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

 Louis main story_L06.png

Louis Howard Part 6

After he escorted me to my room, I told Louis that I wanted to speak with him.
Louis    "I'm afraid...that will not be possible."
Louis turned away, but not before I caught a glimpse of his conflicted expression and reddening cheeks.
Tina    "Why? Has something happened?"
Louis    "I simply have work to do."
Louis replied stiffly as he avoided making eye contact with me.
Tina    "I see."
Tina    "Until dinner, then."
With that, Louis left me alone in my guest chambers.
(He hasn't looked me in the eyes once since I arrived.
(What's going on with him?)
That night at dinner, Louis's behavior was as strange as ever.
Throughout the meal, he absolutely refused to look me in the eyes.
As I trudged miserably back to my room, my head ran through all the possible explanations.
(There has to be something going on.
(Maybe he's having problems with his staff?)
But I hadn't seen any signs of friction between Louis and his staff.
Alyn    "Keep stressing like that and those wrinkles will stick forever."
Alyn, who had joined me in the walk back to the guest quarters, prodded at my brow.
Alyn    "What are you so worked up about, anyway?"
Tina    "It's nothing. I'm fine."
Alyn    "Yeah, obviously."
Alyn sighed and rolled his eyes.
(Maybe I should visit Louis's room tonight.
(Maybe he'd feel more comfortable speaking in private?)
Alyn    "I'll be next door, so if you need anything, holler."
Tina    "I will. Thank you."
I was touched by Alyn's concern.
But after he closed the door to his room, I slipped back out into the hallway.
(Louis's room must be this way.)
I discovered a large door just where I'd guessed the master bedroom would be.
But as I raised my hand to knock, I overheard a voice from inside.
Louis    "Don't make me repeat myself.
Louis    "I will never sign off on the demolition of that orphanage."
(What on earth?!)

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

Louis    "I will never sign off on the demolition of that orphanage."
Attendant    "Your Grace, I understand that you have a deep attachment to that orphanage.
Attendant    "And I am aware that your objection is not solely for personal reasons.
Attendant    "Nevertheless, I think you need to put all emotional considerations aside
Attendant    "and make the choice that you must in your role as duke."
Louis    "........."
(Are they talking about the orphanage Louis grew up in?)
The door swung open just as I was trying to figure out the meaning of the exchange.
Tina    "Oh!"
Louis    "Tina?"
Louis spotted me immediately from his position inside the room.
Attendant    "Your Highness! Please, excuse me!"
The departing attendant bowed frantically before running off down the hall.
Tina    "It's fine—"
Louis approached the door.
Suddenly, I was the one avoiding eye contact.
(He probably thinks I was listening in on the whole conversation.)
Louis    "How long have you been standing there?"
Tina    "I'm sorry. It was never my intention to eavesdrop."
Louis    "........."
I hung my head in apology, and Louis sighed.
Tina    "You've been acting so strange. I wanted to talk to you, just the two of us."
I looked up at Louis pleadingly, only to find him gazing back at me.
Louis    "...."
His face was a mess of conflicting emotions, almost as if he had too much on his mind to bear.
Tina    "Louis, please."
(Wait, what's he—?)
Out of nowhere, Louis placed both hands on the door behind me. Startled, I took a step back only to bump into the door.
Tina    "What are you doing?!"
Louis ran his hands down from the door to my shoulders, grasping them as he said,
Louis    "You don't need me any more, Tina. You have all the skills you need to be a magnificent princess."
Tina    "What are you talking about?"
Pinned between the door and Louis, my heart beat uncontrollably as he drew closer.
Louis    "I am not your teacher, and I am not your prince consort."
Louis broke his gaze again, his brow deeply furrowed.
Louis    "So I ask you never to meddle in my affairs again!"

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

Louis    "So I ask you never to meddle in my affairs again!"
Louis broke his gaze again, his brow deeply furrowed.
(He's doing it again.)

[1] Louis, why won't you look at me?(Honey)
Tina    "Louis, why won't you look at me?"
Louis    "........."
Louis trembled at the question.

[2] You never look at me. (Sugar)
Tina    "You never look at me."
Louis    "........."
Louis remained silent, his eyes staring blankly at the floor.

[3] Louis. Look at me!
Tina    "Louis. Look at me!"
Louis    "I—"
Louis started to say something, but let his voice trail off as he stared blankly at the floor.

(Something about Louis is odd.
(It seems like he wants to do everything but end our relationship.)
I knew he was frantically trying to build wall after wall to keep us apart.
But I still couldn't figure out why.
Tina    "If you truly want me out of your life, then look me in the eyes and say it."
Louis exhaled sharply, and finally raised his head.
His eyes met mine, and this time, he didn't turn away.
I continued.
Tina    "I came here because I wanted to help you, Louis.
Tina    "So if something's troubling you, I want you to tell me."
That deep sadness in eyes was back—the same look I'd seen for a fleeting moment when we parted at the palace.
Or maybe it had been there all along.
Louis    "It's no concern of yours."
Removing his hands from my shoulders, Louis turned to walk away.
My last glimpse at his face seemed to confirm what I'd read from his words: he wanted me gone.
It was done, then.
My body slumped forward in sadness, I made my way to the guest chambers.
But before I could reach them, I spotted the attendant with whom Louis had been arguing.
Tina    "You there! Please, a moment!"
Attendant    "Y-Your Highness? Can I be of some service to you?"
Shocked, the attendant turned to face me, his mouth agape.
Tina    "There is something I want to ask you."
Attendant    "I am just a lowly attendant, Your Highness."
Tina    "The conversation you were having with Louis earlier, about the demolition of an orphanage—
Tina    "I want you to tell me everything."

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

The sun had not yet fully risen as Alyn and I walked, side-by-side, through the town's streets.
Alyn    "And here I thought you'd finally grown out of your runaway phase.
Alyn    "You just had to go sneaking off again."
Alyn shook his head as he sighed.
Alyn    "Didn't I tell you to call me if you needed anything?"
Tina    "I'm sorry, Alyn."
I was only half listening to Alyn's grumbled complaints. My mind was elsewhere, processing what I'd learned from Louis's attendant.
(They wanted to demolish an orphanage in order to build a holiday villa?)
When the attendant finished explaining the situation, I was speechless.
Tina    "If they turn the orphanage into a villa, what will happen to the children?"
Attendant    "These are abandoned children. No one has an obligation to raise them.
Attendant    "Even on the streets, they might still find someone to care for them if they're lucky.
Attendant    "But that's neither here nor there. This plan was developed by one of the realm's most powerful noblemen!
Attendant    "And he has the support of much of the nobility.
Attendant    "If Louis were to lend the plan his support as duke, the nobility would reciprocate by supporting his own agenda. If not, then—"
Tina    "This is despicable!"
Attendant    "Pardon me, Your Highness?"
(They would throw innocent children out on the street?)
I was still disgusted by Louis's attendant, who showed not a hint of empathy as he detailed the nobility's heinous plan.
("Nobody has an obligation to raise them" — how heartless can you be?)
I could still feel the anger running hot in my veins.
(So this is what Louis has been fighting against.)
Too furious to sleep, I was just about to slip out of the manor when Alyn spotted me.
He wasn't happy about it, but was kind enough to hear me out.
Alyn    "So what do you hope to accomplish by going to this orphanage?"
Tina    "I just want to see what it's like."
Alyn    "Well, whatever. Just so long as you don't go wandering off by yourself. Again."
Alyn shrugged, perhaps knowing better than to try to convince me otherwise.
He'd stayed close at my side ever since.
(Louis's attendant said the orphanage matter would be settled at a council meeting five days from now.
(I have to find a way to stop it before then!)
Louis awoke to find the attendant waiting at his door.
Attendant    "Good morning, Your Grace."
Louis    "Good morning."
Attendant    "I apologize for bothering you at such an early hour, but there's been a development."
The attendant had kept his gaze respectfully at the duke's feet, but chanced a quick glance at Louis's face to gauge his reaction.
Louis    "A development?"
Attendant    "The princess and her royal guard both left the manor early this morning.
Attendant    "They've gone to inspect the township, milord."
The mention of Tina brought a scowl to Louis's face.
Louis    "The township?"

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

A single carriage rolled to a stop behind the orphanage.
Louis    "......"
Louis stepped out of the carriage and looked around.
Wringing his hands, he made his way to the orphanage's front gates.
As he walked, he heard a familiar voice.
Tina    "But after hearing her story, the beast's heart bled for the little girl—"
Child    "His heart bled? Did he die?"
Tina    "Oh, no. When your heart bleeds it actually means, um..."
There, in the orphanage's yard, Tina was reading to the children.
Tina    "—and that's why it's important not to fight with people.
Tina    "We all have to try to learn to love each other."
Child    "Okay."
Louis    "Tina."
Louis murmured Tina's name softly
as he watched her playing with the children.
Alyn    "Louis? What are you doing here?"
Louis    "Sir Alyn? I might you ask the same thing."
Their conversation caught Tina's attention.
Tina    "Louis?"
Louis    "Good morning."
I turned to find Louis eyeing me coldly.
(He came.)
Louis    "I believe I asked you not to meddle in my affairs."
Louis didn't seem happy to see me.
Tina    "......"
Louis    "The duties of a princess don't involve intervening in the business of lesser lords."
Tina    "This might not be one of my official duties as princess."
I wanted to shrink away from his piercing gaze, but I held my ground.
Tina    "Maybe I'm just here to return the favor to a man who has always looked out for me.
Tina    "I'd hardly call that meddling."
Louis    "Hmph."
Louis's eyes darted away. He had no response to that.
Tina    "I don't care if you want my help or not. These children need it, and that's what matters."
Alyn    "All right Your Highness, Duke Howard, let's all calm down."
Child    "Yeah, you guys need to stop fighting!"
Just as Alyn took a step forward to intervene, one of the orphan kids beat him to it.
Louis    "What?"
Child    "Instead of fighting, you should try to love each other!"
Tina    "L-Love each other?!"
(Wait—was that from the story I was just reading?)
Louis and I stood awkwardly as the child continued to scold us.
Child    "You're not supposed to fight!"
Another child joined in, and the rest nodded in agreement.
Louis    "Yes. You're absolutely right."
Louis smiled sweetly as he ruffled the child's hair.
(Oh!)
My heart leapt at the sight of that smile.
(Maybe I do still care.)
I placed a hand against my pounding heart.
Louis's eyes returned to me.
Louis    "Oh, Tina."

Louis Part6_Ch.5.png  
 
===================

Louis looked away from the children in the orphanage yard, and fixed his gaze squarely on me.
Louis    "Oh, Tina."
The serious look on his face set my heart racing faster.
Tina    "What is it?"
My voice quivered slightly as I responded.
Louis    "I am sorry, and—
Louis    "I thank you."
Louis spoke softly, a sad smile crossing his face.
Tina    "......"
I gazed anxiously at Louis, my heart beating even faster than before.
Tina    "It's—it's okay."
A weak response, but it was all I could manage.
......
Louis and I could have spent the entire day playing with the children at the orphanage.
But as Alyn reminded me, Giles had us on a strict schedule, and we were expected back at the palace soon.
And as wonderful as the day was, we were no closer to finding a way to save the orphanage.
Child    "Do you really have to go?"
The children were so sad to see us leave.
Tina    "I'm sorry. We do."
Child    "You'll come back, right?"
Tina    "Of course we will."
I knelt down to eye level and patted the head of a child I'd grown particularly fond of.
(I will protect these children. No matter what!)
Alyn    "We really have to get moving."
Louis    "Alyn, Tina. My coach is waiting out back.
Louis    "I'll see you to the palace."
Inside the rumbling carriage, I stole a glance at Louis, who was seated across from me.
He gazed out the window, as if in deep thought.
(I hope we can find a chance to speak in private.)
Louis's heart seemed more open to me than it had ever been before. This could be my chance to get to know the real Louis.
Alyn    "Thanks for the ride Louis."
Louis    "Don't mention it."
As promised, Louis's carriage escorted us all the way back to the palace.
Alyn    "I'll escort you back to your chamber, Your Highness."
(If I don't say something now, Louis will go back to his manor.)
Tina    "Alyn, would you—"
But before I could make my appeal to Alyn, Louis reached out and took me by the hand.
(What's Louis doing?)

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

Louis    "Alyn, I'd like to speak with Tina."
Holding my hand in his, Louis looked calmly towards Alyn.
Alyn    "Go ahead."
Alyn remained where he stood, failing to grasp the situation.
Louis    "Allow me to escort Her Highness to her chamber when we've finished."
Alyn    "Oh. All right, then."
Louis and I walked away from Alyn, his hand still tightly wrapped around mine.
(I wonder what this is about.
(What could he want to talk about?)
Louis stopped at a secluded corner of the garden.
Louis    "I'm sorry for surprising you."
Tina    "It's okay."

[1] What's this about, Louis? (Sugar)
Tina    "What's this about, Louis?"
Louis    "Oh, it's—it's nothing."
Louis looked away, awkwardly.

[2] You needn't apologize.
Tina    "You needn't apologize."
Louis    "I was afraid I'd startled you."

[3] "I wanted to talk to you too."(Honey)
Tina    "I wanted to talk to you too."
Louis    "You did?"
Louis flashed me a small smile.

Seeing Louis like that made my heart flutter.
Just as I looked down in embarrassment, I felt Louis's hand caress my cheek.
(Oh!)
The soft touch turned my face bright red.
Louis    "Tina—"
Louis gently lifted my chin up until our eyes met.
Tina    "Yes?"
I replied timidly, suddenly conscious of the burning in my cheeks and the beating of my heart.
Louis    "Forgive me for being so cold."
Louis spoke in a soft voice, his eyes still locked on mine.
Tina    "I do."
Louis    "I was so happy when you said that you wanted to help me."
Tina    "Oh, Louis..."
(Knowing you felt that way, it makes me happy too.)
Louis    "And I was happier still when you promised to protect those children."
Tina    "Of course."
Louis    "Even though sneaking off to an orphanage isn't appropriate behavior for a princess."
Louis smiled as he retraced the memory.
Tina    "It wasn't?"
Louis    "Of course not."
As I stared into those calm, beautiful eyes, the sound of my heartbeat faded into the distance.
Louis    "Tina."
Whispering my name, his voice low and raw, Louis wrapped me in his arms.

