“If you didn't come alone, where are the attendants? Didn't the knights come with you?”
Russell questioned her.
It's none other than Rose Honeywell's outing, the precious Rose of the Honeywell family.
There's no way Wells would have sent Rose to such a crowded plaza without escorts.
But her answer was completely different from what he thought.
“I came out with my maid and an escort knight.”
“…Lady Honeywell is out, and there is only one escort knight with you.”
Although the security in the capital is good, the plaza is a place where anything could happen despite all of the protection being placed around it.
Rose couldn't hide her embarrassment.
The more he questioned, the more her embarrassment multiplied.
“Hmm, but how did the escort knight lose track of Lady Honeywell? It's not too difficult unless Lady Honeywell suddenly has the power to fly up into the sky or sink into the ground.”
Russell looked around once more.
I still can't see the escort knight, so I'll have to find a maid instead.
However, neither the escort nor maid were anywhere to be seen, nor did it appear that anyone was looking for Rose.
Rose's voice drifted up from below his chin.
“The two of them should be at a watch repair shop, but I don't know where the store is…”
“It's a watch repair shop? There isn't one near here.
If I remember correctly, the nearest watch repair shop is a short walk away.
Let's go at once.
If we can't meet them, we can go back to the mansion and send someone.”
Rose thanked His Majesty and waited for Russell to take the first step.
However, no matter how long she waited, Russell didn't budge.
Tilting her head, she looked at him.
He was holding out the hem of his cloak to Rose.
“Since there are a lot of people in the plaza, if we make a mistake, we will be broken apart too.
Holding hands will be uncomfortable for you, but please forgive me just this once.”
Rose's hand gripped the hem of Russell's cloak, and only when her grip was firm did Russell move on.
The atmosphere was distinctly different from when Rose walked a step behind Anne.
Anne was shorter than the average female height, especially for her age.
So earlier, when Rose walked behind Anne, it was not difficult for Rose to look above Anne's head to see where she was being led.
However, standing behind Russell, she could neither see nor predict what was ahead.
It felt as if a huge mountain was blocking Rose's path.
She looked up and stared at Russell's back.
…I thought it was big at first, but you are very tall, Russell.
Definitely bigger than my older brother.
Elliot…? In comparison with Elliot? You might be bigger than that?
Rose, deeply pondering Russell's height in her head, was startled by the sudden voice calling her name.
To her surprise, a hiccup left her mouth.
She wanted to answer, but what came out was a hiccup.
Russell paused as Rose flushed in embarrassment.
Although she covered her mouth with both hands, she couldn't stop the hiccups that seeped through her fingers and shook her shoulders.
Mortified, Rose desperately tried to hold her breath, but the hiccups continued.
Her face, already red from holding her breath, flushed an even redder shade from the embarrassment.
Russell playfully joked with Rose, who was trying to somehow stop the hiccups from progressing.
“What did you eat so deliciously by yourself while following me?”
“I don't eat—hiccup!”
It was difficult to answer, so Rose shook her head vigorously.
With a powerful shake, the hairpin that adorned Rose's hair slipped off and fell down.
The intervals between hiccups gradually got shorter and shorter.
Russell looked down at Rose, who still covered her mouth with both hands, trying to swallow her hiccups, and whined to himself.
…If you think even this look is cute, that would be a problem.
It's a real problem because once I've recognized that you're cute, I'll keep seeing you this way.
Russell's lips trembled.
He covered his mouth with his hand.
I think I heard that being surprised is a good way to stop hiccups.”
Rose reacted as he'd hoped and turned to him hopefully.
Russell averted his gaze, unable to continue meeting the round eyes looking up at him, only to catch sight of her hair that entered his field of vision.
The hairpin that was barely hanging on her blonde hair due to Rose's powerful head shake earlier.
Russell, who was watching the hairpin about to fall at any moment, removed his hand from his mouth.
“Could you excuse me for a moment? Your hairpin…”
Rose obediently lowered her head slightly so that the crown of her head was clearly visible to Russell, who then pulled out the dangling hairpin.
Russell's hand was very clumsy as it busied itself with tidying up Rose's messy hair and putting it back in place with the hairpin.
Though he tried to fix it, strands of hair continuously slipped out.
Flip the hair here and there, then fix the hairpin here and there.
Russell, mumbling to himself as he concentrated on Rose's hair and hairpin, vaguely heard her giggles.
Completely unaware that the reason Rose was laughing at him was because she thought of Wells, her brother, who was good at doing her hair.
Once her laughter leaked out, she also hiccupped, allowing Russell to secure Rose's swaying hair with the hairpin as she froze.
It had taken some time for the emperor to fix Rose's hair, and yet her hiccups remained.
Russell fell into thought.
What would be the best way to surprise her and cure her hiccups.
After some thought, Russell closed the gap between them and wrapped her cheek in his large palm.
The winter weather was warm, but Rose's cheeks still held onto the cold of winter.
