The emperor watched Rose's back as she staggered out of the banquet hall.
It was only after she had entirely left his sight that he looked away.
He took in his messy surroundings, with red blood sprinkled across the marble like splattered paint as the chandelier's light made it shine.
With a deep sign, the emperor made his way out, walked down the quiet hallway, and then up the stairs to arrive at a room.
The knights guarding the door greeted him with courtesy and gave him entry without hesitation.
Inside, a doctor was busy moving about.
He was preoccupied with treating his patient, Wells, who lay across the bed.
At the foot of the bed, the blood-soaked clothes were strewn about.
The doctor appeared to be unaware of his emperor's arrival.
His focus was on treating Wells.
Belatedly, he bowed to the emperor.
“Have you come to visit me, Your Majesty?”
“What is the state of his injuries?”
“The wound is deep, but Duke Honeywell will be able to survive the night.”
Listening to the doctor's evaluation behind him, the emperor faced the injured duke.
Wells' frame, which spent most of its time indoors, was white without any blemishes or sunburns.
It was that white body that was now wrapped in gauze.
“In the past, I had wanted us to get along without any problems.”
His hands wiped across his face.
Wells had been a long-time friend of his before becoming his faithful servant.
Not to mention his sister, Rose Honeywell…
The hint of weakness in the voice calling out to him made the emperor shudder and turn to his friend.
Duke Honeywell struggled through his pain as he squinted his eyes to see his friend.
“Wells! Are you out of your mind? What the hell were you up to when I was gone for that short while? No.
We'll discuss this later.
Focus on your treatment first and calm down.
Your wounds are too deep.”
The doctor drew closer to his patient and began the preparations to administer the pain relievers.
The emperor's eyes darkened as he viewed the clinic, where the doctor treated his patient alone.
Everyone now thought Wells Honeywell was imprisoned in the Imperial dungeon.
As a precaution, he had ordered one of his exclusive physicians to be brought in so that the fact that his friend's treatment and residence were here rather than in prison would not be leaked.
Should I call for more doctors? Hmm, alright.
The first priority is to save Wells from death, so more doctors—
The emperor, who was about to order more physicians and knights outside the door, felt a hand grab his collar.
Wells called the emperor by his first name, not by his title.
The emperor paused and sat down beside him, watching.
“Rose is—where is our Rose?”
Lady Honeywell has returned to their manor.
I can't let her stay in the Imperial Palace forever.”
The duke, who had been listening to his best friend, exhaled a rough breath and opened his eyes.
Leaving Rose alone now…”
“What is it?”
Wells sat up.
The doctor, who was preparing his painkillers, ran to him in surprise as the emperor reached out to support him.
But Wells' hands caught the emperor's arms faster.
“Elliot Proud! He knows!”
That kid had been my Rose.
The duke abruptly stopped talking.
His body became limp, allowing the doctor to place the duke upright instead of the emperor.
“Duke Honeywell's pulse is weakening, Your Majesty!”
The emperor, Russell, brought out of his reverie by the high-pitched doctor, rose from the bed.
“I'm going to call for another physician.
Whatever you have to do, save him.”
The emperor, whose expression was cold, moved about quickly.
He threw open the door and approached the knights.
“Go to the Honeywells' manor immediately and bring me Rose Honeywell.
Go right now!”
At the emperor's shouts, the knights ran to follow his command.
He then demanded for another knight to call for another physician, and then, left alone at the door, the emperor leaned against the wall as he staggered.
His amethyst eyes trembled non-stop as he covered the bottom half of his face with his palm.
You said it was Rose.
He shut his eyes tightly.
Elliot and Rose's engagement should not have been held.
Though, without the emperor's knowledge, both had been allowed to get engaged.
A string of curses left his lips.
The emperor, slumped against the hallway wall, heard the sound of footsteps running towards him from a distance.
Then he watched as the knight he had sent to the Honeywell Manor returned.
“What about Rose? Have you brought Rose Honeywell with you?”
Before the knight reached his emperor, the emperor hurriedly questioned him.
It made the knight unable to hide his nervousness as he answered.
They said she hadn't returned to her home.”
The emperor momentarily froze as he processed the knight's answer.
Obviously, the ground beneath his feet remained solid and without any damage, and yet, why did he still feel it crumble and fall?
The carriage sped away.
Every stone hitting against its wheels caused it to rattle loudly.
Rose, who up to then had sat dazed, was rudely awakened by the carriage's movements as she staggered.
“Where are we…”
She didn't carry a pocket watch with her, so she was unable to gauge the time, but Rose knew one thing for sure.
It had been quite some time since she had departed from the Imperial Palace.
“It's so late, the streets of the capital shouldn't be blocked.”
Rose shifted and lifted the curtain covering the carriage window.
Through the small window, she could see the road her carriage took, and for a moment, she couldn't wrap her head around her situation.
That road, the road she was currently traveling on, was not a street inside the capital.
Her surroundings were made up of a forest of dry winter trees whose branches had long since lost their leaves.
Why have we left the capital?”
