Warning: This article may contain spoilers, view at your own risk.

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Louis Howard -Preview

You're princess of Wysteria now, and you're tasked with choosing your prince.
The prime candidate appears to be Duke Louis Howard, your new dancing instructor.
But why has he been treating you so coldly ever since you became princess?
Louis "I don't think you've got what it takes to be princess."
Tina "Why is it you're so against me becoming princess?"
Tina "Why is it you're so against me becoming princess?"
Louis "The palace is no place for a girl like you."
Tina "Because I'm a commoner, you mean?"
Louis "That's right."
His lips were now so close to my own they practically touched.
Louis "Because if a commoner like yourself were to become princess,
Louis "it would not end happily."
You soon realize why people whisper that Louis is made of ice.
Louis "I assure you, I'll never be prince consort."
And yet you also catch glimpses of his sweet side.
Louis "Let's begin."
The music began to play, and Louis took my right hand with a graceful sweep.
But the eyes of the court are watching to see what happens between you two.
Giles "Are you finding that you and Duke Howard are compatible?"
Tina "What?"
Giles "Have you forgotten that he, too, is one of the candidates for prince consort?"
And everyone has an opinion on the situation.
Sid "But Louis, he's not interested in being a prince."
Sid "Let's just say you and Louis have got something in common."
It turns out there's more to Louis's background than he lets on.
Just when you think you know him, he surprises you. Who is Louis, really?

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集滿3張CG,即可得到動態小娃的獎勵
動態路易玩他的鳥 (語法正確,但字義怪怪der~) ,鳥還叼著故事中很重要的---小白花!!!
希望未來會有席德被他的狗玩的動態小娃~~許願!!!
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↑ 榮幸之至
  

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 Louis Howard Part 1

I could feel strong arms around my waist, steadying me. I turned my head to find—
Tina "D-Duke Howard."
Louis met my eyes with an icy gaze.
(He saved me?!)
Louis "After that impressive performance you made earlier today
Louis "I'd not expected you to turn in your tiara so soon."
The faintest of smiles drifted across his chiseled lips.
Louis "Not that I object to your decision to quit.
Louis "In fact, I'd be more than happy to assist in your escape."
There was a hint of mirth in Louis's voice.
(He thinks I'm trying to run away?)
Louis "I don't think you've got what it takes to be princess."
Louis "The thought of the kingdom's future resting on a commoner like you makes me sick."
(So that's why he's so eager to get rid of me.
(Guess I'll have to break the bad news.)
Tina "I'm afraid you're mistaken. I have every intention of returning."
The glimmer of mirth faded as Louis's gaze grew cold again.
Tina "I was merely going out to apologize to one of my students."
Louis "For your failure to find the flower, I presume?"
Tina "Th-that's right."
(He remembered)
Louis "Are you truly foolish enough to believe in a fairy tale?"
When he introduced himself in the garden,
Louis told me not to bother remembering our meeting.
So I assumed he'd forgotten about it himself.
Louis "And after you apologize to your student, what then?"
Tina "I'll return to the palace to fulfill my duties as princess elect."
Louis "I doubt you even know what those duties are."
Even with his calm delivery, Louis's words hit hard.
In fact, he was right. I knew little of what the job entailed.
Tina "I said that I would do it. I won't go back on my word."
Louis "And why not?"
To my surprise, Louis's icy gaze melted to reveal not anger, but a fleeting glimmer of sorrow.

========================

Louis was squeezed so close to me that I could feel his calm, steady breaths on my cheek.

Louis    "Why not?"
Tina    "I told you, I gave my word. I won't abandon my responsibilities as princess elect."
(Louis looked so sad for a moment...)
Louis released his hold on me and turned away.
Louis    "You really are a fool."
Tina    "Huh?"
Stunned by his comment, I stared blankly as Louis descended the stairs.
Louis    "A fool who's beyond saving now."
(What's he talking about?)
Tina    "Hey, wait!"
Louis walked on, leaving me to puzzle over his words. He stopped at the door to the waiting carriage.
Nico    "Duke Howard?"
Louis stepped past the befuddled Nico, and grasped the handle of the carriage door.
Tina    "What are you doing?"
Louis    "You're going to see your student, aren't you?"
Louis pulled the door open and looked back to me.
Tina    "What?!"
(What's going on?)
Louis    "You'd better hurry. If Giles discovers you missing, you'll be the one to suffer the consequences."
(Consequences?!)
Louis    "Quickly now."
My feet were moving before I realized I had made up my mind.
Louis guided me up into the carriage with an elegant sweep of his hand.
(Is he actually going to help me?)
As always, there was no hint of emotion on Louis's perfectly composed face.
(I never have any idea what's going on behind those cold eyes.)
Tina    "Th-Thank you."
With a slight bow, Louis placed his hand over my own.
Despite the continued defiance of my high heels, Louis's steadying hand allowed me to board with some semblance of grace.
Louis    "Keep the horses to a trot, Nico. Proceed as quietly as possible."
Nico    "Y-Yes, m'lord."
And then, just as Nico was nodding his assent to the Duke's orders—
Tina    "You're—?!"
Louis leapt into the carriage himself.
(What's he doing?!)
Louis    "Move over."
Louis was squeezed so close to me that I could feel his calm, steady breaths on my cheek.

========================
Louis main story part1
3/10

Louis    "Move over a little further."
Tina    "O-Of course."
Clumsily, I slid over to the inner seat.
Louis's breath was warm on my cheek, sending my heart aflutter.
(He just surprised me, that's all. It's nothing more than that.)
But my racing heart showed no sign of slowing down. I took a deep breath.
(So, I guess this means he's coming along?)
I stole a glance at Louis, and caught him doing the same.
Louis    "What is it?"
Tina    "Nothing. It's just, um..."
Our eyes met, and I quickly looked away.
Nico    "We're ready to depart, m'lady. Your Grace."
With Nico's words, the carriage lurched into motion.
(What should I do?)
Not knowing Louis's intentions had me on edge. 
(Maybe I should ask him something?)

[1] “Are you coming too?” (Honey)
Tina    "So, um...you're coming along with me, too?"
Louis    "........."
Louis cast a fleeting glance in my direction.
(I guess that's as much of an answer as I'll be getting.)

[2] “Can you leave like this?” (Sugar)
Tina    "Is it okay for you to leave the palace like this, Duke Howard?"
Louis    "........."
Tina    "........."
(Well, this is awkward.)

[3] “Are you worried about me?”
Tina    "Were you worried about my safety?"

(There has to be something we can talk about.
(Why can't I think of a good topic?)
Tina    "So, um, do you enjoy being a duke?"
My desperate attempt at a conversation was met by an exasperated glare from Louis.
Louis    "Why would you ask that?"
Tina    "Never mind. I was just...making conversation."
I was taken aback by the coldness of his reply.
(I just can't figure him out.)
I turned to look out the window.
(What if everyone in the palace is like this?)
It was a disturbing prospect.I tried to stifle a sigh, but failed.
(Finally, we're here.)
The tension that had filled the carriage eased as my student's home came into view.
The ride had been a long and quiet one. I'd made no new attempts at conversation, and neither had Louis.
Tina    "If you don't mind, I'm going to pay a visit to that house over there."
Louis    "Wait."
Louis called just as I stepped out of the carriage
Tina    "What is it?"
My voice trailed off as I turned and looked to his outstretched hand.
(A bookmark made with a pressed white flower?)

========================

Tina    (Impossible—)
I stared intently at the dried flower in Louis's hand.
(Is that really one of the flowers that only blooms in the palace gardens?)
Louis    "........."
Louis continued to silently gaze at me, his eyes icy as always.
(It's just some random white flower, right?)
Tina    "May I give that to my student?"
(That is what he wants me to do, right?)
Louis    "Do with it as you will."
Tina    "Th-Thank you."
Despite Louis's curt reply, I couldn't stop myself from grinning ear to ear.
The last strains of tension from the carriage ride had finally melted away.
A warm smile came to my lips.
Tina    "She really enjoys reading. I'm sure she'll be delighted."
Louis    "........."
I curtsied to Louis, who still had yet to say a word.
I took the bookmark from his hand.
Tina    "I'll be back shortly."
......
(You know, I think that was the first time I've smiled in front of Louis.)
I was struck with a wave of conflicting emotions, and my gaze fell to the pressed flower.
(It makes me wonder, though—
(Why did Louis have the bookmark in the first place?)
My pupil was surprised to see me, and delighted by the flower.
I never claimed it was the flower from her storybook.
After all, I still didn't know the answer to that myself.
But seeing the simple, pure joy of a child warmed my heart.
(I guess Louis's not such a bad guy after all.)
Visiting my now former-student had been my final task as a teacher.
Now it's time to dedicate myself to my new life as the princess elect.
With newfound resolve in my heart and my student's home at my back, I hurried back to the carriage.
Nico    "M'lady! We have to hurry if you want to be back before dawn!"
Tina    "Sorry about that, Nico!"
I opened the door to the carriage.
Louis's expressionless face stared down at me from within.
Louis    "........."
Tina    "Thank you, Duke Howard. My student was delighted with the bookmark.
Tina    "She promised to cherish it forever."
Louis    "You realize, of course, it's just an ordinary flower?"
Louis smirked at me, his eyes looking somewhere beyond.
My heart sank at his words.

========================

Louis    "You realize, of course, it's just an ordinary flower?"
Louis's voice was dry and detached.
Louis    "The flower in that bookmark could be found growing anywhere around here."
Tina    "Oh..."
I hadn't truly believed the legends.
But it was still hard not to feel disappointed.
It was like seeing a magician's trick exposed as mere sleight of hand:
I was utterly disappointed.
Louis    "To a child still foolish enough to believe such nonsense,
Louis    "any old flower will do."
Tina    "Hey!"
I raised my head, stung by the harshness of his words.
Tina    "There's no reason to be so cruel about it!"
(Hmph!)
I fixed my eyes upon Louis as I delivered my reprimand.
I'd expected to see his face twisted with scorn, but instead he wore an expression of deep sadness.
Thrown off by the sudden change, I didn't know what to say.
Louis    "If that's all it takes to upset you,
Louis    "then you really have no business becoming princess."
Tina    "Huh?"
My confusion deepened as I listened to his warm voice, almost as if he were trying to persuade a child.
Louis    "I'll escort you back to your home."
Louis stepped out of the carriage, now standing before me.
Tina    "My home?"
Unable to understand what he was talking about, I became more disturbed by the moment.
Louis    "Yes, your real home. The only reason I came along was to take you back."
(Is he serious?)
Tina    "Why is it you're so against me becoming princess?"
Louis had reduced me nearly to speechlessness, but I held my ground.
And met his cool stare with one of my own.
Louis    "The palace is no place for a girl like you."
Tina    "Because I'm a commoner, you mean?"
I snapped back, my heart aching all the while.
Louis    "........."
A look of sadness drifting back across his face, Louis took me by the arm.
(What the?!)
With one swift tug, Louis pulled me in towards him.
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Louis    "That's right."
His lips were now so close to my own they practically touched.
Louis    "Because if a commoner like yourself were to become princess,
Louis    "I assure you, it would not end happily."
(How dare he!)
Tina    "You think being a duke gives you the right to judge others by their standing?
Tina    "That's despicable!"
I couldn't have been more disgusted with him at that moment.
Louis    "Despicable I may be, but you and I—"
Louis stopped himself mid-sentence.
His face was awash with emotion for the briefest of moments, before he quickly turned away.
("You and I—?"
(What was he going to say?)
Louis    "Do you really intend to return to the palace?"
Louis caressed my cheek, his voice calm as he spoke.
Tina    "Um..."
The unexpected warmth of his hand sent my heart racing again.
As I  his stare, it felt as if I might lose myself in his deep sapphire eyes.
(Yes, I—)

[1]  I do intend to-
Tina    "Of course, I do intend to return."
Louis    "I see."
Tina    "That's why I came here tonight. To mark the end of that life."

[2] "I will return." (Honey)
Tina    "Yes. I will return to the palace."
Faint colors flickered across his pupils. I nodded so as not to break my gaze.
Louis    "You'll never be able to go back to being that child's tutor again."
Tina    "That's why I came here tonight. To mark the end of that life."

[3] "I have to return." (Sugar)
Tina    "I have no other choice."
Louis    "Are you sure about that?"
Tina    "That's why I came here tonight. To mark the end of that life."

Louis broke his gaze at last and sighed deeply.
Louis    "........."
Louis turned gracefully away, his fingers leaving my cheek in one swift motion.
Tina    "So, um?"
He boarded the carriage without saying a word.
From within, he extended a hand.
(Now he wants me to get in?)
Trembling, I gently placed my hand on top of Louis's palm.
Louis    "Call me Louis. There's no need for formality.
Louis    "After all, when we return to the palace, you'll be the princess elect."
His eyes sparkled, examining me anew.
Before I could think of anything to say, he pulled me into the carriage.
Louis    "Good luck, Tina."
(That was the first time he's ever said my name.)
But despite his words, his voice still rang of cool formality.

