After handing the lantern to Anne, Rose headed in the direction of the manor's front door.
Before reaching the end of the staircase, she caught sight of Elliot Proud waiting for her inside the manor on the first floor.
Wearing a long black coat, Elliot stood undisturbed as he waited for Rose to descend the stairs.
Halfway down, their eyes met, and he approached her with wide strides.
“As expected, you didn't attend the debutante ball.”
“That's because I'm not the main character of today's event..”
“Would you attend if you were the main character?”
With her gaze downcast, Rose rolled her eyes and looked away from the duke.
But before she could glare at him pointedly, a scent crossed her nose.
…What scent is this?
Before Rose could find the source of the fragrance, a flower field spread out in front of her eyes.
Surprised, she hesitantly stepped back to see a bouquet of flowers thrust into her face, the source of the scent.
“What? It's a bouquet of flowers.”
“I know that.
Why did you bring this to the manor?”
“Rose, I brought it for you.”
Elliot brought the bouquet closer to the young lady.
Rose, who was about to refuse bluntly, saying she didn't need it, suddenly felt eyes watching them from corners of the wall and the stair railing.
Rose pulled on Elliot's cape to avoid the eyes of the servants.
The tall Duke Elliot is being dragged away by the tiny Lady Rose.
Rose hurriedly arrived at the room used for banquets, which was now devoid of people and filled with a cold warmth.
Standing at the door leading into the room, she frantically looked around and confirmed that there were no peeping eyes before she closed the door.
Taking a few deep breaths to calm herself, Rose looked back.
Elliot stood with a bouquet of flowers in his arms.
Why does the sight of him holding the bouquet of flowers look so pleasant? It's annoying.
“Why are you doing this?”
“Is it such a big mistake to give your fiancée a bouquet of flowers as a gift?”
“Yes, it is.
If you'd given me a flower before, I wouldn't even react like this.
Why have you suddenly changed, Elliot?”
Elliot didn't reply, instead, he touched the petals of the bouquet.
When Rose remembered that the two of them were left alone in this quiet place, a sense of fear welled up under her feet.
Hiding her hands behind her waist, she grabbed the handle to prepare for a speedy getaway.
Elliot, who had been silently looking at the bouquet, raised his gaze.
Rose stood close to the door, knowing there was nowhere to back down when the duke took a step towards her.
“I want you to be honest, Rose.
Why did you suddenly have a change of heart?”
The closer she got to Elliot, the stronger the scent of flowers wafting from the bouquet in his hands.
Rose held her breath, feeling as if she would be suffocated by the scent.
Rose only rolled her eyes and looked up at Elliot.
“Why did you change?”
As she struggled to hold her breath, she couldn't answer the question.
Elliot calmly met the gaze of the woman, who just glared at him with her mouth tightly closed.
He raised his hand and lightly covered her cheek.
Then, slowly, so very slowly, he lowered his head so that it was level with Rose's sight.
The young lady's eyes widened.
Rose, unable to scream as she held her breath, shoved Elliot's shoulder, trying with all her might to push his face away.
However, as the commander-in-chief of the Imperial Knights, Duke Proud's body was hard and sturdy, so he could not be pushed away by Rose's feeble strength.
Closing her eyes tightly at the face that was slowly getting closer, Rose, who fearfully waited for this moment to pass, opened her eyes when she heard laughter and not the touch of his lips.
As if being manipulated by Elliot's voice, Rose relaxed and exhaled involuntarily.
That flower smell is suffocating me again.
It's an ordinary flower, but just because Elliot is the one who's brought it, it's ugly and annoying to me.
Rose took a deep breath and planned to hold it until Elliot left.
However, her breath caught at the sudden touch of lips pressing against hers.
When she frantically pushed him away and tried to bite his tongue in desperation, Elliot's thumb wrapped around Rose's cheek and pressed her jaw open, stopping Rose from biting Elliot's tongue off.
Rose's legs trembled at the pressure of his body weighing her down.
If I suddenly fall, will he let go?
Rose relaxed her legs, but instead of subconsciously letting her go, the gap between the two narrowed even more as Elliot hugged Rose's slender waist to him.
The bouquet of flowers fell at the feet of the two, scattering petals across the room's floor.
Her hand, which had been pushing Elliot away, had changed to a weak tug, begging him to let her go.
Rose, who couldn't get away from Elliot, ended up shedding tears in fear until he removed his lips.
Rose's cheeks were wet with tears as she breathed heavily.
Elliot lightly hugged Rose, whose body had lost its strength from the scare.
Barely able to catch her breath, Rose was unable to resist whether or not Elliot hugged her, nor when he lifted her up in his arms and left the banquet hall.
When Elliot arrived at Rose's room with her in his arms, Anne, who had been waiting for her mistress, opened the door.
As Rose laid listlessly on the bed, she pulled the thick winter blanket over her head.
Elliot quietly watched her before he turned to her maid, Anne, who neatened the bed her mistress laid on so Rose could rest more comfortably.
“Can you leave for a minute? I have something to say to Rose.”
Nervous at the sight of Rose's tears while she made the bed, Anne hesitantly left the room.
Duke Proud sat down on the bed when he heard the door close behind him.
