Chapter 52 – Together Until Dawn (1)
In the hot season, Louise had something to think of. An air conditioner and an electric fan. Of course, there was no such thing in this world, but there was magic that could be used to similar effect. However, one had to be above a certain status to enjoy those luxuries, so Louise would lose against the heat all the time. She was used to it now, but when she was young and new to this world, she was always half stretched out in the corner of her room. It was only after sunset when she felt like taking a walk.
“Hello, Louise of the Greenhouse.”
When Louise was a little over ten years old on one summer night, Hesse arrived and knocked on her window.
Louise ran to the window and quickly opened it.
“You’re on the second floor.”
“Yes, my feet are swinging in the air, so if you want to push me a little, the time is now.”
“…You’ll regret it if you say something scary.”
“That’s not fair. I like Louise of the Greenhouse.”
“And I like Hesse. So much that I’d like to hire him as the guard of the greenhouse.”
“That’s a great idea. I’ll come to you if I’m abandoned. Come here, then.”
He stretched out his arm with a grin. It seemed like he wanted her to hold on to him.
“Is something wrong?”
Louise asked as she gently took his hand.
“You should have asked before you caught the villain’s arm!”
He pulled Louise into his arms and smiled like a pirate.
In a blink, Louise was carried out of the mansion.
“But there’s no reason for you to take me somewhere bad.”
“You speech is becoming more and more like His Highness.”
“You mean I use that arrogant tone of voice?”
No way. Louise was always careful not to use vicious words and put her heart and soul into the way she spoke.
“Of course you’re not arrogant.”
Hesse smiled, holding Louise lightly. Then, with quick, light steps, he ducked in the shadowy area of the front garden.
“Because you said you naively believe me, I can’t be mean to you.”
“Do you want to be mean?”
“Hey, at some point I want to be like that.”
“I don’t like it though.”
“Okay. I won’t do it. Do you want me to swear by the honor of the knight?”
It was just like a novel, for a knight to swear by his honor, at least, that’s what Louise thought as she leaned her head against Hesse’s shoulder. It was very convenient to have someone carry her around like this without her having to walk, especially in this humid weather.
“Shouldn’t you make an oath to your master first?”
A grumpy voice broke through the darkness. It was Ian.
Louise jerked her head upwards. She could see his blue-eyed gaze staring out from beneath a tree.
“There was no reason to drag her out if she was tired.”
Louise looked alternately between Hesse and Ian, then realized that the both of them were wearing very formal clothes. Hesse was dressed in a royal uniform, while Ian also wore a much more colorful and decorative suit than usual. Like a prince who was going to a ball.
“Where are you two going?”
Louise asked awkwardly, self-conscious of her nightgown.
“Not going. We’ve already been.”
“In a dungeon, where a human-sized cake monster lives.”
Hesse finally arrived right in front of Ian. Louise struggled for a moment with both of her legs, hoping that Hesse would put her on the ground. He didn’t.
“Sorry, I can’t have my potential master walking barefoot.”
“Hesse, I want you to explain what we’re all doing here tonight.”
Ian looked at Hesse, and Louise followed Ian’s gaze. It must have been Hesse’s idea to gather the three of them on this summer night.
“I’m not trying to do anything. Isn’t this great just like this?”
Louise and Ian looked at him wondrously. Is that what a new knight who took the crown prince away from the palace and stole Louise from a mansion would say?
“…This isn’t funny. I’m going back. Louise Sweeney, I’ll make it up for you tomorrow.”
Ian turned around with a cold expression on his face.
“No, you don’t have to apologize, I…”
Then, a realization hit Louise. Just a moment ago, Hesse had mentioned a human-sized cake. There were no fans or air conditioners in this world, but there were definitely birthday cakes. The bigger the status, the bigger the cake. She finally understood, then quickly called out to Ian.
Ian paused for a moment.
“Congratulations…on your birthday.”
Louise gave a simple birthday greeting. Come to think of it, it had been a while since she met Ian so casually. They never once made each other’s birthdays.
So Louise congratulated him on this birthday, and his other birthdays which had already passed. She wished she had something to give him. Louise didn’t even have any shoes, and without them, she was still carried in Hesse’s arms.
But for some reason, he never turned around to look at Louise. Louise stared at his back, which was still that of a young boy. She knew why Hesse had dragged them out here. This Ian was very similar to the day when the queen’s funeral took place. It was quite natural for a young boy to think of his mother on his birthday, especially when it happened not so long ago. His fancy clothes didn’t suit him at all. Louise was worried that he would have to spend a day that was contradictory to what he felt on the inside. Wouldn’t that hurt a lot?
“Please put me down.”
Louise spoke to Hesse firmly. He wordlessly deposited Louise on the ground, and her feet reached the warm grass and soil.
Ian seemed to disagree with Hesse’s judgment and hurried back to Louise. It was kind of cute to see Ian urgently pull off his shoes. She hoped that he would always be this sweet.
Louise tried to muffle her smile with her hand.
“The House of Sweeney and dirt are very familiar.”
“I didn’t know you were friends with the earth.”
“Didn’t you know? I signed a contract for eternal friendship.”
“It’s a worldly friendship.”
“Because I like money.”
Louise grinned broadly, and even Ian’s stiff face twitched in a smile.
“Anyway, I’m against my fiancée going barefoot.”
Louise squeezed the soil in between her toes.
“But it feels good. Why don’t you enjoy it?”
A look of dismay returned to her. Then Ian sighed.
“Okay, first I’ll do as you say. Maybe that’s what Hesse wanted.”
“Come to think of it…”
Louise turned around and saw no one else. That was strange. Hesse was just there a moment ago, but he had disappeared.
“Don’t mind him, that’s just the way he is. He’ll be secretly watching from somewhere and giggling. He’s a sly dog.”
A small stone was tossed towards them from a distance. Maybe it was Hesse, as if to say “I’m no sly dog, Your Highness!”
Then, Ian really felt the ground with his bare feet. He looked down curiously, feeling a gentle heat.
He murmured to himself, and Louise smiled at his innocent reaction. The young prince probably did not have the freedom to take off his shoes outside.
“I heard this from my father.”
Louise slowly broached the subject.
“Even on a cold night, the soil is warm because the sun left heat there.”
Wasn’t that amazing? Louise smiled, but Ian did not reply. He didn’t understand why it was so marvelous.
“Doesn’t that just mean that the sun was too hot during the day?”
Louise frowned slightly.
“But think about it. The only evidence left is the soil.”
“Evidence for what?”
“For how warm the sun was.”
“What kind of sun was in the sky? Sometimes you know by what’s left behind. Sometimes…even a person who was under the sun.”
Louise looked at Ian with a wary expression, then smiled as he scrubbed the dirt against his toes.
“… Of course.”
Because he could say anything else, she quickly repeated his words.
“It was warm.”
Ian looked up at Louise.
“The sun you felt must have been warmer than anything else.”
Just from looking at Ian, she could tell who he had received his warmth from, even if his sun no longer existed. The warmth left behind doesn’t lie.
“Thank you, Louise Sweeney.”
It was only when he smiled brightly that Louise gave a small clap.
“Well, let me say it again.”
“I don’t know what you’re about to say, but I’ll allow you to speak.”
Louise nodded and smiled brightly. And this time, she spoke with sincerity.
“Happy birthday. Really!”