It had been a long time since anyone had helped Rose put on clothes, and she felt a bit awkward and fidgety.
Except for her very early childhood, there had never been a maid in her household. However, the tailor’s skilled hands worked quickly, and she smoothly dressed Rose in a beautiful red velvet dress.
“There, please stand in front of the mirror.”
Rose cautiously approached the full-length mirror. Even though the dress lacked the embroidery and ribbons that would be added later, she looked different from her usual self in the mirror.
The subtle and elegant shade of red contrasted beautifully with her fair skin, and her long neck extended gracefully into her shoulders and collarbone. She exuded a completely different aura from when she wore her baggy school uniform.
Rose couldn’t help but feel a bit self-conscious, and her face flushed slightly. The tailor spoke with excitement from the side.
“Red suits you very well, as expected.”
“Yes. On the night of the ball, we’ll make the underskirt a bit more voluminous, so it will look even more splendid than it does now. There will also be decorative elements added to make it more ornate.”
The tailor enthusiastically explained how the decorations would be added. In her mind, Rose envisioned the completed look, which turned out to be unexpectedly elegant and made her wonder if it would suit her.
‘Still… it looks beautiful.’
The upcoming ball was gradually becoming a reality for Rose. Finally, the tailor took a step back and assessed Rose with a critical eye.
“Oh my, your waist is a bit too slender now. It seems like you’ve lost some weight.”
“Oh, I’ve been quite busy lately and didn’t pay much attention to meals…”
“There’s no need for alterations. For the ball, we’ll adjust the back to give you a little more room in the waist. But, it seems your sweetheart will be upset.”
“Yes, it’s concerning for your beloved to lose weight when they are already quite petite.”
In reality, Rose was taken aback by the comment. Lately, whenever there was a spare moment, Jasper had been giving her lengthy lectures about her meals.
“Rose, you’re too light right now. You might faint if you continue like this.”
Jasper had been genuinely concerned, and he wasn’t just exaggerating. To others, it seemed that she had indeed become thinner.
‘I should increase my meal portions a bit…’
Rose was indeed accustomed to feeling hungry because she often skipped meals in the past, especially when she had a busy day.
‘I should gain some weight before the ball.’
Wearing her school uniform once again, she stepped out of the fitting room. Just before leaving the shop, she hesitated for a moment and asked the tailor.
“May I ask you something? I’d like to give my friends some gifts…”
She inquired if there were any gifts fashionable in high society. The tailor, who often met noblewomen, was likely to have a good sense of what was appreciated.
The tailor thought seriously and provided various suggestions. She added.
“However, perhaps you could consider a gift that only you can give.”
Rose thought for a moment and replied.
“I can think of gifts related to magic engineering, but that’s about it. Would my friends like that?”
“Oh, that sounds wonderful! A gift from a magic engineering genius. It could become a precious item if Miss Rose becomes more famous in the future.”
Rose was touched by the praise.
“I don’t think it’s at that level…”
“There’s a rumor going around that Miss Rose is an incredible genius in the field of magic engineering. Many people are amazed and admire you.”
“Is there such a rumor?”
“Yes, I’m not sure where the story originated, but people are interested in Miss Rose. She was already famous at the academy, and winning the contest made her even more renowned. It’s a shame there aren’t more articles about it.”
Rose’s cheeks turned a rosy pink, and her eyes sparkled.
She hadn’t expected to hear such positive things about herself. She thought that people would only focus on Theo Lixton, but the fact that there were individuals who recognized her worth was heartwarming.
It seemed that her diligent efforts at the academy had paid off.
With the upcoming graduation exams and the ball, Rose became even more determined to do her best.
She didn’t want to miss out on this happiness that was unfolding in her life.
* * *
The time left until the graduation ball is four days.
The 4th-year students at Berkley Academy have just gone through their last exam period. Although their grades have not been finalized yet, the semester is practically over.
Now, everyone is either enjoying club activities or getting excited about the upcoming graduation ball.
Not only at the Academy but also throughout the capital, the end-of-year atmosphere has started to set in. The weather is getting colder, but the hearts of the people as they approach the New Year are warming up.