“I didn't expect you to cry this much.”
It wasn't a threatening tone, but Rose lifted herself up, defensive, removing the blanket that covered her head while hiding her emotions.
“Go! Do you know you're the worst?! If you don't leave immediately, I'll call the knights.
Don't come again because I'm absolutely done with you!”
Rose cried out in anger.
Perhaps, upon hearing the contempt in her tone, she wished that the butler or the knights would come to the room and expel Elliot.
However, no one entered her room, and Elliot did not leave as she wanted.
“Anyway, with you—no, I will cut ties with you, Proud.
I will never play into your hands again—!”
Her mouth was covered by a large hand.
Elliot's hand slid down and slightly cupped Rose's chin.
She silently stared at him with tears in her eyes.
The tears in her eyes were so pitiful that any other man would have felt guilty, but Elliot faced them coldly.
“Is it completely over? That's funny.
Rose Honeywell, I didn't know you were such a selfish woman.
You were the one who said you would get engaged to me, who had no interest in you and was unaware of your existence.”
Elliot pulled his hand, his grip still holding strong, and Rose's body followed his movement.
Their faces were so close that they could see their reflections in each other's eyes.
“You started this on your own, and you want to end it on your own? That doesn't work.
Our relationship may have started with you, but it won't end.
Even if it's over and I'm done, do not forget that I have no intention of breaking up with you.”
Ruthlessly, he flicked his hand, roughly letting go of Rose's chin.
Her mouth was free, but Rose couldn't release the scream that stuck in her throat.
Tears flowed non-stop from her red eyes, and her thin shoulders trembled.
Without avoiding Elliot's touch as he straightened her messy hair, Rose silently shed tears.
Have a good night, Rose.”
Elliot's voice was friendly as he pleasantly said his goodbyes to the terrified girl on the bed.
Rose looked at him with a face covered in tears.
Contrary to the friendly voice, his eyes are as cold as ice.
Elliot got up from his bed and left Rose's room without looking back.
After Eliot left the room, Rose broke down and cried.
Anne, startled by her cry, ran to her.
Anne, who has never sat on her mistress' bed, climbed on and hugged the crying Rose.
“Lady Rose! What in the world happened with Duke Proud?! Do you know how startled I was at the sound of the lady's shouting from inside? Oh my gosh.
Look at you.”
Rose burrowed into Anne's arms like a child.
Anne brushed her soft blonde hair, trying to placate Rose.
“Do not cry.
Shall we call the master right now? Please wait.
I'm going to tell the knight to go to the Imperial Palace right away!”
The hand that had been patting Rose's back gently pushed her body to lie down.
Rose hurriedly shook her head and grabbed Anne's sleeve.
“No! Don't call my brother! There is no need to call my brother.”
“But it's the first time I've seen you cry like this.
Did Duke Proud harm you? Then, of course, you should inform the master!”
Rose shook her head and repeated the same words.
“I was so surprised.
I was so surprised—it has nothing to do with Elliot.
Nothing really happened.”
Worried, Anne wanted to rush out of the bedroom and contact their master, but before she could run, Rose grabbed her.
Rose, who had been calmed down by Anne as she hugged her tightly, felt her body slowly lose energy and slowly close her eyes.
Elliot arrived at the Proud Mansion, stepped off the carriage, and entered without saying anything to the butler and servants who came to greet him.
Concerned about their master's expression, the butler and servants followed for a while before Elliot ordered them to disperse.
With the butler and servants returning to their respective locations, Elliot headed for the deepest area of the mansion.
The door at the end of the mansion was locked and could not be easily broken by outside forces.
He took a key from his pocket and used it to successfully enter.
Inside was a much larger room than his personal bedroom, but it was devoid of furniture or decorations.
Heading for another door placed in the inner corner, there was also a large lock located, where again, Elliot used the key to open it.
After opening two more doors, a safe that was much taller than himself appeared.
There were innumerable locks hanging on the dreadful black safe.
Elliot, standing in front of it, reached out his hand.
An ominous energy flowed from Elliot's fingertip that touched the lock.
As soon as that energy left his hand, it scattered and disappeared instantly, and the tightly shut locks opened one by one.
One by one, the locks fell haphazardly to the floor.
And finally, the door to the safe started to open.
Elliot, the sole master of this mansion, gazed upon an object that he had only seen once before.
It was a hand mirror the size of a man's palm.
The rim of the mirror had elaborate decorations, but it was damaged here and there by the weight of time.
The decorations were worn, but the mirror itself was as clean as if it were new.
Elliot looked into the mirror.
It should have reflected his face back at him.
Instead, what appeared in the mirror was something of a strange shape.
At first glance, it looked like a horse, but its face was identical to that of a human.
It had wings on its back and a tail reminiscent of a scorpion.
The monster's entire body was bound with chains.
Elliot mumbled as he took in the dead, motionless monster.
“You just need to find your soul again.
With just that, I can turn the Tristan Empire into a sea of fire.”
His eyes flashed with danger.
“The receptacle hidden away in the Honeywell Manor…
A soul trapped in a vessel.”
Elliot swept down the mirror containing the monster.
Soon, a malicious laugh leaked from his mouth, curling his lips ruthlessly.
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