, then followed the servant through a series of winding corridors.
"Announcing the entrance of Sophie Peterlor!"
Sophie heard a loud call before she entered a large room quite similar to the space that the older generation were using to host their banquet.
There was a flight of stairs leading down to the floor of the hall, so Sophie had to grit her teeth and carefully walk down while trying not to fall and make a fool of herself.
"That is the secret daughter of the duke?"
"It appears that the rumors are true. she is a hybrid"
"Why would she come to this gathering?"
The whispers were getting louder and louder which made Sophie feel like an animal on display at the zoo. She ignored the background noise and picked out a glass of wine before taking a few sips.
"Alright Sophie. you can do this! Just go out there and socialise," Sophie muttered some words of encouragement before approaching several groups of nobles.
"Greetings my name is Sophie Peterlor,"
"Umsorry we have some urgent matters to discuss."
"Good evening, how are you all enjoying this fine banquet?"
"Sorry. we don't want any trouble"
The responses ranged from slightly fearful to outright hostile which lead Sophie to feel utterly defeated. She tried to find some familiar faces from school, but the crowded banquet made it impossible to identify her classmates.
Wait there was Leona with some of the prestigious kids!
.... on second thought maybe she should just pretend not to see her.
Sophie sighed and then headed to the corner of the room and just took a few more sips of wine. It was a good spot to hang out as it was behind a pillar and everyone's attention soon shifted due to the announcements made by the attendant standing on the stairway.
"Introducing the princesses and princes of the glorious Gaia Dynasty!" a eunuch loudly called.
Sophie glanced up the stairs to see some ridiculously attractive young men and women walking down the stairs with grace and nobility. Each wore a golden amulet that shone with a glistening l.u.s.ter under the lights.
These were clearly young dragons and phoenixes who stood above the masses.
She had seen good looking people very often as genetic manipulation at birth ensured that all nobles and commoners with money were able to change the physique and facial features of their children.
But those princesses were seriously hot!
It would be at least two hundred years before the next successor to the dynasty would be selected so most nobles adopted a wait and see attitude to the potential candidates. This meant that the numerous royal children did not yield much political power.
The direct children from the l.u.s.tful current emperor numbered at least in the two hundred plus range while those of the side branches of the royal family greatly inflated the pool of talent that the future emperor could come from.
"Enter Princess Anthasias Sisrelis!"
"Enter Prince Nathan Sisrelis!"
"Enter Princess Cleopatra Sisrelis!"
There was a total of twenty children who would be entering the university entrance exam this year and Sophie briefly took note of their appearance before heading deeper off into the secluded corner to just relax.
She clutched the glass of wine in her hand and ruefully thought about how awful the night was going. It was not from a lack of trying to network and talk to these young nobles, but it clearly seemed that no one was interested in forming any sort of connection.
The royal children seemed to be extremely popular as small groups flocked to their sides hoping to befriend and bask in their glory.
One of the princes was wrapping his arms around several young girls who giggled gleefully as he wore an arrogant grin on his face.
"My fellow nobles must be truly foolish to pass up a chance to interact with the precious child of the Peterlor family. If they were truly wiseit would be a perfectly good chance to form a relationship with a future duchess," a cheerful voice came from behind Sophie's back.
Sophie turned around to see an unfamiliar girl approach her side with casual familiarity as if they were already acquaintances. The golden amulet of the royal family swayed from her neck which indicated her status as one of the princesses in attendance.
"So, do you want to gain the support of my house then?" Sophie teased with a gentle smile on her face.
"NoI just saw a beautiful girl standing alone in the corner and figured I would swoop in and make a move," came a reply with a seductive wink.
This was the first time that someone had flirted with Sophie in both her lifetimes, so she was a bit stunned at the sudden attention.
She took a second glance at the girl and realised that she was quite the heartthrob!
The girl seemed to be roughly sixteen or seventeen with a youthful face that brimmed with mischievousness and charm.
Her figure was slender with a pair of modest b.r.e.a.s.ts that were prominently displayed with long hair that flowed down her lower back in gentle waves.
She had no idea where this lively girl had come from but somehow her piercing green eyes seemed to be oddly familiar. Sophie quickly tried to recall ever interacting with this princess, but no memory seemed to surface.
"Have we ever met before?" Sophie asked hesitantly.
"Oh! Where are my manners!" the girl was startled and quickly backed away.
"Princess Cleopatra Sisrelis greets the heir to House Peterlor," she gave a short half bow of acknowledgment then resumed innocently smiling at Sophie.
"My friends just call me Princess Cleo."
Princess Cleo: My future wifey talked to me!!!
Sophie: ...Who the heck is this?!