Chapter 86 – Peaceful Summer Vacation…? (2)
Her father left for the port city while Louise and her mother were left in charge. Louise thought the mansion would be peaceful without her father, but that wasn’t the case thanks to the visitor that arrived.
“Teacher, your artificial flowers are amazing.”
When she had the spare time, she went to the guest room to watch Sean Wood work. He was a master artisan at creating artificial flowers and stayed at the Sweeney mansion whenever there were orders.
“If your father heard you say that, he would be very upset. ”
He smiled benignly and held out a flower he had just produced to Louise.
“But I’ll give you this in return for the compliment.”
Louise looked at the white flower in his fingers. The pale petals glittered like winter.
“What kind of…?”
“It’s a flower of my own imagination. Doesn’t it look like something that would bloom in a cave?”
“Yes. And it’s so pretty. Really.”
“I’m glad you think so. My father scolded me for making flowers without reference.”
“Because it’s a flower that doesn’t exist?”
“Yes. But it’s vivid in my mind.”
He tapped his forehead with his fingertips and then picked up some more material.
“I think the flowers you imagine are beautiful, too.”
“I feel relieved to hear that from my future boss.”
He shot her a full grin as he started to form a small leaf.
“Some people will wonder–what does it smell like, what does it feel like? But they’ll imagine it, and be happy when they do.”
Louise around at the array of flowers shining in the strong sunlight.
“Listening to you almost makes me believe that my artificial flowers are like real flowers.”
“They are real flowers!”
Louise insisted rather loudly.
“I’m a Sweeney. If your flowers weren’t real, I wouldn’t love them.”
“You really think so.”
Sean Wood scratched his head for a moment, then held out a finished stem he had just completed.
“You have a knack for making people happy. Here, take this. It will look pretty if you decorate it with that flower.”
“Oh no, no! I’m just–”
“Take it quick.”
He held out the stem again and Louise took it with both hands.
“The young lady accepted a bribe. You won’t make deals with another craftsman anymore, okay?”
“…Was it a bribe?”
“A bribe? This uncle was giving a flower to the young boss.”
He grinned. He was a little over thirty and was like an uncle to her, though Louise didn’t really think of him as an adult.
“Okay. I will continue the deal with you even if you have another pretty princess.”
Louise smiled at the frame that stood on his desk. Sean Wood always kept a family portrait of his wife and daughter, no matter how many days his business trip was.
“Does everyone else travel with their family portraits like this?”
“I’m not sure. I don’t know anyone else but…”
Sean Wood looked at Louise and smiled kindly, understanding what she was asking.
“The boss always carries a portrait of the young miss like a treasure. Even when he’s not business trip.”
Louise felt a bloom of joy.
As Sean Wood watched her, he wondered if he should say something else.
Mr. Sweeney. The man was kind of a silly old fool when it came to his daughter. It was said he strictly organized pictures of his daughter by age and season, and that he even carried a small photo album.
“I think fathers are wonderful.”
But when he looked at Louise’s sparkling face…he thought he’d rather not tell her about it.
The lively atmosphere of the mansion didn’t last long.
It began with a letter from the director of the Center of Arts.
Louise had read the letter her mother handed to her. In short, the director said he would unilaterally terminate the contract. There was no reason given, but the promised penalty was paid immediately.
“But the performance isn’t canceled, so then the supplier must have changed.”
“Yes. But I wonder who it could be…”
The Sweeneys would not experience a loss in profits due to the generous penalty. However, the bigger problem was losing the long-term contract.
“I will go to the Center of Arts and see the director in the future, but…this is a little abrupt.”
To terminate the contract with only a few days left until the performance.
Louise asked in a hopeless voice.
“It’s such a waste. You worked so hard to prepare this.”
Mrs. Sweeney had hardly slept since the funeral. She put her heart and soul into her work, especially since this was to be a performance attended by delegates.
Her mother forced a smile, as if she didn’t want to be depressed by this injustice.
“Your father and I have been through this many times.”
“You’ll experience it in the future too. It’s nothing special. It’s probably something that anyone would go through.”