Unlike her, Russell's skin was warm against hers as he bent down to her height.
The faces of the two face one another with barely any space between them.
Russell captured Rose's eyes, which grew wider as the distance became shorter.
Right before their lips touched, Russell made no further movement and chose to speak instead.
Finally, the name I've always wanted to say.
Russell's heart thumped.
We have to get away, there are many eyes to see here.
Russell braced himself and leaned toward Rose.
He noticed that Rose, who had been hiccupping at short intervals, was quiet.
She didn't respond.
Suspecting her lack of response was related to her being surprised, Russell looked at Rose and noticed that her little cheeks turned red.
He hesitated before he decisively grabbed her hand and guided her to a more secluded area.
If you remain so engrossed, you'll end up getting lost.”
“Ah, yes, so—I'm sorry.”
Rose moved in slow steps as she returned to reality.
Russell didn't let go, and Rose didn't ask to let go either.
On the way to the watch repair shop, where Rose's maid and escort were waiting, Russell's mind was occupied by one thing.
A reddened face.
It wasn't out of shame, but out of surprise.
Even just the thought of it is thrilling.
But Russell rebuked himself for having false hopes.
Rose doesn't like Elliot now, but she's not in love with me either.
What does Rose look like when she is in love?
…And there's no way you'll like me out of the blue.
He laughed self-deprecatingly at himself and slowed his pace.
Let's go slowly.
Before he knew it, Russell and Rose began to walk in tandem.
The hand held by Russell felt hot.
Rose tried to keep her composure lest she got caught.
I wonder if he can feel my heart racing.
Still, Rose tried to conceal it.
It wasn't long before she saw a watch repair shop that she was familiar with in the distance.
In front of the watch repair shop, Anne, whom she had been searching for, and the escort knight were talking about something with serious expressions.
Rose pulled the hem of the emperor's cloak with her remaining free hand.
“There it is! It's right there.”
“It's good that I think I came here before.”
The eyes of the two met for a very fleeting moment.
As if they had made a promise to each other, they turned their heads again.
A few yards away from the watch repair shop, Russell stopped.
Rose also slowed to a stop and looked up at him.
“Are you not coming along?”
“I'm sorry, but Lady Honeywell has to go alone.”
“…I see, all right.”
There was a high probability that the escort knight knew Russell's face.
Russell was now wearing a cloak, but if the knight removed the cape under the pretext of confirming the identity of someone who appeared close to Rose, it would cause serious repercussions.
So, he let go of her hand.
“Next time, never go out alone because there are not only kind people in this world.”
“…I'll keep that in mind, thank you, Your Majesty.”
Responding with a light nod, Rose walked towards the watch repair shop.
She had walked three steps before turning back.
In the short span of walking three steps, Russell disappeared.
She looked around but couldn't see a single outfit similar to his.
Rose Honeywell turned her head to the sound of a voice calling her name and found Anne and the escort running towards her.
“Young Lady! Are you hurt anywhere? Oh my god…
I was surprised to see Young Lady suddenly disappear.
How scared my heart was when the knight who followed us said that he had lost you in the crowd.”
I must have gone too far while looking outside.
Did you complete your repairs?”
“Yes, I left it for repairs.
It was finished a while ago.”
I've worried you.
Rose felt the weight in her hand and found a small bag.
The second she glimpsed it, she realized what it was.
“What's wrong? Did something really happen?!”
When Rose gasped in surprise, Anne fired questions at her mistress with a serious expression that Rose had never seen before.
Rose shook her head.
Let's hurry, Anne.
I am so tired.”
Come on, the next block is an area where you can call a carriage over, so we can wait for our carriage there.”
Anne's pace quickened.
Rose walked at that pace, but she couldn't hide her regret inside.
…I bought a present for His Majesty and couldn't even give it to him.
Her thoughts were filled with Russell.
Among those innumerable thoughts of him, there was one where his face neared her own.
Rose's face turned red again.
She concentrated on walking, swiping away the thoughts, but found herself too flustered.
Until she bumped into a person who smiled at Rose and appeared to have been looking for her.
Anne greeted politely while Rose called out a name.
“Rose, it's a pleasure to meet you here.
Why did you go out today?”
“I came out to find something, however…”
Rose shifted her gaze to the man standing beside Ilya.
He was a normal-looking man wearing glasses.
“Is this Young Lord Stanley?”
Rose, who had memorized the names of nobles with portraits, recalled the man's name from her memory.
Ilya nodded in joy.
This is Young Lord Stanley Gardner, the second son of the Baron Gardner family.
Young Lord Stanley, this is the younger sister of Duke Honeywell, who is supporting me now.”
Stanley said his greetings.
He was said to be a person committed to academic research, but surprisingly, his gestures were moderate.
“Is there anyone my age who doesn't know Lady Rose Honeywell? It's an honor to meet you, Lady Rose Honeywell.”
Stanley and Rose's eyes met.
Rose avoided looking at him with a smile, feeling somewhat burdened by his gaze.
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