Chapter 68 – The Same, But Different (1)
Louise brushed away the hair on her face and tied it up to cool herself, then chewed thoughtfully on a gummy candy. She had received it after she submitted her report for Professor Wayne Hill. Determined to become his favorite student, Louise had foregone eating and sleeping in order to complete a brilliant report on correcting her wrong answers.
“Wow, you’ve worked very hard.”
Louise was a little flattered not only because she received praise from the teacher assistant, but from Professor Hill as well. After neatly emptying one box of gummies, she took out another. This was from Professor Hewitt’s assistant. Louise had been commended for her work there too.
“You are the most dedicated student in your whole year when it comes to writing this report.”
There really should be a separate department in Louise’s mind so she could live off the compliments. After eating a whole gummy in her mouth, Louise took out another. This was from Professor Lassen’s assistant.
“You’ve written a lot.”
“Yes, I have some regrets about not being able to complete the exam.”
She didn’t forget to smile when she said this.
Professor Lassen ground her pen tip against the paper as she listened to the conversation between Louise and her assistant. She looked pissed. In this case, Louise felt a little better playing the talented villainess.
The period of submitting reports was smoothly coming to an end. Most of the students were exhausted by the long academic races and the atmosphere at the Academy was like gummies melting in the heat. Most of the lectures slackened– with the exception of Professor Hewitt’s class of course–and the library became increasingly dull. Snoring became louder in the dormitories. But Louise’s pen never stopped. Today she was furiously finishing another report at the large table in the student council room.
“…You haven’t finished your wrong answer report yet?”
Dean grimaced as he watched her. He seemed to hate the sound of the constant scribbling of the pen.
“I’m almost done.”
“You know the deadline is today, right?”
“I know. That’s why I’m working so hard.”
Louise pushed the last of the candy into her mouth. She had purple bags under her eyes and hadn’t eaten since last night, but she didn’t have time for a proper meal now. Sleep was not something she could afford either.
“Why are you cutting it so close to the deadline?”
Louise paused for a moment.
“The exam rankings will be announced this afternoon.”
“I want to concentrate on something else as much as possible.”
Dean understood perfectly what she was saying. She must be worried she wouldn’t top the rankings.
“Will some horns grow out of your head if you don’t get first place?”
He seemed rather serious, but Louise smiled in amusement.
“If that’s what will happen, then I really need to be first.”
She adjusted her pen.
“But that’s not really it. When I came to the Academy, I made a promise to myself.”
Dean propped his chin on his hand, hanging on to her with interest.
“This time, I was going to be kind of cool. I’ve always wanted to be like that.”
By Louise’s standards, a cool person was someone who studied hard and was kind to everyone.
“I can’t imagine you co-existing with the word cool.”
“I know, I know. That’s why I’m trying. I want to be like Claire.”
Louise thought of her friend. Claire really was incredible. She had a brilliant mind that ranked second even with ordinary skill. She was friendly to everyone, but when fired up she had the passion and intensity to throw a desk.
“I could just fall in love with her, don’t you think?”
Dean flushed and struggled to mouth his words.
“Come to think of it, you two have interacted with each other for a long time, right?”
“Well, a little.”
“A little? I thought Claire said you were very close.”
It was true that they were close. As their initials were C and D, even their names would be next to each other forever. Well, that was a childhood thought anyway. He was well past the age where he thought over the fact that their initials were neighbors. Louise Sweeney, who was treated as a princess by her childhood friends, would never understand. Dean sighed lightly and fell back down on the desk.
“Hurry up on your report. The deadline is almost here.”
Louise checked her watch and quickly turned the pages of her book. It was just as he said. She had to hurry.
Louise handed in her report just in the nick of time.
“This is the privilege for the last student.”
The teacher’s assistant handed her five boxes of gummy candy. He seemed to be giving away everything he had left. Since Louise had been eating gummies instead of dinner last night she was none too thrilled about it, but she accepted it with a smile.
“Thank you. I’m lucky to have the privilege.”
Of course, she wouldn’t forget to be polite. The gummies were an easy snack to store, so she could probably enjoy them for three days, or she could eat them in the carriage on the way home to distract her from motion sickness.
Home. She would go home. Louise thought of her mother, father, and other family members in the greenhouse she had not seen since spring. She was sure they were looking forward to her returning home. They would prepare a delicious feast and she hoped that she could give them some good news.
Louise trudged to the hall where the test results would be announced. The original Louise was twisted and cruel in many ways, and the most important thing for her to do was to always keep to her flower path. Maintaining a successful Academy life was a large part of it. Being the top student would be a great boost to the unpolished Sweeney family and Louise’s credit rating would go up. It was natural to be so desirous of the honor when there was a real benefit.
The first floor was crowded with a river of students. Some people, like Louise, had a strong interest in grades. Everyone’s face was determinedly set.