As she walked through the cold, dark hallway that led to her room, Rose's features were a blank slate when her steady pace abruptly stopped.
A heavy sigh escaped her lips, and with a quick movement, she swiped her hand down her face.
She bowed her head toward the ground.
“…Brother, you've known everything.”
“If you have His Majesty in your heart, it would be better to bury it.”
It was a fact that he knew of it for a long time now, even if Wells didn't say a word.
After getting caught by Wells, Rose couldn't sleep easily when she returned to her bedroom.
Everyone attending the hunting festival started to get busy.
Men trained to hunt rare or difficult animals, and women made handkerchiefs in the hope that such men would be safe during the hunt.
At Honeywell's Manor, Rose and Ilya, like other women, were busy making handkerchiefs.
Ilya's handkerchief was for Stanley, and Rose, who meant hers as a form of practice, wanted to give hers to Russell.
Rose buried the thought.
As she embroidered a rose on her handkerchief, she suddenly turned her head to look at Ilya.
The baron's daughter was embroidering with strained eyes; she was practically wanting to become one with her work.
…It looks like Ilya is serious about Stanley Gardner.
It would be nice if I didn't build a relationship with Elliot like this.
She had a glimpse of the handkerchief that Ilya was embroidering, and her eyes narrowed the more she saw.
What shape is that…?
Ilya's handkerchief had a shape that was difficult to describe.
The color was too dark to be called a flower; however, to say that it was the emblem of the Titonsser or Gardner family, there were no characteristics that represented it.
When Rose stared at it for a long time, Ilya felt her gaze and raised her head.
The eyes of the two ladies met.
Ilya noticed Rose's gaze on her handkerchief and smiled awkwardly.
“I-I'm not good at embroidery…
“That's nothing to be worried about, I was also clumsy at first.
Is that for Lord Stanley? What kind of pattern is it?”
“You said that Lord Stanley is bad at hunting and can only catch small animals.
But even those little things are like ferocious beasts to me…”
Ilya blurted out and held out the handkerchief she was embroidering so Rose could see it.
Looking closely, Illya's main color of thread was brown.
Two ovals overlapped in an oblique line, and four thick lines curled below them.
What is that?
Rose kept her mouth shut and waited for Ilya to tell her about her design.
Ilya twisted her body slightly in embarrassment and elaborated on her embroidery.
“I embroidered a puma.
I heard that pumas are also released on this hunt…”
“That—ah, the Lord Stanley—he would be very happy to receive a handkerchief you personally made for him.”
Rose struggled to open her mouth and think of something to say to the delicate young girl.
Only then did she find a book lying next to Ilya.
Spread out next to Ilya was an animal encyclopedia.
Even without looking at it, it was easy to guess that it was a page with puma illustrations.
Rose started to embroider after watching Ilya's focus.
With the hope of meeting Russell by chance at a hunting festival and giving him a handkerchief, Rose got back to work.
The day before the hunting festival.
Afternoon, when the sun rises above one's head and slowly begins to decline, Rose stood beside Anne and looked at the clothes lined up on the table.
The dress, lavishly decorated with lace and jewels, was for Rose, who was to attend the hunting festival the next day.
She cautiously called Anne's name as she glared at the burdensome design that would attract everyone's attention even at a banquet.
It's an outdoor activity, isn't it a little flashy like this?”
Anne carefully examined each and every decoration on her dress before she turned her head toward Rose with a whoosh.
Do you know what the ladies and young ladies do at the hunting festival?”
“Huh? Mmm, yes? Hunting is for men, so, a tea party?”
“That's right! I heard that there is a tea party in the greenhouse near the hunting grounds.
A lot of ladies will come, but Honeywell can't show up in a plain dress!”
Anne gestured back to the dress.
Rose nodded, fascinated and convinced by Anne's words.
The men hunt, but the women have a tea party, but going to a party, anything too flashy, is burdensome.
When Rose put the dress laden with jewelry away, Anne dried her up.
“I want the Young Lady to be the most beautiful wherever she goes.”
A knock at the door stopped their preparations for bed.
Anne took one last look at the dress before she reluctantly let go and approached the door.
Meanwhile, Rose quickly moved the dress to the corner of the couch, then peeked out the door to see who had knocked.
It was the butler who had come to call for Rose.
“Butler? What's the matter?”
As Rose approached and asked, the butler explained the purpose of his visit.
“Lady Rose, Lord Stanley Gardner is downstairs.”
“Lord Stanley? Didn't Ilya go out earlier?”
Rose recalled Ilya's whereabouts for the day.
Ilya had gone out after having lunch with Rose.
I thought she was going out to see Stanley, but I guess not.
The butler nodded at Rose's words.
She said she was going to a shopping district and went out.”
Then, let me show him to the drawing room.
When will Ilya go home? It seems like it's been a while since she went out.”
Now that Wells had gone to work at the Imperial Palace, the host of Honeywell Manor was Rose.
However, since the purpose of Stanley's visit was to see Ilya, there would be no reason for her to greet him.
Rose, who was estimating the time since Ilya had been out, looked at the butler when he didn't leave.
“I—That is—Lady Rose.”
