Chapter 174 – Welcome, Louise Sweeney (2)
Even as the graduation ceremony neared, Louise did not feel much inspiration. Louise focused on the issues before her, from handling students’ exam complaints, to monitoring the caretaker’s menu, and preparing for the graduation ceremony.
One day before graduation, Louise held the dormitory leave schedule in hand. A year ago, Ian had told her she would be doing this job.
“What’s that paper?”
This year’s top student handed Louise a cup of tea. Just in time. She had wanted to drink something warm.
His participation in student council greatly increased his language skills, and he now spoke natural-sounding sentences.
“It for when the graduates leave their dormitories.”
“Everyone has a different time?”
He asked the same question she did once before. Louise looked at him and gave a small chuckle.
“Tomorrow, everyone will spend as much time as they can to finish their Academy lives.”
“By the way, why are you managing that schedule?”
“Well, watching the students return home safely….”
“…is the last sacred task of the student council presidents.”
“…I’ve learned that it’s the last sacred task of the student council presidents.”
“So you’ll stay here late?”
“Your family will have to wait a long time for you to go home.”
“Before he graduated, he told me that this task was very important.”
“By ‘he’, you mean the previous student council president, right?”
“That’s right. And I’ll teach it to you, too.”
Louise turned slightly to look face-to-face with him.
“You’ll do this important task next year.”
“No way, me?”
He looked around in amazement. His reaction was just like hers from last year, and Louise wondered if Ian had gone through something similar.
“If my prediction isn’t wrong, you will be.”
“You’re kidding. I’m not even used to speaking well yet.”
“But you can pronounce ‘tradition’ right, haven’t you?”
“I heard you pronounce it correctly before!”
“I did? It must have been an accident.”
He smiled softly and poured some more tea into Louise’s cup.
“My language skills still need more work, so you have to help me until the end.”
Louise handed him the documents with a sigh.
“Please deliver this to the secretary.”
He took the red file and replied vigorously.
…How much longer would she hear that?
At the graduation ceremony, Louise achieved her goal.
“Congratulations, Louise Sweeney.”
She was able to enjoy the honor of being the top student as she had hoped.
“I would like to compliment you not on your grades, but your hard work.”
That was contradictory, Mr. Dean. Still, she was ecstatic to have achieved her goal. She came to the Academy just to accomplish this.
There was another reason she was happy too. She had succeeded in taking revenge for the entrance ceremony, and this time, Dean Crissis successfully removed the manuscript from the dean’s suit. The dean was forced to read the 3 minute and 49 second speech prepared by the student council.
The dean made eye contact with Louise from time to time, regretting that he had given her top honors. If his address wasn’t the last thing on the ceremony, perhaps Louise’s wouldn’t have received it. At any rate, her goal had been achieved, and so Louise felt safe and had the pleasure of graduating.
Her pleasure was short-lived. Soon after she found herself wearing her student council sash, shouting at everyone in front of the dormitory.
“No outsiders can enter the dormitory! Passengers go back to the carriages! Oops! There! I told you to write your name before leaving your bag!”
But Louise was able to cope much better than she did last year.
“This year has been so much fun, Louise. Why don’t we say hello to each other at capital from time to time?”
Last year, Louise was sad that she couldn’t properly say goodbye to her friends, so this time she prepared something else.
“Thank you. This is my business card. Please feel free to contact me!”
She handed over a card with her name, address, and a thank you. Hopefully some of them would call her when they needed flowers, or just when they wanted to see her.
By the time the hectic departure of the dormitory was coming to an end, Dean Crissis boarded his carriage.
“See you later, then.”
“Yes, I will.”
Louise liked his informal farewells, as it probably meant they would see each other soon. After all the graduates had left, she finally submitted the paperwork to the Academy office.
“You’ve been through a lot this year, Louise Sweeney.”
Louise smiled as she signed the file for confirmation.
“Are you going back home immediately?”
“I’m going back to the student council room.”
“You really are going to do your job until the end.”
