Walpurgis Night (5)
However, it seemed that there were people who were not enchanted by the magic.
Ian Kerner grabbed a few snacks, took Rosen to a corner table, and sat her down. Unfortunately, he didn’t let her choose any foods that required a knife to eat. It was clear that he wouldn’t be fooled twice.
Holding out her glass, he sat down with his arms crossed and stared at her expressionlessly. Just like last night, he had an impenetrable attitude.
“You don’t drink?”
“How could a prison guard drink during a shift?”
It wasn’t going how she had planned. What’s the use of all this if he didn’t drink?
“D*mn, so prisoners can drink while in jail?”
“Yes. Because I allowed it.”
He calmly retorted. She began to take small bites of her food while she threatened him.
“If we don’t drink together, I’ll drink like an alcoholic. You won’t be able to handle it.”
“I can handle you. If you drink too much, it’s your loss. You will only be wasting the time you have left.”
“I don’t have enough alcohol. This won’t even fill my stomach.”
“Say that again after you drink. It’s piled up like a mountain over there.”
Ian Kerner seemed to know everything about Rosen. It would have been less offensive if he had an open attitude, but his way of blocking her bluntly left her speechless.
She thought he was acting a little withdrawn. She quickly became determined. She clenched her jaw and told a joke to disturb Ian’s expressionless face.
“Is there no Maeria fruit wine? I want to drink it.”
Unsurprisingly, Ian’s expression hardened immediately. It seemed to have reminded him of his emotions around the Maeria fruit incident. The fundamental reason for bringing her to the party.
“You might find a bottle in the kitchen. It’s a common drink.”
“I think there will be.”
Rosen laughed, teasing him without much thought. He stared at her, closed his eyes, and replied in a repressed voice with unknown emotion.
“Its nowhere on this ship.”
“It’s a drink that’s often used for high-end parties. I’m sure there is. Do you want to make a bet?”
Rosen grumbled as she picked at her fish with a fork. He seemed really angry this time. His voice did not rise, but his forehead was wrinkled.
“If you want to find it, you will have to swim to the bottom of the sea.”
And at Ian Kerner’s words, Rosen almost dropped her fork.
“I threw it all into the sea. Wine, stewed fruit, raw fruit, everything.”
“While you were unconscious.”
Rosen wanted to scream. She started hiccuping because of the food she swallowed in a hurry.
And she had to admit that she looked down on him too much.
It was only then that she realized why Ian Kerner was assigned to be her guard. The government was not stupid. In order not to lose sight of a crazy prisoner, you have to assign a guard that’s equally crazy.
If you think about it, soldiers are innocent people doing crazy things. Ian Kerner wasn’t any different.
Thanks to Hindley, Rosen had learned one thing. She was probably a good drinker. She had never drank with an ordinary person, so she added ‘probably’. When she escaped from prison, she drank with stupid guards, but those times, she drugged their glasses. But for sure, she always fell unconscious later than Hindley.
Hindley was a drunkard. So, if she drank more than Hindley, was she not someone who could drink more than average?
She picked up her glass and refilled it, glancing at Ian.
“Are you sure you won’t drink?”
He nodded his head firmly. In the end, she had no choice but to drink on her own. It would seem too suspicious to ask for alcohol and not drink it.
“You don’t normally drink, do you?”
He had a knack for making any answer boring. To these types of questions you usually give a slightly richer answer, such as ‘I don’t like it very much’, ‘I drink sometimes’, or ‘I drink on special occasions’.
“I didn’t think you wouldn’t drink at all. Soldiers drink like dogs.”
“What, am I wrong?”
Feeling the hostility expressed in her words, Ian lifted his head and stared at Rosen quietly.
‘I guess I provoked him again without realizing it.’
Actually, it wasn’t something to be said to the face of a soldier.
“I am not insulting you or your colleagues. I’ve never seen the Air Force. So, just other soldiers. The kids patrolling neighborhoods.”
“Are you referring to the rear units of the army?”
“I don’t know. Anyway, they were wandering around Leoarton. Dogs and drunkards.”
Although Leoarton was not a battlefield, it was a military stronghold close to the Capital, Malona. As the war intensified, a military van, packed with young soldiers, entered the Leoarton military base. It became more common to see soldiers at the market and at the river where they did their laundry.
