Russell's breath halted.
If he dared exhale, his breath would ride along the wind, snatching away the words Rose had just said.
When he remained silent, Rose's expression took a turn.
Recognizing the disappointment on her face, Russell hurriedly called out to her.
He said it again.
He kept calling out her name, fearing that when he stopped, Rose would disappear and it would have all been just a dream.
Rose Honeywell, for her part, lit up every time the Emperor called out her name.
Her smile dazzled the man enough to blind him.
It was a smile that Russell wished would always be on her lips.
The same smile he wanted to be the cause of.
Rose's smile was what Russell wanted so much to give him.
The moon lit up the garden of the Imperial family, where the two sat before disappearing into the clouds.
The darkness shrouded their surroundings, leaving only the faint silhouette of the garden.
Russell made his way to the garden lamp post, his hand firmly holding Rose's to keep her from falling.
Just as they were about to leave the fountain, a voice rang out not far from them.
It was the voice of at least four people, not just one.
Russell and Rose's eyes met.
If others see us together, it will be a big deal!
Rose and Russell exchanged opinions through brief glances, then quickly walked in the opposite direction from where the voices were heard.
As the dancing segment of the banquet was over, quite a few nobles were coming out to the garden to enjoy the winter breeze.
“There are more and more people.”
“Hmm, I know.
Besides, this garden has no places to hide.”
Rose was worried about Russell.
It's okay if she were to be criticized, but he was different.
At a time when everyone was enjoying the banquet indoors, if rumors spread that he had a tryst with a woman with a fiancé, his image as a sage would collapse instantly.
If such a reality came into existence, Rose would never really be able to forgive herself.
She tugged on Russell's sleeve.
“Your Majesty, I'll hide behind a bush like before.
Your Majesty, you should go first.
I'll leave after a while.”
“Then you'll fall again.”
Rose twisted her hand quickly to free herself from Russell, but the man in question didn't let go easily.
“Your Majesty, let me—“
“There's still a lot of time left before the banquet is over.”
“Yes, I know that.
Russell blocked Rose's path.
His hand brushed lightly through Rose's disheveled bangs.
“I want to be with you, Rose, during that time.”
…That's a foul.
[TL/N: She means he's cheating with that action so that he gets his way.]
Rose expressed a small huff of displeasure toward Russell.
How can I say no when you say that?
Rose covered her mouth.
“If other people find out that we are together, I have nothing to say.”
“It's okay if we don't get caught.”
Russell led Rose by the hand.
The two of them hid behind trees in the garden and behind bushes to avoid the public eye.
The two managed to escape the garden without being noticed and climbed the stairs leading to the terrace.
Even as they opened the glass door and entered the hall, the two remain cautious and only then breathed a sigh of relief when the glass door was firmly closed.
“If I go around like this, my heart won't last very long.”
[TL/N: Heart will feel weak from the nerves.]
“Then next time, let's try to figure out the routes that are rarely used.”
“…I won't do anything like this ever again!”
As she declared with a frown, Rose caught her breath and looked around the room.
It had the same structure as the terrace in the banquet hall, so I thought we had returned to the banquet hall by accident, but I guess we hadn't.
It was a dark room with no lights that was as wide as the banquet hall, but it was difficult to get a sense of exactly what the space was used for.
“Your Majesty, what are we doing here?”
Russell looked around the dark room and answered lightly.
“It's a private space where I practice swordsmanship.”
“Your Majesty had a private practice space? I thought there were only training places where public training is done.”
After taking a step into the darkness, Russell's steps came to a stop.
Hesitation emanated from his gesture as he turned to Rose.
“This palace is the Emperor's Palace.
That is, it's my dwelling place.”
Her ears certainly heard Russell, but her brain did not properly comprehend it.
She didn't respond until after some time had passed.
“Really? It's the Emperor's Palace? Not the banquet hall?”
“After running around avoiding people, it seems that we came out in the opposite direction of the entrance to the celebrations.”
We should go back now.”
Rose headed for the glass door that led out to the terrace.
Looking at her back, Russell shrugged.
“This palace is actually more heavily guarded than other places.
Everywhere you go, there will be knights who stand guard at night.”
“Then, how do I leave? Everyone will think it strange if I suddenly show up in the Emperor's palace.”
“You can call Duke Honeywell at the end of the banquet, or you can also call Alison.”
I thought I would be stuck in a rat hole trying to leave, but it wasn't that there was no way to get out of this place.
It's just that I'll have to wait until, without a doubt, I can leave safely.
Rose rubbed her chest and let out a sigh of relief.
Oh! Can I call my brother and Alison now?”
“That's not bad either, but when I call an attendant, where will Rose be hiding?”
Rose looked around.
The moon, which had been hiding in the clouds, appeared again, revealing the interior of the room.
Perhaps it was true that Russell practiced swordsmanship, but there was nowhere for Rose to hide.
Rose walked toward Russell with weak steps.
“I'll have to wait until my brother finds Your Majesty.”
“Yes, you will have to.
Don't worry too much, Duke Honeywell will go looking for me if I don't see him even for a moment.”
“I'm glad then…
So are we supposed to stay here?”
