Arriving at the Imperial Palace, the Honeywell siblings followed the appointed knight to Alison's residency.
As the only daughter of the previous emperor and the sister of the current emperor, even if she'd become a marquise, Alison received an annex within the Imperial Palace for the duration of her stay.
The marquise' attendants waited patiently in front of the annex, taking over as Rose's guides to the annex.
“The marquise is currently resting in the parlor.”
With the guidance of the attendants, Rose reached the parlor to find Alison lazily lying down on a long couch, reading.
Hearing the sound of footsteps, Alison only raised her head and looked away from her book.
Alison watched as the upside-down Rose entered her field of vision.
“Ah! Welcome, Lady Honeywell.”
“Greetings, Marquise Rosenberg.”
“Call me Alison, not Marquise, will you? Come and sit with me.”
Lifting her upper body, Alison pointed to the couch across from her and signaled her attendants to serve tea once Rose was comfortably seated.
“At first, I was going to join you for a meal at lunch, but today I called Lady Honeywell early as I knew you'd look even more beautiful in the morning.”
Rose laughed nervously.
“Thank you, but I can't compare to Alison's look.
I'm just an ordinary person.”
Alison waved her hand in disgust at the flattery from Rose.
“Lady Honeywell, you should not use such flattery wherever you go, unless you want to feed others.”
“Feed? What would I feed?”
Unable to understand her meaning, Rose curiously asked the Marquise of Rosenberg for an elaboration.
Instead of answering, Alison sipped her tea.
Tilting her head, Rose felt frustration rising within her when the emperor's sister refused to tell her what she meant.
Blatantly, Alison changed the subject.
“Oops, I forgot to ask, but can I call you Rose?”
“Of course, Alison can do as you please.”
“Then I'll call you Rose.
After all, you will need to spend time with me, even if it's just for a little while.”
Closing the book in her hand, she placed it down.
“Rose, have you thought about it?”
“About the reasons for breaking the engagement, Duke Proud will not back down easily.”
“It is not that difficult, Rose.”
Alison crossed her arms and noticed Rose's face darkening.
After appreciating that darkened face, she brought out the curiosity she had hidden in a corner of her heart.
“Rose, I have a question.”
“Please speak freely.”
“When and how did you come to like Duke Proud?”
Rose immediately shut her mouth, refusing to answer, and the marquise, afraid of worsening the mood, spoke quickly.
“You don't have to tell me if you don't want to.
I know very well that Duke Proud is handsome.
“Isn't there at least one or two women who have a crush on him?”
Rumors circulated that Elliot was planning to hold an engagement ceremony with Rose, but despite those whispers, there were many women who were secretly in love with Elliot.
She trailed off when Rose appeared hesitant to speak.
“When I was younger, he'd helped me.”
It was love at first sight then, but the duke I met again didn't seem to remember me.
The emotions I felt then were so ecstatic and precious.
Maybe that's why I wanted to get closer to him somehow.”
Alison slapped her palm over her mouth, worried she'd accidentally exclaim and ruin the atmosphere.
“Duke Proud is really too much.
How can he treat you like that? I don't know much about your relationship, but I can't remember Rose with anyone else.”
They knew that someone like Rose, who remembered their brief meeting, would be the one who suffered in the end.
Allison clicked her tongue.
Seeing Alison's behavior, Rose smiles helplessly.
“I understand why he might not have remembered.
It was a very brief moment, and as it was evening, he might not have known that girl was me.”
“It was evening?”
Allison asked curiously, while Rose was lost in flashbacks of a distant past.
Tristan Founding Festival was held in the early summer when the evenings were dark but the streets of the capital were filled with people eagerly waiting for the upcoming fireworks display.
Young Rose lost her grip on Wells' hand and became lost.
He appeared while I was immobilized by anxiety as I was bumped into by people and left alone.
When he found her terrified and shedding tears, he readily gave up his back.
[TL/N: Gave her a piggyback ride.]
For the first time, she was carried on the back of a stranger, not the Duke of Honeywell or her brother, Wells.
Rose strangely found stability on his back.
He constantly spoke to Rose, fearing that she would become anxious.
Through the hustle and bustle of those around them, Rose could clearly hear his voice.
“Look at the sign of that store over there.
Doesn't the blue one always remind you of the sea?”
“I've never seen the sea.”
“What? You've never seen the sea?”
He was in a state of disbelief, and Rose was a bit embarrassed after witnessing his reaction and kept her mouth shut.
Carrying her on his back, she remained firm in her silence, causing the boy amusement as he comforted her.
“Then I'll definitely take you to the sea someday.
I'll show you around.”
Attracted by that kind tone, Rose reluctantly raised her head.
All she could see was the back of his head.
Then, a firework shot out into the sky, bursting into a brilliance of color, and the flame embroidered in the sky dyed his hair.
The bright blue hair in Rose's eyes, subtly embedded into the young girl's chest.
In fear of the afterimage of his leaving, she buried her face on his back and closed her eyes tightly.
Recalling the past, Rose's eyes moistened, and the marquise, watching from the other side, found it difficult to stay still because of her anxiety.
…Word of Rose's tears shouldn't reach Russell's ears!
Those tears in her red eyes brought about a similarity to precious gemstones.
Alison found herself asking about the memories of a man who has already given up on his heart's first and only love.
Allison wondered what would be the best way to get rid of Rose's sadness.
Rose jumped in surprise.
Will you assist me as I run my errands?”
“Are you running errands?”
The purple eyes, resembling Russell's, rolled and stared her down.
