Dangerous Attraction (3)
Huge thanks to Ginsan for the kofi! (1/1)
“I’m going to eat quietly, so stop chastising her. She’s afraid of you.”
“… Why did you give Layla the coin?”
At that moment, she remembered the lie she recently told.
-Come on, take it. It’s a lucky coin.
-It’s a secret, but it will turn into gold by sunset.
After such a scam, she casually met Layla again and had completely forgotten the coin. Rosen naturally ignored it and answered only what Ian asked.
“It’s not mine, it was originally Layla’s. I borrowed it for a while and returned it. I can’t own anything in prison.”
“If you feel uncomfortable, throw it into the sea.”
The reason Ian dared to bring up the coin was probably to remind her of the lie she told Layla.
He would probably say ‘Rosen Haworth is a bloody liar.’
“Rosen didn’t lie. It really was a lucky coin. I thought I was going to die, but I’m alive!”
When coincidences overlapped, lies sometimes became the truth.
But the coin didn’t turn into gold. Children are naive, and their innocent minds are often taken advantage of. Rosen used Layla. That was it.
“Layla… all right. Let’s eat. Whether I lied or not, don’t think about it now. Anyway, it’s nice to be able to have dinner with you all. I don’t want to ruin this time.”
Ian stared at Rosen and took a deep breath.
She begged in her mind once again.
‘Don’t get me wrong.’
“I’ll tell you in case you’re mistaken, but you’ll go back after dinner-”
“I know, I know. I have to go back to my place. To prison.”
Rosen nodded her head and dryly responded.
Just in time, the crew cleared their empty plates and placed new food on the table. The moment she saw the colander of purple berries, she knew that Henry had fulfilled her favor.
A smile formed on her lips out of nowhere.
Ian looked over the new food and asked her.
“Is there anything you would like to eat?”
Without any hesitation, he reached out and took the plate. Rosen swallowed dry saliva. Maeria berries were a fruit that grew in the western part of the Empire. Because fruit rotted easily, raw fruit could only be tasted in its country of origin, but candied fruits could be stored for several years, so they were eaten everywhere in the Empire.
It wasn’t terribly expensive, but it wasn’t particularly cheap, so it wasn’t a staple food for the poor. Stewed berries were much cheaper than Maeria berries, and their quantity was large.
In short, it wasn’t strange to claim that she had never tried it.
Ian scooped some berries onto a spoon. She opened her mouth wide. Even though the fruit hadn’t even passed her lips, she got goosebumps down her back. It felt like she was forcibly swallowing a caterpillar, but there was nothing she could do.
As soon as her molars crushed its crispy skin, the tart flesh burst into her mouth. Pain spread through her like she was chewing a knife. Blood oozed from her gums. She closed her eyes, enduring the disgust, and forced herself to swallow.
She counted to three.
Sure enough, the effect was clear.
Her pupils grew larger and larger. As soon as the fruit touched her throat, an unpleasant heat rushed up her esophagus. Hives formed on her forearms and her chest tightened. She spat out blood that had pooled in her mouth.
The bleeding started in her gums and got progressively worse. All of the sudden, her lips were covered in blood.
At first, no one could understand the situation and were staring at her blankly, but they quickly got up from their seats and approached her with pale faces. Rosen, who was breathing hard, saw it and jumped for joy inside. A twisted smile spread across her face.
‘All right, it worked.’
‘Ian Kerner, I’ll never be taken back to jail.’
‘I need more time.’
‘I don’t believe Maria’s bullshit that you like me, though I might have believed it 10 years ago.’
Because she, too, endured the war, looked up at the sky where Ian Kerner was, like an idiot, and had hope.
But now she knew for sure.
It was a lesson she learned only after paying a high price. There were no saviors in the world, and patience was always useless.
A twinkling winter star could be a comfort in chilly darkness. But stars never came down to earth. A star was a star because it floated in an unreachable place. A beggar who only stared at the stars was buried in the snow and froze to death.
‘I must not stand still.’
‘I have to save myself, even if it hurts me.’
Her thoughts were interrupted. That was the limit of her mental power. She grabbed her chest and lost her balance.
Ian Kerner’s face was all that filled her gaze. Her vision was blurred by the tears that fell regardless of her will, so she couldn’t see what kind of expression he was making. Only his voice rang in her ears.
‘…Ian Kerner should do what I intended. Please, I hope I can distract him for a moment.’
‘If I fall down like this, I will definitely hit the floor.’
Rosen thought a heavy pain would come over her soon. But that didn’t happen. It was like wings had sprouted from her back.
It was only as she lost consciousness that she realized that someone’s sturdy arm was wrapped around her waist. He was supporting her as she fell. She could hear him calling her name in the distance.
‘There’s no way Ian Kerner would call my name so desperately.’
“Someone poisoned the food.”
“No. Absolutely not.”
Ian did not understand the doctor’s words for a long time. As soon as Rosen Haworth ate the d*mn fruit, she vomited blood and collapsed. How was it not poisoned? As he fought in the war, he realized that an enemy on the inside was scarier than an enemy on the outside.
And Rosen Haworth was a woman with many enemies. Everywhere in the Empire, there were people who wanted to kill this woman. Being in the middle of the sea was no hindrance. Obviously in the kitchen somewhere…
Ian bit his lip and spoke again.
