Throughout the entire Tristan Empire and its vastness, the Tuga Mine remained the emperor's most beloved area.
It also happened to be the source of the empire's finances, as it covered a massive territory and was brimming with minerals that contained a weak amount of magic power.
The emperor would send his most trusted subordinates to the Tuga Mine at intervals ranging from as short as a month to longer periods of three months, all to receive reports confirming that there weren't any problems.
Wells Honeywell, one of the two dukes of the Tristan Empire, was the most trusted and cared-for subordinate of the emperor.
He had arrived at the mine after a two-day battle fought in the name of the emperor.
It was late in the evening when he completed his final report on the mine.
While comparing the documents he had received from the Viscount in charge of the Tuga Mine, Wells began his final task of the day: writing his report to the emperor.
There was no hesitation as his quill glided smoothly across the stiff paper.
The luxurious quill and the beautiful hand holding it moved without rest, until there was a sudden pause.
Looking down at the papers covered in black ink writing, Wells' slightly dark red eyes lost focus as his thoughts drifted.
He absentmindedly put down the quill and rested his chin on his palm.
After much thought, his hands involuntarily reached for his desk drawer.
The drawer contained a single envelope, a letter sent from the Honeywell Manor.
“Rose, what exactly do you mean?”
He mused to himself as he unfolded the letter from his beloved sister.
The contents of the letter were not very long, but the edges of the pages were crumpled, thus showing the numerous times Wells had opened and reread it.
He silently read Rose's handwritten letter.
[TL/N: Meaning that she personally wrote the letter to her brother and did not allow a maid or someone else to do it.]
As he went through the letter once more, he wondered if the contents had changed and if he had just imagined its previous message.
It's still the same as before.
A letter from Rose Honeywell stating that she wants to cancel her engagement to Duke Elliot Proud.
Wells sighed and ran a hand through his hair.
“Why would the little kid, who went on a hunger strike so she could marry Duke Proud, suddenly—“
He abruptly stopped as he remembered his sister, who was eleven years younger.
After their parents had passed away when they were young, Rose had never once complained to her older brother about what she could and couldn't do with her small and delicate body.
The younger sister, who seemed to have grown up overnight, had matured to the point where Wells wished she would lean on him just a bit more.
Being a ducal family, he made sure that his sister lacked nothing, but even so, Rose had never requested for anything else.
Until one day, when she suddenly came to ask her brother for a favor.
“Brother, I want to get married.”
Wells frantically shook his head, determined not to recall the past.
He was pleasantly surprised at first, but her request could not be taken for granted.
Marrying the Duke of Proud was much more complicated than Rose would have thought.
In the end, his beloved sister had gone on a hunger strike, causing her already frail and thin body to get thinner as the days stretched on.
Finally, having no choice left to make, Wells had given in.
“I can't even remember how I managed to get permission from His Highness.”
When a noble, holding the title of a Count or higher, desires to be married, they are required to get the approval of the emperor of the Tristan Empire before they can plan for the wedding.
It was so that the emperor's decision to marry the two families together decreed that the families would not join to form a rebellion or lead to one.
His approval was given only after considerable evaluation.
The harmony between the Honeywell and Proud families, who contributed to the founding of the Tristan Empire, might have been welcomed by the people of the empire, but it was not so with the imperial family.
If two nobles with high prestige were married, the power of the imperial family might fall below them.
“Well, so what? It's not that big of a deal.
So, let's get the engagement canceled.”
He rested his tired eyes as his brow wrinkled.
He was contemplating.
His eyes snapped open in realization.
“Even if the engagement ceremony wasn't announced, what did she mean after that? Don't stop by Baron Titonsser?”
Towards the end of her letter, she urged Wells to not stop, under any circumstances, at Baron Titonsser's estate on his return to the Tristan Empire.
Lightly drumming his fingers on the edge of his desk, Wells drew a route from the Tuga Mine to the capital.
Three small estates owned by the Western Baron Titonsser.
Whether it was due to his lack of connections within the capital or the fact that he had no interest in joining the capital's aristocrats, Baron Titonsser rarely participated in the banquets held at the Imperial Palace.
The Duke of Honeywell leaned forward and carefully considered the territories owned by the baron.
It was said that Baron Titonsser's territory was located closer to the road that connected the capital with Tuga Mine.
There was no need to stop there.
Although Wells had been to the Tuga Mines many times by order of the emperor, he had never crossed paths with Baron Titonsser.
“It will be the same this time.
I won't be making any unplanned stops on my way to the capital.
I wonder why Rose would suddenly write this in her letter.”
He tried rereading the letter, paying attention to each word, and carefully debating if there were any hidden meanings.
There was no such thing.
He brushed away his curious thoughts and placed the letter in its envelope.
“It's not like something has happened to Rose…
We should still leave as soon as I complete the report.”
Energized, Wells lifted the quill he had left aside.
As his mind began to fill with the paperwork needed to be presented to the emperor, thoughts of Baron Titonsser vanished like a leaf in the wind.
The Duke of Honeywell, with his task in Tuga Mine accomplished, departed for the capital around sunset that afternoon.
Settling into the carriage, Wells began to proofread his report, confirming its lack of flaws as he went along.
Occasionally the wheels of the carriage rattled against loose stones, but that was hardly a disturbance for the duke as she sat patiently with only the sound of fluttering papers for company.
“Huh? That was—?”
Massaging his stiff neck, Wells cast his gaze outside in search of the new sound.
A heavy downpour of rain began, causing Wells to swallow uncomfortably.
