Two Sides of a Coin (4)
Huge thanks to PinkPrincessLacus for the kofi! (1/1)
Ian closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair.
He had lived in a world marked by good and evil. That’s what the military taught him. He was always sure who should be defended and who should be punished, between allies and enemies, victims and perpetrators. But now it was all mixed up in a mess.
The thicker the notebook got, the more his judgment was paralyzed. Eventually, Ian stopped thinking. Every time he opened his notebook, he couldn’t distinguish whether the voice ringing in his ear was his inner voice or the whisper of the devil.
He was broken.
He had become a madman, cheering for Rosen Haworth.
Still, he thought he’d be fine as long as no one found out. He had suffered so much and his heart was broken. He decided to let it run rampant. When its power dropped, the machine would eventually stop working.
He knew that he had no fuel left. Sooner or later, this strange curiosity and passion would also cool down. His loyalty to his country, his affection for the airship, it was all burned up during the long war. What was left was intangible and couldn’t be driven out…
There was only a feeling of deep guilt.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the end came sooner than expected.
-Escort Rosen Haworth to Monte Island.
An order had arrived from the Emperor. Ian didn’t think about his orders. He was trained that way. However, at that moment, what came to Ian Kerner’s mind was doubt, for the first time in his life.
‘Oh, you got caught in the end.’
What was the reason for his sinking heart? Was it just a guilty feeling?
It was the voice of a child that freed him from his endless thoughts. There was only one child on this ship who called him so freely. He hurriedly tucked the scrapbook into the drawer and stood from his seat.
Soon, the door opened, and a child with bright blonde hair entered the room. Layla was holding something in her arms. The child approached and poured it all over his desk. A teddy bear, a doll, a toy train, colored paper, a rubber ball…
“It’s a gift for Rosen, but I don’t know what she likes.”
“Why did you bring this to me?”
Ian was embarrassed. He knew that his image to children was not a friendly one. He had a stiff tone and a smileless face. Even Layla, who loved him, was afraid of him, so no child readily approached him.
In addition, Layla Reville was a child who lost her parents due to Ian’s decision. Henry wanted him to find comfort while watching Layla, but it was counterproductive. Ian felt unbearable guilt whenever he saw Layla’s small face that resembled her mother’s.
Therefore, contrary to Henry’s hopes, they were not very close.
However, Layla had a bright expression today, approached him without hesitation, dumped junk in front of him, and chatted.
“Ian, pick one for me. Ian knows Rosen well.”
Before he could block the drawer with his arm, Layla quickly opened it and pulled out the ragged scrapbook.
“Don’t you have this? I told the attendant that you didn’t want to burn it, so he brought it back.”
‘Oh my god.’
Ian stiffened. He had never been as surprised on the battlefield as he was right now. His mind went blank. Layla, who wasn’t aware of his internal torment, continued chirping like a happy bird.
“Collecting Rosen articles is a trend these days, so I’m making a scrapbook. I didn’t know Ian did it too! I can only collect the newspaper that comes to my house, but because Ian is an adult, he can buy all kinds of newspapers.”
“L-Layla, since when did you know about this?”
“Since a long time ago? I searched your trash can to get another newspaper, but all the Rosen articles were cut out.”
Ian couldn’t speak properly. He struggled to hide his embarrassment. After rubbing his face for a long time, he picked Layla up and put her on his lap. And he started to interrogate her in the most affectionate voice he could muster.
“Did you tell anyone other than the attendant?”
“No, not yet.”
“What about Henry?”
“Uncle doesn’t know.”
“Layla, promise me you won’t tell anyone in the future.”
“Then would Ian get in trouble?”
“Rosen Haworth is a prisoner. I’m in charge of transporting prisoners. If this fact became known, there would be people who thought I had done… something to her.”
Layla was a quick-witted and clever child. His answer seemed to fully convince her. She nodded, looked around, cupped her hand to his ear, and whispered.
“Then I promise you. I won’t make it difficult for Ian.”
“…But I don’t think you have to worry. I thought Ian hated Rosen. I’m sure everyone else thinks the same.”
Ian had founded his own principles. No excessive emotion should be shown while carrying out an order. Again, he ruminated. Did he act so emotionally in front of Rosen Haworth that a child like Layla noticed?
“Why did you think that?”
“I can see Ian’s expression changing. He usually has no expression, but in front of Rosen, he furrows his eyebrows like this and keeps sighing. Sometimes, his voice goes down.”
Layla frowned, imitating his expression. Ian shook his head.
“…Layla, I don’t particularly hate her. This is my job, so I can’t feel that way. Besides, she saved you. Even if I used to be rude, I won’t be from now on.”
“Then does Ian like Rosen?”
The child asked with an innocent face. He tried to deny it, but it was hard to say so when his scrapbook was in front of them. In the end, he answered honestly.
“It’s not… I don’t know how to treat her.”