Louise tried to smile with her, but it was not easy.
“And something always comes from good work.”
Her mother pulled a red sheet of paper from an envelope. It was an invitation to the performance, rare and difficult to obtain.
“Didn’t I say this would end well?”
“…T-this is good?”
“Of course. Since this is a national occasion, His Majesty the King and the Crown Prince will be here.”
Okay, Louise admitted it might be a little good. She hadn’t seen him since that day, and she missed him a bit. However, there was likely very little opportunity to talk with him at an official occasion.
“You may be able to meet your Academy friends.”
That sounded good, too.
“And the best part is.”
Her mother’s eyes glimmered.
“It means we can spy on who took our contract.”
And she let out a laughter that caused gooseflesh to erupt on Louise’s skin.
…Mother, you know what? Now I can see for sure where Louise Sweeney inherited her villainess talent from.
Bad work brings bad things. The thought came into Louise’s mind and she held out her invitation at the entrance to the Royal Center of Arts.
“You’re here on your own?”
The staff member gave her a strange look, and she lifted up her chin in response.
There was no need for words of suspicion. What was wrong with being alone?
Louise was allowed to enter, and she passed through the corridors while nervously fidgeting with her glove. As she entered the opera hall, a staff member offered her a drink. She selected a cold juice because it was sweltering. There weren’t many people here yet as there was still plenty of time until the performance.
Louise delicately sipped at her juice, thinking about her mother back at the mansion. Her mother wasn’t feeling very well, complaining of a body ache. Her fatigue from work must have come crashing down at her all at once, and Louise only just managed to convince her to stay at home.
‘She was nervous about sending me alone.’
Louise was not young anymore. She knew she had two things to do at the arts center. One was to watch a performance and show the review to her mother. And the other–
“Go find out who took our contract.”
It was her job to satisfy her mother’s curiosity, and so she arrived here early.
“So, are you finished yet?”
Louise cocked her head at hearing the businesslike tone. A staff member was speaking to a person carrying flowers.
“The third floor is finished, but the second floor needs to be cleaned. Some sort of glass ornament fell off…”
“Some of the guests have already arrived. Please hurry up, yes?”
“All right, all right, don’t worry. We’ll finish on time.”
The man who spoke began to climb the stairs in a little hurry. The sight of gardening scissors at his waist belt indicated he was part of a flower company.
Louise set her juice down and tiptoed the stairs, taking care not to make a sound with her shoes. Fortunately, no one looked at her suspiciously, but there was no reason to do so; Louise was also a guest with an invitation.
The second floor had a red carpet floor, with a mural on the wall depicting a mythical scene and a brightly lit chandelier. On the other side were doors leading to the private boxes, some half open.
“I’m glad you like the floral decorations, Director.”
The voice startled Louise, and she was taken aback for a moment. It was coming from inside of one of the private boxes. The director of the Center of Arts was there. She didn’t think it a good idea to hang around.
“Oh, no. I was just surprised that you asked the flower shop so suddenly.”
What she heard stopped her footsteps, and she turned towards where the sound was coming from. Did he say that it was the arts center that asked them first? That meant it was the director that changed the company. But why? Why this absurd thing at a national occasion? And even paying an additional penalty? No matter how much Louise thought about it, she couldn’t understand. Wouldn’t it the arts center be at risk for being underprepared?
She heard the director reply, but it sounded like a whisper from where Louise was standing. She forgot that she was going to turn around and gradually moved closer. The voice became clearer. At the same time, Louise’s heart began to thump rapidly in her chest.
It might be because of the guilt of eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation, but curiosity pushed her forward.
A small piece of glass crunched under her shoes. She stepped back in surprise, but the sound of it echoed in the quiet corridor. The conversation from inside the box halted.
The moment the director pulled the half-opened door, someone grabbed Louise by the waist.
It was after Louise realized that she was dragged in to another box that she managed to look around and saw the person who grabbed her.
“H-how are you here?”
An embarrassed remark left her mouth. But the person only smiled. Don’t worry.