A lot happened in a short period of time.
Elliot had effortlessly lifted her into the air and brought her back just as easily to the ground.
The sudden movement made her dizzy.
Her mind struggled to catch up to her body's situation.
Waiting for her spirit to return, she stared down Elliot, who smiled at her.
“As you've wished, the dance is over.”
With his last words, there was a round of applause.
Involuntarily, her body shook, and Elliot backed away meekly.
Seeing his relaxed expression, Rose turned away and left for the terrace while she thought of her brother.
The shock of the cold winter wind awakened her spirit, and though her body shivered from the cold, she didn't want to return to the banquet for a coat.
Even in the midst of the outside breeze, Rose could feel that persistent gaze locked on her through the tightly shut glass door.
As she looked around, Rose came across steps leading from the terrace to the garden.
There was no hesitation in her gait as she walked down.
She was ready to do practically anything to run away from those terrible gazes.
Arms wrapped around her, she entered the garden.
Recently, she had been to the Imperial Palace frequently, but strictly speaking, she had only been to Alison's annex.
This was the first time she had visited the Imperial Garden.
Rose walked blindly to wherever her feet took her, trusting the pale moonlight in the night sky to illuminate her path.
As she walked without thought or purpose, a fountain appeared in the center of the garden.
The water might have frozen in the midst of winter, but now, with the use of a magic tool, the fountain was flowing with a clear sound like that of midsummer.
Rose walked over to the fountain and sat down with her hips at the edge.
A long sigh escaped Rose's lips.
She remembered the dance with Elliot at the party.
“What is with those gazes…?”
She bit her lip, turning her red lips white.
Even that was not enough; Rose suddenly covered her head.
Her silky blonde hair tangled in her fingers, the same hair that Anne had carefully arranged—and turned into a tangled mess.
“You have to push back, Rose.
I can't be dragged around like this.”
Even as she said that, Rose gave a distorted smile, as if mocking herself.
I mean, it's easy to say it.
Rose let out a sigh and laughed as she dragged her hand over her face.
In the shadows, with her back against the moon, her hair was scattered.
“…If Anne sees this, she will be very angry.”
Rose slowly pulled out the hairpins that held her hair, one by one.
After pulling out the last one, her long hair ran down her back.
Without a cloak, Rose was enduring the cold by covering her shoulders with her hair when she heard footsteps echoing in the quiet garden.
Footsteps that were getting closer.
Rose's complexion turned white.
…There should be no one here.
Rose jumped up from her seat across the fountain and looked around.
Not wanting to come face-to-face with any strangers, Rose unhesitatingly searched for a place to hide, her steps making a path to the bushes that grew under the fence.
At a height that reached around her waist, she had to crouch on the ground, getting as low as possible to hide completely.
Rose gathered the hem of the dress to keep it from slipping out of the bushes and bent her knees as much as she could.
Let's hide here and get out when that person passes by.
Rose peered through the garden through the small gaps in the bushes.
The footsteps drew closer, and her heart started beating abnormally with them as a tall man appeared behind the fence.
The first thing that caught her attention was, of course, his silver hair shining in the pale moonlight.
Then it was his eyes, looking around as if he were looking for something and moving quite busily.
It was the appearance of an unexpected person.
If it was Russell, Rose would have no reason to hide.
Even if I hide, don't I have a gift to give him?
Rose looked down at her empty hand.
It was then that he remembered that she left her bag in the women's lounge because she had to dance.
She lightly hit her forehead.
“Really, how is this helping?”
While Rose silently complained, Russell, who had been looking around, turned his back in her direction.
Rose hurriedly stood up and called out to the man, who was clearly leaving the fountain.
“Wait, Your Majesty!”
When his name was urgently called, Russell froze mid step and turned sharply towards the sound.
Russell had a face evident with surprise when he saw Rose suddenly appear from behind a bush.
The young lady smiled awkwardly and stepped forward, holding the hem of her dress.
“That is—I thought that someone I didn't know was coming…
So I was momentarily frightened and hid here.”
Rose stepped carefully, avoiding the stems lest her legs get caught in the bushes.
It was easy to hide, but why is it so hard to come out?
Distracted while holding onto the hem of the dress and struggling to get out of the bushes, Russell approached her.
“Wait, Lady Honeywell.
If you move like that, the fabric of your dress will get caught in the bushes and tear.”
The girl stopped moving immediately and looked at Russell.
The Emperor approached Rose and bowed on one knee before he carefully removed the dress from the bushes.
The crown of Russell's head came into Rose's field of vision.
This has happened before.
The fact that Russell kneeled in front of her without hesitation.
Russell must have been thinking that too, and laughter came from underneath Rose.
“I think something like this happened at the Imperial Library.”
Heat rose to Rose's cheeks.
“I'm sorry, Your Majesty.
You can just rip the bottom of the skirt.
Even if it's torn, it's the bottom hem, so it doesn't show much.”
How could I do that to you though? You are Rose Honeywell after all.”
Russell's words are ambiguous; whether he meant to emphasize “Rose” or “Honeywell” was up to Rose.
She rolled her eyes and thought about the meaning, then bowed her head when the Emperor called for her.
“I think it's almost untangled.
Take your legs out one by one.”
