Walpurgis Night (3)
Huge thanks to Zoradius for the kofi! (1/1)
He had to express his regrets over her sad story, even if he was a prison guard and she was his prisoner. Of course, that compassion had to be in a cold, dry form. Only the bare minimum of human-to-human courtesy.
Before he could think, his mouth moved.
“The newspaper didn’t say that.”
“Of course. I told you everything last night. Even stories that reporters don’t know.”
Rosen gave the answer he had expected in a voice that was so light that it did not fit the situation. As if nothing happened.
Even if Rosen had said it, it would not have been reported that Hindley assaulted Rosen. The whole Empire wanted to make Rosen a villain. No one cared about the sad story of a woman who was branded as a witch.
Ian remembered the articles he had persistently collected. When he closed his eyes, he saw the headlines one after another. There was no mention of Hindley Haworth’s abuse in any of the numerous articles that had been published since the incident.
A man in his thirties.
An ordinary and good-natured doctor from the slums.
Murdered by his wife.
That was all he knew about Hindley from the papers.
While Rosen’s words, her expression on the day she was arrested, her behavior, age and clothes she usually wore were dissected and displayed in newspapers, the story of Hindley Haworth was not published at all. It was strange.
For all this time, no one wondered about Hindley Haworth. Hindley had always remained a pure victim. Until he heard Rosen’s story.
Under Imperial law, all prisoners were considered innocent until proven guilty. But what about Rosen? Rosen never had a proper say during her trial. Because none of the court-appointed lawyers defended Rosen. And the public was eager to throw stones.
Of course, the evidence was solid and sufficient. It wasn’t just coincidental. Her fingerprints on the knife, cuts on Hindley’s body that matched Rosen’s height, and scars on her hands that might have been obtained during a struggle. If he were a judge, Rosen would have been convicted.
The result would’ve been the same. But the whole process was clearly not fair. Someone should have asked. They should have listened to Rosen Haworth’s story.
Even if everything Rosen said was a lie, it was a right given to all suspects, to all humans.
Ian forced his mouth to open. His voice came out harshly, like scratching on a metal plate.
“You should have made a statement in court that you had been assaulted. Even if it would have put you at a disadvantage… ”
“You are a smart person, but sometimes you say stupid things.”
“Do you think that would have changed anything?”
Ian couldn’t answer. It was highly likely that they would not even admit the fact that she had been assaulted. They would have asked for proof. They would have wondered if it was true that her husband hit her, or maybe she did something to be beaten first.
There was no way that a woman who was illiterate, uneducated, and poor could hire a lawyer and win. At best, it would have elicited sympathy.
“…At least you wouldn’t have been labeled as a witch.”
“I’m fine. Everyone is anxious about not being able to kill me.”
Rosen laughed as if she had heard the funniest joke in the world.
“We always need someone to hate. I’m okay. I’m used to being hated by people who don’t know me. This is nothing. It’s harder to hate than to be hated by my standards. Besides, it’s all over now.”
“But why are you suddenly saying this? Like you’re on my side? Now that you’ve heard everything, do you feel sorry for me?”
Rosen turned to him. He noticed she was struggling to finish putting on her dress, which seemed difficult to put on properly without anyone’s help. Rosen was trying to tie a ribbon around her waist. However, her long arms were stiff and could not reach behind her back.
He naturally changed the topic.
“You look like you need help, so I’ll call the crew.”
“No. You do it.”
Ian Kerner couldn’t say anything.
“You said you felt sorry for me, so let me have a proud war hero wait on me. I heard from somewhere that a partner takes care of everything. Anyway, you’re my partner today, as Layla said.”
Rosen was a highly intelligent prisoner. She knew him too well. Even if he didn’t like it, Rosen was a mastermind, picking trivial requests that he would grant because he didn’t want to make a fuss.
He sighed and walked over to Rosen.
“Isn’t the only knot you can tie a rescue knot? You have to tie a ribbon. You know how to, right?”
“I am not stupid. I know that much.”
He leaned down and grabbed the ribbon around her waist. Her wounds were deeper than he thought, and Rosen was thinner. As soon as he began to tie a knot, he thought of Rosen, who always ate food in a hurry. When she was young she couldn’t eat because she didn’t have food, when she was a teen she couldn’t because of her husband, and when she was older she couldn’t because she was in prison.
