Walpurgis Night (6)
It was good at times like this to be someone who had nothing to lose. No matter what crazy things you said, everyone accepted it. So, you could play around a little bit.
Rosen reached out to Ian, listening to the music playing on the deck.
She thought high-ranking people would only listen to noble music, but that was not the case. The Witch’s March was an upbeat, fast, and mischievous folk song. Of course, dancing to it was not elegant. It was a polka dance, where you jumped around.
Layla and Henry could be seen in the distance. The two were already laughing and fluttering around. The height difference was so great that it almost looked like Henry was holding Layla rather than dancing with her, but the scene seemed warm anyway.
Rosen had always wanted someone to dance with like that. She used to be able to dance with Emily, but now she had no one by her side. Except for one person.
He was her guard, but at this moment, he was the closest to her.
But Ian Kerner didn’t take her hand.
“To reject Lady’s dance request, you’re not a true gentleman. You’re a scoundrel.”
She imitated Alex Reville’s tone and criticized him. Ian put on an absurd expression. He looked like he didn’t know how to deal with this foreign creature. Rosen laughed out loud and gently grabbed the back of his neck so that he would face her. He spoke again.
“Rosen Haworth, you’re drunk.”
He spat out more confidently, grabbing her hand subtly. It was an indication that she should return to the cabin.
‘No, I can’t be dragged away like this. I haven’t looked around the deck yet.’
“I can control my drunkenness. I’m fine.”
The corners of her mouth rose. Actually, she was a bit drunk. But she swore she wasn’t crazy. That was because she was trying to calm herself down.
“If I could, I’d record what you’re saying and let you hear it again tomorrow morning.”
“Then let’s say I’m drunk. I drink to get drunk. Come on! Let’s dance!”
“I can’t dance.”
“That’s the worst excuse I’ve ever heard. If you told any other Lady that, you’d be slapped.”
‘I’m not a Lady, I’m a rat, so it doesn’t matter.’
He shook his head with a puzzled expression.
“It’s really true. I can only dance to the waltz.”
“What did you do with that face for so long?”
“I’ve been flying for almost a decade. The academy only taught waltz.”
“Oh my God. That’s why you don’t have a lover.”
He was not good at lying, and it seemed like the truth. After all, he didn’t seem to enjoy noisy places. He was the kind of person who’d go home after a single dance with his partner, only keeping up formal etiquette.
She raised her eyebrows and asked.
“It’s not that you can’t dance. You’re just bad at it, right? So you wouldn’t hate dancing with me?”
He couldn’t answer easily because she was so full of energy. Well, he didn’t say he didn’t like it, so it didn’t matter. She took a quick step before he came to his senses and flatly refused her offer.
“Then we can just wait for a waltz to play.”
He was drawn to her quietly. His military uniform wrinkled as it pressed against her dress. All of a sudden, she grabbed Ian’s arm and waded through the narrow tables into an open space. They were amidst a crowd of drunken people.
She squinted and looked around. But Ian Kerner was irksomely thorough. He checked every inch of her sight. He seemed like he was trying to determine whether her gaze was staying in one place to the point of being suspicious.
Thanks to that, she couldn’t look for the lifeboat that Alex Reville told her about.
‘D*mn it, I should’ve gotten him drunk.’
“What are you looking at? Are you looking at another woman?”
Rosen reached out and grabbed Ian Kerner’s face as he followed her gaze. He was no longer surprised. He seemed to have gotten used to her actions. He raised his eyebrows and answered her seriously.
“I only see you.”
“…Who else would I look at but you? There is no one here more suspicious than you.”
“Since you don’t have an answer, say you’re looking at me because I’m the prettiest. That’s how you’ll get a girlfriend.”
“Please don’t say things like that.”
What did he mean, please? She was doing Ian Kerner a favor. She burst into laughter, and to distract him, she turned to the band and pointed to a brown instrument that emitted a beautiful sound.
“I know that. It’s an instrument called a cello, right?
