“Your Majesty! Marquise Alison Rosenberg has arrived.”
Standing in the doorway to the emperor's office, the grand door was kicked in before the commander could complete the announcement.
Embarrassed, Alison, who'd left the helpless knights behind, entered the grand office and found her younger brother sitting at his desk, chin in hand, as he appeared to be seriously contemplating his life choices.
The echo of the door and her foot was jarring, and yet the emperor didn't cast a single glance at the commotion.
Alison bid the knights a silent farewell and sneaked up to the desk.
Still, her brother had no reaction.
He sat motionlessly, like a wax figure, still and silent.
Marquise Rosenberg stood before Russell, and the absentminded look in his eyes caused her to inwardly swallow her tears.
Poor little Majesty, twenty-five is so young, and he already suffers from a broken heart.
Raising her hand, she struck her palm forcefully in front of the absentminded Russell.
Jumping, Russell came to his senses and stared at his older sister.
“Marquise? When did you arrive?”
Rising from his seat, the emperor escorted Alison to the couch on the side.
“I've been here for thirty minutes.”
“What? Thirty minutes? Why didn't you tell me you were here?”
Before Alison could get comfortable on the couch, Russell gave her an angry glance.
His eyes grew cold.
Looking at his sister, who laughed at him unabashedly, trying her hardest to make him smile, brought an involuntary smile to Russell's lips.
Refreshments and tea were brought out readily, allowing the siblings to enjoy treats as they chatted.
Russell raised his cup to his lips.
“So, what have you come to tease me with this time?”
“How dare I make fun of His Majesty? I've just come to see something interesting.”
There were only two things Alison would enjoy this winter.
The debutante ball or the banquet held on the last day of the year.
“There's a party at the end of the year and a debutante ball before that.
But that's hardly something the Marquise would enjoy.
It's not like you haven't been to both once or twice.”
“Yes, those are silly parties to me.”
Is there something fun here that even the emperor does not know of?
Alison, who sipped her tea, belatedly gave her reply.
“There was an invitation.
It was supposed to arrive in my territory, but it hasn't come.
I came to the capital myself to see why.”
“Why wait for an invitation?”
He muttered to himself as he enjoyed his tea.
As he sipped his tea, Russell thought of Alison's meaning and barely withheld the urge to not spit out his tea.
His face snapped in her direction, looking at his sister in puzzlement.
“Now, you're talking about the invitation to the engagement ceremony of Duke Proud and Lady Honeywell?”
Snapping her fingers, Alison proudly beamed at her brother's correct answer.
“That's right! Did an invitation come to the Imperial Family yet? Perhaps I haven't received mine because the Maquess of Rosenberg is far away?”
Russell was convinced the moment he laid eyes on Alison's wide innocent eyes.
She must be trying to tease me again.
This is a new plot by her.
[TL/N: Ahh! The distrust between siblings, they always know when they're lying through their teeth.
He felt troubled again.
I should have told her to give up her plans.
There's not going to be an invitation delivered to the Rosenberg Manor.
Decided, he started to explain that she was his one and only family member, as well as his most reliable ally in the world.
When Russell called her by her name rather than her title, Alison knew that what he had to say was of importance.
She straightened out her posture, giving her younger brother her full attention.
Her always mischievous persona vanished in an instant.
“There will not be an invitation delivered to the Rosenberg Manor.”
“Hah? Why do you say it like that? The engagement was canceled?”
Despite the fact that Alison had asked the question, she was certain that it was the furthest outcome.
Russell nodded, and Alison felt a tinge of amazement.
“Wait, is it true?”
“The Duke of Honeywell requested an audience with me this morning.”
“Isn't Duke Honeywell originally against the thought of their engagement? Didn't you have to stay away from Rose Honeywell?”
“Lady Honeywell's reflection—no, she wanted to cancel her engagement herself.”
Alison swallowed the laughter bubbling in her chest.
“By the way, would she change her mind after seeing Duke Proud again? Or will she soften up just before the cancellation? Maybe it was pre-marriage jitters at the upcoming engagement.”
Alison thought hard about what Rose's intentions would be, but Russell didn't agree.
“It's not that.”
“Your Majesty, you can't know for sure.”
“Of course, as you say, it may have been a decision that Lady Honeywell made impulsively out of a distraught mind.
Russell trailed off, but Alison seemed to know what he really wanted to say.
She smiled benevolently.
It was a smile she shared with her younger brother, not her master.
“You oppressed anyone who was opposed to their engagement so that Rose Honeywell could be happy.
Do you want her to break off her engagement now?”
Alison has watched over Russell ever since he was a child.
From long ago, it was as easy as looking at the palm of her hand to see what her brother liked, disliked, and craved.
Russell hid it so well that not even his close friend, the Duke of Honeywell, seemed aware of his inner desires.
She'd found out earlier, long ago, when she couldn't even remember.
That Tristan Emperor, her younger brother, desired Honeywell's Rose.
He was like a man with his arm tied against his back.
Allison didn't understand why the proud Russell Whittle van Tristan was so hung up on Rose like that.
Although it is said that the family that best suits the current emperor's companion is the family of the Duke of Honeywell.
Still, there are many young ladies as beautiful as Rose Honeywell.
If you say that, Russell will probably play ignorant and pretend to not hear it.
Allison decided to ask something else instead.
“So, will you allow it? It wouldn't be difficult if His Majesty wanted it.
More importantly, did Duke Proud agree?”
