Elliot ignored his fiancé's existence as he practiced the steps of his sword dance.
If she was still the Rose of the past, she would have indeed fallen in love again.
Her passion for his sword dance would have blinded her.
Now that she had returned, she was enlightened.
Her fiancé ignored her, not because of his dedication to the dance.
He was praised as one of the strongest knights in the empire, so even if he was engrossed in his training, he would not have failed to detect her presence.
Rose pursed her lips, trying to suppress the bubbling laughter.
How come I've never noticed his cold demeanor? Even if I was blinded by love, this is too much.
Taking a brief moment to control her breathing, Rose slowly closed the distance between her and her fiancé.
She took in his appearance as she walked.
The closer she got to him, the more his blue hair captured her attention.
The sight of his blue hair reminded Rose of the sea and drew her back to her past.
Back then, a blue-haired boy heroically carried her on his back as they tried to find their way back.
That little boy who pushed himself to carry her as he exhausted himself, not giving up until he fainted.
The closer Rose got to Elliot, the more his appearance crossed over the fading memories of the boy.
Her steps came to a halt when she was only two feet away from him.
The sword in his hand cut through the air, its sharp blade aimed at Rose's throat, stopping just inches away from her delicate neck.
Perhaps if Elliot had not stopped the sword's momentum, the blade would have lightly sliced her open.
When Rose registered the weapon pointing at her, her pupils trembled in fear.
The blade, gleaming in the sun, reminded her of that day.
Colorful banquet hall.
Wells, her older brother, was stabbed.
Still lost in the illusions of the past, Rose flinched away from the sight of blood spilt from her brother.
In her rush, the world tilted as she lost her footing when she accidentally stepped onto the hem of her dress.
With all the places to embarrass myself, it has to be in front of Elliot.
Why couldn't it be someone else?
Rose struggled to outstretch her hands to break her fall as she closed her eyes.
She didn't want to witness the disaster about to happen.
All I wanted was to announce my breakup.
Why am I falling?
However, after a while, Rose still could not feel the impact of the dirt-covered training arena.
Instead, Rose felt her body fall into a wide embrace with callused covered hands.
Perhaps it was the complicated sword dance, but she could hear a heartbeat beating faster than usual against her ears.
Rose was stunned.
She found herself in the arms of the person she least wanted to be in.
With a quick shove, Rose escaped his arms, causing Elliot to back away at her violent gesture.
Following him to the barracks attached to the corner of the training arena, waiting patiently as Elliot moved to the entrance to the changing area.
Elliot finally spoke to her.
I specifically recall informing you not to come close to me when I am practicing my sword dance.
When a knight performs a sword dance, they aren't aware of those around them.”
Trailing after him, Rose's steps came to a halt.
She glared at him subtly, watching angrily as he wiped down his sweat with a towel.
“It's not that you are unaware.
It's that you pretend to not know.”
It was only a brief pause, but Rose caught the slight falter of Elliot's hands.
He lightly smiled at Rose as he placed the towel down.
“Did you have trouble sleeping last night? Is that why your voice sounds sharp, Rose?”
His eyes surveyed her.
Faced with that dark blue gaze, Rose forced herself to stay in the present moment, refusing to be drawn back into the night where he had pushed her into the abyss of death.
“You really must have lacked sleep.”
Elliot Proud strode to his fiancé and gently stroked her eyes.
Rose watched him vigilantly, the concern contained in his voice that contrasted the cold glare in his gaze.
She slightly twisted her head and dodged his touch.
“Yes, Elliot, I've had a terrible 'nightmare'.
I've had it since dawn, so my sleep has been troubled.”
She deliberately stressed the word nightmare.
As the only one between them who did not remember Rose's end, Elliot dismissed her emphasis as mumbles of complaint.
“It rained this morning,” he said, nodding to the hem of her gown as he neatly tidied the barracks table.
Her hem held faint traces of dirt from walking on the wet ground.
“If you insist on walking around outside, then your dress will be damaged.
Seeing as you've come as soon as your notice arrived, it looks like you have something urgent to discuss.
First, let us enter the manor.”
[TL/N: The notice refers to the notice of visit a noble would send prior to their visit to another noble's estate.]
Her fiancé marched past her, lifted the cloth covering the barracks entrance, and patiently waited for Rose to leave.
The expected appreciation from the young lady was surprisingly missing.
Rather, she spoke of something else entirely.
“I'm not implying that you should enter the manor.”
The young Duke of Proud cast an inquiring glance at her as he held his position.
Rose had practiced her speech numerous times on her way to the Proud residency.
It was finally time to spit it out.
“We—Let us break off our engagement.”
The man, who had stood so confidentially bathed in light, dropped the cloth covering the entrance and shrouded them in shadows.
Fighting against the sudden darkness were the streaks of sunlight peeking through the gaps of the cloth.
“Let us break off our engagement.
Elliot mockingly repeated her request.
His fiancé narrowed her eyes at his tone and carefully looked for a hint towards his current mood.
There was just enough light seeping through the cloth to allow for some visibility, but not enough for Rose to properly guess his expression.
With her attention diverted, Rose only realized Elliot's position when he was but a breath away from her.
Startled, she quickly backed away but was still caught by the young man's outstretched hand.
“Urgh! Oww, it hurts!”
Her arm was fragile, if he added the right amount of force, he could easily have broken it.
Convinced her arm was on the verge of breaking, Rose urgently pushed against Elliot's shoulder with her remaining hand.
