Rose's eyes lowered to the ground as she followed the steps of the knight.
Contrary to her worries, the Emperor and the Marquise of Roseberg were on her side after hearing her offer.
The sound of their footsteps was disrupted by her sigh.
I now have an excellent excuse to postpone my engagement with Elliot.
Still, it was a temporary measure, and she couldn't use the same excuse forever.
For my brother and I to live…
I need to figure out when Elliot began the preparations for the downfall of the Honeywell family.
Her mind ached under the pressure of the complex thoughts swirling about, and through the throbbing of her headache, Rose became aware of the knight who'd suddenly stopped.
He then showed courtesy towards the person blocking his way in a moderate manner.
“I greet Commander Proud!”
Rose's eye twitched at the name.
Switching her attention to the man in front of the knight, she took in the stature of the opposing man.
Elliot Proud, dressed in the uniform of the Imperial Knights.
After accepting the knight's greeting, Elliot's eyes briefly settled on Rose before drifting away.
“I have not heard the news of Rose coming to the Imperial Palace.”
His Majesty has called for Lady Rose Honeywell.
I was in the middle of escorting the young lady to the carriage to return to her residence.”
Elliot's behavior of disbelief caused Rose to look away quickly, wishing desperately to leave.
But he wasn't a character who would act up in the Imperial Palace, so I won't have to worry much.
[TL/N: She's saying that even though he pushes his weight around whenever they meet, he won't do as such in the Imperial Palace.
Rose won't need to be constantly on guard while they are there.]
He has never been interested in me since the beginning of our relationship, right? It's just these days, he's acting strange.
Patiently, Rose and the knight waited for Elliot to excuse them from his presence, but after a considerable silence, Elliot decided differently.
“Then, Rose, I will guide you to the carriage.”
Rose's head snapped up to meet Elliot's gaze, assuming she'd misheard.
Unfortunately, his expression was unreadable.
“Yes? Well then, I'll excuse myself.”
Easily backing down, Rose guessed that the knight knew of their upcoming engagement between the Honeywell and Proud families.
Rose barely withheld the urge to restrain her hand that reached out towards the knight.
They remained in silence until the knight left, and even after he left, they remained silent.
She refused to make eye contact with Duke Proud, so as Rose stood uncomfortably in place, her gaze stayed focused on the lavish floor as she secretly paid attention to Elliot's movements.
Despite the large hallway, Rose felt suffocated.
In the end, she gave in first.
“…I know how to get to the carriage, so I'll go first.
Duke Proud does not need to guide me.”
Truthfully, Rose did not know where the carriage was, as it was the first time entering the drawing room of the emperor, and the hallway they walked now was different from the one Alison used to bring her there.
Why didn't the knight use the same hallway?!
Even if Rose could retrace her steps back to the drawing room, she would still have a hard time finding her way.
The Imperial Palace is so vast and complex.
How can a seldom-visiting person like me navigate the hallways?
Nonetheless, Rose would risk getting lost in the Imperial Palace as long as she could avoid Elliot Proud.
She was at the point where she had limited options and had to choose the lesser of two evils.
[TL/N: Stating that she can only choose between the two: stay with the duke or escape and get lost because she is not used to the layout of the Imperial Palace.
She had decided that getting lost was preferable to spending time with him.
Rose took a small step away.
She didn't know where she would end up, but she would go straight ahead and immediately get out of the hallway first.
The closer she got to Elliot, the more her heart began to beat crazily.
The moment she passed Elliot and her back completely faced him, Rose could finally breathe calmly.
all I have to do is find the carriage.
I'm hoping to meet someone as I wander around.
Maybe they can guide me?
When Rose had determined a plan, the tension drained from her body as even her footsteps lightened.
That feeling of lightness lasted for only a moment.
A large hand grabbed Rose's shoulder, firmly securing her in place.
Though the grip was light, it was enough to surprise Rose, who'd thought she was getting away.
Rose lost her balance in fear and collapsed on the floor, her desperate cry ringing down the length of the hallway.
She gasped with a hand over her heart, trying to calm it down as she looked up.
A rare expression of embarrassment painted Elliot's face.
He stood, looking down at her, with his hand still stretched out in her direction.
Quickly, he adjusted his appearance and exhaled roughly as he awkwardly withdrew his hand.
“…I didn't know you'd be startled.”
Elliot knelt on one knee to match Rose's level.
His action stunned Rose, who was unfamiliar with his new behavior.
A hand entered her vision.
Rose looked at the duke, and her stomach churned at his unexpected kindness.
“I can stand on my own.”
Forcefully, Rose stood up, but perhaps she was too hasty, causing her body to tilt greatly as her foot snagged on the end of her dress.
Off balance, Rose fell into Elliot's arms.
The fabric of his uniform was soft against her cheek, but before her mind could register the texture, her body reacted and she pushed herself away from him.
The corner of Elliot's lips lifted in a smirk as he watched his fiancé act like his touch hurt like fire.
“You tripped on your dress like the last time.”
By “last time,” Elliot referred to the day Rose went to meet him at the Proud Manor after she returned from her past.
Rose, too, remembered the day clearly.
