The way to the women's lounge was not difficult.
After all, the break room needed to be close to the banquet.
Arriving at the break room, Rose immediately headed for the cabinet where she stored her bag.
Her bag, as well as the box containing the brooch, were completely intact.
Holding the bag tightly, Rose quickly walked out.
She had gotten what she'd come for.
How will Russell react when he receives this brooch?
Rose hurried her steps with excitement.
A soft hum left her lips as she reached her destination.
Perhaps the knights thought that their master, the Emperor, was away, so no one was guarding the door.
“Your Majesty, I'm here—“
Rose called out to Russell and opened the door, but unfortunately, it wasn't Russell who greeted her first.
“My Rose! You're here!”
It was Wells.
As soon as he saw Rose, he came running towards her at the speed of light.
[TL/N: He ran to her very fast.]
It was so fast, if only a bit exaggerated, that in the blink of an eye, Wells arrived mere steps away from his sister.
“You went outside all of a sudden, and when I went out to the garden because I was worried, I was frightened when I couldn't see you.
I was on my way to visit His Majesty so that he could find you by mobilizing knights.”
His hands grabbed onto his sister's cheeks, turning them to and fro, inspecting if she had any injuries.
“Brother, I'm fine.
I couldn't go back to the banquet because I was busy looking around the Imperial Palace.”
Rose pushed her brother's hands away from her face.
Wells stared at Rose with worried eyes before he belatedly realized that something was strange.
Why are you here now? Did His Majesty call you? Why this child…”
Russell and Rose's mouths were firmly shut.
The two of them had been together before Wells appeared to find Russell.
Wells's eyes narrowed as Rose silenced her voice and avoided answering.
“Rose, you have to be honest with me.
I'm asking a question out of concern for you.”
His voice was kind.
It was the sound of his voice that Rose loved the most, and when Wells spoke to her so gently, she couldn't help but confess everything.
“I came because I have something to give to His Majesty.”
“To His Majesty?”
Rose fished out a box from her bag.
Not only Wells but also Russell, the person involved, looked at the box with curious eyes.
Rose handed it to the Emperor.
Feeling burdened by the eyes of the men on her, she stammered out excuses.
“The person who could be of great help in ending my engagement with Elliot is Your Majesty.
That's why I'm giving it to you…”
She tried her best to speak as plainly as possible, without any hint of emotion, but in the end, her voice trembled unsteadily.
Fortunately, Russell's heart was made of steel, and his behavior was the same as usual.
“Thank you, Lady Honeywell.”
His call for me has once again changed back to my last name.
While Rose understood Russell, she could only fiddle with her fingertips in bitterness.
The conversation was about to come to an end as Wells naturally changed the subject.
“Right now, the banquet hall is buzzing with word of the winter hunting.
Are you planning to attend, Your Majesty?”
The Emperor sat down on the couch as Wells and Rose took their seats after him.
Wells continued once they were all seated.
“Earl Hunt, who is in charge of prey, said that this time, beasts such as jaguars and pumas are planned to appear.
Hmm, but will it be okay? The hunting area is limited, so the knights can catch it later…”
The casually broached subject morphed into Wells' work report.
While listening to Wells' narration with interest, Rose suddenly raised her head and looked at Russell.
She met his gaze, who had his chin on his elbow that comfortably lay on the armrest of the couch.
When Rose didn't avert her gaze, Russell covered his mouth with his hand without Wells' knowledge and grinned.
It's a secret from the duke.
Then he lifted the small box given to him by Rose and put it down.
Rose knew what that meant.
It was fitting to leave the time spent together throughout the banquet as a memory solely between the two of them.
Rose smiled and nodded in response.
With the end of the year upon them, everyone was busy trying to wrap up the year's progress.
But even after the new year, Wells was busy with other business.
There were many days when he got off work late, so there were many days when he couldn't even dine with Rose and the baron's daughter.
“I knew the Duke was amazing, but…
It is a very busy time for him.”
Ilya put down the teacup and confided in Rose, who nodded.
That's why it's even harder to have a cup of tea with my brother around this time of year.”
Rose had tea time with Ilya instead.
It was the same time as usual, but there was one thing that was different.
No, it would be more accurate to say that it was added.
“The Winter Hunt is one of the four seasons' events that all nobles look forward to.”
Stanley brought up the hunt.
Stanley was invited to Rose and Ilya's tea time.
Immediately after Wells gave permission, Ilya took up a pen and wrote the invitation herself and sent it.
Stanley accepted the invitation, and the result was today's tea time.
Ilya put down the teacup in her hand and looked at Stanley with gleaming eyes.
“Stanley, are you participating in the hunt?”
But as I'm more of a book person than a swordsman, I think I can only catch small game.
Big and dangerous game will be caught by others.”
“But it's strange that the hunting festival is held in winter.”
“There is a forest behind the Imperial Palace, we release the prey there in advance.
They say that the reason they do it in the winter of the new year is to wish for a safe year ahead.”
Rose listened to Stanley's explanation with interest.
She had seen the forest behind the Imperial Palace several times.
I haven't been there myself, but the forest is quite large and wide, so I could see it well from Alison's outbuilding.
“Young Lady Rose, is this your first time participating in a hunting festival?”
Stanley questioned Rose, who shook her head with an awkward laugh.
“I heard that you can attend without hunting.
