Rose's performance was perfect.
Ilya longed for Rose Honeywell's friendship, so she easily expressed sympathy for her when she showed weakness and brought up the past she wanted to hide.
She gently held Rose's hand.
“Rose, I don't know why that person would hurt you, but I know one thing for sure.
I will not betray Rose.”
[TL/N: They no longer use honorifics, as Rose, who has a higher title and social standing, has agreed to become friends.]
“You are such a beautiful person.
How can I hurt you? I don't know if it's rude to confess to you, but I hope we will become close friends.”
Briefly, Rose glanced at the young lady's hand wrapped around hers before she hesitantly moved closer.
“Ilya, do you mean it? Will you really not betray me?”
“Yes! Of course!”
“Then I will place my trust in you, Ilya.
Never betray our friendship.”
Stretching out her pinky finger, Rose patiently held it within Ilya's line of sight.
The baron's daughter stared at her hand, surprised, but soon captured her finger with one of her own.
The corner of Rose's mouth lifted as she smiled at the interlocked fingers.
“Ilya, if you should ever betray me…”
Her ruby eyes engraved the smiling young lady into her mind.
“I'm not going to just sit and watch as I did in the past.”
Her words carried a double meaning, and Ilya, who hadn't been reborn, wasn't able to grasp her hidden warning.
Instead, she smiled brightly.
“Absolutely, I will never betray Rose's friendship.”
“I'm so glad to have someone I can open up to.”
Rose smiled brightly, like a child receiving the greatest gift in the world.
Ilya was mesmerized by the beauty that glistened like a jewel, delicately touched by the skilled hands of an artisan.
All too soon, she came to her senses.
“Rose, when Lady Vanessa arrives tomorrow, please visit my class.
I think I will be able to learn better if Rose is by my side.”
She thought back to her first class with Vanessa and her words from that day.
Throughout her lesson, Vanessa had cried out with compliments of the Honeywell's Rose.
Of how, thanks to the fine and flexible body she was born with, Rose danced with the grace of a fairy, enjoying a night of frolicking in the deep forest's moonlight.
Vanessa spoke of how Rose wasn't a fast learner, but once she progressed, she mastered the skill perfectly.
She held onto the hope that she would be able to gaze upon Rose dancing at the ball.
She wondered how spectacular Rose would look in a gorgeous gown and with her long blonde hair styled to perfection.
Ilya waited with a look of anticipation; she desperately wanted Rose to attend her next dance lesson, but was startled by the troubled expression that crossed Rose's exquisite features.
“…I have to go to the Imperial Palace every day, starting tomorrow.”
“Imperial Palace? Has His Majesty called for you again?”
“No, not His Majesty.
I have been requested to assist Marquise Alison while she resides in the capital.”
From her clueless appearance, Rose could guess that Ilya did not remember who the Marquise of Rosenberg was.
However, after a moment spent clueless, Ilya trembled and jumped up.
“Are you referring to Marquise Rosenberg? His Majesty's sister?”
“That's right, I will be serving His Majesty's older sister.”
Alison's story spread far and wide.
It told of the princess who fled from the Imperial Palace as if fleeing from chasers; she then went on to marry the Marquess of Rosenberg and became the head of her household after her husband's passing.
Her story was famous.
With a face brimming with excitement, Ilya recalled the rumors and news she'd heard relating to the Marquise.
“Rose, what is the Marquise like? I heard that she's tall for a woman! They say she looks exactly like His Majesty, although I've never met His Majesty, so I wouldn't know.
I've heard a story that she makes a scary impression because her expression is never good.
Is it true?”
As questions rained down, Rose tried to reply to them all.
Doesn't have a good expression so she makes a scary impression?
Alison's face naturally came to Rose's mind.
They'd only been together for a few hours at most.
But you shouldn't judge a person by their appearance alone.
Smiling awkwardly, Rose replied to the excited lady.
“She is an absolutely wonderful person.
Perhaps because her eyes are sharp, people say that she is scary, but I've spoken with her and I feel that it isn't the case.
She was really…
a warm person.”
She thought of Alison once more.
Of how she grabbed the knight's collar and threatened him as she stood beyond the door that led to the emperor.
Trying to shake off the memory, Rose focused on Ilya.
I think it would be better if I kept that instance to myself.
It's not like I'm going to be serving her in reality, but I'm worried that I'll be unable to handle that unusual personality of hers.
The following morning, Rose, along with her older brother, left for the Imperial Palace.
Originally, they agreed to arrive around the time of lunch and start off their time together by sharing a meal.
Today Rose was asked to leave earlier at the request of Alison.
After seeing off the siblings, Ilya informed the butler that she would take a walk in the garden.
When I woke up in the morning, the sky was still dark, but now that I had finished eating, the sun had completely risen in the sky.
Ilya walked through the garden wearing a long shadow.
After wandering around the desolate, lifeless garden, Ilya sat down and stared blankly into space.
“How did that unknown person betray Rose? What kind of betrayal was it?”
What kind of great person is he who dared to betray Honeywell's rose?
Ilya thought the unknown person had a lot of guts.
[TL/N: Large liver meaning very courageous, usually meant in a bad way.]
I wanted to sit a little longer and think some more, but this winter weather does not allow it.
Ilya sneezed lightly as the sharp wind swept across her cheek, and stood up.
“It's so cold, I should ask for some hot tea when I go in.”
With the shawl draped over her shoulders, Ilya quickly walked out of the garden.
