With every sway of the emperor's head, his enchanting hair further enticed Rose's desire.
No longer resisting, Rose's hand stretched out as though possessed.
Before her fingers could touch those soft strands, the eyes of the almighty Emperor and Rose Honeywell met.
The eye contact chased away any thoughts she could have of continuing, and belatedly, Rose withdrew her hand.
How dare I be courageous enough to touch the hair of His Majesty?
She prayed with every ounce of her being that he would not notice her movements.
However, as they had already glanced at one another, only an oblivious person would be unable to grasp Rose's intentions.
“Does it still hurt anywhere?”
Fortunately for her, Russell Whittle van Tristan's only concern was the condition of her legs, not her mischievous hands.
Rattling her mind for a way to change the topic should he question her, she finally became aware of the lack of pain in her calves.
“Thank you, Your Majesty.
I feel better.”
Remember to get a proper massage when you return to the Honeywell Manor.”
“Yes, I will do so.”
The man picked up the discarded shoes placed beside him and put them on Rose's feet.
Rose, who had been quietly entrusting her feet to him, spoke with much thought.
“Your Majesty seems really kind.”
Focused on his task, Russell fitted the shoes and dropped the hem of the skirt before meeting her eyes with a puzzled expression.
“You think so?”
You could have just called others to assist me, but you chose to help me yourself.”
…Would you have helped even if this happened to another young lady?
If that were the case, Rose would feel sad.
She didn't know why, but it was her gut reaction.
Rose didn't want Russell to explain his reasons for helping her.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Russell didn't answer.
Before Rose had a chance to feel relieved, he moved and sat next to her.
Watching Russell flop down onto the library floor, Rose hurriedly looked around.
“Your Majesty, why are you sitting on the ground? If someone sees it, it's going to cause a panic.”
“Lady Honeywell, I am the Emperor.
Can I not do as I please? And who would be brave enough to say no to the emperor?”
Rose made a strange expression.
Watching her face scrunch up, Russell laughed under his breath.
No one will come here.”
“…Then I'm relieved.”
Rose started to pick up the books that she had let fall.
It may just be books, but it's the Imperial family's collection, and she was nervous that they might have been damaged.
Her hands swept through the fallen books like a rushing wind, organizing the books while her emperor sat on the side, watching.
Having piled up the books in a corner, Rose dared not go near the bookshelf, whose shelves were too high.
She refused to battle, stacking them and causing another disaster.
Only then did she wonder why Russell was there.
…Did His Majesty come to borrow a book too?
She wondered why he would need to come himself.
Didn't he wear a tired expression when I came to the castle this morning with Wells, saying that he would have a meeting all through the morning? It was still some time before lunch, he should still be in the meeting.
“Your Majesty, what business did you have in the Imperial library?”
Russell remained silent.
Assuming he didn't hear her, Rose planned to ask the question again.
But before she could speak, Russell was quick to reply.
“Did Allison send Lady Honeywell here?”
Allison asked me to return her old books and borrow a new one.”
“Well, then, you must have been pretty bored looking for what you need.”
Russell picked up the book at his feet.
It was the book Rose risked bodily harm for.
After checking the title, Russell frowned.
“Did Alison ask for this book?”
“No, she said anything was fine as long as it's new.
When I asked for new books, the librarian recommended this one.”
Russell picked up the book and looked around.
His eyes once again caught the word 'Abaddon' in the title, he blinked once, then turned to face her.
“Does Lady Honeywell know about Abaddon?”
Abaddon? Is there anyone who doesn't know about the history of the Empire of Tristan?
“Of course, it's a monster that the first emperor of Tristan defeated before he founded the empire.”
“Right, Abaddon is the name of a monster in the myth.
Aren't you scared? Even though it was a long time ago, this continent was ruled by this cruel and terrifying monster.”
Russell's voice was very low as he spoke of tales from the past.
Rose swallowed audibly; she tended to be a person who believed in ghost stories and superstitions.
I learned about the beginnings of the Tristan Empire from Wells when I was young.
She was so scared that day that she couldn't sleep restlessly that night.
Now that I'm an adult, I'm not as scared as I used to be, but when I can't hear anything other than Russell in this quiet Imperial library, honestly, a bit of fear strikes me.
“Really…? Is there a monster sleeping under this Imperial Palace?”
Rose's voice trembled like a fawn in the cold.
Russell answered vaguely and lightly played with the corner of the book in his hand.
So it's true.
Wells said that the only ones who knew about the vessel were Honeywell's ancestors and himself.
The emperor suppressed a surge of emotion.
“Looks like you've been here longer than I thought.
Allison will be waiting for you.
We should leave now.”
I think we should leave.”
He rose to his feet and held out his hand to Rose, who reached out to him.
Rose's hands are smaller than I thought, and she's warmer than I had imagined.
After helping Rose stand up, mindful of her long dress, Russell felt regretful when it was time to let go of her hand.
But I can't keep holding on to her.
Russell let go of her warm hand.
“Lady Honeywell, the knights are waiting in front of the library.”
Russell took the chance to walk away first.
The young lady watched the emperor's back as he walked toward the entrance of the Imperial Library, then lowered her gaze to the palm that had been held by him.
It's as if I can still feel the warmth of his hands.
Rose squeezed her hand.
With the history book in her arms, Rose followed the steps taken by the emperor.
Rose couldn't take her eyes off Russell, who walked before her, his steps straight and undisturbed.