========================

The carriage was as silent on the return trip as it had been on our outward journey.
(Louis hadn't said anything since.)
Louis    "When we return to the palace, you'll be the princess elect."
Louis    "Good luck, Tina."
(I guess that means he's decided to accept me?)
Louis's eyes were closed, his body rocking in time with the carriage.
Louis    "........."
(Has he fallen asleep?)
I could barely hold back a sigh as I gazed at his beautiful face.
(He looks just like a prince from a fairy tale.)
The carriage abruptly came to a halt, interrupted my thoughts.
Nico    "Yikes! I think we may have a problem here, m'lady."
I peered out the window to see what had Nico so flustered.
(Is that—?!)
Giles stood at the doors to the palace's entrance hall, his arms folded across his chest.
I recalled Louis's warning: "You'll be the one to suffer the consequences."
(I have a feeling this is going to be ugly.)
I took a deep breath, preparing for the worst.
Louis    "........."
Louis's eyes had opened. He stepped out of the carriage without hesitation.
I followed, but with significantly more trepidation.
Giles    "Duke Howard."
As Giles studied Louis, I saw a smile flicker across his face.
Giles    "When I couldn't find you in your assigned quarters,
Giles    "I was more than a little concerned."
Louis    "Oh? I thought I was free to come and go as I pleased."
Louis's expression remained unchanged, even as Giles flashed him a smile.
Giles    "Of course, you are absolutely correct, Your Grace.
Giles    "But I'd not taken you for a man who would depart without informing anyone."
Giles's smile deepened.
Giles    "I found it somewhat out of character."
Louis    "........."
Giles    "And I'd certainly not taken you for a man who'd go cavorting with our new princess in the dead of night."
And with that, Giles's gaze finally landed on me.
As our eyes met, a shiver ran down my spine.
For the smile on Giles's face was in no way reflected in his eyes.
Giles    "With all due respect, Duke Howard, I cannot say I am pleased by this development."
(Wait, what?
(Does Giles think Louis lured me away?)
As I pondered the meaning behind Giles's reproachful tone,
I looked back and forth between the two men.
Louis    "........."
Tina    "Giles, you've got it all wrong. I was the one who—"
Louis    "Forgive me."
Louis cut me off before I could explain.
Tina    "Huh?"

========================

(Why would Louis apologize?)
Giles    "........."
I wasn't the only one shocked. Even Giles's eyes widened in surprise.
But only for a fleeting moment, before his usual smile returned.
Giles    "Then I accept, Your Grace.
Giles    "But spending the entire night together on the day you first met—
Giles    "I'm quite impressed at what a strong rapport you two have formed.
Giles    "So if you'd permit me to make a small suggestion,"
Giles's eyes were smiling now, as he carefully studied Louis's face.
Giles    "Perhaps you'd like to volunteer to serve as Her Highness's dance instructor? You'll begin right after breakfast."
Tina    "What?!"
Louis    "Certainly."
(WHAT?!)
I don't know which shocked me more: Giles's proposal or Louis's response.
(Louis...as my dance instructor?)
I had braced myself for "consequences," but this is far from what I'd had in mind.
Giles    "Well, daybreak is nearly upon us. You two should try to catch a little sleep."
Louis entered the palace without so much as a glance in my direction.
Giles    "Hurry off to your chamber, Tina."
I gazed blankly at Louis as he walked away, until a loud "ahem" from Giles snapped me out of my trance.
Tina    "Yes, er...sir."
Giles    "Nico."
Nico    "Y-Yes Giles?!"
Nico nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of his name.
Giles    "Shouldn't you be turning down Her Highness's bed?"
Nico    "Right away."
Nico hurried into the palace, doing everything he could to stay as far away from Giles in the process.
(I thought for sure Giles would be furious I'd left the palace.
(The fact that he didn't scold me at all was, in a way, even scarier.)
Sensing Giles's heavy presence behind me, I followed Nico to my room.
Louis's face came to mind as I walked the palace corridors.
(Had he been trying to protect me?)
Louis    "Forgive me."
Had Louis intentionally taken the blame to spare me a scolding?
(There's no way to tell with Louis—
(I never know what he's thinking, or feeling, or what his intentions are.
(The more I try to figure him out, the harder it is to shake him from my mind.
(And now he's my dance instructor.
(I can't imagine this will go well.)

========================

 After an all-too-brief night's sleep, I set out for the dining hall, rubbing my eyes as I walked.
(I can't believe how much happened yesterday.
(It still doesn't feel real.
(And now I have dance lessons with Louis after breakfa—)
Tina    "Ow!"
Lost in my thoughts, I'd bumped right into someone else.
Alyn    "Watch where you're going."
Tina    "A-Alyn."
Alyn gazed down at me, clearly as surprised as I was.
(That gives me an idea—
(Surely Alyn would know something about Louis, right?)
Alyn    "Wow. With those bags under your eyes, it's no wonder you can't see where you're going."
Alyn's teasing snapped me back to reality.
(Do I really look that bad?)
Alyn    "I know this princess thing isn't easy, but it's only been one day!"
Tina    "Listen, there's something I need to ask you."
Alyn    "Something you want to ask ME?"
Tina    "You know Louis, right? What's he like?"
I wasn't in a mood to beat around the bush.
Alyn    "Louis?"
Alyn's eyes widened as he looked back at me in wonderment.
(I must have surprised him with my question.)
But Alyn wasn't one to beat around the bush either.
Alyn    "He's totally weird."
Alyn didn't think for long before delivering his answer.
(After last night, I've figured out that much.)
Alyn    "But beyond that—"
Tina    "Beyond that—?"
There was something else? I took a deep breath.
Alyn    "He's actually a pretty good guy."
("A pretty good guy"? That's it?)
Tina    "........."
Alyn    "........."
I stood quietly, hoping he'd have something else to add.
But Alyn didn't speak again.
Tina    "Just that?"
Alyn    "Huh? That's not enough for you?"
Tina    "It's...it's fine. Thank you."
I released my breath and nodded my gratitude.
Alyn    "Obviously that wasn't what you had in mind, huh?"
Alyn could sense my disappointment.
But he didn't seem to be taking it personally.
Tina    "Well, I'll be on my way."
But as soon as I resumed my walk to the dining hall, Alyn called out, as if he'd just remembered something.
Alyn    "Well, maybe there's one other thing—"

========================

Giles and I walking through the garden after taking a late breakfast.
We were on our way to the wing of the palace that held the ballroom.
(I wonder if what Alyn told me was true?)
I gazed blankly at Giles's back as I recalled Alyn's words.
Alyn    "Well, maybe there's one other thing—
Alyn    "I did hear Giles say something about how Louis had taken a liking to you."
Tina    "Really?!"
Alyn    "I couldn't tell you how he came up with that, but that's what I heard."
(Louis likes me?)
It was nearly impossible to believe, but—
Giles    "Do you have any dance experience, Tina?"
Tina    "Me?! Oh, um, no. Barely any at all."
Giles's sudden question gave me a bit of a start. He'd not said a word before now.
Giles    "Then we'll have to make sure Duke Howard starts from square one."
Tina    "Giles, can I ask you something about Louis?"
I had to know if what Alyn had said was true. But as soon as I asked—
Giles    "And here we are, Your Highness."
Tina    "Oh."
We had arrived without me even noticing.
Louis stood at the entrance to the ballroom, waiting for me.
Louis    "........."
(I hope we didn't keep him waiting too long.)
I'd been with Louis most of the night, so I knew he hadn't slept much.
But his face was as composed as ever, betraying no hint of exhaustion.
Giles    "Duke Howard, it seems Her Highness has little experience with dance.
Giles    "Please do try to be gentle with her."
Louis    "Of course."
Tina    "I'll try to give it my best."
Louis silently extended his left hand to me as I curtsied.
My heart racing, I timidly placed my right hand on his palm.
Tina    "Eep!"
Louis pulled me towards him with an abrupt tug, wrapping his arms around me in a tight embrace.
(Wait—am I here to learn partner dance?! I'll be in his arms the entire time!)
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Part1 End

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Louis Howard Part 2

Louis pulled me towards him with an abrupt tug, wrapping his arms around me in a tight embrace.
(Wait—am I here to learn partner dance? I'll be in his arms the entire time!)
Louis held me so close I could feel his breath upon my forehead.
Giles    "Ah. I see you'll be starting with the waltz."
Giles's comment sent my heart pounding.
(Louis is going to teach me how to waltz?)
When I looked up to Louis for confirmation, he lowered his head to meet my gaze.
Louis    "Let's get started."
As I stared into his perfectly formed lips,
Alyn's words came flooding back.
Alyn    "Well, maybe there's one other thing—
Alyn    "I did hear Giles say something about how Louis had taken a liking to you."
(Knowing that only makes me more nervous!)
Louis    "Is something wrong?"
(I need to focus on this dance lesson.)
Becoming ever more aware of the blush spreading throughout my cheeks,
I took a deep breath to calm my nerves.
Louis    "Lift your head." (CG get)
Tina    "..."
Louis slid a hand beneath my chin and gently raised it.
(Louis? What's he—)
Louis    "Your chin should be parallel to the floor."
Tina    "Huh?"
(How can he stay so focused when our bodies are so close together?)
I raised my head to look into his eyes, but the hand on my chin quickly corrected my pose.
Louis    "This is the basic posture of dance.
Louis    "A straight back and a raised head."
Tina    "Y-Yes, of course."
(So that's what he was doing.)
My cheeks burned as I became painfully aware of my disappointment.
(Wait—don't tell me I have to do all this dancing with my heels on?)

↓C社最初放出來本篇的唯一一張CG...,最近可能良心發現再新增Louis、Alyn的另2結局的新CG
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↑拿到新CG,得到一個心燈

===================

The lesson began and the high heels stayed on.
Louis    "Bend your upper body more. Relax your knees.
Louis    "Don't break your posture."
(Hadn't he promised Giles he'd be gentle?)
We hadn't even been practicing the waltz for that long,
but Louis's firestorm of corrections and insistence on perfection had me on the verge of a breakdown.
Louis    "Extend your right arm. Bend your elbow slightly.
Louis    "Stand up straight. Relax your shoulders."
(How can one dance have so many rules?!)
I could feel the color draining from my face with each flatly delivered order.
Louis    "Extend your right arm again."
(I thought dancing was supposed to be fun?)
It was far more exhausting than I'd imagined, and my feet were growing heavier by the minute.
Louis    "Keep your body centered."
Tina    "Oh...okay..."
(But if I give up at my first dance lesson,
(how can I possibly be a princess?
(I have to learn this. I have to show everyone what I'm capable of.)
But just as I renewed my motivation—
My lack of sleep took its toll, and the world began to spin.
Tina    "Oops!"
I tripped over my own foot, stumbling awkwardly into Louis.
Louis    "!"
Louis caught me in his embrace, but as he did, I noticed a faint crease form on his forehead.
(Oh!)
I had planted the point of my high heel right in the middle of his foot.
I quickly pulled myself away.
Tina    "I'm so, so sorry!"
Louis    "........."
Louis stared at me for a moment, then turned away without a word.
Tina    "Louis?"
Louis walked over and whispered a few words to Giles before lowering himself onto a chair.
(I must have really upset him this time.)
I watched Giles leave the room, and made my way over to Louis's side.
Tina    "Um, should we continue the lesson?"
I asked Louis cautiously.
Louis    "It would accomplish nothing to continue at this point."

====================

Louis    "It would accomplish nothing to continue at this point."
Tina    "I was that bad?"
As Louis delivered his blunt assessment, the world began to spin again.
(I guess I'm a lost cause?)
Louis    "Have a seat."
Though Louis's tone was curt, I was all the same grateful to give my aching feet a rest.
(Looks like Giles might have to find a new "volunteer.")
Thoroughly dejected, I sat down beside Louis, a short sigh escaping my lips.
(I guess even Giles couldn't bear to watch me trip over myself.
(And to top things off, I planted my heel on Louis's foot.)
Tina    "Louis, is your foot okay?"
I was nearly too petrified to ask, but Louis brushed the question away with a nod.
Louis    "It happens."
Tina    "I'm sorry. I was trying so hard to remember everything I just—I messed up."
Louis    "Dancing shouldn't be this rigid. It's so much more than a set of rules."
Louis lowered his eyes and spoke in a whisper, as if sharing a secret.
Tina    "Huh?"
Louis    "But that's the custom here. They have to codify everything."
(Louis?)
There was something about Louis's face in profile, with his long, downcast eyelashes, that made him seem so sad.
(There it is again.
(Where does that look of sadness come from?)
Tina    "Lou—"
Giles    "Your Grace. Your Highness."
Just as I was about to ask, Giles returned to the dance hall.
Giles    "I've brought you some lavender Lady Grey."
Tina    "Huh? We're having tea?"
Giles    "Bon appétit!"
Tina    "Th-Thank you."
I happily accepted the cup and saucer from Giles.
The relaxing fragrance of lavender and Earl Grey tea filled the air.
And just like that, my rattled nerves began to settle again.
(I feel so much better already.)
Giles    "Hopefully this will help you to relax and focus on your lessons, Your Highness."
My head certainly felt clearer.
In fact, all of my tension had melted away.
(Giles must have somehow realized how much I needed a break.
(Okay. Let's do this.)
I set down my empty teacup and rose to my feet, revitalized.
Tina    "Duke Howard—I would be most grateful if we could continue our lesson."
Louis    "........."
Louis responded to my heartfelt appeal with a small sigh.
Then he slowly rose to his feet.
Tina    "Did I—?"
I followed him with my eyes as he walked past me, never once turning my way.
Louis    "I told you last night. There's no need for formality.
Louis    "There will be no further breaks until lunchtime."
(Does that mean he's going to continue to teach me?)
A smile spread across my face as Louis stopped at the center of the dance floor.
Tina    "Thank you, Louis!"
Louis    "........."

