Chapter 186 – Just Like Always
When adults said that marriage would cause one to face reality, they weren’t wrong. Whenever there was a union of two different families, it was natural that many problems would arise.
Louise gripped the skirt of her dress. It had been half a year since she became a happy spring bride, and now she faced her first headache. The cause of it, surprisingly, came from her own family.
“I’m relieved that you look so healthy.”
It was Louise’ maternal grandfather and the head of the baron family. He never used to make an appearance in Louise’s life before, but now he hovered around Louise and began playing the role of a caring grandfather. She didn’t want to see him, but he was so shameless that there was no way to refuse. Besides, she couldn’t be rude to him in front of so many eyes.
In the end, all Louise could do was smile diplomatically. He must have seen the insincerity and contempt in her eyes, nevertheless, he came to Louise in the guise of concern.
“Yes, I’m healthy. Actually, I’ve been healthy all this time. From a very young age until now.”
“Because my daughter has raised you well, of course you would be.”
He wasn’t wrong, but she was offended by the fact that he called her mother “my daughter.”
“…Parents can be very convenient.”
One could discard a grandchild and have someone else take care of them until they were useful. It was more difficult to retrieve trash that was thrown away.
“Parents and children have complicated relationships. Maybe you’ll understand later when you become a parent.”
“I won’t understand. Baron.”
“It takes time, but with your keen intellect you will.”
Louise was appalled by his persistence and benevolent smile. She turned away under the pretext of a previous engagement. It felt almost like running away, but she didn’t want to look at him.
As soon as Louise returned to her room, she leaned her forehead against the chilly window. Regret swirled in her thoughts like the cool autumn wind. Should have been more firm with him? Or should she have been a little sweeter?
She heaved a tired sigh. It wasn’t good to fill the day with so many anxieties. She already worked hard and had many obligations to attend to. Louise opened her eyes, and started when she saw what was in front of her.
Hesse was leaning right outside the window.
Louise hurriedly pulled open the window handle.
“It’s dangerous. What floor is this…?”
She paused when she realized what she was saying, then gave a laugh.
“Well, you always come like this.”
“This way, I’ll always surprise Louise of the Greenhouse.”
Not surprisingly, she would forget any moody thoughts she had.
“Yes, I was surprised today, too. Would you like to come in?”
“That’s a sweet offer, but I’ll pass today. Come here. “
Louise caught his arm with familiar ease.
“Is Ian up to something again?”
At her question, Hesse simply took hold of Louise and grinned.
“You should have asked before allowing this villain to catch you!”
Hesse tightly held on to her and jumped to the ground.
He ran across the path as he carried her in his arms, and she glanced up at him.
“Do you have an agreement with Dame Carlson?”
Lily Carson. She was Louise’s bodyguard, and stuck to her principles as severely as Professor Hewitt.
Hesse didn’t care about principles at all, and naturally she hated him.
“I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to bother her.”
“Wouldn’t she be in trouble if I disappeared?”
“You don’t have to worry about that, Louise of the Greenhouse. Unlike me, she’s a hard-working knight.”
“It means that the chase has already begun!”
Hesse sped up into a sprint and ducked down just as sharp dagger flew over his head and was stuck in a nearby tree.
“That’s okay. I’m not going to die until I take over as captain of the greenhouse.”
Another dagger narrowly missed his head, but he kept laughing in unbounded glee. After covering a considerable distance through the grounds, he jumped onto a statue in a quiet garden.
Hesse turned around and grinned at the knight following him.
“Hesse Freya! You disgusting man!”
“I’ve been transporting Louise of the Greenhouse since childhood.”
“Didn’t I tell you to stop with that terrible title?”
“Even if Louise of the Greenhouse allows it?”
Shouting at Hesse didn’t seem to work, so Lily turned to Louise instead.
“I’ll get you from away that rogue knight immediately, Your Highness.”
“You don’t have to save me…”
“Oh! That sounds fun! Let’s play with her!”
