Rose's cheeks were dyed a ruby red, matching the hue of her eyes.
What did I just imagine?! He's not some random man! He is His Majesty!
The young lady smiled stiffly at her maid, who was unaware of her mistress' daring thoughts.
I will carry my fantasy to the grave.
No one will ever hear about it.
“Then I'll eat in my room, please.
Bring the meal to me as soon as it's prepared in the kitchen.”
“The room, Lady Rose? Are you sure you want to eat here?”
Anne confirmed her mistress' decision.
Rose couldn't think of a reason as to what could be wrong with her choice, but before she could think further, she was interrupted.
“Lady Rose, may I come in?”
Hearing the butler, Rose signaled Anne with a wink, who then ran to answer the door.
The head butler politely greeted and entered the room.
“Lady Rose, Miss Titonsser has requested to visit.”
Honeywell's Lady felt her heart beat violently in her chest; the fantasy of the emperor could not be further from her thoughts.
With the reminder, Rose finally understood Anne's reaction earlier.
A guest is a guest, and Anne must have been curious as to why Rose would dine alone in her room when she had a guest to enjoy lunch with.
Gnawing at her lower lip, Rose's eyes jumped to the door and found Ilya peeping from behind the head butler.
Rose straightened her posture and confronted the butler.
“Why have you come to my room?”
“I was giving Miss Titonsser a tour of the manor when Miss Titonsser requested to meet and chat with Lady.”
And what stories do you want to chat about, Ilya?
Rose wanted to mock and refuse, but she was unsure if Ilya had directly or indirectly harmed her and her brother.
She was certain, though, that even if Ilya wasn't the one who pushed her off the cliff, she played a part in it.
“Shall I allow her into the room?”
At the butler's query, Rose frantically shook her head.
That was pretty loud.
Anne and the head butler looked taken aback.
Rose suddenly had the feeling that she was portraying the image of a snobbish young lady who does not treat her guests honorably.
Rose hurriedly added in case Ilya could hear her from outside.
“Head butler, why are you giving Miss Titonsser a tour of the manor when you must be busy? I'll take over the tour.”
“Lady Rose? Are you sure?”
He was worried about his young mistress, who would be guiding someone she had never met before.
To stop the butler before he became too anxious, Rose leaped to her feet and grabbed her coat.
“Yes, I'll be fine.
I'll just guide Miss Titonsser inside the manor.”
No, it's not alright.
Rose wore her warm coat and walked out of the room.
Ilya, who had been waiting in the hallway outside Rose's bedroom, smiled brightly, catching sight of Rose.
“Hello, Lady Rose.”
“Hello, Miss Titonsser.”
“The Honeywell Manor is much more spacious and complex than ours, so the head butler was giving me a tour.
But Lady Rose…
I think I hear from the room that Lady Rose will be guiding me around the manor.”
Honeywell's young lady looked at Ilya's shy expression.
The girl had her palms covering both cheeks as she coyly looked away.
“I will be your guide as lunch is getting ready.
The butler has a lot of work to do, so we will not be disturbing him.”
“Yes, thank you!”
Ilya's voice was chirpy and bright, and the pure, innocent look on her face was the same one Rose saw before her death.
At that time, Ilya followed Rose every day.
Was it love that made you change?
With a bitter smile, Rose began the tour.
“Follow me, I can't show you everything, but I can tell you about the places you have access to visit.”
Ilya followed on the tail of Rose with light steps.
“Please speak comfortably to me.”
After she fell off the cliff, died, and returned to her past, Rose felt something within her and around her had inexplicably changed.
Like the fact that she still gave Ilya a tour of the manor.
That remained the same.
But Elliot's attitude towards her was unbelievable.
It was different than how he has reacted in the past.
“I cannot do such a thing, Miss Titonsser, you are my guest.”
The old Rose could never have hated Ilya, who approached her kindly.
She had mustered her courage and worked hard to build a friendship with Ilya.
Even if Ilya was a year younger than herself, she was still the first friend of the same sex.
[TL/N: Same gender friend.
Here she's saying that her first friend is the blue-eyed boy from her past who piggybacked her home when she was lost.]
Not wanting to relive her past, Rose decided to politely refuse Ilya's hint of closeness, causing Ilya's shoulders to droop.
“Ah, have I perhaps gone overboard?”
Rose experienced a rush of embarrassment at Ilya's sallow appearance, so she subconsciously spat out a hurried response.
“Slowly, we can slowly speak to one another.”
“Yes, please, let's get to know each other slowly.”
The baron's daughter lit up, her sadness disappearing as if it had never been there.
Rose moved away and tightened her coat nervously.
If you were to harm me and my brother, Ilya, I would want you to come at us directly.
Like Elliot did.
If that were the case, I would be able to treat you as ruthlessly as I will treat Elliot.
So, why did you respond to Elliot's message that day?
Rose, who had been gliding down the hallway, came to an abrupt halt.
Following her closely, Ilya also stopped.
The Lady Honeywell moved at the sound of her name.
As Rose wordlessly stared at Ilya, the baron's daughter smiled awkwardly and scratched her cheek.
“Why—why are you looking at me like that?”
Rose's thoughts occupied her mind, and Ilya's question went unheard.
Her mind was trapped in the glamorous banquet hall.
The year-end celebration.
When I was there, did I see Ilya?
The answer was no.
Rose hadn't seen her anywhere that day.
She had left her home to look for both.
Ilya had a letter in her room from Elliot asking her to meet him at the banquet.
In the end, Rose only found Elliot.
No, Ilya was there.
She left to meet him, but maybe I was flustered enough to overlook her in my rush.
