With her eyes closed, Rose lazily relaxed in the carriage when she heard the sounds outside become noisier.
Rose pulled back the curtains for a peek and found the capital city buzzing in the early evening glow.
For a while, she spent her time watching as the busy citizens of their empire passed by while she took in the atmosphere, then she let the curtains fall back into place and turned to Wells.
“Do you remember the time I was lost during the Foundation Festival?”
Wells' brow wrinkled.
“Of course, how could I forget? Even now, just thinking about that time makes my heart sink.
How surprised I was to know that I had lost you.
But why are you bringing up that day?”
Rose, who was hoping to slip in the question without drawing his attention to it, felt her mouth open wordlessly.
“I—do you remember the boy who took me back then?”
Rose had never asked Wells this question.
Because I met Elliot not long after I met the blue-haired boy that day, I took one look at his similar physique and blue hair and immediately concluded that he was that boy.
To the boy who saved me, I so helplessly—no, I instantly fell for Elliot.
Now that her heart that beat for Elliot has been broken, Rose couldn't shake the suspicion that the boy might not have been him all along.
She waited nervously for Wells' answer.
I think the only person who knew the boy was Father.”
“Yes, I wandered around the plaza looking for you back then.
Then, after a while, I heard from a knight in our family that you had returned, and I followed him to where Father was.”
“Is that so?”
Rose's eyebrows drooped.
Wells snapped his finger; a memory came to him while looking at Rose.
Come to think of it…”
Rose, who had been sitting with disappointment, lifted her head, hope renewed.
“Father's reaction was strange.”
“What about his reaction?”
“Mother and I inquired about who brought you, but Father would always reply firmly that he could not reveal the identity of the boy.”
“Well, that's what I still don't know about.
Father didn't want to bring it up, so neither Mother nor I asked any further.”
…You don't want to bring up who it was.
Rose bit her lower lip and wondered to herself.
“Why didn't Honeywell ever reconcile with Proud in its long history? Could it be that there wasn't a single person in the Proud and Honeywell families who loved each other?”
Elliot had once rhetorically asked Rose about that.
She closed her eyes, remembering Elliot's words.
…Father must have recognized Elliot.
I don't know why, but you didn't want me to get involved with Elliot anymore than that.
That's why you didn't tell anyone, right, Father? You tried to stop it, but I ruined it all.
Rose let out a self-deprecating laugh.
The next day, Rose was not required to attend to matters within the Imperial Palace.
Perhaps, even if Rose went to the Imperial Palace, Alison might have taken care of her by telling her to rest.
Wells, who was extremely busy, had already left for a harsh day of work, and Rose had some free time to wander around the spacious mansion for the first time in a long time.
Finally, she found herself in front of Ilya's bedroom.
She hesitated for only a moment, then raised her hand and knocked on the door.
After waiting a while, the door opened.
“Ah! I thought it would be Rose!”
The one who opened the door was none other than Ilya.
The baron's daughter had finished her makeup and hair and was wearing clothes perfect for an outing in town.
The corner of Rose's mouth went up as she saw Ilya dressed up to the fullest.
“Are you all ready to go out?”
“Yes! I have to leave now.”
I will go with you and see you at the door.”
“You're going to come see me off?”
It was true that Rose wanted to see Ilya off, but that was only after she accidentally came to her door and found out that she was going out.
After a moment of hesitation, Rose nodded; she really didn't want to ruin Ilya's pleasant mood.
“Ahh! Earlier, the butler told me that the carriage was ready.
I'm so excited! Oh! While I'm out, Rose, do you need anything? I'll buy it for you!”
“No, today is the day Ilya set up a date with Young Lord Stanley.
Don't think about me or anyone else, just go and have fun with him.”
When Rose mentioned the purpose of Ilya's outing, a delicate blush appeared on Ilya's face.
“I am so nervous.
Actually, Young Lord Stanley said he was coming to pick me up, but I declined.
It's not even my house, so I was embarrassed.”
“Even if it's only for a limited time, Ilya is still living at the Honeywell Manor, so it doesn't matter if Young Lord Stanley visits.
And what I said last time is the truth.
Ask my brother for his permission later and invite your date here.”
Ilya's smile was like a sunflower blooming on a warm summer day.
Rose watched until Ilya climbed into the carriage and set off.
Before long, the carriage began to disappear, and it was only after watching it pass through the large gate of Honeywell Manor that Rose turned her head and went inside.
“It's okay if you meet Stanley Gardner.
This way, you won't be accompanying Elliott to the year-end celebration.
But that's not what's important…”
Rose lowered her gaze.
A thick winter skirt can be seen swaying gently in the wind.
She quietly stared at nothing, lost in thought.
…What the hell was the conversation about between Older Brother and Elliot that caused the outbreak of that fight?
At that time, her older brother snatched the knight's sword from his waist.
The fact that the knight couldn't stop it must mean that her brother had suddenly had an outburst, not giving the knight enough warning and making him unable to react in time.
“Surely that wasn't my brother's plan.”
Although Wells could wield a sword, his skills were not equal to those of a knight, much less Elliot, the commander-in-chief of the Imperial Knights.
If Wells had sincerely attended the year-end banquet to kill Elliot, he would have used a method other than the sword since Elliot has better swordsmanship than him.
Rose remembered Elliot being cut by Wells' sword at the year-end banquet.