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

Tina    "L-Louis?!"
Wrapped in Louis's embrace, I couldn't hide my surprise.
(Why is he—?)
My thoughts were scattered, and my heart beat so fast that I'd be surprised if Louis couldn't hear it.
Louis    "Forgive me, but I need this. If only for a moment."
Louis rested his head on my shoulder, his words mere whispers in my ear.
The sweetness of his voice reverberated throughout me.
And the warmth of his body slowly spread into mine.
Louis did not move, and neither did I. My pounding heartbeat quieted, slowly returning to normal.
(Oh, Louis—)
Slowly, I wrapped my arms around Louis's neck.
Louis    "!"
Louis hugged me tighter.
......
Tina    "Hmph."
Though my eyes pored over the documents, I couldn't keep my mind from wandering back to what happened last night.
After our embrace, Louis escorted me back to my chamber without saying a word.
But remembering Louis's touch, and the warmth of his body, and the kindness of his smile—
Just the very thought made my heart sing.
(Enough of that. I have to concentrate!
(If I can't do this, how will I ever save the orphanage?)
I shook off my memories of last night, and returned my attention to the documents once more.
But I was interrupted again. This time, someone knocked briefly at the door before opening it.
Giles    "Your Highness, I have a royal proclamation that requires your signature."
Tina    "A royal proclamation?"
Giles set the documents on the desk in front of me.
Giles    "Earl Aldis has been unduly harsh towards his subjects of late.
Giles    "Many of his subjects are abandoning their fields and leaving his earldom entirely.
Giles    "I'd like you to issue an official reprimand of the earl's actions."
Tina    "And doing that will solve the problem?"
Giles nodded.
Giles    "A proclamation from the princess carries the same weight as a proclamation from the king himself."
(It does? I had no idea.)
Tina    "Giles, could I issue a proclamation on my own initiative?
Giles    "Of course you can."
(In that case—)
Tina    "Could you teach me how to write one?"
Giles raised an eyebrow at the question.
Giles    "Might I ask why, my lady?"

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

When I explained that I wanted to issue a proclamation to save the orphanage, Giles frowned.
Giles    "You wish to save this orphanage as the princess of Wysteria?"
Giles's voice was as cold as he gazed sternly at me.
Tina    "Is there some reason—"
Without waiting for me to finish, Giles issued his harsh response.
Giles    "Do you think the orphanage in the Duchy of Howard is the only orphanage facing dissolution?
Giles    "I'll remind you that you are the princess of this entire kingdom.
Giles    "If you're going to try to save one orphanage,
Giles    "you have to be prepared to save them all."
(Every orphanage in the kingdom?)
Giles    "Is that something you're prepared to do? And are you willing to face the repercussions it will bring?"
Giles's words hung heavy on my heart.
(If I issue a proclamation as the princess,
(then I need to take responsibility for all that it brings, and be prepared to fight for it till the end.)
Feeling the weight of my duties,I hesitated, not yet willing to commit.
Issuing the proclamation would make enemies out of much of the nobility.
I remembered the cold-eyed nobles I met at Archduke Durey's banquet. They scared me still.
(But giving in to them would mean abandoning those children.
(And that I cannot do.)
I looked Giles dead in the eyes and issued my decision.
Tina    "That's exactly what I'm prepared to do."
The harsh look on Giles's face softened a bit at my words.
Giles    "At the moment, there are more than twenty orphanages in the kingdom.
Giles    "Motions are underway to shut five of them down.
Giles    "Typically, these motions are arbitrarily advanced by members of the nobility."
(There are four other orphanages facing the same peril?)
After completing his explanation, Giles's smiled broadly.
Giles    "If that is what you have decided to do, I have no objection."
Tina    "Thank you, Giles."
At the sound of the creaking door, Louis looked up from the pile of papers on his office desk.
Attendant    "Your Grace."
His attendant stood in the doorway, a conflicted expression on his face.
Louis    "What is it?"
Attendant    "Her Royal Highness has issued a proclamation to the entire kingdom."
Louis    "A proclamation?"
Louis stood up and took the parchment from his attendant's outstretched hand.
Attendant    "It's a pledge of royal support for the kingdom's charitable institutions, beginning with its orphanages."
Louis    "Oh, Tina—what have you done?"

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

Four days passed since I had issued the proclamation.
A council meeting at the Duchy of Howard was held yesterday, and the orphanage was spared.
When I heard the news, it was as if a heavy weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Tina    "What's next on the agenda, Nico?"
Nico    "Next is your lesson with Leo.
Nico    "Although you have a little free time before then, if you want to take a walk."
A wonderful idea. A walk in the palace garden never failed to clear my head.
I smiled at Nico, and he smiled back, seemingly pleased that I'd accepted his offer.
Tina    "Sounds like a lovely idea. See you in a little while, Nico."
Nico always had my back.
Nico    "........."
Or so I thought.
I didn't notice Nico's gentle smile transform into a conflicted frown as he watched me go.
(Ever since that night with Louis, this has been one of my favorite spots in the palace grounds.)
I often came here when I had a spare moment to myself.
(I hope Louis is well.)
Whenever I closed my eyes, I could see him as if he were right in front of me.
Louis    "I was so happy when you said that you wanted to help me."
Louis    "Forgive me, but I need this. If only for a moment."
(How many times have those words run through my head since?)
I could still remember the feel of his embrace, and the warmth of his touch.
(Too bad my lesson starts soon. I'd better get going.)
I shook the pleasant memories away. But just when I turned to go back to the palace—
Tina    "What? HEY!"
A hand clamped over my mouth.I tried to wriggle away, but was pushed hard to the ground, my hands pinned behind me.
(Who would do this?!)
The world went black and I passed out.
Louis    "Giles!"
Giles's office door flung open. No one had bothered to knock.
Louis stood at the doorway, breathing heavily.
Giles    "Duke Howard? What an unexpected pleasure.
Giles    "Is something wrong?"
Louis    "Tina. Where is she?"
Louis's facial muscles were stiff, his skin ashen.
Giles    "Her Highness should be studying with Master Leo at the—"
Leo    "Giles."
Now it was Leo's turn to stand in the doorway, a worried expression on his face.
Giles    "Leo? Did something happen?"
Giles sensed something wrong was afoot.
He furrowed his brow as he studied the faces of his panicked visitors.
Leo    "Tina was late for her lesson, so I went looking for her.
Leo    "But no one has seen her! I've looked everywhere!"
Giles    "Everywhere?"
Louis    "Damn it!"
Louis turned and darted out the door before the last words were out of Leo's mouth.
Leo    "Louis?!"
Louis, in a full-tilt run, had already disappeared down the hallway.

公主試驗 (選擇髮型)
過關後-----


Tina    "Nnnnggh..."
A throbbing pain in my head forced me awake.
Louis    "Tina!"
The first thing I saw when my eyes opened was Louis staring at me, his eyes full of worry.
Tina    "Louis?"
(Wait—where am I?)
Confused, I looked around the room.
A glint of light drew my eye to an object that had fallen in a corner.
(Is that a knife?!)
Tina    "Oh...!"
I had been in the palace garden when someone attacked me.
I remembered a hand over my mouth, and being put in some sort of chokehold.
Tina    "Louis, why is there a knife? Where are we?"
Louis    "Don't worry. You're okay now."
Louis's voice was a low whisper, as if he were calming someone near hysterics. Which I may well have been.
(Is he right? Am I okay?)
I looked around the room again.
The room was empty, save for Louis and I. There was no sign of danger.
Tina    "I was abducted, wasn't I?
Tina    "Louis, you saved me?"
Louis nodded.
Louis    "The kidnapper saw he wouldn't be getting his payment, and fled.
Louis    "He must have realized that his employer had already been captured."
Tina    "His employer?"
Louis    "This abduction was arranged by one of the nobles from my duchy.
Louis    "He was apparently not a fan of your recent proclamation."
Tina    "My proclamation?!"
I gasped. When Giles mentioned potential repercussions, I never imagined anything like this.
I had been prepared to weather more derision at noble parties, or to face snubs from local lords as I toured the kingdom.
But not kidnappings and physical assaults.
My body went numb as the enormity of the situation began to sink in.
(What would have happened if Louis hadn't come for me?)
The thought left me speechless.
Louis    "I knew that I shouldn't have let you become involved.
Louis    "This is exactly what I didn't want to see happen. Exactly why I tried to keep you away."
I could practically hear Louis internally blaming himself for what happened to me.
(Louis, No!
(This isn't your fault!)
Louis    "What a coward I was to entangle the princess in my own problems.
Louis    "I won't let you involve yourself in my affairs any further. This must never happen again."
Once again, Louis was pushing me away in an attempt to protect me.
Tina    "You always want to handle everything by yourself, Louis."
Louis    "Sometimes that's the way it has to be."
I looked up at Louis. The dim candlelight flickered in his tear filled eyes.
(And that's what he's been doing all along.)
Tina    "I know you want to protect me, that you feel responsible for me, and I'm grateful. But that's not the way.
Tina    "I'll learn to take care of myself, I swear it. That's the only way I can free you from that burden.
Tina    "When something's wrong, I want you to be able to turn to me.
Tina    "You can't carry every burden by yourself."
Louis    "........."
Louis had no response, but there was nothing cold about his silence. He looked as though he was on the verge of tears.
Tina    "Louis, I—"
Lifting my chin with his forefinger, Louis leaned in and gently kissed me.
No sooner had our lips touched, than he was gone, the warmth of his body serving as the only proof that he had kissed me at all.
Tina    "Louis, I—."
My mind went blank from the sudden kiss.
(What just happened?)
Louis    "I fear that I'm a far greater coward than you, Tina."
Louis laughed sadly and lowered his gaze.
Louis    "I was scared by the very idea of caring about anyone or anything."
(What does that mean?)
I reached a hand out to Louis, planning to pull him close to me.
But where my hand touched his arm, I felt something wet and warm.
(What's this?)
Louis    "Mm..."
I noticed Louis tremble slightly at my touch. I pulled my hand back, and looked at my fingers.
A quick look at my fingertips was enough to confirm my fears.
Tina    "Louis! You're bleeding!"
Louis    "It's nothing serious."
Louis placed his other hand over the wound, attempting to hide it from me.
Tina    "Of course it's serious! We need to get this treated!"
I stood up, holding Louis's wounded arm.
With his hand in my hands and his eyes on my eyes, Louis pulled himself unsteadily to his feet.
(And just a few moments ago, Louis and I were—)
My face reddened at the memory of our kiss.
Tina    "Should we go home? They can treat your wound at the palace."
Louis    "That may be...for the best..."
Hand in hand, we walked out of the building.
I held my head low, hoping to hide the darkening blush on my cheeks behind my hair.
 
Louis Part6_end.png  
===================

Louis main story_L07.png   
Louis Howard Part 7

Louis explained that a nobleman from his duchy had arranged my abduction.
Apparently, the nobleman was motivated by opposition to my proclamation.
Fortunately, Louis had wasted little time in finding and rescuing me.
(Oh, look!)
Tina    "Alyn! Over here!"
Alyn    "Your Highness!"
On our way back to the palace, we happened across Alyn, who was leading a team of knights.
I don't think I've ever seen Alyn look so worried.
Tina    "Alyn, Louis is hurt!"
Alyn glanced Louis over. From the look on his face, he didn't like what he saw.
Alyn    "We'll take him to the palace. Here, you can ride that horse."
When we arrived at the palace, Alyn said we needed to warm Louis up fast.
A team of maids swarmed us, practically dragging Louis away from me to soak him in a hot bath.
I was pulled into a separate room before I even had a chance to ask how serious Louis's wound was.
Tina    "Giles!"
There, Giles was waiting for me, showing no trace of his trademark smile.
Giles    "I'm so relieved you're safe, Your Highness."
Tina    "Giles, is Louis going to be okay?"
Giles    "Fortunately, His Grace's wound was not deep. However, we'll need to place him under observation for signs of poison or infection.
Giles    "Duke Howard will need to rest here for a while."
Tina    "That's a relief."
Finally, my mounting fears had been put to rest.
Giles    "My greater concern now is how these fiends managed to sneak into the palace in the first place.
Giles    "I can't imagine how they accomplished such a feat, unless—"
Tina    "Unless—?"
I don't think I'll ever forget the look of deep concern on Giles's face that moment.
Giles    "Never mind that.
Giles    "Much of the blame is mine. I hope you can forgive me, Your Highness."
Tina    "You don't have anything to apologize for."
Nevertheless, Giles bowed deeply.
Giles    "Duke Howard arrested the nobleman who was responsible for your abduction early this morning.
Giles    "He then hurried to the palace to help search for you.
Giles    "I trust you know the rest."
(Louis did all that himself?)
A lump formed in my throat as I thought about all that Louis had done for me.
I felt a great sense of gratitude and guilt toward him.
(I said I'd accept the repercussions of my proclamation,
(but I had no idea what I was getting myself into.)
Giles suddenly smiled, as if he'd read my thoughts.
Giles    "Don't worry, Your Highness. Something good has come from this whole situation."

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

Giles    "I've heard some interesting news about the orphanages.
Giles    "Apparently the citizens of Wysteria have been incredibly generous with their donations.
Giles    "So much so that many nobles who supported such plans are now racing to distance themselves from them."
Tina    "Oh!"
Giles chuckled at my loud gasp.
Giles    "Well done, Your Highness."
Tina    "Thank you, Giles."
The news brought warmth to my heart and tears to my eyes.
Giles    "Duke Howard is resting in the guest chambers.
Giles    "I'd suggest you follow his example, my lady. I'm sure he'll be up for receiving visitors tomorrow."
Tina    "Thank you again, Giles. I will."
I left Giles's room and made my way to my own chamber.
Completely exhausted, I collapsed onto my bed.
(What a relief.)
The faces of the orphans I'd met flashed before me.
(Now those children will never need to worry about losing their homes again.)
Too tired to undress, I burrowed under the covers.
My flower necklace shifted against my neck.
(I hope Louis is ok.)
Running my finger across my lips, I remembered the electrifying kiss Louis and I shared.
(What did he mean with that kiss?)
And it wasn't just the kiss. I got butterflies in my stomach just thinking about Louis.
(Why do I always feel this way?)
The next morning, I paced nervously in front of Louis's door.
(What am I going to say to him?)
I poised my hand to knock, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it.
(I need to thank him for saving me.
(But how should I look when I do it? Grateful? Concerned?)
Just as I was taking a deep breath to build up my courage—
the door swung open.
Tina    "!!"

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

Louis    "Tina?"
With his hand still on the doorknob, Louis stared back at me with a confused look across his face.
He apparently was just about to leave the guest chambers.
The last person he was expecting to find outside his door was me.
Tina    "Um..."
I looked away from Louis to hide my embarrassment and noticed his arm.
It was wrapped in a bright white bandage.
Tina    "Oh, Louis."

[1] How is your wonder?
Tina    "How is your wound?"
Louis    "It was little more than a scrape."

[2] I'm sorry about all this. (Sugar)
Tina    "I'm so sorry about all this."
Louis    "You've done nothing wrong."

[3] Does your arm hurt? (Honey)
Tina    "Does your arm hurt?"
Louis    "Just a bit."

