Rose felt that Jasper was different than usual for some reason. Rose turned her head to look at Jasper and found the reason.
‘His hairstyle has changed.’
Jasper neatly swept his bangs back. His forehead, which had always been partially covered, was now fully exposed, highlighting his sharp features and strong forehead.
He had always had a refined and cold image, but now he exuded an even more unapproachable aura. He even seemed to feel like a mature man who had long passed his youth.
His clothing was impeccably put together in a suit. Jasper usually didn’t bother to button his jacket or undo a few buttons on his dress shirt when wearing a school uniform, but now he was impeccably dressed, even wearing a tie. The deep navy blue suit fit him perfectly as if it had been custom-made, accentuating his square shoulders and firm chest.
Seeing Jasper in this perfect gentleman’s attire, Rose momentarily shrank back. She couldn’t help but think that anyone who encountered Jasper in his current state would automatically feel tense. At the same time, she felt a sense of relief that she had sought Briley’s help.
‘I would have been in big trouble if I had just come as usual.’
Perhaps she had embarrassed Jasper. No matter how simple their friendship might be, she couldn’t afford to undermine Jasper’s reputation as part of his group.
Briley’s words about everyone dressing up for the evening event seemed to be true. She silently sent her gratitude to Briley, who was currently in the dorm room.
‘I should be nicer to Bry.’
Rose let out a sigh of relief and then spoke to Jasper.
“By the way, thanks to the carriage you sent, I came here really comfortably. Thanks.”
“Good to hear.”
“Did you come alone separately?”
“I had somewhere to stop by on the way. …But you’re not wearing a school uniform?”
“Yeah. I would have been embarrassed if I had just come in a rush, you know?”
Jasper parted his lips, then clenched them tightly again. His forehead creased slightly.
“I thought you would be uncomfortable with something like a dress.”
“That’s right. I am. Even this outfit is borrowed from Bry.”
Rose awkwardly smiled as she revealed the truth. It was embarrassing to tell Jasper, who looked like a perfect nobleman, but she didn’t think it was something to hide.
Jasper, who had been standing tall the whole time, suddenly slumped. He grimaced and instinctively tried to mess up his front hair. Rose hurriedly stopped him.
“Oh, Jasper. Your hair!”
Jasper hesitated and then immediately lowered his hand.
“You made an effort to look nice, so I thought you shouldn’t mess it up.”
“…I just did it carelessly.”
Jasper turned his gaze askew and muttered.
“Really? I was quite surprised. It felt different from usual.”
“How is it different?”
“Well, it gives off a somewhat unapproachable vibe?”
“Isn’t that a bad thing?”
“No, no. I meant it in a stylish way.”
Rose studied Jasper’s expression. It was always hard to discern his emotions. His tightly closed lips could look angry one moment and simply lethargic the next.
After a brief silence, Jasper spoke up.
“…If you were going to borrow from Bry, you should have told me.”
Rose looked down at her clothes and awkwardly asked.
“Oh… this? Why? Does it not suit me? I liked it…”
Rose traced the lace hanging at the end of her sleeve. She didn’t have a clear preference for dresses, but she liked this one more because Briley had picked it out for her. She trusted Briley’s taste.
‘Doesn’t the color match me? Or should I have worn a hat like Briley suggested?’
As a faintly discontented expression started to creep onto Rose’s face, Jasper’s soft voice interjected.
“No, it looks pretty.”
Rose was taken aback by his unexpected words and raised her head. She thought she might have misheard him.
‘Jasper saying something like that…?’
It felt incredibly awkward in a situation she had never imagined. Jasper was not the type to give flattering compliments to anyone.
Flustered, Rose couldn’t immediately respond and instead rolled her large pupils around. All this time, Jasper’s gaze remained steadily on Rose without wavering.
“I-I’m glad you think so.”
In the end, Rose replied with a trembling voice. Jasper continued to look down at Rose and asked.
“Why did you come out looking so pretty?”
Rose wasn’t immune to the word ‘pretty.’ She felt even more awkward coming from Jasper. Her body involuntarily shrank, and her skin felt strangely itchy.
“I’ve been told I should come all dressed up. If I didn’t dress nicely, it wouldn’t be respectful to you either, Jasper.”
“Who said that?”
“Ah, Briley Lawrence again.”
“Next time, ask me. I’ll lend you something.”
Jasper’s voice pierced Rose’s ears like a sharp jab. Rose was so surprised that her lips just quivered.
