He stared at Louise’s face, then brought up a topic he rarely liked to talk about.
“Now and then, I think about my mother.”
“What do you think about?”
“Just, you know, anything. Like if she was happy.”
Well, she must have been happy, all right. She was an outsider rejected by the palace, only had her husband and son by her side, and could only communicate to her friend, Mrs. Sweeney, through letters.
“My mother was very smart. She was able to come to the Academy despite her poor circumstances.”
“She was praised for being a genius from all the professors when she was admitted to the Academy, right?”
“Yes. Though I’m not as smart as her.”
He stroked the area around Louise’s eyes with a bitter smile, where his lips had pressed against not long ago.
“I don’t think her wonderful mind was used to full potential.”
She could have done so much more, if only she hadn’t been oppressed up by status or court rules.
“Once, I used to blame my father for ruining my mother completely. So I…"
Louise tightened her grip on his hand to let him know she was listening to his story. There was a mirthless smile on his lips.
“I concluded that those in power had the obligation to live a life of asceticism.”
“It’s problematic if a person of power becomes greedy, and uses his power to gain his own benefits, right?”
“But it’s too unreasonable to expect asceticism.”
Louise had been quick to protest. Of course he expected her to answer like that. Louise Sweeney was always fair and sweet.
“Listen to the end.”
He continued to speak in a softer tone.
“Then, I came to the Academy and thought of something while taking classes.”
He shifted his hands again and stroked Louise on the cheek.
“How did my mother get all the professor’s praise for being a genius? Even we don’t usually hear that from a single professor.”
“When I realized that, I realized how foolish I had been thinking.”
Ian’s face had his usual smile. No, it was a bit more affectionate. Maybe because he was talking about his mother after a long time.
“There was no way an intelligent mother couldn’t know what would happen in her future.”
“Do you mean you mean she was prepared for that kind of life?”
“Yes. But what I really want to say is that my father didn’t refuse her.”
He liked her, and she chose him. For her generous decision, it was reasonable to give all his efforts into the relationship, even if he used all his power for it.
“Was that a comfort you?”
“No. It became an indicator.”
“Think about it, Louise Sweeney. Who would want to be with the crown prince? It’s just a lot of troublesome and dirty work to do.”
"…You should apologize right away to countless ladies and ancestors who want the position.”
“That’s the case anyway. So if there’s a girl I want, I will wait patiently until she’s ready to make up her mind…That’s what I think.”
“It’s nice to know that you have patience. A man has to have principles.”
“Right? I knew you’d like that part.”
So please stop stroking me. I want you to keep your fidelity! This stupid Louise Sweeney’s heart is beating hard again!
His hand swept up Louise’s chin.
“After the girl passes on her decision to me.”
Louise’s face was the perfect sight.
“Even if everyone objects, I will always have her by my side.”
Just like his father, the king of this country.
“Everyone’s objections…do you mean the nobles?”
Louise asked carefully, recalling the original story. Stella had a wonderful family, but she lacked both talent and wealth to truly become part of the noble ranks. Because of the firm support of Professor Lassen, the current Countess, Stella was able to overcome it, and Lassen benefited from the glory of the family. It was an extra story after the novel’s completion.
“Yes, the objections of the nobility. And–“
He paused for a moment, as if to give weight to his next words.
“Even if it is against the fate set by the god of the world.”
Louise’s heartbeat seemed to slow down. Somehow he sounded like he was saying that the original was irrelevant.
“Of course, where is the crazy god that decides who is meant to be with whom?”
It was decided. The god of writing had decided for all of them. Sometimes they even wrote the spoilers in the author’s notes!
“Why do you look offended? Are you religious?”
“Y-yeah. You’re speaking blasphemy.”
“It’s a mere human need, though, to be blasphemous.”
“What about your duty to remain ascetic?”
“I told you. That’s until I get permission.”
Just like his father.
“You have become a loyal son who follows your parents’ footsteps.”