Tina    "Giles told me what happened. I owe you such a—"
Before I could stammer out the rest, Louis touched a finger to my lips and shook his head.
(Huh?)
Louis    "I won't have you stealing my lines."
Tina    "What?"
I looked into Louis's eyes, perplexed.
Louis    "Thank you for protecting those children."
Louis's smile was so sweet I almost forgot the entire reason I'd come.
Tina    "N-No—you saved my life! I'm the one who should be thanking you!"
I watched sadly as his beautiful smile faded away.
In its place, Louis fixed me with an intense gaze.
Louis    "But it was my fault.
Louis    "I was the one who put your life in danger in the first place."
Louis's long eyelashes framed his downcast eyes.
Tina    "That's not—"
Louis    "In trying to push you away, I only ended up dragging you into the worst of my problems."
    
Louis ignored my protestations, stroking my hair as he talked.
Louis    "I can't expect to keep you safe by repeating the same mistake."
(Where was he going with this?)
Louis    "That's why—"
Leo    "Oh, Tina. There you are!"
I pulled my eyes away from Louis to find Leo walking down the hall towards us.
Tina    "Leo?"
Louis    "......"
Louis was on the verge of saying something important, but his lips were sealed now.
Tina    "What is it, Leo?"
Leo    "Just answering a summons from Giles."
Leo stopped beside Louis and I, as if he were joining a friendly chat about the weather.
Leo    "But it's good I ran into you, Tina, because I really wanted to see you."

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

Leo    "But it's good I ran into you, Tina, because I really wanted to see you."
Tina    "You wanted to see me?"
Leo responded with a nod and a smile before continuing.
Leo    "You had me worried when you disappeared right before our lesson yesterday.
Leo    "At first I assumed you'd run away to avoid having to spend time with me."
Tina    "It had nothing to do with you!"
Leo    "You promise?"
Tina    "S-Sure."
Leo's smile widened as his face relaxed in relief.
Leo    "I'm so glad to see you safe."
(Even Leo was worried about me.)
For once, it seemed like Leo wasn't just teasing or flirting with me.
I was so happy to see this side of Leo.
Tina    "Th-Thank you, Leo."
Leo    "Our lessons start again tomorrow."
Leo had been inching closer and closer, and his face was now close enough I could feel his breath.
Leo    "I look forward to working together again."
(Eek! He's right in my face!)
I took an instinctive step back, only to find a pair of arms wrap themselves around me from behind.
(Oh!)
I turned to see that I had bumped into Louis.
Tina    "Oh, Louis, I'm sorry!"
I tried to pull away, but couldn't.
Louis kept a tight grip around my waist.
Tina    "Er, Louis?"
Louis    "........."
Louis glared at Leo coldly, his face expressionless.
Leo looked to Louis, and then back to me.
Despite Louis's withering gaze, Leo smiled brightly.
Leo    "Looks like I've interrupted the two of you."
("Interrupted?" What does he mean by that?)
I couldn't say why, but I could feel the heat returning to my face.
Leo    "Well, I'll see you tomorrow, Princess."
Leo gave us a lighthearted wave before disappearing down the hallway.
Once I was sure he was gone, I turned back to examine Louis's face.
Tina    "Is everything okay?"
Louis    "It is."
Louis's hands slid down my body, pulling me in closer.
(Oh!)
My heartbeat quickened as Louis embraced me from behind.
Louis    "Could we continue our conversation?"
Tina    "Y-Yes."
(He wants to talk like this?)
I could feel Louis's chest pressing against my back.
The more his body pressed against mine, the faster my heart beat.
Louis sighed, his breath tickling my ears.
Louis    "I told you something once—
Louis    "I need you to forget that I ever said it."

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

Tina    "What was it you told me?"
(And why do I need to forget it?)
Louis    "To find another candidate."
(Does he mean what I think he means?)
Louis    "I would advise you to find another candidate."
Louis    "I simply cannot be the prince consort."
Tina    "Do you mean for prince consort?"
I turned around in Louis's embrace to face him head on.
Louis looked straight down at me.
Louis    "Yes.
Louis    "I retract it completely."
Seeing Louis's beautiful smile return to his face sent my heart racing even faster.
Louis    "I'm done pushing you away."
I could see the resolve within Louis's eyes.
Louis    "If becoming the prince consort will make it easier to protect you,
Louis    "then I'll do it in a heartbeat."
A few moments later, the doctor visited the room to check on Louis's condition.
I returned to my own chamber, having said nothing in response to Louis's request.
Alone on my bed, I thought about what he'd said.
Louis    "I agreed to teach you what you need to know to be princess.
Louis    "But that's the extent of our association."
(Louis had pushed me away to avoid being made prince consort.
(But now—)
Louis    "If becoming the prince consort will make it easier to protect you,
Louis    "then I'll do it in a heartbeat."
(Was he only saying that because of what had happened?
(Louis convinced himself what happened was his fault, so maybe this is just his guilt speaking.
(Or maybe he's—)
I remembered the kiss we'd shared, and my heart started racing again.
(This happens every time I think about Louis.)
A sudden pounding on my door brought me back to reality.
Tina    "Y-Yes?"

Louis Part7_Ch.5.png  
===================

Giles entered my chamber witha quizzical look upon his face.
Giles    "You sounded so surprised. Have I interrupted you?"
Tina    "N-No! Not at all."
I straightened my posture, taking in a deep breath.
The knock had startled me so much that I feared my pounding heart might pop out of my chest.
Giles    "There has been a significant development."
Giles handed me a piece of parchment, his brow deeply furrowed.
Tina    "What's this?"
Giles    "We've seen a recent spate of banditry occurring at the border we share with Stein.
Giles    "Public order in the region is deteriorating."
(Banditry? Like, robbers? I hadn't heard anything about this.)
Giles    "Stein has been gauging our interest in a variety of political solutions.
Giles    "Particularly in the strengthening of bilateral border defenses."
Tina    "Stein's talking to us?"
Despite our shared border, we've had little contact with Stein, and I knew almost nothing about its internal politics.
It was a deeply reclusive nation, and one that had long been perceived as a mounting threat to Wysteria.
(And now they're interested in a joint military operation?)
As I puzzled over this unexpected news, my gaze dropped to the parchment Giles had brought.
Giles    "As a result of these talks, we have invited the king of Stein to Wysteria for a formal conference.
Giles    "It seems he has accepted."
Tina    "The king of Stein is coming here?!"
Giles seemed as surprised at this development as I was.
Giles    "You're expected to participate as the representative of Wysteria."
Tina    "What?!"
It was certainly proving to be a day full of surprises. I sat dumbfounded as Giles continued.
Giles    "Traditionally, His Majesty the King would represent the kingdom.
Giles    "However, he has been in ill health for the last few days."
Giles frowned.
(I'm to meet with the king of Stein? ME?)
Giles    "I understand you're not entirely comfortable with this, but it's our only option."
Tina    "I understand."
I couldn't have been less confident about it, but I tried to put on a brave face.
Giles    "This is a valuable opportunity to strengthen relations with Stein.
Giles    "After the conference, we'd like to hold a ball for the nobility of both nations."
Tina    "A ball?"
Giles was suddenly smiling again.
Giles    "A social affair might also provide a chance to learn more about our neighbors.
Giles    "And it plays to your strengths. I understand you've become quite a skilled dancer thanks to Duke Howard's lessons."
Just the sound of Louis's name set my heart aflutter.
Giles    "And of course, as a show of good will,
Giles    "we'd hope to have you dance with King Byron himself."
(Dance with the king of Stein?!)

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

After Giles left my chamber, I sat back down on my bed to think over his plan.
(Stein wants to talk with us after all these years?)
At this point, I wouldn't even feel confident meeting with the ruler of a friendly nation!
(How could I possibly be expected to handle such a sensitive diplomatic matter?)
To put my mind at ease, I resolved to learn everything I could about the Kingdom of Stein.
The sun had long since set, but I doubted I'd be getting much sleep anyway.
(Any knowledge we have on Stein should be archived in the study.
(Huh?)
I could see light pouring out from the gap below the door to my study.
(Is somebody in here?)
I pushed the door open softly, and peered through the opening. I gasped when I saw him.
(Louis?)
Louis    "Tina?"
Hearing the creak of the door, Louis raised his head from the book he'd been reading.
(I never imagined he'd be here.)
Caught entirely by surprise, my pulse quickened as our eyes met.
Louis    "Is something wrong?"
Louis was as cool and composed as ever. I wish the same could be said about me.
(What should I say? How am I supposed to act around him?
(How can he act so normal after the way we left things?)
Tina    "Oh, I, uh, just wanted to do a little research."
Louis    "About Stein?"
My eyes widened in surprise.

[1] How did you know that? (Honey)
Tina    "How did you know that?"
Louis    "I think this is just the book you're looking for."
Louis closed the book he'd been reading and stood up.

[2] Unfortunately. (Sugar)
Tina    "Unfortunately."
Louis    "Well, everything you need is right here."

[3] Who told you?
Tina    "Who told you?"
Louis    "So I was right then."

Louis closed the book he'd been reading and stood up.
He crossed the room, holding out the slim volume to me.
Tina    "What's this?"
I glanced down at the book's cover. "Collected Intelligence Regarding the Kingdom of Stein."
Louis    "Sadly, this is all we have at the moment.
Louis    "I doubt it will be of much help, but at least it's a quick read."
I clutched the book to my chest and looked up at Louis.
Tina    "Why were you reading this?"
Louis    "That's top secret."
Louis arched an eyebrow and flashed me a devilish grin.
Tina    "!"
Stunned, I half-gasped, half-laughed at Louis's expression.
(Louis has a playful side?!)
Louis    "It's quite late. Take the book back to your chamber and read it tomorrow.
Louis    "I'll walk you back."
And with that, Louis started off in the direction of my room. I had little choice but to hurry after him.

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

After escorting Tina to her chamber, Louis visited Giles to make his formal request.
Giles    "I see.
Giles    "I hadn't expected a request like this from you, Your Grace."
Giles flashed a probing smile at Louis.
Louis    "........."
Louis merely stood silently, holding Giles in his expressionless gaze.
Giles    "My impression was you had intentionally been treating Her Highness coolly.
Giles    "Presumably to avoid her becoming attached to you.
Giles    "Might I ask, why the sudden change of heart?"
Louis met Giles's probing gaze, but this time, he answered.
Louis    "There has been no change of heart.
Louis    "Until now, I have lived in fear of losing the things I care about.
Louis    "I've merely decided to stop running away from situations because they're out of my control."
Louis spoke clearly and confidently, his resolve mirrored in his steely gaze.
Giles    "Understood. And to be perfectly candid,
Giles    "I had been considering asking you to do the very same."
Louis    "Thank you."
With the hint of a bow to Giles, Louis turned and left the room.
Giles    "You've changed, and significantly so, Duke Howard."
Giles smiled as the door to his room creaked shut.
A short time after I returned to my room, Nico came to turn down my bed.
Nico    "........."
When he entered, Nico was all smiles, as usual.
But this time the smiles faded quickly, leaving a sad frown on his face.
Tina    "Is something wrong, Nico?"
Nico looked away, his expression unchanging.
Nico    "About what happened to you yesterday, Tina."
Tina    "What about it?"
Nico    "I was the one who suggested you take that walk. I'm so sorry."
(No wonder.
(Nico blames himself for what happened to me.)
Tina    "It wasn't your fault, Nico.
Tina    "Thank you so much for worrying about me, though."
I flashed Nico a reassuring smile.
Nico    "Sure."
I finally drew another smile out of Nico, although there was something unnatural about it.
Nico    "Good night, Tina."
Tina    "Good night to you, Nico."
Out in the hallway, Nico leaned against the wall and sighed.
He fiddled with his earring as a troubled expression spread over his face.
Nico    "Don't go thinking this is over, Nico. It's not even close."

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

Several days later, I stood in the reception hall waiting to greet the delegation from Stein.
I had read every word of the book Louis gave me a dozen times over.
I could probably recite the whole thing in my sleep.
And yet, I felt as apprehensive about the conference as ever.
I stood, wringing my hands, as Giles explained the day's itinerary.
Giles    "When King Byron arrives, you'll give him a brief, formal greeting.
Giles    "Then, I'll lead him and his entourage on a tour of the palace.
Giles    "Meanwhile, you'll go to wait with the court officials in the council room."
Tina    "Understood."
(I wonder what King Byron is like?
(There's no way an ordinary gentleman rules a country like Stein.)
I felt my hands go cold and clammy as I imagined the possibilities.
Giles    "Ah, I almost forgot.
Giles    "I've arranged for an expert on the preservation of public order to assist you during the talks."
(What if I accidentally say something rude to the king?)
Tina    "Thank you."
(A breach of etiquette here could have disastrous consequences.)
I was so lost in my thoughts I barely heard a word Giles said,
until a finger stroking the back of my neck snapped me back to reality.
Tina    "Who—"
I flinched, startled by the touch.
(Who would dare—!?)
I turned to find Louis standing behind me.
Tina    "Louis! What are you doing here?"
Giles    "I do believe we just covered that, Your Highness."
Giles sighed and rolled his eyes.
Giles    "I've asked Duke Howard to participate in today's conference.
Giles    "His duchy has an exemplary record of maintaining public order."
(Louis will be participating in the conference?!
(Is that why he was reading that book?)
Louis    "I hope you haven't forgotten our lesson on how to receive visitors."
Tina    "Of course not."
Louis    "Then you'll be fine."
Louis said the words with a reassuring smile.
(Oh, I remember—)
That was exactly what he said to me before our first dance at Archduke Durey's manor.
(He's trying to boost my confidence.)
Tina    "Just like our lesson."
My taut cheek muscles softened, and a smile emerged.
(There's just something special about Louis.
(Whenever we're together, I feel like I can do anything.)
Just as my stiff shoulders finally managed to relax, I heard the main entrance hall's doors swing open.
(Is that him?)
A man strode confidently into the salon. Clad head-to-toe in black and escorted by knights, he could only be one man—

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

(That must be King Byron.)
Byron    "You're the princess?"
Albert    "........."
My newfound confidence was nearly shattered by the king's imposing air and the keen gaze of the knight beside him.
(I can do this.
(With Louis by my side, I can do anything.)
Taking care to keep Louis in my field of vision, I performed the formal curtsey he had taught me.
Tina    "Welcome to Wysteria, Your Majesty. We are honored to have you."
Byron    "Charmed."
The king approached and extended a hand to me.
(This is going well enough so far.)
After an exchange of handshakes, I figured we'd cleared the first hurdle. But then Byron's adviser spoke up.
Albert    "You dare send only the princess to greet King Byron? Do you take us for fools?"
Tina    "N-No!"
My heart leapt into my throat. Had we offended them already?
I tried to formulate a more eloquent reply, but was struck dumb by the knight's glare.
Louis    "His Majesty is confined to his sickbed, making Her Royal Highness the Princess the highest sovereign in Wysteria.
Louis    "Her position is not to be taken lightly."
Louis's low, steady voice reverberated through my body.
Albert    "What—"
Byron    "Silence, Albert."
The king's voice was soft but unyielding as he ordered his adviser to stand down. He then turned his gaze to Louis.
Byron    "Duke Howard, I've heard impressive reports about your duchy.
Byron    "I am grateful of your cooperation."
Louis bowed in acknowledgement of the king's words.
Byron    "Princess, I anticipate great things from our discussions."
Tina    "And I am confident that we'll find a plan that benefits the citizens of both our lands."
Byron    "As do I."
King Byron nodded. A thin smile spread across his face, as if he had been amused by something.
Giles    "Please allow me to give you a tour of the palace, Your Majesty."
King Byron and his adviser left the reception hall with Giles.
I let out a sigh of relief when the group had disappeared out of sight.
(That certainly could have gone worse.)
I took a deep breath, and suddenly felt the reassuring weight of Louis's hand upon my head.
Tina    "What do you think, Louis?"
I looked up to see a warm smile on Louis's face.
Tina    "Did I do okay?"
Louis    "You were great."
Louis stroked my hair as he spoke,
(It was all thanks to you, Louis.)
Tina    "Thank you, Louis."
I returned his smile.
Tina    "I feel so much more confident when you're here beside me."
The words slipped out before I was sure I wanted Louis to hear them.
Suddenly embarrassed, I could feel my entire body redden.
Louis    "I'm glad to hear it."
The sight of Louis's smile set my heart aflutter again.
Louis    "I believe we're expected in the council room."
Tina    "Yes, of course."
I walked behind Louis, studying him with my eyes.
(I've got to snap out of it.
(When did I become so preoccupied with him?)
I nearly gasped aloud at my own question. How had it taken me so long to notice?

