Ch. 132 Except For One Thing (1)

Louise paused, leaning against a long broom. Opposite her was Simon with a rake, efficiently clearing away the autumn leaves on the ground, the dried leaves rustling and cracking as they were swept into a sack. The pair had been cleaning up fallen leaves since early morning at Professor Wayne Hill’s request—though it would be more accurate to say that they had volunteered rather than been recruited.

‘Professor Hill was scattering leaves all over the place instead of cleaning them up.’

Louise had discovered the Professor covered in fallen leaves, and she immediately came running back with a broom in hand. Simon was passing by and joined them. He was an efficient and skilled worker at the Sweeney Greenhouse, and always had been a great help.

Simon looked at the pile of leaves with a far off expression.

“Once Ian dumped leaves on your head and you ended up crying.”

“As I said before, I wasn’t crying, it was just dirt in my eye. I had my revenge and won anyway.”

“We had to gather all the leaves you two scattered.”

Louise and Ian had to sweep up the leaves again, and Simon, ever patient and caring, pitched in.

“You’re helping me out today too.”

“To be exact, we’re helping Professor Wayne Hill.”

“Why do we suddenly have to clean up the leaves?”

“Likely because of the forum.”

“Forum?”

“Scholars from the Imperial Palace are going to be here…perhaps it’s the job of the Academy professor to host a small event.”

“That sounds like fun.”

Despite Professor Hill’s timid personality, he had made enormous contributions to the academic community. Unfortunately, his classes were still unpopular though.

“It would be great if he could teach for a long time at the Academy.”

“Like Professor Hewitt?”

“Oh…I don’t think he needs to be that scary.”

After a short break, Louise resumed sweeping the path with a broom, causing the autumn dust to rise and tickle her nose.

“Achoo!”

She gave a loud sneeze, then she hurriedly looked back at Simon. He might have a big misunderstanding.

“I don’t have a runny nose!”

He laughed aloud.

Louise wanted to cry. She should tell him not to laugh, but Simon’s smile was precious, even if it was at the expense of a runny nose.

“I know. It sounds different. In the past—”

He was about to describe how Louise sneezed.

“Don’t describe it! It makes me miserable.”

“So you don’t really have a cold?”

He stopped smiling and looked at her worriedly.

“No, my nose was just tickled by the dust.”

“It’s still the cold season, so be careful.”

A cold could even be life-threatening, and Louise nodded quickly.

“You should be careful too Simon.”

Louise then slightly shifted topic.

“That’s why I wanted to give you the lemon cheong, so you can be prepared.”

As she talked about with Ian, Simon didn’t like sweets. He would hardly drink the lemon tea, let alone eat the caretaker’s pudding.

However Simon nodded, and Louise smiled brightly and boasted of the lemon cheong made by the student council.

“It’s really delicious. We scrubbed the lemons hard and cut them one by one! We didn’t forget to remove the seeds.”

“Ian must have sliced the lemons.”

Even from only watching from behind his quick knife were skills were obvious.

“I sterilized the glass jars.”

“Ah…”

Simon reached out to Louise as if he recalled something.

“Hands.”

He wanted her hands? She didn’t know what for, but because it was Simon that asked, she held out hers to be scrutinized. He inspected her hands thoroughly, from the tip of her fingernails to the back of her hand to her wrists. He didn’t let go until he was satisfied there were no scars.

“Thank goodness.”

“For what?”

“That I don’t have to be mad at Louise.”

“…You were going to get mad at me?”

“Ian asked me to.”

He reluctantly picked up his rake again.

“You were spacing off in front of the boiling water, so Ian wanted me to say something to you.”

“He told you that already?”

“We have a tradition of talking about Louise almost every day.”

“There’s more and more bad habits around me…

“It’s not that bad. Ian’s incapable of speaking harshly to you. So I do it in his place, as friends.”

“The President can’t speak harshly?!”

Louise shouted with a stunned look, and Simon nodded silently.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m more worried about whether he can properly do sweet talk.”

Of course Ian was good at anything, so even his sweet talk was great. Simon still looked worried, so Louise spoke with a bright expression to ease his anxiety.

“W-well, please do a good job. Harsh or sweet.”

“I hope I don’t say too many harsh words.”

Simon brushed some dust from Louise’s hair. She stared at Simon. His eyes were still kind and friendly, and she felt guilty that nothing between them changed at all.

“It’s alright.”

Simon’s voice suddenly dropped to a whisper.

“The heart is like an object, and it won’t wear out unless it’s used.”

“But to me…your happiness is the most important thing.”

“I know.”

He smiled again. It wasn’t a large smile, but a natural one like a moment ago.

“Happiness is the only thing I’ve ever been entitled to.”

He didn’t know how to have it though.

The two resumed their work again. Louise, who was busy with the broom, spoke up as she remembered something.

“Ah, Simon.”

“Hmm?”

“The President asked me to ask you what you wanted to do for your birthday.”

“Birthday.”

His brow wrinkled in thought.

“You’ll be coming of age. We should celebrate.”

“I can choose the cake.”

“Yes, you’d prefer a tough cake, wouldn’t you?”

“Ian will complain.”

“There is no cake in the world that will satisfy all three of us.”

Louise remembered the night where they sat at the window sill and sampled dozens of cakes and frosting. She had enjoyed herself so much, to the point that she had completely forgotten about the exam period and kept smiling.

“I’ll think about it first.”

“Let me know when you decide. We’ll do whatever you want to do. Something that will make you happy.”

“Anything?”

“Sure, anything!”

They finally finished sweeping up all the leaves, and Louise—who loved to eat—was ecstatic when Professor Hill gave them ten large sweet potatoes in return.

The Academy was such a great place. Work was paid with food.

Simon peered into the paper bag of sweet potatoes, which still had a light layer of soil on them. Perhaps he could send the potatoes to Ian, who might have mastered them with his survival skills. Louise and Simon were discussing all the ways one could prepare sweet potatoes, when they ran into a few students exiting an office.

Louise stopped walking before she even realized it. They were the ones who had bullied Stella. The room they just exited had a door plate with the inscription of “Juliana Lassen.” Was the Professor deciding on their punishment? What would happen to them? Louise recalled the school regulations she had looked over with the student council, and remembered that bullying and physical harm could result in expulsion.

‘I wonder if…’

Louise had written in her statement how dangerous they were. Perhaps their punishment wouldn’t be taken lightly.

“Louise?”

The sound of Simon’s voice brought Louise back to earth.

“Ah…”

Louise looked at the students again. Their gazes met briefly, and they turned away first.

“Anyway.”

Louise looked at Simon.

“I think there might be a severe punishment.”

“Of course.”

“Yet somehow, I feel bitter that my statement was used to punish someone.”

“More so by Stella’s statement than yours.”

“Is that so?”

“More weight is usually placed on the victim’s statement.”

Well, it was in past anyway. Louise couldn’t do anything more.

“Well, I’ll have to go to the Academy office now. I asked Ian to look over it.”

“The statement?”

“That’s right. Maybe he left something out.”

She was sure he checked it thoroughly, but he had bragged so much about his writing skills that he’d be humiliated if he’d omitted anything. She was amused just thinking about it.

So first she had to go to the office, talk about the paperwork, find Ian, then ask him to make a delicious dish out of the sweet potatoes. She would ask him to study with her as well. The two of them couldn’t miss out on the position of first in class.

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