I don't think it's bad to visit at least once…
I want to go with Ilya.”
You will definitely not have a boring time.
In the space for women, small animals are also released, so it will be fun to look around.”
Rose and Ilya, who were new to hunting, had their eyes light up at the thought of small animals.
Ilya dreamed of all the small animals before suddenly asking another question.
“Is the hunting festival just about catching the prey? Don't they give prizes to those who catch them?”
“Of course there is, Lady Ilya.
Did you know that in the spring there is a coming-of-age celebration for those who have come of age?”
Ilya nodded vigorously and pretended to know.
“A woman I met at a banquet told me the story.
She said that as I am an adult now, I will receive an invitation from the Imperial Family.”
“Yes, there is a lot of prey at the hunting festival…
An award will be given to the contestant who catches the trickiest ones.
The winner of the hunt can perform the first dance with a partner of their choice to kick off the coming-of-age debut for everyone.”
Rose let out a short exclamation.
She attended the coming-of-age celebrations held at the Imperial Family the year before and thought of the first person who danced with her.
At that time, I didn't know who they were, so I didn't know why they danced with me in the first place, but now my curiosity has been answered.
As Rose was reminiscing about her coming-of-age banquet the previous year, Ilya had another question on her mind.
“Hunting is also a skill, so wouldn't the person who always danced dance every year?”
[TL/N: Won't the same person use his outstanding skills to win every year and choose whoever he wants year in and year out.]
“It's not like that.
The winner of the hunting festival will have their first dance with their partner that year, and even if they participate in the hunting festival for the next five years and catch an excellent game, it will be invalid.”
“It is so romantic— Uh! Then, Rose, have you ever danced…?”
Elliot was the commander-in-chief of the Imperial Knights and had extraordinary skills.
It must have been easy for him to catch various prey at the hunting event.
After winning, she wondered if he had applied to partner with Rose, but ever since Ilya heard that Rose would cancel the engagement, Ilya's question was spoken very cautiously.
“No, I remember hearing that Elliot never won a championship.”
While Rose was passionately in love with Elliot without knowing anything about it, she happened to hear about the hunting tradition from Wells that the winner chose a partner and danced to the coming-of-age party that year.
Rose was confident that Elliott would win the hunt.
He was so good at swordsmanship that even Wells sometimes praised him.
However, when she heard that she could not go to the coming-of-age banquet as she was still a minor, Rose prayed over and over again that Elliot would not win the hunt.
She didn't know if God listened to her earnestness and prevented Elliott from winning.
But Elliot didn't win as she had hoped, and he didn't dance with another partner at her coming-of-age celebration.
Rose picked up the teacup and brought it to her mouth.
…Is His Majesty also attending? So what if he wins? What kind of young lady would you like to perform your first dance with, Your Majesty?
At the year-end celebration, Wells had asked Russell if he was going to hunt.
I should have heard an answer from him then, but I missed the most important part because Wells followed up with his own answer.
…Will my brother come early tonight? I'll have to ask him indirectly.
Filled with thoughts of Russell, Rose didn't notice the gaze looking at her.
It was an unpleasant glance disguised as goodwill.
That night was deep.
Rose was reading a book with the bedside light lit, when she heard the sound of carriages outside the quiet window.
Without hesitation, she closed the book, got out of bed, and ran to the window.
When she pulled back the heavy curtains to check outside, the Honeywell family carriage, with Wells on board, was pulling up into the manor.
“Brother, you're here now!”
It was almost midnight.
Rose put on a coat she found hanging on a hanger stand and left the room while holding a lantern.
Wells entered the manor at the same time that Rose stepped down the stairs to the first floor.
His eyes widened when he glimpsed his beloved sister.
“My Rose? Aren't you asleep yet?”
“No, I can't sleep…
Brother, you've done a great job with work.”
Rose kept pace with Wells until she noticed his steps leading toward her room and stopped.
“Let's go to my brother's room.
I will guide you.”
“Hm? The hallway is dark, so I will take you to your room first.”
“No— Oh, you must be tired.
Let's go, brother's room is this way.”
Rose stubbornly tugged on his sleeve, while Wells, unable to overcome the tiredness that had accumulated throughout the day, was guided by her obediently.
“This is the first time Rose has ever led me to a room.”
“Is that so? Oh, oops.
Brother,I have a question.”
“What is it?”
“Is my older brother attending the hunting festival too?”
Rose guessed Wells' answer before he could reply.
He would say no, because Wells wasn't good at hunting.
He never was.
“No, my Rose, I am not attending.”
I knew it.
Her prediction was correct.
Rose asked the next question as naturally as possible.
“Then, His Majesty? Will His Majesty go to the hunting festival?”
“Go? Others will hunt, but he will not participate in the hunt.
It has been like that every year.”
“I see, so he is attending.”
Rose pursed her lips to still the corners of her lips that were about to rise.
Wells's room appeared after walking down the slightly chilled corridor.
He leaned down and kissed Rose lightly on the cheek before entering the room.
“Go back to your room carefully, my Rose.
Sleep well, brother.”
Wells straightened his posture, staring at Rose without entering the room.
His sister tilted her head at her brother, who made no movement and instead chose to smile at her.
After a while of silence, he acted first.
“Rose, if you have His Majesty in your heart, it would be better to withdraw it.”
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