Louis Part7_end.png  
===================

Louis main story_L08.png   

Louis Howard Part 8

Thanks to Louis's support, the talks with Stein proceeded smoothly.
We decided that squads of knights from both countries would begin patrolling the border in three days' time.
(I don't know what I'd have done without Louis.)
I remembered the night I ran into him in my study.
Tina    "Why were you reading this?"
Louis    "That's top secret."
(He must have been preparing for our talks.)
I looked up at Louis, who stood by my side.
Just seeing the profile of his face was enough to make my pulse race.
Giles    "King Byron, we still have some time before the ball begins.
Giles    "Perhaps Your Majesty might care to perform an inspection of the guard?"
King Byron turned to look at Giles.
Byron    "Very good.
Byron    "It was a pleasure, Your Highness."
King Byron nodded slightly before following Giles out of the room.
I curtsied and made all the appropriate pleasantries.
When I was sure they were gone, I took a deep breath to release my accumulated stress.
Louis turned to examine me.
Louis    "Is everything okay, Tina?"

[1]  "Thank you for everything, Louis." (Honey)
Louis    "I'm glad that I could be of some small help to you."
Smiling, Louis gave my head another affectionate pat.

[2]  "I am so glad you were here."
Tina    "I am so glad you were here, Louis."
Louis    "You've worked hard to make it here yourself, Tina."
Louis tenderly stroked my cheek, easing the tension around my eyes.

[3] "You're always bailing me out." (Sugar)
Tina    "You're always bailing me out, Louis."
Louis    "That's not true. You've performed more than admirably."
Louis frowned slightly as he gave me a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder.

Louis    "I'll see you at the ball, then."
Tina    "Are you going somewhere?"
Suddenly, I very much did not want to be alone.
Louis    "There are a few matters of duchy business to which I must attend."
Tina    "Oh."
Louis    "I'll see you soon."
As I watched him leave, I absent-mindedly placed a hand where his had been.
(There was just something about his touch.)
Our encounter left my heart racing.
It didn't matter whether he was there or not, I just couldn't calm myself down.
(See you soon, Louis.)
Robert    "How are you, Tina?"
I had been so focused on the door through which Louis had left, I hadn't heard a Robert approaching from behind.

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

Robert    "My, what a splendid princess you've become."
Robert stepped to my side, the usual gentle smile on his face.
Tina    "Robert! How have you been?"
Robert    "Fine. How have your meetings with King Byron been going?"
Tina    "A bit stressful, but I think everything went OK.
Tina    "Thanks in large part to the help I've had from Giles and Louis."
My pulse quickened as I mentioned Louis's name.
Robert    "You and Louis do seem to make quite a pair."
Robert smiled wider, his eyes kind and reassuring.
Tina    "Huh?"
(Is that how people see us?)
Robert    "Your face brightened at the mention of him.
Robert    "You look completely different from the last time we spoke, when you were miserable about the way he was treating you."
(That's right. That was the last time Robert and I had spoken.
(It was right after Louis rejected my thanks for arranging the tea.)
Robert    "But from everything you've told me,
Robert    "it seems there's an awfully big rift between his actions and his words."
Robert    "Well, if he's so adamant that 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."
Now that I think about it, Robert had been exactly right.
(I can't believe how easily he saw what I couldn't.)
Robert    "How do you feel about Louis now, Tina?
Robert    "Do you still find him cold?"
Robert's question struck me straight in the heart.
(How do I feel about Louis?)
Tina    "He's the kindest person I've ever known."
Robert grinned widely at my answer.

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

The palace staff was making the final, frantic preparations in the dance hall.
Nobles from both nations began to mingle in the parlor.
Albert    "What are you doing here?"
Nico    "I might ask the same question of you, Albert."
Albert coldly stared down Nico.
Albert    "You're to address me as Commander Burckhardt."
Albert furrowed his brow as he almost spat the words out at Nico.
Albert    "And when I ask you a question, you're to answer."
Nico    "What I'm doing here is what I've always been doing—"
Nico looked away from Albert and gazed off into the distance, as if he was bored with the conversation.
Nico    "Serving King Byron."
The ballroom was alive with conversation from the huge crowd of assembled nobility.
(The atmosphere is strange.
(Everyone seems so guarded.)
The halls rang with the sounds of laughter and impassioned conversation.
But the nobility of Stein and Wysteria both kept to their respective cliques.
(I suppose we can't expect anyone to mingle with people they know nothing about.
(But if we could find some way to give them a reason to talk to each other.)
Bureaucrat    "Yes, should the worst come to pass and the throne be rendered vacant,
Bureaucrat    "Stein is certain to strike!"
(We might be able to get rid of that sort of paranoia.
(And move towards a world where people are able to live without fear of each other.)
As I puzzled over the dilemma, King Byron made his entrance.
(That reminds me—how had Giles put it?)
Giles    "And of course, as a show of good will,
Giles    "we'd hope to have you dance with King Byron himself."
(Well, that might prompt the people of both nations to talk with each other.)
I strode confidently up to King Byron.
Tina    "Your Majesty."
Byron    "Yes, Princess?"
The king's eyes widened slightly.
Unfazed by the wary reception, I extended my hand to the king.
Tina    "I was hoping you might ask me to dance."

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

His duties done, Louis made his way to the ballroom.
There, his eyes widened at the spectacle unfolding before him.
Louis    "........."
In the center of the dance floor, Byron and Tina were dancing together.
Tina's dress rippled beautifully, matching their steps like a third dancer.
Louis    "Hmm."
Though he wasn't consciously aware of it, Louis scrunched his eyebrows as his lips bent in a slight frown.
Leo    "I've never seen you look so upset about anything, Louis."
Louis couldn't tear his eyes away from Tina and Byron, not even for a moment.
But the man sidling up beside him had not escaped his notice.
Louis    "Evening, Leo."
Leo    "Would you look at that! Tina has asked Byron for a dance."
Louis    "Tina did the asking?"
Louis swiveled his head toward Leo at last.
Leo    "Oh yes. Trying to get all those nobles to loosen up, I imagine."
At Leo's words, Louis began scanning the ballroom.
Louis    "Sounds like something she would do."
His gaze landed on Tina once again, but this time his lips curled into a gentle smile.
Leo    "Ooh, what's this?"
Surprised, Leo tilted an eyebrow in Louis's direction.
Louis    "What?"
Sensing Leo's gaze, Louis furled his brow suspiciously.
Leo    "Your face comes alive every time Tina's in the room."
Louis    "........."
Louis turned to face Leo once more.
But as he did, he noticed a noble woman approaching.
Lady    "Pardon me, Your Grace. Might you be Duke Howard?"
I managed to swallow my fear as King Byron led me out onto the dance floor.
I did exactly as Louis had taught me, matching King Byron step for step.
I could only hope that I appearedmuch more relaxed than I felt.
Byron    "You're an accomplished dancer."
King Byron danced flawlessly, his body flowing gracefully from one step to the next.
Tina    "You are too kind."
Byron    "It's hard to believe you were once a commoner."
I wasn't sure if I should be flattered by that or not, but I decided to take it as a compliment.
Tina    "I had a very good teacher."
I surveyed the room as King Byron and I danced.
Little by little, the nobility seemed to be breaking away to engage with their foreign counterparts.
Byron    "It was a smart plan of yours."
Had King Byron guessed my intentions so easily? Is that why he agreed to dance with me?
(I guess you don't become the ruler of a nation without knowing how to read people.)
Impressed, I turned to smile at King Byron.
As the king led me through a spin turn, I caught a glimpse of Louis in the corner of the room.
(Louis.)
My heart surged as I recited his name in my mind.
(Wait, what's going on?)
A young noblewoman offered Louis a gloved hand. He knelt down to kiss the back of it.
It took all my self-control not to tumble headlong into King Byron.
(Who is she?!)

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

The young noblewoman seemed to be asking Louis to dance.
(What are you doing, Louis?)
I struggled to follow their exchange without diverting too much attention from our waltz.
But my heart pounded, and my head a mess of conflicting emotions.
Louis released her hand, bowed, and looked away.
Had he refused her?
But my sigh of relief was premature.
Another noblewoman approached, and Louis again engaged her in a formal greeting.
(Why does this bother me so much?)
An unpleasant tingling in my chest made it difficult to stay focused.
(No! I have to concentrate on my dance with King Byron!)
Fortunately, I didn't have to suffer for long. The song soon ended, and the king and I moved off the dance floor.
A new group of couples quickly replaced us, and a new dance began.
(At least it seems to have worked.)
I was quite relieved to see all the nobles around me engaging regardless of nationality.
Tina    "Thank you for the dance, Your Majesty."
Byron    "Quite.
Byron    "Thank you for ensuring our day was productive.
Byron    "I'm grateful."
King Byron turned away and began walking towards the exit.
Tina    "Your Majesty? Are you leaving so soon?"
Byron    "We've agreed on our plan for border patrols, so my objectives have been met.
Byron    "I'll leave the pleasure to the pleasure-seekers."
Byron looked over his shoulder to survey the chattering nobility.
Tina    "Then allow me to see you out."
Byron    "That won't be necessary."
Despite the flatness of his refusal, there was nothing cold about it.
Tina    "Then at the very least, allow me to thank you for coming so far to help resolve our border situation."
I noticed a faint smile on the king's face as I performed a low and heartfelt curtsy.
Byron    "I had feared our meeting would be of little value.
Byron    "How wrong I was."
With that, King Byron strode towards the exit, his cloak fluttering behind him.
The small army of Stein knights stationed around the room quickly fell in behind him.
(Was that a compliment?)
I watched as King Byron's entourage filtered out of the ballroom
When I turned back towards the dance floor, I found Giles standing beside me.
Giles    "Excellent work today, Your Highness."
Tina    "Thank you, Giles."
Giles    "What a majestic princess you've become."
Giles smiled, clearly satisfied.
Giles    "Are you ready to return to your chamber?
Giles    "Or would you prefer to enjoy the ball a little longer?"
Tina    "Umm..."
(And watch giggling noblewomen flirt with Louis all night long?
(I couldn't bear another minute of that.)
Tina    "I'll return to my chamber."
As I walked towards the door, someone approached me from behind, and slipped an arm under mine.
Tina    "I beg your pardon!"
Louis    "Giles, allow me to escort Her Highness to her chamber."
Tina    "L-Louis?"
Giles    "Are you sure, Duke Howard?"
Even Giles seemed legitimately surprised by his sudden appearance.
Louis    "If Her Highness doesn't mind."
I accepted with an embarrassed nod.
Tina    "Of course not."
As my heart pounded with excitement, Louis took my hand and led me out of the ballroom.

Louis Part8_Ch.5.png  
==================

Louis grinned, shifting his gaze to his feet.
Though Louis had offered to escort me back to my chamber, he led me in the direction of the garden.
I was so distracted by the warmth of his hand, I didn't notice until he had thrown open the outside door.
Tina    "Louis, where are we—"
A strong wind silenced me as we stepped into the cool night air.
My hair flew into my eyes, making it difficult to see the path ahead.
I raised a hand to push the hair away, but Louis beat me to it, gently sweeping the flyaways aside.
Tina    "Th-Thank you."
I looked up to see Louis's handsome face gazing off into the distance.
Louis    "I saw you dance with Byron."
Louis's voice was low, and quiet.
Tina    "Oh, that."

[1]  "You noticed us." (Honey)
Tina    "You noticed us."
Louis    "I don't think anyone at the ball could have missed it."
Louis grinned, shifting his gaze to his feet.

[2] "How did I do?"
Tina    "How did I do?"
Louis    "Don't tell me you're worried about that.

[3] "What did you think?" (Sugar)
Tina    "What did you think?"
Louis    "You danced well.

Louis    "It was a flawless performance."
Tina    "Only because you taught me so well."
Nothing brightened my mood like a complement from Louis.
Louis    "Good to know my lessons weren't a waste of time."
Louis smiled and stepped away from me.
Louis    "It was a dance befitting a princess. Just as I taught you."
Tina    "Really?"
(What does he mean by that?)
I tilted my head, slightly confused by his disparaging tone.
Louis turned back to face me, bowing and extending his hand with a single fluid movement.
Tina    "What is it, Louis?"
Louis    "Will you dance with me?"
Tina    "Oh..."
Louis's smile was so intoxicatingI was afraid I might grow dizzy.
Louis    "Not as the princess, but as Tina.
Louis    "And I'll dance not as Duke Howard, but as Louis.
Louis    "I want to dance with the real you."
Louis's words and smile took my breath away.
I placed my right hand over his outstretched hand.
The music from the ball was still faintly audible.
Tina    "I—"
Before I could say any more, Louis pulled me closer, wrapping his other arm around me.
It wasn't the first time he'd held me like this, but my heart felt like it might burst.
(What should I do?)
Tina    "Louis, I—I don't even think I can remember how to dance right now."
Louis    "I don't care."
I trembled as he whispered in my ear.
I looked up at his face to find him staring down at me, a content smile on his face.
Louis    "Forget everything I've ever taught you.
Louis    "Just dance with me."
As I looked up into his smiling face, it suddenly struck me—
(I'm—
(I'm in love with him.)

