“Welcome to the annex of the Imperial Palace.”
A dashing knight respectfully held open the carriage door and held out a hand to assist the young lady within as she descended.
Jumping down, Ilya stared in awe at the annex that would host the tea party of the once-princess of the Tristan Empire.
Even if the annex is nothing more than an outbuilding, it's already more splendid than the Titonsser estate would ever be…
And look! It's also painted yellow!
Her jaw dropped at the sight of the magnificent annex, her attention only diverting when another carriage pulled up behind her.
Another lady invited to Marquise Alison's tea party?
Taking a step back, Ilya watched the woman being escorted down from the carriage by a knight.
The woman, who was around the age of Baron Titonsser, felt and met Ilya's gaze.
Stunned by the sudden eye contact, the baron's daughter bowed and greeted her first.
A woman's laughter rang out around her.
“Greetings, young lady.
Lady Ilya Titonsser, yes?”
Do you know me?”
The woman moved closer.
Aren't you the young lady who attended the Imperial debutante ball with the sponsorship of Duke Honeywell? You were truly beautiful that evening.”
“Thank you, My Lady.”
“I am Countess Oscar Healy.
You may call me Lady Healy.”
[TL/N: She is repeating the name to show that she has accepted the countess' request.]
“Shall we walk to the greenhouse? I wonder if the other ladies have arrived yet.”
Countess Healy was the first to step forward, and noticing Ilya trailing behind her, she continued to speak.
“If you don't mind me inquiring, how did you come into contact with Duke Honeywell? I remember that Baron Titonsser has not attended many Imperial celebrations and events.”
“The Duke of Honeywell had taken shelter on our estate during a violent storm.
In return, he has agreed to support me until I've successfully reached my debut and coming of age ceremony.”
Everyone was surprised to hear the story of Lady Titonsser, as although Duke Honeywell frequently donates to various excellent causes, he has never personally helped a young lady from an aristocratic family to debut in the Imperial Palace.”
“Oh, is that so?”
The baron's daughter's face flushed.
Countess Healy's words hinted that, unlike the young ladies in the capital, Ilya was special to the Duke.
But the countess' words were not over yet.
“If you are currently residing in the Honeywell Manor, you must have interacted with Rose Honeywell often?”
“Yes, Rose takes good care of me.
She is a good person.”
“I admit, Lady Ilya, I am jealous.
I had once sent an invitation to Lady Rose, but I received only a letter of refusal and a thank you for the invitation in return.”
“Ahh, Rose doesn't seem to be able to talk easily with strangers.”
“It really is unfortunate.
I had wanted to exchange stories with her.
I have recently heard of her working as a temporary lady-in-waiting for the Marquise of Roseberg? I guess I'll see her at the tea party today.”
Listening to the countess' chatter, Ilya frowned subconsciously.
Just—are you telling me that something like that has occurred.
She was uncertain if the countess was subtly pointing out something that should remain hidden, but Ilya decided it was best to stay silent, and the countess spoke no more.
The rest of their walk was completed without another word, and when they arrived at the greenhouse with the help of the maids, they discovered that they were not the first to arrive.
Naturally, the countess went forward to greet the ladies who were present as if she were familiar with all of them, while Ilya cautiously sat in an empty seat without greeting anyone.
Watching the baron's daughter sit down awkwardly, the countess spoke.
“Ladies, the young lady over there is Lady Ilya Titonsser.
She is the lady who is sponsored by the Duke of Honeywell.”
Hearing her name, the young lady's shoulders twitched as she stared at the countess, who smiled back pleasantly.
“Oh! So you're that young lady.”
“A pleasure to meet you.
I was curious about the kind of child the Duke sponsored.”
Everyone seated around the table took turns greeting Ilya warmly.
The ladies here were invited by none other than Alison Rosenberg, so they must be quite influential in high society.
Ilya felt ashamed and amused when the attention of such ladies turned to her.
“If you stay at Honeywell Manor, do you spend time with Lady Honeywell?”
One of the ladies took the chance to ask Ilya a question.
It was the same question Countess Healy had asked.
Ilya also gave the same answer, saying that she was a good person who took good care of her.
Alison had not arrived yet, so the ladies began to chat in small ways.
And their subject just happened to be Rose Honeywell.
“I am very curious about Lady Rose Honeywell.
I've met her after being invited to her debut before, but I'm so excited to see how she's grown up now.”
“Did you perhaps miss the last coming-of-age celebration? Rose Honeywell was attending it at the Imperial Palace at that time.
She was very beautiful.
The Honeywell siblings look exactly like the late couple, the previous Duke and Lady of Honeywell.”
“Duke Honeywell is also handsome, but it must be shocking to see how his younger sister has grown up.
Now that she's come of age this time, Rose Honeywell must have bloomed fully.”
The ladies lavishly praised Rose.
Ilya didn't hate this conversation; she felt as if she was being praised for some reason.
Often, when wives of aristocrats asked about Rose, Ilya listed Rose's merits without hesitation.
Not only the dewy appearance of a rose in full bloom but also the personality of meticulously looking after oneself.
The wives listened to Ilya's story captivatingly.
“…So, thanks to Rose, I learned a new dance and was able to avoid embarrassing myself during the ball.”
Ilya's story moved on to dancing.
The story of how the dance trend had changed and how Vanessa taught her how to dance for her debut.
When Vanessa was mentioned, the wives pretended to know her well.
“My daughter also learned to dance from Vanessa.”
“Your daughter? My daughter learned from her, too.”
The conversation quickly turned to dance and dance instructors.