I wanted to take Rose directly to the annex where Alison is staying, but what about the rest of today's work?
He had no choice but to part ways with her in front of the Imperial Library, secretly holding back tears inside.
Rose left first with the knight escort from Allison, while Russell headed to his private office.
The meeting was canceled the moment he received the note from Alison, so he wouldn't have to go all the way to the conference room.
Russell arrived at the Emperor's personal office, where he found Wells waiting for him at the door.
“Wells, do you have any other papers to submit to me?”
I deliberately hid my presence and approached him secretly, but he still has that blank stare.
Apparently, it was as if he knew right away that Russell was sneaking up on him.
Wells glanced at the papers in his hand.
The meeting was suddenly interrupted, thanks to a certain someone.
This is the outcome that was decided at our own meeting conducted after abandonment.”
Wells' words were visibly thorny.
Russell pretended not to hear Wells' mockery and instead slipped through the office door that the knights had opened.
“Now, let the Duke of Honeywell come in quickly.
Duke Honeywell, do you have a lot of things to report to me?”
Wells sighed deeply, his exhaustion evident.
He followed his master into the office as the knights shut the door behind them.
As Wells readjusted his stack of documents, preparing to begin his report on their meeting prior, he thought back to the change in his best friend's mood.
During the meeting, the emperor appeared just as worn down as any other aristocrat present, and yet now, with a little exaggeration, Wells thought he looked as though he could jump up and fly at any moment.
Wells stared blankly at Russell, forgetting that he had to hand him the papers.
“While you were away from the meeting, did you secretly eat something delicious?”
“—What? What kind of bullshit is that all of a sudden?”
Russell frowned, and Wells was well aware of the absurd nonsense his thoughtless question posed.
However, it was said that Russell's mood had completely changed in a span of a few minutes, so that nonsense question was understandable.
“I asked because you seem to be in a very good mood.”
“Uhh, does it really appear so?”
Russell didn't really deny it and Wells, oblivious to the report, expressed his curiosity.
“It seems to be related to the note Your Majesty received during the meeting, was it about the honey pot you hid?”
[TL/N: A plot or plan he set into motion secretly that has started to work in his favor.]
“What's this about honey pots?”
How nice it would have been if it was a honey pot hidden in a place no one knew and only you could see.
Unfortunately, that will not be possible.
The never-ending work begins.
I was sick of it, and yet I feel energetic now because I got the chance to meet Rose.
Russell walked towards his private desk with Wells trailing behind him.
“But who would hide such a pot of honey in the Imperial library?”
Russell abruptly froze and swiveled his head toward his best friend.
His sudden turn caused his body to creak like a broken doll.
“Why are you so surprised? You probably don't know that Your Majesty has many eyes wherever he goes in the Imperial Palace.”
“What are you trying to say?”
He headed for the Imperial Library, accompanied by escorting knights, if someone was looking for his whereabouts, they would have been able to easily find his location.
Rubbing his forehead, Russell observed Wells.
He knows that I abandoned the meeting, but he's unaware of what occurred while I was there.
As the librarian was the only person who knew about Rose's whereabouts upon arriving at the Imperial library, Russell decided to order the librarian's silence as soon as Wells left.
“Then why did you go to the library all of a sudden?”
“That is my private affair.”
However, just as when the meeting began, Your Majesty abruptly left as soon as you read the note.
It's suspicious, no matter how you look at it.”
If things go on like this, Wells might run to the Imperial Library and get to the librarian if he suspects me.
Russell hurriedly approached Wells and took the papers from his hand.
He needed to immediately divert his attention.
“Is this the paperwork for me? I'll look into it.
You can leave.”
“Ah yes, the report—“
I know very well that the duke's documents are easy to understand and meticulous.”
“But still, Your—“
Russell insistently pushed Wells on the shoulder.
Wells braced himself with both legs and endured the shoving, but he was gradually unable to withstand Russell's strength.
Aren't you just like me? A person who only sits in this Imperial Palace sorting out documents.
Why are you so strong?!
Eventually, Wells was thrown out of the office.
“Then, Duke, go back and do your business.”
The door to the office slammed shut.
Wells shouted at the tightly closed door.
“Your Majesty! You know you have an appointment for lunch today, right? This is a dinner with Count Granger and Isaac!”
Russell, who had planned to visit Alison for lunch as an excuse to see Rose, bowed his head weakly.
It was quiet outside the office.
Wells had most likely left after having reminded Russell several times not to forget.
Russell didn't move.
He was depressed and had a gloomy expression on his face.
He slowly raised his head.
“Really! I never thought it would be this difficult to meet Honeywell's Rose.”
His hand resting on the door knob caught his attention; his sleeves fell down a little, revealing the backs of his hands.
The cut was not deep enough to let his blood drip; the few drops that did spill had hardened as a result of contact with the cold winter air.
It wasn't a big wound, so it didn't hurt at all.
Looking at the minor cuts and clots of blood, Russell chuckled.
“I seemed to have completely forgotten about my wounds.”
Russell dropped his hand and returned to his desk.
His steady footsteps slowed to a stop as memories of the meeting in the library resurfaced.
The gaze of his beloved Rose as she admired his face while he tended to her injury.
Her hand stretched out to me, so close that I felt like she could touch me at any moment.
He pretended to be unaware, but his body moved without his commands, and he wanted to rest his head on her fingertips.
Embarrassed, he raised his hand, covering his red face.
When will I have the confidence to bare my heart to Rose?”
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