hes had long since lost their leaves.

“Why…
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.

“Urgh!” 

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.

“Haa.
Haa.” 

Exhaling a cold breath, Rose struggled and walked.

…To me…
No, to us.
What happened to Honeywell?

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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?

“Urgh.
Wells…
Brother.”

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!”

“Alright.
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.

“Elliot.” 

“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.

“Why…
Why us…” 

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“Rose.
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.

“Goodbye, Rose.” 

Unlike his warm lips, the words uttered by him were of a much frostier temperature.

Grab.  

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.


Brother.
You said you'd protect me.
Brother, please help me.
I'm afraid.
I'm afraid of all of these trees.
Please…
Please help… 

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.” 

*** 

Bang!!! 

“Ahhh!” 

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.

Ba-bang!!! 

Thunder cracked again, flooding Rose's vision with brightness as the lightning faded.

“Ha.
Huh, what? …
I was at the cliff just now…
Then, that…
That…” 

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.

“Bedding?” 

As she took in her room at the Honeywell Manor, she came to a realization.

She was back.

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