Huge thanks to kristenanna for the kofi! (2/3)
At first, Rosen was definitely planning on subtly seducing him. But the moment she touched his cheek, she forgot her original goal.
She touched his face for a long time, like a child holding a puppy in her arms for the first time. She stroked his cheek, touched his nose, and brushed his neat eyebrows.
For a long time, Ian didn’t stop Rosen. He just watched what she was doing with a confused look on his face.
Her hand, which was about to go down the nape of his neck, was caught in his broad hand. She got embarrassed and quickly lowered her eyes. He awkwardly pulled his hand away and placed it in his lap, avoiding her gaze.
Ian wasn’t easily able to speak.
She understood how stupid she was. She was a prisoner who suddenly kissed him and touched his face as she wanted.
She wanted to see if it was possible, but what caught her eye was that there was no desire in his eyes, only perplexity. And as she analyzed his expression, her sense of reality returned. What did she expect? Did she expect him to run after her like a mad dog, like Al Capez’s stupid guards?
No, it was better for him to run away, but…
She didn’t know if she was feeling disappointment or relief.
In fact, last night she thought he would comfort her, at least formally. It was easy for her to distract male guards. As they talked, she shed tears, naturally leaned on their shoulders, wrapped her arms around their necks, and everything went well.
And if they drank together, everything became much simpler.
But Ian Kerner sat with his arms crossed and listened to her from start to finish without a change in expression. He didn’t even sleep. Until she, who couldn’t stand it, fell apart.
He didn’t move at all the way she intended, so she made a mistake. She quickly clarified.
“I’m sorry, forget it. I didn’t do it to… I just wanted to touch your face.”
“I mean, it’s amazing. It’s exactly the same as the flyer. I’m going to die soon anyway, so it’s like my wish was granted.”
It wasn’t that she didn’t have a lot of wit, but it was true that she was impulsive, so it wasn’t a lie.
She regretted it as soon as she said it. The orphan girl from the slums, the witch of Al Capez… She had always wanted to kiss his face, and this was her only opportunity.
She once hung Ian Kerner’s flier in the kitchen. It was around the time when she fell asleep trembling in fear, not knowing when the piercing air raid warning might sound. After looking at Ian’s face, that fear subsided a little. Most of all, his smile gave her strength even though she was at the end of her rope.
She thought it would be fine. Hindley didn’t come home often, and hardly ever stepped foot in the kitchen. The kitchen was a space for Rosen and Emily. Above all, she never thought that if her habit was discovered, it would be a big problem.
She thought at worst, she’d get smacked for ignoring Hindley.
When Emily saw her hanging the flier on the cupboard, she grabbed her stomach and laughed.
“Oh my God, Rosen. When I see you like this, I remember how young you are!”
Ian Kerner was everyone’s idol. Married or not, the Leoarton girls did the same thing. In fact, the men were no different.
But Hindley seemed to think differently.
One day, she was squatting by the river and doing the laundry when she saw Hindley walking towards her. In Hindley’s hand was a horsewhip from the racetrack. She didn’t have a good feeling. She quickly dried off her hands, got up, and tried to run away.
But Hindley was faster than her. Her messy hair was caught. The wives who were doing the laundry together screamed.
“What’s wrong? What did she do wrong?”
He gleefully threw a crumpled up flier at her feet.
“Everyone puts it up. I hung it on the cupboard neatly so it doesn’t leave any marks. If you don’t like it-“
Rosen stuttered. In fact, she didn’t quite understand why Hindley was angry, or why she had to make excuses. Before she could finish speaking, she was thrown to the ground. Hindley began to kick her endlessly.
She crouched down, protecting her head with her arms. It was the first time Hindley had beaten her like that. At worst, he shoved her or hit her in the chest.
She thought she was living a good life, holding her breath and not being noticed. In the end, the result was this. Hindley took away even the modest affection he had shown his new toy.
Hindley couldn’t resist trampling on the flier, picking it up again and tearing it apart. Ian Kerner’s handsome face scattered and floated away down the stream. Hindley swung his whip at random.