She vaguely remembered the butler's words.
He said that Ilya had an appointment and left the manor.
Did he say she was going to the banquet?
Rose glanced at the girl, who watched her with widened eyes.
Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, Rose turned away.
But what if she wasn't at the party that day?
Then, where did Ilya go after receiving Elliot's letter?
Rose's heart thumped wildly; it was a different kind of beat than when she thought of Russell.
After touring inside the manor, Rose headed outside.
The gardens were desolate; not a single flower bloomed.
Unlike the other seasons, winter was a cruel mistress to flora.
Ilya exclaimed how strange it was.
“I think the garden will be very magnificent next spring.”
“Is there no garden in the barony of Titonsser?”
“We have one.
It's wide enough for my father to manage by himself.
It's very tiny compared to the garden at Honeywell Manor.
Ah! I see a fountain.”
Ilya's steps sped up as she rushed to the fountain.
During the winter season, the water in the fountain was turned off to prevent it from freezing as the temperature dropped below freezing.
Ilya, who was ogling the waterless fountain, suddenly glanced at Rose.
“That noble from earlier…”
She did not speak his name, but Rose knew instantly of whom she spoke.
When did Ilya begin her crush on the Duke of Proud?
Rose opened her mouth, but words were slow to come.
“…Do you mean Duke Proud?”
“Yes, is he your lover?”
Rose reflexively shouted her denial when the title “lover” was mentioned.
The baron's daughter rolled her eyes.
“Haa, but earlier, the Duke kissed Lady Rose's cheek.
She brought up an incident that Rose had been determined to forget.
Rose raised her hand and cut her off.
“Duke Proud and I have an engagement ceremony ahead.”
A blush dusted across Ilya's cheeks.
“But our engagement will not take place because we are going to break up.”
The blush that had bloomed instantly wilted; Ilya's face was flooded with doubt.
“Why? You looked so good together.”
She knew that everyone said that about the Duke of Proud and the Rose of Honeywell.
They praised them as the best suited pair throughout the empire.
Before, whenever she heard their praises, Rose felt good enough that she could walk on clouds.
Everyone acknowledged that she was Elliot's woman, and everyone thought the same.
Now, all Rose felt was mockery.
How would they react if they knew that Elliot Proud, her fiancé, was plotting to destroy the Honeywell family?
A winter wind blew through the garden, and Rose wrapped herself in her arms.
“We should return to the manor.
It's getting cold.”
Whether it was the tour or coming out to the garden, Ilya talked nonstop.
Perhaps noticing Rose's bad mood, Ilya remained silent.
Rose felt uncomfortable in her presence as Ilya followed her once more.
“Miss Titonsser, about earlier.”
Rose didn't want to comfort her, but she still had to treat their guest well.
Her next words were drowned out by the sound of a carriage approaching the manor.
Both ladies turned to the sound; Wells, who had left to report to the emperor, had returned.
Rose's face brightened as she hurried toward the front door of the manor.
When she and Ilya arrived at the door of the manor, Wells also got out of the carriage.
“Why are you two out there?”
Wells was curious why the ladies were outside in such cold weather.
“I was giving Miss Titonsser a tour of the manor, and since it was cold, we were going to head back inside.”
“My Rose? My Rose is giving Miss Titonsser a tour?”
Wells' voice sounded watery.
He thought that Rose was happy and had shared her heart with Ilya, a stranger.
The reality was different from his expectations.
The three of them enter the manor side by side.
“I assumed brother was dining with the Emperor.
Don't you always dine with him whenever you return?”
“I thought it would be the same this time, but I was allowed to come back right away.
My Rose wanted to talk with me; let's talk after dinner.”
Upon arriving in the dining room, the prepared meal was brought out.
Wells took the seat of honor at the head of the table, and Rose and Ilya sat on either side of him, facing one another.
The main dish was served, and the three started their meal.
As Rose bit into a piece of vegetable, her attention was shifted to her brother, who called her name.
“Rose, earlier I said that we will be sponsoring Miss Titonsser as she attends the debutante ball held at the Imperial Palace.”
Rose peeked at Ilya, who sat across from her.
Her face flushed with excitement at the thought of her debut.
Wells questioned Ilya next.
“And does Miss Titonsser know how to dance the debut dance?”
“I know how to dance to two songs; my mother taught me how.”
“You will need to know more than two songs, Miss Titonsser, but that's alright for now.
The dress for your debut will be prepared by us, so you don't need to be concerned about that.”
“Thank you, Your Grace.”
Rose gently put her fork down and raised her glass for a sip.
After taking a sip of cooling water, she pondered whether to voice her lingering thoughts.
Why did I skip the dance at the debutante ball the last time?
She had hidden away at the debutante ball, and Wells had asked Ilya to dance in the large hall of the Imperial Palace.
Ilya had accepted.
Perhaps she had truly learned from her mother, because Ilya's dancing skills were very good.
However, Baroness Titonsser wasn't aware that her dance had gone out of fashion and was no longer danced in the Imperial Palace.
For that reason, Wells had personally practiced dancing with Ilya as her teacher.
They practiced every day until the day of her debut.
So, Ilya had learned the proper dances.
Why didn't Wells confirm her dance this time?
It was clear to Rose that if Ilya didn't say what dance she knew, she would make her debut with an outdated dance that was no longer danced to.
A dance that didn't suit her partner would eventually disgrace Ilya, and her debut would turn into a nightmare.
Rose let out a sigh; she could be so mean as to ignore her.
“Brother, please invite a teacher to teach Miss Titonsser just to practice her steps.”
Rose inwardly whined.
I just don't want anything else that can harm us.
I don't want to see it happen.
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