Walpurgis Night (7)
It seemed like enough time had passed that it became awkward to keep sticking together. Ian pushed her hand away. Rosen gripped the hem of his robe with regret.
It wasn’t until she was separated from him that she realised it. Even though it was only for a short time, how great it felt that he gave his arms to her.
Rosen felt really great about herself, even though it fell short of her grand plans.
Ian hugged her. If Henry found this out, he’d riot, right?
Rosen looked at him triumphantly.
“You’re regretting it now, aren’t you? Hugging me. You’re such a boring person that you’ve never been selfish. You’ve never told a lie or done something you shouldn’t do, right?
“… Do I look that way?”
“Yes. But don’t worry too much. It’s not like the world is going to fall apart. Your boring, painful, and long life must have at least one magical day. Think about it. Have you ever had a day like that?”
“That’s great. Then think about today as such a day.”
After spitting it out, she felt ridiculous. To ridicule a war hero as a mere jail breaker…
A faint smile appeared on his sculptural face as if it was funny. Rosen raised the corners of her lips, mimicking him.
‘A person of no merit made Ian Kerner laugh.’
‘He’s more handsome when he smiles.’
She was willing to be a clown for that face. She could see why the generals selected him to advertise to the public. It was a face that shouldn’t be hidden or hoarded. Whether it was during war or peace, it should be used as a poster and distributed across the country.
As it turned out, people’s sense of beauty was the same. Rosen soon realized they were in the spotlight. To be precise, ‘Ian Kerner’ was attracting attention.
She looked around and whispered.
“We’re in trouble. Everyone’s looking at us. Maybe it’s because you hugged me.”
“It’s all right. They’ll find something else to gawk at soon.”
“Aren’t they just looking at you?”
She pointed to the ladies looking at him with eyes that seemed to want to eat him alive. Were their eyes coveting this beautiful jewel?
He tended to be overly blunt about everything. If he wasn’t tired of being savvy, he would have become the biggest playboy in the Empire.
“It’s such a waste. If it weren’t for me, you could have had a hot night on this romantic day.”
She said with a soft smile. It was a sentence with two meanings. One was making fun of him because he missed the great opportunity to enjoy Walpurgis Night because of her. The other was asking him to spend the night with her.
But he just stared at her with puzzled eyes and didn’t show any reaction. She got a strange feeling from the silence.
She beckoned him closer. He coolly bent his waist to meet her eye level.
Rosen asked in a serious voice.
“Have you ever slept with a woman? I heard you’re 30 years old.”
He blocked her question right away.
But unfortunately, she came to realize the truth in that expression and tone of voice. Her guess became a certainty.
“No, really? How’s that possible? Are you lying?”
“I said it was annoying.”
“Oh my gosh. Really!”
Without realizing it, her voice increased in volume. Ian quickly covered her mouth.
Rosen didn’t scream anymore, because it was clearly her mistake. Her voice, unlike her face, was unknown to the Empire, but even so, she was not allowed to act in a needlessly conspicuous manner.
“Okay. Sorry, I’ll be quiet. Get your hands off me.”
But she couldn’t help it. It was so weird. To be honest, she was more surprised by his inexperience than the heroic story of how he shot down several enemy airships with incredible skill. She knew how mean and beastly men could be on the battlefield. From the moment they grew a few hairs on their chest, they were anxious to show their masculinity in any way possible.
Of course, she didn’t think Ian Kerner acted like the playboys who roamed Leoarton, but she didn’t expect such a handsome man to have spent nearly a decade as a celibate.
“Do you have an STD?”
“Do you like men?”
That shouldn’t be the case.
“Or are you a eunuch*? Maybe it doesn’t stand up?
[*E/N: In feudal times, eunuchs were castrated so they could serve in women’s courts without the fear of assault or affairs]
“…We’re going back.”
Perhaps since he was accustomed to her rude words, he only grimaced and wasn’t very angry. Rosen stopped being scared and just started talking. It was only then that she found out why Hindley often drank.
It was a magical liquid. She didn’t know because she had never drunk like this. That drunkenness created unfounded courage.
It felt as if she had become a big, mighty giant. She felt like she could throw that big man down at once. She giggled and leaned forward, blocking his view.
Rosen lost her balance and stumbled against a table. Glasses rattled. Had it not been for the wits of our proud war hero, she would have had another accident.
“Shall I take it off?”
“Isn’t that what you meant by asking a woman to go to your cabin?”
A look of embarrassment formed on his face as he held her. Ian couldn’t seem to grasp the words that came out of her mouth. She laughed at his reaction and grabbed her stomach.
“Give it a try. You’re not even curious? You only live once, you never know when you will die… Live the way you want to right now. I heard it’s really good if you do it. It’s like flying in the sky.”
“Oh, that’s not necessary. You’ve really flown in the sky. You’re a pilot.”
She sighed deeply.
“You’re completely gone.”
“I’m not drunk!”
