Chapter 73 – Just Like That Night (1)
There were three things that the remaining four students at the Academy were tasked to do during vacation:
Guide the construction workers to the rooftop early morning. Maintain the worker’s break room. And finally, when the students returned to their dormitory, lock all the doors completely. Professor Hill sometimes came to check up on them, but while he was skilled at academics, he was poor at taking care of daily life. Instead, Louise preferred to enjoy tea with him.
Then, a gift arrived. The caretaker, who had gone home for the summer, sent a full load of potatoes along with an apology that she couldn’t be there. Louise couldn’t believe the caretaker used such an expensive mail service. How much of her salary did it cost?
The four brought in the potatoes and imagined the caretaker’s thick paycheck envelope and how she would spend it. After that, they set to work sitting around a table stripping the potatoes of their skins. Claire was a quick learner and was skillfully peeling the cooked potatoes, while Dean ate half a potato then washed the other half. He didn’t eat because it was delicious, but because it was too annoying to peel.
Louise peeled her potatoes normally and spoke to Ian.
“Are there any subjects in survival class called Peeling Potatoes?”
“There was a subject called Peeling Without Tools.”
No wonder his peels were so thin. In any case, the potatoes were to go in a salad, and so began the start of a belligerent confrontation. Mash the potatoes? Add pickled cucumbers? Or not? Add pepper or not? And if they added pepper what kind would they put in it?
After the war over tastes, they each did their own thing. Dean and Louise mashed the potatoes, while Claire and Ian cut the cucumber into thin slices.
Louise worked on the potatoes as she stared at Ian and Claire standing side by side. Come to think of it, the two seemed to have a good working chemistry. Ian was already somewhat skilled with a knife, and Claire was quick to learn from him.
“You’re learning fast, too.”
Ian praised her right away and Claire shrugged.
“It’s easy to copy. It’s not that hard.”
The two fiercely started to slice the cucumbers, and the sound of Claire’s knife hitting the chopping board soon caught up to Ian’s. The pile of whole cucumbers was disappearing steadily. Looking at the two of them, they seemed to be getting along well. The cucumbers were cut beautifully too. Thus was the fruits of labor of the student council.
Hmmm, what was it the president said before?
“There are only two friends in my life.”
He had a great friend in Claire.
“…Why don’t you stop being jealous and mash potatoes?”
She heard a voice grumble near her and she looked back at Dean in surprise.
“What was that?”
“I am working. Besides, it’s Dean’s job to be jealous.”
Louise flashed a knowing grin. She knew everything. He had a big crush! He was so jealous that he blamed others for his jealousy.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Now move your slow, broken hand faster.”
“I don’t want to be told by Dean that I’m slow!”
“Oh, really? Then why don’t you show me your quick hands?”
Dean added more unmashed potatoes to her bowl.
“You say work better, but you spill more than you mash. There’s more to it than just simply mashing, right?”
“I picked it up!”
“And you’re proud of that?! Really?!”
Louise added potatoes to Dean’s bowl as well. The two glared daggers at each other and began to crush the potatoes competitively.
“You have a good relationship.”
Claire sprinkled the sliced cucumbers with salt. Dean and Louise looked at each other as if they had each swallowed a rotten potato. Of course their competition did not last long. Their overworked muscles gave out in pain, and they simultaneously plopped their heads down at the table.
“You really do like each other.”
They had no energy to refute.
“You and Dean Crissis. You’re on good terms?”
Ian and Louise remained in the kitchen while Claire and Dean went to deliver the salad and bread to the roof.
“Are you really asking that, President?”
Louise frowned lightly as she poked at the remaining salad in a bowl.
“It makes us sad to be kicked out of the position as your best friends.”
“Us” meant Simon and Ian together.
“Even the president is–“
Louise chewed on a cucumber.
Louise shuffled the salad, then held out a forkful to ask his opinion on it. He delicately ate it without a word, then slowly nodded, as if pleased that he made it himself. Then, the two ate the salad without speaking for a while. Louise glanced at the door several times. It was about time the other two came back.
Louise hung her head anxiously as she thought about the distance to the dormitory.
“Maybe they’re on a date or something.”
Ian gently frowned, as if he found some problem with that idea.
“Dean Crissis doesn’t have the kind of personality.”
“What kind of personality?”
Louise took a mouthful of salad as she spoke.
