“This is tiring.”
Russell muttered to himself and slumped onto the couch.
I haven't been able to sleep properly for the past few days because of work.
I couldn't sleep until dawn yesterday, and I get drowsy when I'm not careful.
Russell covered his eyes with his arm.
“You're not a child anymore, and yet you still can't sleep.”
He knew the reason for his lack of sleep.
It wasn't the endless hours spent working, nor was it due to his mischievous sister, who practically lived to play pranks and tease her little brother.
Yes, this sleep deprivation came about after I sent word for Rose to come to the Imperial Palace.
He couldn't sleep as he was thrilled to be meeting Rose the next day.
He removed his arm and frustratedly wiped the exhaustion from his eyes.
“I called for her because of the breakup, that's it.”
Russell mumbled under his breath and regained control; he would soon see Rose before him, babbling away right in front of his eyes.
How mesmerizing would that be.
“I'm at work.
I'm at work.”
After a brief break taken to hypnotize himself, Russell was finally aware of the chaos unleashed outside, in the parlor.
The echo of a loud voice and the sounds of scuffling were enough to turn the emperor's mood sour.
Rage darkening his face, Russell stormed to the door.
“Who dares make a fuss in the Imperial Palace without fear?”
Rose will be here soon, but you dare make a fuss now.
Having not slept well, Russell marched and threw open the door, the sound jarring on his nerves.
He hoped he'd heard wrong, but when the door opened, his suspicions were confirmed.
The owner of all the shouting and fussing was Alison Rosenberg.
The second his sister entered his sight, Russell decided that he had to quickly send her out.
If she gets to Rose before I do, who knows what she'll cook up.
“Just go back to your quarters.
I have guests arriving soon.”
“Ahh! You mean Lady Rose Honeywell?”
Even though you know the answer, why'd you ask? Alison must have been born earlier than me just to make fun of me all the time.
Russell closed his eyes and answered honestly.
“Yes, so Marquise, quickly return to your-“
He abruptly cut himself off.
There was someone there with them.
Someone other than Alison and the knights.
Perhaps, with his instinctive urge to remove his sister from the area, he had subconsciously overlooked their presence.
Eyes opening, Russell met the gaze of Rose Honeywell.
She stood behind his sister, her red eyes widening like those of a startled rabbit.
Facing that red stare, the emperor was suddenly at a loss for words.
Time stood still as Russell's brain registered the situation and snapped him out of his daze.
Did I say something strange just now? Was Rose terribly annoyed with Alison?
No matter how hard the emperor thought back, he couldn't recall the words he spoke before he saw Rose.
He met his sister's gaze.
From the slight amused crease of her eyes, he knew she was the one who'd brought Rose to the office.
Schooling his features, Russell opened the door to his office with a stiff, gentlemanly smile.
“Come in, Lady Honeywell.”
Once they were situated in the drawing room and away from the commotion, Rose greeted the emperor.
“I greet the Sun of the Tristan Empire, Emperor Russell Whittle van Tristan.”
“Greetings, Lady Honeywell, please have a seat.”
The emperor gestured towards the empty seat.
We're not moving.
“Your Majesty, I will also take a seat.”
Alison Rosenberg had no problem walking to the seat and sitting down before her brother could either lock her out or chase her away.
Rose didn't know what to do when she saw Alison, who, no matter how old she was, was acting cheeky in front of the emperor, Russell.
Isn't he saying he was cranky from lack of sleep?
Rose nervously glanced at the emperor.
Fortunately, the emperor tempered his expression, though he appeared to be more tired than before.
He offered the couch on his left to Rose, who now sat face-to-face with Alison.
Now that she was where she should be, Rose was unable to say a word.
Can I say what happened in front of the emperor's sister?
Noticing her hesitation, Alison rushed to speak first.
“Lady Honeywell, you must have heard from Duke Honeywell as to why His Majesty has called for you.”
“Yes, I know of it.”
She turned to the emperor, who then spoke honestly.
“The Marquise knows the truth of your situation, but if Lady Honeywell is uncomfortable, she will leave.”
Allison was looking at Rose with a pitiful expression.
Her eyes were begging Rose to not kick her out.
How dare I kick Alison Rosenberg out?
Even the Marquise of Rosenberg already knows of my problems.
It doesn't really matter.
If only I could rescind this engagement, I could say it in front of her.
Taking a deep breath, Rose accepted her fate.
“It's okay if the Marquise of Rosenberg is here.
Your Majesty, my brother may have told you before, but I want to break my engagement with Duke Proud.
I will not be changing my mind after the cancellation is in place.”
Russell and Alison were silent.
The Rose of Honeywell agonized over whether she should have been firmer in her response.
The siblings before her seemed unimpressed.
Before Rose once again made her offer, Russell questioned her.
“I have one question for you, Lady Honeywell.
What is the reason for you not wanting to be engaged to Duke Proud?”
Reason? What else could it be other than I want to live.
Rose thought of confessing her memories to Russell, as he had shown her brother kindness at the year-end banquet.