Ian stood there for a moment in front of her bare body. A lot of thoughts rushed to his head, making him dizzy. She had a body that made it difficult to endure the winter, let alone descending cliffs and crossing mountains.
‘What made you live so recklessly?’
‘What made your engine burn all this time?’
‘It looks like you don’t have any fuel left to burn.’
Rosen grinned as if she could feel his gaze.
“Sir, you really think I’m pitiful.”
“I never said that. Don’t make things up.”
“Then why are you being so nice all of the sudden? Taking me to the party, releasing my chains…”
“Am I pitiful? No need to make excuses. I like that you have pity on me.”
Surprising words came out of Rosen’s mouth. She got angry when he said he knew her. He thought she would have a seizure just hearing the word compassion. As if reading his thoughts, Rosen shrugged casually.
“Why are you looking at me so strangely? It’s better to sympathize with than to be despised by someone you like.”
Ian didn’t answer, and after he had finished tying the ribbon, he fell away from her. Rosen began to look at herself in the mirror. The hem of her blue skirt fluttered before his eyes like a wave. Rosen frowned and shook her head.
“You were right after all. I want to wear yellow.”
“It’s been 10 minutes since you said you liked the blue one.”
“But look at this. All my scars are visible. This would be like advertising I’m a prisoner. A high-class lady wouldn’t wear something like this, would she?”
Rosen pointed to her neck and chest. It was true. Unlike the clothes she wore yesterday, this dress did not cover her body much.
“And you said you like yellow.”
“It doesn’t matter what I think. Wear whatever you want.”
“No, your opinion matters. Because I-”
Ian already knew what she was going to say. He could no longer put up with it, so he untied the red muffler he was wearing around his neck, and wrapped it around Rosen’s. Then she wouldn’t be able to say that she liked him.
Rosen buried her face in his muffler and chuckled mischievously.
“Does a blue dress with a brown coat and red scarf make sense? The colors don’t match.”
“You’ve got your neck covered as you wished, and that’s all that matters.”
“Isn’t this what you were wearing in the fliers?”
It was. When he was sent out by generals and took dozens of pictures, the photographer bombarded him, saying that this would be his symbol. It was incomprehensible to him, who always wore the gray scarf distributed to all Air Force personnel. But at the behest of the photographer, he wore a red scarf throughout the war.
The result was as the photographer said. People went wild. So after the war ended, he could not take it off.
“A symbol of victory. Sir Kerner’s red scarf! It was also sold at the store, but I couldn’t buy it because it was too expensive. I made one myself.”
“It’s a little too much for me. Can I really borrow it?”
Ian realized he had made a mistake. Prisoners were not allowed to have belongings.
But he had already wrapped the scarf around Rosen. Giving and then immediately taking was foolish, and a bundle of yarn couldn’t harm anyone.
It was satisfying to see that the red scarf, a symbol of victory, wrapped around Rosen’s neck. It might’ve been an unconscious rebellion against the Empire that had ruined him and killed his companions, or it might’ve been compassion for Rosen.
She endured a long war and an unhappy marriage. Through it all, she idolized him. It also could’ve been that he wanted to give a belated gift to the only Leoarton native he saved.
In any case, a muffler would be better than a chain. Ian looked at Rosen and was once again struck with strange relief.
“I can’t believe we are partners! A prisoner and a guard. I don’t think there’s ever been a combination like this in history. I don’t know much about high-ranking people, but I know that for sure.”
Looping her arm in his, Rosen laughed out loud.
“Sir Kerner, let’s go. Can I really borrow this? You don’t like me. You gave it to me to throw it away, right?”
Rosen asked in a confident tone, as if she knew the answer.
-I don’t like this. You hate me, but you know me well, and I like you, but I don’t know anything.
Ian Kerner realized belatedly at that moment. After Rosen kissed him, he knew what he wanted to say.
‘I don’t hate you.’
‘Even though you were called a witch, there were far more people who liked you than you thought… I was one of them.’
But Ian knew that was something he should never say out loud. He looked at the red scarf wrapped around Rosen’s neck and nodded.
“Well, as long as you don’t strangle yourself with it.”
Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed what you have read, do consider tipping us a little through: https://ko-fi.com/rainofsnow. Once we receive 6$, an advance chapter will be posted as a thank you. Don’t forget to mention the series that you’re supporting!