The butler hesitated and opened his mouth.
“The person Lord Stanley Gardner is looking for is the Lady Rose, not Lady Titonsser.”
Rose's expression hardened.
She had an ominous feeling for an instant.
I don't know exactly what it was, but it must have been very unpleasant.
I don't want to go to him!
She wanted to express her refusal; her heart felt stuffed with smoke, but the guest had come to her.
She couldn't throw away a man she met when Ilya had a crush on him, and Rose came to the conclusion that she would go down soon.
Rose went straight to the first floor, where Stanley was.
Stanley, who was standing in the middle of the first floor, held a bouquet full of red flowers in his hand.
…Why did you come to me?
Rose cautiously approached Stanley slowly.
In Rose's presence, Stanley gawked at her.
“Hello, Lady Rose.”
Though Stanley greeted her politely, Rose greeted him suspiciously.
“Welcome, Lord Stanley.
You have come to find me…?”
I have something to tell the Young Lady, so I came here without contacting you.”
“To me? What do you mean?”
“That is— I don't think that's what I should talk about here.”
[TL/N: He means he doesn't want to tell her out in the open while standing in the entrance of the Manor.]
Stanley, who had been looking around, glanced at Rose again.
“If you don't mind, can we go to the garden?”
Rose didn't give permission easily, but soon, after much contemplation, she nodded.
“Is that so? If you like the garden…
“Let's go this way.”
Rose took the lead and guided Stanley, who walked a step behind her, to the garden.
It was winter, but the weather was warm that day, and the air was pleasant.
All the while leading the way to the garden, Rose began to guess what Stanley was going to say to her.
What do you have to say to me? Does it have anything to do with the visit when Ilya wasn't here?
Arriving in the middle of the garden, Rose turned to Stanley.
The distance between the two was about five steps.
“Will this do?”
At her question, Stanley nodded with a slightly stiff expression.
It should be here.”
“Lord Standley, what do you have to say to me?”
Stanley was speechless.
Judging from the fact that he opened and closed his mouth repeatedly without speaking, he was probably organizing his words.
Rose waited without urging him.
After a while, Stanley took a short, deep breath and opened his mouth.
“Tomorrow, the hunting festival will be held.
After that, it will be too late.
So, I came here today.”
Stanley looked different from when he was with Ilya.
A sense of tension appeared in his hand gestures; his hands were fiddling with the wrapping paper of the bouquet in his arms.
Only then did Rose get a closer look at the flowers in the bouquet.
When I saw it in the mansion, I thought it was a red winter flower, but now I see it is a rose.
Even without magic preservation, each flower is intact.
The moment she recognized the red rose that looked exactly like her pupil, Rose felt a chill run down her spine.
…That bouquet might have been prepared for Ilya.
Don't panic, Rose.
Rose thought that any other assumption was conceited.
But seeing Stanley slowly bend one knee, Rose couldn't hide her astonishment, as her thoughts were correct.
Stanley held a bouquet of roses in front of Rose.
“I have liked you for a very long time, Lady Rose.
I know very well that you're the fiancé of Duke Proud.
I just want you to know how much I love you.”
Stanley's hands and shoulders were trembling slightly.
The blushing of his cheeks was probably not because of the winter weather.
The man who confessed his heart looked very innocent, but to Rose, she only felt contempt.
Rose opened her mouth and ignored the roses.
“I thought you and Ilya were doing well.”
Stanley tilted his head.
“It's true that I'm close with Lady Ilya, but that's all.
I only have Lady Rose in my heart.”
After the year-end banquet, did you two not often go out to the plaza together?”
“It was just a meeting between friends.
She is a very nice person as a friend.”
The image of Ilya making a handkerchief for Stanley to give him during tomorrow's hunting festival flashed before Rose's eyes.
Rose hesitated and stepped back.
“Ilya was also making a handkerchief for you tomorrow.
She has needle pricks on her fingers.”
As Rose widened the gap, Stanley stood himself up with a small smile.
Rose's shoulders trembled at the sight.
His expression was friendly, but Rose felt a twist in her stomach.
The expression on his face was a look toward his lover.
Stanley muttered with a smile on his face.
was the problem.”
“Somehow, Rose seems to be misunderstanding the relationship between Lady Ilya and me.”
“Yes, the two of you got along well after her debut.
It wasn't just me.
Everyone who knew the two of you would think so.”
Again, I'm just friends with Lady Ilya.
Is there a law that says that a relationship between a man and a woman must be a lover?”
Stanley took a step closer.
The gap between them grew shorter in an instant.
Startled, she let out a short scream and tried to step back, only to be grabbed by Stanley's hand.
The strong scent of roses stung her nose.
A man's shadow covered her.
The floral fragrance strengthened.
The day of the debutante ball, when Elliot came to the mansion with a bouquet of flowers, Rose refused them.
The bouquet in Stanley's hand fell to the floor with a heavy sound.
Caught in his hands, Rose struggled to escape, but her delicate body couldn't shake off the man in front of her.
Elliott's face overlapped Stanley's.
Rose's complexion turned white as she recalled Elliott's rough kiss, which seemed like she was about to be eaten.
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