As she walked out of the garden and into the manor, the large front gate of the Honeywell Manor opened.
“Ah? Isn't that the Duke of Proud?”
Ilya turned her head towards the sound of a carriage.
With the distance, she could not clearly distinguish that it was not Honeywell's carriage until it got closer to the manor.
“It's not the Honeywell family crest, but where is the family crest meant to be? His Grace went to work, how come a guest came?”
Ilya walked quickly; her frequent strides soon turned to running, and she ran towards the carriage with her long, light brown hair flying in the winter breeze.
The carriage stopped at the entrance of the manor just as Ilya arrived.
Taking a small, calming breath, she watched the coachman get out of his seat and open the door for the tall man inside to step out.
Ilya, recognizing him, exclaimed with wide eyes.
Having sensed Ilya's presence, or maybe having heard her exclamation, the man turned in her direction.
Upon meeting his blue eyes, Ilya hurriedly bowed and greeted him.
“Greetings to the Duke of Proud.”
Elliott Proud visited Honeywell Manor.
Ilya, nervously staring at the ground with her back bent, felt her heartbeat rise.
I never thought we would meet like this again.
Listening to the footsteps approaching, she slowly lifted her waist.
Without her knowledge, Elliot Proud had stopped before her.
Did you say you are Miss Titonsser?”
Elliot remembered my name.
Ilya nodded, strictly controlling the corner of her lips to stop it from rising.
It's an honor to be remembered by Your Grace.”
By the way, are you coming from the garden side?.”
His gaze briefly flickered to the path behind Ilya, which was the road leading to the garden.
I'm taking a walk after breakfast.
Are you here to see Rose?”
When Rose's name was mentioned, Elliot's gaze moved to Ilya before quickly falling away.
“Yes, I don't know if you've heard that Rose is serving Marquess Alison at the Imperial Palace starting today.
I came because I was thinking of going to the Imperial Palace with her.
Is Rose ready yet?”
The baron's daughter, listening to the man confess his request for Rose, drooped her shoulders and lowered her eyes; she was overcome with inexplicable sadness.
“Rose has already departed with Duke Honeywell.
Originally, she should have left around lunchtime, but today, as an exception, she had to leave early.”
“Is that so, I must have been late.”
Having confirmed that Rose was not at the manor, Elliot wanted to leave without delay.
He was also on his way to work at the imperial castle for business, and he was not a very leisurely person who would stay behind for no reason.
Ilya waited for Elliot to leave with a farewell, but Elliot didn't move; instead, she felt his gaze center on her.
“Is something wrong, Your Grace?”
Ilya's voice trembled as her heart beat like crazy.
Elliot, who had not answered her question, made a rather different suggestion after a momentary lag of silence.
“If it's acceptable to the lady, would you like to talk for a while?”
“Yes, would it be possible to take a walk through the garden? If you feel uncomfortable, go to the manor and rest.”
Elliott turned around without waiting for Ilya's answer.
When will I ever get the chance to talk to him, if not now.
That reality of her life made Ilya urgent; she reached out and grabbed Elliot's sleeve.
She thought it was rude and waited to be shaken off, but surprisingly, he just glanced back and ignored her hand on his sleeve.
“Kyaa— So, do you have something to tell me?”
“What? Ah, it's not that important, but if you do not mind, Miss Titonsser, can we walk for a while?”
Ilya noticed that the corners of Elliot's mouth rose slightly.
But it was just a little bit, and it was so brief that I might have misunderstood.
Ilya walked through the garden with Elliot.
Eliot's unhesitant steps made the baron's daughter curious.
Has he walked this garden before?
Silently following Elliott, Ilya stealthily peeked at his back.
…I want to see your face, Your Grace.
Pursing her lips in regret, she heard Elliot, who was walking ahead, calling her name.
“How is life at Honeywell Manor?”
“It is so good.
Both the His Grace and Rose, and actually everyone in the manor, treat me so well.”
“Right, it's because Duke Honeywell prioritized character when hiring servants.”
She wondered if it was due to him being Rose's fiance that Elliott continued to ask if there were any inconveniences in the manor.
Ilya replied seriously, without understanding his intentions, and before she knew it, the two of them sat down in the garden.
“Honeywell Manor is quite large, so there must be places you haven't been able to visit much.”
Rose guided me mainly to places I would often visit.
It is true that the manor is spacious, but in fact, I'm not going to stay here forever so I don't even have to go all the way inside.”
“Hmm, that's right.
In the Proud Mansion, I only go to the places I frequent.”
All human lives were the same, I guess.
Ilya laughed lightly, thinking up nonsense.
Then, when she noticed Elliot staring at her, she quickly smiled sweetly.
“Are there any ghost stories in the Barony of Titonsser?”
“A ghost story?”
“Yes, at Proud Mansion, there is a ghost story where strange noises can be heard from all the mirrors in the manor at midnight when the full moon rises.”
“Uh, in our barony—“
Ilya, speechless, wondered if there were ghost stories in her hometown.
She herself was not the type to believe in ghosts, so it is unknown whether there were ghost stories that she did not know about.
Ilya shook her head lightly.
“I don't know.
I'm not the type to believe in ghost stories.”
“Is that so? But be careful in this manor, do you know that the Honeywell Manor has horror stories like the Proud Manor?”
…Ghost stories at Honeywell Manor?
Ilya waited for him to tell her more, but Elliot didn't say anything further.
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