The city had no separate facilities to accommodate soldiers. After a while, those who owned homes larger than a certain level were ordered to provide rooms for soldiers. Fortunately, Hindley was too sleazy to obey the order, and he was clever. He succeeded in bribing an administrative officer to remove their house from the list.
It was one of the few useful things Hindley did. Emily and Rosen agreed on that. The soldiers who entered the city did not protect them like Ian Kerner said in the propaganda.
They harassed village girls whenever they passed by, and they threw themselves into bars and drank day and night. When there was a fight, they would bring out pistols and threaten to massacre families.
Every time Rosen saw it, she felt confident that they would lose the war.
There was no way they could win.
They were so messed up.
Some might laugh. Even after seeing soldiers like that every day, Rosen believed that Ian Kerner would protect her. She needed to believe. Because her reality was too wretched.
“I thought we were going to lose after watching the little dogs running around in the streets.”
“But we won in the end, I know. Though I don’t know how high-ranking people conduct themselves.”
There was no God in this world, but miracles did happen sometimes. They achieved a victory no one expected. And in front of her sat the man who brought them that impossible victory.
The only soldier she liked.
“Did you hate soldiers?”
“I hate all soldiers except you. Even now.”
“Not just the enemy. I don’t even like allies. I hate them all.”
Ally or enemy, it made no difference to Rosen. Ian Kerner said that soldiers fought to protect everyone, but she didn’t think so.
Neither of them lied. Ian and Rosen were just different.
As your location changes, the scenery changes too.
The soldiers she met never protected her.
-Please don’t send me back home. If I go back, I’ll die! My husband-
They never listened to her pleas.
“But I’ll take the Air Force out of it now. Your colleagues fought hard back then. I take your word for it.”
She pushed away her memories and spoke to him as if she was being sympathetic.
Ian, who was about to say something, bit his lip. He poured more wine into her glass. It was the fourth time. The alcohol made for Walpurgis Night was potent, but it was okay. Rosen was starting to feel a little excited, but she was in good spirits. She knew exactly how much she should drink. This was drunkenness that would get better with just 10 minutes of fresh air, even if she emptied the bottle.
The problem was that the man sitting in front of her didn’t care what kind of tricks she used to get drunk.
But it was always worth trying. If she got it right, she could keep her mind intact. If she wasn’t drunk, she had to pretend she was. If either one of them came to their senses, something would happen, either good or bad. Maybe he liked a drunk girl more than a sane one.
‘What should I say?’
While she was contemplating, she was taken by surprise. He asked her in a low, quiet voice, as if reaching to the bottom of the sea.
“Why did you kill him?”
“Are you really asking that again?”
“…What was your decisive reason for killing Hindley Haworth?”
“You really are something. Aren’t you tired of this?”
“Was it accidental?”
She was stubborn wherever she went, but Ian Kerner was so stubborn that she admired him. Even in the midst of this, he asked ‘Why did you kill him?’ rather than ‘Did you kill him?’.
“Why are you interrogating me? It’s already over.”
“I’m asking even though it’s over.”
“D*mn it. What nonsense is that? I drank alcohol, but you’re the one that’s drunk. It’s all over, so why do you ask?”
“What you said was correct. Someone had to ask.”
“I didn’t kill him. So don’t interrogate me anymore. Don’t talk about it. I can’t get used to your voice.”
“If you say something sweet in that interrogating voice, it sounds wrong. You know how to get me to talk.”
He snatched the glass from her hand. He told her to drink as much as she wanted, but he suddenly changed his attitude. Rosen glared at him, grabbed the wine bottle, and drank from it.
“Do you have a pen?”
“I want an autograph. You’ve signed a lot of them. The person who leads the fan club…”
Rosen had seen his signature. Some jailer had it. How prestigious it was to have one. Of course, she was jealous. She begged him to give it to her in exchange for a night together, but he turned her down coldly. Even if she received it, she wouldn’t have a place to keep it.
Surprisingly, his handwriting was free-spirited rather than neat. Pouty strokes and inconsistent pen pressure. Rosen thought it was very pilot-like writing.
“…There is no paper.”
“Hah. That’s a good excuse. Do it on my hand.”
“I don’t even know why you want it.”
She liked him, but she knew she would have no confidence if she was criticized for overstepping her bounds. He really wasn’t flexible.
Why was the reason important?