Rose moved her leg carefully to avoid getting caught in the low bush.
However, her body kept shaking, and it was difficult to keep her balance steady on one leg; eventually, her body tilted dangerously.
Rose let go of the hem of the dress she was holding and fell to the ground.
…No! Why does this happen in front of His Majesty and not anyone else!
Rose longed to be a wizard.
If that was the case, at this moment, she could have time to stop, or the disaster would have been avoided by using the magic of floating in the air.
However, it was just Rose's wish that lasted just a brief moment.
Before she knew it, her body fell upon Russell's, and both bodies landed on the grass.
“Sorry, I'm so sorry, Your Majesty!”
In the end, Rose ends up shedding tears.
Her body trembled as she repeatedly apologized.
“I'm really sorry, Your Majesty.
Are you injured?”
If Russell gets even the slightest wound, my life would be forfeit, leaving behind the Honeywell family and all that I know.
To scar the Emperor's jade body twice!
As if to comfort a terrified, crying Rose, Russell held out both hands to show their lack of wounds.
“I am not hurt.
Is Lady Honeywell safe? You're wearing shoes, but what about your ankles?”
“I can get hurt—no, rather, you have to not get hurt.
How do you keep getting in harm's way because of me?”
Rose's cheeks were already drenched with tears.
Seeing her cry hard enough that her shoulders shook, Russell put on a troubled expression.
If Lady Honeywell keeps on crying like that…”
Russell swallowed his words.
Unaware of how she ended up in her predicament, Rose took deep breaths to calm down and stop her tears.
The Emperor waited patiently until Rose had calmed and spoke to her playfully.
“Lady Honeywell, you almost fell at the end of your dance with Duke Proud, didn't you?”
“I can see everything from the Emperor's seat.”
Rose covered her face with both hands.
He saw me dancing with Elliot.
That's the last person I wanted His Majesty to see me dancing with.
…I firmly said that I would break off the engagement and that I did not love him, but what did His Majesty think when he saw me earlier?
Rose couldn't lift her head until something thick and warm wrapped around her shoulder.
When she looked at her shoulders, she saw Russell's coat wrapped around her.
“Your Majesty, I'm fine—“
“It is forbidden to say that you're okay.
If you feel uncomfortable with my coat, go back to the party right now.”
I would hate that.
Rose kept her mouth shut.
Instead, she showed her intentions by gripping Russell's coat, who then smiled at her and moved his body into a more comfortable position.
Rose followed his movement and took a seat next to him.
“Lady Honeywell sits comfortably on the floor, as you did in the library.
Most women hate it because their dresses get ruined.”
“Since His Majesty is sitting on the floor…”
Are you going to follow what I'm doing?”
Rose and Russell fell into silence as they admired the moon over the fountain.
“Are you mad at yourself for not being able to refuse Duke Proud?”
Russell broke the silence, causing Rose to bow her head in response.
“Duke Proud is not easy going.
He, too, became the Commander-in-Chief and Duke of the Imperial Knights at a young age.
No, it was before that.”
“Has Your Majesty been friends with Elliot from before?”
“Rather than being friendly, it's because the royal family is obliged to establish a relationship with the Proud and Honeywell families.
Well, Elliott and Wells are like that.”
Anyone could see that Russell and Wells were close and friendly, but strangely, the relationship with Elliot was not so easily interpreted.
Again, silence fell between the two.
What was strange was that the silence didn't make the two of them uncomfortable.
The faint sound of music could be heard in the distance.
The music flowing from the party far away came to the garden, carried along in the wind.
Russell raised himself from the floor, stood in front of Rose, bent down, made eye contact, and held out his hand.
“Would you be willing to give me the honor of dancing with the young lady?”
Rose's gaze landed once on Russell's hand and once in his amethyst eyes.
“…I don't know if you've seen it before…
I might fall again while dancing.”
“I don't care.
I have the confidence to support Lady Honeywell well.”
“Oh, then I am truly honored, Your Majesty.”
Rose's hand rests on top of Russell's.
After helping Rose to her feet, Russell led her closer to the fountain.
The two faced each other, their hands meeting.
Rose's other hand was on Russell's shoulder, while his hand was on Rose's waist.
The two move their feet to the sound of music coming from afar.
As she danced with Russell, Rose kept her mouth firmly shut, lest her heart jump out through her lips.
When I shut my mouth, my heart sounds like an earthquake in my ears.
I'm worried about Russell's hand touching my waist.
I doubt I'm breathing properly.
As she was worried about everything, Rose couldn't figure out how she was moving her body in time with the music.
Her movements were according to the instincts her body remembered.
Did Russell always smell this fresh?
Rose had never drunk wine or other alcoholic beverages, but she felt like she was about to get drunk off the scent of the man wrapped around her.
Isn't there such a thing as drunken talk? I got drunk on Russell and it felt like I was going to vomit my heart out on him without even realizing it.
The sound of the music that was carried on the wind was over, and the dance of the two people also came to an end.
“It is over, Lady Honeywell.”
Russell reminded both her and himself of this with regret.
Regretfully, Rose tightened her grip on Russell's hand.
Feeling the power in her fingers, he lowered his eyes to her.
Sensing Russell's gaze, Rose slowly opened her mouth.
Can't you call me by my name…?”
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