Allison recalled the banquet for the coming-of-age ceremony held at the Imperial Palace last spring.
Rose, who rarely attends parties, had come of age and attended the party.
Perhaps the intentions of less than half of those attending the banquet were to sincerely congratulate those who'd reached adulthood.
The others were there to lay eyes on the Rose of Honeywell, who was said to be harder to meet than even the emperor himself.
Of course, Alison sided with the latter.
Every year, those boring coming-of-age ceremonies would now become interesting.
She was going to see Rose, the one who grew up to be an unparalleled beauty.
The one who the emperor, her brother, was enamored with.
Alison then moved her gaze to Elliot Proud, who was present that evening.
If her memory wasn't wrong, Elliot and Rose had ended up face-to-face.
Looking at the expression on Rose's face, she'd come to the conclusion that the girl had an unrequited love.
Unrequited love when there's someone else here who loves you.
Looking at the two of them, Alison thought their hearts would never connect.
Even then, she was seriously thinking about what it would be like for Rose Honeywell to become the Empress of the Tristan Empire.
Then an incident happened in the fall of that year when they were planning to make Rose Honeywell the Empress of Tristan.
Rose Honeywell starving herself, Elliot's acceptance of her, and the emperor who allowed the two families to reconcile.
“Duke Proud doesn't seem to have the same heart as Rose Honeywell, so he must have agreed to the breakup, too.”
The two are not of the same mind.
Allison was convinced of that when she saw how Elliot treated Rose.
It's still before the engagement ceremony, so it shouldn't be too much of a problem.
Fortunately, it's an easy problem to solve.
But contrary to her thoughts, Russell's expression remained serious.
“What's wrong, Your Majesty?”
“It's a big problem.”
Have I missed something? Some unknown truth?
Allison waited for Russell to speak.
“Elliot wants his engagement to Lady Honeywell to take place.”
“…Really? Duke Proud?”
He spat out the words as if he were sentencing a victim to death.
Alison nodded understandingly.
“From Duke Proud's point of view, if he's going to marry someone someday, Rose Honeywell would be perfect.
There will be many benefits.
He won't back down easily.”
“So, I want to ask for myself first.”
“I will ask her if her decision is sincere or if she will have remorse later.”
“Yes, I will request for Rose Honeywell to come to the Imperial Palace.”
His mind was made up; Russell's voice was firm.
Allison looked at him like that for a while and then smiled brightly.
Then, would you like to invite me to the Rose Honeywell event?”
[TL/N: She's making their meeting out to be like an event.]
Russell also smiled lovingly at his sister's innocent pretense.
“Great! What can I do to be called to the office?”
After leaving Russell's office, Alison grunted as she stomped around.
Her brother will be seeing Rose after a long time; the last time they saw one another was during the coming-of-age ceremony.
“Sorry, but I want to go.”
Because she wanted to see Russell, who would be nervous in front of the woman he was unrequitedly in love with, Alison felt very upset at Russell's refusal.
Making her way down the hallway of the Imperial Palace, she suddenly stopped walking.
Her amethyst eyes, just like Russell's, shone brightly.
“Then I just need to take Rose Honeywell and visit His Majesty.”
Allison planned to welcome the New Year at the Imperial Palace.
During the remaining period of about a month, she would make sure that there would be no time to be bored.
Alison's footsteps were lighter than a feather as she resumed her steps.
Wells left the palace earlier than usual.
Before the master's return, the servants of Honeywell Manor were busy preparing dinner.
The Honeywell siblings and Ilya gathered in the dining room.
Light conversations were exchanged, and when the dinner was over, Wells decided to bring up the discussion that had happened in the Imperial Palace.
“Rose, prepare to come to the Imperial Palace.”
“Imperial Palace? Brother, but why?”
“His Majesty has called for you.
I tried to solve it on my own, but…
Since the matter is personal, it would seem that he wants to hear the decision directly from you.”
Rose tightened her grip on the hand holding the fork.
Her heart somehow started beating fast.
“I'll go with you.
When am I going to leave?”
“Let's go after having lunch at the manor with Miss Titonsser.
The Imperial Family will send a carriage for us.”
“Okay, thank you, brother.”
Wells and Rose briefly exchanged glances, then turned to Ilya.
“Miss Titonsser, tomorrow, someone will come to teach you to dance.
Lady Vanessa was also the one who taught my Rose to dance.”
“I will familiarize myself with everything, Your Grace.”
Ilya's enthusiasm was evident.
Dinner ended harmoniously.
“Lady Rose, what kind of dress are you going to wear when you go to the Imperial Palace tomorrow?”
Anne, who'd come to make Rose's bed, stood in front of the closet.
Sitting in front of the couch and watching her maid pace before her closet, Rose smiled awkwardly.
“Take something that's simple.
It's just a place to meet.
I don't have to dress fancy.”
“But it's the Imperial Palace!”
At that rate, Anne might have taken out all of Rose's clothes and only made a choice at dawn.
“Anne, I'm tired.”
Rose quickly showed signs of tiredness; thus, Anne began to make Rose's bed.
As soon as Anne finished, Rose immediately dug under the covers.
“Good night, Lady Rose.”
“Yes, goodnight, Anne.”
As Anne left, darkness overtook Rose's room.
Rose, who was staring blankly at the pitch-black ceiling, wiggled about and grabbed the blanket.
The name strangely reassured her heart, and Rose was able to sleep comfortably.
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