Chapter 97 – Will Love You (1)
It was probably because of Simon that Ian came to use the term “my fiancée” for Louise more often.
“I’m Louise Sweeney. It’s an honor to meet you, Lord Hillard.”
Simon Hillard. The world seemed to think of him and Ian and rivals, but in fact they were the only two who understood each other. They were tuned in to and worried about each other’s pain more than anyone else, and so naturally Ian wanted to share his warmth with Simon.
“Why don’t you answer her? My fiancée is upset.”
He added a childish warning to cover up his insecurity. Yes, it was a cheap shot. Simon, however, never questioned the words “my fiancée” when he heard it for the first time. Simon nodded, if only to indulge Ian like a child.
Nevertheless, the three of them shared a safe relationship. Ian treasured Simon and Louise equally, and surely Simon and Louise did as well. He once thought about abandoning his ethics so the three of them could be like this, perfectly sharing their affection together…
So that no one gets hurt.
“Simon is so sweet.”
…But he didn’t think he could. No matter how much Ian loved Simon, it was different from the way he loved Louise.
The way that Louise could comfortably say Simon’s name and call him sweet, but not do the same with Ian–the truth was that he hated it. It was…jealousy.
He didn’t want to admit it.
Ian managed to choke out a word but stopped. He was embarrassed. Anything he would say in this state of mind wouldn’t be right, and so he paused to think instead.
Marriage talks were a common occurrence for people a certain age. A couple who entered these marriage talks built a relationship by meeting face-to-face three times, then upon making a decision, would meet with the host with their decision. Sometimes the talks ended in marriage, but usually it ended with friendship.
Unless it was a politically necessary marriage. If Simon accepted the marriage talks, the Sweeney family would have no say because of the difference in status, no matter how unreasonable. Of course, that didn’t mean that Louise would necessarily marry Simon in the end.
Ian’s emotions were in a complicated knot, and Simon opened his mouth to speak.
“I…I had to accept. It’s the Sweeney’s side that our elders are paying attention to.”
Ian wondered why their elders cared about the Sweeney family.
“…They don’t want to see the money flow to another noble family?”
“Yes. And at the end of the day it’s not like I have another use.”
Simon spoke self-deprecatingly, leaning his back against the outside of the carriage. Ian, of course, disagreed with him.
“My cousin is competent. By the way, now I know.”
Ian stroke his chin as he walked closer to Simon. Things would have become more complicated if Simon hadn’t accepted the offer.
“If you had not accepted, then another family would have set their sights on her.”
Ian thought of several other potential candidates. Just like his dorm neighbor, who was in the same age group.
“Whoever it might be, they would court her with great enthusiasm.”
“It’s not easy to turn down the royal family’s offer of marriage. Besides, Louise is quite…”
Simon’s words trailed away, and Ian smiled.
“Yes, charming. To everyone.”
“If the courtship period becomes longer, and it’s known that the royal family has interest, Louise would become caught in the inevitable flow.”
“And then only one option of marriage would remain.”
At that natural ending, both young men frowned.
“That’s not ideal.”
Ian murmured with concern. Of course he expected to the treatment of the Sweeney family would come up one day. They were too wealthy to be looked over. There was a limit to putting taxes on them, and it was necessary to discuss ways to incorporate them into aristocratic society in a proper manner. But he thought it would happen a few more years down the line.
“I am perfect in that respect.”
Simon had a rare moment of praise for himself.
“I will not be hurt by Louise’s rejection.”
“Once the formal marriage talks are over, there will not be another proposal for her for some time.”
Simon spoke confidently, but Ian’s didn’t share the same outlook. It was much more complicated, in many ways.
“Simon, if this is what happens to you–”
Simon answered first, as if he wasn’t sure what Ian was worried about.
“I will not be hurt.”
Simon turned away from Ian. Ian reached out to sweep his pitch dark hair and Simon closed his eyes for a moment.
In all honesty, Ian thought he would be angry with Simon. He would be justified if he did. It was as if Simon took the job by himself without consulting him, but Ian knew that there was no opportunity to. Simon couldn’t ask for more time for the former queen to think it over.
But somewhere deep in Simon’s heart, he had a certain greed in favor of this offer. That greed was so strong, perhaps, because Ian was far too gentle to crush it. Or perhaps because Simon himself had been careful.
Simon lifted his head in guilt. He could feel the sincerity of Ian’s concern in the touch of his hair. And now, their dark blue eyes, so alike, faced each other. The many feelings that bound the two were communicated through their eyes instead of words. Among them were negatives emotion, something like envy or greed. However, such feelings are accompanied by sweet premise. Since Ian and Simon could not find anyone who can replace the other, they had no choice but to love each other.
“Last time, did you ask me if I was afraid?”
Ian recalled the conversation they had when they practiced archery, but Simon didn’t answer.
And Ian nodded openly.
“I’m always afraid of Simon Hillard, even though it’s against the rules for me to say this.”
Ian had promised to be the absolute best man. The absolute best man should be fearless.
“But I want you to let me say it today. Because I mean it.”
“I am afraid of you.”
He said those simple words that had been on his mind for a long time.
“I’m afraid that Louise Sweeney will love you.”
Ian’s expression hardened. He could not smile it away like a lie. It was a painful thing that had been pressing on his mind for so long.
“I hope you understand my fear, since it’s not something I can change with my efforts.”
Simon answered him immediately.
“It is impossible to make her choice for her.”
“But now that the marriage talks have begun, you must ask Louise to marry you.”
That was how the talks ended. One side would ask for marriage, and the other would refuse.
“It’s just a form of tradition.”
“But Louise will know.”
Ian was convinced.
“Something…mixed in your words and actions.”
A servant approached them and said the preparations were finished, and Ian clapped Simon on the shoulder and stepped into the carriage. Was it encouragement? Or was gratitude for a favor? Ian clenched his fist.