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

(Louis—)
His every touch sent a sweet shiver through my body.
The pain I felt when I saw those other women talking to Louis—
I finally understood where those feelings came from.
(Because I love him.)
My body seemed to be moving by itself, perfectly following Louis's lead.
It was though I was drifting through a dream.
Louis    "For a moment,"
Louis whispered in my ear as he held me close, as if divulging a secret.
Louis    "I watched you and Byron dancing together.
Louis    "I hated it."
Louis looked away, but not before I noticed a slight blush on his cheeks.
(Wait, does that mean—
(the way I felt watching those noblewomen flirt with Louis,
(was the same way he felt watching Byron and I?
(He was jealous, too?)
Tina    "Ouch!!!"
Lost in my thoughts again, I missed a step and twisted an ankle.
Tina    "Oh no!"
About to tumble face-first into Louis's chest, I immediately grabbed onto his arm.
Louis    "......"
Tina    "Aah!"
But as if I'd hit his injury, he couldn't hold me upright and lost his balance.
We thudded onto the grass together, a single tangled mass of arms and legs.
(Ouch!)
I realized with a start that I had landed on top of Louis.
Tina    "Oh! I'm sorry!"
I tried to roll off of him, but Louis wrapped his arms around my waist.
He held me so tight, I knew I wasn't going anywhere.
(Huh?)
At first, I was simply confused.
Tina    "Louis? Let me get off of you!"
Louis    "No."
When I saw the look in Louis's eyes, I must have turned rose red.
Louis    "I don't want to."
Louis hugged me tighter.
My heartbeat quickened. I'd never been held like this before.
Tina    "Louis—why?"

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

I had fallen on top of Louis,and was wrapped in his tight embrace.
It reminded me of the last time he hugged me.
And of the powerful kiss we had shared as well.
(Why?)
I couldn't hold myself back any longer. Nestling my head into Louis's chest, I asked—
Tina    "Why do you do things like this?
Tina    "I need to know.
Tina    "Why did you suddenly change your mind about being prince consort?"
I finally brought everything I had held back out of fear into the open.
Tina    "Why did you do it, Louis?
Tina    "Why did you kiss me?"
I grabbed Louis's lapel.
Tina    "I need to know."
(I want to know so badly what you feel, Louis.)
Louis    "Tina."
The sound of my name snapped me back to my senses.
(What have I—)
Tina    "I'm sorry! Please, forget I said anything!"
Louis reached out and stroked my cheek before lifting my chin so our eyes met.
Louis's eyes burned with an intensity I'd never seen before.
(Louis—)
I couldn't have looked away even if I'd wanted to.
I could feel Louis's heartbeat through my own chest.
Louis    "Because I finally found something that was important to me.
Louis    "Something so irreplaceable—something I could never bear to lose."
I could see myself reflected in his clear blue eyes.
Louis    "That's why I stopped being afraid."
Louis smiled and gently stroked my cheek.
(Is this real?)
I felt as though my heart might shatter into a thousand little pieces as I waited for Louis to continue.
Louis    "Tina, I love you."
Louis had never looked more beautiful than he did as he whispered those three little words.

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

Louis    "Tina, I love you."
As soon as Louis said those three words,
I buried my head back into his chest.
I was filled with a mix of happiness, confusion, and embarrassment all at the same time.
(What should I do?
(I've only just figured out this evening how I feel about Louis.
(How do I—?)
Thrown into a state of confusion, I couldn't think of a single thing to say.
My mind raced a mile a minute.
The only thing I knew for certain was how happy I was to finally hear those words.
Louis    "Tina?"
Louis stroked my hair softly as he said my name.
(Mmm...)
Louis    "Stay still.
Louis    "Your hair's out of place."
(Louis has always been so gentle with me since the day we first met.)
As I grew more comfortable lying there in Louis's arms, my scattered thoughts finally began to piece themselves together.
(Those hands have always been protecting me.
(They saved me from the cold-eyed nobles at the party.
(They saved me from the knife of their hired kidnapper.)
Tina    "Louis, I—"
I began to speak without even thinking of what to say.
Louis    "Wait."
Just as soon as I'd begun, Louis abruptly pulled himself to a seated position, pulling me up along with him.
I was now sat on his lap, my body cradled against his.
Louis stared into my eyes, his gaze raw and passionate.
Louis    "I want you to look into my eyes as you say it."
My face reddened even further under the intensity of his gaze.
Tina    "I-I need you to know—"
My voice was husky and unsteady as I fought against my shyness.
Louis    "Go on."
Louis patiently waited for me to continue.
Tina    "The way I feel about you—"
After much tripping over my words, I finally managed to say what I'd held back for so long.
Tina    "I love you."
No sooner had I spoke than Louis pulled me in for a kiss.
(Oh, Louis—)
I closed my eyes as his lips pressed gently against my own.

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

One kiss led to another, and another.
(I love you.
(I love you so much.)
Every time our lips touched, it was as if a new feeling had awakened from its slumber deep inside of me.
After one sweet, final kiss, our lips slowly parted.
I opened my eyes to see Louis looking downward, his eyes hidden behind long eyelashes.
Tina    "Are you okay?"
Louis    "I'm so relieved.
Louis    "I was a little bit scared for a moment there."
Louis smiled shyly. He was so adorable I couldn't hold back a smile of my own.
Louis    "I love you, Tina."
Tina    "And I love you, Louis."
The words came easily.
Just the sight of that sweet smile took my breath away.
Louis    "The wind's getting chillier."
Louis looked up at the night sky before pulling himself to his feet.
Louis    "I'll escort you to your chamber."
I lowered my gaze slightly.
(Can't we just stay here a little bit longer?)
Louis    "Let's go, Tina."
Tina    "Okay—"
I relented to Louis's urging, and let him pull me to my feet.
(I wonder how Louis would have reacted if I'd said that out loud.)
Louis led me to my room, and followed me inside.
Tina    "Thank you."
Louis    "Of course.
Louis    "Good night, Tina."
Louis pressed his lips to my forehead before opening the door to leave.
(No...)
I was suddenly more lonely than I'd ever been in my life.
Unable to stand the thought of him leaving, I grabbed Louis by the arm.
Louis    "Tina?"
Louis turned back to face me,his hand still wrapped around the doorknob.
Louis    "What is it?"
How was I supposed to put such powerful feelings into words?
The words wouldn't come, so I simply stood there, my hand around his arm.
Gently, Louis wrapped his hands around mine, pulling his arm from my grasp.
Louis    "We can't."
Tina    "Why not?"
Louis    "If I were to stay with you any longer, I don't know what might happen."
Louis's smile was slightly strained, as if he were desperately fighting some temptation.
My face burned, but that overpowering loneliness still weighed heavily on my heart.
(What if I don't care about that?)
Tina    "Stay with me, Louis. Just a little bit longer."


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

公主試驗-
通關後------

Tina    "Stay with me, Louis. Just a little bit longer."
I squeezed Louis's hand back.
(I don't want to pressure Louis into doing anything he doesn't want to, but at the same time—)
Though I tried to let go, my desire for him to stay overpowered my better judgment.
Louis    "......"
Louis sighed.
Tina    "I'm sorry."
Louis    "You're so stubborn, Tina."
(Have I pushed him too far?)
The thought tore at my heart.I shut my eyes, afraid to see the look on Louis's face.
And then I heard the soft click of my door closing.
(Did he—?)
Before I had time to process what happened, Louis lifted my chin and leaned in to kiss me.
Tina    "Mmm..."
After a single deep kiss, Louis pulled away.
Tina    "Louis?"
I said his name in confusion, to which he replied with a gentle smile.
The next moment, Louis wrapped his arms around my body and lifted me into an embrace.
Tina    "L-Louis?! What are you doing?"
Louis    "Hold still."
Louis whispered calmly as he carried me to my bed.
(He shouldn't be doing this with a wounded arm!)
Louis gently laid me on the bed and sat down at my side.
Tina    "Louis?"
I looked up at his face, confused.
Louis    "I'll stay by your side until you fall asleep."
Louis smiled kindly as he softly ran his fingers through my hair.
Louis    "This way you won't have to feel alone."
(Oh, Louis.)
Louis lovingly stroked my hair.
It felt wonderful. It was almost too much.
Tina    "Thank you."
In truth, I had wanted him to touch me more.
The more affection he gave me, the more affection I craved.
But just knowing he was beside me, feeling his warmth—it was more than enough to fill my heart with joy.
(Louis's hands are so warm.)
With each stroke of his hand through my hair, my body grew warmer and my eyelids heavier.
The room around me grew dark, and before I knew it, I was fast asleep.
.........
(Mmmmmm...)
My eyes opened as bright morning light poured into my room.
(It's morning!)
I sat upright in bed, confused.
(That's right—yesterday had been the ball with King Byron, and—)
Bit by bit, the memories came back to me.
Louis    "I love you, Tina."
(And Louis told me he—)
My body temperature spiked at the memory.
(Where did he go?)
I searched my chamber for Louis, who I was certain had been with me as I drifted off to sleep.
But I found no sign of him.
(He must have gone back to his own room after I dozed off.)
I knew that was the way it had to be, but the thought made me a little lonely all the same.
(I never felt lonely before without him in my chamber.)
I was almost embarrassed by how hard I'd fallen for him.
Once the maids finished helping me dress, I went to add the finishing touches.
I sat down at my vanity and put a new pin in my hair before slipping on my shoes.
(It's as if everything that had happened last night was just a dream.)
Just then, a knock on the door interruped my thoughts.
Tina    "It's open."
The door opened, and I caught a glimpse of Louis's face in the mirror.
Tina    "Louis—"
I turned to face him, aware of the sudden reddening on my cheeks.
Louis    "May I come in?"
I nodded, and Louis stepped inside.
(He seems completely normal, almost as if nothing happened yesterday.)
My heart began to beat faster and faster as Louis approached my side.
Louis    "Did you sleep well last night?"
Tina    "I did."
Louis    "I'm glad."
Driven to shyness by Louis's sweet smile, I unconsciously reached up to touch my hairpin.
Louis    "You're beautiful."
Louis whispered the words under his breath, so quietly I wasn't sure that I'd heard them at all.
Tina    "I'm what?"
(What did he just say?)
But when I tilted my head in confusion, Louis just smiled.
Louis    "It's nothing."
Tina    "So, um, what brings you to this part of the palace, Louis?"
Louis    "Giles wanted to speak to you."
Tina    "Giles? Oh, thank you. I'll go see him straight away."
I have to admit that I was a little dejected to learn that he had only come on official business.
Louis    "I've been summoned as well."
Tina    "You have?"
(Why would he want us both?)
Louis    "If you're ready, we should be on our way."
I followed after Louis, as he led the way to Giles's office.
I was more than a little perplexed.

Louis Part8_end.png    

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

Louis main story_L09.png   

Louis Howard Part 9

Louis and I entered Giles's office to find Giles and Leo waiting inside.
Giles    "Congratulations on the success of the conference, Your Highness."
Leo    "Well done, Tina."
Both Giles and Leo seemed legitimately impressed.
Tina    "I'm pleased it turned out as well as it did. But, what was it you wanted to see me about?"
On edge from the early hour of Giles's summons, I decided to cut right to the chase.
Giles    "I merely wanted to suggest that, starting tomorrow, you take a couple of days off.
Giles    "After all, you've barely had a moment's rest since the coronation ceremony."
Tina    "The princess is allowed days off?"
My eyes widened at the unexpected offer.
Leo    Of course. We've canceled your classes and duties, and you'll be free to leave the palace whenever you like."
Giles    "The one condition is that we'd like Duke Howard to accompany you."
(What? Why would Giles?!)
I looked to Louis just in time to see him breathing in sharply.
Louis    "........."
(Louis seems just as surprised as I am.)
Giles    "In two days' time, we'll be busy reinforcing our borders with Stein.
Giles    "As I was hoping His Grace would be available to assist us with that,
Giles    "this may be his last opportunity for recreation in the near future."
Tina    "........."
Giles flashed me a smile as I stood there, silently.
Giles    "Is something wrong, Your Highness?
Giles    "It was my impression that of all the possible escorts we might have chosen,
Giles    "Duke Howard would have been your preference."
(Does Giles know about us?!)
My face immediately reddened at the thought.
Tina    "N-No, there's no problem at all."
Leo    "I hate to disappoint you, but you've still got to take lessons with me—not your former tutor—today."
(Don't tell me that Leo knows too?! He couldn't possibly, right?)
But there was something suspicious about that smile of his—
Giles    "Well, that settles it. We should all be on our way to the dining hall for breakfast."
The innocent look on Giles's face left me afraid to pursue the matter any further.
(We need to figure out what we're doing tomorrow.)
After breakfast, I chased Louis down in the hallway.
Tina    "Louis, do you have a minute?"

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

Louis stopped walking and turned to face me.
Tina    "I never imagined we'd have tomorrow off just like that."
Louis    "Neither did I."
Louis's eyes were hidden behind his long eyelashes, as if pondering something.
(What's on his mind?)
Louis    "Is there anything in particular you'd like to do tomorrow?"
Louis seemed to have quickly banished whatever thought weighted on his mind, returning back to his usual self.
Tina    "Like what?"
(I have absolutely no idea.)
Even with all of breakfast to think about it, nothing came to mind.
Tina    "What would you like to do, Louis?"
Louis widened his eyes.
Louis    "You're asking me?"
Louis seemed surprised I asked his opinion at all.
Tina    "It's your vacation too!"
Suddenly, I was excited to hear Louis's response.
(What DOES Louis do for fun?)
Louis considered the question for a moment before answering.
Louis    "I suppose—I'd like to go someplace that's important to you."
Tina    "Someplace important to me?"
Louis    "Yes. You fought to protect the things that were important to me.
Louis    "I'd like to do the same for you."
Louis smiled, no doubt remembering the day we'd spent at the orphanage.
(How sweet of Louis to feel that way.)
Touched by the sentiment, a bright smile spread across my face.
Tina    "Thank you, Louis."
Louis reached out to caress my slightly flush cheeks.
Tina    "Oh..."
At the touch of his fingertips, I immediately flashed back to our kiss from last night.
(I shouldn't—)
Suddenly embarrassed, I took Louis's hand in my own and looked away, hiding my red face.
Louis    "Tina?
Louis    "Look at me."
Louis's voice was kind and encouraging. Reluctantly, I lifted my head and met his eyes.
Louis    "You're as red as a tomato."
Tina    "Well whose fault is that?"
Louis    "Mine, I suppose."
Louis chuckled, while my face only grew redder.
As our bodies drew nearer, Louis leaned in towards me.
I closed my eyes in anticipation.
But before anything could happen, I turned around at the sound of footsteps behind us.
(That reminds me—I'm late for my lessons!)
Louis moved in again, attempting to try for the kiss once more, but I squirmed away.
Tina    "Louis, I have to go!"
But when I looked up to see if he was listening—
I felt something soft press against my lips.

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

I felt something soft press against my lips.
The unexpected kiss stopped me in my tracks.
(We can't do this—Leo will see!)
That's what I thought, anyways. But I did nothing to resist as I shivered at the electrifying kiss.
Louis    "Forgive me."
And just as quickly as it had begun, Louis pulled away.
Louis    "I couldn't help myself."

