Chapter 50 – His Real Gaze (1)
Louise swallowed the lump caught in her throat. The tea room was the place where the eye kiss incident occurred. Oh my god. She thought there would be no other incidents from there, but an unexpected ambush sprung up on her.
Louise mumbled and peeked at the professor’s expression. He didn’t look particularly stern, but she didn’t think she should lie to him either.
“I went to buy some ink and paper, and then I went to the tea room to drink something cool because it was hot.”
So Louise told the truth.
“You didn’t decide this on your own, did you?”
“It was my decision in the end.”
“Who was the wizard with you?”
Louise hesitated for a moment. It wasn’t just about protecting Ian. If she revealed his name, the entire student council would be dragged in, and the damage would be even greater.
In the end, Louise didn’t say anything. However, Professor Hill spoke to Louise in gentler voice than usual.
“Miss Louise Sweeney.”
“I graduated from this Academy only just a few years ago. Well, seven years ago, but that’s still a long time from your perspective.”
He scratched his head sheepishly.
“I know it means when a student council member goes to buy ink and paper.”
“Are you really?”
Louise was unable to tell a lie from the way the professor was looking at her.
“…I’m sorry. I was lying.”
“I thought so.”
She saw the professor grin over his thick glasses. The smile still had a boyish innocence, and Louise realized that it was true that it hadn’t been that long since he graduated from the Academy.
“I went out to buy ink too.”
“B-but, you’re a genius at the Academy and–”
“I’ve always been a top student.”
Louise remembered the tradition of the top student serving the student body. She wondered if that was the time when bad traditions continued.
“I can’t imagine you climbing over the wall.”
“It was a nightmare for me. It was the first time I found out I wasn’t lucky.”
“I had the same idea.”
“So tell me. Who was the wizard with you?”
The conversation returned to where they started. The professor seemed to be strangely persistent.
“Those robes are worn by mages only.”
Louise hesitated. She had a slightly different reason. She would be embarrassed to death if she said “Ian was with me,” especially when they were huddled together so intimately.
“I don’t mean anything serious. I’m just worried if a wizard’s been approaching students personally.”
“We’re…we’re not allowed contact with wizards?”
The professor rarely looked so grave.
“Now, Miss Sweeney. I know you’re smarter than this.”
His face was filled with genuine concern, and Louise shook her head quickly.
“It wasn’t a wizard.”
“Are you sure?”
The professor asked again seriously. If it wasn’t a wizard, then it didn’t matter who the other person was.
“Were you worried?”
“Yes, I waited in front of the tea room, but I lost you.”
She didn’t understand why he was so worried, or why she should be wary of wizards.
“Come to think of it.”
Louise lifted her eyes and pressed her lips with the tip of her finger.
“Professor, you dropped the teacup didn’t you?”
“Was it because of my sudden appearance?”
“It was very surprising.”
He adjusted his glasses and Louise smiled.
“Thank you for your concern.”
“Oh, no. Just as a professor, I worry about all the students. Even more so, you are the successor to the Sweeney greenhouse, and I’ve been there a few times…”
A rambling reply of incoherent answers came back from her simple word of thanks, as if she had been the one interrogating him.
“Please, Miss Sweeney.”
“Be careful to not get caught by other professors.”
“Especially by Professor Juliana Lassen.”
“Sounds like something happened.”
Louise denied it, glancing downwards. The professor’s eyes were so pure and clear that she couldn’t look straight at them and tell a lie.
‘What do I do?’
She didn’t want to talk about why she couldn’t go to the new semester party because of her status. The small glass jar in her hand caught her eye.
Strawberry Jam of Salvation!
Compared to Professor Juliana Lassen, strawberry jam was much sweeter and more beautiful. Nothing could be better than putting aside the topic of the bitter professor away than that.
Louise held out the jar with both hands.
“T-take this. The caretaker made these from the strawberries.”
“Is it jam?”
“Yes, so I thought it would be nice if we could all share it together in the greenhouse.”
