Chapter 42 – Slowly Dissolving (1)
Ian and Louise held their breaths as they focused on the sound from across the sofa. The tea room staff member greeted Professor Lassen kindly and began to guide her inside. Ian and Louise were frozen stiff. Juliana Lassen knew their faces very well. She even knew they were associated with each other as they were both from the student council.
Louise closed her eyes and prayed. Please don’t by pass this table. Please don’t recognize us if you pass by.
The conversation between the professor and the staff member grew closer. Louise looked up at Ian with a pale face, and he pulled Louise inside his robe. The footsteps came right behind them. Ian closed his eyes, trying to think up a reasonable excuse just in case they were caught.
“Would you like to sit here?”
“That’s fine. My party will be here soon.”
“Alright. If anyone is looking for Professor Juliana Lassen, I’ll take them this way.”
The professor sat at the table behind them. Fortunately, the back of the sofa blocked their view so it was difficult to see each other’s faces. There was, of course, still a sense of uneasiness about the fact that they could easily be caught if they were careless. Louise carefully withdrew from Ian’s arms with a troubled look on his face. She took Ian’s palm and wrote in small letters with her fingertip.
‘What should we do?’
Writing on the palm of his hand! She wasn’t ten years old anymore. Ian suppressed the urge to smile and pulled Louise’s palm towards him.
‘We have to wait. We have to pass by the professor’s table to get to the entrance.’
‘More are coming. Academy people?’
‘Could be family.’
Louise put his hands down and checked the time anxiously. Dinner would be soon. She hoped they wouldn’t get caught sneaking out. Louise thought of all the worst things that could happen in this situation and came up with “failing grade.”
“It will be fine.”
He whispered in her ear. Ugh. What should they do? If this guy tells her it’s fine, then it’s gonna be fine. It’s not an emotional problem, it’s a social one. No matter how egalitarian the Academy claimed to be, Ian was still the crown prince and his influence would never be small.
But Louise wasn’t too happy that Ian would use his identity to protect hers, even as an old friend, regardless of whether he was the hero or not. She didn’t relax despite his reassurance. Louise pressed a finger to her lips.
‘You have to keep quiet.’
She gestured to him, but Ian seemed to disagree.
“This is fine.”
His breath tickled in her ear. When Louise turned to face him to ask why, she then heard the sound of piano starting to play behind them. Louise remembered the promotional flyer for the tea room said there would be a performance in the evening. A piano was a musical instrument rich in sound. Both hands, or all ten fingers, sing with their voice. Now she understood why Ian said it was fine. The sound waves filled the room enough that Louise’s soft voice probably wouldn’t reach anyone but Ian.
“I love listening to music…”
“Well, the professor won’t be here very long.”
Louise looked at Ian with a face that said, ‘How do you know?’
“I just hope so. We can’t stay like this forever, can we?”
Like this? Louise realized that they were two people hugging each other on a sofa, except was friendship that forced them to hide themselves quickly, not an actual embrace. Either way, it was not good for them to be here in the tea room. If anyone else saw them, they would look like a stupid couple with no manners.
“…I hate this.”
Louise said bluntly.
The two gradually pulled away, as if they had silently agreed with each other. It was then that the door reopened.
The store clerk gave a friendly greeting, and Professor Juliana Lassen stood up. Louise hurriedly buried her face in her palm. If the professor looked towards them like this, she would discover Louise. Louise squeezed her eyes shut, then she heard something that gave her even more despair.
“Professor Wayne Hill. It’s already been five minutes.”
She could hear her stern voice and the footsteps of him running here hurriedly. They were doomed. Louise looked at Ian like they were standing at the door of hell.
The person that Professor Larsen had to meet was none other than Professor Hill!
Professor Hill had said Louise was the most reliable and loyal person at the Academy, and they had a close friendship. Unlike Professor Lassen, who Louise rarely saw outside of the classroom, Louise had spoken to Professor Hill in private several times.
Ian hastily pulled Louise’s shoulder towards him. If there was no other place to hide, and they had to make the most of what they had. Louise leaned her head inside the robe, the generous cloth covering Louise’s hair. It wasn’t a perfect hiding place, but at least it didn’t show her face. Ian hoped that Professor Hill could not identify people by their body type.
There were footsteps near them. Ian knew that Louise had begun to grip the hem of her skirt. She was nervous. Their position was pretty intimate, and if they were caught the risk of embarrassment increase exponentially.
He slowly stroked the small of her back, the rhythm of the piano flowing between them.