As soon as Jasper connected with Ethan, he spoke in a low, disgruntled voice.
“Why on earth haven’t you come?”
Jasper had been the one to urge Ethan to chase after Charlotte, but he didn’t want Ethan to neglect his duties as the head of the family.
‘I’m too busy chasing after those pesky bastards.’
The extremely conservative young men had even given their group a name now, something like “Retro Wave” or whatever. It seemed like they wanted to reminisce about the previous generation and the golden era before the current emperor’s reign.
After naming their group, they seemed to grow more cohesive and were starting to stick together. Looking at their growth, they might establish themselves as a faction within the social circles before long.
Therefore, these days, he was already busy and preoccupied just worrying about the Retro Wave’s influence. If Ethan came back and helped with the household affairs, it might provide some relief.
However, the voice that came through the communicator from the other side didn’t sound quite right.
“What’s wrong? Why do you sound like you’re dying? Have you finally officially divorced?”
-No, not yet.
Jasper had been ready to scold Ethan, but his voice sounded too weary.
-Charlotte doesn’t want to see me…
“So? Are you planning to stay there and waste away until she agrees to meet you?”
-Why is she avoiding me? She could at least see me once, don’t you think, Jasper?
Jasper let out a bitter laugh.
“Brother, are you getting enough sleep?”
-I can’t sleep well. Charlotte won’t meet me. Why?
“Don’t bring up the same topic again.”
Ethan seemed to be losing his mind, and it wasn’t the typical Ethan Jasper knew. He had never seen Ethan so weak since their mother’s funeral.
If you’re going to do this, you should have done it right from the beginning… Jasper wanted to say that but held it back. The Jasper of old would have shot back without a second thought, but ever since meeting Rose, his patience had increased slightly.
“Have you apologized to my sister-in-law?”
-I did. I said I wouldn’t do it again, that I was wrong.
“What you did wrong?”
There was silence on the other side of the communicator for a moment, and then Ethan’s hesitant voice came through.
-I just said sorry. To be honest, I don’t know where I went wrong. I treated Charlotte sincerely. I tried to take care of her in my way because I thought city life was tough for her.
“It won’t work. Brother, you’ve messed up.”
-No… why… what…
“What you think is being good to someone might not be good for them in their perspective.”
-What do you mean?
Jasper’s face involuntarily contorted under the sudden pressure. At the same time, words he had heard from Briley came to mind.
“What’s more important is whether Rose likes you or not. If you break off the engagement, does that mean Rose has to accept you no matter what? I don’t think so.”
After hearing Briley’s words that hit him like a dart, Jasper’s perspective had completely shifted. He realized that the first thing he needed to do was win Rose Bell’s heart.
Taking Rose to events she might like, covering her tuition fees, breaking off the engagement with Adela… these actions were just additional factors. The most important thing to carefully consider was Rose’s feelings.
Jasper wondered how Briley felt when looking at himself a few months ago. Frustrated with Ethan, he spoke.
“What matters is the other person’s feelings, not yours.”
-What are you talking about?
“You should have understood what the other person wants. Why can’t you listen to people?”
Normally, Jasper’s reprimand would have sparked a fierce argument between the two brothers, but the current Ethan seemed too exhausted to engage.
He remained quiet for a while and then spoke with a defeated voice.
-Charlotte. What does she like?
“You don’t know anything, that’s bad.”
Even in the face of Jasper’s criticism, Ethan didn’t get angry. He continued in a weak voice.
-She likes cats.
-She likes cats. Shortly after we got married, Charlotte found an injured cat on the street and nursed it back to health. Do you remember?
“I’m hearing this for the first time.”
-Of course. After two days, I told her to get rid of the cat.
-Animals die young. And… they leave.
Jasper read loneliness and fear in Ethan’s murmurs. He remembered the moment when Ethan, who had been overwhelmed by a gloomy expression at their mother’s funeral, suddenly transformed into someone rigid and composed.
-But even if it’s not death, you can still be separated. I didn’t think about that. What if I never see Charlotte again?
Jasper sighed heavily.
“There’s still time. Sister-in-law isn’t an injured cat.”