Elliot stood there, calmly stopping the blood flowing down his shoulder from the cut.
Rose crossed her arms and tapped her fingers.
I could only feel a sense of alienation at that time, so I didn't know back then, but I feel as if something just wasn't right with the situation.
She felt as if she'd shoved her hand into a box, blindly searching for what could be just out of sight.
Rose massaged her temples.
“I can only remember my older brother.
Certainly, if I can recall Elliot's behavior in detail, I will know something.”
She sighed; the white fog of her breath distracted her.
The cold sent shivers down her spine.
At the same time, a carriage entered the gates of Honeywell Manor.
“What kind of carriage is that?”
The carriage she glanced at with her narrowed eyes was the most shabby carriage she had ever seen.
It had a rough appearance without any decorations, and there was no family crest to indicate ownership.
Around the time Rose caught sight of the unfamiliar carriage, Anne, who came out of the mansion, spotted her and approached her in a hurry.
“Lady Rose, you're here.”
“Anne? Do you know whose carriage is that?”
Anne follows Rose's finger, pointing at the incoming carriage.
There was no news prior to a carriage arriving, but Anne pretended to know of it.
Young Lady is seeing that carriage for the first time.
It's a merchant's carriage.
It's us servants who receive most of the goods when they arrive, so the Young Lady must not have seen it.”
“A merchant's carriage?”
Perhaps the item the Young Lady ordered arrived a while ago.”
The night before, at dinner with Wells and Ilya, they talked about preparing for the year-end banquet.
Wells asked the two of them if they would like to buy some new trinkets.
Rose already had a lot of jewelry, so she usually didn't buy new things.
But this time, instead of refusing, she said she would make a purchase, but just this once.
Excited by her answer, Wells immediately called a jeweler, and the three of them started shopping for the year-end banquet.
The custom-made item at that time came to Honeywell Manor this morning.
The carriage stopped in front of the manor entrance, and Anne welcomed them by asking if they had met once or twice.
Rose watched with interest as the attendants carried goods out of the merchant's carriage.
I've lived in this manor for nearly 20 years, but this is the first time I've seen a scene like this.
Anne came to Rose's side.
“Lady Rose, please come inside and have a look at the items.”
Let's go in.”
Rose, who entered the drawing room of the mansion following the attendants with full luggage, was shocked to see the items lined up one after another.
She whispered softly to Anne, who pointed out the objects one by one.
“Did we buy that many?”
Anne burst into laughter.
“It would seem that when the Young Lady said that she would buy ornaments, the Master was overjoyed and ordered a lot of things.”
In fact, it was a little impulsive of Rose when she said she was buying new jewelry.
Rose swallowed audibly.
His Majesty is also at the year-end banquet.
Perhaps Wells would not have been willing to buy so many gifts had he known what Rose was thinking at the time.
The lid of the box brought by the attendants was opened for Rose to inspect each ornate object.
This is a set of topaz earrings and a necklace.
That one's the ruby necklace that Wells ordered, saying it resembled my eyes.
And that's a jeweled brooch that will make my dress even more glamorous.
The high-quality jewels sparkled as if they were going to sting Rose's eyes.
There were so many that they couldn't even remember what they'd bought, but for some reason, Rose couldn't find what she was looking for.
Rose turned to Anne.
Didn't I order a brooch then?”
“Yes, I remember.
It was a sword-shaped brooch inlaid with diamonds, right? Wait a minute.
I'll ask and come back.”
Anne approached the merchant and carried on a whispered conversation that Rose had a difficult time hearing, even though they were not too far away from Rose.
“What did you say?!”
Anne, who had been talking in a whisper, suddenly screamed loudly.
Not only Rose, who was watching, but also the attendants, who were tidying up their luggage, looked at Anne in shock.
Seeing that the merchant standing in front of Anne was at a loss, it seemed that something had happened.
Rose approached the two of them.
What are you screaming for? What's wrong?”
“Young Lady! I'm sorry to startle you.
It's not such a big deal—no.
It's a big deal.”
Anne placed her palms on her hips, and the merchant bent at the waist.
“We're so sorry, Young Lady.
With so many items, it seems that a mistake was made while carrying the luggage.
There are no stops along the way, so there will be items in the store.
I'm going to call someone right now to get it.”
The merchant once again bowed down in apology.
At the same time, a notebook that was barely hanging on his arm fell off.
The merchant picked it up, but Rose, who was close to him, was able to see what the notebook was in the blink of an eye.
It was a merchant's schedule.
Judging from the fact that it was written in the notebook, it seems that not only the Honeywell family but also other families bought a lot of things for the year-end banquet.
What Rose discovered over time when watching Wells as the Duke of Honeywell was the fact that time is money.
Time was literally money for Wells, who had a lot to do.
But what about merchants?
The promise of time with the customer was what the merchant must keep, even at the cost of his life.
…The schedule seems pretty tight.
If I wait for the brooch to arrive, the schedule will be delayed by that amount of time.
Something flashed through Rose's mind.
She tugged at the sleeve of Anne's dress.
Didn't you say you had to go out today?”
“Huh? Yes, I did.
One of my things was broken, and I was about to get permission from the butler to go out to get it fixed.”
Rose raised an eyebrow and smiled.
It was a mischievous smile that she didn't usually wear.
“Then can you go to the store and pick it up while you are out?”
She didn't forget to add before Anne answered that she understood.
“I'll come, too.”
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