Three months had passed since Louis came to visit Rachel.
As Louis declared, he began to visit her every three or four days on his way home from the academy.
Somehow, he managed to find time even if he was currently in a busy period. Cyril would sometimes pick Louis up with an apologetic look, hastening his return to the royal palace.
And today too, the prince was sitting in front of Rachel with a gentle expression.
His appearance and atmosphere when he drank his tea gracefully were full of elegance.
"Then, how's your condition?"
"Well, I can sit up longer lately. However, my muscular strength has completely disappeared. I can only sit on the chair for around two hours."
"I see. How about your appetite?"
"Lesser compared to before. It's harder to eat greasy food. I guess I haven't exercised enough."
"Okay. I'll do something about that."
Rachel wondered if Louis was planning to manage her diet. But she stopped worrying herself over it.
There were many things about Louis that she couldn't understand.
She hadn't talked this much with him in her previous life. And to be honest, her perfect image of the smiling prince began to crumble.
"By the way, Your Highness. How was the recent evening ball? Were there many pretty debutantes?"
"It's the same as always. You should've debuted this year too, right?"
"Yeah. But it's a shame that I couldn't participate in social circles with my current condition."
"Fufu, you don't look sorry at all, though? For me, it's a shame that I can't escort you when you wore your debutante white dress."
"My, you're saying that kind of thing again. You didn't find any lovely ladies there?"
"No. I'm sure there's no woman that's more attractive than you."
What's with this prince's skilful courting? I never heard him say those sickly sweet words before.
In Rachel's memory, Louis always gave him a noncommittal answer with a smile. He praised only her dresses and hair ornaments and ignored her.
And her past self who got excited with his compliments was shameful.
Rachel had gently told him that they should break off their engagement because of her sickly body, but he didn't listen at all. Even though he should've been the one who was the clearest about this matter.
Rachel decided to try talking about this matter to him once again.
"Um, I mean… About our engagement…"
"Ah, what a shame. I should return now. I don't want to burden Rachel's body too."
Louis took out his watch with a chain from his chest pocket and looked at it. Then he sighed. It sounded so fake.
For some reason, Louis always pretended not to hear her when she tried to talk about breaking off the engagement.
Rachel wondered if Louis hadn't met the Saint yet. After all, they were in different grades, and that girl wasn't the Saint yet.
If so, he probably didn't like how other women would aim at him once they cancelled their engagement now.
Yeah, that must be it.
Convinced with that conclusion, Rachel nodded with satisfaction.
Did that mean they would stay like this until next year? Since that's when this year's freshmen spirit summoning ceremony would be held.
Rachel found it troublesome. Her eyes twitched, unhappy.
She didn't notice that Louis was watching her making those comical faces alone for some time.
"Ah, Rachel. Speaking of which, you can't attend school now. Then what about your study?"
"Right. For the time being, I plan to hire a tutor once my physical condition is stable enough to sit on a chair a little longer."
"I see. Then I'll arrange it too."
"No way. I can't bother you that much…"
"It's fine. After all, you're my important fiancee."
Looking at Louis sweet and mellow smile made Rachel's face turned bright red. She wasn't used to hearing someone say such a thing to her.
From a long time ago, men had never approached her because of her tough personality and strict face. She never had someone courting her.
"Oh? Rachel, your face is red. Did you get a fever?"
"No! I'm fine, so please don't worry about it!"
"Of course I'll worry. Once you caught a fever, it's hard for you to recover."
You should've known why my face is flushed, right!?
Louis sounded like he was teasing her, and yet he pretended to be innocent.
As Rachel's frown became deeper and deeper, Louis squinted and laughed out loud.
"It's the first time I saw you laughed like that," Rachel muttered, unconsciously voicing out her thoughts.
"Yeah," Louis said, agreeing. "Having a conversation with Rachel is fun. Plus, I know that you will pardon my behaviour. So I'm depending on your kindness. There are only a few people I can talk to without thinking so much about profit or loss."
"Profit or loss? You're always thinking about such a thing?"
"Well, I don't know when someone will find daily at me, right? In addition, this country still has the scars of the previous war here and there."
"Right. But the war happened fifty years ago, right?"
"Yeah. Now our country had become rich enough that we can afford crossing swords with other countries. But in reality?"
"...Are you talking about Salim area?"
Louis' face turned serious. Rachel interpreted his silence as an affirmation.
Salim area was a taboo topic in this country.
It was the so-called slums, the shadow of this country that looked rich.
Not only aristocrats, but even commoners turned a blind eye to that area. Everyone was desperate to reconstruct their livelihood after suffering a heavy loss during the war.
However, no one tried to help Salim area. That place was packed with those whose future had been robbed.
"It was when I was ten years old. Even my private tutors couldn't come up with a convincing answer. I actually went to that place with Cyril and escorts because I wanted to see it with my own eyes."
"Your Highness did that!?"
"Yeah. Even I realize that it's a youthful recklessness."
It was unthinkable for a prince of a country to step into such a dangerous place. Moreover, Louis had a solid sense and pride of a royal family.
Rachel trembled, wanting to ask him, What do you think will happen to this country if something happens to you!?
Louis smiled self-mockingly, understanding what Rachel thought.
"I just wanted to know. Nobody told me about the darkness of this country. About how no one tried to change it. Even though I have to know that more than anyone else," Louis said as he looked straight at Rachel's eyes.
He didn't have his usual perfect smile or the happy face he had earlier. It didn't even look like an expression a seventeen-years-old young man should make.
What Rachel saw was a glimpse of the dignity of the king who looked straight into the future of this country.
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