====================

Once we resumed, Louis proved as strict as ever.
But I played the devoted student, immersing myself in the particulars of the waltz.
Louis    "That's enough for today."
Louis announced the end of the lesson as we held a finishing pose. He then turned to face me.
It was like waking from a trance; I'd been so focused on the routine I couldn't recall having any other thoughts at all.
Louis had been dancing all day, but hadn't taken so much as a single labored breath.
Tina    "Well—"

[1] "Thank you for today." (Honey)
Tina    "Thank you for today."
Louis    "I was merely fulfilling my duty."

[2] "You are amazing." (Sugar)
Tina    "You were amazing."
Louis    "I have no idea what you're referring to."

[3] "I am sorry about your foot."
Tina    "I'm sorry about your foot."
Louis    "Think nothing of it."

With that, Louis turned and walked away.
Giles and I watched as he left the ballroom without uttering another word.
(Well, that could have gone a whole lot worse.)
With a deep sigh of relief, a day's worth of tension drained from my body.
Giles    "You did very well, Your Highness."
Giles did indeed seem quite satisfied.
Tina    "It's all thanks to you and your tea, Giles. That helped a lot."
Giles    "I'm hardly the one you should thank.
Giles    "I was merely following the duke's orders."
Tina    "Louis's orders?!"
The surprise on my face was met with a hearty laugh from Giles.
Giles    "Yes, he specifically requested that tea.
Giles    "I simply did as he asked."
(Because he saw me starting to stumble?)
Louis must have noticed that I was growing dizzy and decided to give me a break.
Giles    "Ah, and I should mention—
Giles    "Duke Howard has agreed to instruct you in a variety of other arts as well."
Tina    "Other...arts?"
And now all the tension was back.
Giles    "Yes. We'll be holding your coronation ceremony five days from now.
Giles    "It will be our first opportunity to officially present the new princess to the people of her kingdom."
Tina    "My coronation ceremony?"
Giles    "There's little time left to master the etiquette and decorum one expects of the princess elect."
(Why am I only hearing about this now?!)
Giles    "Fortunately, Duke Howard has agreed to share his expertise with you."
Tina    "He has?!"
My eyes must have been nearly as wide as Giles's ever-expanding smile.
Giles    "Do be sure to show him the proper respect and gratitude, Your Highness.
Giles    "His Grace has even agreed to stay here in the palace for the duration of your tutoring."

======================

After my dance lesson—
Giles went on to explain the details of my coronation ceremony and what it entailed.
I was thoroughly exhausted by the time I returned to my chamber.
Nico    "A tough day, m'lady?"
Nico flashed me a strained smile.
Nico    "How did your first dance lesson with Louis go?"
Tina    "It was brutal."
As I muttered my answer, I reviewed the events of the day.
Tina    "I can never figure out what Louis is thinking."
Nico    "I doubt anyone can.
Nico    "He's handsome and refined, but totally poker faced and cold.
Nico    "The palace staff often joke about mistaking him for an ice sculpture."
(I get the joke, but—)
Nico had probably wanted to make me smile, but his words dredged up mixed emotions.
(That's not quite the Louis I know.)
Louis    "Because if a commoner like yourself were to become princess,
Louis    "I assure you, it would not end happily."
I've seen anger and impatience smoldering deep within those "cold" eyes.
And not only that—
Louis    "That's the custom here. They have to codify everything."
I've seen sadness as well.
Tina    "The Louis I know—he's no ice sculpture."
Nico    "Huh?"
Nico hadn't been able to catch my whispered comment. But it was just as well.
Tina    "Never mind. It's nothing."
Nico    "Are you sure? Well, you've certainly had a long day.
Nico    "Especially after how little you slept last night! Perhaps you'd like to go to bed early tonight?"
Tina    "That sounds lovely, Nico. Thank you."
Always looking out for me, Nico took his leave for the night.
(I'll have to remember to thank Louis for the tea tomorrow.
(Maybe I'll be able to understand him a little bit better if I can just talk to him more.)
Louis stood outside in the small hours of night, watching one of his attendants depart from the palace.
Louis    "I will continue managing my duchy from here, via writ."
Attendant    "Understood, Your Grace."
The attendant's carriage set off into the dark night.
???    "Looks like you're hard at work as ever, Duke Louis."
Louis turned to find the source of the unexpected voice.
Louis    "What are YOU doing here?"
Louis Part2_Ch.5.jpg   
=======================

Louis    "What are YOU doing here?"
An ever-so-slight furrow appeared on Louis's brow when he spotted Sid.
Sid    "What am I doing here?
Sid    "Just checking in to see how you and the princess are getting on together."
The grin on Sid's face only seemed to brighten as he watched Louis's expression darken.
Sid    "I did a little poking around, you know.
Sid    "Word on the street's that you've been intimidating this Tina.
Sid    "Saying you want her to quit being princess elect."
Louis    "It's no concern of yours."
Louis replied instantaneously, his voice cool and controlled.
Louis turned his back to Sid, but he kept talking, his voice mocking in tone.
Sid    "That's so like you, Louis. You won't take your own advice, but you try to make everyone else follow it."
Louis    "What?"
Louis slowly turned to face his accuser.
Sid    "I can see right through you, Louis.You only want her to quit being the princess elect
Sid    "because you can't handle being a duke, yourself."
Louis    "How dare you!"
The composure Louis had struggled to preserve gave way to a face full of raw emotion.
Louis grabbed Sid by the collar,his fist shaking from the force it contained.
Sid    "Looks like I hit the nail on the head."
Louis    "What the hell do you know?"
Though Louis's voice began to waver, Sid continued to stand there, cool as ever.
Sid    "At the very least, I DO know you've barely left that girl's side since she got here."
It was hard to imagine Sid's jubilant smile could get any wider, but somehow, it did.
Sid    "And I know that if the princess-to-be takes a liking to you—
Sid    "that'd make you prince consort—practically a king—wouldn't it?"
The impish twinkle in Sid's eyes was hard to miss.
Louis    "........."
Sid    "Living the life of luxury, indulging your every whim—
Sid    "Quite a departure from your old life.
Sid    "Must be easy to pull off with looks like yours."
Louis abruptly released Sid from his grasp, glaring daggers in his direction.
Louis    "I assure you, I'll never be prince consort."

========================

Louis    "I assure you, I'll never be prince consort."
Louis replied indifferently, and walked away.
Sid    "..."
Sid watched him go, with no small amount of glee.
Giles had asked me to meet him in his office after breakfast.
(I've still got a little bit of time before our appointment.
(I'll head over to Louis's chamber to thank him for yesterday.
(I wonder if he's around?)
I gave the door a gentle knock.
Moments later, Louis's face appeared.
Tina    "Good morning, Louis!"
Louis    "What is it?"
Louis's brow furrowed slightly at the sight of me.
Tina    "I-I just wanted to thank you for yesterday."
Louis    "Thank me?"
Tina    "For what you did at our dance lesson.
Tina    "I heard from Giles it was you who asked him to prepare the lavender tea.
Tina    "I don't know how I would have made it through the lesson without that break.
Tina    "Thank you."
The creases in Louis's brow only deepened at my words.
Louis    "You needn't concern yourself with such trifles."
(Is something wrong?)
Tina    "Are you not feeling well, Louis?"
Louis    "Why do you ask?"
(Why? Well, because—)

[1] I worry about you.
Tina    "I don't know—I worry about you."
Louis    "You need not worry about me."

[2] You look a little pale. (Honey)
Tina    "You're looking a little pale."
Louis    "Don't trouble yourself with such trivialities."

[3] You seem to be in pain. (Sugar)
Tina    "You look like you're in pain."
Louis    "I think you're mistaken."

Louis looked down, breaking off eye contact with me.
Louis    "I agreed to teach you what you need to know to be princess.
Louis    "But that's the extent of our association."
(Our "association?")
Tina    "I just—"
Louis    "Furthermore, I acted of my own interests. You owe me no gratitude."
Before I could say any more, Louis shut the door in my face.

====================

Louis shut me out, disappearing behind the door to his quarters.
(I'd only wanted to get to know him a little better, that's all.)
I stood there shocked by the coldness of Louis's rejection.
(I guess he doesn't feel the same way about me.)
???    "Could that be? That is you, Tina, isn't it?"
I heard a man's voice behind me and turned to look.
(It's the man I saw in the garden on my first day here.)
Tina    "Well, um—"
???    "It is you, Tina! I knew it!
???    "I lived in your neighborhood a long time ago. I use to tutor you when you were young.
???    "I'm not surprised you don't remember, though."
(He's from my neighborhood?)
I gave the man's gentle, smiling face a closer look.
There was something familiar about it.
Tina    "Oh! Is that you, Robert?"
I did remember him, back from when I was a little girl.
He was a painter who used to live in my neighborhood.
Robert    "When Giles told me the new princess elect's name, I wondered if it could possibly be the same person.
Robert    "But, I can't believe it, Tina. You really are going to be the princess!"
In Robert's chambers, we discussed the paths we'd both taken since we last parted ways.
Tina    "Everyone in the neighborhood thought you'd just up and disappeared.
Tina    "So this is what happened? You became the court painter?"
Robert    "Well, a lot of things happened along the way, but ultimately, yes."
Robert evaded the question with a gentle smile.
Robert    "I know you've only been here for three days, but how are you liking life in the palace?"
Tina    "To be honest, it's utterly confusing."
Louis's icy rejection from earlier still echoed in my mind.
(What were his words? "That will be the extent of our association?"
(I still have no idea whether he actually is as cold as he acts, or if he's a kind person beneath it all.)
Robert    "Is there anything in particular that's troubling you?"
Perhaps having read the worry on my face, Robert reached out to stroke my hair.
(This sensation takes me back—)
Robert calmed my jittery nerves a little, just as he always did when I was a child.
(Maybe I should ask him about Louis.)
Tina    "There is this one thing—"

===================

Robert    "I'm all ears."
I told Robert the whole story.
Robert furrowed his brow, contemplating my words for a moment before he spoke.
Robert    "I've never known Duke Howard to act like that."
Tina    "It seemed strange to me too."
The idea that he was being especially cruel to me, and me alone, wasn't much comfort, though.
Robert    "But from everything you've told me,
Robert    "it seems there's an awfully big rift between his actions and his words."
Tina    "What do you mean?"
Robert    "Well, if he's so adamant you shouldn't become the princess,
Robert    "then why is he going out of his way to teach you all the things a princess needs to know?"
Tina    "Because Giles asked him to, and he wasn't in a position to refuse?"
Robert    "I suspect there's more to it than that."
Robert refuted my worst suspicions.
Robert    "If Louis really disliked you and was teaching the lessons against his will,
Robert    "I doubt he'd do go out of his way to order you tea."
(He does have a point.)
Robert's words were strangely persuasive, making me feel a little better than before.
(I sure hope that he's right.)
Nico    "Tina!"
A flustered Nico burst through the door to immediately after knocking frantically.
Nico    "Your meeting with Giles is about to start!"
Tina    "It's already time?!"
I hurried to my feet, curtsying my thanks to Robert.
Tina    "Forgive me Robert, I must be going."
Robert    "Of course, Tina."
Robert called out to me as I was leaving, and I turned to see his warm smile.
Robert    "Don't worry about things too much, okay? Just trust your intuition."
Tina    "Thank you, Robert."
Robert's kindness had brightened my mood considerably.
I raced down the hall to Giles's office.
Tina    "I'm sorry I'm late, Giles."
Giles shook his head and laughed as I barged through his door, breathing heavily.
Giles    "Barely a few days into the job and you're already sneaking out at night and arriving late for appointments."
I straightened my back as Giles briskly approached.
Giles    "And running through the halls like this. It's unseemly."
Giles extended a finger to wipe a bead of sweat off my brow.
====================
Tina    "F-Forgive me."
I apologized, trying to resist the urge to flinch away from Giles's finger.
Giles smiled and withdrew his hand.
Giles    "If you carry on like this at tomorrow's banquet,
Giles    "there would be no end to the nasty gossip about you."
Tina    "Banquet?"
It was the first I'd heard of this.
Giles    "The invitation from Archduke Durey just arrived.
Giles    "He seems quite eager to have you as one of his guests."
Tina    "And it's tomorrow?"
I struggled to hide my dismay at the sudden development.
Giles    "He wrote something about showing the princess elect the hospitality that his grand duchy is famous for.
Giles    "But I'm sure he just wants to put you through your paces."
("Put me through my paces?")
I cringed at the thought.
Giles    "Did I say something unpleasant, my lady?"
(Giles sure doesn't miss much. I'd better tell him the truth.)
Tina    "I don't think anyone enjoys being 'put through their paces.'"
Giles    "I suppose not. Nevertheless, it's all part of being princess elect."
Tina    "It is?"
Giles    "You'll need to learn how to accept every critique and insult with a smile and grace."
Tina    "Seriously?"
Giles extended his hands again, gently cupping my cheeks.
I inhaled sharply.
Giles    "As you know, the princess has a duty to select a prince consort, who will serve as her husband and share in her responsibilities.
Giles    "But that's only a part of her duties.
Giles    "She must also ensure she and her prince have the trust and support of the people."
Though Giles's voice was just a whisper, his words still landed with a powerful impact.
Tina    "What do you mean?"
Giles    "Would you accept a princess and her prince as your rulers if you found either of them witless and crude?"
Tina    "........."
What could I say to that?
Giles    "The opinions of the archduke hold great weight within this kingdom.
Giles    "Consider tomorrow's dinner party a dress rehearsal for your coronation ceremony."
Tina    "I will."
I nodded, and Giles withdrew his hands.
After our meeting, I retired to my study, keeping myself busy with a pile of books on etiquette.
I flipped through the pages at random.
(I don't know how I'm going to remember all of this stuff.)
I sighed deeply. It was hopeless.
A knock on the door snapped me out of my brooding.
(Has Giles come to check on me already?)
Louis    "..."
But when I turned to look, it was Louis who stood in the doorway.