Unable to hide her bewilderment, Rose opened the window of the carriage.
“Coachman? Where are we going—!”
Her bewildered eyes widened in astonishment.
There was no coachman seated in front of her carriage.
Her carriage was being led by just the horses.
Rose squinted and desperately looked around.
It was devoid of people.
Her heart sank as her heart was engulfed in fear.
She tried pushing her door open, but with the current speed of the horses, they were moving too fast for her to safely jump.
“Can I make the jump?”
Swallowing, she poked her head out.
She held her loose, wavy blonde hair out of her face and watched as the walls of the capital city got farther and farther away.
I don't know why I've been taken outside the capital, but if I just sit here and wait, it's going to be harder to get back.
After clasping her hands together in prayer, she closed her eyes and jumped out of the speeding carriage.
As soon as her slender body landed on the ground, she was rolled and thrown about.
Standing up, she grabbed her now broken arm and looked on as her carriage rode on without her.
The sight of the carriage riding off into the cold, winter forest devoid of life was unsettling.
“I'm glad my legs aren't injured.”
She set a path to the capital.
As the night grew deeper, the wind passing through the forest grew stronger.
The skies let down thick snow, which piled up quickly.
Exhaling a cold breath, Rose struggled and walked.
No, to us.
What happened to Honeywell?
Tears welled up in her red eyes.
Where did it all start to go wrong? Was it when I found Elliot's letter in Ilya's room? When Wells brought Ilya to our Honeywell's home? Or was it when I got engaged to Elliot?
Eventually, Rose broke down in tears.
As she walked, her eyes shedding her sorrows, her ears picked up the distant sounds of horse hooves.
Invigorated, she swallowed a cry and accelerated her pace.
Running was difficult with all of the snow, but nonetheless, she persevered.
The sound of horses drew closer to her.
Her face brightened as if she could feel the presence of her savior.
But her hopeful light didn't shine for long.
Her gaze was drawn to the cloaks of the riders.
Their cloaks were engraved with the Proud family emblem.
They held swords in their hands.
…If I am caught by them, I'll die.
Without hesitation, Rose turned and ran.
She was already caught.
Rose, who had never had to break out into a proper run, was hardly a match for the speed of a running horse.
Without any prior knowledge of the mountain's typography, she finally found herself at the edge of a cliff.
Rose realized that the reason she hadn't been apprehended all that time was most likely because of their deliberate attempt to corner her at the cliff.
She looked at the long drop and turned away.
She was at a dead end.
The appearance of Honeywell's Young Lady, driven to the cliff's edge, was like that of a mouse cornered by the cat.
She trembled and pretended to be calm.
“I know that the pattern on your cloaks belongs to the Proud family.
I am the fiancée of your master, Elliot Proud.
If you're here to save me, then put down your swords!”
Put down your swords.”
The only man currently remaining on his horse, took his sword as he spoke and jumped down behind the group of men.
He was wearing a cloak, which made identifying him difficult, but Rose was instantly able to recognize him just by hearing his voice.
“My name is Duke Elliot.
You should call me Duke Elliot, Rose.”
He removed his hood and approached her slowly.
Rose couldn't move even as he reached her.
“It's a pity that it is snowing today.”
Elliot's hand gently brushed the snow off Rose's head.
The touch was so careful and tender that, for a moment, Rose had forgotten the scene in the Imperial Palace not long ago.
She pathetically grabbed hold of his cloak.
Innocent and foolish.
My lovely Rose, it would be good for you to go like this, not knowing anything.”
His large hands wrapped around her smaller ones.
Unlike his hands, which were filled with warmth, Rose's had become as cold as ice.
Elliot watched her with eyes full of sympathy.
He slowly lowered his head and kissed her hand.
His lips were warm, and it was as though they were trying to share some warmth with her.
Unlike his warm lips, the words uttered by him were of a much frostier temperature.
Elliot's hand latched onto Rose's shoulder.
It wasn't a strong grip, but with the gentlest of gestures, the girl's body was pushed back.
Her small frame fell down a distant, mighty cliff with no one willing to save her.
I can't forgive you.
I can't forgive you.
I CAN'T FORGIVE YOU.
With only the winter wind accompanying her as she fell, Rose begged for her brother.
You said you'd protect me.
Brother, please help me.
I'm afraid of all of these trees.
The young girl closed her eyes, which were brimming with tears.
With the impact of her body meeting the ground, her mind went silent.
And in that silent mind, she could hear the voice of a stranger.
“Let the chance be given to you.”
The sound of cracking thunder pierced her eardrums as Rose screamed herself awake.
When she awoke, her ragged breathing shook her shoulders as a cold sweat drenched her face and body.
Thunder cracked again, flooding Rose's vision with brightness as the lightning faded.
Huh, what? …
I was at the cliff just now…
She reflexively wrapped her arms around herself.
The pain of her body breaking was still playing out vividly in her head.
She shook her head violently, feeling as if she were going crazy.
She paused when she felt something warm wrap around her.
As she took in her room at the Honeywell Manor, she came to a realization.
She was back.
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