Ilya focused on every word they said, lest she miss the conversation should her thoughts drift.
The topic of conversation changed so quickly that the chat that started with Rose soon changed to the knights of the Imperial Knights templar.
“I heard that Lady Taylor has been furious a lot lately because of the young Lady Taylor.”
It was discovered that the young lady was secretly dating a knight from the Imperial Knights.”
In that conversation, Ilya guessed that the topic would change to romance this time.
Love story is also an interesting topic for her.
However, there was one thing that Ilya overlooked: that she was the only young lady in the room, meaning she was the only one still unmarried.
As expected, attention was focused on Ilya when it came to dating.
“What does Lady Titonsser think of the knights?”
“Are you referring to the Imperial knights?”
I'm curious about young women dating.
As you may have heard earlier, it seems that Young Lady Taylor is meeting with a knight.”
Ilya thought of Stanley, whom she met during the ball.
Stanley was the second son of the Gardner family.
Stanley, who was not an heir to his family, was instead studying physics.
“Because Rose is a good person, it's not surprising that they fall in love with her after meeting her.”
It's amazing, though.
I thought all the knights were in love with Lady Honeywell.”
Someone jokingly responded to Ilya's words.
Ilya laughed at that, but the ladies here seemed quite sympathetic.
“Even if it sounds exaggerated, it was correct.
In fact, my cousin is also an Imperial knight.
I didn't say it, but he was in love with Lady Honeywell as well.”
“Is it only the knights? Even the servants of our mansion were in love with her.”
“Rumor has it that the Rose of Honeywell is so beautiful that no one can help but admire her.”
Ilya's eyes widened at the whispers of the ladies.
They speak of acquaintances and relatives who are in love with Rose Honeywell.
I knew Rose was beautiful, but…
It's like a story out of a novel.
A story like a heroine who is loved by all men.
“Still, everyone will give up in the end if Lady Honeywell gets engaged to Duke Proud.”
“The engagement ceremony was postponed until next year because she is helping Marquise Rosenberg, but I hope the two of them get married soon.
If good men and women are in harmony, everyone will give up.”
Ilya's shoulders trembled as she quietly listened to their hopeful wishes.
Rose said she would break off the engagement, but everyone only knows now that the engagement ceremony has been postponed.
Unbeknownst to the truth, the ladies talked about how well-matched Elliot and Rose were.
The fact that the two got along well was well known to Ilya.
Just standing side by side was like looking at a painting.
Countess Healy, who was in the midst of a conversation, spoke to Ilya.
“Men lose their minds when a beautiful woman has someone worthy of her.
Isn't it so, Lady Titonsser?”
Ilya struggled to raise the corner of her mouth into a smile, but found that it did not rise, and asked stiffly.
…It's strange to think that all men will only like Rose.
If you look at it differently, it sounds like Lord Stanley also likes Rose.
Ilya, who was scheduled to go to Baron Gardner's mansion the next day at Lord Stanley's invitation, felt the excitement of the tea party subside.
No! That's because there are so many people who like Rose.
Let's not include Lord Stanley in the list for nothing.
Ilya shook her head vigorously to clear away her thoughts.
Fortunately, the ladies no longer spoke of men adoring Rose Honeywell.
“By the way, Marquise Rosenberg is very late.”
She is normally always on time.”
“What happened? I will have to call a maid to see if something happened.”
They realized that it had been quite some time since they had arrived in the greenhouse.
Just as Countess Healy was about to call for a maid, Alison appeared.
Upon her appearance, the noble ladies stood up from their seats, and Ilya hastily stood up, following them.
“Apologies, ladies, for taking so long.”
“Not a problem.
Thank you for the invitation, Marquise Rosenberg.”
When Countess Healy greeted, everyone followed suit and greeted along.
Ilya bowed, but tilted her head when she couldn't see Rose, who should have come with Alison.
Perhaps the others noticed Rose's absence as well, Countess Healy inquired about Rose's whereabouts.
Didn't Lady Honeywell come with you?”
“Ah, Rose…won't be able to attend the tea party because I asked for something.
Let's all sit down.”
When Allison was seated, the ladies followed suit.
The maids placed fragrant tea and sweet desserts on the table.
Ilya was as polite as possible and enjoyed her time chatting with the ladies.
However, she was worried about Rose not being able to attend the tea party at Alison's request; Ilya would occasionally stare in the direction of the greenhouse entrance while drinking tea.
The place where Wells staggered to a stop as he ran out of breath after abandoning his work was the outbuilding in which Allison stayed.
When Wells arrived, a waiting maid escorted him.
As he followed the maid into the annex, Wells struggled to keep his legs from getting weak.
After passing through the door opened by the maid, Wells entered and found Rose lying on the bed.
Wells weakly ran to the bed, his legs shaking as if he'd suddenly fall over, and examined Rose's complexion.
The face of his sleeping younger sister was bloodless.
A maid approached behind him.
“I was on my way to the greenhouse with the Marquise when the young lady suddenly collapsed.
The doctor said that she had passed out due to extreme stress and that she would come to her senses if she got enough rest.”
“Stress? What is this kid going to be stressed about?”
At Wells' bleak shout, the maid trembled and lowered her head.
Did the Marquise receive any more inquiries from the guests?”
It seems that she has told the ladies that the young lady cannot attend due to a personal request.”
You may go.”
The maid left the room at a quiet but quick pace.
With the sound of the door closing, Wells raised his hand and carefully arranged Rose's bangs.
“Rose, what the hell is going on with you?”
He was very worried about his only little sister.
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