Louis Part2_end.jpg  
Part2 End
==================

Louis main story_L03.png  

Louis Howard Part 3

I turned at the sound of the study door opening, and found Louis standing in the doorway.
Tina    "Louis?"
Still stinging from his frosty attitude earlier in the day, I felt a knot in my stomach form.

[1] What are you doing here? (Honey)
Tina    "What are you doing here?"
Louis    "I was wondering why the study lights were on at this hour."

[2] Is something wrong?
Tina    "Is something wrong?"
Louis    "I might ask you the same thing."

[3] Do you need something? (Sugar)
Tina    "Do you need something?"
Louis    "That's not why I'm here."

Louis entered the study, closing the door behind him.
(Had he just been passing by?)
As he approached the desk where I was working, Louis's gaze fell on the pile of books.
Tina    "I'm supposed to go to one of Archduke Durey's dinner parties tomorrow.
Tina    "I'm trying to learn everything there is to know about etiquette before then."
Louis considered this for a moment.
Louis    "And reading these books will be sufficient?"
Tina    "I hope so."
Louis pulled out a book from the bottom of the pile.
He flipped through the pages, skimming its contents.
Louis    "What do you offer during a formal greeting?"
Tina    "Um, my right hand?"
Louis    "Do it."
(Some real-world practice certainly wouldn't hurt.)
Pushing my doubts aside, I stood up and offered Louis my right hand.
Louis    "That's too low. Raise it higher."
Tina    "Like this?"
I raised my hand as he had indicated.
Louis    "Yes. Keep your fingers in line and relaxed."
I did my best to make sure my fingers were perfectly parallel.
Louis took my hand, gently wrapping his fingers around mine.
(Huh?)
Before I had time to register the situation, Louis had lowered himself to one knee before me.
(L-Louis?!)

===================

Louis main story0620
In one smooth gesture, Louis raised the back of my hand to his lips.
I stiffened as I felt his soft bangs brush against my hand.
(That kind of tickles.)
Tina    "........."
Louis    "You'll be a laughingstock if you react so stiffly every time you meet someone new."
His lips hovered above my hand, holding back the kiss.
Louis looked up at me, his eyes boring through me as I stood there stiff as a board.
Tina    "I'm sorry."
Louis released my hand as I looked away, trying my best to hide my embarrassment.
(The book made it seem so easy.)
This sort of thing was bound to happen. I'd need to get over my embarrassment.
Louis    "We'll go over table manners next."
Tina    "We will?"
When I finally lifted my head again, Louis was sitting on the desk, flipping through another book about manners.
Louis    "At this rate, we'll be here till morning."
Tina    "We will? You're really going to stay and teach me?"
Louis    "Of course. This is something you must learn to be princess."
Louis's reply was characteristically curt.
(I guess he's right about that.)
Though I knew I needed the help, it still wasn't what I had wanted to hear.
(I should be grateful that he's willing to teach me at all, especially this late at night.)
Tina    "Thank you, Louis."
Louis    "........."
Louis's expression remained as stony as ever, unaffected by my gratitude.
(Whatever his reasons, if he's willing to teach me,
(I need to be ready to learn.)
Louis lowered himself onto the chair beside me and we begun.
......
Louis    "When attending a buffet, one must not put any food on one's own plate—Hmm? Tina?"
Tina    "........."
Realizing she hadn't spoken in a while, Louis peered over at Tina.
After learning and practicing manners appropriate to a wide variety of situations,
Tina had fallen asleep on her chair, a book still open on her lap.
Louis    "You really are so much more beautiful when you relax."
With a lonesome smile and a sigh, Louis quietly closed the book on her lap and set it on the desk.
Gently lifting Tina from her chair, he left the study with the princess elect in his arms.

===================

Giles and Louis sat across from me on the carriage ride to the banquet.
(I never imagined Louis would end up coming along.)
I glanced over to Louis, and our eyes met. I quickly looked away.
(I woke up in my own bed this morning.
(Could Louis have carried me there?)
I remembered taking etiquette lessons with Louis in the study, but nothing after that. Did I fall asleep during our lesson?
I pushed the idea from my mind. The very thought of it was too embarrassing.
Giles    "We've arrived, Your Highness."
At Giles's announcement, I turned to look out the window.
Tina    "Oh my."
The mansion before us, it's wide drive and sprawling lawn spreading before us, only made me more nervous.
Giles    "You will be judged the moment you step out of this carriage."
Tina    "I understand."
(After my intense coaching session with Louis last night, I'll be all right. I can do this!)
I flashed Louis a smile.
Louis    "........."
Giles    "Allow me."
Giles stepped out of the carriage as soon as it came to a stop, offering his hand to me.
Taking his hand, I stepped gingerly down, holding my head high as I alighted.
(So this is what being "put through one's paces" is like.)
The penetrating stares continued from the moment we arrived until we left back for home.
All eyes were upon me as I greeted guests in the parlor, ate dinner in the banquet hall,
and even while making small talk in the lounge.
My every move, my every word, none of it escaped their scrutiny.
(Things have been going well enough, I suppose.)
As far as I could tell, I'd made no serious blunders and maintained a regal bearing throughout.
(All thanks to Louis's help yesterday.)
Archduke Durey    "Do you dance, Your Highness?"
(Here we go...)
Tina    "Why, I've been looking forward to dancing all evening, Your Grace."
The unexpected question set my nerves on edge, but I hid my trepidation with a smile.
Archduke Durey    "That's wonderful! And who here wishes to dance with our new princess elect?"
The archduke shouted the question to everyone assembled in the room.
Louis    "I do, Your Grace."
Louis was the first to raise his voice in answer.
Tina    "Louis?"

====================

A crowd assembled around the edges of the dance floor.
Their eyes firmly affixed on Louis and I.
Archduke Durey    "What a pleasure it will be to see our princess elect and Duke Howard perform the first dance."
The archduke's smile was warm and free of malice.
Lady 1    "I don't think I've ever seen Duke Howard ask a lady to dance before. Lucky her."
Lady 2    "Well, she is the princess elect."
I could hear whispers rustling through the crowd.
I'd anticipated having to dance, but I never imagined it would be like this.
(I don't know if I've ever felt more self-conscious in my life.)
Giles    "........."
I searched through the faces in the crowd, eventually finding Giles. He gave me a slight nod.
(I guess that's his way of encouraging me.
(But I don't know how I'm going to get through this.
(The only time I've ever danced like this was during my lesson with Louis.
(And that was hardly a flawless performance.)
Louis    "Relax."
Louis calmly whispered in my ear.
When I looked into his eyes, I found the same quiet confidence reflected there.
Louis    "Just like our lesson."
(Just like our lesson.)
I took a deep breath and straightened my back.
(After as brutal a lesson as Louis had given me, there was no way I could mess things up.)
I looked to Louis, giving him my brightest smile, mostly to bolster my own spirits.
Louis responded with a fleeting but warm smile of his own.
(Whoa.)
His smile disappeared so quickly I wasn't certain I'd seen it at all.
But it was more than enough to bring my focus back to the dance.
Louis    "Let's begin."
The music began to play, and Louis took my right hand with a graceful sweep.

====================

When the dance ended, Archduke Durey applauded for Louis and I.
Archduke Durey    "A beautiful dance, Your Highness."
But the applause from the crowd was sparse, and I could see flickers of disappointment among their faces.
They had apparently been hoping for a different outcome.
Louis    "Thank you very much, Your Grace."
Tina    "You are too kind, Archduke Durey."
Ignoring the other guests, I smiled sweetly at the archduke.
Archduke Durey    "Some refreshments have been prepared."
Archduke Durey    "Your Highness, my treasured guests, please help yourselves."
At the archduke's words, the crowd erupted into lively conversation.
(I'm so thirsty.)
With my feet still weary from the dance, I shuffled over to the refreshment table.
I picked up one of the glasses and lifted it to my lips.
Louis    "Tina! Wait—!"
Lady 1    "Dear me! Was she raised in a barn?"
(Huh?)
Louis's words were drowned out by a uproar of voices, followed by a hush falling over the entire room.
Lady 2    "She couldn't even wait to be served!"
Lady 1    "Like a dog scavenging for scraps."
(Like a what?!)
Lady 2    "You can teach a commoner to dance, but proper decorum will ever be beyond them."
Covering their mouths with folding fans, the noblewomen continued their shrill derision.
(I guess there are even manners related to drinking.
(Looks like I wasn't supposed to reach for that glass myself.)
The room began to spin as I processed what had happened.
Archduke Durey    "Now, now, ladies and gentlemen—"
Lady 3    "How could they have chosen such an unrefined peasant to be princess? It's disgusting."
(What should I do?)
I began to tremble as I took on the full brunt of their nasty whispers and piercing stares.
But then I remembered what Giles had told me—
Giles    "You'll need to learn how to accept every critique and insult with a smile and grace."
Giles    "But that's only a part of the princess's duties.
Giles    "She also has to ensure that she and her prince have the trust and support of the people."
(That's right—I have to smile.)
With trembling hands, I lowered the glass to the table.
Tina    "Oh no!"
But I was shaking so much I knocked the glass over,
spilling its contents onto my dress.
(I can't believe it.)
Lady 1    "Her kind are probably more comfortable in dirty clothes anyway."
Laughter and scorn filled the room.
(I just can't win.)
Suddenly, Louis grabbed my hand.
His grip was too tight for me to pull away.
Louis    "May Her Highness borrow your guest chambers for a moment, Your Grace?"
Archduke Durey    "Oh, yes. Of course."
Louis    "Come with me."
(What now?)
Princess challenge------
Louis Part3_Ch.5.jpg  