‘He probably doesn’t even have a dress. How on earth would he lend me anything…’
Since she had mentioned it was borrowed from Briley, it seemed like something she casually said. Whenever Briley was brought up in conversation, Jasper’s nerves tended to get the better of her.
‘Does he dislike Briley? Did the two fight when I wasn’t around?’
Otherwise, Rose couldn’t understand why just hearing the name Briley irritated him so much.
Rose was in an uncomfortable situation. She didn’t want to harbor any resentment between the two people who meant a lot to her. Briley had already become a good friend to her, and Jasper had been her benefactor, allowing her to stay at the academy.
‘Is it because Jasper thinks Briley isn’t serious about this?’
Rose had also realized that Briley might not be entirely sincere. At first, she genuinely wanted to get along with Jasper, but as time passed, she began to think that she was enjoying this situation. While Briley was relaxed, Jasper was on high alert. Beyond being uncomfortable with Briley, he sometimes seemed to feel a sense of competition with her.
‘Why? I don’t understand…’
As Rose silently pondered this, Jasper tossed out a remark.
“You’re not answering. If you ever need anything in the future, ask me.”
“I’ve already received plenty of help from you.”
“Take more. I like helping others.”
“Why not? I can buy dozens of dresses like this.”
“Jasper… I didn’t expect dozens of dresses in the first place. And I won’t have many occasions to dress like this.”
“You never know.”
Jasper chewed on his lower lip for a moment and then subtly leaned closer to Rose.
“Let’s go inside for now.”
Jasper nodded towards the entrance, and Rose turned her gaze towards the hall. As she looked at the sparkling lights, her mind was momentarily captivated. Her curiosity about what was inside overshadowed her thoughts about the dress.
Rose replied with an excited voice as if she was enthralled by something. Jasper faintly smiled and then began to walk, closely following Rose.
* * *
“This is an engine… Wow! If they design it like this, the volume will decrease, and the manufacturing process will be smoother…”
Since entering the exhibition hall, Rose had been more excited than ever before. There was so much to see that her eyes moved restlessly from one exhibit to another.
Jasper stood quietly by Rose’s side, pretending to look at the exhibits while secretly admiring her. Rose was studying a new car engine released by Weir Company with great interest.
‘I wonder why she’s so excited.’
Rose wasn’t typically someone with a loud voice or gestures. She usually gave off a calm and composed impression, but right now, she seemed like she was barely containing her desire to jump around.
Jasper tensed his lips and managed his expression. He kept noticing a strand of hair sticking out at the back of Rose’s head. Against her fair skin, the red hair stood out even more. Every time Rose tilted her head to get a closer look, the rebellious strand of hair bounced around.
Jasper thought to himself, his face showing no emotion.
‘Getting those invitations was a good idea.’
He had gone to great lengths to acquire invitations for the evening event, thinking that the smaller crowd during the night would be more enjoyable. He had pretended as if he had just happened to get them to Rose. The evening invitations were primarily distributed to those who had worked with Weir Company in the past. Others had to request them directly from the company.
When Jasper had to request them, even after enduring a physical altercation with Ethan, he swallowed his pride and asked Ethan for his approval.
“Why are you going to that exhibition when you have no interest in it?”
“I want to develop an interest in it.”
“You’re just kidding.”
Normally, Ethan would have cooperated without suspicion, but since their recent fight, he has deliberately been more critical.
“Your little brother is trying to explore academically and this is how it turns out?”
“It’s beyond belief, isn’t it? You of all people?”
“It’s originally for a class assignment. After attending the exhibition, I have to write a report.”
“Then why not just go on the weekend? Why do you need an evening pass? Are you going on a date?”
“It’s not like that. I just don’t like crowds. You know that, right, Brother?”
Ethan continued to look at Jasper suspiciously. Eventually, Jasper had to offer an apology first, even though he was somewhat reluctant.
“I was too harsh last time.”
“Sorry. I’ll go say hello to Adela Bluewood sometime.”
Of course, he didn’t specify when exactly he would do that. If he went to say hello 50 years from now, it wouldn’t be a lie. However, this statement somewhat appeased Ethan, and he sent the invitation request to Weir Company. Ethan was generally strict, but in decisive moments, he would yield to his younger brother, who had a significant age difference.
That’s how he obtained the invitation. Jasper had been looking for a reason to meet Rose outside, and when he saw the advertisement for the exhibition, he thought it was perfect.
As Jasper quietly observed Rose, her eyes sparkling, he felt a sense of satisfaction deep within himself.