However, Jasper Conway was spending his time quite differently from the others. He had too many things to worry about to be purely excited.
The approaching New Year meant that the regular council meeting was also not far away. The mood in the capital, especially among the youth who referred to themselves as “retro wave,” was not very favorable.
The retro wave, particularly young people in their late teens to early twenties, was gaining cult-like interest, and sympathizers with the retro wave’s leaders were increasing rapidly. There were more people casually sympathizing with them than one might think, and some were quite serious about joining the retro wave gatherings.
Jasper had visited the imperial palace to convey information he had gathered through his interactions with the retro waves at the Academy, meeting the emperor one-on-one.
The emperor listened to Jasper’s story in silence and then asked with a furrowed brow.
“Are you saying that they won’t attend the graduation ball?”
“Yes, not one of them, but three.”
Several of the 4th-year students at Berkley, who were part of the retro wave, suddenly announced their absence from the graduation ball.
Berkley Academy’s graduation ball boasted a long history and was one of the most prestigious events in the social scene. If you were a retro wave who valued tradition, you would naturally consider the graduation ball to be something special.
However, missing the ball might indicate that they had something important on that day. Jasper wanted to dig deeper into this, but it wasn’t easy due to everyone’s closed lips.
They were particularly suspicious since they usually treated Jasper with favor and made an extra effort to have longer conversations with him.
The emperor cut short her tongue and spoke.
“Is there something more important than the graduation ball? Aren’t they partnered up?”
“They probably couldn’t find suitable partners. They’re all a bit on the fringes of the mainstream.”
“That’s why they got more involved in the retro wave. I see. We need to find them partners. Increase the number of infiltrators in Brittel too.”
“What about the day of the ball? If you give the order…”
“No, you should attend the ball. You don’t have to worry about our side on that day. Let people boast about their lovers to their hearts’ content. We need to dominate the headlines in the newspapers the next day.”
Jasper also had a strong desire to attend the graduation ball. However, strangely, he couldn’t shake off an uncomfortable feeling. It seemed like something was going to happen on the day of the ball.
Of course, he knew that there wouldn’t be a problem even if he didn’t intervene.
Jasper’s role was almost finished. While the emperor was screening traitors within the Royal Shadows, Jasper had traced Edwin to the Port of Valloch and returned to the capital to gather information from the retro waves and relay it to the emperor.
If there were battles taking place on the mainland, the emperor’s army would now act directly. There was no need for Jasper, who hadn’t been officially commissioned, to participate in the mission.
‘Is there any lingering attachment to this mission?’
Jasper tried to shake off the uncomfortable feeling.
Perhaps there was a lingering regret inside him for not dealing with Edwin directly in Valloch. Getting deeply involved in this mission, more than he had anticipated, might have given him a sense of responsibility.
“Something is going to happen before the regular council meeting. We don’t have much time left. I need to gather solid evidence this time and cut the root. It’s rather fortunate. This is the right time for various grievances to surface.”
The emperor seemed to consider the current unrest among the retro wave as an opportunity to strengthen her authority. It appeared that she wanted to quell the current chaos and completely undermine the power of the retro wave.
Jasper briefly met the emperor’s sharp gaze and nodded in agreement.
‘Yes, it’s just unnecessary worry.’
The emperor was like a predator lurking, ready to pounce on her prey. No matter what schemes Dom Industries and the retro wave devised, in the end, they would fall into the emperor’s trap.
Jasper believed this with conviction.
Having held the position at the pinnacle of the empire for several decades, the emperor was far from being taken lightly. Especially with someone as young as Edwin, there was no way he could be a match for the emperor. The emperor would obtain the results she desired, no matter what.
‘I just need to focus on the graduation ball.’
Lately, even Rose couldn’t hide her excitement about the upcoming ball. Jasper hoped the day would remain beautiful and special in Rose’s memory.
He wished for Rose to conclude her time at Berkley as the most radiant and unforgettable graduate, receiving envy from everyone.
Therefore, everything had to be perfect on the day of the graduation ball.
No, it would be perfect.
With this determination, Jasper left the emperor’s office.