=====================

Behind a dressing curtain, I changed into the skirt that had been hastily procured for me.
Louis    "Have you finished changing?"
Tina    "Yes."
Wiping the tears from my eyes, I stepped out from behind the curtain.
Tina    "Thank you for getting me out of there, Louis."
Louis    "Those are the sort of people who inhabit the world you live in now."
Louis fixed his eyes on me with an intense stare.
(A world full of people like that...)
I hadn't forgotten the sneers on their faces, nor their scornful words.
Louis    "If you don't learn how to protect yourself, they'll destroy you."
Tina    "........."
Louis    "This is what's bound to happen when a commoner is selected to be princess elect."
Louis was frowned, his eyes filled with sadness.
(Could this be why Louis was so opposed to me becoming princess?
(Had he been trying to protect me?
(Had he been looking out for me from the start?
(That would explain so much.)
But I knew better than to ask. Louis wasn't likely to give me a straight answer.
(Whatever the answer, it doesn't matter.)
Tina    "Louis, I'm going to keep trying.
Tina    "I still think I can become a princess Wysteria will be proud of. You'll see."
I gave Louis a look of pure determination.
Louis    "What happened out there is going to happen over and over again."
Louis replied softly, his gaze unwavering.
Tina    "I know."
Louis    "You'll have to learn more rules than you can count. You'll have to endure more hardships than you can imagine."
Tina    "I know that too."
Louis    "And I won't be a lenient teacher."
Tina    "I'm counting on it."
Louis's words brought a smile back to my face.
A hint of a smile flickered across Louis's face as well.
Tina    "I look forward to resuming our lessons, Louis."
The eyes of everyone in the dance hall were upon us as soon as we entered the room.
I could hear the whispers of gossip and clucking of tongues as I made my way through.
Archduke Durey    "Your Highness, is everything all right?"
Tina    "I'm fine, thank you. I'm terribly sorry for any worry I've caused."
I smiled at the archduke, in hopes of easing the concerned look on his face.
Archduke Durey    "That's...certainly a relief to know."
(Hmm.)
Looking around the room, I noticed the champagne glasses. They remained on the table, untouched.
(When you're told to "help yourself" to beverages placed on a table, why is it a breach of etiquette to take one?)
Tina    "Louis, why aren't we supposed to serve ourselves?"
I asked the question quietly, so as not to be overheard.
Louis    "Because we're supposed to be of noble standing.
Louis    "And that means projecting an image of never wanting for food or drink."
Tina    "Really?"
(That might just be the stupidest thing I've ever heard.)
There wasn't even any waitstaff to serve the champagne.
The glasses remained in a neat line, not a single sip consumed.
(It made no sense. Archduke Durey had wanted us to drink it.
(Hadn't he wanted to show us his hospitality?
(And if so, wasn't refusing to drink the champagne an insult to him?)
I stepped closer to the table and picked up a glass.
Lady 1    "Dear me, she's doing it again!"
Louis    "Tina!"
Ignoring the uproar around me, I raised the glass to my lips and took a sip.
Tina    "Your Grace."
Archduke Durey    "Errh, yes, Your Highness?"
The archduke's eyes widened with surprise, and his polite smile could not fully conceal the worry on his face.
Tina    "This champagne is delicious.Thank you for sharing it with us."
The archduke's look of surprise gave way to a wide grin.
Archduke Durey    "Why, it's the finest vintage from the manor's reserves."
At those words, the nattering noblewomen in the crowd fell silent.
Tina    "Giles, we should take our leave shortly."
Giles    "Yes, Your Highness."
Giles nodded, a satisfied smile on his face.
Tina    "Thank you for inviting me to this banquet, Your Grace. I had a wonderful time."
Archduke Durey    "The pleasure was all mine, Your Highness. Do come visit us again."
Giles held open the door as Louis and I passed through.

3-5 end

====================

It was the day after Archduke Durey's banquet.
Louis and I resumed my preparation for the coronation ceremony.
Louis    "You need to bend your knee."
Tina    "Like this?"
Louis    "No. You need to sweep your other foot behind you."
I tried to do as Louis asked.
Tina    "How's this?"
Louis    "Precisely."
It was always so satisfying to finally win Louis's approval.
Louis certainly hadn't become less demanding an instructor.
But his lessons had become significantly more pleasant.
I no longer felt the intense pressure I experienced when he taught me how to dance.
Maybe we've become a little more comfortable around each other?
Tina    "Isn't it about time for a break, Louis?"
Louis    "No, it's not."
Louis    "You need to thoroughly master your curtsy before regional languages with Giles this afternoon."
Tina    "Okay."
I don't know whether Louis was as tired as I was, but it definitely wasn't his style to take breaks.
Our lesson resumed,
but Louis proved to be a tough teacher until I finally mastered the lesson.
Louis    "Nico."
After several more grueling lessons, Louis motioned to Nico, who had been waiting on his orders.
Nico    "How may I be of service, Your Grace?"
Louis    "Her Royal Highness will be having tea in the garden shortly. Prepare a tea service."
(I will?)
Nico    "Right away, m'lord."
Nico raced off to the kitchen.
I gave Louis an inquisitive look.
Tina    "Tea in the garden?"
Louis    "Seeing as your afternoon schedule is packed with other classes."
(So he's still looking out for me.)
Louis must have known I was looking at him, but he avoided meeting my gaze.
Tina    "Thank you, Louis."
I smiled at his profile.
Clouds drifted across an azure sky.
Simply sipping my tea in such lovely weather was enough to brighten my mood.
(Now that I think about it,
(Louis and I haven't spent time together outside of some lesson or formal function until now.)
Tina    "Hey, Louis—"
Louis    "What is it?"
Tina    "Did you receive lessons like this when you were younger?"
I had only been intending to make conversation,
but Louis's eyes narrowed coldly as he lowered his gaze.

====================

Louis's eyes narrowed coldly as he lowered his gaze. He then began to speak quietly.
Louis    "I wonder—"
Tina    "You don't remember?"
Louis    "Why are you so interested to know?"
I could practically see a wall dividing the two of us as Louis's voice grew deeper.
Tina    "Why? Well—"

[1] I don't know anything about you. (Honey)
Tina    "It's just that you've been such a big help to me, but I know almost nothing about you."
Louis    "Then let's keep it that way."
Louis looked up just long enough for me to see a brief flicker of sorrow in his eyes.

[2] I want to know you better. (Sugar)
Tina    "I just want to know you better."
Louis    "That would accomplish nothing.

[3] How could I not wonder.
Tina    "I mean, how could I not wonder?"
Louis    "You'll have to learn not to.

Louis    "It has nothing to do with your role as princess."
Louis turned away, lifting the porcelain teacup to his lips.
Tina    "Okay."
Sipping on the fragrant tea, I gazed at Louis's profile.
(If there's one thing I've learned over the last few days, it's that Louis has a kind heart.
(But I still have no idea about what goes on in that head of his.)
After tea, it was time for my regional languages lesson with Giles.
Giles    "You're a quick learner, Your Highness."
Tina    "Thank you."
Giles    "And judging from the way you conducted yourself yesterday,
Giles    "your inner princess has already begun to emerge."
Tina    "It's all thanks to you and Louis."
Giles's eyes narrowed and his smile widened. I could tell he was choosing his next words carefully.
Giles    "I understand that your coronation ceremony requires a great deal of preparation.
Giles    "But I hope it is not entirely distracting you from your primary duty as princess elect."
(My primary duty—
(He's right. Between last night's banquet and the preparations for the coronation ceremony,
(I haven't thought about selecting a prince consort at all.)
The weight of my duties came crashing down on me like a wall of stone.
Giles    "Are you finding that you and Duke Howard are compatible?"
Tina    "What?"
Giles    "Have you forgotten that he, too, is one of the candidates for prince consort?"
Giles's widening smile didn't do much to put me at ease.
(I could pick Louis as my prince consort?
(I hadn't even considered the idea.
(If I picked Louis—
(That would mean Louis and I would... Oh!)

===================

(That would mean Louis and I would... Oh!)
All I could do was shake my head after thinking about the implications.
Tina    "It's—it's much too soon."
I didn't even know if that's what I wanted. The whole situation was so confusing.
Giles    "Well, we are fortunate that the king's health hasn't deteriorated further.
Giles    "There's no need to rush, but please do consider the possibility, my lady."
After finishing our lesson, I thought about Giles's words as I walked back to my chamber.
(The candidates for prince consort—
(I'm supposed to choose from amongst the men I've met here in the palace, right?
(So that means Giles, Alyn
(Leo, I suppose, and maybe even Nico?
(There's Robert, too.
(And then, of course there is—
(Louis.)
I could visualize Louis much more clearly than all the others.
Maybe it was because we spent so much time together.
(It's weird, I know I have to choose somebody, but it still doesn't feel real.)
But one day, a choice would have to be made.
(What's that?)
Glancing down the hall, I noticed one of the palace maids trudging slowly ahead of me.
She seemed to be struggling under the weight of an extremely heavy load.
Tina    "Are you all right?"
Maid    "Oh, Your Royal Highness! I—Oops!"
The trembling maid lost her grip on her stack of things, and they clattered to the floor.
Maid    "F-Forgive me, Your Highness!"
Tina    "No, the fault was all mine! I'm sorry I surprised you like that."
Ignoring the maid's polite protests, I helped her to gather the fallen items.
(This is more weight than any one person could comfortably carry.)
Tina    "May I help you carry your load?"
Maid    "Y-Your Highness! I couldn't possibly accept such help from the princess elect!"
Clutching her things tightly, the maid shook her head vigorously.
Tina    "You don't need to worry about that!
Tina    "I used to work with children. I'm a lot stronger than I look."
Maid    "Princess Tina—"
As I gathered my share of the load, the maid smiled at me through tear-filled eyes.
Alyn ran into Louis as he made his way to the barracks.
Alyn    "What're you still doing at the palace, Louis?"
Alyn's voice stopped Louis in his tracks.
Louis    "What's it to you, Sir Alyn?"

===================

Alyn    "Ah, that's right. Giles said something about you becoming Tina's teacher."
Louis    "Indeed."
Louis's response was flat and unenthusiastic.
Alyn    "Teaching manners to a girl who tried to climb over the palace wall on a bunch of vines—"
Alyn    "Glad it's not my job."
Louis    "It's not so bad."
Alyn arched an eyebrow at Louis's unexpected reply.
Alyn    "You've changed, you know?"
Louis    "How so?"
This time, it was Louis who appeared slightly unnerved.
Alyn    "You're way easier to read than you used to be."
Louis    "You may just be right."
Too conflicted to maintain his usual cold composure,
Louis's emotions had begun to seep into his intonation.
Alyn    "Huh? I know that voice—"
Louis    "........."
Hearing bright peals of laughter coming from a nearby cloister,
Alyn and Louis turned to look.
Maid    "I've actually just started here at the palace a few days ago."
Tina    "Is that right? Me too!"
Maid    "Everyone at the palace has been so welcoming. Although sometimes Giles's smile kind of scares me."
Tina    "Yes. Me too."
The pair of men watched as Tina and the maid walked down the hall.
Despite the burden of their heavy loads, the two happily chatted away.
Alyn    "A princess helping a maid with her chores?"
Louis    "........."
Alyn gave a disapproving sigh.
Louis silently watched as the two disappeared around a corner.
Alyn    "What's up with you, Louis?"
Louis    "Pardon?"
At the sound of his name, Louis snapped back to reality.
Alyn    "It's not like you to become distracted like that."
Louis    "Hm? No, I'm fine."
Louis's reply was barely audible. He averted his eyes from Alyn.
Alyn    "Is there something going on between you two?"
Louis walked away, leaving Alyn standing there confused and alone.
Having completed my evening studies, my day was finally done.
(I can't wait to crawl into bed.)
Exhausted from another long day, I headed straight back to my chamber.
Tina    "AAAH!"
A hand gripped my arm from behind and pulled me into a nearby room.
Tina    "Who is it?!"
I spun to face my assailant.
And there he stood.
???    "So you're the new princess?"

====================

???    "So you're the new princess?"
The man who had pulled me into the room addressed me with an insolent sneer.
(Who is he?)
I tried to pull my arm out of his grip,
but it only prompted him to pull me in closer.
Tina    "Hey!"
???    "Hmm..."
Still holding me with one hand, he placed the other under my chin.
He lifted my head upward, as if he wanted a better view of my face.
Tina    "Who are you? How did you get into the palace?!"
???    "By walking through the front gates, of course."
Ignoring my incredulous glare, he proudly announced his intentions.
???    "I came to give Giles an interesting tidbit of information I'd picked up,
???    "but the rumors I kept hearing about you were so much more interesting."
(He knows Giles? But how?)
Tina    "What do you want?"
Determined not to show any fear, I kept my eyes fixed on his.
???    "I just want to get to know you better, Your Highness."
I could tell by the sparkle in his eyes he wasn't backing down any time soon.
The harder I tried to quash my fears and stare him back down, the more his eyes sparkled.
Sid    "Guess I ought to introduce myself. The name's Sid."
(Sid? I've never heard of him before.)
Sid    "So have you picked your prince yet?"
Tina    "What?!"
The question left me flustered. Why was a man I'd just met asking the one question I myself had been struggling with?
Sid laughed, pleased to have caught me off guard. He lowered his face to within a few inches of my own.
Sid    "Louis Howard."
I gasped at the whispered name.
(Did this man know Louis?)
Sid    "You two have sure been spending a lot of time together.
Sid    "But Louis, he's not interested in being a prince."
Tina    "How would you know that?"
Sid    "Now, why do you think that is?"
There was something strange and unsettling about the look in Sid's eyes.
Sid    "Let's just say you and Louis have got something in common."

