Chapter 8: When You Haven’t Run Away From Me (1)
His name came out of her soft lips. She said it a little awkwardly, but she said it nonetheless.
For the first time.
Ian had considerable expectations for when this moment would happen. He had wondered how much more amazing it would be after she said his name, but he didn’t expect it to be in these circumstances.
He said her name back.
Standing before the brutal red glow of the sunset, Louise seemed to be a different person. He wished it were some other imposter before him. It was cruel of her to ask him to abandon their relationship they had since childhood, a relationship that, whether it was sincere or teasing or anything else, still meant something.
The lips that spoke those sad words curved into a smile.
No, that was a false smile. It was the same cowardly smile that so many people made in front of Ian. It was the smile worn by those that sought only their own interests.
Why did it have to be her? Was she laughing at him?
‘Well, she’s smart enough to be the top of the class. If it’s necessary maybe she can pull it off with enough skill…’
It was only a stray thought that Ian had come up with in the hallway. He didn’t expect it to be true.
He was stupid. Really.
He couldn’t contain the bitterness in his heart from leaking into his voice.
“If I can’t treat you like my fiancée, then what should I do?”
“Treat me normally, please.”
“But…I’m not even your real fiancée.”
“But you’re not my fake fiancée.”
Ian gave a sardonic smile as if to say, “The words of the queen shouldn’t be treated lightly.”
“But this engagement isn’t official–”
Louise mumbled before Ian cut in.
“We can make it official.”
“Are you crazy?”
Louise yelled and took a step back.
“…That’s quite a reaction. Do you really hate me that much? “
Louise admittedly had a weakness against Ian’s heartbroken face, but she couldn’t get mixed up with him. If Louise began to like him, then ruin and hell would befall her. Ian would end up pledging his eternal love to Stella and completely abandon Louise, and the villainess inside her might emerge.
” I just–“
Louise carefully chose her words then spoke in a cooler voice.
“I just didn’t want to be misunderstood.”
“Yes. What if someone hears you say ‘my fiancée’ and misunderstands you, isn’t that a problem?”
Louise looked closely at him for agreement.
“I wouldn’t mind.”
“Well, I mind!’
Ian took a calculated step towards her.
“Come to think of it, you ran to the library as soon as the entrance ceremony was over to borrow the love horoscope book.”
“Then all of a sudden, you’re uncomfortable with me calling you ‘my fiancée’. Because you don’t want to be misunderstood. Right?”
Louise could not bring herself to nod her head. Everything he said was true, but she somehow had a feeling that he was the one that deeply misunderstood. Maybe he thought she already had someone in her heart.
Hey, Louise Sweeney. The only man in her mind was the dean of the Academy. Her only goal in life was to be the top student and receive an honor from him at the graduation ceremony.
Louise’s delay in answering was enough to test Ian’s generous patience.
“So, who is it? “
“I want to know who it is so I can be more careful about any misunderstandings.”
“There’s no one,”
Louise mumbled, avoiding his eyes. Though there was a certain someone named Stella that was supposed to come between them.
“I think there is.”
Ian gripped her chin and pointed her gaze towards him.
“Uh, no! Really, I swear.”
Ian stared at her stubborn face for a moment then finally sighed. Can she just get over trying to hide her facial expressions and emotions? She wanted him to believe there was no one. He was going to go crazy. Who was it?
It was clear it had to be someone on campus if she was scared of him calling her “my fiancée.” He remembered the friend he was talking to earlier who seemed quite interested in Louise. Was it a two-way relationship? No, he didn’t think so. If Louise Sweeney had her eyes on him, that cunning snake-like kid wouldn’t have been able to help himself.
Who else was there?
Ian remembered his cousin that attended the Academy with him. No way, there may be others but not him. His cousin would have already heard Ian call Louise “my fiancée” many times anyway.
…Who could it be?
Ian patted her on the cheek a couple of times then took a step back and put his arm around her instead. He had to wait and see what her purpose was.
“You are right. My words and actions are quite misleading. “
Louise’s troubled face transitioned to relief. Was that good?
Ian tried to suppress the strange feeling in his stomach.
“I promise to you, Louise Sweeney.”
Their eyes locked.
“We will completely forget about our engagement. I promise I won’t call you by the wrong title.”
It seemed that Ian finally accepted everything Louise asked for. But with such a solemn expression, it was hard for her to be grateful to him.
Her lips quivered. It was time for her to say thank you.
“But only for a year.”
Ian suddenly had an impish grin on his face. Louise looked up at him in astonishment. A year?
“Is that enough time?”
“Don’t talk nonsense!”
“Why is it nonsense? “
A year later, Ian would completely confess his love to Stella. Their passion would burn so much that they would find various shortcuts just to avoid the eyes of other students.
“Because–we might meet someone separately.”
“Either of us.”
“I don’t have any plans for that.”
Hilarious. Louise had seen several shameless illustrations of Ian of making out everywhere. (And of course she cheered.)
She would count herself lucky if she ever kissed him! The re-released rated R edition was even more impressive, followed by a flood of five star reviews. Of course Louise hadn’t been able to read it because of age restrictions.
“Why do you look so skeptical?”
“I don’t believe you.”
“I didn’t realize I was so untrustworthy. Then here’s the deal.”
Ian struggled with himself for a long moment, then added the final condition.
“If either side has a partner, we will break off the engagement.”
Louise nodded in agreement. As long as those conditions were met, there would be no trouble. Ian was going to have a wonderful relationship with Stella.
“A year later, if neither of us is in a relationship…”
Ian’s lips curved upwards. Louise became a little nervous. It was the same smile he always wore when he was being mischievous.
“…we will be engaged.”
“It means that you have to be my fiancée.”
“Are you crazy?!”
“I may be, yes. And with that kind of condition attached, you have to hurry up and work up the nerve to start dating.”
“Our agreement is fine without that kind of condition!”
“What are you so scared about? Where was your disbelief when I said I didn’t plan on being with anyone else?”
“Who was it that made me feel like I was about to fall in love with someone and start a passionate relationship?”
“I didn’t act like that.”
“That’s what it seemed like.”
“You once said that arranged marriages were a relic of old age!”
“Of course it’s a relic of old age.”
“Then why want to be engaged to me? “
“It is the crown prince’s job to cherish the relics.”
Ugh. Louise rolled her eyes in frustration.
These were his conditions. The two would no longer be bound by their childhood engagement for a year. Then a year later, if either of them had a lover, the engagement would be nullified. If not, the engagement would be made a reality to protect the relics of old age.
‘I really don’t like the condition that I have to get engaged.’
Although it didn’t matter because it wouldn’t happen anyway.
Louise nodded her head affirmatively.
“I accept all of your terms.”
“I’ll also keep my word.”
“And I’ll tell you something else.”
Ian had a very stern look on his face and declared seriously,
“After the engagement is recognized, no matter what happens, we can’t break up.”
“What are you talking about? We’re in an era where we can get refunds for purchases we don’t like!”
“Am I something you don’t like? “
“Well, I hope the fiancé you purchase will be to your satisfaction.”
“Ha, but that’s only if we get engaged, isn’t it? “
“Yes. That will be when you haven’t run away from me for a year.”
He looked like a lion staring at its prey. Louise braced her shoulders.