“I’ve seen it before. The military band played in Leoarton Square.”
She explained excitedly, although he didn’t even ask how she, a low class person, knew the name of such an instrument.
“Emily taught me. In fact, almost everything I know was taught to me by Emily. To be honest, I didn’t learn how to save Layla from Hindley.”
It was nice to be able to talk to someone about Emily. It had been a long time since she could do this. Throughout the trial, she did not say a word about Emily. She was afraid that Emily would get caught up in the incident if she said anything.
She spat out more gibberish. How they spent Walpurgis nights, baking cakes and making wishes. How precious that time was to her. And other trivial stories. No one cared, and it didn’t matter anymore.
“Come to think of it, you’re from Leoarton, too. Have you ever visited Leoarton Square on the night of Walpurgis?”
“I went there every year. The military academy made us march.”
“I went once. Just once.”
Before marrying Hindley, she was in an orphanage. That year, a man who was particularly concerned with charity was elected mayor. The orphanage nanny woke them up early in the morning, washed them thoroughly, gave them clean clothes, and took them to Leoarton Square. She saw the festival for the first time then.
Lights, happy people, and delicious food.
The older kids screamed at the cadets in uniform, but as a child, she was so obsessed with the lights and the food that she didn’t even look at them. She regretted it all over again. If she had come to her senses at that time and looked around properly, she might have seen a younger him, even if it was from a distance.
“So you were there, too. If I asked you to dance with me, what would you have said? Would you have refused because I was a dirty orphan girl?”
Ian Kerner and Rosen Haworth were both from the East. It was ironic, but maybe it was fate. Even when they didn’t know each other, they spent their time in the same city, and when they were apart, they knew about each other through newspapers and propaganda.
“We were in the same place that day. No, we’ve often been in the same place. Before I went to jail.”
He let her talk freely. She didn’t know if he was listening, or if it was going in one ear and out the other, but she spat out the words that piled up in her heart anyway. She thought it would be nice if he listened, and it was okay if he let it go.
“That person, Emily Haworth—”
“Where is the Emily you spoke of now?”
‘Oh, he listens to me much more than I thought.’
Come to think of it, it was like that from the beginning. But in the end, it turned out to be a dangerous question. He sat down and asked again.
“Why were you left alone…?”
He trailed off. She knew how many questions that question raised. How did Emily, unlike her, disappear safely? Maybe they were accomplices. Maybe, just maybe… but she didn’t blame Emily.
Rosen just shook her head.
“I don’t know.”
If he asked her if Emily killed Hindley, Rosen would say no. The same went for asking why she killed him.
But to this question, she couldn’t say anything.
“This is an important question. I don’t understand why this never came up in court.”
“Emily didn’t kill Hindley, and I don’t know anything about her whereabouts.”
“The outcome of the trial could have changed. Maybe even now-”
He questioned with his eyes as if he knew there was something she didn’t say.
“It’s over. Stop it.”
“I really don’t know anything about her. Don’t question me. Don’t even look into it. You can’t squeeze out an answer from a person who doesn’t know anything.”
She cut off his words sharply. She didn’t understand why Ian’s expression hardened when she was the one who should be angry.
‘If you feel bad for me, just listen to me. Why do you want to dig up a trial that’s been decided?’
Just a few days ago, he said that it was all over with his own mouth.
Rosen slightly regretted bringing up Emily. She was skeptical as to why Ian was suddenly interested in her.
She didn’t want him to believe her. She didn’t even want him to figure out what was right and wrong. It didn’t mean anything and it was just annoying. The only thing she wanted from him was pity. Pity for her. So he would show her where the key was.
“And don’t get mad at me. I can’t get used to your anger. Why do you keep getting mad at me? You said you don’t mix emotions with your work.”
“I’ve never been angry.”
“No, you get mad at me often.”
Rosen scolded him like a child. He looked at her with an expressionless face.
“I’m not mad at you.”
He seemed hesitant, and then he asked.
“…How do you want me to treat you?”
