It was at a church funeral that Louise first met Ian. She was six years old, not long after she had crossed into this story.
To her the funeral was a strange affair, and for one reason.
‘Why is no one crying?’
While all the mourners were all dressed in black clothes bowing their heads, they shed no tears. Considering that the deceased was the queen, it seemed even more unusual. There was only one person who cried.
The queen was born as a commoner, and Louise’s mother herself was married to a commoner businessman. The two of them were well-suited to adapting to their circumstances, and before that they were classmates at the Academy. From there to the present they had been best friends.
Even before Louise was born, the queen had said to Mrs. Sweeney, “How wonderful it would be if you had a daughter and she married into the family!”
The funeral guests looked at her mother with sharp eyes. Louise understood the meaning of their glares having read the original novel.
The commoner-turned-queen was said to have not been welcomed in the palace by anyone. She spent her time instead doting on her cherished son and took pleasure writing to her only friend.
Her death was seen as an opportunity for other women to emerge and take their place beside the king. The funeral was the culmination of that joy, but Mrs. Sweeney, who wept tears in such a place, would have been disgusted.
Her mother did not leave the church for a long time even after the funeral had ended. Even when the priests cleared the hall and blew out the candles, she sat on a bench and wept endlessly.
Louise sat silently beside her mother. She wanted to wipe away her mother’s tears with a handkerchief, but she didn’t have one with her.
From a darkened corner of the church came the soft voice of another child. Louise blinked and moved her eyes to the source of the voice. Finally, a child stepped into the light of the stained-glass windows.
His soft, silvery hair reflected the brilliant light streaming into the church. It was an inappropriate time to think this right after a funeral, but Louise thought the boy was exceedingly beautiful.
her mother said in surprise. There was only one little boy in this country that could be called by that title.
Her mother stood up respectfully, but Louise was so frozen that she forgot to even blink.
“My condolences…It must be difficult…for you to…”
She could not bear to speak to the end.
Young Ian nodded, taking a handkerchief out of his sleeve and handing it to her.
His handkerchief was dry. He hadn’t shed a tear like everyone else.
Louise was six years old, and Ian was only eight. He barely reached an adult’s waist.
“Thank you, Mrs. Sweeney,”
he replied with a serene face.
He held out his handkerchief again, but her mother shook her head. Who in the world could take the handkerchief of a boy who had just lost his mother?
“…It’s alright with me.”
So he said, but Louise saw countless bite marks on the boy’s lower lip. Maybe he decided he couldn’t cry in front of other people.
She imagined a little boy shedding tears alone in a room without anyone to comfort him. It had nothing to do with his status as the male lead or the crown prince. Everyone gets sick when they lose their family.
“Please accept my condolences, Your Highness.”
Louise quickly stood up and bowed her head towards him.
His tearless blue eyes turned towards her.
“Thank you, Louise Sweeney.”
The moment he answered, red drops of blood from his bite marks trickled over his lips.
Louise automatically took a step towards him without realizing it. It was rude for Louise to approach the royal family without asking for permission, but she had no idea about such etiquette.
She gently touched the little boy’s lips with her fingers. He had chewed on them so much that they were ragged.
“Your handkerchief…please use it for yourself.”
Louise looked at the folded white handkerchief in his hand. Ian seemed to be a bit clumsy, but he had a tender heart. She thought that he must’ve inherited his kindness from his mother.
“The handkerchief will comfort you.”
His hand slowly returned to his bosom.
Louise realized she had been rude to the crown prince after seeing his servant standing behind him looking like he was going to faint. But Louise, even if she had known the etiquette rules, would probably have acted the same way.
Not just her. Anyone would have. There was probably no one who wants a little boy to grieve the death of his mother alone.
After that day the king declared Ian the heir to the throne, against all noble objections.
Louise’s mother and father were amazed, but Louise herself was unsurprised. In the novel he was described as the ‘crown prince’, so she had guessed it would happen.
Anyway, it didn’t matter to Louise whether Ian became the crown prince. The only thing that mattered to her was to survive safely and comfortably as Louise Sweeney. Money was necessary to survive, and knowledge was necessary to earn and protect that money.
She paid close attention to the horticulture business between her father and mother. They were both proud of their lovely daughter’s curiosity in growing plants in the greenhouse. Her mother in particular sat next to her and told her stories of seasonal flowers and fruits. However, there were days when her horticulture study was unproductive.
Louise watched suspiciously as Ian started making regular visits to the greenhouse.
After the queen’s death he would sometimes go to Mrs. Sweeney’s and listen to her talk. Louise’s mother would force her to join in reading a book, saying, “Your Highness needs a friend of his age.”
“Mrs. Sweeney, your daughter looks at me with great disrespect.”
“Anyone would do that if they are dragged into reading. Your Highness,”
Louise added with a grumble. Her words were out of line again. The servant standing behind the prince had another cross expression on his face.
“It’s not good if you only read when you’re young.”
“Your Highness is still young.”
“That’s why I came to the greenhouse.”
The servant’s face wrinkled again when the two children starting bickering. Louise’s mother smiled. It seemed that she was the only one was truly pleased at scene of the two of them arguing.
“Somehow, I think I understand why the queen promised me a childhood engagement between you two.”
Louise jumped to her feet at that terrifying word. It was the word that was going to drop Louise Sweeney right into hell.
Ian, who seemed to have heard the word for the first time, began to show interest.
He hadn’t heard of it before? Then Mother! Stop talking right now! Putting that information in that demon’s ear will haunt your daughter in the future.
“Yes, didn’t she tell you?”
“That sounds interesting. I’d like to hear more about it.”
Ian dragged his chair beside her. Louise felt one step closer to hell.