“She vomited blood as soon as she ate.”
“I mean…! It is true that it happened because she ate the fruit! But that does not mean that the fruit was poisonous!”
Alex Reville had been running wild since earlier, saying that a coward poisoned their food and made his guest collapse. The crew was busy chasing the Captain and stopping him, because he pulled out his pistol to duel the perpetrator right away. Henry Reville panicked again when he saw Rosen, who was covered in blood.
In a word, Ian Kerner was the only person on this ship who could calmly listen to Rosen’s medical diagnosis. The doctor had forced Ian to listen for an hour, sweating and explaining Rosen Walker’s symptoms.
Now that the doctor examined him, Ian Kerner didn’t seem to be in a rational state…
For Ian Kerner, this was a turning point in its own way. Would he become a hero supported by the whole Empire? It all depended on the success of this job, whether he became a hero, or a heartless, emotionless villain who betrayed Leoarton.
The doctor’s gaze turned to the young woman lying on the bed. The most famous escaped prisoner in the Empire, and a war hero who must safely transport her to Monte Island.
The first time he saw that naive, flabby face in the newspaper, she didn’t look like a murderer at all. Well, that made it even more creepy. There was a reason why people called her a witch.
The doctor swallowed his dry saliva and explained again.
“It’s just that this girl has a special condition. She has an allergy to berries. She was not poisoned, nor does she have food poisoning. Didn’t you all eat together?”
“Then you mean she did it to herself?”
“That may or may not be the case. If she didn’t know about her allergy, it was an accident, and if she knew, she might’ve been trying to kill herself. It could be a suicide attempt.”
“A suicide attempt?”
“Isn’t she going to Monte? It’s common. She would rather die than go there.”
The doctor shrugged his shoulders. Ian felt his heart drop and was shocked.
For a brief moment, his vision went white, and his chest squeezed.
He knew this feeling. The moment he learned that Rosen Haworth had been arrested, the exact same feeling took hold of him.
Ian looked down at Rosen, and unconsciously touched her pale face. It was cold. It was strange when a person who was full of energy a few hours ago was lying down like a corpse.
Ian asked blankly.
“Is she going to die?”
Those were the only words that could describe his feelings for Rosen. He thought their first meeting was as a jailer and a prisoner, but in fact, they had known each other for a long time. She was a woman he had to deal with for a mission, but before he knew it, he was using Rosen Haworth as a way to relieve his emotions. When he saw Rosen, he felt guilty and angry, relieved and even disturbed.
Although it was clear that he was receiving the punishment he deserved, he suddenly felt pitiful. He wanted to ignore her, but he kept paying attention.
“You mean she won’t die?”
As he repeated the same question, the doctor became annoyed.
“How many times do I have to tell you? She is fine, just unconscious.”
“Then why isn’t she coming to her senses?”
“Her body is very weak due to lack of nutrition. Her stamina is low, so when she faints, it’s hard to wake up.”
“Then if she doesn’t wake up… Could she die?”
“Until we get to that point, I don’t know. Aren’t you a soldier who has gone through all sorts of hardships? It is not uncommon for prisoners to die. Even if she dies from disease… It’s not unusual.”
Just then, the hem of Ian’s pants was grabbed by someone’s hand. It was Layla. The child who was quietly listening to the doctor and his conversation looked up at him with tears in her eyes.
“Ian, are you going to put Rosen back in jail?”
“I have been there, and if you put Rosen back in this state, she will die tonight. Ian, are you going to kill Rosen? Can’t we just let her rest a little bit?”
Ian was amazed that he was agreeing with Layla. It was even more shocking that the reason wasn’t to keep Rosen Haworth alive to take her to Monte Island.
Ian put a hand on his forehead. His head hurt. He eventually opened his mouth and gave Henry a strange command.
“Move her to the cabin.”
“Which one are you talking about?”
“Yeah? A prisoner?”
“… Are you worried about me?”
“Is that possible? That’s not it… ”
He understood. This was strange behavior.
He was not in a position to convince Henry not to have feelings. Who on this ship had the most feelings for this prisoner right now? Was it really Henry?
Fierce gazes flew between the two.
Henry’s mouth twitched as if he was about to say something more. Ian knew what he was going to say even if he didn’t say it, so he spat out an excuse.
“I have to watch her myself.”
He wasn’t worried about the mission failing. These were his personal feelings. He couldn’t figure out what it was, so he tried to push it aside out of fear, but they only grew.
He was worried about her now.
It was funny.
‘You are a murderer, and I am dragging you to a hell that is worse than death.’
‘That’s my job.’
‘Why the hell am I…’
Ian firmly shut his mouth and looked down at Rosen. Her skinny body, with collarbones clearly exposed, trembled with every breath. She had not seen the sun for a long time, and her face was pale.
Tired, squinted eyes, lifeless cheeks.
He remembered the unexpected words that came out between those chapped lips.
[I liked you, too. Like everyone else, you were a hero to me. Do you feel bad? Your voice and your appearance. When a flyer containing your picture fell from the sky, I picked it up and put it in a drawer.]
He moved his hand towards her again. Rosen’s frizzy flax hair curled around his fingers. It was thin and pale in color… she looked just like a ghost. It felt like she would crumble and scatter into dust at any moment.
There was only one thing Ian could admit with certainty at that moment.
He wanted Rosen Haworth to survive.
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