Ian didn’t even pretend to listen. He grabbed her wrist, lifted her up, and led her towards the cabin. Rosen staggered helplessly, reduced to a marionette doll in his arms. It was a strange feeling. There was a time when Hindley swung her around like this, but now it felt completely different. Rather than being afraid or frightened, she kept laughing.
It was like dancing with him. Instead of being dragged away, she bent her knees and sat on the floor. This stopped him.
“I don’t want to. I’m not going. If you take me back now, I’ll know it means you want to sleep with me.”
Someone, who must have been out of their mind like her, sprinkled colored paper onto the deck from the second floor. Small pieces landed in her hair and got tangled. She quietly closed her eyes.
She had already lost her sense of reality. She was sure she could have come to her senses a while ago, but not now.
She was behaving recklessly. She always told herself she should remember that grey prison scenery and stay alert, but what filled her dark eyes was the scenery of the happiest day and brilliant colors of the festival.
“I want to see Emily.”
The strength in his hand decreased as the words came out of her mouth.
He paused for a long time with a face not knowing what to do, then he finally let go of her hand and squatted down next to her.
“If you’re drunk, let’s go in quietly. Please. Don’t make me regret doing you a favor.”
Although it was worded as a command, it was actually a plea, not an order. Rosen laughed because his face, not knowing what to do, was funny.
“Do you regret releasing me?”
“I’m about to. Don’t make it that way.”
“Oh, okay. I won’t make fun of you. But you really can’t take a joke.”
“You have a knack for making a joke not sound like one.”
“I got this!”
Rosen giggled, following his stern tone. She grabbed a glass from a passing waiter’s tray and drank it all at once. Ian didn’t try to stop her anymore. It seemed like he had already given up. Perhaps he realized that it would be more convenient to leave her like this, to make her lose her mind, and then toss her in the cabin.
He supported her and made her sit on a soft chair on one side of the deck. Rosen struggled to maintain her focus.
Since this was the head of the ship, turn right and walk five more steps to a lifeboat. Find the ladder and lower it.
Rosen went over it again and again in her mind. How to escape Ian Kerner’s cabin quietly like a shadow, and the fastest way to get here. Calmly turn the lever to lower the lifeboat…
Damn, her imagination stopped at the most important part. Because she didn’t have the key to get the lifeboat’s engine running. Should she even try to cross the sea full of beasts? She looked at his belt as she hugged him earlier, but the key to the lifeboat was nowhere to be found, let alone the key to her handcuffs.
“Sir Kerner, I wish you were a little more stupid. Like the guards of Al Capez.”
“Sleep. I will watch over you.”
“Then I would have been able to live.”
Contrary to her head, which was still spinning, her mouth did not listen. He seemed to want her to sleep as quietly as last night, but there was no way she could let that happen.
After two more nights passed, she would have no more chances.
Whenever the cold sea breeze hit her face, drowsiness fled her like a leak. She was able to be as clear as she wanted before long. Unlike Ian and Rosen, who sat awkwardly and stiff in silence, other ‘normal’ partners were enjoying the festival.
“It looks like fun. Right?”
“I’m glad I didn’t die before the war ended. I wanted to see the world again. A world without guns and air strikes.”
In the midst of such an intense thought, she was fascinated by the scenery before her eyes. It was inevitable.
She had never had such a peaceful moment in her life. It was not because she was a prisoner. Ian Kerner dedicated his twenties to the battlefield. They were both the so-called new generation of war… the spring of their lives was stained with blood and gunfire.
“Sir Kerner, what do you think about this peaceful world? Are you happy? It’s like you achieved it with your own hands.”
The war ended while she was in prison. It was when she was imprisoned again after a second failed escape.
Even now she remembered. The day the victory message reached even a solitary Al Capez cell. At the time, as directed by the prison warden, she was confined to a cell with only a toilet bowl, and the guards brought in a radio with meals daily.
Rosen was on the verge of losing her mind wanting to hear a human voice. Even the barking of a dog would be okay. She wanted to feel something other than the four grey walls around her. So, she turned on the radio with trembling hands, ignoring her meal.
There was no need to change the frequency. His voice was broadcasted on all channels.
[Fellow citizens of the Empire, we have won.]
Does he know?
Even her, who used to grind her teeth to destroy this d*mned country, cried a little after hearing the broadcast. It was even his voice, which she had missed, that delivered the victory message… And she, too, wanted to wave the flag like a loyal Imperial citizen that day.
“How did you feel when you said we won?”
“I was happy.”
“Is that all?”
It was a seemingly insincere answer. She glanced at him. But he did not notice and answered again.
“I was like that back then.”
He looked at her in silence, neither affirming nor denying. He soon took a cigarette out of his pocket, put it in her mouth, and lit it for her. As expected, he was a man who knew how to make anyone ‘stop and shut up’ gracefully. She was a cigarette-addicted prisoner, so she gave up prying as he intended and inhaled smoke.
It was then.
As her cigarette turned into a butt, and as Rosen began to stare greedily at his pack of cigarettes, a stranger approached them.
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