(9.03)
[1] “Louis, I just told you—” (Sugar)
Tina    "Louis, I just told you—"
Flustered and embarrassed, I looked away from Louis.
Louis    "I'm sorry."

[2] “You surprised me!” (Honey)
Tina    "You surprised me!"
I looked up at Louis, a slightly perturbed look on my face.
Louis    "I'm sorry."
Louis flashed me an apologetic smile.
(How can I be angry with you if you're going to look at me like that?)

[3] “Leo’s going to see us!”
Tina    "Leo's going to see us!"
Louis    "Oh, wouldn't want that."
Louis flashed me a pained smile.

Leo    "Tina? Where are you?"
As Leo's voice resounded from down the hall, Louis gave me a quick pat on the head.
Then he turned and walked away in the opposite direction.
Leo    "Well, there you are!"
Leo was nearly jogging down the hall after me.
Tina    "Leo, I'm so sorry for being late."
Leo    "You're lucky Giles isn't teaching this lesson, or you'd be in big trouble.
Leo    "Well, come along."
He placed a hand on my shoulder and guided me towards the door.
(It looks like he didn't see us—what a relief!)
But just as I finished a quiet sigh of relief, I heard Leo mumbling something quietly to himself.
Leo    "We'll begin as soon as I'm done heaving up my breakfast..."
My jaw dropped open in surprise.
(He had seen us?!)
But I hadn't the courage to ask him directly.
Instead, I entered the room without a word.
A stiff knock reverberated through Giles's office.
Giles    "Come in."
The door swung open to reveal Louis at the threshold.
Giles    "To what do I owe this pleasure, Duke Howard?"
Louis    "I wanted to talk."
Giles    "About what, might I ask?"
Giles narrowed his eyes, noting the serious expression on Louis's face.
Louis    "Giles, do I have your blessing?"
Louis studied Giles's face as he asked the question.
Giles    "While I'm not entirely sure what you're getting at, I can only assume—
Giles    "You're asking me to sanction your relationship with Princess Tina?"

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

Giles and Louis stared at each other in silence for a moment.
Giles    "If Her Highness were to choose you as her prince consort—"
Giles broke the silence, speaking in a slow and measured tone.
Giles    "I'd have no reservations about her choice whatsoever."
Louis    "Then perhaps you're not familiar with my background."
Giles's approval had done nothing to soften Louis's hard stare.
Louis    "A common-born orphan becoming prince consort to a common-born future queen could disrupt the stability of the kingdom.
Louis    "I would have expected you to note that."
Giles    "Hmm."
Giles considered this for a moment.
Giles    "And that's what drove you to distance yourself from Tina, I assume?"
Louis    "Too many people know my background for it to be kept secret.
Louis    "There's no guarantee my ascension wouldn't potentially bring the kingdom to ruin."
Giles    "It's true that minor sources of unrest can sow the seeds of great tragedy.
Giles    "But haven't you already decided to take that risk?"
Giles smiled, his gaze into Louis's eyes unwavering.
Giles    "What was it you said to me? That you'd no longer flee from situations that are out of your control?"
Louis    "I did say that."
Louis bowed his head and nodded.
Giles    "I have faith in you.
Giles    "Even more now than I did during your 'ice sculpture' days."
Giles laughed softly at his own comment.
Giles    "And do you know why that is?
Giles    "Because once you've set your mind to something, there is nothing more that needs to be said."
And with that, Giles turned his back on Louis. The conversation was over.
Louis    "Thank you, Giles."
Louis spoke at a whisper, but the resolve in his voice was crystal clear.
......
The sun had set by the time my lesson with Leo was finally over.
Leo    "So, what do you two have planned for tomorrow, Tina?"
Tina    "Tomorrow?"
(We really need to figure that out—)
My conversation with Louis had been interrupted before we came to any conclusion.
(He'd wanted to go somewhere that was important to me—)
This time, the idea hit me right away.

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

The next day, I escorted Louis to a familiar section of town.
Louis    "This is where we'll find what's important to you?"
Tina    "This IS what's important to me. All of this."
(I think it was right around here that Louis gave me the flower bookmark.)
I sighed at the memory of my last visit. It hadn't been that long ago, but it felt like a lifetime.
Tina    "So many of the things that matter to me are here."
I could hear the joyful voices of children at play coming from a nearby plaza.
Tina    "Oh, I wonder if—"
Then I spotted her.
The former student to whom I'd given the bookmark was indeed among the playing children.
Child 1    "Miss Tina?"
Child 2    "Hey, it's Miss Tina!"
Suddenly, all of the children were upon us.
Child 3    "No, you guys! You're supposed to call her Your Highness now!"
Tina    "Hello everyone! Have you all been well?"
My heart swelled at how happy all the children seemed.
Child 1    "Who's that, Miss Tina? Is he your boyfriend?"
All the children's eyes were on Louis.
(My boyfriend?!)
Tina    "He's someone very important to me."
I looked to Louis with a grin.
Louis    "Hello."
Louis smiled at the children, a hint of embarrassment in his eyes.
Child 2    "Does that mean he's the prince concert?"
Child 3    "Does he protect you from all the bad men?"
The eyes of the children twinkled with excitement.
Tina    "The word is prince CONSORT. And, no! I mean, well—"
Child 1    "My dad says the prince consort is like a knight that protects the princess!"
Their eyes were full of such simple innocence.
Louis knelt down and looked the child in her eyes.
Louis    "Your father is a very smart man."
Louis then looked to each child in turn, a kind smile on his face.
Louis    "But I won't just protect Miss Tina. I'll also protect everyone and everything that's important to her."
(Oh, Louis.)

Louis Part9_Ch.5.png
======================

Louis    "I won't just protect Miss Tina. I'll also protect everyone and everything that's important to her."
Louis spoke with a kind voice and a soft smile.
Child 1    "Do you promise?"
My former student asked while extending a pinky finger towards Louis.
Louis    "I promise."
Without any confusion or hesitation, Louis looped his own pinky around the girl's.
(I could lose myself in that smile of his.
(He really is like a prince out of a fairy tale.)
......
Child    "See ya later, Your Highness!"
We waved goodbye to the children as they returned to their homes for the evening.
We had spent so much time with them that the sun was already low in the sky.
Tina    "I can't believe it's almost nightfall already."
Louis    "The day flew by so quickly."
Louis sat down on one of the steps of the neighborhood church.
Tina    "Are you tired?"
Louis    "A little."
Louis sighed. He really did seem exhausted.
I don't think I'd ever seen him show any sign of weakness before.
(I guess even Louis gets tired—
(and has fun, and gets bored, and has good and bad moods.)
It had only been a few days since Louis showing me his real emotions.
(It all started when we danced that night in the garden.)
There was still something so exciting about Louis sharing his true self with me.
Tina    "It's like finally meeting the real you."
(The Louis that I'd always known was in there somewhere.)
Louis    "Did you say something?"
Louis overheard me muttering to myself and gave me a confused look.
Tina    "Oh, no, it's nothing."
I sat down beside Louis, a wide smile upon my face.
(I guess I'm a little tired myself.)
Louis rested his head on my shoulder.
My heart began to race. Louis looked up at me, as if he had something to say.
Tina    "What is it, Louis?"
Louis    "Thank you for sharing this with me."
Louis whispered softly.
I couldn't see the expression on his face, but I imagined it was one of contentment.
Tina    "Of course."
I ran my hands through Louis's hair, just as I'd done for the children earlier.
Happily, he nuzzled his cheek against my shoulder.
(He's so adorable.)
As I was admiring him, he suddenly spoke.
Louis    "What you said to those kids—"
Louis's words were a low murmur.
Tina    "Hmmm?"
Louis    "That I was someone very important to you—
Louis    "it felt so good to hear that."

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

Louis    "It felt so good to hear that—
Louis    "that I was someone very important to you."
(It felt so good to say it.)
With his head on my shoulder, my love for Louis was so powerful I felt as though my heart might burst.
I leaned over and kissed his forehead.
Louis    "Tina!"
Louis's body stiffened in surprise.
Tina    "Oops."
(That's the first time I've ever kissed him.)
The color of my cheeks deepened to a dark rose as the realization dawned upon me.
Even in the dark of night, I could see Louis's cheeks, too, were a deep shade of red.
Tina    "You're as red as a tomato, Louis."
Louis    "Well whose fault is that?"
Tina    "Mine, I suppose."
The familiar words brought a chuckle to my lips.
Louis turned away, perhaps in an attempt to hide his face.
I smiled wider, and said—

(9.07)
[1] “Feeling embarassed?” (Honey)
Tina    "Feeling embarrassed?"
Louis    "As if you didn't know."

[2] “Are you pouting?”
Tina    "Are you pouting?"
Louis    "Of course not."

[3] “You’re so cute.” (Sugar)
Tina    "You're such a cutie."
Louis    "The only person who's cute here is you."

Louis turned to face me, placing a hand on each of my cheeks.
Louis    "If you're going to kiss me, do it right."
Tina    "You mean on the nose?"
Louis's face inched towards mine.
Louis    "Right here."
Tina    "Mmm."
Before I had time to react, Louis leaned in to kiss me.
It was far from our first kiss, but it still didn't stop the butterflies in my stomach.
(Oh, Louis—)
How could such a soft kiss send sparks flying throughout my entire body?
(I want more. I don't want to let go.)
I opened my eyes a sliver and gazed at Louis, my heart feeling as though it would split in two.
Louis    "If you're going to stare at me like that, we'll never make it back to the palace Princess Tina."
Louis whispered to me, his lips practically brushing against mine as he spoke.
Tina    "!"
Just thinking about what might happen next sent fireworks shooting through my whole body.
Louis    "Let's go home."
With a gentle smile, Louis pulled his lips away from mine and rose to his feet.
He extended a hand to me.
Tina    "Okay."
(I wish we could stay like this forever.)
But the thought had come from my heart, not from my head. Reluctantly, I took Louis's hand.
Walking hand in hand, Louis escorted me back to my chamber at the palace.
I hated the thought of having to let go.
It wasn't the first time I'd felt that way as I stood outside my door.
Louis    "I'll stay by your side until you fall asleep.
Louis    "This way you won't have to feel alone."
(Maybe that was enough for me then.
(But I want, no, need him so much more than before.)
Instead of letting go I clutched his hand all the more tightly.
Louis turned to me, startled.
Louis    "Tina?"

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

Louis    "Tina?"
Looking up at Louis, I arched my back and rose onto my tiptoes.
I planted a soft, shy kiss on his lips.
Louis    "!"
The kiss lasted only a fraction of a second.
But seeing the reaction on his face made letting go all the harder.
(Oh Louis, why does it have to end like this?)
Tina    "Good night."
Ignoring the sadness in my heart, I slowly released my hand from his.
I turned and opened the heavy door into my chamber.
Before I could walk into the room, Louis reached out from behind and locked me in an embrace.
Tina    "L-Louis!"
Louis    "Don't run away from me."
Louis's voice was husky and low, tickling my neck as he spoke.
Louis spun me around in his arms and kissed me so sweetly, so deeply—
Tina    "Mmm..."
Louis took my hands in his, the weight of his body against mine pressing me up against the now shut door.
This was no gentle kiss like the one we'd shared on the church steps. This kiss was deep and consuming.
Intoxicating ripples of pleasure shot through my body as the kiss intensified.
(I've never been kissed like this before.)
Louis    "Tina."
My eyes opened slightly at the sound of my name.
Louis stared at me with hungry eyes.
I froze at the look upon his face. I hadn't seen anything like it up till now.
Louis    "Does it scare you to see me like this?"
Tina    "No."
I found the strength to shake my head.
Louis    "It scares me."
Louis closed his eyes, as if trying to fight back some urge.
Louis    "I'm afraid that I'll destroy something important to me."
Louis gently ran his finger along my cheek.
Louis    "But I don't want to let go."
His eyes were open wide now, imploring me, like a small child.
Tina    "I'm not afraid."
I placed my hand atop Louis's as he caressed my cheek, hoping it would reassure him.
Tina    "I won't abandon you.
Tina    "I love this side of you. I love every side of you."
Louis    "Tina..."
Tina    "Don't leave me tonight."
The words I had struggled to say before now slipped out with ease.
Louis    "All right."
Louis gently released his hand from mine and enveloped me in an embrace.
Louis    "I love you, Tina."
There was something sweet and uncertain about the way he said my name, as if he was making sure I was still there, still real.
Tina    "Oh, Louis—"
Child    "Does that mean he's the prince concert?"
(Of course it does.
(Who else could it be?)
Tina    "I love you too, Louis."
(Sweet Louis, my prince.)

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

I awoke to the cheerful chirping of birds outside my window.
Tina    "Mnnngghh..."
My half-closed eyes snapped open as Louis's sleeping face came into focus
This wasn't the face of an ice sculpture; Louis's features were soft and cherubic.
(He's beautiful.)
I gently brushed a few locks of hair that had fallen across Louis's face in his sleep.
Louis    "Mmm..."
(Oops! I think I woke him!)
Louis stirred a bit, his eyes slowly opening.
Tina    "Good morning, Louis."
Louis    "Mmm...morning..."
Louis stared at me groggily.
(Is he even awake?)
Tina    "Lou-OH!"
Without any warning, Louis grabbed me and hugged me against his chest.
The warmth of his silken skin brought back vivid memories from the night before.
His low, husky voice, the gentle way he caressed me—
Tina    "Louis, we have to get up."
Embarrassed by the flood of memories, I tried to squirm out of Louis's embrace.
Louis    "No."
Louis only hugged me harder, and once I was secure in his arms, promptly resumed his light snoring.
(Come on, Louis!)
But another glance at his angelic face sent a wave of warmth throughout my body.
Dawn had only just broken, so we didn't really need to get out of bed just yet.
(I guess a little more sleep couldn't hurt.)
Wrapped in the warmth of Louis's body, I closed my eyes and drifted off again.
......
Elsewhere in the palace, Nico had been summoned to Giles's office.
Nico    "You asked to see me, Giles?"
Giles    "Ah, there you are, Nico."
Giles sat at his desk, flipping through a pile of papers.
Giles    "I think it's time we start making preparations for a ceremony announcing the new prince consort."
Nico    "The new prince consort's announcement ceremony?"
Nico's face turned pale.
Engrossed in his paperwork, Giles didn't notice the change in Nico's expression.
Giles    "Yes. I'd like you to start preparing the invitations."
Nico    "Is the announcement ceremony really so soon?"
Nico asked, puzzled.
Giles    "It seems Her Highness has already given her heart to a suitor."
Giles smiled and looked up at Nico for the first time in their meeting.
Nico    "Really? Well—that's great!"
Concealing his misgivings, Nico forced his lips into a smile.
After the meeting, Nico walked the palace halls alone.
His expression seemed gloomy, as if he were brooding over some unpleasant thought.
Nico    "So Tina's chosen Duke Howard."