“Let go! Elliot, let me go right now!”
She used as much strength as she could bear, and yet, she was unable to make him budge.
Without her control, her body froze at the command in his voice.
The engagement ceremony is just around the corner.
You might just be confused, but I cannot cancel our engagement.”
[TL/N: He means she might be having pre-wedding jitters, so she is confused and that is why she wants to cancel the engagement.]
Truly confused, Rose raised her chin and stared at the hand gripping her arm.
The lack of distance between them allowed Rose to clearly see his cold eyes.
“Why not? You didn't seem very happy about your engagement to me.”
“I'm really embarrassed, Rose.”
“Rose, it's not that I don't understand why you're upset.
Is it because you thought that I've been busy with preparations for our engagement ceremony lately and haven't been able to spend time with you?”
His grip loosened on her arm.
You can unleash your anger on me, but the engagement is irrevocable.”
[TL/N: Irrevocable means that the engagement is irreversible.]
“We haven't even had the ceremony yet, and you haven't sent out the engagement invitations to the nobles, right?”
“Well, you're right.
Still, I cannot break up this marriage.”
Why is this man, who's never been kind to me, holding on to this marriage?
She pondered his change of heart.
No! I can't be swayed; he's planning to take down Honeywell.
He needs this engagement for his plan.
She grabbed and coyly shook his arm.
“But I've already sent a letter to my brother.
It was to inform him why I came to your manor today.
Let's just do this, you can be the first to propose the breakup.
I don't mind.”
After taking a quick peek at her fiancé's unreadable face, Rose decided it was time to make a speedy getaway.
Before she could put her plans into action, Elliot once again grabbed hold of her.
She cried out sharply and tried to shake him off.
Do you not know how much effort I have put in towards making the Proud and Honeywell's union work?”
“No! I don't know, but do you know how hard I worked? I rebelled against my brother; I have never, in my entire life, done that.
Nothing was off limits; I even went on a hunger strike.”
Our engagement is the result of your hard work, Rose.
But you're giving it all up now? I'm sorry, but I find it difficult to accept your decision.”
It was Rose who decided to end their engagement, so how was it that she was the one annoyed with their confrontation? She forced a smile.
“I don't love you.”
Why the hell was I so obsessed with your love? I will break off this engagement, Elliot Proud! I will go crazy and die if I get involved with you.
From her point of view, her dislike for him was abundantly clear.
Having bruised his ego, Elliot, having a high self-esteem, might just grant her wish and call off their engagement out of anger.
She pondered as she observed his reaction.
It started off subtly, with the smile that grew from the corners of his lips.
That, too, was a mirror image of Rose's sneer as she announced her lack of love for him.
“You're going to cancel our engagement ceremony just because you don't love me?”
Neither his voice nor his face showed disgruntlement.
Rather, before she could guess his next move, she was pulled by the arm.
Her body staggered, she was helplessly dragged forward, and the distance between them became practically nonexistent.
Rose froze in surprise as they were so close that the other could feel the other's exhalation of breath.
Elliot whispered with his lips inches away from hers.
“Our union was approved by His Majesty the Emperor himself after careful consideration.
Our engagement was concluded once the pros and cons were acknowledged by countless nobles.”
Rose gasped; she was speechless.
The Proud family and the Honeywell family have never gotten along, no matter how much time has passed.
You and I are the first and only ones.”
His hand lightly cupped her chin and tilted her head up.
Rose had no choice but to move according to his wishes.
“As expected, Rose, you're still young.
Why did Proud and Honeywell never reconcile with one another during their long history? Could it be that there was no one in both families who loved the other?”
The Tristan Empire was initially founded by three people.
Tristan, the first emperor of the empire, and his two loyal subjects, Proud and Honeywell.
The Proud and Honeywell families' histories began at the birth of their empire.
For so long, could there really be no one who fell in love with the other family?
It wasn't that Rose was pessimistic.
Maybe they did love once or twice.
Somewhere in their pasts, the Proud family loved the Honeywell family, and the Honeywell family returned the love of the Proud family.
“Why, Rose? Why can't Proud and Honeywell get along?”
Rose remembered a novel read by her brother, Wells, long ago.
In it, it told of two families who were the worst of enemies, and yet a boy and a girl from each family fell in love.
Their love could not come true and had met a tragic end.
Until recently, the relationship between Elliot and Wells had not been close, but it wasn't necessarily bad either.
She had always known that cutting ties with Elliot would not be so simple.
Rose turned her head as much as she could in his grip.
How do I? If I'm betrothed to him in this manner, my brother…
The Honeywell family!
Death was a terrifying experience, whether it came unexpectedly or predictably.
The fear would always linger.
Tears of frustration welled up in her eyes as Rose fought the urge to give in to the flow of time and guilt, to accept and wait for death.
Elliot gently wiped away her tears before they trailed down her pale white cheeks.
“I think that your heart was overwhelmed because the engagement is around the corner.
If we have our engagement ceremony and then the wedding next year, we can then be together forever after, Rose.”
Her fiancé's voice was soothing and affectionate, as though to comfort the nervous Rose.
…That we'll be together forever?You pushed me off a cliff and swung your sword at my beloved older brother.
How can you dare say that to me?
Rose gnashed her teeth.
If Elliot made it difficult and refused to accept the breakup directly, then she could always turn to her brother for help.
Wells Honeywell, her beloved older brother, was the one person who was the most reluctant when there was talk of her engagement.
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