Arriving at Russell's office, the attendant announced to the knights guarding the door the arrival of Rose Honeywell.
The voice of their emperor penetrated through the door to those waiting outside, allowing them entrance.
As she entered, Rose nervously clenched her fingers around the small jar of ointment as if it were an amulet that could strengthen her courage.
Contrary to her worries that she might have come when the emperor was busy, Russell greeted her leisurely on the couch.
“I didn't expect that Lady Honeywell would come to see me in person.”
“I greet the Sun of the Tristan Empire.”
She bowed to Russell elegantly and politely and sat down on the couch to his right after the emperor inclined his head.
“I read the letter from Alison, she said that you have something to tell me.”
I don't know why, but it seems Alison made up her mind and sent me to Russell.
Rose, who was fiddling with the tin of ointment in her hand, bowed her head shamefully toward Russell.
“Please forgive me, Your Majesty.”
“Why? Did Lady Honeywell wrong me in any way?”
The gentle and benevolent Emperor of the Tristan Empire seemed to have forgotten about the accident in the library.
“Your Majesty was harmed because of me at the Imperial Library this morning, but I forgot about your wound because I was more concerned about my pain.”
Rose recited her mistakes as if confessing her greatest sins, jumped up from her seat, and bowed her back at a right angle.
Russell immediately put a stop to her submissive behavior.
“It's really okay, Lady Honeywell.
It wasn't even a very serious wound.
Did my injury bother you that much?”
His actions caused Rose to obey and choose to nod her head instead of answering.
Amused at her innocence, Russell bit the soft flesh of his inner cheek to keep from bursting into fits of laughter.
You don't have to keep feeling guilty, Lady Honeywell.
A wound like this is nothing compared to the occasional swordsmanship training.”
Somehow, an atmosphere was created to soothe the injured.
Russell, who had been trying to ease Rose's worries, saw her take out a jar and hold it out to him.
It was a small jar of ointment lying on the palm of an equally small hand.
“It is an excellent ointment for treating wounds.
It's a small wound, but I think it would be good to apply it.
His Majesty's body shouldn't get hurt easily.”
He chuckled happily.
I'll use it well.”
Russell reached for the jar of ointment.
It was handed to me by Rose herself.
I probably will never have the heart to use this treasure.
Wrapping his fingers around the jar, Russell tried to take it from her palm, but Rose didn't plan on loosening her grip any time soon.
It suddenly became a tug of war, where they both grabbed either side of the jar and didn't let go.
A look of bewilderment washed over Russell's face.
“Lady Honeywell? Isn't this what you're giving me?”
Finally, he noticed Rose's expression was different from usual.
It was difficult for him to comprehend her thoughts, which led to that red stain on her face.
“Or do you have anything else to say?”
Rose's body trembled for a moment, his intuition was spot on.
Russell released the ointment.
“If you have more to say, please speak freely.”
Patiently, he waited for Rose to speak.
If the person hesitating to speak in front of him now happened to be an aristocrat working for the Imperial Palace, the emperor would not have been able to wait even a few seconds before sharply retorting.
But how could I do the same to this young lady?
Russell was willing to wait, even if Rose made him wait all day.
Fortunately, Rose spoke after a brief hesitation.
“May I apply some ointment to Your Majesty's hand?”
Russell answered without hesitation, but it took him a while for his brain to process Rose's words.
…What did I just hear?
Russell wondered if he had heard it wrong.
What does Rose want to do to me?
He chided himself for not being able to tell the difference between reality.
It seemed that his desires were creating delusions in reality.
However, one look into Rose's eyes confirmed that he hadn't heard it wrong.
“…Lady Honeywell would personally…?”
Russell's voice croaked and questioned, his throat parched.
The emperor was stunned into silent disbelief.
“If you feel uncomfortable, you don't have to listen to my request.”
Perhaps misunderstanding Russell, who hadn't responded yet, Rose was quick to withdraw her words.
“No! Apply it! Lady Honeywell, herself, can do it.”
Russell held out the back of his hand to Rose.
The back of his hand had already been sterilized, and medicine had been applied after he'd returned, but Russell decided not to let Rose know he would carry the secret of his treatment to the grave.
“Then excuse me.”
Opening the lid of the ointment, Rose dabbed her finger on it and applied it gently over the back of Russell's hand.
She was extremely careful as she held his hand with one hand and applied ointment with the other.
The ointment quickly absorbed into the skin, without spreading or leaving a residue.
And Russell's time spent in drunken bliss was over all too soon.
It wasn't a big wound; it was just a few small scratches, so I didn't have to apply it too much.
Rose let go of his hand.
“You have my utmost gratitude, Lady Honeywell.”
“Not at all, Your Majesty, I have to thank you.”
Since she applied the ointment directly to Russell, Rose's business with him was over.
Now I just have to leave and go back home, but how is it that my body doesn't move as I want?
Rose, who had briefly enjoyed her time with her brother's best friend, struggled momentarily before her body obeyed her commands.
“I shall take my leave, I should return to the manor now.”
“Aren't you going back to the annex?”
“No, something happened in Alison's territory, so I was put off work.”
Then be careful on your way.
If we see each other tomorrow, let's have a chat.”
Rose nodded, bowed, and left the office.
Every step she took after leaving the office, she had to brace herself to keep from collapsing.
And as soon as she climbed into the carriage and closed the door, Rose plopped on the floor of the carriage without a second glance at the seats beside her.
Why is my heart beating like this?”
My heart beats so fast, the sound rings loudly in my ears.
She looked at her hand as the carriage began to move.
This is the hand that touched Russell.