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

After leaving Giles's office, Nico moved quietly through the palace halls.
He stopped at Louis's empty guestroom, and made his way inside.
Nico    "......"
With a cold glint in his eyes, Nico began rummaging through the papers on the duke's desk.
When he found the document he was looking for, he slipped it out of the pile.
Nico    "This should do."
Nico jumped as he saw a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye. But it was just a bird landing on the open windowsill.
Nico    "That must be Louis's pet."
Nico heard Louis kept a brilliant blue bird as a pet on his estate.
There were occasional sightings of it at the palace as well.
Nico    "It's carrying a message."
Nico noticed a slip of paper tied around its leg.
Nervously, but carefully, Nico untied the string and took the message from the bird.
Nico    "Oh my!"
His eyes widened as he read the brief letter.
With a slow exhalation of breath, Nico slipped the paper into his pocket.
Nico    "......"
Nico turned his attention back to the document he'd taken from the duke's desk.
He sighed as he read it, a conflicted expression on his face.
Nico    "I'm so sorry, Tina."
Still holding the document, Nico slipped out of the Louis's guest chamber and strode quickly down the corridor.
The barracks were a flurry of activity as knights made their final preparations for deployment to the joint border patrol.
Alyn surveyed his men, addressing each in turn.
Alyn    "You've never led a unit before, have you?
Alyn    "I'm counting on you."
The slightly nervous young knight forced out a smile as Alyn slapped him on the shoulder.
Young Knight    "Yessir! No way I'll let some pack of bandits get the better of me!"
Alyn    "I don't want to be the one pulling a dagger out of your back after you underestimate those thugs."
Young Knight    "I won't let that happen, sir."
Smiling brightly, the young knight saluted Alyn.
Alyn    "Duke Howard will be helping to plan our border-patrol strategies.
Alyn    "Whatever Louis says, treat it as if it were an order from me. You got that?"
Young Knight    "Yessir!
Young Knight    "I wouldn't want to end up on his bad side. I hear he's to become prince consort."
Alyn    "You don't say?"
Alyn widened his eyes in surprise, as if this were the first he'd heard of it.
Bright rays of light pierced through the window, awakening me a second time.
(Oh, no!
(I must have fallen back asleep!)
When I looked to Louis, I found him already awake.
Louis    "Good morning."
Louis brushed my tousled hair out of my eyes with a gentle smile.
Tina    "Good morning, Louis."
I still couldn't help but feel a little bashful, waking up next to him like this.
I could feel the blood rising to my cheeks, and promptly buried my face under the sheets.
Louis chuckled and opened his mouth to say something.
But just then, we were interrupted by a strange noise from the balcony.

« Royal Challenge!  »
Grace Required
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祼體課程上太多~~ 以致於Grace 值一個角色未攻略到尾聲,Grace 值就爆4W多了....哈~
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======================

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Louis Howard Part 10

A strange sound coming from the balcony pulled my attention away from Louis.
(What in heavens?)
Tina    "Is that a bird?"
Louis and I exchanged glances. I quickly put my nightgown on and got out of bed.
Louis and I went to investigate the balcony together.
There, on the handrail, perched a cute bird with bright blue plumage.
Louis    "Oh, it's you."
The corners of Louis's mouth curled into a smile.
(Louis knows this bird?)
The bird launched itself off the handrail and landed on Louis's outstretched hand.
Louis    "I raised this bird at my manor."
Tina    "Really? What's its name?"
Louis    "Lucia."
Tina    "She's adorable."
Lucia inclined her tiny head happily as Louis stroked it with the tip of his finger.
Louis    "I don't see a message."
Louis scowled as he examined the bird's thin legs.
Tina    "It's supposed to have a message?"
Louis    "I told my attendants only to release Lucia if they needed to send me a message.
Louis    "I've had them investigating your abduction.
Louis    "When I saw Lucia, I assumed that they'd found something."
(Something about my abduction?)
I wasn't aware Louis was still pursuing the matter.
Tina    "But you already caught the culprit, right?"
Louis    "This palace is protected by the Royal Wysterian Guard, under Alyn's personal command.
Louis    "The assailant shouldn't have been able to infiltrate the palace defenses so easily."
The tremendous amount of faith Louis had in Alyn was clear from the expression on his face.
Louis    "And yet, you were abducted from the palace courtyard.
Louis    "That led me to suspect the kidnapper had assistance from someone inside the palace."
Tina    "Inside the palace?"
The implication of Louis's theory was almost too much to process.
(Someone at the palace assisted with my kidnapping? That's impossible!)
Or at least, I prayed it wasn't possible.
But the thought of it sent a cold shiver down my spine.
Louis    "Don't worry, Tina."
Louis pulled me into a soft embrace, giving me a reassuring squeeze as he continued
Louis    "I'll never allow anything like that to happen again."
Tina    "Thank you, but—"
Louis    "After all, I pinky swore it to your student."
Louis    "That I won't just protect Miss Tina. I'll also protect everyone and everything that's important to her."

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

Louis    "I swore that I won't just protect Miss Tina. But that I'll also protect everyone and everything that's important to her."
Tina    "Thanks, Louis."
It made me so happy to hear Louis say that.
However, the intensity of his resolve made me a little uneasy.
Tina    "But if you were to get hurt trying to protect me, I don't know if I could bear it.
Tina    "Eep!"
At that moment, Lucia leapt from Louis's shoulder onto my own.

Chirping sweetly, Lucia ran along the nape of my neck, from shoulder to shoulder.
Tina    "Why hello, Lucia."
The bird's soft feathers brushed against my cheeks.
Tina    "L-Lucia! That tick—Ow!"
Lucia's claws got tangled in my hair.
Louis    "Lucia!"
Louis scolded the bird gently.
Louis    "I'm sorry about that. Please, hold still."
Louis's face was only inches away from my mine as he gently detangled Lucia from my hair.
(He's so close—)
His face so close to mine reminded me of the moments we'd shared last night. Our eyes met just as I began to blush.
Finally, he disentangled the claws from my hair and sent Lucia flying free.
Louis    "You really shouldn't make that face so often."

10.02
[1] “What face is that?” (Honey)
Tina    "What face is that?"
Louis    "A face that makes me think you want this—"
Louis smiled happily and then pressed his lips to mine.

[2] “What are you talking about?” (Sugar)
Tina    "What are you talking about?"
Louis    "Don't play dumb with me."

[3] “What does my face look like?”
Tina    "What does my face look like?"
Louis    "Do you really want to know?"

Louis smiled happily and then pressed his lips to mine.
Though they touched for just a moment, the kiss sent shivers through my whole body.
Louis    "It's the face that says you want me to kiss you."
Tina    "I wasn't making that face!"
Louis    "You were too."
Louis wrapped his arms around my waist, pulling me in closer, and leaned in for another kiss before leading me back inside.
Wrapping me in his arms, Louis pulled me down on top of the bed.
Tina    "Louis, we can't—
Now on top of me, Louis played with my hair as he softly kissed my neck.
But as the room filled with a shrill chirping noise, Louis abruptly stopped.
I felt a soft brush of feathers against my cheeks and opened my eyes.
Tina    "Lucia?"
I opened my eyes to discover Louis's bird rubbing her head against my cheek.
Louis    "I'm going to need to buy a birdcage, aren't I?"
Louis sat up with a sigh, and then gently cupped Lucia into his hands.
Louis    "And here I thought I could have you all to myself, Tina."
Lucia cocked her tiny head from within Louis's hands.
Tina    "You forgot about my other suitor."
My joke sent Louis into a peal of laughter, erasing the disappointment from his face.

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

Young Knight    "With your leave, Your Highness, we'll depart immediately."
Tina    "I give you my blessing. The people of Wysteria eagerly await the tales of your courage and valor."
Later that afternoon, I stood with Alyn, Louis, and Giles to send off the knights assigned to border patrol duties.
I wanted to give my blessing to each of them personally.
Alyn    "I'll see them as far as the palace gates."
Alyn and his knights filtered out of the palace hall, leaving me alone with Giles and Louis.
Giles    "If this goes well,
Giles    "it could be our opportunity to forge a more formal alliance with Stein."
Tina    "That would certainly put everyone's minds at ease."
Giles    "It would indeed."
Giles's smile widened and I suddenly felt the heat of his stare.
Giles    "But if you wish to put the minds of the people at ease,
Giles    "announcing your choice of prince consort would go a long way towards doing so."
(My prince consort.)
Giles    "Have you not yet made a decision?"
Giles asked in a gentle tone that made it clear he had no intention of rushing me.
(But what would be the point in waiting?
(I already know who I want to pick.)
Louis    "........."
Louis and I exchanged glances. He smiled and nodded.
Tina    "Actually, Giles
Tina    "I've made my decision."
I took a deep breath, and looked Giles right in his eyes.
Tina    "As princess of Wysteria, I choose Duke Louis Howard to serve as my prince consort."
Giles    "........."
(I hope Giles approves.)
The few seconds of silence that followed felt like a lifetime.
Giles    "I had been wondering how long it would take for you to get around to telling me."
Tina    "What?!"
Giles smiled and rolled his eyes.
Giles    "Have you no sympathy for everyone who pretended not to notice as you two swooned over each other?
Giles    "It's been rather embarrassing for us all."
Tina    "Swoon over each other?"
Louis    "........."
(Were we that obvious?
(I guess nothing gets past Giles.
(Wait—exactly how much does he know?!)
Giles    "Nico already has the preparations for the announcement ceremony well underway."
Tina    "What?!"
(They've already begun planning an announcement ceremony? They'd been that certain?)
Giles    "When His Majesty is feeling stronger, please do be sure to tell him the good news. It would put his mind very much to ease."

====================
    
Giles summoned me early the next morning to explain the particulars of the announcement ceremony.
(It's all so sudden. None of this feels real.)
Nico arrived with morning tea shortly after I returned to my chamber.
Nico    "Here you are, Tina."
(That's odd.)
Nico quietly placed the tea set on the table without making eye contact with me once.
(Nico's always so upbeat. I wonder if something happened?)
And I'd never known Nico to be so reticent around me.
Tina    "Is something the matter?"
Nico    "Huh?"
Nico reacted to my question with such shock I almost jumped out of my chair myself.
(What is going on with him?)
Nico    "It's nothing, Tina. Nothing at all."
Nico smiled uncomfortably, but was spared from any further questions by a sudden pounding on my door.
Giles    "Your Highness! We have a situation!"
Giles burst into my chamber, his face pale and taut.
Giles    "The knights patrolling the border—"
Byron    "Wysterian knights have attacked an archduke of Stein?!"
Byron cocked an eyebrow at the hastily delivered report.
Albert    "Yes, unfortunately. Last night, while the archduke was on a hunting trip in the woods near the border,
Albert    "Wysterians captured him from his camp.
Albert    "We believe they're holding him captive at the Wysterian palace."
Byron    "........."
Byron sat silently, his face grim, as he pondered his options.
After Giles explained the situation, I ran with him down to the knights' barracks.
Alyn    "Why on earth would you capture an archduke of Stein?!"
Young Knight    "You're asking ME why? I was just following orders!"
Alyn interrogated a young man at the center of a large group of knights.
(Following orders?)
Louis    "And whose orders were those?"
Louis appeared behind me, perhaps having come to investigate the commotion himself.
Young Knight    "They were from you, Duke Howard!"
As soon as he saw Louis, the young knight hastily produced a slip of paper.
Young Knight    "This is from you, is it not?"
Louis    "From me?"
Louis frowned as he looked over the message.
Young Knight    "You sent that to us last night!
Young Knight    "You instructed us to capture the bandit camping in the east woods!"
(Louis sent that?)
Louis    "........."
I could tell from the look on Louis's face that he was reading the message for the first time. There was no way he'd written it.
My heart sunk.
(What's going on here?!)
Young Knight    "After my squad received that message, we immediately went to the east woods and rounded up the group camping there.
Young Knight    "How were we supposed to know the guy was an archduke of Stein?"
Alyn    "Give me that."
Alyn snatched the paper out of Louis's hands and examined it with a furrowed brow.
Alyn    "That's Louis's signature—there's no doubt about that."

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

Alyn stared down at the message for an uncomfortably long time.
When he finally lifted his head, he turned his attention back to the young knight.
Alyn    "Why didn't you verify who you were attacking?"
Young Knight    "It was dark! And the orders were from Duke Howard so we figured the information was solid!"
Alyn    "So you'll raise your sword against anyone you've been ordered to without question? Is that what a knight does?"
Young Knight    "N-No, but—"
The defiance on the face of the young knight melted away, and he hung his head in silence.
Giles    "We need to explain the situation to the archduke straight away.
Giles    "Then he's to be escorted back to Stein immediately.
Giles    "If this isn't resolved promptly, we could face a retaliatory strike."
(Is it really that bad?)
The color drained from my face as the gravity of the situation finally hit home.
Knight 1    "Why would Duke Howard do something like this?"
Knight 2    "Is he trying to provoke a war with Stein?"
The knights were astir, with more and more voices joining the discussion.
Everyone seemed nervous and distrustful.
(Louis would never do that!)
Alyn    "Louis, were you the one who issued this order?"
Louis    "Absolutely not. But I have no proof it wasn't me."
The boisterous knights went silent to hear Louis's quietly delivered reply.
Louis    "I won't ask you to believe me."
Louis seemed as cool as ever.
Louis    "First, we must see to the archduke's release."
Alyn    "Right. Come along, the lot of you."
Alyn and Louis exited the hall with the knights in tow.
Giles    "Your Highness."
Giles called to me as he hurried to catch up.
Giles    "We need to talk."
Tina    "Giles, this is all some sort of misunderstanding, right?
Tina    "Surely everyone in Stein will understand, won't they?"
The fear was clear in my voice.
Giles    "I also believe Duke Howard didn't send the message.
Giles    "But as he said himself, there is no proof that he wasn't the one who sent it."
Tina    "But—"
(How could Giles be so matter-of-fact about this?!)
Giles    "If Stein takes this as an affront to their archduke—
Giles    "they might go so far as to send a declaration of war."
Tina    "A declaration of war?"
(We might have to go to war over this?)
Giles    "Your Highness."
I could tell from the apologetic tone of Giles's voice that the bad news wasn't over yet.
Giles    "Because of that message,
Giles    "Stein will presume Duke Howard is the perpetrator of this incident.
Giles    "If we were to announce your selection of Duke Howard as your prince consort under such conditions—
Giles    "it would be the same as declaring war upon Stein ourselves."
(Wait—what?!)
Struggling to take in what Giles just said, I felt as though my heart would beat right out of my chest.
Giles    "Forgive me for being so blunt,
Giles    "but under the circumstances, I simply cannot allow you to choose Duke Howard as your prince consort."

