Walpurgis Night (4)
Huge thanks to Zoradius for the kofi! (1/1)
Before he could open the door, Henry burst into Ian’s cabin without knocking, Layla in tow. His eyes were full of doubt. But this time there was no shouting, so she greeted them with her chest puffed out and her arm in Ian’s.
“Sir, did she flirt with you again while I was away?”
“I didn’t, hand to my chest. I was very elegant”
Rosen quickly answered Henry’s question. She gently stroked Layla’s hair, who was wearing a rabbit mask. Layla was Layla even with her mask on. Layla from afar, Layla from up close, Layla from anywhere. Henry, on the other hand, had only changed into his military uniform and was bare-faced.
“Henry, why aren’t you wearing a mask?”
“I’d look stupid.”
Henry turned away, scratching the back of his neck. Whether it was a rabbit mask, a bear mask, or a butterfly mask, it would be funny if he put it on. In addition, the dazzling blondes of the Reville family stood out even when disguised, so there was no particular point in wearing a mask.
“Uncle, did you just say I’m stupid?”
“Layla, you’re cute, so it’s okay. I said I would look stupid if I wore it. What are you talking about?”
“That’s a lie. It’s because you’re afraid that the mask will block your vision.”
“Layla! Why did you say that?”
“You’re sick. The doctor said it’s not good to hide the symptoms. People around you should know so they can help.”
“…Does Walker have to know that?”
Henry bowed his head with a flushed face. As expected, Henry couldn’t say a word against Layla.
“Henry is sick.”
Layla soon explained, pointing to the eyeholes of her mask.
“If he wears a mask, he can only see through the eye holes. The rest is dark.”
Rosen couldn’t understand Layla’s explanation. She glanced at Ian. Ian began to explain, ignoring Henry’s earnest gaze telling him not to say anything.
“It’s common for your vision to narrow when you’re in a fighter jet. Blood rushes to your head and your vision turns white. You have to withstand gravity several times that on the ground. There are a lot of people who just faint. It’s probably reminiscent of that.”
“Why are you so anxious that you can’t wear it?”
“Because he’s sick.”
Layla and Ian answered at the same time. Looking at the firm attitude of the two, it seemed that he had shown many worrying symptoms so far. He couldn’t climb high, he couldn’t watch people die, and he couldn’t even wear a mask.
Maria’s words were true. War could easily kill a man, and destroy a man with his limbs intact. Henry Reville was suddenly in a position to retire from active duty in his twenties.
A question arose naturally. Ian Kerner flew a plane, but was he okay? Come to think of it, Ian’s outfit was no more suitable for the party than Henry’s. He was not wearing a mask, not even changing into casual fatigues. In addition, Ian Kerner also announced that he would resign as an active pilot. Was it because he was sick?
“Is Sir Kerner okay?”
“What does that mean? Sir Kerner is sick?”
The pitiful Henry desperately implored her.
“No, well, I’m not saying that… I was just asking. After all, you both fought in the war, and Sir Kerner didn’t change clothes or wear a mask. I was wondering if he couldn’t wear a mask.”
“Sir Kerner is different from me.”
Henry shook his head confidently.
“Does it make sense that Ian Kerner is sick? If so, what’s left of the Empire? It wouldn’t have been worth our victory.”
Rosen felt it in Henry’s words. Henry could endure being a disabled soldier, but he would not be able to withstand Ian Kerner suffering the aftermath of the war like he did.
For Henry, who had abandoned his hometown, lost his sister, and sat in the ruins with his young niece in his arms, Ian Kerner was the only comfort left for him. A symbol that what he did was worth something, a testament to the noble sacrifice he made.
After the long war, too many things were ruined. So, shouldn’t there be at least one thing that hasn’t been broken? Ian Kerner must not be broken. In fact, it was natural.
But for a moment she thought that it was a rather cruel statement.
Of course, Ian Kerner was standing right in front of her. But what if… if he was ill like Henry, but everyone around him believed he was okay, he would have to suffer in silence.
Her worries were cut off by Ian’s words.
“It’s not against etiquette for a soldier to wear a military uniform to a banquet.”
“Of course, but aren’t you tired of that d*mn uniform, sir?”
“I didn’t bring a suit. I didn’t think I’d need any other clothes while on a mission.”
“Because your heart is so tightly closed, even after the war ended, you never took a lover, let alone a fiancé. After all, this is a passenger ship, so why didn’t you bring a suit for a party? Do you know when, where, and what kind of relationship you will find? No! And, if you’re going to attend a party, you’re going to interact with ladies from good families… you can’t take a prisoner as your partner… ”
“I’m a prison guard. If not me, who’ll keep an eye on Rosen Haworth?”
“What are you using me for? I can take her with me. Layla is not at the age where she really needs a partner.”
“I can’t trust you.”
“Ah, those words again! I can’t believe it! This morning… I’m more anxious because you’re not even married.”
Henry was bold enough to scold his boss. Rosen didn’t know what happened between the two. Ian looked at her for a moment, sighed, then changed the subject.
“Stop talking about marriage. It’s not your place.”
“But it is. I’m younger than you, Sir, and I have no intention of getting married because I have to raise Layla.”
“I don’t have any intention either.”
“No, I wrote off marriage for reasons that everyone understands, while Sir Kerner is just clueless. Why don’t you get married? Have a stable family and raise children-”
“You’re nagging about such a useless subject. Shut up.”
