Chapter 61 – You Are Right (2)
There was no conversation. It wouldn’t have been strange if there was something of a forced consolation for the situation, but not a word was needed.
Then, for no reason really, Louise felt a pit of anger bubble towards Ian. It would have been better if he had analyzed the situation with a cool head as usual and got angry. Why was he acting so suspiciously? Couldn’t he be more assertive about his logic? Louise would surely have power over him seeing the blind trust in his eyes. Today he was being disgracefully friendly as he watched her emotions melt down. She always thought he was a foul guy. Today was no different.
“…It’s too much.”
She couldn’t pull back the sob at the end of her sentence.
“Well, from Professor Lassen’s point of view, you’re too much. You’re smart, you’re good at tests, you’re pretty, you have a good reputation…”
Ian seemed to have mistaken Louise’s outburst towards him at Professor Lassen. She didn’t bother correcting him. Instead, she wanted to comment on his checklist of praises.
“It’s all so…big. Those are some lofty descriptions.”
He gave a low chuckle, pressing against Louise’s head playfully.
“They’re getting loftier and loftier.”
What was the big deal? At any rate, as she was talking to him again, her constant flow of tears gradually faded away.
“I thought I’d managed to catch up.”
“To you. You were very grown up when I was a kid. You were like an older sister to me.”
Of course he didn’t know there was a teenage girl in the body of young Louise.
“But not always. Sometimes you were a cute little troublemaker. Like you were crying out to be loved.”
He had poked at a sensitive spot. It is true that when she was young, she longed for the love of her parents and those around her…It was all she desired. It was great to receive it.
Louise lifted her head gently. Her eyes ran into the gaze that had become familiar in the dark. Ian wiped Louise’s face gently with his sleeve.
“I-Isn’t that expensive?”
“Well, I don’t know because it was a gift.”
“But what are you going to do if your gift gets soiled?”
Louise’s eyes were wide and wet, and he shrugged.
“I told you it doesn’t matter.”
“Still…you should go back.”
This time Ian didn’t answer.
“It’s your day to become an adult and there is a feast until dawn.”
His tone sounded dismissive.
“I mean, it’s your banquet.”
“Why are you bringing it up?”
“I’m afraid you’ll get scolded later.”
The elders of the royal family and the scary grandparents who supported Ian would surely turn furious and lecture him for a month.
“That is a little scary.”
“Would it be okay if I told them I was with you?”
“If you say that, you’ll be totally misunderstood!”
Besides, Louise was now in a miserable position.
“But since everyone loves Louise, maybe they’ll forgive me.”
“…I don’t think your grandfather ever liked me.”
“He’s actually fond of you. He’s just pretending that he’s not.”
Louise chuckled in disbelief.
“I…I just want to stay like this today. It’s my birthday.”
“Come to think of it.”
Louise’s expression turned thoughtful as she remembered something.
“I visited you on your birthday…a long time ago.”
“I didn’t think you would remember that day.”
“I remember. Of course I remember.”
Ian was a little pleased. In fact, he remembered the day was special because…
“That day, I had a special appointment with Hesse and he came to pick me up at the window.”
“Sir Hesse probably remembers too.”
“Why, did you and Hesse make a special promise on my birthday?”
Ian answered obstinately as a warning to Hesse, who might be eavesdropping at some distance. But after drawing Louise deeper towards him, he whispered in her ear.
“I’m joking. You have the right to interact freely with anyone.”
“…Why are you speaking so quietly?”
Louise followed with a small voice.
“How about I just say it’s for security issues? …I’m glad you feel better anyway.”
The arms wrapped about Louise seemed to tighten more. It seemed that he really was worried that much.
“So…Do you have something to say?”
Louise was worried for a moment, then soon opened her mouth to speak.
Ian sighed briefly. He specifically gave her permission to speak freely. What was the point of congratulating him on his birthday?
“Thanks. But other than that, I’m just asking if there’s anything you want to say. You know, if you have any left over words.”
“I won’t point out any country’s grammar. Just to say whatever you want to.”
Ian sighed at his pathetic utterance.
Before he could continue, Louise gently pushed his shoulder and began to talk, her voice filled with embarrassment.
“W-well, that is.”
“Asking about this…I know it’s very rude.”
“It’s okay. Just ask.”
At his soft urging Louise continued.
“When Your Highness…heard about me.”
“What did you think?”
Actually, she knew. She knew what kind of answer he would give. It was rude to ask questions as if you already knew what they would say, so Louise couldn’t bring herself to face him. But she couldn’t help but ask. Just once, today. She wanted to hear those words.
Louise dropped her head down, closed her eyes and waited.
But he gave no answer.
“…I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to test the crown prince. I was just rambling.”
“But you know what? No one believed me.”
“…People think I behaved badly but, um, I really didn’t do it. I swear to God I won’t do such a thing!”
Maybe because her voice was raising in volume, or maybe because she started speaking faster, but her heart, which had barely calmed down, has thudding furiously again in her chest.
“…But nobody believes me.”
Tears spilled over her eyes again.
“So please…just this once.”
She wanted to hear it, clearly, in someone else’s voice. Ian’s soft reply came from somewhere over Louise’s bowed head.
“…At least we should do this facing each other.”
Even so. She couldn’t raise her head at all because the flood of tears wouldn’t stop rolling down her cheeks.
“Raise your head.”
At his stern tone, Louise looked up at him with a woeful face. Instead of drying her eyes, Ian lifted Louise’s chin a little more with his fingertips.
“Keep your head up. You deserve to listen to this with pride.”
More fat tears spilled from her eyes at his words. They stared quietly at each other as he held up her blotched-red face. Ian waited a little. It was a moment when they saw nothing but each other. And he finally answered.
“You are right.”
“I, Ian Audmonial, will always believe you.”
His words were solemn as if he were taking an oath. Under any circumstances, he would believe her. She didn’t know how it came to this, but this man really was special to Louise.
His hands swept from her chin to her cheek, brushing away the droplets and erasing them, and her blurry vision gradually became clear from his touch. Then she realized was the distance between them. It was almost nonexistent.
She could feel his breath tickling her. Maybe she had poured out all her thoughts with the tears she shed.
Louise gently closed her eyes, and Ian tilted his head.