“Is that so? Would they be a little proud?”
“Thank goodness. I lost my fiancée that my mother decided for me and I thought my mother would be ashamed of me now.”
"…I think you keep forgetting this, so let me repeat is again. That’s a forbidden word.”
“Don’t be like that. My mother wished it for me.”
When put like that Louise actually sounded like a bad person, as though she was actually a villainess.
"By the way, I wonder if I can move this hand to another place."
Louise shook her head vigorously.
He looked disappointed again. Such a face would weaken anyone. Louise allowed herself to give up some more territory in a whisper.
“My shoulders are okay.”
His hand slid over to her shoulder, like he had been waiting.
“Can I put my head on your shoulder?”
“Of course you can. But you can’t do it for long because it’s heavy.”
“I’ll be careful. And?”
“I’m asking you what else you can allow.”
“Nothing…Just that. Really. You don’t have to make any more facial expressions!”
“Okay. Then these are the first negotiations.”
“There’s going to be a second one?”
“Maybe. In case of an emergency.”
Emergency? Louise tilted her head, and Ian explained kindly.
“If either of us is in danger of getting sick or getting hurt.”
Louise finally nodded her head.
“If that’s the case, wouldn’t it be okay to comfortably help each other? It’s a friend helping someone in need.”
“Then that’ll be the exception.”
“Only emergency situations.”
And emergency situations don’t come very often. Maybe.
“I’m glad we got to talk a lot today.”
“So am I.”
Louise wasn’t afraid of Ian anymore.
“Now I think I can really concentrate on the test.”
“That’s a relief.”
“I’m sure to be at the top of my class again this time, and when I graduate, I will enjoy the honor of being the best student.”
“I’m sure the future of the Sweeney family is bright.”
“Yes, I will make the business prosperous!”
“I’m looking forward to it. I admire your hard work.”
“And I’m looking forward to it.”
Louise looked up at Ian with shining eyes. She seemed to be longing for something, and Ian realized what it was right away.
“The tax question?”
When he accurately pinpointed her concern, she smiled excitedly again. That melting smile made him want to give all his support, not just tax breaks. How far was this girl going to go in making a living?
“President–no. I’m so glad Ian Audmonial is my friend.”
"…Okay. I hope you are. “
Ian sighed and patted Louise on the head. She was happy anyway.
Louise’s ponytail waved in the silent wind. The long purple ribbon twirled in her hair.
After parting from the roof, Louise dashed to the greenhouse. She happened to have an idea. The caretaker said that she didn’t make a lot of strawberry jam, so she decided to give some to Louise, who had worked the hardest. That was very kind of her, but on the other hand, Louise felt a little sorry. She felt that it was Simon and Professor Hill who did more work.
Louise decided to put strawberry jam in the greenhouse where all three could enjoy it. If she left it there, everyone could taste the strawberry jam when they enjoy tea time.
Upon arriving at the greenhouse, Louise quickly swung open the door.
At the same time, she heard something fall to the floor.
And as far as Louise knew, Professor Hill was the only one who dropped things all the time. Sure enough, Professor Hill was scrambling to pick up the water bottle that had fallen on the floor. Fortunately it was empty.
“You dropped something.”
“Yes, I did.”
Professor Hill put the water bottle right in front of the flower bed and teared up in remorse.
“Do I always appear suddenly?”
He was always so clumsy every time he saw Louise.
“Something like that, but…"
He hesitated, fiddling with his glasses.
“It’s partly because I’m inexperienced.”
“Well, we can make you a little more popular.”
“A little more–don’t be so bold.”
The extraordinary Professor Hill. She couldn’t imagine what that would look like. Perhaps someone giving a research presentation.
“There was something I wanted to ask you, Miss Sweeney.”
Louise closed the greenhouse door and approached the professor.
Professor Hill stared at his disciple, who was giving him trustworthy look. He tried to push down his worry for a moment. Could he ask her this question?
“What were you doing in tea room the other day?”
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