“What are you talking about?”
Claire looked up. She hadn’t shed any tears.
Dean’s brow creased.
“If you look like that, you’ll cry alone later.”
“That’s a funny illusion.”
Claire turned her heel and began to walk away, trying to hide the embarrassment in her face.
It was true that she felt like crying, but she thought she had been able to hide her feelings properly. No one had ever pointed out her expression before.
But somewhere on her face, her heart was reflected, and Dean noticed it immediately. It wasn’t simply because they spent so much time together. It was possible because he paid such close attention to her all that time.
Claire looked over her shoulder. Her young D still stood there, gazing at her silently.
Claire reached out her hand with a smile. It was a very confused smile, but she liked that she could still smile like this now.
The winter wind blew through her thin, outstretched fingers, a constant reminder of the season. However, warm hands melted the winter like summer. Dean approached her.
“….Don’t do that.”
The words he said referred to the confused expression Claire had just shown.
I can see what you’re thinking, so don’t do that.
So what if she didn’t? Clare didn’t answer, looking at their two beautiful entwined hands.
“Don’t do it. It’s painful.”
But when she heard the word “painful”, the words came out of her mouth without a second of thought.
“Not for my benefit, but for yours. You idiot.”
Claire stared questioningly at Dean. His cheeks were slightly red under his scarf. She thought it was from the cold, but on second thought, could it be because they were holding hands? But they’ve held hands many times before.
“Really, so dumb about it.”
He complained with a slight puff and started walking again. Their pace slowed a little, and naturally the two of them fell in step together.
“I’ll take some medicine for the weekend.”
“Really? But I’ll be in the capital that day…”
“Come see me when you get back from the capital.”
“Just do it.”
“I’ll listen to everything you’ll share.”
“You want to hear everything?”
Dean tilted his head a little and imagined what Claire would say when she returned from the capital.
“Yes. You can complain to me that the dress decorations look like crap.”
“And that the shoes hurt and were pinching your feet.”
“Do I usually say that when picking out a dress?”
“And maybe you tried another terrible hat at Madame Emily’s store. That sort of thing.”
It was a joke, but he looked seriously back at Claire.
“I’ll listen to everything.”
“Tell me all of it.”
“How could you say that…”
“I want to hear it.”
By this time, they arrived at the entrance to the infirmary. It was the end of the cold epidemic, and no one else was in the corridor. The two stood shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the healer’s room.
Claire finally gave a sigh of relief.
“I’ll see you when I come back from the capital.”
They opened the door to the office to an annoyed healer. Dean told him his symptoms, and was inevitably given the infamous medicine. Dean opened the lid gingerly and grimaced, while Claire smiled as if to say, ‘Don’t break your promise.’
The weekend soon arrived.
Louise opened her eyes, hugging the hot water bottle close to her body. After Claire had returned from the infirmary, she informed them that the healer said it would be even colder this weekend. His weather forecast was never wrong, and today proved it again.
Louise set aside the hot water bottle, then dressed herself snugly with thick clothes and a scarf. She still didn’t have gloves, however. Claire generously promised to buy woolen gloves for Louise when she went to the capital that weekend.
‘Claire said she would be leaving early this morning.’
She said with a bright expression she was going for a fitting for her wedding dress. In the afternoon, she would return to the Academy and give the gloves to Louise.
‘She really is getting married.’
With a man like that.
Louise left the dorm with a rather gloomy face, but the shock of crisp, cold air soon chased it away. All she thought of now was wanting to go back to her warm blankets and just hibernate.
Her footsteps became increasingly urgent as she headed towards the library, as Ian had said at the last student council meeting that they had to help out there. Louise wondered if it had to do with Stella, but it turned out that the dean apparently bought a lot of used books and said he needed someone to inspect it. She wasn’t sure exactly why.
Louise spotted Ian as she approached the building. She paused. That stupid man was standing in the cold with only his thin coat again, waiting for her arrival. If he was doing that, he should at least wait in a warm place, or wear a scarf. What if he caught a bad cold?
Ian spotted Louise standing frozen like a statue, and his coat flapped in the wind as he approached her.
“Why are you just standing there? Did you forget something?”
She saw a puff of white breath escape his lips. That was proof that the temperature had fallen below zero.
“It’s not me who forgot anything, but you. Aren’t you freezing?”
“Of course I am. It’s winter.”
“Then why don’t you dress more warmly?”
Louise pointed to his unbuttoned coat. That had to be downright brutal.
“I’m warmly dressed.”
He gave a casual shrug of his shoulders.
Was there really magic on his coat?
“Do you have a scarf or gloves?”
“Hmm…do I need it?”
“But it’s cold.”
“In this weather, I’ll still feel cold even with a scarf and gloves on, right?”
He looked at Louise expectantly.
“Yes, but still.”
She answered with a pout on her face.
“It’s more efficient to wear casual clothes.”
“If you catch a cold, you’ll lose your efficiency.”
“It’s okay. I can’t catch a cold. Ever.”
“Disease doesn’t discriminate against status.”
“There is an emotional disease that only local aristocrats actually suffer from. They say it’s caused by desire and disappointment in the capital.”
“…Are you serious?”
“Try shelf 180 from the library. There must be a book there. But more importantly.”
He adjusted Louise’s scarf.
“Anyway, you have to be strong yourself. Don’t catch a cold.”
He pulled the scarf up her nose, he stared back at Louise in the winter scenery. He loved the way Louise was wrapped up like this. Her face and small ears peeked through the scarf, her cheeks were flushed red, and her eyes were slightly squinted in the cold.
“You are a true seasonal person.”
“Yes. You’re always sensitive to heat and cold.”
“I’m not sensitive.”
He smiled and carefully brushed Louise’s hair with his hands.