Rosen burst out laughing. It was fun to hear Henry nagging Ian like he was his older brother. Ian, who was expressionless, frowned as if he was suddenly bothered by Henry’s nagging, and secretly grabbed her arm. It seemed to mean that they had to get out of the cabin.
The moment Ian opened the cabin door, a cool night breeze blew in and scattered her hair. Layla grabbed Rosen’s skirt and walked alongside her. Unlike the morning, the deck was crowded with people. Everyone was wearing masks and colorful clothes.
It was still a long way from midnight when the party started, but the celebration was already in full swing. An orchestra with various instruments Rosen did not recognize were playing light music.
Layla was already grabbing Henry’s hand and dragging him to the table filled with snacks. Rosen was fascinated by the colorful scenery that suddenly unfolded before her eyes, and for a while, she was frozen.
How could the world be such a colorful place?
Prison was gray.
Soon, the tension in her heart was relieved. To be honest, she was worried that someone would recognize her, but now, she didn’t think anyone would. There were so many people, and everyone was half drunk. It was an atmosphere where no one would notice if a gorilla joined in and danced.
Besides, the man standing next to her was Ian Kerner. Who would dare to imagine? That he freed a high profile prisoner and brought her to the party.
Rosen gripped his arm tighter. She didn’t expect the fact that he was inflexible to feel so reassuring. He looked down at the sudden touch. His voice rumbled lowly from above.
“Don’t get too close. You’ll look more suspicious.”
“What happens if we get caught?”
“It’ll be difficult.”
“Are you sure you’re okay? I have nothing to lose, but you do. It’s going to be really hard.”
“As long as we don’t get caught.”
It was uncharacteristic of him to answer unguardedly. She felt a little strange and looked up at him. It hit her once again; how annoying and troubling she was to him.
She felt funny and strangely proud, so she looked at him and laughed. He stared at her smiling face and sighed. Rosen interpreted it as him saying that he didn’t like the way she giggled casually, even in this situation.
“Just in case, don’t answer anyone. Just nod your head. I’ll take care of it, but-”
Rosen answered meekly. He looked tired already.
She knew broadcasting didn’t suit him, but not only that, but all the publicity must not have suited him. Ian, who was staring at the drunk people talking nonsense and singing whale songs, soon asked.
“What do you want to do?”
“I do not know. I’ve never been to a place like this before. What should I do first?”
“Whatever you want to do.”
“I don’t know what that is.”
Ian had the same expression as when she showed the dresses to him.
“I’m sure you’ve attended Walpurgis’ night. Even if you are not from the upper class, this festival is-”
“I was always at home. Hindley really hated me going out. He was angry that I received food from another man when I went to the market! So I couldn’t go out as I wanted.”
Rosen brought up Hindley, fiddling with the red muffler he put around her.
Ian Kerner would hate to admit it, but she was sure. Initially he was cold, but he took pity on her now. He believed the unfortunate marriage story she brought up last night. That’s why he kept making exceptions, fulfilling her demands, and being soft in front of her. Even if it was an involuntary action.
Of course there was a long way to go, but it was a good start. It was proof that she was a little more likely to win. Signs that a mouse hole was beginning to form in a wall that seemed solid.
He awkwardly removed her hand from his arm and spun her around. Gray eyes scanned her up and down.
“…You’d better eat.”
“That’s a great idea. Actually, I’m going to faint from hunger. I threw up everything I ate. And drinks! I want to drink alcohol, too. You promised you’d bring some.. I just couldn’t drink it because Henry brought Layla.”
He led her to where the food and kegs were located.
Several people spoke to him, but Ian drove them away with a moderately polite smile and a gesture of refusal. Occasionally, some people wondered about the identity of the lady who became Ian Kerner’s partner. Each time, he casually brushed them off, describing her as ‘a relative of Henry Reville’.
Rosen thought there would be more persistent questions, so it was unexpected. She whispered to him.
“Everyone accepts it.”
“Because it happens often. I didn’t have anyone to take me to the parties I had to attend, so the Revilles found me a suitable person.”
No wife, no sister, no fiancé. He must have had to do that because he was bitter towards his relatives. It felt good to be thought of as a lady of Reville. Her hair was too dull to be called blonde, but it was close enough.
No one approached him to see if his actual personality was different from that of the broadcast. Ian stopped in front of a faucet equipped wooden barrel. The barrels of liquor were piled up like a mountain. He opened his mouth.
“Are you going to drink all of this?”
“Drinking booze until drunkenness is the driving force of the feast of St. Walpurg.”
He grabbed an empty glass and answered, pouring red wine into it.
Of course, she knew. Everyone said that the legendary witches drank so much that they couldn’t control themselves and danced with the devil. Under the pretext of this legend, people drank red wine on the night of Walpurgis, woke up slowly the next day, sipped white wine all day long, and ate a lavish dinner. Only then did the festival end.
There was a reason why the government failed despite all its efforts to create another festival to replace Walpurgis Night. No matter how hard they tried, a festival organized by old officials was bound to be patriotic and healthy. In short, not fun.
A festival where everyone ate, drank, and danced for two days. How could you make a festival that stimulated instincts as honestly as this? The fact that it was originally a festival of witches added to the thrill. The fact that it touched taboos made people more excited and loosened discipline. It leads to the heat of the festival, which could even make you forget the cold.
The day when a strict school teacher smiled and held the hands of her students, or the handsome bachelor, who was usually cold, kissed the woman he had a crush on. A night when everyone became a little honest.
‘It’s like magic.’
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