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Chapter 175

It was winter now, but not yet New Year’s. After Louise had left the Academy, she ran out in front of the Sweeney greenhouse to receive an approaching carriage. The carriage stopped and the door opened, and a haggard-looking young man stepped out. Louise stared at him for a moment, before steeling herself for the words she had to say.

“Mr. Audmonial.”

“…”

Ian looked back with a crestfallen expression. He had asked her to call him by his proper name after a year, and that was the answer that came back.

“Mr. Audmonial?”

He would rather be called “President” than that, but he didn’t say it out loud otherwise she would call him that forever.

“Yes, Miss Sweeney.”

He replied in kind as a form of revenge, and Louise let out a chuckle as if she didn’t care that much what he called her.

“The title you chose is a little inefficient.”

“Why?”

“Isn’t it too long?”

“It’s fine. Thank you for your concern.”

He couldn’t argue with what she wanted to call him, but “Mr. Audmonial” sounded strange to his ears. Claire and Dean would probably laugh at him for three hours straight if they found out.

“More importantly, Mr. Audmonial.”

“Yes, Miss Sweeney.”

“Did you bump your head in the carriage?”

Louise pointed to his disheveled hair. Ian’s grandmother obviously would not have let him leave the palace in such a state.

“I was just fidgeting with it a little.”

He had done it out of nervousness, and in response, Louise gently lifted herself up on her toes and gently brushed his hair into place. Ian slightly bent over to help her.

He couldn’t help but watch Louise’s face as she focused on arranging his hair. He thought that Louise had already gone through her last growth spurt, but apparently she wasn’t done yet. In the year they hadn’t seen each other, she had matured further. He didn’t want to be too conscious, but she was even prettier as well.

“Alright, it’s done.”

She spoke in a soft whisper and took a few steps back.

“You’re fine now. You l

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ook sharp.”

“For reference, how is your father feeling today?”

The word “father” sounded awkward in Ian’s mouth, and Louise gave a shrug and a thin smile.

“Not good, actually.”

“…I see.”

Ian had come to the greenhouse with a specific purpose. He wanted to say hello to the Sweeneys, who had taken care of him for a long time, and clarify his relationship with Louise. More simply, he wanted to love her, marry her, and spend his life being good to her.

‘Her father might pierce me with gardening shears.’

Ian couldn’t help but think of a bleak outcome in his future.

“He’s only grumpy because I misclassified some of his documents. I’m not used to doing his work yet…but he’s not one to take it out on you.”

No, Ian wasn’t convinced that Mr. Sweeney was in a bad mood because Louise made a mistake. He was in a bad mood ever since Ian contacted him.

‘Maybe he’ll make me shovel dirt.’

Ian hoped that his future contained something as benign as shoveling, rather than something as dangerous as confronting someone with gardening shears.

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As it turned out, Mr. Sweeney’s bad mood was also due to Ian.

“Did you hear me?”

Mr. Sweeney sat down next to Ian, a terrifying expression on the older man’s face.

“I understand your concerns. Louise Sweeney had just graduated from the Academy, and in many ways you’re right to be nervous—”

“Do you think I’m nervous?”

“Of course you’re not nervous!”

“That’s true. By the way, you reversed what you just said in less than five seconds.”

Mr. Sweeney stroke his chin, and Ian felt his stomach turn. Mr. Sweeney seemed to enjoy stringing Ian along with his words. There was an awkward silence before Mr. Sweeney finally spoke.

“One time…when Louise turned nine.”

Unprompted, he began to reminisce about the past.

“It was summer. Louise and I rode a small boat to see the fireflies together.”

His voice lifted at the memory, and Ian was unsure where this was going.

“Night fell, and little Louise Sweeney started dozing in my arms. Her little head nodded several times. Oh, how cute she was!”

“What are you saying all of a sudden! Father!”

Louise yelled at him, but once her father started down memory lane he wouldn’t stop.

“When fireflies began to appear, I patted my little girl’s chubby cheeks several times.”

“Father, please…”

Louise begged him earnestly, and Ian finally figured out what he should do.

“So what happened?”

He encouraged the response. When an older man tells you about his valuable experiences, he must not be interrupted.

“Her purple eyes blinked open slowly. She’s a smart young girl, so she found fireflies quickly.”

It was easy to find a glowing firefly in the dark, even when one wasn’t smart. Ian, however, was smart enough himself not to point it out.

“So very smart.”

Ian continued to encourage him, and Louise just wanted to clamp both her ears shut.

“My precious daughter watched the glow for a long time, then looked up at me. Then, she said—”

Mr. Sweeney couldn’t speak for a moment.

“She said, ‘I love Father so much’…”

“Father, are you crying?”

She stared at his moistened eyes, and Mr. Sweeney stood up and left the room without replying. Mrs. Sweeney smiled and offered an explanation for her husband’s behavior.

“He’s just feeling emotional.”

“I’ll speak to him.”

Ian immediately followed Mr. Sweeney out the door. 

Outside the greenhouse, Mr. Sweeney stood in front of a large fir tree, still holding his face with his hands. He turned around when he heard Ian’s approach, and he smoothed his expression into something calmer.

“Your Highness.”

His eyes were dry, as if the fuss he made earlier was simply a ruse.

“Yes.”

“I was the last person to see Count Warren.”

He was referring to Ian’s maternal grandfather. That was sufficient warning.

“I…know.”

His grandfather didn’t want the pain that came from the intermingling of statuses to be repeated.

“Even when you knew, you came here today.”

“Yes.”

“Your Highness.”

A heavy breath escaped him. 

“Speak.”

“I’m crazy about money.”

“…”

“I’m not trying to show off, but I do know how to tame the beast that is wealth.”

“I…know.”

“I can even use this beast to show you a great manner of cheap tricks, enough to cause an itch for the royal family.”

Of course, it wasn’t something great enough to determine the survival of the nation. But it was enough to annoy and upset them.

“If you hear it as blackmail, then you’ve heard it quite properly. Your Highness.”

“You have the right to say that.”

“I know. If not me, then who would? You are trying to take my daughter to a barren land!”

He glared fiercely at Ian. There were a mixture of emotions on his face, but mostly of worry.

“And…it won’t be of any help. I mean, I won’t be of any help, Your Highness.”

“Louise Sweeney will help me. She’s a great person.”

“That’s too obvious to be interesting.”

“I’ll be of help to Louise Sweeney, too.”

“I don’t know. It’s not enough. It’s not enough yet.”

Mr. Sweeney shook his head. Ian understood his feelings. No father would want to send their child to barren land.

“So, Your Highness, you have to show me.”

A sure sign that Ian would do his best to keep Louise’s future safe.


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