Louis Part10_Ch.5.png  
======================

My mind was still in disarray.
(I have to see Louis.)
As I made my way back to the palace from the barracks, I mulled over Giles's words.
Giles    "I simply cannot allow you to choose Duke Howard as your prince consort.
Giles    "You'll have to find a new suitor, Your Highness."
Tina    "What?!"
Giles    "I understand how painful a sacrifice I'm asking you to make, my lady."
I didn't doubt it. Giles's voice was gentle and understanding.
Giles    "If, heaven forbid, His Majesty were to pass away before you were prepared to take over the throne—
Giles    "it would create a veritable power vacuum with no prince consort to share your rule.
Giles    "And that would play right into the hands of the fiends who framed Duke Howard."
Tina    "Is that what they've been after all along?"
Giles didn't answer the question. He merely continued to stare at me.
Giles    "I will not tell you to do this immediately.
Giles    "But if Wysteria is forced to go to war, its people will need a strong royal family to guide them.
Giles    "Please give the matter your consideration."
Thinking back to the conversation made my heart hurt.
(What should I do?)
I entered the foyer just as Alyn and his knights were leading the archduke out.
My heart skipped a beat as I spotted Louis amongst them. But first, I had more important matters to attend to—
Tina    "Your Grace."
Before I could continue with my apology,
(What the?!)
In a single swift movement, the archduke knocked one of the knights down and stole his sword.
Alyn    "Watch out!"
Alyn and his knights seemed momentarily dumbstruck.
Archduke    "You shall pay for this insolence!"
The archduke lifted the sword and swung it down at Louis, who was walking ahead of him.
Tina    "NO!!!"
Without thinking twice, I threw myself between Louis and the archduke.
Louis    "Tina!"

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

I squeezed my eyes tight in anticipation of the pain.
But I felt nothing at all.
In its place was the sound of a metal clashing against metal.
(Huh?)
I opened my eyes to find myself in Louis's arms.
Tina    "Louis?"
Louis    "Tina—Are you...hurt...?"

10.07
[1] “Are you, Louis?”
Tina    "Are you, Louis?"
My voice quivered in fear of his answer.
Louis    "I...I'm—"
Louis's voice was weak and unsteady.

[2] “What just happened?” (Sugar)
Tina    "What just happened?"
Louis    "Don't...worry...you're safe—"
A smile spread across Louis's face, but I had a bad feeling about its meaning.

[3] “I’m fine!” (Honey)
Tina    "I'm fine!"
(But how? I jumped right in front of that sword—)
As I struggled to piece together what just happened, a fleeting smile spread across Louis's face.
Louis    "Thank...heavens...

Louis    "!!!"
Louis's face twisted into a grimace, and he moaned softly, as if he were in great pain.
Tina    "L-Louis! What is it?"
It was then that I realized the hand I had wrapped around Louis's back was warm and wet.
It was an all-too familiar sensation.
(Blood?)
Archduke    "Out of the way, peasant!"
From over Louis's shoulder I could see the archduke raising the bloody blade again.
Tina    "Aaah!!"
Knight    "Princess!"
A knight charged at the archduke, also preparing to strike with his own sword as he ran.
Alyn    "Stay your sword!"
The archduke's blade clanged harmlessly to the ground. It was then I noticed Alyn behind him, restraining the man's arms.
Archduke    "Arggh!"
The charging knight tried to stop his swing, but still ended up clipping the archduke's arm with his sword.
Knight    "Oh, no!"
The eyes of my would-be-protector widened as he realized what he'd done.
Alyn    "Your Grace!"
Archduke    "Unhand me, you filth!"
The archduke, struggling against Alyn's hold, managed to slip from his grasp.
Archduke    "I knew it! Wysteria plots against me! Wysteria plots against Stein!"
Clutching his wounded arm, the archduke dashed toward the exit.
Alyn    "Wait! Let us treat your wound!"
Archduke    "Save your bandages. You'll be needing them yourselves, soon!"
The archduke leapt onto one of the horses that had been prepared for his return and charged off.
Alyn    "Great."
Tina    "Alyn! Louis is hurt!"
I knew the situation with the archduke was serious,
but all I cared about that moment was Louis, who lay bleeding in my arms.
Louis    "Tina...You're...safe...?"
Louis stared up at me through bleary eyes.
Tina    "I'm fine, Louis! You should be worried about yourself."
Louis    "Good..."
Louis smiled and shut his eyes before going limp in my arms.
As I struggled under his weight, an intense fear gripped my heart.
Tina    "Louis? LOUIS?!"

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

Alyn    "I'm on it."
Alyn ran over, took a cursory look at Louis's wound, and lifted him onto his shoulders.
Alyn    "You! Get a doctor!"
Knight    "Yessir!"
The knight had been in a daze since slashing the archduke, but he snapped to attention and ran off to get help.
Carrying Louis on his back, Alyn followed after his knight. I tried to pull myself to my feet, intending to follow.
Tina    "Alyn, I'm coming too!"
Alyn    "No. You go find Giles."
Tina    "Giles?"
I stopped in my tracks.
Alyn    "Bad enough we mistakenly captured the archduke, and now we've spilled his blood, too.
Alyn    "Tell Giles to expect retaliation, and to prepare our response."
(Retaliation?
(I'll do Alyn asks, but—)
Tina    "But what about Louis?"
Nearly paralyzed with worry, I pleaded with Alyn for a shred of hope.
Alyn    "He didn't hit any vital organs. Louis will be fine."
Tina    "R-Really?"
Alyn    "Pull yourself together. You're the acting sovereign of Wysteria now."
(Wysteria—Of course. My country needs me.)
Alyn's words hit their mark, and I rose on trembling feet.
(I have to get it together.)
Alyn    "I'll take care of Louis."
Tina    "Understood."
I watched as Alyn carried Louis out of the room.
I held my hands tightly together, as if in prayer.
(Louis will be okay.
(I have to think of Wysteria now.)
Nico    "Tina!"
Nico ran across the foyer, but stopped at the pool of spilled blood, the color draining from his face.
Nico    "Tina, are you hurt?"
Tina    "No. That's Louis's blood."
Nico put a hand on my shoulder to steady me, although he looked almost as shaken himself.
Tina    "I tried to stop the sword, but—Louis sacrificed himself to protect me."
As I relived the moment, the terror cut just as deeply as it had the first time.
If Nico hadn't been there to steady me, my legs might have given out beneath me.
Nico    "I'm so sorry, Tina.
Nico    "I really am.
Nico    "I never imagined things would turn out this way—"
(Huh?)
Tina    "What do you mean, Nico?"
Nico looked away, hiding from my eyes.
Giles    "Tina?"
Giles's voice rang out behind me.
Even Giles couldn't maintain his composure as he surveyed the blood-splattered foyer.
Giles    "Wh-What on earth. Whose blood is this?!"

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

Somehow I managed to calm myself down and tell Giles the whole story.
Tina    "What should we do now, Giles?"
Giles listened quietly, seemingly deep in thought. He opened his mouth to speak at last.
Giles    "The archduke may have been the first to draw blood,
Giles    "but Stein will blame Duke Howard for instigating the situation.
Giles    "There's a very good chance Stein will declare war.
Giles    "The Royal Guard must prepare for battle."
Giles's voice was as grim as his expression.
He seemed convinced that war was inevitable.
Giles    "You should rest now, Your Highness."
Nico    "Come with me, Tina."
Nico took my hand and led me into the hallway.
But I stopped after a few steps.
Tina    "I don't need you to escort me to my chamber, Nico."
Nico    "But—"
I looked pleadingly at Nico.
Tina    "I want to go to see Louis."
Nico    "All right."
Nico frowned and released my hand.
As he turned to walk down the corridor alone, I noticed something flutter out of his pocket.
Tina    "Nico! You dropped something."
But Nico was already out of earshot and didn't respond to my call.
I reached down to pick up the small scrap of parchment.
(I'll find him later.)
I smoothed out the crumpled piece of paper.
I gasped when I saw the name "Louis" written upon it.
Tina    "What's this?"
My heart pounded as I squinted to read the finely written letters.
The message was addressed to "Duke Louis Howard."
Tina    "The inside man in the plot to kidnap the princess is named—
Tina    "Nico Meier."
(This can't be!?)

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


I arrived at Louis's room just as the doctor finished dressing his wounds.
Leo    "Tina..."
Leo was at Louis's side, his face strained with worry.
Tina    "Leo, how is he?"
Leo    "The wound isn't life-threatening, but it caused a slight fever."
Tina    "Oh, Louis."
As I moved to his bedside, Leo motioned for him and the doctor to leave.
Leo    "We'll be outside if you need us."
Louis was laid out on the bed, his eyes shut tight.
Tina    "You shouldn't be here, Louis."
I stroked his pale cheek.
(He's burning up.)
Just as Leo said, Louis had a burning fever.
As I wiped the sweat off his brow, I thought back to Louis's last words before the attack.
Louis    "Absolutely not. But I have no proof it wasn't me."
Louis    "I won't ask you to believe me."
(Louis would never intentionally provoke a war.
(I have to prove his innocence and stop this war.)
Tina    "Louis—"
It was only the second time I'd seen Louis sleeping.
The first time was one of the happiest moments of my life.
It was hard to believe that had been just yesterday.
(None of this feels real.)
Giles    "I simply cannot allow you to choose Duke Howard as your prince consort.
Giles    "You'll have to find a new suitor, Your Highness."
Giles    "If Wysteria is forced to go to war, its people will need a strong royal family to guide them.
Giles    "Please give the matter your consideration."
Tina    "There's nothing to consider."
I couldn't possibly choose anybody but Louis.
Tina    "You're my only prince, Louis."
I sealed my vow with a gentle kiss.
Louis    "I'll stay by your side until you fall asleep.
Louis    "This way you won't have to feel alone."
I squeezed Louis's limp hand.
Tina    "I'll be by your side until you wake up, Louis."
(I wish all this would end when he wakes up, as if it were a bad dream.)
I closed my eyes to hold back my tears.
......
.........
I heard a voice calling out to me through the darkness.
(That voice—
(Is that Louis?!)


«Royal Challenge»

(I must have dozed off!)
I opened my eyes slowly, everything around me out of focus.
That's when I noticed Louis awake on the bed beside me, staring at me with his beautiful blue eyes.
Tina    "Louis?"
Louis    "Tina."
Tina    "Louis! You're awake!"
And suddenly, I was too.
Tina    "Are you okay? Does it hurt?"
Louis    "Tina—"
Tina    "Is your wound—oh!? Your fever! You must be so thirsty! I'll bring you some water."
I tried to stand, but Louis grabbed my hand tightly.
Louis    "Tina."
Tina    "Y-Yes?"
Louis    "I'm fine."
Louis smiled gently, as if trying to reassure me.
(That smile.)
The soft grin on Louis's face put my heart at ease a bit.
At Louis's urging, I sat back down next to his bed.
Louis    "Have you heard anything about Stein?"
How like Louis to ask about Stein first.
Tina    "Nothing yet."
Louis    "They'll move quickly—to strike before we're ready."
Louis furrowed his brow, deep in thought.
Louis    "Hmmm."
A bead of sweat slid down from his cheek down to his neck.
(He's still so pale.)
I couldn't just sit there while Louis suffered.
Tina    "Louis, listen—"
Unable to resist any longer, I reached over and hugged his head against my chest.
Louis    "Hmm, Tina?"
A confused look on his face, Louis tried to squirm out of my embrace.
Tina    "I don't want you worrying about that now.
Tina    "You need to rest."
I hugged him even tighter.
Tina    "Your body needs time to heal."
Louis    "You're right."
Louis relaxed in my arms, smiling faintly.
(What a relief.)
I loosened my tight embrace of Louis, but couldn't bear to pull away entirely.
Louis    "I love the way you smell."
Tina    "You do?"
A content look spread across Louis's face, but I was still a little embarrassed.
Tina    "The smell is probably from my new clothes—"
Louis laughed, probably at the awkward look on my face.
Louis    "Thank you, Tina."
I loved hearing him say my name like that.
It always made me feel so warm and loved.
Giles    "You'll have to find a new suitor, Your Highness."
(I understand why Giles had to ask that—)
I tightened my embrace of Louis yet again.
(But only Louis could ever make me feel this way.)
Louis    "Tina—you're hurting me."
Tina    "Oh! I'm sorry!"
Louis    "Come here."
Louis gently pulled me towards him before slowly, softly kissing me.
(I needed that.)
The sweetness of the kiss filled me with both joy and sadness.
How I wished the last two days had never happened.
Louis    "Tina, I love you."
Louis said as our lips slowly parted, a slight sadness in his eyes.
Louis    "And I'll always love you. Even if you choose someone else."
Tina    "Louis!"
(How did he know?)
I gasped, my wide-open eyes fixed on Louis's face.
I felt such a sense of dread I couldn't find the words to respond.
Louis    "So he did ask you. I thought he would."
Louis looked away, but not before I could see the deep sadness within them.
Louis    "If I became prince consort, it would put all of Wysteria in peril.
Louis    "Giles's judgment is sound."
Tina    "How could—how could I possibly?"
My voice cracked as I fought back the tears welling up in my eyes.
Tina    "I could never pick anyone but you to be my prince!
Tina    "I won't do it!"
I clutched Louis's hand tightly as I blurted out,
Tina    "You're my prince, Louis! Only you!"
Louis    "Tina—
Louis    "Thank you."
But that "thank you" sounded an awful lot like a "goodbye" to me.
Suddenly, the tears I'd tried so hard to hold back streamed down my face.


目前我的選項是Sugar↓↓↓
Louis Part10_end01.png  

也可以買補品改變風向(?)
Louis Part10_end-02.png  
 





================================
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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♡ 隨心手札~~

Luciya 發表在 痞客邦 PIXNET 留言(2) 人氣()


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  • 小澤亞緣(吉琳)
  • 我也有存英宮本篇,直接快轉複製貼上就好~超方便wwwwwww
    現在只存了吉爾席德路易艾倫4位~
    因為英文太爛了想說等之後沒事做才要整理(#
  • 我英文更爛~( ΄◞ิ .̫.̫ ◟ิ‵)y
    還好社團中有些版友英文不錯,教學相長也學了很多~~
    ----------------------------------------------------------
    可以複製貼上很重要!! (代理宮這點就很糟)
    當作是一個遊戲日記吧!! (吉琳的排版做得太棒了,請受在下一拜)
    不然,到時候手遊有了什麼決策變化,一切都沒了~~~
    留下的回憶也隨時間淡掉....
    不喜歡.

    Luciya 於 2016/06/26 10:52 回覆

  • 小澤亞緣(吉琳)
  • 真的... 能留什麼就盡量留,不然遊戲收了就來不及了 OAO

    我排版也很亂啊...好多還沒改好... orz
    Luciya直接"========="就把1/5 2/5 分開是個好方法啊!!!!!我之前都沒想到!!!!
    之後英宮再出劇情活動的話,我能借用嗎~~~??? (抱Luciya大腿
  • 請用~請用~
    我也是參考您的格式的^^||||

    Luciya 於 2016/06/26 14:26 回覆

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