Louise could not bring herself to say, “All your relatives love you.” She knew how lucky or miraculous it was to have love between family members. The only thing she could do was embrace him, and her former self that resembled him. She was happy that he at least had kind memories of his mother, memories that he valued above all else. That feeling of warmth would support his heart.
So cry as much as you want, eat something, talk to your friend, and you’ll smile again one day.
“I…I didn’t mean to make you cry.”
He swept her cheeks as he murmured with a concerned voice.
“It’s better than crying alone.”
It was with great effort that Louise managed to answer him, and she squeezed him even tighter. He touched Louise lightly on her arm.
“Then, I will cry with you too.”
Then he murmured in a way as if he were sorry for something.
“I didn’t do the same when you were crying before.”
“All ways of consolation are different.”
“I like your way.”
He took a short breath and spoke emphatically.
“Then you’ll cry with me next time?”
Louise realized that her answer was a little bit of a joke. The president crying over Louise! Come to think of it, it certainly was amusing.
“…I hope you don’t have to cry.”
His voice was a whisper.
“But if I say that, then when you cry you’ll want to hide or bury the rest of your feelings in your heart.”
“Wait, do you want me to cry or not?”
“I want you to be someone who is able to cry.”
“I think I know why the president likes my mother. Sorry, I mean, Your Highness–”
Louise quickly corrected her improper use of his title.
“I’m sorry. I made a mistake with Lord Simon too, but sometimes it’s hard to remember. I don’t know how everyone can switch titles so easily.”
Ian smiled. It was only natural that Louise was having trouble with the titles. Usually only children from strict families were trained to quickly change their speech depending on the situation.
“I don’t care which way you call me. I don’t like either of them anyway.”
Louise released her arms that held him, resting her hands on both sides of his waist.
“That’s what Lord Simon said too, but that’s not true. What if I make a mistake in an important situation?”
“I don’t think it’ll be a mistake, since calling me ‘President’ gives a similar feel.”
…Is that so? Come to think of it, it wasn’t like she was calling him by his first name.
“So even when you’re careless and call me President…it’s not really my name anyway.”
“Well, then you can not tease me if the word President comes out?”
“I only tease when I’m in the mood.”
He smiled playfully at her, and his eyes were now dried of tears. That was a smile to Louise was like the devil.
“You really are like the devil. It’s a terrible talent.”
“Oh, it’s a secret between me and Sir Hesse.”
Ian frowned as he leaned his head against the window frame.
“You keep secrets between you and Lord Hesse?”
There was no reason to deny it. Louise wondered if she should add something to her explanation, like that Sir Hesse was bound by a sense of comradeship. But before she could begin, there was a knock at the door.
It was the careful voice of the maid. A single thought struck Louise’s mind.
“Miss, after I finish cleaning the drawing room, would you like me to help you dress into your nightgown?”
She was doomed. If Ian was discovered in her room at this time, Louise’s parents would be called immediately. Perhaps His Majesty the king will come too. Their punishment was sure to be severe.
Louise remembered a horrible punishment she received just four years ago, where Ian, Simon and herself were ordered to shovel soil in the greenhouse from morning to evening. Overturning the soil let out a terrible stench. They might be punished to three days of shoveling this time. Her skin crawled at the idea. She would rather take an extra supplementary class from Professor Hewitt than do that kind of manual labor.
“S-stay hidden! Understand?”
Louise’s whisper was frantic, but Ian bore the same urgency. Where and how would he hide? Louise wildly looked around until her eyes alighted on her unmade bed, filled with childhood dolls and lots of large cushions, and shadowed deeply by a canopy.
She pointed her finger at the bed and Ian understood immediately, jumping into the bed without delay and pulling the thin blanket over his head. He also did not forget to grab her beloved rabbit doll Alice, which Louise used to hold as a young girl. Why did he grab Alice! She was thinking of putting her on top of the blanket to hide his huge body! Although come to think of it, it was unlikely that little doll could cover him up. Louise hastily arranged some large cushions and books over him instead.
“Are you asleep now, Miss?”
“Oh, no, come in.”
Louise answered as she quickly drew the windows curtains shut. The area around the bed was now perfectly concealed. Unless the maid could see a rabbit more than a hundred meters in the dark, Ian’s presence would be unnoticed.
“You’ve darkened the room.”
Louise couldn’t very well answer, “Yes, because the Crown Prince is hugging my rabbit doll,” so she instead gave a weak smile.
“Shall I light some more candles?”
“I like it like this. Is it too inconvenient?”
“No, if this is what you want… But Miss, please don’t stay in the dark if you’re feeling depressed.”
“I know. I’m just going to fall asleep. I’m tired.”
Louise changed into her nightgown by the light of a small candle the maid brought. Louise’s hair was also released from its braids.
Louise lower her head briefly and smiled in an attempt to lighten the mood.
“It’s so nice that you don’t forget to say such lovely words. Would you like me to make your bed?”
“Ah, um, no!”
Louise sputtered and waved her arms like a fool. Great, she probably looked really suspicious now.
Louise tried to straighten her face, but the maid didn’t seem to agree.
“I’m not sure. Everyone in this mansion knows that you can’t sleep on summer nights. I’ll change the sheets and bring you a new blanket. You’ll feel much better.”
Louise shook her head furiously.
“Are you sure you’re fine?”
The maid’s face was pinched with worry, and Louise didn’t seem all that right since the funeral.
Louise answered sincerely.
“Then I’m glad you say so.”
Before the maid left the room she insisted that Louise call her if she couldn’t fall asleep, and she’ll change and air out the sheets for her. The maid was so sweet. Louise smiled until the maid closed the door behind her, then Louise dashed towards the bed.
“You’ll be fine now. No one goes in or out when I sleep.”
Louise pulled away the books and cushions on the bed.
“And don’t hold Alice so tight. Hug her gently or you’ll squash her.”
There was no reply.
“But this bed is so soft.”
She could see him wiggling under the blanket.
“You can’t sleep in my room!”
“Of course not!”
Louise pulled down the blanket in a panic. His eyes were shut, and he snuggled Alice near his heart.
“But you slept in my carriage.”
“We were young then.”
“Don’t worry. We’re young enough today. “
“How many of us already had their birthday celebration as an adult?”
“It’s not like you’ve suddenly grown up after a certain day. I remember you said that.”
Then he yawned hugely. God, he really is going to sleep! Louise argued with herself for a moment before pulling the blanket back over her chest. Come to think of it, Ian had said he couldn’t sleep for several days. If she kicked him out of here, who knows when he would rest next.
“…Can you please return Alice before sunrise?”
In other words, he should leave before morning.
“Don’t worry. If I can’t leave on my feet, Hesse will carry me out.”
“Don’t bother Sir Hesse too much. He looked very tired.”
Louise recalled Hesse’s face before he had leaned on her shoulder.
“You really like Hesse.”
“Of course. Sir Hesse told me that he liked me, too.”
Ian grabbed Louise’s hand on the blanket in shock.
“I think I’ve heard something that I can’t easily let pass, now.”
“You can let it pass.”
After all, Hesse seemed to like Ian.
In the blink of an eye, Ian sat up, grabbed her by the shoulders, then pressed her directly onto the bed. Now it was Louise who was lying down, with Ian hovering above her.
“I can’t let that pass today.”