-It feels like she’s even more sensitive than an injured cat.
Ethan let out a weak, bitter laugh.
“Do your best somehow. You’re a genius at persuasion and negotiation in the council.”
-Is that so…
“No, the regular council meeting is only a month away. Do something. You’re not going to skip the council, are you?”
-I’ll attend. There are important matters…
“So, don’t act so half-hearted. Go to the palace, beg if you have to. Make use of your handsome face. Or imitate a cat or something.”
-Will Charlotte come to me? She might already have another man. Maybe they’ve promised to remarry… yeah, it’s possible. Considering how determined she is to divorce…
Jasper furrowed his brow as he listened to Ethan’s dark mutterings.
“Brother, stop these useless thoughts. Instead of dwelling on this, you should write another letter to my sister-in-law.”
Why was he indulging in these negative fantasies on his own? Jasper felt sorry for Ethan, a far cry from his usual self.
-Alright… Is everything okay at home?
“Why are you asking so suddenly?”
Ethan had changed significantly from his previous self, who used to be preoccupied with work and family affairs. Jasper only learned of Ethan’s current situation late.
Ethan’s recent situation, or so Jasper thought, was just him complaining about Charlotte, but unexpectedly, some unexpected words popped up in the middle of their conversation.
“You met with a Dom Industries executive there?”
-He came to negotiate a new deal with Atwood Manor. Has Dom Industries made any recent announcements?
“I haven’t heard any news like that. Why did the executive come to see you?”
-I think he heard I was here and wanted to make a courtesy visit. There was nothing specific to discuss. I found it a bit strange that Dom Industries wanted direct dealings, to be honest.
“But you don’t get along with businesspeople.”
-That’s right. But if there’s something that could interest them… it’s something like military supplies. I’ve heard there have been some issues with gang activity near the border lately.
The more Jasper listened to Ethan’s words, the more uneasy he felt. Dom Industries was not only active in the capital but also in the northernmost part of the empire.
Were they developing something profitable in the defense industry sector? If so, Attwoods might be seen as potential business partners.
While Ethan’s account of the situation didn’t seem particularly alarming, Jasper was concerned about the fact that several people associated with Dom Industries were making frequent visits near the border.
It seemed like they needed to be more vigilant and keep an eye out for any signs of trouble in their surroundings.
* * *
The time left until the graduation ball was approximately a month.
Even though the final exam period before graduation had begun, most of the fourth-year students were preoccupied with finding dance partners.
Stories were circulating in the academy about students who had requested a particular partner and were rejected, making the academy buzz with excitement. With the graduation ball so close, very few students were concerned about their graduation grades.
Among the few students who did care was Rose. She wanted to finish with top grades before graduation, so she attended the library as usual, but today was different. Her excitement wasn’t because of the upcoming graduation ball; it was because she had finally received the full prize money from the invention contest.
Rose had set aside a portion of the money for her mother, Anna, and her siblings’ living expenses, as well as her living expenses in the capital. She had put the remaining amount in the bank. When she held the money in her hands, she felt a bit overwhelmed by the larger sum than she had anticipated and wasn’t sure how to spend it.
It was an amount equivalent to a year’s wages for an ordinary laborer. It might not be much for wealthy nobles, but to Rose, it was a substantial sum. It was her first time receiving such a large amount of money at once.
After visiting the bank early in the morning and returning to the academy, Rose glanced at the shops along the main road.
‘I want to buy something for Jasper and my friends…’
She had received so much help from them, and she wanted to show her appreciation. However, she didn’t have the financial means to buy expensive gifts that her friends might like, and she was unsure about her gift selection skills.
‘Maybe I should ask Madame…’
She had planned to visit the tailor today. She wanted to try on a dress she was making and get some advice. The tailor would likely have good ideas for gifts that her friends would appreciate.
A little while later, Rose arrived at the shop. The tailor welcomed her with a warm smile and led her directly to the fitting room.
“We haven’t added the detailed decorations yet. We’ll first check how well it fits your body.”
The tailor had a cheerful expression, and Rose started trying on the dress with her guidance.