Russell shook his head.
If Duke Honeywell comes here to look for me himself, there are several places to go.
It's a place I often go, so for now, let's wait there.”
The outstretching of his hand and grasping her hand were all done very naturally.
Unaware of their actions, the two of them started to move away from people's eyes again.
Every inch of the Imperial Palace was no different from Russell's master bedroom.
He knew when and where the knights were changing shifts, so he knew where to go without the knights getting in their way.
Thanks to that, unlike the garden, they were able to easily arrive at a safe place.
“Where is this?”
The place the two of them entered was filled with bookshelves and books—enough to make them believe it was a library.
Russell answered Rose's question by lighting a red candle on the table.
“It is my resting place.
You can see that I almost only read books here.”
have you read all of this?”
“You can say that.
Rose, come here.”
Looking through the books on the bookshelf, Rose headed in the direction where Russell stood in front of the fireplace.
He tossed embers into the fireplace, causing the stack of firewood to instantly catch fire.
The heat from the fireplace instantly melted the chill from the cold air, and the room gradually warmed up.
Rose sat down on the sofa in front of the fireplace, and after a moment's absence, Russell appeared with a blanket and duvet in each hand.
He handed the thickest and softest of them to Rose.
“Does Your Majesty sleep here too?”
“If it's annoying to go to my room while reading, I sometimes sleep here.”
Rose wrapped the blanket around her body and buried her face in it.
After working hard in a cold place, being in a warm area like this relieves fatigue and makes me sleepy.
Rose didn't stop talking in case she fell asleep without realizing it.
“Your Majesty, have you ever danced at a banquet?”
“I never danced officially.
As long as I am in the position of emperor, no matter who I dance with, there will be a scandal, so I have to be careful.”
Russell placed a piece of wood in the fireplace and spoke.
“The last time I danced in front of everyone was at my coming-of-age ceremony.”
“Which young lady did you dance with?”
“I danced with Alison.
As I said earlier, it was easier to dance with my sister if I didn't want to get involved with the opposite sex.”
Russell poked the wood in the fireplace with a skewer to make the room hotter and stayed silent.
He got up, as he had finished lighting the fire, and sat down on the sofa across from Rose.
The eyes of the two met.
“I thought you wouldn't be coming to this year-end banquet.
Rose Honeywell is harder to come across than even the Emperor.”
Embarrassment set in when a joke that Rose was all too familiar with came out of Russell's lips.
Rose brushed her cheek.
“To be honest, I didn't attend because I was uncomfortable at banquets with a lot of people.”
“Then why did you come this time?”
“Yeah, this time…”
Rose couldn't finish her words.
Her complexion, which had returned to normal with the heat from the fireplace, paled to a shade of blue.
Rose jumped off the sofa, and the thick, soft blanket rolled down to the floor.
“We have to go back to the banquet!”
Russell looked at Rose's expression quietly.
I don't know what's going on, but that bluish face isn't from the smoke.
“Okay, let's go back.”
Rose intended to go back to the celebrations by herself if Russell didn't move.
But Russell didn't ask her anything, and while Rose was very grateful for that, she also felt sorry.
However, if she hadn't been able to stop feeling sorry for Russell, she wouldn't have even thought about what happened to the Proud and Honeywell families in the first place.
Rose followed Russell as he left nervously.
Russell quickly evades the knights who were standing guard, but he ran quickly, so Rose had to catch up.
After following Russell, Rose stopped at the stairs that appeared in front of her eyes.
The banquet hall was in a different building from the Emperor's Palace.
According to common sense, shouldn't we go down to the first floor and go outside? I don't remember seeing that overpass connecting the Imperial Palace to another palace.
Rose hesitated and didn't follow; Russell turned around.
He immediately guessed Rose's thoughts and gave her the answer.
“Going down to the first floor and crossing the garden takes a lot of time.
So we will go to the hall through a less guarded area.”
“A place with few guards?”
“Over there, it has the least security in this palace.”
Russell points at the ceiling with his index finger.
Following his finger, Rose lifted her head and looked at the ceiling, then faced the emperor.
Are you talking about the rooftop?”
Russell climbed the stairs without saying a word.
Rose couldn't hide her confusion as she followed him.
…You mean we need to—How do we get to the rooftop?
The path to the rooftop was completed in silence.
The number of knights standing guard was significantly reduced, so he was able to climb more easily.
When they reached the rooftop, the winter wind was blowing strongly.
In the biting cold and ferocious wind, Rose grabbed onto Russell's coat.
“Rose, we have to get there.”
Rose saw a pillar in the middle of the empty rooftop.
At first glance, it looked like a common structure placed on a rooftop.
Rose approached the pillar with Russell, and even up close, it didn't feel like anything special.
“What is this?”
Russell didn't answer.
Instead, he raised his right hand and lightly touched the pole.
Light leaked from the pillar, which just a moment ago appeared ordinary without any special features.
Rose's eyes widened.
Then she was helplessly drawn into Russell's arms by the force that wrapped around her waist.
Before she could utter a single word, Rose's vision changed in an instant.
When she blinked and slowly opened her eyes for a peek, the space the two were standing on had changed.
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