“I mean that he’s not the kind of man to ask out a woman who already has a fiancé.”
Louise choked on her salad. Her chest seized and only after beating it several times with her fist could she open her mouth again.
“Didn’t you know? It’s fairly common in high society…well, rumors are slow to walk to you.”
“It’s not slow, it doesn’t come at all. I had no idea.”
“They’re engaged anyway. Officially, the wedding ceremony is in the winter.”
“I can’t believe it.”
Louise thought of Claire in a white bridal dress, and of course her friend looked very beautiful in her imagination. But the idea of it was so unreal to her. She couldn’t believe her friend was preparing to get married.
“So when Claire said she’d stay, you wanted to make sure she was okay?”
Louise recalled the student council meeting they had before vacation.
“It feels weird.”
“Really? I have no idea how many times I’ve already seen Claire with her fiancé.”
“What’s her fiancé like?”
Louise hugged her bowl tightly, and Ian saw the anxiety written on her face.
“I didn’t expect you to care so much about Dean Crissis.”
“O-oh, not exactly.”
“No, it’s all over your face. ‘Dean, what can I do?’ ‘Dean, I want to help.’”
“Don’t imitate my voice! And I know I can’t help him. I’m just…”
Louise dropped her head for a moment. “It’s Dean’s job to be jealous,” she had said.
“I feel really sorry for him.”
“Don’t give too much thought to him. For now, that’s the biggest service.”
It was something no one could help him with. She understood a little now why Dean always followed Claire’s footsteps, yet kept a strange distance. Perhaps he drew a line to respect Claire’s honor and protect his own heart. He was always slow to act, and was careful not to touch the line.
“But you understand it, don’t you, Louise?”
“Rationally, yes. I completely accept it.”
“But reason and emotion are fighting, aren’t they?”
“I can’t help it.”
Louise looked up with a slight frown.
“Dean is a bit annoying, but I think he’s a pretty good guy.”
“And I know the best thing to do as a friend is to just ignore it and not say anything about it.”
“But it’s not easy because we are ruled by emotions.”
“Yes. Emotions always messes up people like this.”
Ian stroked Louise’s sullen face with his hand.
“Yes, I’m depressed.”
“Can I make you feel better?”
She shot him a doubtful look, but he nodded reassuringly.
“It’s simple, so repeat after me. ‘Tomorrow.’”
How would repeating him make her feel better?
Louise echoed him, and Ian continued.
“I will eat.”
Then suddenly a verb appeared.
“I will eat…?”
Ian finished the magic sentence to make Louise feel better.
“Delicious meat…! Tomorrow I will eat delicious meat! Right?”
“And gravy will flow when I cut it with a knife, and it’ll melt in my mouth without even chewing!”
“Where does that meat come from?”
“From the palace. I requested it.”
“And you’ll be the one to perfectly cook the meat, right?”
“Oh my goodness, I’m so happy. Can I tell Dean and Claire this magic sentence?”
“As much as you want.”
Tomorrow I will eat delicious meat.
The power of this perfect sentence was incredible, and after Claire and Dean returned from the roof they whooped happily as well. And the next day, Ian cooked the meat brilliantly with his survival skills. He also knew how to make orange sherbet with his survival skills. As a review of this perfect dinner, Louis praised, “I could live my entire life in such an Academy.”
The lives of the four grew more pleasant as the day went by. Maybe it was due to a sense of camaraderie that they were the only students left in the place. The four were attached to each other the whole time. Sometimes they rotated cooking duties, and Dean’s lousy sandwiches would be a lasting memory. They brought their favorite books and forced the others to read it.
Late at night, when the dorm was all locked up, they stayed in one room and played cards until it late, made all the more thrilling that it was a clear violation of school rules. Sometimes they even split into teams to play silent chess. During the game, one had to guess their partner’s and their opponents’ moves without saying a word. Louise and Dean showed great teamwork. Ian and Claire won not a single victory until the very last night of their stay in the dorm. They were so happy that they cheered and held each other by the shoulders.
“So funny that it happened on the last night.”
Louise picked up a chess piece rolling on the floor and pretended to be disappointed. Fortunately, they were all on the same wavelength, so they decided to play for a little longer. Ian took the cards out again, and Claire introduced a new game that her family played. They did not stop until the moon hung heavy in the sky.