Ilya stared directly into Rose's eyes as everyone watched their conversation.
“Rose—I have something to say to you.
I apologize to everyone, but can I take Rose away for a while? It's a bit urgent.”
“Ah? Sure, go ahead.”
“Yes! Please feel free to talk together.”
Fortunately, everyone around them was understanding.
Rose needed some time to be alone with Ilya, so without another word, she rose from her seat.
“There are a lot of people here, Rose.
Let's go out of the greenhouse.”
Rose picked up her pace in order to catch up to Ilya's pace.
Before leaving the greenhouse, Rose looked up through the glass ceiling of the greenhouse at the winter sky, which she saw through the glass ceiling full of dark clouds as if it would rain at any moment.
After leaving the greenhouse, Rose quietly checked to see if there was anyone there.
Ilya led her away.
“Let's go this way, Rose.
I looked around for a while, but it seemed like a place where people don't go often.”
“Is that so?”
Ilya walked out without hesitation.
Following her, Rose tilted her head.
What is she going to tell me when she said she wanted a place where there are no people? Anyway, fortunately for me, I can talk to her now.
The starting point for hunting was near the greenhouse and barracks and was connected with a well-paved floor.
When she walked towards the starting point, a bumpy road appeared.
It was also a road that could not be walked comfortably while wearing shoes.
“Ilya, I think we can talk comfortably here.”
Rose looked back on the path she had walked.
Still far enough from the conservatory.
If you go further into the mountain than this, it may be difficult to return to the greenhouse.
However, Ilya's pace showed no signs of slowing.
“Rose, let's go inside a bit more.
It's because it's a very important story that I want to talk about with only Rose…
I want only you to hear my story.”
Ilya spoke eagerly, but Rose didn't know what her expression was because she didn't look back.
However, since her voice did not sound unusual, Rose quietly followed.
Before they knew it, the two of them had trodden so deep into the mountain that they couldn't even see the greenhouse.
Rose grabbed Ilya's arm, who was still walking forward.
“Ilya, I don't think I can go any further than this.”
“I know the story you want to tell me is important, but we're going too deep.”
I'll talk about it here.”
Ilya stopped walking, and Rose let out a sigh of relief and waited for Ilya to speak.
However, Ilya just stood facing Rose and did not open her mouth, no matter how long she waited.
“Ilya? Clearly, you have something to say…”
Even when Rose asked, Ilya refused to say another word.
Rose approached her, wondering what had happened to Ilya, who kept her head down and was unusually silent.
“Ilya? Are you sick by any chance?”
It was then, when Rose's hand was about to reach Ilya's shoulder, that the cries of wild beasts echoed loudly around them.
Surprised, Rose looked around.
Obviously, it was the sound of a beast, but all they could see around them were dry trees.
Rose took Ilya's hand and pulled it.
“Ilya! We need to go back first.
It seems dangerous here.”
Again, the cry of the beast resounded loudly.
It sounds closer this time.
“Ilya! The way we came—!”
Rose, who was about to grab Ilya and run while holding on to the hem of her dress that was dragging the floor, was knocked over by a forceful push on her shoulder.
The stones on the hard ground scratched her palm.
Rose immediately raised her head and looked up at Ilya, who had pushed her away.
Frightened, Ilya screamed and started running.
Rose reached out her hand toward Ilya, who was moving away.
“Wait a minute! Ilya!”
Rose tried to push her body upward, only to collapse again.
She slightly rolled up the hem of her dress and examined her legs.
It's hard to see because I'm wearing stockings, but I can feel the pain even without touching it.
It seems that my ankle was sprained.
Rose gritted her teeth.
“Waa! I have to get out of here at once.”
Rose raised her swollen legs slightly and stepped cautiously.
“Fortunately, it's not to the extent that I can't walk completely.
I think I can go back to the greenhouse.”
Rose retraced the way she had come.
It wasn't that hard as it was the same direction Ilya had run earlier.
It was impossible to run, but Rose's body froze as she tried to set out at a brisk pace.
Footsteps were heard, but they were not the sound of human footsteps.
Not only the hair on her head, but also the hairs all over her body stood up against Rose's skin.
No, it's very close.
Instinct would always tell us the location of the predator.
My mind tells me to forget the pain in my legs and run, but my body wouldn't budge.
…I have to move! I have to run away!
Rose struggled to move her stiff body and legs.
Even in the midst of this, the sound of the beast that threatened her was approaching quickly but quietly and without delay.
Tears welled up in Rose's eyes.
…I didn't come here to die.
Rose bit her lower lip to the point where it turned white, urging her stiff muscles.
Before long, the motionless leg took a step forward.
Rose's face turned bright as she could finally move her body, forgetting about the pain in her ankle.
However, as soon as she took a step forward, her body stiffened again.
Among the trees filled with dry branches without a single leaf, she caught sight of the yellow eyes that were watching her with a lowered body and steady breaths.
It had been watching her since then, and the moment she met its eyes, Rose unexpectedly predicted her own death.