Louis Part3_end.jpg  
 
====================

Louis main story_L04.jpg  

Louis Howard Part 4

Sid    "Let's just say you and Louis have got something in common."
(What's he talking about?
(And how does he seem to know so much about us?)
Sid    "If you ask me, Louis isn't cut out to be a prince, anyways.
Sid    "We'll probably end up groveling at the feet of His Royal Highness Alyn Crawford when all's said and done, eh?"
The last comment seemed to be more for Sid's own amusement than anything else.
Sid abruptly withdrew his hand from my chin.
Tina    "What did you mean, 'we have something in common?'"
Alyn    "What's all the commotion at this hour?!"
The door swung open and Alyn stepped through.
Alyn    "What is going on here?"
Alyn pulled his sword from its scabbard as soon as he spotted Sid's grip on my arm.
Sid    "Calm down, sir knight. I wasn't gonna do anything to your princess."
Sid raised his arms in a grandiose gesture and swaggered away from me.
Finally free, I ran towards Alyn, who quickly stepped between Sid and I.
Sid    "At ease, soldier. You don't wanna be pointing that thing at me.
Sid    "Giles and I've got a mutually lucrative business relationship. Though I'm sure you're already aware of that, captain."
Alyn    "......"
Alyn stood his ground, glaring sternly at Sid.
But Sid merely shrugged at the sight as made his way towards the door.
Sid    "Well, now that I've had my audience with Her Royal Highness, my work here's done.
Sid    "Good night to you, Princess. And good evening, sir knight."
And with that, Sid waltzed out the door as if he hadn't a care in the world.
Alyn kept his sword raised until Sid's footsteps had completely faded away.
Alyn    "You okay, Tina?"
Shaking his head in exasperation, Alyn sighed and sheathed his blade.
Tina    "Thank you, Alyn. I'm fine. He didn't do anything to me."
Alyn    "That guy's an informant who works for Giles."
Alyn glared at the door.
Alyn    "I've seen them together a bunch of times."
(An informant?
(Is that why he knew so much about Louis?)
Alyn    "Probably best you avoid walking around by yourself, even inside the palace."
Tina    "Sure..."
Alyn    "I'll escort you to your chamber. Come on."
Alyn took my hand and led me through the corridor.
(What was Sid saying about Louis and I?)
Sid    "But Louis, he's not interested in being a prince."
Sid    "Let's just say you and Louis have got something in common."
Sid spoke as though he knew Louis well.
(What did he mean?)
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get Sid's words out of my head.

===================

The coronation ceremony was scheduled for tomorrow, and my preparations were nearly complete.
After breakfast, I went to have my daily lesson with Louis.
I opened the door to find him already at the desk, reading a book.
(Louis is always early.)
Louis had been such a wonderful teacher, always making sure I never suffered through our lessons.
But whenever I interpreted his kindness as an invitation to draw closer, he always shut himself off.
(Sid said Louis and I had something in common.
(But the more I come to know Louis, the harder it is to find any similarities between us.
(Maybe the problem is I don't actually know him at all.
(It's so hard to figure out who the real Louis is when he always keeps his emotions hidden away.
(I wonder what he's actually like?)
Louis    "Tina?"
Louis noticed me standing in the doorway, and was peering at me with a quizzical look on his face.
Louis    "Is something wrong?"

[1] Hmm? What?
Tina    "Hmm? What?"
Louis    "You're asking me? How long do you intend to stand there?"
I closed the door and sat down beside Louis.

[2] Oh, I just spaced out a little. (Honey)
Tina    "Oh, I just spaced out a little."
Louis   "I understand that you're tired,but it is time to begin our lesson."
Tina    "No problem. I'm fine."

[3] No problem. I'm fine. (Sugar)
Louis   "Is something wrong?"
Tina    "It's nothing. Nothing at all."
Louis   "Then come inside already."

I closed the door and sat down beside Louis.
Louis   "After this lesson, I'll have taught you everything I was asked to instruct."
Louis stared at me with eyes devoid of emotion.
Tina    "Oh, I see."
(So this is our final lesson?
(I guess I should have seen this coming.
(After all, Giles had only asked Louis to help prepare me for the ceremony.)
My lessons with Louis had been grueling and anything but fun.
Nevertheless, the thought of them ending made me incredibly sad.
Louis   "After the ceremony, you should focus on your primary duties as the princess."
Tina    "I suppose you're right."
("My duties as the princess." Reminds me of conversations I've had with Giles and Sid.)
Giles   "Are you finding that you and Duke Howard are compatible?"
Giles   "Have you forgotten that he, too, is one of the candidates for prince consort?"
Sid      "But Louis, he's not interested in being a prince."
Tina    "How would you feel if I chose you as prince consort, Louis?"
I blurted out the question before I even had time to second guess myself.
(What have I done?!)
I looked up to find Louis staring back at me with a serious look on his face.
Louis   "You want to make me your prince consort?"

===================

Louis   "You want to make me your prince consort?"
(Well—)
Louis responded with a question of his own, the look in his eyes intense.
Tina    "That's, er—"
My mind went blank, and I just couldn't seem to find the words needed.
Louis   "........."
For a moment, Louis looked like he was about to say something, but then awkwardly broke his gaze.
Louis   "If that’s the case, I’d advise you to find another candidate."
(Another candidate?)
Louis's refusal was like a knife in the heart.
Louis   "I simply cannot be the prince consort."
Louis turned his face away from mine, his icy expression sealing in the rejection.
It was clear that there would be no follow-up questions.
Louis   "Today we'll learn about how to properly excuse yourself and bid farewell to others.
Louis   "The biggest mistakes are the easiest to make, so you'll want to pay close attention."
And so, Louis launched into the day's lesson.
We ploughed through each topic without a mere mention of the previous discussion.
Tina    "Okay..."
I listened carefully to his every word, but found it difficult to concentrate.
The pain of Louis's rejection only grew worse as our lesson progressed.
......
I stood at the door, lifting the hem of my dress in a formal curtsy.
This practice parting was the final task of the day's lesson.
(Who knows when I'll have a reason to see Louis again after this?)
I lifted my head, fighting back the loneliness. Louis gave me a gentle smile.
Tina    "........."
Louis   "You pass."
(Why do I feel this way?
(I should be happy to have won Louis's approval.
(But I'm so sad I just don't know what to do with myself.)
Louis   "And that concludes our lessons together."
Tina    "Louis, I—
I had intended to ask if I would see him again, but just then, the door opened behind me.
Alyn    "Got a minute?"
(Alyn?)

====================

Alyn    "Got a minute?"
My question stopped mid-sentence, I turned to address Alyn.
Tina    "Um, yes. Of course. I'll be back soon, Louis."
I followed Alyn into the hallway outside the study
Louis   "........."
Louis watched silently as Tina disappeared beyond the door.
A hint of loneliness crossed his cold blue eyes.
Alyn    "Hey, you hear anything from Sid since last night?"
Tina    "Of course not. I've been with Louis the entire time."
Alyn    "All right."
Alyn frowned as he seemed to be thinking over something rather unpleasant.
Alyn    "I've tightened security for your coronation ceremony, but be on guard, okay?"
Tina    "I will. Thank you, Alyn."
Alyn nodded, a look of worry crossing his face.
Alyn    "What's wrong with you? You look a little down."
Alyn patted my head in an attempt, perhaps, to show concern.
Alyn    "You gotta pull it together. You can't show up at your ceremony with a face like that."
Tina    "You're right."
(I do need to pull it together.
(And yet, when I told Louis I knew almost nothing about him—)
Louis   "Then let's keep it that way."
Louis   "It has nothing to do with your role as princess."
I closed my eyes as Louis's voice repeated in my mind.
(If Louis refuses to be prince consort, then maybe he's right?
(Maybe it is best that I don't know anything about him?)
Alyn    "Good luck, Your Highness."
Alyn patted me on the shoulder, perhaps noticing his pep talk had failed.
Alyn    "Have you been making the most of Louis's lessons?"
Tina    "Y-Yes."
(I really don't have time to worry about what Louis's thinking.
(I'm going to have to put everything he had taught me to practice tomorrow.)
I raised my head and gave Alyn the best smile I could muster.
Alyn smiled back.
???     "Excuse me Your Royal Highness, is Duke Howard here?"
Alyn and I turned to look towards the speaker. Neither of us had heard him approach.
(What now?)

====================

???     "Excuse me Your Royal Highness, is Duke Howard here?"
The man gestured towards the study door. I couldn't recall ever seeing him before.
Tina    "He is, but—"
Messenger "I'm from His Grace's duchy. Do you mind if I have a moment with him?"
(Louis's duchy? This man works at Louis's estate, I guess?)
The man made a respectful bow to Alyn and I, then entered the study.
Through the open door, I was able to see Louis nod his greetings.
The two spoke quietly, with Louis as reserved as ever, but I overheard snippets of conversation.
Messenger "But, Your Grace—"
(What are they arguing about?)
Louis's visitor began to raise his voice slightly.
Messenger "This could threaten relationships that have taken generations to build!"
Louis   "The matter is not up for discussion. I will not permit the transfer."
Even Louis had begun to speak angrily enough that his voice could be heard from the hallway.
Messenger "As you insist, Your Grace.
Messenger "But it will be only a matter of time before your refusal is met with widespread condemnation."
The attendant delivered the ominous warning before abruptly leaving the room.
(What on earth?)
As Alyn and I watched the attendant hurry away, Louis emerged from the study.
Tina   "Louis, is everything okay?"
It certainly didn't look like it. Louis's face had taken on a gray pallor.
Louis   "As I've told you before,
Louis   "it is of no concern to the princess."
(And here we go again.)
Louis disappeared down the hallway, refusing to meet my gaze as he passed.
Alyn    "I've never seen Louis argue with his staff before."
Alyn and I watched as Louis disappeared past a corner.
Tina    "Really?"
Alyn    "Yeah. I've heard nothing but praise for the way he's run his duchy."
Alyn seemed slightly bewildered.
(What's going on with you, Louis?)
That night, as Nico and I were returning to my room after my bath, I spotted Louis far ahead of us in the hallway.
(Where is he going at this hour?)
Tina    "Nico, can you go on ahead to my chamber?"
Nico    "M'lady?"
Nico seemed surprised, and maybe even a little concerned, by my sudden request.
Tina    "I need to have a word with Louis."
Nico    "What if Giles sees you? You have an early morning tomorrow."
Tina    "I know. I won't be too long."
I gazed up at Nico until he finally gave in with a shrug and a deep sigh.
Nico    "Hurry back, OK?"
Tina    "Thanks, Nico."
Leaving Nico behind, I raced off in the direction I'd last seen Louis.

Princess challenge--
4.05- Royal Challenge.png  
Louis Part4_Ch.5.png  

=====================

I caught another glimpse of Louis, and followed him as he began climbing the steps to the palace clock tower.
(What's Louis doing up here?)
At the top of the tower's spiral staircase, the town, specked by twinkling lights, unfurled beneath me.
Tina    "How beautiful!"
(I've lived in this town my whole life, but I've never seen it like this before).
The faint glow of the lights gave the town a sense of warmth despite the heavy blanket of night.
Gazing out on the town, my heart was filled with loneliness and a longing for what once was.
(There's Louis!)
He was staring out over the town as well, his back turned to me.
(Is he crying?)
Tina    "Louis—"
I hadn't intended to call out to him, but he looked so sad and lonesome I couldn't stop myself.
Louis   "Tina? What are you doing here?"
As Louis spun to face me, the surprise was plain on his face.
Tina    "I saw you come up here, and—"
Louis   "You'll catch a cold walking at night with wet hair."
Louis smiled, speaking in the lightly chiding tone he had often used in his lessons.
(Something still feels wrong.)
Tina    "Louis, are you okay?"
Louis   "Why do you ask?"

[1] You look so distraught. ( Honey)
Tina    "You look so distraught."
Louis   "Do I?"
Louis looked away, as if he didn't want me to come any closer.
(That look again...)

[2] You look so sad. (Sugar)
Tina    "You look so sad."
Louis   "........."

[3] You look so distressed.
Tina    "You look so distressed."
Louis   "Hmm..."

Louis looked away, as if he didn't want me to come any closer.
(That look again...)
His eyes seemed to be pleading with me not to ask anything, to change the subject.
Tina    "This is the first time I've seen the town from the palace. It's so beautiful."
I tried to make my voice sound like there was nothing wrong.
The glowing lights below brightened even the darkest shadows over my heart.
Louis looked away, as if he didn't want me to come any closer.
(That look again...)
His eyes seemed to be pleading with me not to ask anything, to change the subject.
Tina    "This is the first time I've seen the town from the palace. It's so beautiful."
I tried to make my voice sound like there was nothing wrong.
The glowing lights below brightened even the darkest shadows over my heart.

===================

Louis   "There's still a place for you down there."
(Louis?)
As Louis gazed out over the town, I peered at him, trying to figure out the what he was feeling.
Tina    "I do miss it sometimes, I suppose."
I recalled the words I heard in the king's room when I was appointed princess elect.
Bureaucrat "Should the worst come to pass and the throne be rendered vacant, Stein is certain to strike!"
Court Official "A day as princess elect and she thinks she knows everything."
And I remembered the dried flower bookmark, and the smile on my student's face.
Tina    "I want to make our people feel safe and assured.
Tina    "If that's something that only I can do, then I have a duty to do it right."
That's what I swore to myself when I accepted the role of princess elect.
Louis   "You're such a strong person."
The expression on Louis's face relaxed as he gave me a bittersweet smile.
Louis   "While I still feel like such a child."
Tina    "What do you mean?"
As I pondered the meaning of his words, Louis stepped to my side.
Then he abruptly pulled me against his body, as he had the day he taught me to dance.
Tina    "L-Louis! What are you—"
I stiffened as my pulse quickened.
Louis   "Hold still."
Louis slipped his hands around my neck.
I felt the cool sensation of metal against my skin.
(What's this?)
I looked down to see a beautiful pendant glittering in the moonlight.
Tina    "Er, Louis?"
Louis   "Consider it your reward."
(My reward?)
Tina    "For completing my lessons?"
Louis   "If you like."
Before I knew it, Louis's lips were inches from my own.