“Stupid b*tch, don’t act like a wh*re. Do you like guys like this? With smooth faces?”
“I didn’t say that!”
Rosen didn’t think her words would work on Hindley. She already knew he wouldn’t listen. But she couldn’t stand being insulted in that way.
“This mouse-like girl has high ambitions! Even if you spread your legs for this man, he wouldn’t even blink. He wouldn’t even look. Because countless women throw themselves at him daily.”
“Do you think you can even reach the feet of this guy?”
Rosen glared at Hindley for the first time, knowing nothing she did would change anything. Hindley snorted.
“Don’t you normally cover your eyes?”
And the beating resumed.
Rosen stopped recalling her past. And again, she looked closely at Ian Kerner. A smirk crossed her lips. In rebellion against Hindley, she kept a collection of fliers in a chest of drawers after that. His face was certainly worthy of it.
“Once upon a time, my husband was jealous of you. I liked your face.”
Now that she thought about it, it was obvious jealousy. It was the ‘petty jealousy’ that Hindley told her not to have. Ian only nodded, not knowing what to say.
“I hung a flier in the kitchen and got beaten up. My husband said a woman like me would never even reach your toes. Actually, he wasn’t wrong… I don’t think you know what life was like.”
“It’s interesting that I’m facing you like this. You can touch me, too.”
As she finished speaking, his hand approached. Rosen blinked. Ian silently reached out and tucked her hair behind her ear, brushing her cheeks. Just like she did. His eyes stared intently at her.
She stopped breathing. Her face heated up and she froze, not knowing how to respond to his vivid touch.
His lips twitched as if he was going to say something.
At that moment, the doorknob clicked, and she hurriedly fell away from Ian. Ian picked up the newspaper he had put down.
Henry came into the cabin. Instead of a bottle, he had something else in his arms.
Layla, wearing a raincoat, shouted her name brightly. Henry’s face was beet red. He looked as if he was about to die of embarrassment.
“I met her on the way, and she insisted on following me. I’m sorry Sir Kerner…”
“I hope Walker will not harm Layla or anyone else. We’re right here anyway.”
Rosen cleared her mind and smiled warmly. Layla threw away her raincoat, ran to Rosen, and sat down on her lap. Ian didn’t move, instead burying his face in the newspaper, as if he had given up on stopping Layla.
“Rosen, Ian released your handcuffs?”
Layla didn’t ask further why she was on the ground, or why Ian had unshackled Rosen. Rosen just smiled and hugged the little girl. She didn’t want to bring up words like suicide or self-harm in front of the child. Although it was unavoidable, she was reluctant to vomit blood in front of Layla.
She stroked Layla’s blonde hair. It was the first time they met after her handcuffs had been removed. Layla’s hair was much softer and warmer than she expected.
Rosen didn’t know how to feel a person’s body temperature so freely. So, without fear, she touched Ian Kerner like a furry beast.
“There’s going to be a party on the deck today. It’s hosted by my grandfather, so I’ll invite you.”
Layla clapped her hands. Rosen glanced at Ian. She still didn’t know where the key was. In addition, it was necessary to visit where the lifeboats were at least once. In that case, it would be better to broaden her scope of action. He couldn’t easily allow her to go to a party when she wasn’t allowed to go out on the deck, but…
It might be a little easier if she had support.
“Party? Isn’t it raining?”
“My grandfather said it would be sunny in the evening. Grandpa never gets the weather wrong. And today is Walpurgis Night.”
‘Has it already happened?’
After being imprisoned, her perception of time was dulled. In prison, yesterday was like today, and today was like tomorrow. She couldn’t feel anything other than the change of seasons. It was winter when her fingers froze, and summer when sweat spots formed all over her body and prisoners began to collapse from heatstroke.
The Feast of St. Walpurg.
The birthday of Walpurg, the greatest witch in history.
It was a day when the whole Empire celebrated, so it seemed to be held on boats as well. After all, this ship was a passenger ship. The prisoners were housed like livestock in cells, while the rest of the passengers were on a pleasant journey.
“Rosen, have you been to a boat party?”
