Heavy rains were followed by a drop in temperature. A few days of bitter winter cold passed before the weather began to warm up.
With the return of warm days during the winter, Russell made time in his schedule to fit in a long walk along the palace grounds.
Behind him, knights trailed as their emperor walked the familiar promenade of the Imperial Palace.
Deeper and deeper, Russell walked on as he occasionally greeted a few aristocrats who were out on a break from work.
From the corner of his eyes, Russell saw the silhouette of a familiar figure.
Excited, he ordered his knights to wait in their places as he went ahead and strode towards Duke Elliot Proud.
Hearing footsteps, Elliot turned towards the sound and greeted his emperor.
“I greet the Sun of the Tristan Empire.”
“Duke Proud seems to be enjoying a day out in the sun today.”
The two faced off on a bridge situated in the middle of a small lake.
As Russell neared the railing of the bridge, the Duke of Proud retreated a few steps back as if guarding His Majesty' back.
With his arms resting on the railing, the emperor cast a glance below.
The lake, which had been frozen until the day before, had melted overnight, and now it reflected the brilliant light of the sun.
Appreciating the warmth on his skin, Russell observed the duke beside him, who was unaware that although he appeared deep in thought at first glance, it wasn't hard to see that he worried the emperor was going to trouble him.
Russell tried to stop his lips from rising as he teased the duke.
“You're thinking an awful lot.”
Hurriedly, Elliot hid his expressions from his emperor.
“It is my business mindset, Your Majesty.
I was thinking about how to manage the knights.”
“Hmm, was it really your job that made you look so down?”
The emperor ignored Elliot and leaned against the railing.
“By the way, I've heard of an interesting story from the Duke of Honeywell this morning.
I wonder, is Duke Proud worrying over this?”
It all began earlier that day.
The emperor, who was sorting through a stack of papers, was startled as Wells burst into his office.
“Please allow me to cancel the engagement between Rose Honeywell and Elliot Proud!”
Isn't it already well known that Rose Honeywell was madly in love with Duke Proud? She even managed to get an engagement from him after a lot of effort.
What happened to the two of them?
Russell stiffly moved his shoulders and stared speechlessly at Wells.
“You usually don't treat Lady Honeywell well; I know that you aren't the type of person who'd be kind to others for no apparent reason.
Unfortunately, the person you want to marry is not the same as other women.”
Elliot, who had kept his silence, burst out into laughter.
“From now on, I'll treat her well.
Did the Honeywell Duke come to ask for the cancellation of the engagement? I will not agree, because…
Elliot's dark blue eyes met the amethyst eyes of the emperor.
Russell caught the emotion swimming in the duke's gaze.
“Because I need Rose.
I will postpone the engagement ceremony, but I will not cancel it.”
The emperor's eyes narrowed, and he sneered at Elliot's oppressive display of emotion.
“Then try to do well, Duke Proud.”
Russell backed away as Elliot bowed to the emperor's back; he refused to stay there for more than a moment.
As he stomped down the bridge, Russell couldn't shake the image of what he'd seen.
He's not possessive of Rose.
It's more like his possessiveness is toward everything the Honeywell name stands for.
It's power rather than its lady.
The emperor ran a hand over his face.
“He just has a use for Rose.
I know for a fact that he does not love her.”
He passed the patiently waiting knights and headed for the Imperial Palace.
He needed a plan; what reason could he give that would allow the aristocrats to agree to the breakup of Honeywell and Proud? He needed to come up with a suitable plan of action.
Elliot watched the emperor's back as he walked away with an undisturbed gait.
It wasn't until Russell left, accompanied by the knights, that he was able to retract his gaze.
“It seems I've said something strange to the emperor.”
Leisurely, Elliot left the bridge, his hand softly gliding across the railing.
The touch of cold against his warm fingertips was exceptionally pleasant, and Elliot enjoyed the quiet atmosphere.
A few steps later, the tall structure of the Imperial Palace came into his sight, and Elliot observed each and every tower carefully.
Walking down the path, it was as if Elliot couldn't take his eyes off the palace.
Looking under his well-polished shoes, he found a few broken leaves scattered about.
On one knee, Elliot bent and picked them up.
Remnants of what they once were after I stepped on them.
Their color had long faded, but a hint of the red they once were still remained.
Elliot imagined eyes that were more intensely red than the broken leaves in his palm.
Rose Honeywell, born in the month when roses are in full bloom.
The Honeywell's Rose.”
Elliot always thought that the name suited her eyes very well.
The leaves in his hands broke into tiny pieces light enough to fly away in the slight breeze, and Elliot strengthened his grip.
In his fist, the tiny pieces crumbled into nothing, and when he opened his palm, they scattered apart.
His expression was emotionless as he watched the debris get blown away by the wind.
“Rose, I need you, Rose of Honeywell.
You are a necessity.”
The production for the dress Ilya would wear for her debut began.
Sitting in the drawing room, both girls looked through samples of fabrics.
When I was at the Titonsser Manor, I never knew there would be so many fabrics I've never even seen.
