Rose Honeywell woke up, and her spirit stepped away from the hold of drowsiness.
Her red eyes carried a hint of displeasure, and her mouth opened with a yawn as she rubbed her sleepy eyes.
What was I dreaming about?
Oddly enough, when she was younger, she would have a recurring dream of the day at the Founding Festival, so much so that the afterimages were engraved in her mind.
It was one of the only dreams she had.
Rose sighed when she felt the warmth wrapped around her hand.
Guided by the warmth, Rose lowered her hand.
Turning her head toward the owner of the warmth, she saw Wells looking at her with worried eyes.
His slightly dark, red eyes even looked moist.
Calling Wells, Rose remembered that she had collapsed out of nowhere in Alison's annex.
Rose's snow-white face grew even paler.
“The tea party!”
She felt ashamed of the fact that she collapsed on her way to the greenhouse to greet guests who were invited to their very first tea party with Alison.
Rose hurriedly sat up, but Wells pressed firmly on her shoulder with a gentle but firm hand.
“You don't have to sit up, Rose.
Let's go back to the mansion as soon as I finish my work.”
“But Alison held a tea party today.
She invited me too.
If I don't go…”
“Don't worry about that.
It seems Marquise Allison told the ladies that you couldn't attend because she had a personal request for you to personally carry out.”
No matter how personal the request may have been, it is impossible to leave the tea party without a proper word.
Allison invited Ilya, so I was worried about how Ilya would hold out in that unfamiliar environment.
Even if Ilya has a good personality and they get along well, it is inevitable that I will be worried.
Rose pushed Wells' arm from her shoulder with some force.
“I am fine, brother.
So, can we go to Alison's annex…”
“Rose, please! Would you like to return to the mansion with me today?”
Wells' voice, who had always spoken to Rose in a light voice, had changed.
It wasn't an angry voice, but Rose's eyes widened in surprise when she heard an unexpected tone from Wells for the first time.
Only then did Rose take a closer look at Wells.
Wells' shoulders, which had always been Rose's shelter and protection, were shaking.
His lips were tightly clenched, and his stiff expression showed that he was suppressing something.
Wells slowly opens his mouth after some deliberation.
“I'm sorry for shouting, Rose.”
He reached out, put a hand on Rose's shoulder, and quietly held her in his arms.
How much he cared for Rose was evident in the way he brushed his sister's hair away from her face and patted her back reliably.
“Ever since you announced that you would end your engagement to Duke Proud, I have had the feeling that you are enduring something alone.
You're no longer a child living in my arms, so I didn't want to be too intrusive, Rose.
I want you to live in this world without getting sick or suffering.”
Rose buried her face in Wells' chest.
Even if it weren't for Wells' earnest words, Rose wanted to live in this world more than anyone else.
She, who was touched by the concern and comfort of her brother, was conflicted.
Wells' face was still full of concern for her.
Rose met his eyes, made her decision, and smiled.
“It has been a bit difficult living in the Imperial Palace.
Maybe it was because the environment had changed after living only in the mansion.
Allison is very considerate, but I can't help but worry about it.
It's nothing to worry about too much.”
Rose kept making excuses that she was fine, but Wells didn't stop worrying.
Even if she had become an adult, Rose would always be eleven years younger than Wells.
Fearing that Wells' worries would grow strong enough to burrow into the ground and pierce the sky, Rose hurriedly thought of more convincing words.
“Like my older brother said, I will go straight to the mansion today.
Will my brother go with me too?”
When the subject abruptly changed to going home, Wells finally relented, albeit slightly.
Wait here for a moment.
I'll just clean up at work and come pick you up.”
“Yes— Ah! How about going back with Ilya? Alison invited Ilya too.”
“The tea party was over early, so Miss Ilya took the Honeywell carriage and went home first.”
Wells gently brushed back Rose's hair and left the room.
Left alone, a sense of desolation enveloped Rose.
She turned and looked out the window.
The sunset is setting; the sun sets early in the winter, so it won't be too late now.
Rose got out of bed and walked to the window to look out, only to realize she was still in Alison's annex.
“We're in Alison's annex.
Before we go back to the mansion, we should see her first, right?”
Rose, who was about to move to meet Allison, stopped.
Her head turned to the window again.
Rose's red gaze contained the most splendid and magnificent building in the Imperial Palace.
“Come to think of it, it's been quite a while since I met His Majesty…”
Rose, who had unconsciously muttered a little, was startled by what she had uttered.
Her whispers had traces of regret.
“How could you imply that you and him have been seeing each other often? Rose Honeywell.”
Rose was admonishing herself as she moved when she heard a knock at the door, breaking her train of thoughts.
There was the maid closest to Alison at the door.
“Duke Honeywell informed me that Lady Rose had awakened.
Marquise Rosenberg is looking for you.”
I will go now.”
With her eyes locked on the tall building outside the window once again, Rose followed the maid out of the room.
Rose didn't notice it then, but for just one moment when she thought of Russell, her head and heart became clearer than before.