“It's raining badly.
Will we reach the capital before evening if this continues?”
As if agreeing with his mutters, the speed of the carriage slowed down significantly.
He pulled out a pocket watch and estimated the new time of arrival.
They were going to be late.
The carriage shook loudly.
Wells' body, which had been comfortably seated in the carriage's cushioned seats, was thrown onto the floor as his papers haphazardly flew around the interior of the carriage.
Before he could take action, the carriage door was roughly opened from the outside.
“Your Grace, please come quickly!”
The escort knight wrapped his cloak tighter as he grabbed ahold of the duke's arm.
Even with the insistent pulling of the knight and the messy papers strewn about, Wells was able to gracefully exit the carriage after the knight.
Alas, the carriage collapsed as soon as Wells' polished shoes touched the rain-soaked, muddy road.
Startled, he turned and took in the mess that was once his carriage.
He currently stood stranded in the middle of the road that connected the capital of the Tristan Empire and the Tuga Mine.
In most places, the road was paved and tidy, while in others, it was dangerous as it hadn't been repaired.
The escort knight gave his report.
“The soil seems to have collapsed because of the rain.
The rest of the wagons are in a situation where they can't go any further because their wheels have fallen off.
The horse is all right.
Would you like to mount it?”
Wells' gaze followed the knight's finger.
It was dizzying just looking down the cliff that they stood on, but to actually get on a horse and travel?
No matter how courageous Wells was, he felt it was only natural that he was anxious in his predicament.
Shaking his head to show his refusal, Wells moved closer to the wreckage and pulled out his collection of papers, placing them safely under his cloak.
“Firstly, we need to get off this cliff and get a carriage from somewhere close by.”
As he hesitated to give the order, a map of the surrounding area was drawn in his mind.
If his memory wasn't wrong, the only place within walking distance that had available carriages was the land owned by the Baron of Titonsser.
Rose's letter, which had been forgotten until then, came to mind.
It seemed he couldn't promise his sister.
Can I go to Baron Titonsser? I'm a little worried, as Rose has never before given such warnings.
“Duke Honeywell, Baron Titonsser's estate is nearby.
Shall we go over there and request the use of a carriage?”
He silently weighed his options.
I'm just going to get a carriage and leave.
It won't matter much, right?
Convinced, Wells agreed.
We'll leave as soon as we secure a carriage, so there is no need to tell the baron about me.”
“Yes, sir, in case of any danger, I will take the lead.”
The escorting knights walked out, surrounding Wells in the middle.
Although the cliff road was wide enough for a carriage to pass through, it was difficult to walk due to the wind, rain, and uneven surface.
By the time they had successfully crossed the cliff's road, Wells, the coachmen, and the strong escort knights were exhausted.
The escort knight turned to their duke, watching as he breathed heavily while trying to hide his tiredness.
“The road to Baron Titonsser is smooth from here on out, but it will be more difficult to use compared to the cliff's road.
Would you like to get on the horse now, Your Grace?”
“No, that's alright.
My legs aren't broken yet.
It's just a walk to the Baron's estate.”
Wells hastened his footsteps.
The escort knights planned to scout ahead in search of the direction to the Baron Titonsser's estate when they heard the sound of several footsteps.
Through the cracks in the densely nestled trees, Wells and his group could vaguely make out men carrying lanterns.
The men were surprised to find Wells and his group standing in the middle of the road, soaked in the rain.
“Did you decide to take a trip in this heavy rain? Without a carriage?”
The escorting knight replied in Wells' stead.
“The carriage had broken down on the cliff's road.
We are on our way to Baron Titonsser's estate to get another carriage.
Excuse me, but who may you be?”
At his inquiry, the man gasped.
“We are the residents of the barony of Titonsser.
By order of the baron, on days such as this where there is heavy rain or snowfall, we are to look around.
We will guide you to the baron's territory.”
“Then, if you'd please.”
The escorting knight bowed his head, and the man smiled.
The man's searching gaze turned to Wells, who stood behind the escorting knight.
Even in the midst of the downpour, the man could make out the clothes and cloak on Wells, all of which appeared to cost a pretty penny.
“My apologies, are you a noble?”
Wells knew that the man had not recognized him yet.
If this man patrols the area around the estate under the command of the baron, he must be quite close to the baron.
If Wells let it be known that he was the Duke of Honeywell, the man would most likely report it to the baron immediately.
Wells rejected that thought.
He was uneasy about the contents of his little sister's letter.
He would need to hide his identity.
We just need to get a carriage from the baron, and we can leave straight away.
“I am a noble—“
He was ambushed by his own people.
“That's right, this is the Duke of Honeywell!”
One of his escort knights, who was extremely loyal to the Honeywell family, took the initiative to proudly introduce his master.
The men before him might not have known the face of the Duke of Honeywell, but they did know of his name and fame.
“Huh, you're the Duke of Honeywell?! Forgive me.
I'm only a country boy, so I didn't recognize the duke! As soon as we arrive in the Baron's Territory, I will report to the Baron.
They'll prepare a hot meal and bathwater.
You must be tired in this rain, so let's go!”
The leading man turned around, asked them to follow, and marched away.
Wells sighed, and he glanced at his escorting knight.
The escorting knight smiled back proudly.
The duke then looked at his escorting knights and coachmen, who were visibly exhausted.
He raised his hand and massaged his temples.
Okay, my dear Rose, I've made a bit of a slur.
But what could be worse than losing my carriage in the pouring rain?
Shaking away his trepidation, Wells stepped forward.
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