…If you move, you die.
If you don't move, you die.
Tears welled up, but Rose couldn't cry.
She knew if she made even the tiniest of sounds, that creature eagerly watching her would come racing towards her without a moment's notice.
…What should I do? Should I turn around and run away? Can I outrun that beast?
Perhaps, as soon as Rose turned around, the creature lurking in the darkness would jump at her in an instant and bite her by the scruff of her neck.
Rose slowly and quietly shifted her foot.
It was her plan to run away after putting any distance between them.
If you're lucky enough to get away from that beast, it's better than dying in silence here.
The sound of the shoes dragging against the ground echoed loudly, as if it could reach out and cover the heavens and the earth.
Rose looked down at her feet and quickly raised her gaze.
I can't see the yellow eyes of the beast that was watching me just now.
The moment she realized that, Rose turned around without thinking.
Rose ran, forgetting that the road was unpaved, that she was wearing shoes, or that she had injured her ankle.
At the same time, the beast showed its sharp teeth and jumped out.
Rose ran with all her strength forced into her legs, but the distance from the beast quickly closed.
She took another step but collapsed from the pain in her ankle.
…Brother! Help me! Your Majesty!!!
What would everyone think if they heard she was eaten like prey at a hunting festival hosted by the Imperial Family?
Would they feel sorry for her?
Or, will they spit at the act of stepping into the hunting ground when she couldn't take care of herself?
Rose sighed and closed her eyes tightly.
But no matter how long she waited, Rose didn't feel the pain.
The beast was clearly running fiercely…
Rose slowly opened her eyes, still with tears in them.
Raindrops fell on her head.
A raindrop stung as it fell into her eye, and Rose blinked frantically to clear it.
In the slowly passing time, she stared blankly at the man standing in front of her with his back to her.
The sharp sword he was holding pierced the beast that had just charged at her.
As he pulled out the sword with a graceful motion devoid of any superfluities, blood gushed out like a fountain from the beast's body.
The rain, which began to pour like a waterfall, spilled the blood of the beast.
Rose didn't take her eyes off the man's back, even as the rain soaked her whole body.
Rose, who had been watching without losing sight of the blood dripping from the sword, tightened her hand and grasped the hem of the dress.
Tears that wouldn't stop no matter how hard she strained her eyes flowed along with the rainwater.
She managed to stop her tears by biting her lower lip as she called out the man's name with clenched teeth.
It wasn't Wells nor Russell—the one she secretly sought for.
The one who saved her from the beast was none other than Elliot, who drove her to death before her return.
Perhaps hearing her voice calling out to him, Elliot turned toward Rose while holding his sword.
The face she met was somewhat furious.
Elliot approached with long strides, grabbed Rose's arm violently, and raised her to her feet.
Rose, dragged by his hand and forced to stand, frowned at the pain of her gripped arm.
“Elliot, my arm…”
“Are you insane? Come on, what kind of place do you think you're in?!”
A shout fell from his lips.
Her eyes widened in surprise, as it was the first time she had heard a voice high enough that it could pierce through the heavy rain.
It's the first time I've seen him get so angry.
Wasn't he always wearing a relaxed or indifferent look?
When she didn't say anything, Elliot finally lowered his gaze and let go of her hand.
“If I were just a little late, you would have been dead.”
Elliot spoke nonchalantly as he put the sword into the scabbard worn around his waist.
Rose smiled self-deprecatingly, sweeping away the arm that was being held by him.
She looked at hisp back with disapproval.
…I won't say thank you for saving me.
I won't thank the man who killed me once and who is still thinking about destroying Honeywell.
Rose snorted inwardly and outpaced Elliot.
It rained too much.
Being weak, it was almost certain that she would suffer from body aches the next day if she continued to get hit by the rain.
Elliot grabbed Rose's arm again as she walked while ignoring the pain in her ankle so she would not reveal her injury.
“What are you doing? You won't be able to go back before another beast appears.”
“The starting point of the hunting festival is far from here.
It's raining a lot, and you want to walk there? It is better to take shelter from the rain nearby for a while and then go when it stops, and…”
Elliot, speechless, briefly glanced at Rose's feet, then withdrew his gaze.
“Can you walk on the wet road with that leg?”
Rose didn't open her mouth.
I thought I hid it well, but Elliot grasped my condition at once.
“It doesn't matter.”
“Don't be foolish.
I won't do anything this time, so don't worry and follow me.
There must be a shelter from the rain nearby.”
Finally, Elliot, who had kept an eye on Rose, turned around.
She shaded her eyes with her hands to keep the rain from stinging her as she limped and followed Elliot.
I don't want Elliot's help.
Rose grunted at the sight of him walking ahead with a steady step.
Blinded by her hatred for him, there were two things Rose didn't notice.
One was that Elliot, who was walking in front of her, removed the twigs that were rolling on the ground so that nothing caught on her feet or her dress.
Another was that Elliot's gait was noticeably slower than usual, allowing her to keep up.
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