Hesse crowed and jumped from the statue, and Lily’s pursuit continued.
“Being a knight isn’t a game, Sir Hesse!”
“It may not be a game, but secretly crossing the palace wall is!”
“Are you crazy?! Are you crazy?!”
The two dashed across the grounds as they yelled at each other. Their fights were already infamous, so hardly anyone paid any attention to them. The patrol log probably already had an entry that said, “Hesse Freya and Lily Carlson had a good time.” Lily would fiercely object to that.
The palace wall loomed up at them, and Hesse quickly narrowed the distance before skidding to a stop.
No matter how strong of a knight Hesse was, he wasn’t strong enough to break through a wall. Lily Carlson caught up to him a moment later.
“What’s so wrong about being an honorable knight!”
“Well, if we don’t get past the wall now, I won’t get to trade my shift.”
“Are you crazy?! Are you crazy?! Manipulating your shifts, trying to get over the wall…! You’re going to be sacked for treason!”
The answer to Lily’s words came from over the high wall.
“Well, I don’t want to fire him yet.”
Louise and Lily looked upwards at the same time, and saw Ian squatting on top of the wall and looking down.
“Your Highness …! H-how!”
“This is the place I used to use every time I ran away to the greenhouse. Well, more like Hesse.”
“Yes, Your highness. I brought Louise of the Greenhouse, just as you ordered!”
Hesse smiled as he shifted Louise in his arms, looking expectant of praise.
“I didn’t say you could hug her close like that.”
“Well, Louise of the Greenhouse allowed this, so I don’t need your permission. And most of all.”
Hesse deposited Louise to the ground and gave a clumsy salute.
“I’m a man whore who likes all women!”
Apparently that was still on his mind. Ian gave a grimace and looked at Louise.
“Remember that trick I taught you before. It’s not that different.”
She remembered the time they crossed the wall at the Academy.
“Can I do that with dignity? Now, right here?”
“Didn’t I tell you that dignity comes not from the action, but from the person themselves?”
It was something for a crown prince to say while squatting inelegantly atop a wall.
“If it’s too hard, then I’ll help you.”
“Don’t be stupid. I’m not useless enough to need help!”
Louise pulled off shoes and threw them up at the wall, and Ian deftly caught them in the air. She lifted the skirt of her dress and began climbing. In truth, since Ian graduated, she had scaled the Academy walls several times to sneak into the shopping center.
“Great, but one thing needs to be corrected.”
“You’ll admit that I’m good at crossing walls?”
“No, you’re clumsy at climbing walls.”
“What? I really am good—”
When Louise spoke, someone from a distance jumped and then scaled the high wall. The movements were quick, stylish and elegant.
Louise was more comfortable calling Simon by his first name again, just like at the Academy.
“I didn’t know Simon would come. It’s still in the middle of the semester. What about the Academy?”
“I came here just for the weekend. Through the main gate, not through walls.”
Simon was a teaching assistant at the Academy, with the goal of becoming a professor.
“Ian wanted to go to the greenhouse.”
“We’re going there?”
Louise turned around to look at Ian, and he reached out his hand to Louise.
“Let’s go to the greenhouse.”
Hands joined, and the pair leapt down from the wall at the same time.
Ian had once said, “Is there anything I can’t find in this country?” This time too, there was a carriage waiting for them. It was rather plain-looking, but it was sturdy. Hesse seated himself on the roof while Lily situated herself on the driver’s seat and sighed.
The carriage began to move slowly.
“How is the Academy?”
Louise turned to Simon sitting on her right.
“It’s busy right before the exams. I’m surprised because I didn’t know it was so much work teaching.”
He pinched the space between his eyebrows as if he had a headache.
“Do the students give you a hard time?”
“Them, and the professors…Well, let’s drop the gossip. Anyway, students are boisterous and energetic. Especially the student council.”
Despite Simon’s words, he recovered his small smile. His job must be difficult, but he must like the life there.