Rosen frowned and stuck out her right hand.
“Because I love you.”
Rosen spat out a raw word that wasn’t refined. In fact, she could say it soberly, but she held it in because she thought he wouldn’t believe it.
“I love you, Ian Kerner. So sign an autograph for me. If there’s no paper, do it on my palm. Use a pen that won’t erase easily. I’ll die looking at it.”
It seemed to surprise him enough. He had a quirky look on his face, similar to when she kissed him on the cheek. She noticed a pen in his front pocket beside his cigarette pack. She got up from her seat, pulled out the pen, and held it out to him.
Ian hesitated for a moment and then slowly grabbed her hand. The pen tip began to move. The letters that made up his name were engraved on her palm one by one. She watched the famous war hero, serious about giving a prisoner an autograph.
He likely wrote his name down countless times after the war.
-You’re a bit different from the broadcasts.
-I wasn’t cut out for that. It was hard.
-Then why did you do it? Did they push you to?
-I thought it was necessary.
Rosen thought of the thousands of eyes that turned to him with envy, yearning, and anticipation. No matter how much she thought about it, he wasn’t the type to accept the attention. It must have been burdensome and heavy. The war was too long to endure just by thinking it was ‘necessary’.
Rosen was suddenly curious.
‘We were comforted by seeing him, but what did he find comfort in?’
‘How did he endure it?’
He was also a human being.
“…What did you do to endure the war?”
His hand paused. Gray eyes examined her for a moment. But his tightly closed mouth didn’t open. He didn’t seem to want to answer. Rosen gave up asking questions. It was too difficult.
“You must have needed something to motivate you. Ian Kerner must have needed an Ian Kerner. You can’t even look in the mirror-“
The pen fell from her palm as he let her hand go. Rosen frowned when she checked his handwriting.
“Why are you making fun of me? This is not your name.”
She showed her palm to him. Anger began to mount. This was cruel. She shouldn’t be ridiculed in this way for not knowing how to write.
He looked visibly perplexed.
She didn’t know how to write. She couldn’t read a single book. But there was one word she could read. Only one. It wasn’t something she learned, but a word that she had no choice but to recognize after seeing it over and over again.
“This is not your name! I can write your name. The only thing I can write is your name. How could you fool me like this?”
Rosen gasped out of anger and snatched the pen from him. A tool that she had never held properly turned in her hand. But she didn’t care. She pulled his hand to her and wrote his name. She was ashamed of the clumsy movement, but she saw it through until the end.
She threw the pen at him when she was finished.
“Do you believe me now? I mean, I really like you. You just did something really cruel. Just because I’m a prisoner, you-“
Rosen asked blankly. Ian answered slowly, making eye contact with her.
The anger that had soared within her subsided. She was dazed and a little embarrassed.
“Why did you write my name?”
For a long time, he didn’t answer. He seemed unable to. She felt more and more strange. Only after an eternal silence did he come up with a reply.
“…I just wanted to try it once.”
“It doesn’t mean anything.”
He sometimes acted like he didn’t know how he felt. Maybe it was because she said she would look at his name while she died. Was it pitiful for a prisoner to die without knowing a single word? She looked at her palm silently.
He wrote her name. The handwriting on her palm had an unfamiliar shape that she had never seen before.
“Did you write Rosen Haworth?”
“You call me Haworth all the time. What a surprise.”
Rosen realized that he had called her Walker for the first time. Of course, it was in text form. Still, it felt good to know that the writing on the palm of his hand was ‘Walker’, not ‘Haworth’.
“I thought you were making fun of me. You should have told me.”
Ian wasn’t looking at her when she looked up at him after reading it over and over again. He couldn’t take his eyes off her clumsy handwriting.
“Is my handwriting weird? It’s not like I wrote it, I drew it as I knew it. Would you like to erase it?”
He quickly cut her off. Rosen felt embarrassed by her sloppy print, so she picked up a tissue and approached him. She had no choice but to revise her plan to get back to him.
The music that drifted across the deck ended. After the performers rested for a while, another piece began to play. This time, it was a song that she knew. ‘The Witch’s March’.
She emptied the bottle and got up from her seat. She couldn’t sit still any longer. She had to move.
Nothing changes if you stay still.
Rosen tugged on Ian’s sleeve.
“Ian Kerner, dance with me.”
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