Unwilling to answer, she grumbled softly.
“Can you stand? Or would you like to hold my hand?”
Elliot once again offered his hand, but Rose ignored it and turned away.
“I don't need it.
“And what if you fall again?”
Elliot's teasing tone made Rose aware that he was in a good mood.
People are ashamed when they fall, but there are others who are happy to see it happen.
Rose pretended not to hear him.
“Aren't you busy?”
“If I said no, I would be lying.
But it's not like there isn't even time to see off my fiancée.”
Rose's face stiffened at the word “fiancée” coming from his lips.
Elliot moved on, with Rose quietly following him.
She guessed that since her plans went up in flames, the quickest way to leave Elliot behind was to follow him and get on a carriage.
Walking behind him gave her the opportune moment to catch sight of his shining hair as it shimmered in the sunlight.
The blue hair bathed in light gently fluttered with every step he took.
It looked like waves crashing on the sea.
Rose had never seen the sea in real life and had based her assumptions on illustrations she'd seen in books.
It felt like she was facing the wide sea whenever she saw Elliot's hair color.
A young boy's voice echoed in Rose's ears.
“You've never seen the sea? Then I will definitely take you there someday and show you around.”
Rose pursed her lips.
Why am I the only one troubled by these memories?
Shaking her head and clearing her thoughts, Rose spotted a waiting carriage over Elliot's shoulder.
Her face brightened.
It was finally possible to separate from Elliot.
Rose moved faster as she got closer and closer to the carriage.
She passed by Elliot as she reached the carriage first and then reached out for the door.
However, a hand extended from behind her and blocked Rose's hand from touching the handle.
“We have a woman open the carriage door herself.”
Because I was rushing, I made a mistake that I wouldn't have made.
What kind of aristocratic woman opened the carriage door and climbed up herself?
Rose's face turned red.
Elliot opened the carriage door as he offered the blushing Rose a hand.
She climbed into the carriage as if throwing herself in and looked at Elliot, who was still standing outside.
“Thank you for seeing me off here.
I'll go now.”
Rose bid farewell to Elliot, faking a reluctant tone, hoping that he would finally back away so she could escape.
Against her expectations, Elliot didn't budge.
Rose's shoulders trembled.
If it had been before, Rose would have been thrilled, but now, when he called her name like that, all she felt was anxiety.
When he calls me by name like that, I feel more anxious than anything.
“Rose, no matter what you do, I have no intention of breaking the engagement.
Our engagement will go according to plan, and I will never let you go.”
After lightly threatening Rose, Elliot carefully closed the carriage door and backed away.
The sound of a coachman urging the horses forward sounded, and the wheels began to roll slowly.
The sounds of the smooth ride, the rattling when the carriage crossed the drawbridge leaving the Imperial Palace—through it all, Rose had no reaction.
It was only when the sounds outside the carriage became too loud that Rose finally snapped out of her stump.
She sagged in her seat, mockingly laughing to herself.
“You're not going to let me go? Why would such a man spit out such words at me?”
Rose, muttering to herself, remembered Elliot's face when he spoke those words.
He was arrogant.
It was as if he expected the engagement ceremony would proceed as he had foretold and eventually lead to her becoming his fiancée, and even his wife.
Rose's face hardened coldly at his arrogance and confidence.
“Yes, you keep believing that, Elliot.
In the end, the two of us will somehow separate.”
It's been a while since the carriage with Rose left, yet Elliot did not move from his spot but rather stared after the carriage.
He couldn't understand why his last moment with Rose had left an afterimage in his mind.
He wanted to tightly grasp onto it so that he could find out why, but by then, it had begun to fade away.
Returning to reality, he got back to the task at hand.
It was nearing the end of the year, and everyone who worked at the Imperial Palace was busy, Elliot included.
He didn't have time to spare for anything else besides his need to go back to his office.
However, before he turned his head back, he took a last glance forward, hoping to catch a glimpse of that faded memory.
Could her lingering feelings have changed so suddenly?
Elliot calmly recalled Rose as she sat in the carriage.
Rich blonde hair, as bright as light reflecting off waves.
White jade-like skin with red eyes that shine brighter than any ruby.
The same eyes that looked at him with a cool heart after the fiery embers of love ran out.
[TL/N: Eyes that no longer hold love for the other person.]
“I don't love you.”
Her lips held a clear mockery aimed at him, but it was stiff.
It was the smile of a person who experienced new, negative feelings towards someone when, all their life, they felt nothing but happiness.
Elliot covered the smile rising on his lips.
The memory of Rose unfolded in his mind.
If I get involved with you, I will go crazy.”
At that, the smile on Elliot's lips disappeared instantly.
So did the memory.
He rubbed his chin.
It doesn't sound like a lie.”
Elliot knew long ago that Rose was serious about breaking their engagement.
Rose tended to show her emotions even when she tried to hide them, so Elliot noticed it right away the second Rose came to the Proud Manor that day.
Slowly, he walked in the direction of the private office.
With each step he took, the corners of his mouth curled up.
“Even if you sincerely want to break up with me, it's still not possible.”
His soft muttering was the only sound in the cold hallway.
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