Ilya continuously complimented and exclaimed as she inspected each piece.
She would then look to Rose, who sat quietly inspecting the fabric on her side.
I can't help but admire how carefully she's choosing.
Ilya put down the sample booklet in her hand.
“Lady Rose, I'm very curious about your debut.”
“Yes! What did you wear? Did Lady Rose also make her debut in the Imperial Palace?”
Rose was at a loss for words.
Ilya hadn't given her a chance to answer the question before she fired off the next.
“It was a plain ivory-style dress.
I'm not the type to prefer flashy wear.”
“Still! Lady Rose must have been the most beautiful woman amongst those who participated in the debutante ball.”
Rose shook her head.
“I didn't make my debut at the Imperial Palace.”
“When I turned fourteen, my brother allowed me to make my debut at the manor.”
Ilya looked at her in pure admiration.
The Honeywell Manor is so large that it wouldn't have been difficult to hold a debutante ball for only Lady Rose.
A lot of people must have attended.
Rose, whose attention was drawn to the fabrics once more, glanced at the excited Ilya.
“Why do you want to debut in the Imperial Palace, Lady Titonsser?”
“Hah? Our family does not have any connections in the capital, as we're barons.
Attending a debutante ball at the Imperial Palace would be a grand celebration for my family and attendants.”
“Yes, and I have gotten to come to the capital and meet all of you dazzling nobles.”
Throwing down the fabrics, Ilya covered her flushed cheeks in embarrassment.
Rose tilted her head; she had heard of that story before.
Was her trip to the capital for the purpose of getting married? Is Baron Titonsser using Ilya's marriage as a steppingstone to establish himself in the capital?
Rose's heart sank.
So, she approached Elliot for that in the past life? To become the duchess of the Proud family? She was with someone who already had a fiancé? …
Then, does that mean that Ilya wasn't being used?
Before her thoughts jumped to their own conclusions, Rose vigorously shook her head and laughed at the nonsense her traumatized mind created.
Elliot Proud being used by others? It would make sense that the two of them had fallen in love instead.
Rose laid the fabric swatch down.
“Lady Titonsser, how is a debutante ball at the Imperial Palace unique? A flashy dress is good, but sometimes it might not be enough.”
She smiled at the baron's daughter.
The young lady's eyes shined as she listened to Rose.
Let's keep Ilya by my side, whether the two fall in love or use each other…
Having her by my side will make it easier to figure it out.
In the name of helping Ilya prepare for her debut, Rose would monitor her every move.
But her plans were shattered that very evening when Wells returned from the palace.
A carriage crossed the drawbridge and entered the Imperial Palace.
The appearance of a carriage caused the knights on guard to swiftly take action.
Stopping at the carriage at the grand entrance of the palace, the leader of the Imperial Knights approached.
He bowed and greeted stiffly.
“Welcome, Marquise Rosenberg.”
The commander reached out and offered his hand, but the Marquise of Rosenberg refused his offer and got off the carriage herself.
Her winter dress followed, the skirt tumbling down the tread of the carriage.
“I don't need an escort; is His Majesty still working?”
“His Majesty is busy with the year-end preparations.”
“Ah, so he is busy.”
The Marquise was speechless.
Remaining silent, the commander waited for the Marquise to speak once more.
“Then I must see His Majesty.
This Lady Alison Rosenberg should visit His Majesty and let him have a moment of rest.”
The Marquise then laughed heartily and walked confidently towards the Imperial Palace, her ponytail swaying to a fro with each step.
The leader of the knights and the member of the corps watched, stunned, before hurriedly catching up as he secretly broke out in a sweat while he watched her head to the emperor's office with quick steps.
I know that you are not visiting His Majesty so that he may rest.
You are going to harass our poor Majesty, Marquise Rosenberg.
Alison Rosenberg, formally known as Alison Rosenberg, her original name was Alison Cullen Van Tristan.
She was the emperor's only sibling.
Ten years prior, Alison married the Marquis of Rosenberg at the age of twenty-two.
Women could also hold power in the Empire, and the supporters of Russell, in order to keep her in check, promoted her marriage with the Marquis.
There were some who felt sorry for Alison, who was sent to the Marquisate of Rosenberg as if she were being kicked out.
But the Marquise of Rosenberg and her husband, Kim, were unexpectedly pretty good despite their marriage of convenience.
She delegated all imperial authority to her seven-year-old younger brother and spent nine years as a madam in the Marquisate of Rosenberg.
Her husband, the Marquis of Rosenberg, died of pneumonia at the young age of 36.
As a widow, she inherited the title of Marquise at her husband's will, and as a marquise, Alison, who was helping Russell, sometimes came to the capital, like today.
The hallway leading to Russell's office.
Allison raised the corners of her mouth in a mischievous smile.
Did you hear that Duke Proud and the Rose of Honeywell will be engaged soon?
How is our poor Majesty getting along day by day? How could he allow the two of them to get engaged?
Allison's brisk walk soon turned into light running.
She wanted to meet Russell quickly and make fun of her poor brother, who was more miserable than an abandoned puppy.
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