Without even thinking about correcting her posture, Rose slumped down.
From then on, three times a week, Rose went to the Imperial Palace under the pretext of waiting on Alison.
[TL/N: Waiting on Alison – serving Alison as her head maid.]
On the other weekdays, she prepared for the debutante with Ilya at the mansion.
They said I should work in the Imperial Palace, but there was nothing particularly difficult about spending time with Alison.
Perhaps because she had to go back and forth frequently between the palace and the mansion, Rose felt that time passed quickly these days.
Sooner than she'd wished, the day that started it all finally came to be.
The mansions where those preparing to make their social debut were busy from morning to evening on this day, which also happened to be the day when the debutante ball was held in the Imperial Palace.
It was the same with Honeywell Manor.
Rose went to Ilya's room early in the morning and helped her prepare for her debut with the help of an attendant.
I even picked out a hair ornament that went well with the dress, and I personally put on the jewelry I bought for the day.
Ilya's preparations were finished only when the bright sun had set and darkened the sky.
She couldn't take her eyes off the mirror, stunned by her transformation.
Ilya, who had been spouting exclamations while looking at her reflection in the mirror, turned around with a sullen expression when she saw Rose reflected in the corner.
“Rose, are you really not going to the debutante ball with me?”
I'm only attending the year-end banquet this time.
I apologize because I can't go with you.
But obviously, the main character of today's debutante will definitely be Ilya.”
Ilya couldn't hide her disappointment but quickly returned to her bright personality.
“Yes, thank you.”
“Is Baron Titonsser coming to Honeywell Manor?”
“No, we decided to meet at the Imperial Palace.”
“You must miss your father, you haven't seen him in a long time.”
Her debut excited Ilya, but the smile on her face faded when she thought of Baron Titonsser, whom she'd met again after following Wells to the capital.
“I can't wait to see how my father will react when he sees me.”
“Baron Titonsser must be looking forward to seeing Ilya.
When he sees you at the debut, he'll say you're the most beautiful thing in the world.”
“I hope so!”
Listening to Ilya's courageous reply, Rose straightened her disheveled hem.
At the end of tidying up the stray creases, the butler announced that the carriage was ready, and Rose headed to the front door of the mansion with the baron's daughter.
Ilya climbed into the carriage and immediately opened the window to glance back at Rose.
“I will go now, Rose.”
“Yes, have a great time.
Brother is also attending the party today, so if something happens, you can find him.”
“Yes! I'll be sure to tell you how it was today after I go!”
The carriage with Ilya set off.
Rose waved her hand and saw her off, then turned around only after the carriage had completely left the mansion's gate.
It is cold in winter, especially on a foggy evening like today.
“I'm going to have dinner alone tonight.”
After Ilya came to the manor, there were many occasions when the three of them had dinner together: Wells, Ilya, and Rose.
There was only one more person, but the dining table had become much noisier, and Rose, who had gotten used to it in the past few weeks, was uncomfortable having to eat alone in a large dining room.
Upon entering the mansion, Anne approached her.
“Lady Rose, the chef said he'd prepare a meal today with the menu the Lady wants.”
Rose shook her head.
“Sorry, I have no plans for dinner tonight.”
“My lady, are you ill?”
“It's not like that.
Could you pack it up and take it to the library? I just want to read a book as I eat.”
“As you command.
Is there anything you would like to eat?”
“Anything will do.
I'll go first.”
Rose left Anne behind and headed to the library.
After dinner, only minimal lights were turned on in the manor, and the library was dark without a single light.
When she lit the lamp she had prepared in advance, the surroundings became brighter.
Rose relied on the light to step into the library.
“What do I read for today? Well, shall we look at the book that my brother ordered?”
Rose walked in the direction of Wells' private bookshelf.
The collection of books in the Honeywell Library was largely divided into three categories.
Wells' favorite book; Rose's favorite book; and other books.
Rose preferred books on nature or art, while Wells preferred books on history or languages.
As for books that the siblings did not enjoy, they were ignored, and Rose rarely went to Wells's bookshelf unless needed.
“My older brother even reads books related to ancient languages.
That's something I'd like to read…”
Raising the lantern higher, the Honeywell's Rose brought it closer to the bookshelf.
Rose examined Wells' books, which were crammed onto the shelf.
There are books with content that I don't usually come across, so just by looking at the title, I think it's interesting.
It's been a long time since I hung up a lantern, took out a book, and just read it.
Then, once done, take out another book, and so on.
Rose heard the library door open.
“Is that you, Anne?”
Anne appeared from the corner of the bookshelf.
Rose had wondered if she'd brought something convenient to eat, but Anne was empty-handed.
A guest has come.”
“A guest? For me?”
Rose narrowed her brows.
A guest visiting her at the manor on the day of the debut?
“Who has come?”
“Duke Proud came to visit.”
Rose's hand, which was holding the lantern, faltered.
She put it back on the hook.
“Say I'm not here—no, say I've fallen asleep.”
Anne appeared visibly restless.
She'd confessed that she'd stated she'd request permission from the lady in the library.
“Are you sure he came to see me?”
“Yes, the Duke asked for Lady Rose.”
“Does he have any business with me?”
“He didn't say anything like that.
He just asked if Lady Rose was here.
Uhh, if it's uncomfortable, should I tell them that you fell asleep?”
Rose felt sorry for Anne when she witnessed her lack of understanding.
Anne still doesn't know that I'm breaking off my engagement to Elliot.
Now that I have confirmed that the engagement ceremony has been postponed, I will have to tell Anne everything.
Rose lifted the lamp again with a sigh.
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