“They’re resisting the unexpected menus and trying to cut down on the dean’s speech time. This year’s top student seems to be working hard.”
“It is a great tradition for the top student to serve in the student council.”
“Well, they seem to think of it as a relic of an old age.”
“Traditions are a precious asset!”
Louise huffed vigorously, then turned to Ian who was sitting on her left.
“Why did you suddenly decide to go to the greenhouse?”
On unofficial capacity too.
He just smiled and gave a vague answer.
“Is it because of me?”
Ian and Louise shared each other’s schedules. Ian also knew about her maternal grandfather. How much Louise detested him.
“That’s one reason.”
“Or because Simon is stressed ahead of the exam period?”
“That’s a reason.”
“Or is it because you’re still struggling having to deal with the floods?”
“That’s a reason too, of course.”
The three of them all recalled the difficulties they had, and heaved out a long sigh at the same time. Louise spoke in a soft murmur.
“Life is not so easy.”
Even after growing up and getting married, she still had a mountain to climb before her.
“It’s not easy.”
Simon nodded in sympathy.
“That’s why I called the two of you and asked to cross the wall together.”
“If you think about.”
Louise leaned back and laughed.
“It was fun climbing the wall together.”
“Including the fact that the group is unchanged.”
Ian nodded in agreement.
“But what are we going to do in the greenhouse?”
“Don’t worry, I’ve prepared something. There’s nothing I can’t get in this country.”
Ian opened a large box opposite of him. It contained various games, as well as cards and chess.
“You didn’t have to cross the wall just to lose to me. Both of you.”
There was a hint of smugness in his voice. Simon also won the unofficial chess tournament last summer.
“Don’t worry. I’ll still uphold my promise to you.”
The promise that Ian would never let Simon surpass him. The oath between them once aggravated their childhood, but now it was changed into something lighter and looser.
Inside the slow moving carriage, the trio recalled the games of their past. Despite drawing from the same history, the three of them came to different conclusions.
Ian had the highest win rate, and concluded that he would still be the strongest in the future.
Simon said he was the best, except in times when unreasonable conditions were attached.
Louise insisted that the past was not important, and she would be the one to win.
They traded war stories in the narrow carriage, when it eventually stopped. They had arrived in front of a greenhouse.
Ian stepped out of the carriage first, followed by Simon.
“Let’s go, Louise.”
Ian turned and reached his hand into the carriage.
Simon laughed and reached a hand on the other side. Louise took turns looking at the two men. Even when they were adults, when they came here they acted like boys.
A smile soon spread on Louise’s face as well as she returned as “Louise Sweeney.”
She reached out with both hands and caught the familiar grasp perfectly. From both of them.
After stepping off the wagon, Louise began to walk ahead much faster than usual. The smooth glass of the greenhouse glinted in the sun, as if to say “I’m here.”
She already anticipated the fun and laughter the three of them would have today. It would be in preparation for all the things that would make them collapse in tiredness tomorrow.
“By the way, which game should we play first?”
Louise’s question was answered by both at the same time.
“Cards, of course.”
“Goddess of apples.”
Ian and Simon turned their heads towards each other, and so Louise gave a clap of her hands.
“Then to be fair, let’s start with chess. Which I’ve been feeling confident about recently, by the way.”
The refusal coming from both sides only made her even more determined to have her way. With this kind of disagreement, it would be a miracle if any of them could start a game.
“I like playing card games. All three of us can play it together.”
“The goddess of apples is a game that three can play.”
“So that’s how the both of you are going to hold off chess!”
But since the three of them had been friends for a long time, they could definitely come to an agreement.
“The best thing to do is to eat while playing chess. We’re all hungry.”
“We can have sandwiches while playing cards.”
“There’s already something to eat in the name of the game, so we can eat while playing goddess of apples.”
Well, maybe they couldn’t come to an agreement this time.‥
Just like the three of them have always been.