The place she was guided to by the maid was a greenhouse.
Rose tilted her head at an unexpected place, and the maid answered for her.
“Master stayed here even after the tea party.”
The maid's guidance led to the entrance to the greenhouse.
Rose had spent several days in the annex with Allison, but this was the first time she had been to the greenhouse.
Rose's footsteps in an unfamiliar place were full of tension.
Fortunately, there was a gravel road from the entrance to the greenhouse, so Rose did not get lost there.
At the place where they arrived along the road, a table for a tea party appeared.
And Alison was sitting at the head of the table.
Sitting in front of an empty table with no tea or dessert, Alison did not budge from what she was thinking.
Rose approached, and before long, Alison turned her head as if she sensed her presence.
Alison brightened when she saw Rose.
She jumped up from her chair and ran to Rose.
“Rose! Are you okay?”
“Sorry for worrying you.
I am fine now.”
Do you know how surprised I was back then? According to the physician, stress is the cause—“
Rose waved her hand vigorously, as if she knew what she wanted to say.
“It's my personal problem.
You don't have to worry too much.”
“It's to fool everyone's eyes, but there must have been some pressure or discomfort when commuting here.”
The lie that Rose had just told Wells to placate him came out of Alison's mouth.
Alison let out a short sigh and looked behind Rose.
The maid stood not far away, and Allison noticed that Wells had returned from work.
“It looks like Duke Honeywell has already arrived.
I was going to have a short talk before you go back, but let's promise to talk next time.”
This time, I will properly attend the invitation.”
“Hahah, but I don't know when the next time will be.”
When Rose stared blankly at her, not understanding her meaning, the corner of Alison's mouth rose in a smile.
“Isn't there a year-end party soon?”
“Is Rose going too?”
Rose managed to move her newly frozen muscles.
Her answer was a little delayed, but it didn't raise any red flags for Alison, who walked towards the entrance to the greenhouse.
When Rose left the greenhouse with Alison, Wells was waiting for her.
The Duke of Honeywell nodded to Alison.
“I'm here to pick up Rose, Marquess Allison.”
“I was thinking of talking to Rose.
The Duke is quick at times like this.”
Wells intercepted the conversation with a thank-you before Allison joked and tried to get Rose to stay longer.
Alison licked her lips; her prediction was correct.
Wells, not seeing Alison, reached out to Rose.
“Let's go back, my Rose.”
Rose, who was about to take his outstretched hand, faced Wells, who stared back at her.
“What's wrong, sister?”
“No, it's nothing.
Allison, I'll go back first.”
After bidding farewell to Allison, Rose climbed into the Honeywell family carriage with Wells.
The siblings sat down opposite each other, the carriage started, and Well's repeated himself.
“Let's go home, Rose.”
It was a simple sentence, and yet it caused a ripple in Rose's heart.
She could see Wells sitting alive and well.
Looking at him without saying anything, she let out a shy smile.
“You've been staring at me ever since we left, Rose.
What's on my face?”
“No, I didn't, just…”
Rose's memories unfolded before her eyes.
An unfamiliar forest covered with snow.
She pictured herself being chased.
Immediately, she shook her head and continued.
“I want to go home quickly.”
…To Honeywell's mansion, to the place where he couldn't return that day.
Alison watched as the carriage with Rose and Wells pulled away.
The place she headed was back to the greenhouse.
After entering again, Alison headed straight to the table, and just as she was about to sit down, a maid came.
“Master, His Majesty has arrived.”
That voice, neither high nor low, was what Alison heard every day.
To the extent that what she usually thought was a voice full of trust was overshadowed, Alison felt that the maid's voice at this moment was like a judge handing down a death sentence.
Allison's shoulders drooped.
She appeared completely different from her usual jolly appearance.
“Guide him in.”
The maid withdrew, and soon after, Russell appeared.
The moment she saw Russell, Allison felt a cold winter wind blowing through the greenhouse.
Allison greeted Russell.
“Welcome, Your Majesty.
I will serve the tea.”
“No, leave it.”
Allison sent everyone away and sat down at the table with Russell.
She stared straight ahead as best she could, occasionally glancing out of the corner of her eye at Russell.
“They said Rose fell.”
Russell broke the long silence, and Allison thought that her time had come.
“I thought I would take good care of it, but…
I guess spending a few days with me, a member of the Royal family, puts a little stress on Rose.”
Since it was Alison who first made the decision to keep Rose by her side, she was careful with every word she uttered.
Rose said it was because of personal matters, but she was confident about the cause of Rose's collapse.
Alison froze under Russell's cold eyes.
Russell let out a long sigh.
Allison shook her shoulders and turned her head toward Russell.
He had his face buried in his hands, with his elbows resting on the table.
“I don't know what I am supposed to do with her?”
Russell's whispers were clearly caught in Alison's ears.
She opened her mouth as if giving comfort to Russell, who was at a loss.
Your Majesty's heart will save Rose.”
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