Rather than being colorless in the neutral zone, his emotions towards her were more of a mixture of various colors.
Layla, who hesitated while looking at his complexion, suddenly asked.
“I can like Rosen, right?”
“Layla, it may not look like it, but Rosen Haworth…”
“I know, she’s a murderer.”
Layla answered firmly. She began to explain slowly.
“But she saved me. That’s true, right?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“If you add 1 to -1, it’s zero. Then, since she is starting over again.. Can’t I decide? Whether I hate or like Rosen.”
If you added one where one disappeared, it would be back to its original state. Ian was speechless at her transparent and pure logic. He could have refuted it, but he didn’t want to.
“Pick one, please. What would Rosen like?”
“Layla, Rosen Haworth has to go back to her cell after dinner. Prisoners are not allowed to have any belongings.”
“Then she can keep the present until she goes to jail. Revilles always repay their debts. “
The bean-sized child was stubborn, just like Alex. Ian held his forehead and examined the cute objects Layla brought. He was desperate to tell her. What Rosen Haworth wanted was not a toy like this, but a lifeboat key on a keychain or the pistol he wore around his waist.
However, saying so did not seem to be educational for the child. Ian pointed to the teddy bear. Because she couldn’t hurt herself or anyone else with a bundle of cotton.
“Oh, and I have something to give to Ian.”
Layla, wriggling out of his arms, dug her hand into her pocket and took something out. What she placed on Ian’s palm was a rusty, ordinary copper coin.
“It’s a lucky coin. I think I’m really lucky because I have it. Look! Without it, I would have been dead.”
“I think Ian needs it more than me. Ian can never sleep properly. There’s a saying that if you leave a coin at your bedside, instead of the monkey* making you have a nightmare, it will take the coin and leave.”
[*E/N: I believe this is the Korean version of Sandman, who brings children dreams and nightmares.]
“Where did you get that, Layla?”
Ian sensed suspiciousness and asked. Layla rolled her eyes and closed her mouth. Upon seeing her reaction, Ian immediately knew where the coin came from. Rosen Haworth was a prisoner who could not be taken lightly.
“Don’t take anything from her next time. Rosen Haworth is not a witch, but it’s just a precaution. There’s nothing bad about being careful. She’s more dangerous than you think.”
“Then, are you going to throw this away?”
“…No. I’ll take it. Thank you”.
Ian sighed and dropped the coin in a glass bottle where he stored his fountain pen. He was uncomfortable throwing it into the sea and uneasy about leaving it with Layla, so it was better to keep it.
“Let’s go to the dining room”.
“Yes! Ian, do you know where my uncle is?”
“Henry is monitoring Rosen. She’s taking a bath.”
“Isn’t that inappropriate? There’s only a bathroom door between them!”
Ian realized at that moment the cause of the anxiety that had captivated him.
-Sure. I had to sleep a hundred times with a fat guard who smelled like rotten cheese just to get that spoon. His belly was so big that it suffocated me when he laid on me. It’s a shame. It would have been less disgusting if I didn’t have to look at his face.
[T/N: Flashback (Chapter 1)]
He remembered Rosen Haworth, who eagerly shed false tears for sympathy. He didn’t even pretend to believe them because it was such an obvious trick. So, who would be the next target for Haworth after being kicked out of his cabin?
The s3xual neglect of male lieutenants, which had infuriated him throughout the war, passed through his head.
He really didn’t want to see it. Henry Reville messing around with Rosen Haworth. It was even more terrifying because it was a distinct possibility. They were a young man and woman of about the same age, and Rosen Haworth had a track record of escaping that way. Not to mention that Henry’s mind was endlessly weak when it came to Layla. It was safe to say that Henry’s hostility toward Al Capez’s witch had long since disappeared.
No, it was more of a problem if Henry still hated Rosen Haworth. Men tended to dispel enmity in a vulgar way if their enemy was a woman. Henry had never let him down in that way before, but…
Ian knew well that there was no such thing as ‘a person who could never do that’. After patting Layla’s head, he quickly stepped out of his cabin.
He prayed that he wouldn’t see a landscape of skin colors in the bathroom.
The more he thought about it, the angrier he became, to the point where his mind turned white. Realizing that his temperature was higher than usual, Ian tried to calm down, but strangely, his reason never returned.
Before he knew it, he had arrived in front of the bathroom. Standing in front of the door, he stiffened.
‘What is happening to me?’
‘I shouldn’t be this angry and heated up.’
Was this what they meant when they said the judgement gets swept away by emotions?
Then, even simple things would go wrong. He was more excited than necessary.
Neither the feeling of Henry’s betrayal, nor the strange feelings he had towards Rosen Haworth could explain his feelings.
‘What the hell am I getting angry at?’
However, it was a brief concern. Ian Kerner opened the bathroom door with a hardened expression. He was used to hiding and burying his emotions.