The clerk brought the papers to his desk, and Louise was relieved of her final duties as student council president. She bowed and left the office, and slowly walked down the hallway. There was no urgency. Louise’s residency didn’t expire until midnight.
The moon hung large and swollen in the sky, and she took pleasure in the way its yellow light sharpened her form in the darkness.
She followed the hallway to the front of the student council room. She expected someone to be there, but it was only quiet across the door. Well, after a hectic graduation ceremony, everyone else that was left might already be asleep.
Louise shrugged and grabbed the doorknob, and as she opened the door, a cold draft blew. Maybe someone had left the window open. She couldn’t believe anyone would do that in this cold season. They would have to be crazy to in this weather.
Louise pushed the door against the wind resistance—
And saw a man standing by the window in the moonlight. For a moment, Louise doubted her eyes.
“Welcome, Louise Sweeney.”
It was Ian.
Louise’s lips parted in shock.
“What are you so surprised about?”
He smiled as he leaned against the window frame, and Louise managed to speak.
“I thought I was mistaken seeing you.”
Louise approached him slowly.
“You’re never mistaken.”
“How are you here? I saw it in the newspaper that you would be so far away that you could barely arrive by New Year’s…”
Louise trailed off in embarrassment. It was obvious she was wasting time with idle talk, but she didn’t know what else to say. Her gaze dropped. She wasn’t sure why she couldn’t look at him now, not when she had imagined their reunion over and over.
“I don’t know what the newspapers said.”
Ian tucked a few stray locks behind her ears.
“But I made a promise to you.”
His hand drifted to her chin, and he lifted it up so she met his eyes.
“Well…I don’t know what to say.”
It wasn’t just words she couldn’t figure out. She didn’t know what facial expression to make either.
“I had a lot of things I wanted to say, so much that I could keep talking forever.”
“But now my words are all messed up…”
He looked at her wistfully and stroked her cheek a few times.
“Let me speak first. Congratulations on your graduation. I waited for this day.”
It was an easy answer, and Louise’s stiffened expression loosened.
“Congratulations on becoming the top student, too. I wouldn’t have expected anything else.”
“Thank you for that, too.”
“I heard you did a great job as a student council president. You worked hard.”
“I had a lot of help.”
“That is important.”
Finally, a smile played across Louise’s lips.
“Thank you for writing me all the time, even when I was busy. It was my only source of joy.”
“It was fun when you replied right away. Although lately…”
She trailed off. She couldn’t send or receive letters lately.
“But you still wrote letters, right?”
Louise nodded slowly, wondering how he knew.
“I wrote letters that I didn’t send, too.”
“Is that strange?”
Ian was more utilitarian than her, and she couldn’t imagine him wasting paper by writing unsent letters.
“It was quite fun. It was the only consolation on a long trip. Maybe I…”
He paused. Louise wondered if he was desperately rooting for the words to say. He probably had a lot to tell her as well.
“…I missed you.”
He gave a mumbled apology. Why would he apologize for that?
“My words are just as tangled up as yours.”
“You look in a much better state than me.”
“No. I really did miss you. It was awful without you.”
Louise realized that the palm cupping her face was much hotter than usual. It was easy for her to realize that he was similarly tense.
Louise made a careful suggestion.
“You can say it again. I can understand the language of any country.”
Louise’s sweet words and gentle smile were the things Ian missed most. On the days when his body was too heavy to move, he remembered that the sunny Louise was waiting for him at the end of his mission. By that thought alone could he move his weary body.
He took the last step. In truth, his body was still suffering from exhaustion, but he didn’t feel it at all. At this perfect close distance, Louise leaned up to him first. Ian’s heart skipped a beat, and he pulled Louise close with a trembling hand.
It was a moment before he realized that he had reached the person he was aiming for, and the realization soon became a sensation. He squeezed the small body in his arms to confirm she was real.
Ian gave a small smile. No matter how many complicated words he gathered in his mind, there was only one thing he had to tell her.
He pulled back slightly, and buried his lips in her light golden hair.