===================

Tina    "Oh!"
Instinctively, I shut my eyes as soon as I saw Louis's face draw near mine.
(.........)
(Wait—nothing's happening.)
Louis "I'll escort you to your chamber."
(What?)
I opened my eyes to Louis's back.
He was just standing there as if nothing had happened.
(I was sure he had been coming in for a kiss.
(At least Louis won't be able to see how red my cheeks are in the dark.)
Louis   "I haven't got all night."
Tina    "Right."
Already many footsteps ahead, I had to scramble to catch up. Finally, I was back at his side.
Tina "Thank you for the necklace."
Louis   "Of course."
Louis's face had returned to normal, and I was once again unable to find a hint of emotion in his profile.
......
The day broke, bringing with it my coronation ceremony.
The grandiose ceremony was attended by nobility from far and wide.
I rode through the town in an elaborate parade, and gave a speech before the assembled people.
The experience was intense and stressful, but I put all that I had learned from Louis to good use.
I managed to make it through to the end without any significant mistakes.
The King "Let us all offer our blessings to the new princess elect of Wysteria."
With those words, His Majesty the King concluded my appointment.
The emissaries of various lands who had assembled in the palace raised a thunderous applause.
Tina    "I vow to serve Wysteria to the best of my ability."
I performed the regal curtsy just as Louis had taught me.
I spotted Giles and Leo in the front row of the hall, clapping enthusiastically.
Alyn    "You know, that could have gone a lot worse."
Alyn stood close, acting as my personal guard during the ceremony.
He smiled from ear to ear as he whispered his praise.
(But where's Louis?)
Scanning the hall, I soon spotted him, applauding along with the crowd.
(Thank you, Louis.)
The sight of him made me smile, and Louis responded with a subtle smile of his own.
Louis   "!"
Louis's smiled disappeared, revealing a concerned frown.
Something at the edge of the hall had caught his attention.
I followed Louis's gaze to see what had upset him so.
(Is that Sid?!)

=====================

I felt the blood drain from my face when I saw Sid.
(How did he even get in here?)
Sid     "..."
Sid had been watching Louis, but he quickly turned his gaze towards me.
He flashed a smooth smile before dramatically turning to walk away.
(What was that about?)
Louis   "..."
His face grim, Louis followed Sid out the door.
(What's going on here?)
Giles found me in the antechamber after the ceremony ended.
Giles   "Positively splendid, Your Highness."
Beaming, Giles set to work adjusting my hair.
Tina    "Thank you, Giles. What's next on the agenda?"
I hadn't been able to concentrate since seeing Louis follow Sid out of the hall.
(What had become of them?)
Giles   "Next, I'll be escorting the guests to the dining hall.
Giles   "But you should take a little time to rest before you join us."
(A break sounds nice.)
Giles   "Nico, bring Her Highness something to drink."
After issuing the order to Nico, Giles left to attend to the guests.
Nico    "I'll be back in just a moment, Tina."
I was alone in the antechamber.
Tina "Dare I?"
(If I don't go now, I'll never have a second chance to search for Louis and Sid.
(I know Giles told me to stay put, but he won't find out, right?)
Quietly, I slipped out of the antechamber.
Sid stopped in a rarely visited corner of the garden, and waited for his pursuer.
Only a few paces behind, Louis soon joined him.
Louis   "Sid!
Louis   "What are you up to?"
Louis's voice was guarded and somber.
Sid turned and locked eyes with Louis.
Sid     "Who says I'm up to anything? I'm just here to congratulate your lovely new princess."

===================

(Wherever did they go?)
The public areas of the palace were packed with guests from the coronation ceremony.
I headed to the garden, assuming it would be the only place they'd be free from prying eyes.
(It sure seemed like they knew each other.)
Sid     "Louis Howard.
Sid     "If you ask me, Louis isn't cut out to be a prince, anyways."
Each memory of Sid made me more worried for Louis. It was so easy to read sinister implications into Sid's words.
(I hope he hasn't done anything to Louis.)
Scanning the garden as I hurried through it, my eyes landed on two shadowy figures.
(That's them!)
Staring intently at each other, neither Louis nor Sid noticed me approaching.
Sid     "...not half as funny as an orphan teaching a princess how to act like nobility.
Sid     "Look how far you've come, Louis."
My feet froze as I overheard Sid's words.
(An orphan?)
Louis  "Shut up."
Louis's voice was low and dry.
Sid     "The orphanage that sold you off must be celebrating pretty hard right now, eh?"
Louis  "Enough!"
I could see a hint of distress in Louis's quivering eyes.
(Louis had been sold by an orphanage?
(None of this makes any sense at all!)
Too bewildered to think to conceal myself, Sid was the first to notice me.
With a defiant chuckle, Sid turned his head in my direction.
Sid     "Her Royal Highness has graced us with her majestic presence."
Louis   "What?!"
Louis jerked his head around to follow Sid's gaze. His eyes widened when he saw me.
With a defiant chuckle, Sid turned his head in my direction.
Sid     "Her Royal Highness has graced us with her majestic presence."
Louis   "What?!"
Louis jerked his head around to follow Sid's gaze. His eyes widened when he saw me.
For an instant, confusion and panic danced across his face—more emotion than I'd ever seen Louis show.
But then his face froze, and his voice returned to a low whisper.
Louis   "Tina—"

Louis Part4_end.jpg  
Part 4 end

===================

Louis main story_L05.png  

Louis Howard Part 4

(Louis was an orphan?!
(Could what Sid said possibly be true?)
Louis    "........."
The icy expression on Louis's face froze me in my tracks.
Sid    "Bet I know just what you're thinking, love."
His lips twisted in a sneer, Sid shattered the awkward silence.
Sid    "Every word I've said is true."
Tina    "......"
My heartbeat quickened as I met Sid's gaze.
Sid    "Louis lived in an orphanage till he was kidnapped by the duke's family."
Tina    "K-Kidnapped?!"
I frowned as the story took another dark turn.
Louis    "Stop this at once, Sid!"
Louis's voice was cold but steady.
Louis    "This doesn't have anything to do with her."
Sid    "If she wants to know, then it does have something to do with her, doesn't it?"
You could tell from the look on Sid's face he was enjoying the chaos he had created.
Sid    "The previous duke and duchess couldn't make any children of their own.
Sid    "But they needed to get themselves an heir somehow.
Sid    "So they found a pretty little blond baby among all the wretches at the local orphanage.
Sid    "And they just took him.
Sid    "They took him and raised him to be their heir."
Tina    "That can't be true—"
(Is Sid really telling the truth?)
Sid    "Tell the princess, Louis."
Sid shifted his gaze to Louis and raised an eyebrow.
Sid    "Tell her how you suffered as a lowborn boy in the duke's household.
Sid    "Tell her how many times you tried to run away.
Sid    "What better way to celebrate this auspicious day than by sharing your own sob story with her?"
(Poor Louis.)
I turned to look at Louis, only to find him gazing at me.
Louis    "..."

====================

Tina    "Louis, I—"
(What could I possibly say at a time like this?)
Nico    "Tina! What are you doing out here?!"
Just as I was struggling to find the right words, I heard Nico calling me from behind.
Tina    "Oh, Nico."
Nico    "Our guests are all waiting in the banquet hall! You have to hurry!"
(But I can't leave Louis like this.)
Afraid to leave him alone with Sid, I searched Louis's face for guidance.
Louis    "I should be going as well."
Louis flashed me a reassuring smile, as if nothing of significance had just happened.
For a moment, I could almost believe that was true—that everything Sid had said was a lie.
Nico    "Quickly now, m'lady!"
Tina    "!"
Nico grabbed my hand and started walking towards the dining hall. I followed reluctantly.
Nico    "I've been looking everywhere for you!"
My sudden disappearance had clearly sent poor Nico into a panic. I'd have to make this up to him.
Tina    "I'm sorry, Nico."
Nico was more interested in hustling me towards the dining hall than discussing it further.
I tried to make sense of what had happened as I walked.
The first thing Sid told me about Louis came rushing back to me.
Sid    "Let's just say you and Louis have got something in common."
(So that's what he meant!
(We're both of common birth.
("Something in common," indeed.)
I thought back to the night Louis and I left the palace together.
Louis    "Because if a commoner like yourself were to become princess,
Louis    "I assure you, it would not end happily."
Tina    "You think being a duke gives you the right to judge others by their standing?
Tina    "That's despicable!"
Louis    "Despicable I may be, but you and I—"
(What was Louis thinking about when he said that?)
But I did know one thing—
I finally understood why Louis looked so sad sometimes.
Nico    "M'lady, we've arrived at the dining hall."
Nico's voice snapped me back to the present.
Tina    "Yes, of course."
(When this banquet is over, I have to find Louis. No matter what!)

=======================

Louis watched wordlessly as Tina was hustled away, noting the numerous times she turned to look back at him.
When she passed out of view, Louis turned his emotionless gaze back to Sid.
Sid    "Shouldn't you be off to your fancy dinner?"
Sid was still staring off in the direction in which Tina had disappeared.
Louis    "There's something I need to say to you first."
Sid    "You've got something to say to ME? What a rare occasion."
Louis    "If you harm Tina, I'll destroy you."
If the icily delivered threat made an impression on Sid, he didn't show it.
Sid    "Ooh, now the Howards' dress-up dolly is a big tough knight!"
Louis    "........."
Sid punctuated his comment with a derisive snort, but Louis didn't break his pointed stare.
Nor did Sid flinch away from Louis's gaze. But after a few moments of awkward silence,
Sid shrugged his shoulders and rolled his eyes.
Sid    "Fine, Louis. Noted."
Louis    "........."
At that, Louis turned and walked away.
Sid    "I thought you'd be so much more upset about this.
Sid    "You really aren't much fun anymore, Louis."
Sid shook his head, disappointed, and gave a half-hearted laugh as Louis disappeared into the building.
Sid    "I guess you've finally grown up a bit."
I searched the palace for Louis after the banquet ended, but found no trace of him.
Exhausted, I hugged my knees to my chest in the bathtub as I recalled the events of the day.
The conversation in the garden with Louis had all but pushed the coronation ceremony entirely out of my mind.
(So if Louis was an orphan—)
Louis    "Those are the sort of people who inhabit the world you live in now."
Louis    "No matter how tired you become, or how painful the lessons may be.
Louis    "This is what's bound to happen when a commoner is selected to be princess elect."
(Having to adjust to life as a nobleman must have been a painful experience for Louis.
(It explains why he said those things when I first met him.)
I remembered the vicious stares and scornful whispers of the noblewomen at Archduke Durey's banquet.
I remembered how much pressure I felt to perform flawlessly. How old was Louis when he went through the same thing?
(Louis must have been much younger than me, which would make the experience all the more painful.
(It must have been so painful to relive those experiences while giving me the same training he'd received.)
The thought was overwhelming in a way that I couldn't put into words.
(I have to talk to Louis!)

===================

(Louis, where are you?)
Instead of returning to my chamber after my bath, I resumed my search for Louis.
I had to see him, even if it was only for a moment.
(If he's not in his guestroom, then where would he be?)
As I passed through the garden, my eyes landed on a familiar patch of flowers.
(This is where we first met.)
I gazed up at the night sky. The moment still fresh in my mind.
Louis    "Are you truly foolish enough to believe in a fairy tale?"
Louis    "After finding your precious flower, I advise you take your leave."
Louis    "The palace is no place for a girl like you."
(Had he been trying to protect me even then?)
Louis    "Tina?"
Tina    "Louis!"
I spun at the sound of his voice.
Louis    "We really must do something about your habit of late night walks."
I stood dumbfounded as Louis approached.
Tina    "I was looking for you."
I knew that Louis wouldn't want to talk about what had happened.
But I couldn't help myself.
I needed to know the truth about him.
Steeling myself for an unpleasant response, I asked the question slowly.
Tina    "Louis...was what Sid said today true?"
Even though it was a cool night, I could feel my palms beginning to sweat.
Louis looked away, as if examining the bed of flowers.
Louis    "That white flower you were looking for—"
Tina    "Huh?"
Louis    "The one from your student's storybook, that grants wishes."
Tina    "Y-Yes?"
Louis    "When I was a foolish young boy, I believed in the story too."
Louis's lips curled in a faint smile.
Louis    "Do you remember that dried-flower bookmark I gave you?
Louis    "That was given to me at the orphanage."
(So he really was orphaned?)
Tina    "That means—"
Louis's eyes found me again.
Louis    "Everything Sid said was true."

====================

Louis    "The Howards were close with Sid's family.
Louis    "So I've known him for as long as I've been at the Howard manor."
Louis grimaced at his own mention of Sid, as if he'd just bitten into something rotten.
(So if everything Sid had said was true, then—)

[1] You really were kidnapped? (Honey)
Tina    "You really were kidnapped?"

