As their lips fell away, she saw it briefly. For the first time, she saw that his usual expression of composure was replaced with a flush of embarrassment. Normally Louise would have laughed at having made him look like that. This time, however, the stiff corners of her mouth didn’t move.
She took a half step away, but he tugged Louise close to him in response. She could hear a deep, deep sound thrumming in his chest. His arms firmly encircled her waist and neck, as if trying to separate her from the world and bring her to him.
After that, everything became quiet. The sound of worms in the grass. The sound of the moon and stars tracing their way in the sky. Even the sound of the cool wind breezing through air. She couldn’t hear it. Nothing.
Louise slowly exhaled. It seemed that she had held her breath when his lips touched hers. She hadn’t known what to do. She took in a shuddering breath. She could feel Ian tightening his arms around her. Maybe he misunderstood, thinking that Louise was trying to get away from him. Maybe it was because she changed her posture. Or maybe it was because Louise’s breathing returned to normal.
There was a sound in his quiet world. Unfamiliar yet familiar at the same time. It was the sound of his heart that she heard in the tea room one day. If one listened to it quietly, one would realize he was really alive, not a character in the novel.
His heart was pounding painfully fast. Louise closed her eyes and listened to the sound a little more. She was so happy that the speed of his heartbeat didn’t lie. At the same time, she felt a little sad at the sound. Maybe, maybe. His untruthful heart may one day slow down beat by beat in front of Louise. She would miss the sound she was hearing now.
She didn’t want this stupid worry. Really. Her head was already mixed up and out of control, caught desperately between “Is this crazy?” and “But this feels good.”
A book appeared in her mind in a flurry between the two struggles. It was the original story. When she turned the slippery page, she saw a scene where Louise Sweeney confessed to Ian. Of course it was not a very beautiful confession, as the beautiful scenes were reserved for the main couple. The author’s unfair distribution left Louise dumped on the spot.
As she turned the pages a little longer, she saw a foolish Louise who didn’t realize that she was dumped. No, come to think of it, even if she knew she was dumped, she couldn’t help it. One could not get rid of those feelings easily, and the original Louise, clutching her head in her hands, now had to witness every moment he fell in love with another person.
…Wow. Author. You’re not even human. It’s unfair to drive the characters to this end. She understood the heart with which Louise tormented Stella. How hateful she must have been!
‘O-of course, I am not supporting Louise’s mean actions…’
Louise slowly pushed against Ian’s shoulders. She raised her head slowly and saw Ian gazing down at her, and her ears turned red. Why was he looking at her so worriedly? He spoke as if he read her mind.
“…You look like something unfair happened.”
“Th-there’s nothing unfair.”
Louise quickly wiped her expression.
“Now you look less bitter.”
Louise took on a grim expression again.
“Yes, it’s unfair.”
Louise answered him crossly, but actually she was just a little scared.
He apologized right away, but Louise was surprised.
“Just for your resentment. Whatever it is.”
He spoke in a gentle whisper as he swept back her locks that had fallen over her shoulder.
“I’m sorry. I am wrong.”
It sounded like he was saying“I’m sorry I dumped you in the original,” even though she knew he didn’t mean that in the slightest.
“Th-the president doesn’t have to apologize.”
“Then you should apologize.”
“Why is that?”
“I am hurt. Because you’re making the face of a child when something bad happens. And now I’m wondering if I’m the bad thing to you.”
Louise was momentarily speechless at his words. Come to think of it, if anyone saw a face like hers after they kissed her they would feel hurt too.
Louise was bad.
Louise apologized right away, and Ian waited for a little more. But Louise did not deny the expression “something bad.”
“So it’s bad.”
He scratched his head as if he were embarrassed.
“Nothing. Anyways, Simon and I are happy to see you becoming haughty.”
“Do I act like I’m haughty?”
“A little bit. Just enough to make me think that you can be a little more haughty.”
“But that’s too hard…”
“Even if it’s hard, I hope you’ll be more like that to others. You’re too soft.”
Was she? She just didn’t want to make any enemies. She believed that if she was nice, she would be blessed and rewarded in the future.
“Simon is worried, too. Sometimes you’re too indulgent that he doesn’t know what to do.”
“Simon never told me anything like that…”
“Of course he doesn’t. That why he often hangs around you to help you.”
“Just like a prince.”
“…Isn’t it harsh to say that with a real prince in front of you? I feel like there’s some sort of professional prejudice.”
“Oh, I mean a prince in the fairy tale.”
“Well I’m a real prince.”
Don’t worry, Your Highness. You’re a prince in a book. A romantic fantasy with an R-rated edition.
Louise smiled, and Ian held out his hand, just like when he first suggested they climb to the roof.
“Come here. Walking under this kind of sky is new for me.”
After a little consideration she took him by the hand, and they slowly began to walk around the perimeter of the roof.
“Come to think of it.”
Louise remembered a story she had heard in the distant past. Some knowledge she acquired before she entered this world.
“The starlight we see comes from the past.”
“What does that mean?”
“I just heard it from somewhere. I don’t know the details. Only that it takes a long time for the light from a star to reach us.”
“So when can we see the starlight from today?”
“I don’t know. Maybe after we die?”
Ian smiled, but Louise did not know where he found amusement in this astronomy trivia. He was willing to explain.
“The tenses between heaven and the earth are different.”
“Now you’re criticizing nature’s grammar.”
“I’m not criticizing. But people think that using consistent tenses are important, right?”
“Well, it’s on the exam.”
“But in reality, tenses don’t synch up between heaven and earth.”
Is that so? It does seem that way.
“On the other hand, I’m grateful.”
“That the grammar of nature is wrong?”
“Well, if Mother Nature’s grammar is so terrible, I think it’s okay if I’m a little bit clumsy in mine.”
Well, he had mastered the accents and grammar of various languages. She was sure he matched tenses perfectly.
“Well, not just grammar. Things like manners and behavior too.”
He was reminded of the rules that constrained him. He was tempted to put those down by relying on the irrationally of the heavens and earth.
“I would be a bad crown prince if I forget those, of course.”
So he treasured again the many rules that were given to him.
“I must have said something unnecessary.”
“No, it’s fine. When I think of this moment in the future, I’m sure I’ll smile.”
Then he muttered something in Ajentin. Was he saying that he will be smiling in the future? After all, he was very good at speaking foreign languages.
The two walked a little more. They had circled the roof for several rounds already, but they enjoyed talking with each other and didn’t think to go back just yet.
TN: I’m doing a mass release special, and you get to decide! To vote which novel gets a mass release, click on the link to Crystal Crater’s poll below.