Diverting her gaze towards the book she'd discarded, Alison picked it up and held it out to Rose.
“I borrowed this from the Imperial Library.
Could you return it instead? While returning it, borrow a new book.
I've been terribly bored in the Imperial Palace.”
Rose accepted the book from Alison.
What book can I borrow?”
“I don't know.
What books have I not read?”
The only place where the young Alison, who was pushed out of the heir position early, could spend time in the Imperial Palace was the Imperial Library.
The Imperial Library, which she had frequented since childhood, became another parlor room and play area for her.
Allison wondered which of the many books in the vast imperial library she hadn't read.
“Hmm, I'm not sure.
Ask the librarian there for a new book and bring it.
If it was a book they brought in while I was away from the Imperial Palace, I may have missed it.”
If it's a new book, does the genre matter?”
“Yes, but I still have a lot of time to spend in the Imperial Palace.
By the time I go back to the Rosenberg Manor, I'll have finished reading that new book anyway.”
“Alright, then I will take my leave.”
“You can ask the knights for directions.”
Allison waved goodbye, and when she disappeared completely, the emperor's sister hurriedly rose from the couch.
Quickly, she rushed to pull out a sheet of paper from a nearby chest of drawers along with a pen.
The pen danced across the paper, scribbling out a message, before Alison put it in an envelope and folded it crudely without sealing it with a seal.
Carla, the Marquise of Rosenberg's personal attendant, dashed into the parlor in response to Alison's urgent cry.
“Marquise! Is there something wrong?”
She waved the letter.
Seeing the note pushed against her nose, Carla took a step back and accepted the note from her master.
“What is this?”
“I don't have time to explain.
Send this to His Majesty right now!”
“Ah, I see.
First, I'll prepare a proper envelope and a Rosenberg seal—“
I'm going to send it to the emperor anyway, but it's because I'm so insincere.
The attendant wanted to deliver it to His Highness immediately, but if she did, it would appear insincere.
[TL/N: Aristocrats pay a lot of attention to appearances, whether it's clothes, homes, or letters.
Letters would be written out on the best quality paper and sealed with their family crest.
Not doing so is frowned upon.]
Carla turned to prepare the envelope and seal it, but Allison stopped her.
“No, I don't have time for such nonsense.
Carla, listen carefully.
Give this to the fastest knight and tell them this: 'If it doesn't get to the Emperor within 10 minutes, Sir, the Marquise of Rosenberg will kill herself.'”
Allison's voice was so bleak, it made Carla's shoulders tremble.
Clinging to the note handed to her tightly with both hands, Carla hurriedly moved her body to find the fastest knight in the annex.
Looking at Carla's back as she ran away, Alison laid down on the sofa again, her expression refreshed.
“No, Your Majesty, I can assure you that no one on this continent will think of You more than I will.”
Allison laughed mischievously.
I want to see with my own eyes what kind of expression Russell will make and how he will react when he receives the note.
She suppressed the desire to run and watch the drama play out.
The emperor was busy with the preparations for the debutante ball.
Their meetings, which had been held every morning with the high-ranking aristocrats working for the Imperial Palace, seldom finished early.
As it happens every year, everyone seems accustomed to the lengthy meeting, and it was the same for Russell.
However, if the papers submitted to him were fewer, he might have enjoyed this meeting.
“Let's take a short break and continue discussing the debutante list and budget when we return.”
Russell needed to take a break.
Right after, several nobles warmed up and left the meeting room happily.
The emperor, leaning back comfortably in his chair, glanced at Wells, who was sitting in a slumped position.
…Did Rose get to the annex safely? Allison is also heartless.
Would she take Rose away without her even getting to say hello to me?
He wanted to ask Wells about Rose, but Russell could already predict how that would play out.
They heard a sound.
It was none other than Elliot Proud, whom Russell secretly overlooked as Elliot was busy checking the papers.
…Normally, during our breaks, he walks around the hallways, so why did he sit still today?
But since Rose would be at the Imperial Palace until the afternoon, there was always time for Russell to meet her later.
If things don't go well, why don't I visit her on the pretext that I'm having a chat with Alison?
Russell groaned softly.
Or would she like to have lunch together? Allison must have had lunch with Rose.
Would it be better to invite Rose to my palace?
There are many people in the palace, so it might be better for me to go to the annex myself.
Russell daydreamed of making plans to go directly to Alison's annex.
If only Wells could have taken a look into his thoughts, he might have pointed out that the emperor had an appointment for lunch.
Wells, however good he was as His Majesty's right-hand man, was not a subject with such eccentric abilities.
As Russell pondered lunch ideas, their short break was over, and the nobles who went out to get some fresh air came back and sat down.
Russell's plans for lunch were left behind, and the meeting commenced once more.
Around the time the topic of the debutante was being discussed again, a knight quietly entered the conference room.
Everyone gathered at the meeting knew how important it was if a letter was brought up during a meeting, thus, all eyes were focused on the letter in the knight's hand.
It was a fact that everyone in the room knew that the article would not come in unless it was a big deal, so many eyes were focused on the article.
The knight hurriedly passed it to Russell and left the conference room.
A crookedly folded note.
Russell paused the meeting and opened a note.
The fluttering handwriting was eye-catching; it made one wonder if the ink was dancing.
[Rose Honeywell! Imperial Library! now!]
Russell tilted his head and frowned, Alison's name was written on the edge of the note.
Immediately, the emperor put on a grave, serious face and slowly rose from his seat.
“Let's end today's meeting here.
Russell stormed out of the meeting room, not even taking a second glance at the nobles' reaction.
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