Chapter 43 – Slowly Dissolving (2)
“My apologies, Professor. I-it takes a long time to prepare the carriage.”
Professor Hill spoke in a helpless voice. Standing near the table, he could probably see Ian and Louise if it weren’t for the robe.
“As I said before, punctuality is a professor’s greatest virtue. It is not a good idea to stay in the Academy for a long time in a student-like mood, Professor Hill.”
“Sit down. I have something to tell you.”
There was a rustling sound as Professor Hill seated himself. But it was still too early to feel safe. Professor Lassen and Professor Hill sat across from each other. Therefore, there was a possibility that Professor Hill could see the back of Ian and Louise from where he was sitting.
“We’re in trouble…”
“No, I should say we’re lucky Professor Hewitt didn’t come.”
Louise looked up at him sharply.
“Surely he’s not coming, is he?”
“Maybe the dean will come instead.”
Ian laughed inwardly when Louise made a terrified expression. The poor girl. There’s only one person who made such face in the Academy, and if she was not careful, she would be caught in no time. He pressed Louise’s head back towards him.
“Stay quiet. I don’t think anyone else will come.”
As if to prove his point, the two professors ordered tea. Ian stroked Louise on the back of the head while they listened their tea selection. He took joy in running his fingers through that golden silky hair. What should he say. Although the texture was soft as he wound it through his hands, it was strangely resilient. He could see why Simon was so obsessed with Louise’s hair.
“…You’re tangling my hair.”
A voice of discontent came up from his arms.
“Is that what you think?”
He was in a good mood. There was some more grumbling, and he whispered softly to her.
“I can brush it for you. Later.”
“…You don’t know how.”
“I’ve watched Simon do for years, and I’m good at learning everything quickly.”
She didn’t reply, probably because she didn’t believe his answer. He didn’t actually mean to say that he would brush her hair or was good at it. He just wanted the feel of her hair on his fingertips.
“Hang in there. This is pretty enjoyable.”
The surprisingly selfish remark made Louise forget the situation they were in and raise her head for a moment. Their eyes met.
“So, um…what are we doing today?”
As soon she heard Professor Hill’s voice, she quickly buried her face in Ian’s arms again. That was a close call.
Louise sighed heavily. Ian was still messing with her hair. The fact that he seemed to be having fun wasn’t a lie, and the sound of him languidly stroking her hair filled her ears. The sound combined with the distant piano performance made her feel strangely comfortable, even in such an anxiety-inducing situation.
The weight on her shoulders eased. Her softened body leaned a little deeper as she melted into him. It was very comfortable. Probably it was because of the darkness that the robe.
Louise closed her eyes and concentrated on the sounds of the smooth arpeggio and the sounds of his fingers stroking her hair. Then she heard a heart beat. Maybe it was because Louise had leaned very close to his heart. It was beating with surprising sincerity. She wondered why that was so surprising.
‘I realized…he’s a person.’
Before she came to this world, he was just a major character. He claimed to be human, but in the end he was just fiction.
But now she was listening to the sound of life next to her.
‘They were characters in the novel…I had forgotten that.’
He was a complete person with his own feelings and thoughts. So the person here now isn’t the male lead, just–
‘My old friend.’
Although they argued with each other, they always ended up smiling in the end. It could even be a lifelong relationship where they helped each other.
…Of course, some things may change when Ian would fall for his lover.
A startled voice came from Professor Hill. Louise cast her hearing over to the next table.
“B-but the dean has a different opinion…”
“You don’t have to worry.”
“Of course I don’t like making test questions easy, but…but, uh, you know…There’s a research expense problem, and if the class is canceled next semester–”
“I told you you don’t have to worry,”
There was a hint of impatience in her voice.
“Well, I’m not sure.”
“The Lassen family has always sponsored the Academy. Of course, included are the research expenses for the professors, as well as funds for individual research projects according to the screening process. Last semester, Professor Kidely from psychology was cut.”
Professor Hill didn’t speak for a long time.
“You’re asking me in the name of House Lassen… … I-if I make the test difficult, then my research funds…”
His voice was full of displeasure. Louise had a good idea that Professor Lassen was wearing her sharp glasses.
“I’m just advising you to follow your beliefs. The Academy’s support is not everything.”
“As a senior professor, a colleague and a teacher who once taught you.”
Louse suddenly heard the rattle of a teacup falling over. She was sure it was Professor Hill’s. He was always clumsy.
“Well, I’ll take my leave first.”
Professor Lassen rose from her seat and tutted. Perhaps Professor Hill was embarrassed when he knocked over his tea.
Professor Lassen looked around for an employee. She saw a young man and women cuddled closely together and her face twisted in a sneer.
“Young people these days…”
Louise’s shoulders shuddered. That remark could have only been directed at two people. She couldn’t believe they were seen in a shameful position. However, because of this, the professor’s gaze easily turned away as she said, “How vulgar.”
The professor’s voice gradually grew farther away, and soon she heard Professor Hill apologize to the staff several times. Louise’s leaned into Ian for a little longer. It seemed that Professor Hill was about to get up but had stained his clothes.
“No problem, sir. I’m just glad you weren’t hurt.”
“Well, I’m glad I didn’t break the teacup. … Ah! If you ever find a small scratch, please contact me here! I will pay for it!”
“Yes, thank you.”
Louise smiled, imagining the professor presenting his business card. Academically he was perfect, but she didn’t realize how clumsily cute he was.
Finally, Professor Hill got up. And surprisingly, the piano stopped playing at the same time. A few of the cafe customers clapped lightly then went quiet again. What remained was the sound of pouring and the softness of sugar slowly dissolving in warm tea.
A faint sound, barely audible, beat near her ear. Then she heard the heart beat again. Louise spoke, her voice thick with emotion.
She didn’t think he heard it, although the touch on Louise’s hair stopped.
“Is it okay now?”
Louise asked, lifting her head. It would be a problem if one of the professors came back for something they had forgotten.
“It’ll be all right. I’m here so if we wait for a minute, we should be fine.”
“I thought we were going to get caught.”
“I think we were caught. Professor Wayne Hill glanced over here and spilled his tea.”
Ian lowered his head and pulled the stuffy hood over himself.
“Professor Hill always drops things.”
Louise leaned against him and told him some stories. The professor dropping a book. The professor dropping a basket.
Her bright smile soon darkened again.
“But what on earth is going on with those two.”
It was fun to for Ian watch Louise’s facial expression constantly change. He could see the creases around her nose and eyes. The lips that were pouted or chewed on according to her mood. And the eyes that stared at him.
“We were lucky to have a robe, weren’t we? “
Her face brightened again. Her eyes were wide, and the violet color of them were a little darker.
“Thank you for hiding me.”
Why didn’t he realize this before? There were so many movements and colors on this small face.
And that’s how…
“…Don’t mention it. “
He leaned down his head.
Then he kissed the corners of her eyes, drawing a smooth curve.