Chapter 4 – Welcome, My Fiancée (1)
After Louise’s mother’s explanation, Ian starting addressing her by a new title.
“Welcome, my fiancée. I hope it wasn’t any trouble getting to the palace.”
That awful title was alive and well into the year she was fourteen. Louise was always uncomfortable when Ian spoke so possessively.
“Thank you. And can you please stop calling me by that weird title?”
“Strange, I’m just following my mother’s wishes.”
Why didn’t the crown prince’s education include “how to answer someone without saying a word”?
Regardless, it was Louise who was at a disadvantage if they lingered on this topic for too long.
“So why did you summon me here today?”
“I want you to come with me.”
‘Come with him?’
Ian hesitated for a moment and answered in a small voice.
“I want to visit my mother’s house…”
His words gradually became more mumbled. Louise waited patiently for the rest.
“This is my first time going there.”
“My mother was an outsider and I don’t know much about her family.”
“You’re my fiancée.”
“…I’m going back home.”
“I’m kidding. I picked you because you’re the only one I know.”
He smiled awkwardly, as if he found it strange to ask for help.
“The only one I know that’s not a noble, that is.”
Louise paused. He seemed to trust her, besides her relationship with him as his so-called fiancée.
She couldn’t turn him away. The Sweeney family placed trust above all else. And when she thought about it, there wasn’t anyone around the prince that had the experience of being born poor.
“Alright. I’ll go with you,”
Louise answered charitably, then glanced at his servant. The servant didn’t give Louise a scary look.
Maybe he decided to lay down the hostilities for once.
The fairytale ending of a commoner girl becoming the queen was, in reality, not so happy. It was clear just by looking at Ian’s grandfather’s worn out face and his equally worn out, shabby house.
The man was a country farmer with no understanding of etiquette, not even bothering to properly ask why his grandson was visiting him. There was little warmth on his wrinkled face.
“I wanted to see how you were doing.”
It was an awkward sight to see Crown Prince in his fine clothes bow to the old man in rags.
Ian addressed the old man by the position handed to him when his daughter became the queen. It was only a title in name, and came with no land and no status.
The displeasure on the old man’s face prompted Louise to correct Ian quickly.
“It’s not ‘My Lord’, it’s ‘Grandfather’. Because he’s the father of the mother that loved you!”
said Louise with false cheerfulness. It wasn’t until then that the old man noticed her.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Louise. I’m not a noble, but I am his–”
What was her relationship to the prince? Definitely not his fiancée. Certainly not his servant. She didn’t know what else to say.
” –friend? “
Her clumsy search for an answer left the atmosphere unbearably silent. It must not have been the right response.
The old man looked worn out as he eased himself into a creaky old chair.
“…It is right to be with someone who is precious.”
Despite his age, there was strength in his voice.
“Grains of sand that gets into grains of wheat is removed.”
No matter what, something that does not fit in would be swept away.
The old man’s eyes turned to the dreary wall.
There was a large, colorful portrait that looked out of place in this otherwise lifeless house. Louise guessed it was the portrait of the queen. He held on to it and embraced it as he sobbed. She couldn’t blame him for it.
“You can’t be with a person like her.”
Ian could not bring himself to oppose his words.
The misery of his grandfather was related to his mother’s ascent to the palace. Although no details had revealed themselves, it was likely that the queen had been poisoned. His grandfather had collapsed in shock after her death and, left alone, stewed over this tragedy and had lost all desire for life.
He was afraid that it would happen again with a non-noble girl by his grandson’s side.
“Although I am this way, I am still a grandfather of a prince. I want my only grandchild to promise me this. It will be my will.”
“Please tell me.”
“Don’t go against what I will say.”
The old man looked at Ian with piercing eyes.
“The soil is healthy only when it is beneath the sky. Do not desire for soil in the distance.”
It was a warning to not desire what he couldn’t have. The pain the grandfather experienced should not be repeated for anyone else in the world.
Louise couldn’t recall exactly what Ian had to say in response to his grandfather’s advice. All she could remember was suffering from the bumpy road on the return trip in the carriage. They even stopped so she could empty the contents of her stomach, but her condition did not improve. Louise, utterly exhausted, fell asleep.
When she finally woke up, there was no shaking or jolting at all. They must be on a well-paved road.
Did he do any magic? Her headache was gone and she felt a little better. It was nice to have a little nap, too…
There were two people in the carriage, and there was only one way for her to lie so comfortably in the seat—by borrowing the lap of the person next to her.
Oh, what had she done?
The brush of his clothes on her cheek felt so luxurious, though.
You’re crazy, Louise Sweeney! She couldn’t use the crown prince as a pillow!
As she was screaming inside, she felt a hand gently caressing her hair with slow, deliberate strokes.
Oh, no wonder.
If she told Ian she awake now, she would be embarrassed to death.
Louise peeked open her eyes and looked up slowly. Luckily, Ian’s head was turned towards the window. He looked like he was in deep thought.
His eyes were a little dark, like the sky, but it may have been from the shade given by the roof of the carriage. Or it may have been because of his mood.
Louise tried to guess what would have made him so melancholy. Was he sad about his grandfather? Or maybe he was longing for his mother who had died in mysterious circumstances…
“My legs hurt.”
Ah, his leg did look cramped with her big head weighing down on his precious lap.
Louise tried to raise herself reflexively but his hand gently pressed her down again.
“Hey, doesn’t your leg hurt?”
“I was just saying it out of embarrassment. You were staring at me so hard.”
She admired the fact that he could be so honest about being embarrassed.
A warm hand was placed on her forehead.
“You’re still cold.”
“I feel much better. Really.”
Louise’s words were mixed with an apologetic plea. She didn’t want to keep pressing on his precious legs with her big head.
Sensing her intentions, Ian willingly let her go. Louise sat up and roughly brushed her hair back into place. However, given how long she had been lying there, she couldn’t make the tangles completely go away. It was not until she was about to cry in frustration that Ian burst into laughter.
“Don’t laugh. I can’t help it.”
“Why? That’s very stylish. I believe it’ll become a new fad.”
Louise gave up on trying to tame her hair and looked out the window.
The carriage was stopped, which was why she didn’t feel any jolting. Where were they?
“–near the Sweeney household.”
She could see the front of her house, but not close enough that they were near the garden.
“We should have gone straight back to the palace. Now you have to go all the way back from here.”
“If we had gone to the palace instead you then would have been the one to take a longer journey home.”
That would have been hell for her.
“You should have woken me up.”
“You’re a heavy sleeper.”
True. Her ability to fall asleep wherever she lay her head seemed unchanged when she crossed into this world.
Louise sighed and decided to stop antagonizing him. Because of his consideration she didn’t have to endure another carriage ride.
“Anything for my fiancée.”
“…can I take back my thanks?”
“No. Can you walk for a while? If not we can ride to the front door of the mansion.”
No more carriage rides, please.
Louise shook her head vigorously, then opened the door of the carriage.
The fresh scent of the grass rushed in around Louise. She looked outside and started to feel her head clear while Ian got out of the carriage past her.
He smiled as the wind scattered his fine silver hair. The darkness that had been in his eyes seemed to have faded away for a while. Louise felt a slight twist in her heart for a moment.
Before she could question her own feelings, Ian held out his hand towards her.
“I’ll walk with you for a while. My thighs hurt like there was something heavy on top.”
Then he laughed happily again. What a nasty person! There is no scenario where Louise Sweeney would love such a prince. Where was the sweetness that he showed the heroine in the original novel?