If so, the Emperor, and no one else, would be a reliable ally on her side.
I'll do my best so that my brother does not bear the punishment that I deserve for offending the Imperial Family.
Just like the times when you protected me.
Rose felt sorry for herself for the younger version of herself who craved a love that wasn't possible.
She had no choice but to repeat what she had said to Wells.
“I don't love Duke Proud anymore.”
Her voice was powered by her conviction.
Allison was gazing at Rose with her chin in her hand.
Even at the coming-of-age celebration banquet this past spring, Lady Honeywell's gaze at Duke Proud was very intense.”
Rose's shoulders trembled.
To think that others who didn't know me well knew about my feelings.
Rose pretended not to hear Alison.
“It was a childish feeling.
I can truthfully confess here that I will never again love the Duke of Proud.”
Russell's posture changed at Rose's determination.
Arms crossed, he seemed lost in thought and didn't speak until he had carefully considered her promise.
“I understand that Lady Honeywell no longer loves Duke Proud, but it is not a decision that Lady Honeywell can make alone.
Before I can make a verdict, Duke Proud will have his turn to speak, but he doesn't seem to have any intention of breaking the engagement.”
Rose pursed her lips.
Why would Elliot disagree?
She denied the very thought of it.
How can I cancel the engagement regardless of Elliot's will? How?
Is there really only one way—to make a scandal myself?
Silence fell in the drawing room as the three were lost in their own thoughts.
It was Alison who broke the silence eventually.
“I know how to convince Duke Proud to agree to cancel the engagement.
There are ways to postpone the engagement ceremony.”
Russell and Rose looked at Alison at the same time.
Seeing their excited reactions, Alison subtly laughed.
“I don't think Duke Proud would accept postponing the engagement currently.”
Russell protested, but Alison disagreed confidently.
“If I step out, Duke Proud won't be able to help it either.”
Not as Alison Rosenberg, but as Alison Cullen van Tristan.”
Even the emperor, despite his brilliance, couldn't figure out what idea she had.
Alison slowly brought out the plan she had devised.
“I'm planning to stay in the Imperial Palace for a while, and I've finished my work in the Rosenberg estate.”
I know, but how does this relate to Duke Proud?”
“What if I am living in the Imperial Palace and I don't like the children who attend to me?”
Realizing her plan, Russell swallowed a laugh.
“That isn't ideal, Marquise, Lady Honeywell—“
Allison interrupted Russell.
The marquise turned her attention to Rose.
“What do you think, Lady Honeywell? While I'm staying in the Imperial Palace, you can be my temporary lady-in-waiting.
Even if the engagement ceremony is postponed because of that, Duke Proud won't be able to say anything.”
A temporary lady-in-waiting? It's going to be completely unexpected.
Duke Proud would never see this coming.
“But that would only delay the engagement.”
“Of course, that doesn't solve it.
So, I'll stay here and buy you some time, so think of a solution in the meantime—a way for Duke Proud to accept the breakup with ease.”
“To make him accept it…”
The best thing to do now is to find out what Elliot plans to do to bring Honeywell down.
…But there's no way to figure out the plan right now.
We have until the incident at a year-end party.
By that time, they should be able to gain some clues as to what Elliot was planning.
After considering her options, Rose decided to accept Alison's proposal.
I will be your lady-in-waiting while you reside in the capital.”
Veins sprouted from the back of Russell's hand, which hung over the armrest of the sofa.
He opposed Rose's decision.
“Lady Honeywell doesn't have to go that far.
If you're postponing your engagement, there must be another way.
Lady Honeywell is not in a position to attend to others.”
Alison can't hide her regret at Russell's point.
“Your Majesty, could I really ask Lady Honeywell to attend to me like a servant? We are using this option only as a cover.
How could I think of doing such a thing?”
A look of bewilderment passed over Russell's face as he watched Alison sigh and stretch her shoulders.
“Ah, but, sister Alison…”
Russell was flustered, hurriedly calling out to her by her given name, even adding the title of “sister,” which he didn't normally use.
He hadn't meant to doubt her.
Alison, who even pretended to wipe away tears, winked at Rose before leaving her embarrassed brother behind.
There are no tears in her eyes.
“Lady Honeywell, I'm not really trying to get you to be a lady-in-waiting.
First, I will discuss this with the Duke of Honeywell, and if the he agrees, we will try to carry out this plan of ours.”
“It's okay to hear about the opinions of my older brother.”
“Then Lady Honeywell will go back first? I want to have a talk with His Majesty.”
Rose slowly rose from her seat.
“Goodbye, Your Majesty and Marquise.”
Rose bowed and left.
A knight at the door took the lead, saying he would guide Rose to the carriage.
Following the knight, Rose looked back at the drawing room door, which was firmly shut.
I will not be a real lady-in-waiting, but if I become one, even nominally, will I be able to pull it off?
Will I have to travel from the manor to the palace like my older brother? Or will I be living in the Imperial Palace?
Rose sighed and continued walking.
Was this the right choice?
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