“That…that sounds wonderful.”
The professor’s face lit up when he accepted the jar then twisted open the lid. The strawberry jam defeated Professor Lassen!
“Sometimes when I study I feel like eating sweets. It makes me feel more awake.”
“But if you’re sleepy then it means you should rest.”
“I sleep well. About three hours on a regular daily basis.”
…What? Louise looked at him in surprise then carefully spoke.
“One thing I’m sure about.”
“W-what is it?”
“I didn’t blame you for dropping things. A lack of sleep would do that to me too!”
Despite Louise’s passionate words Professor Hill simply smiled. She really was worried.
“How about this. I’m free today, so I’ll head back and go to sleep.”
Louise glanced at her watch. Seven in the evening. The sun was beginning to dip in the horizon, as it was near summer, and it was a good time to retire early.
“And I’ll make sure I won’t drop anything tomorrow.”
The two summarized the outline of their plans and left the greenhouse. Just below the wash of red sky, they could see the crowd of students rushing around campus.
“Are you going back to your dormitory?”
“No, I’m thinking of going to the student council room. I’m a little short on studying.”
Professor Hill rubbed his hand over his white lab coat and continued.
“Will it be alright if I accompany you?”
“You’re saying you’re going to escort me?”
“N-no! I wouldn’t…it’s not like that, but, look, I have something to tell you.”
“If you say no so strongly, it’ll make me feel embarrassed.”
“…I didn’t mean to embarrass you. It’s forbidden to favor students.Well, I need to be more careful…”
“I know. The professor is kind to everyone.”
Louise replied to him pleasantly, and took the first step forward.
“Kind to everyone…”
Soon Professor Hill followed behind her.
“You always make sure that every student understands you in class. And you wait for the students who write slowly.”
His face turned a little red and he mumbled something about how that was natural.
“Well, that’s all you have to do. Miss Sweeney, look, I’m not used to compliments…”
Louise twirled around in surprise.
“I think your thesis paper is amazing! My father loves your research, and my mother worships you!”
“…Why are the Sweeneys so generous to me?”
“The Sweeney family isn’t generous, it’s just that you’re such a great professor. I’m happy to be able to take your class.”
Louise beamed, holding her hands behind her back. After a short pause, the professor smiled awkwardly and finally gave an answer.
“I’m…I’m not that great.”
His words weren’t derived from modesty. It was a very profound truth.
“I’m not a genius and I can’t do anything well.”
In the case of literature and art, he was more of an idiot.
“And I’m a liar. It’s the worst thing for a professor.”
Louise looked at the professor with a questioning look. Professor Hill was a liar? Was there any combination that was so inappropriate? But his eyes always looked so honest.
“Miss Sweeney, I had a wonderful time talking to you about the strawberry jam, but can I talk to you again about Professor Lassen?”
Unable to refuse the request with him looking directly at her, Louise nodded.
“The Lassen family values talent very much.”
He began to speak in a whispering voice, as if he were worried about anyone eavesdropping on them.
“That’s why they sponsor students.”
“I think that’s great.”
“Yes, it’s perfect.”
He answered a little bitterly.
“And students sponsored by the countess’ family always tops the list, so they’re usually successful after graduation.”
Their achievements and glory was always followed by the name of their patron, the Lassen family.
“That makes them even more powerful, far into the future.”
“That’s good for both sponsored students and the countess’ family, doesn’t it?”
“On one hand.”
Professor Hill hesitated for a moment, and Louise had a feeling that he had a secret that he was trying to hold in.
“Miss Louise Sweeney.”
The glow of sunset reflected on his thick glasses. He took them off and pressed fingertips against his brow. After a moment, Professor Hill looked up. His green eyes, so rarely glimpsed, were now visible. They were far from the purity she had assumed from under the lenses. Perhaps his real gaze he had been distorted by his thick lenses. He had the keen eye of a researcher and scholar, like he could see through the essence of anything.
“Today I have something to say to you not as a professor, but as a senior student who graduated first.”