Suddenly, his expression softened. No matter how stupid she was, she could tell that it was an unusual question. Because that was never something a guard would say to a prisoner. She was certain that his heart had weakened. She saw a glimmer of hope.
She grabbed Ian’s hand and responded.
“It’s been a while since we met, but treat me like a friend from your hometown who said that they have a few days left to live. Since you and I are both from Leoarton.”
Even though her tongue twisted and her pronunciation was muffled, she smiled at him. He looked down at her with eyes filled with unknown emotion.
The music stopped and the band turned over their sheet music. At that moment, the ship swayed in the waves. People screamed joyfully and embraced each other.
Ian unconsciously caught her. Taking advantage of that moment, she hugged him by the waist. She felt his body stiffen. He didn’t hug her genuinely, but he didn’t push her away either.
Yes, this was enough.
She didn’t expect anything more. She hugged him tighter, like a child seeking warmth. Words like sighs echoed in her ears.
“Rosen, you’re drunk.”
‘Can’t you see I’m hopelessly drunk?’
She wanted to scream at him like Alex Reville. She lifted her head, which had been buried in his chest, and groaned.
“Oh, yeah! I’m drunk. But it doesn’t matter. I’m going to die anyway. You give alcohol to soldiers and death row inmates, right? I never thought that if I were to die, I’d die in such a good mood.”
A long time ago, in a war older than the one he had fought… The government said they gave dr*gs to soldiers so that they would not fear death. She wondered if they still did something so savage, so she asked him.
“Have you ever done dr*gs?”
Of course. He was someone who would throw it away even if the government gave it to him.
“The military hospital prescribes dr*gs, right? Or something like that. Sleeping candles too. Do you have poison? Why do soldiers carry such things? Is it so you can’t be captured and tortured by the enemy?”
“Why are you asking that again?”
She thought the question might be too suspicious, so she grabbed his arm.
“I know you feel sorry for me right now. Can you give me what you have?”
“What the hell are you-”
His voice was about to rise again. She knew what he was thinking. And she knew what he was trying to say. So she cut off his words and muttered.
“I’ll keep my promise. I won’t kill myself on the boat, so give me what you have. When I get to Monte Island, I’ll die there. Then there’s no problem. You complete your mission, and I have a comfortable end. How about it?”
“You said you felt sorry for me. Do you want my last days to be painful?”
That was a lie.
She had no intention of dying at all. This was just a question to gnaw at his insides. She wanted to break that calm expression in some way and give her a chance. But she got a strange feeling. She thought it was because she was drunk.
From the moment she first saw him, his gray eyes, whose temperature couldn’t be gauged, captured her.
‘Is that really all?’
‘These are all calculated lies, with none of my feelings mixed into them at all?’
“Do you hate me that much? Do you really, truly hate me?”
She realized it at once. Answering that he didn’t hate her that much… she was hoping to hear it. She was asking for an answer that she knew she wouldn’t get.
She was afraid to see his expression, so she pretended to be drunk again. She hugged him and covered her eyes.
Cats didn’t know it, but mice were never sincere.
For a mouse, lack of vigilance was death.
She closed her eyes for a moment and made up her mind.
She clenched her teeth and drove away as much drunkenness as possible, then looked at him again with a cold heart.
But at that moment, a hand touched her back. His hand gently embraced her and began to pat her clumsily. His voice tickled her ear.
“No one will believe it, but… ”
“I never hated you.”
‘But you never liked me.’
He was likely looking at her with indifferent eyes. She laughed quietly. Still, his voice sounded quite sweet, perhaps because of her drunkenness. So she decided to stay mistaken.
It was a magical night, and all of this was momentary anyway.
“Thank you for telling me that.”
His hand gently stroked her back. She cherished the warmth and whispered to Ian Kerner, who had been her comfort for so long.
“It’s okay even if it’s a lie. It’s nice to hear that. Not many people have told me that.”
Although the waltz began, they didn’t dance and just kept holding each other.
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