Chapter 87 – He Would Protect Her (1)
Louise turned her towards the sound of approaching footsteps from outside. She felt guilty from eavesdropping on someone else and swore that she could feel her anxiety coming off of her in waves. The hand which had grabbed Louise wrapped itself around her head and pulled her into a warm bosom.
Soon there was a whisper.
His name came out as a mumble where she was pressed against his shirt.
“Don’t worry, I made a promise. Don’t you remember?”
He reassuringly reminded Louise what he told her the other day.
He would protect her, as long as Ian valued her.
The footsteps came closer and then stopped against the door, which was slightly ajar. Hesse gripped Louise in a tight embrace, then slowly released his arms and took a step away.
Instead of Hesse’s usual knight’s uniform or riding clothes, he was dressed in a suit. Their gazes met. He schooled his stiff expression into something of a smile with surprising speed, then pushed the door ever so slightly to peer through.
“Do you have no senses? Really.”
“Sir, I must please ask you to stop using the private boxes. How many times is this already?”
“This is the sixth time! Each time all with women!”
The director shouted miserably, and Louise quietly buried her face in her palm as she leaned against the door. She remembered what Ian had said. Hesse loved girls a lot…
“I’m a knight and a future count. I can’t openly date.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means if the Crown Prince finds out about this, I’m dead.”
“Stop talking nonsense, and get out of here. Who’s the lady in there? I need to see her face.”
The director tried to push open the door, but Hesse smiled and kept his grip firm on the doorknob.
“I don’t think so.”
“It doesn’t matter what you think! One must be cautious about the family…!”
“You know, sir.”
The director tried to shove open the door again, and Hesse looked at him with a languid expression.
“Please lend me your dressing room.”
“What does that mean?”
“I mean I’m a little bit tired of boxes, too. So if you give me your favorite dressing room, and I’ll have my little tryst there next time.”
“Nonsense! I’ll raise this issue publicly!”
“That’s good. Are you going to have a poll whether the box or the dressing room is a better place to have secret rendezvous?”
“Then I vote the dressing room. But of course I’ll be happy anywhere with today’s girl.”
Hesse flashed a wicked smile at Louise hiding behind the door. It was clear that his intention was to only tease the director.
“Which one would you like to vote for, sir?”
No reply was forthcoming. The director was glaring at Hesse like a volcano about to erupt.
Hesse gave him a broad smile.
“You don’t have to answer. Instead.”
A keen look glittered in his eyes.
“I’ll ask your family members.”
“A-are you threatening me now?”
“I don’t like it either, but it can’t be helped. You’re the only one here.”
The director stared at Hesse for a moment before swallowing his humiliation.
“…You must vacate here before the king and the delegation arrive. This box is for the Chancellor that leads the delegation.”
“It is an honor.”
Hesse lifted his shoulder in pride, and the director turned away. Hesse laughed as he closed the door and gave Louise an expression that said, “See. Are you okay?”
Louise wondered for a moment what to say. A variety of words wanted to spring from her mouth, but she delivered the most important ones first.
“Be sure to tell the prince that I saved Louise of the Greenhouse.”
“I have to…tell him?”
Louise said with a face, and Hesse nodded fervently.
“Of course! His Highness should know what he’s paying for.”
He put up his chin and made a show of pride for a moment.
“Oh, by the way.”
And he quickly added something as if he had forgotten it.
“You look quite pretty today.”
“Very pretty. So talk about that part, but not where I had to hug you close. Okay?”
He had no choice but to pull Louise from the hallway, and he wanted to reassure her of that.
“Okay, I won’t tell him.”
“Are you sure?”
Hesse looked at her suspiciously, but she nodded.
“Last time I said I liked Louise, you told the prince!”
“Well, I wanted to let him know that Sir Hesse likes him too.”
“Of course I like the prince. But it was a secret that I liked him more with Louise!”
“I’ve been wondering…why do you like me with him?”
He grinned, then finally gave a sly reply.
Louise didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained.
“Louise of the Greenhouse. Would you ever want to take the prince’s life?”
Louise shook her head angrily at those dangerous and terrifying words. Hesse gently patted Louise’s cheek with a white-gloved hand, as if trying to engrave her answer to his palm somehow.
“Louise is the only one.”
“…The only one?”
“The only one who will never change this answer.”
Louise looked at Hesse’s heavily scarred face and neck. Ever since he began to take charge of the crown prince’s safety, Hesse had encountered death. Multiple times, probably. Anyone could come up to the prince with a gentle face and stab him in the back. It was probably difficult for Hesse to trust the people around Ian.
“So I have Louise of the Greenhouse.”
The only person for whom there was no doubt. A person who he trusted perfectly. The only one who he could give away to be cherished.
He didn’t move as if he had lost his speech for a while. A moment later, he patted Louise on the cheek again and changed the subject.
“You do look lovely today. If you lose your temper when you see him, give him a hard kick, okay?”
Louise did not bother to point out how he had blatantly shifted the conversation.
“I can’t do that.”
“Maybe. There is no rabbit doll Alice here.”
He gave a chuckle.
“Anyway, what were you doing here?”
Louise noticed again that he was dressed from head to toe in a proper gentleman’s outfit.
“You’re dressed up so nice, too.”
“Yeah, don’t I look good?”
He put on a showy face.
“Yes, you look just like a future count. Do you have an important appointment? A meeting?”
“I’m actually here to meet a girl.”
He shyly scratched his long hair.
“Is it a d-date?”
“It’s a little different than that. It’s not completely of my own will. I am an aristocrat and close associate of the Crown Prince, so I get marriage offers here and there.”
It seemed apparent from his face that he hated them.
“It’s technically an order from people in the upper levels for me to meet up sometimes.”
“But you were dumped, weren’t you?”
“Yes, five times in a row. They’re all great girls, but I couldn’t make them happy. Maybe I’m not that talented…”
“So today was supposed to be your sixth outing?”
“So what happened to the other girl?”
“She said she couldn’t betray the man she liked and immediately went away.”
“So you got dumped again.”
“Ugh…don’t keep repeating that. Anyway, I went somewhere where I could be alone and figure out what to do from now on. I’m on vacation, you see.”
“And then I showed up?”
“Like it was fate. Now tell me about you, too.”
Hesse nodded, and Louise paused to think for a moment. She didn’t know if it was alright to talk about the business, but she had already shared secrets with Hesse before. And most of all, Hesse trusted in her, so she should trust him too.
“Actually, I’m here on behalf of my parents.”
She explained about her family’s long-term contract with the Arts Center and the abrupt termination. Hesse nodded as he listened to Louise with a devoted ear.