[2] You really were an orphan?. (Sugar)
Tina    "You really were an orphan?"
Louis    "It's true that I was raised in an orphanage."

[3] You really are of common birth?
Tina    "You really are of common birth?"
Louis    "I was. Just like you."

Perhaps sensing my trepidation, Louis showed me a gentle smile.
Louis    "You don't need to hold back. My wounds have long healed."
Tina    "Okay."
(How like Louis to be concerned about MY feelings at a time like this.)
I tried my best to get the muscles in my face to relax.
Louis    "Was I kidnapped? I couldn't say.
Louis    "I only know that I woke up in a bed at the duke's estate one day."
Louis stepped towards me, and gently stroked my cheek with the palm of his hand.
Louis    "When I first met you, I worried you would suffer as I had."
(How much had he suffered?)
I recalled the derision I faced at Archduke Durey's dinner party.
How much worse must that have been for a child?!
Tina    "And that's why you advised me to quit as the princess elect?"
Louis    "I may have been projecting my childhood self upon you.
Louis    "I turned you into a vessel for all of my own regrets."
Louis narrowed his gentle eyes.
Louis    "I wanted you to run away while you still could."
Tina    "You were only trying to protect me."
Louis    "No. I was trying to live my own childhood fantasy of running away through you."
(I'll never believe that that was his only motivation.)
Louis    "Maybe I thought that by saving you, I could save myself?
Louis    "From the moment you were chosen as princess,
Louis    "I was obsessed with trying to save you from having to go through what I did."
(Oh, Louis.)
Louis    "But the more I came to know you,
Louis    "and the more time I spent at your side,
Louis    "the more I came to believe in you instead."
Tina    "Huh?"
Louis's eyes were so kind and pure I felt as though I might drown in them.
Louis    "You were so strong. So radiant."
(How long has Louis felt this way?!)

Louis Part5_Ch.5.png   

====================

Louis    "You were so strong. So radiant."
(How long has Louis felt this way?!)
Louis said he had come to believe in me.
As I considered his words, my heart began to beat, faster and faster.
My breath uneven, I looked into Louis's eyes.
And that's when he removed his hand from my cheek.
Louis    "I return to my duchy tomorrow."
Tina    "T-Tomorrow?!"
Louis    "I know you'll do fine here."
As my heart erupted into confusion, Louis simply smiled.
(Tomorrow? Why does it have to be so soon?!)
But I knew the answer. My lessons were done, and Louis had no further business here at the palace.
Tina    "Could I come visit you at your duchy sometime?"
With my mind still recovering from the shock of Louis's departure, it was the only thing I could think to say.
Louis    "That could be—"
Surprised and seemingly conflicted by my sudden question, Louis abruptly looked away.
Nico    "Princess Tina!"
Before Louis could complete his answer, we were interrupted by Nico for the second time that day.
Nico    "Every time I turn my back you disappear! Even I have my limits, Tina!"
All the good-natured charm had drained from Nico's stern face. He wasted no time in grabbing my hand.
Tina    "Hey, Nico—"
Nico    "You're going to your chamber now, m'lady."
Tina    "Give me a moment!"
As Nico tugged at my hand, I turned and waved to Louis.
Tina    "Thank you, Louis. We'll continue this tomorrow!"
Louis    "Indeed. Tomorrow, then."
Louis raised a hand and bent his fingers in a listless wave.
Seeing Louis wave goodbye made my heart ache.
(Louis is always so thoughtful.
(I have to find a way to thank him before he goes home tomorrow.)
Back on my bed in my chamber, I still couldn't get Louis out of my head.
Nico    "Should I douse the candles, m'lady?"
Tina    "Yes, Nico. Thank you."
Nico    "If you don't mind my asking, Tina..."
Nico asked the question as he extinguished the candles, his voice uncharacteristically somber.
Nico    "Are you planning to choose Duke Howard as your prince consort?"

===================

Tina    "Wh-Why would you ask that?"
I sat up in bed, taken aback by Nico's unexpected question.
In the dark of the room, it was hard to read Nico's expression.
But he was staring at his feet, carefully avoiding my gaze.
Nico    "It's just that, whenever you want to go anywhere, or when you just suddenly disappear on me—
Nico    "Well, it always seems to involve Duke Howard.
Nico    "So I thought maybe you were planning to pick him."
Tina    "That's true, but—"
Louis's words from earlier in the evening came flowing back to me.
Louis    "The more time I spent at your side,
Louis    "the more I came to believe in you instead."
Louis    "You were so strong. So radiant."
(What did he mean by that?)
Even now, I could feel my cheeks reddening from Louis's words. I turned to Nico and shook my head.
Tina    "I just...I just don't know."
Nico    "Hmm."
Nico fiddled with his earring. I wasn't sure what to make of his reaction.
I turned away from him to hide my scarlet cheeks.
If I hadn't looked away, I might have noticed the dark glint in Nico's narrowed eyes.
Giles    "Your Grace. You have our deepest gratitude for your exemplary work."
Louis    "I appreciate your hospitality."
Louis and I faced each other stiffly at the palace's entrance hall, surrounded by our attendants.
We were here as duke and princess, not Louis and Tina.
(I guess this really is goodbye.)
The duke's carriage was splendid, its horses already harnessed and chomping at their bits.
Louis and I exchanged a brief and formal glance.
(Louis—)
I opened my mouth to speak. I just had to say something.

[1] You've beet a great help to me.
Tina    "You've been a great help to me.I don't know what I would have done without you."
Louis    "I simply did what little I could."

[2] Thank you, Louis. Truly. (Honey)
Tina    "Thank you, Louis. Truly."
Louis    "No. The effort was all yours, Tina."

[3] I am in your debt, your Grace. (Sugar)
Tina    "I am in your debt, Your Grace."
Louis    The pleasure was mine, Your Highness."

When I saw Louis move to approach me, I extended my right hand.
(Just as he had taught me.)
Louis    "And now I must take my leave, Your Highness."
Tina    "..."
Louis lightly kissed the back of my hand. When he looked to my face, I whispered three short words.
Tina    "Till next time?"
Louis    "........."
For a fleeting moment, Louis seemed to wince, as if he'd taken an unexpected blow.
(Louis?)
Louis released my hand, smoothly turned away, and stepped into the waiting carriage.
With a clatter of hooves, he was gone.

====================

Leo    "So in other words, by allowing its nobility a certain amount of autonomy, our kingdom is able to—
Leo    "Tina? Are you even listening?"
Tina    "Hmm? Oh, I'm sorry!"
The sound of my name snapped me back to Leo's lesson. I scrambled to find the right page in my textbook.
(I can't space out like this on the first day of our lessons.)
The day after Louis left the palace, Leo was asked to serve as my new tutor.
They were important lessons, about the political structure of the kingdom.
But my preoccupation with Louis had left little room for anything else in my mind.
(I wonder what Louis's life is like at his estate.)
Messenger    "But, Your Grace!"
Messenger    "This could threaten relationships that have taken generations to build!"
Louis    "This matter is not up for discussion. I will not permit the transfer."
I couldn't stop thinking about that conversation.
(It sounded like Louis was in for some some big problems when he got home.)
Leo    "What do I need to do to get your attention?"
This time it was a tap on the tip of my nose that brought me back to the present.
Leo    "Maybe I should abandon civics and start teaching lessons on love instead."
Tina    "That will not be necessary!"
Leo moved his fingers to gently stroke my chin. I jerked away from his touch.
Leo    "Come on, I'm only playing around."
Leo flipped through his book with a smile.
Leo    "If you don't learn this material, Giles is going to be really mad at me."
Leo found the page he was looking for and tapped on a block of small black text.
Leo    "So again, the kingdom is ruled by an autonomous nobility.
Leo    "Among them, the Duchy of Howard is particularly renowned for its wise governance."
Tina    "Wait, 'Howard?' Like, Louis Howard?"
My eyes darted back to the book.
Leo    "Heh, Tina. You're the easiest book to read of all."
Tina    "What do you mean?"
Leo    "Oh, don't mind me."
Leo dodged my question with a gentle smile.
Leo    "I'm just happy that you've suddenly taken an interest in our lesson!
Leo    "And just in time, too. Because the next time you daydream, I'll have to wake up you up with a kiss."

===================

Leo    "And just in time, too. Because the next time you daydream, I'll have to wake up you up with a kiss."
I was growing weary of Leo flirting with such an innocent smile on his face.
Tina    "Then I'll make sure it never happens again."
Leo    "You're serious about all the wrong things, Princess."
Leo shrugged his shoulders and sighed.
(Leo is right about one thing: I need to learn this material.
(I must have been a pretty lousy student to Louis, too.)
Tina    "Leo."
I straightened my posture.
Leo    "Yes?"
Tina    "I'm sorry for being distracted earlier. I promise it won't happen again, so can we please continue?"
Leo    "Tina—"
Leo seems legitimately stunned by my apology.
His surprise gave way to a warm smile.
Giles    "That was another long day of studying. You must be exhausted."
Tina    "Oh, it's not so bad. Leo's not nearly as strict as Louis."
Giles    "I would imagine not."
Giles flashed me a knowing smile.
Tina    "So, Giles, am I going to be studying with Leo every day from now on?"
Giles    "For the most part, yes.
Giles    "But between your lessons, we'll be arranging for you to visit various regions around the kingdom.
Giles    "It is essential you begin forging relationships with local leaders and other influential subjects."
(The various regions around the kingdom?)
I had already come up with a plan before Giles finished speaking.
Tina    "Then I'd very much like to begin by visiting the Duchy of Howard."
I said without a beat, looking Giles straight in the eyes.
Giles    "Might I ask why?"
Giles narrowed his gaze.
Tina    "The thing is—
Tina    "Louis has done so much for me, and I've never had an opportunity to thank him.
Tina    "Now I'm worried that he might be in trouble, and it would mean everything if I could be the one to help him this time."
I told everything to Giles, hoping it would sway him.
Giles    "Very well then."
To my surprise and relief, Giles nodded his assent after only a moment's consideration.
Giles    "I'll make the arrangements. Give me a few days."
Tina    "Thank you, Giles."

======================

After Tina left for her chamber, Alyn approached Giles.
Alyn    "You wanted to see me?"
Giles stood at the window.
Giles    "Sir Alyn. There's a matter which I'd like your assistance in."
Several days later, I stood at the gates of the Howard manor.
(So this is where Louis lives.)
It wasn't quite a castle, but the size of the building was impressive, and its design was impeccably refined.
Alyn    "What are you so worked up about?"
As I was taking in the grandeur of the estate, Alyn reached over and gave my head a pat.
(I'm so glad Alyn came along as my bodyguard.)
Alyn    "Knock 'em dead, Your Highness."
Tina    "Thanks."
I gave Alyn a small curtsy, his encouragement helping calm my nerves.
Just then, the front gate opened, and Louis was standing before me.
(Louis!)
My heart skipped a beat as soon as I saw Louis.
Louis    "Welcome, Princess Tina."
I instinctively straightened my shoulders at Louis's formal address.
(I guess he has to act like that since I am here on official business.)
Tina    "Forgive the imposition, Your Grace. I had hoped to thank you personally for all your recent help.
Tina    "I look forward to learning more about your duchy during my stay."
I felt like I was back in etiquette class, exchanging practice formalities with my instructor.
Alyn    "Thanks for your hospitality."
Louis    "It is a pleasure to see you both."
Louis extended a hand in invitation, and we entered his manor.
Tina    "It's been a while."
As we walked side-by-side through the foyer, I looked up at Louis.
Louis    "Indeed it has."
Louis's expression was as cool and composed as it had been the day we met.
(Is something wrong?)
As I gazed up at the side of his expressionless face, my heart began to sink.
Louis showed me to my expansive guest chambers, and Alyn to a room next door.
Tina    "Thanks, Louis."
Louis    "Of course."
After Alyn closed the door behind him, Louis and I exchanged more meaningless pleasantries.
He hadn't met my gaze once since I'd arrived.
(This isn't the Louis I traveled here to see.)
Louis    "I'm sure you're exhausted from your journey. Please, do as you like until dinner is served."
Tina    "What I'd like to do is talk with you."
Louis had already turned to leave, but he stopped at my words.
Louis    "With me?"
Louis turned, our eyes meeting at last. He seemed surprised.
He hadn't met my gaze once since I'd arrived.
(This isn't the Louis I traveled here to see.)
Louis    "I'm sure you're exhausted from your journey. Please, do as you like until dinner is served."
Tina    "What I'd like to do is talk with you."
Louis had already turned to leave, but he stopped at my words.
Louis    "With me?"
Louis turned, our eyes meeting at last. He seemed surprised.

Louis Part5_end.png  

 

 

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因為想先拿到路易新的CG (共2頁,要過Sugar、Honey)
(睡眠)時間有限,先把劇情存起來
再陸續查字典把本篇看完
就.....順手發文分享囉~~~好沒原則的理由😃😃😃
================================

 

 

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