‘Could it be?’
Rosen smiled and shook her head.
“There are fireworks and a ball. There is a lot of delicious food, and the band performs on the deck. I want Rosen to go with me.”
Henry shook his head and hugged Layla, who was excited. He had a hard time getting his words out.
“Layla, but that’s… Rosen… ”
“Look, uncle, be quiet for a second. I’m explaining. Did you not invite Rosen because she didn’t know about the party?”
Henry was just trying to say that it would be a bit difficult. However, Henry, who was infinitely weak in front of Layla, could not firmly say no. He nervously looked between his superior and Layla.
Rosen knew very well that Layla was a smart kid, and that Henry had no control over her. Layla cringed a little and then ran straight to Ian, who was still sitting at his desk. She grabbed the hem of Ian’s sleeve and made a pitiful expression.
“I have already gotten permission from grandfather. Rosen said she’s never been to a party, so-”
Henry interrupted Layla with difficulty.
“Layla, Rosen is famous. Almost everyone in the Empire knows her face.”
“Today’s theme is a masquerade, uncle! Besides, no one will recognize a beautifully decorated Rosen. You saw it too, Ian! Didn’t you see it?”
“If Ian is her partner, he can keep an eye on her. After all, it makes no difference whether you watch from close or far away. We’re surrounded by water… ”
Layla used her grandfather’s logic flawlessly.
But Rosen already knew what Ian Kerner’s reaction would be. He wasn’t the kind of person who listened to things just because a child said it. He’d definitely shake his head resolutely and explain the reasons for not doing so one by one.
Ian sat at his desk and listened to Layla’s persuasion without saying anything. Rosen tried to read his expression, but his gray eyes were vague.
In her mind, she put together words to appeal to Ian Kerner. Trying was always better than not trying.
She’d be quiet and wouldn’t walk around. He wouldn’t have to leave her side for even a moment. He wouldn’t have to worry that she’d pass out after eating food. He just had to pick out the foods that she had been eating and give them to her.
Lastly, she really wanted to see the sea.
The colorful lights too.
Anyway, she’d get to the island soon, and die.
‘Let me dream, even for one night.’
‘Today is Walpurgis Night.’
‘Do you remember? What a miserable first Walpurgis Night I had. Please let me enjoy this last festival…’
‘But when he asked me why I had to bear such a difficult burden, I had no answer. So what should I say? Is there no other way but to appeal to his sympathy?’
Ian Kerner suddenly asked an unbelievable question.
“Do you want to go?”
“Want to go to the party, Haworth?”
He turned and looked straight at Rosen. She had to ponder for a moment whether the question was a trap. There was no way Ian Kerner would let her go so easily. She swallowed dry saliva and answered cautiously.
“Would it be strange if I didn’t want to go?”
Ian nodded his head.
It was as if that was the simplest request in the world. She had to go through her memories carefully. Did she give Ian Kerner some weird medicine last night? Maybe he went insane?
Henry shouted in surprise. Ian raised his hand to stop him.
“You’ve already made too many exceptions. You’ve done too much for her.”
Ian closed his eyes. He swept his face with his hand and spoke in a tired voice.
“…It wouldn’t change anything if I did a little more.”
“She saved Layla.”
Rosen remembered the man who had touched her cheek a moment ago. The reason that he belatedly added her good deed as an excuse was probably because that warmth was still vivid.
Layla was excited and hung from Ian’s legs, screaming in happiness. Layla, who rubbed Ian and buried her face in his arms, immediately climbed onto Ian’s lap and began to show him affection. Rosen was a little sceptical that Layla was having a hard time with Ian Kerner.
“Ian, you’re reading the newspaper upside down.”
“Ta-da! I put it back! I did a good job, right?”
And suddenly Rosen was curious.
‘What was Ian trying to say to me?’
When she looked out the window, the rain was starting to get weaker. Each time the ship scaled a wave, the dark clouds receded. As the light of the sunset shone through the clouds, the black sea was dyed red.
Walpurgis Night was approaching.
The midwinter festival, a witch’s birthday.
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