Huge thanks to Ginsan for the kofis! (1/8)
One Blood, One Wish, One Magic (1)
Any remaining drunkenness fled away in an instant.
Maria was right.
-War is so ironic. It twists people in one way or another. There aren’t many people who can survive the chaos.
Just as no one could cross a sea full of beasts, there was no one who could escape from under the roaring sky.
‘Why did I believe he would be okay?’
Those brutal beliefs gathered and piled up on his shoulders, pushing him to this point.
“I’ll call Henry.”
Ian grabbed Rosen as she was about to shout Henry’s name. She couldn’t move because of how strong his hands were. He clenched his teeth and spoke with difficulty.
“Henry shouldn’t know.”
“Then I’ll call the doctor. I’ll be right back.”
Rosen tried to push him away and get up from her seat. His eyes, which had been wandering around aimlessly, hardened in an instant. Ian sat her back down and shook his head resolutely.
“He serves the Reville family!”
All in all, it wasn’t meant to hold her back. He was short of breath and unable to speak, but he was worried about others and not himself. He was afraid that the Reville doctors would tell Henry and Alex about his condition, so he didn’t even go to the doctor.
“This is not the time to be stubborn!”
“I don’t care. No one should know.”
“Why?! What would Henry do if he found out?”
“He wouldn’t be able to stand it.”
“That’s his job! Are you crazy? Didn’t you have to find a doctor to get to this point? Why did you pretend to be okay if you were going to collapse at the sound of fireworks?”
“No one should know!”
“Okay?! Now I know! What are you going to do now?”
He shouted, and she shouted louder. They could barely hear each other anyway because of the sound of firecrackers.
The people around them were smiling brightly. It was a wonderful sight. But the person they looked up to was a mess, hiding in a corner where no one could see and trembling like a child.
“I didn’t expect this to happen. Stay with me for a second. Then… it’s alright.”
“Aren’t there doctors other than the Reville’s doctor? There are many doctors, but you didn’t even think about finding another?”
“When one finds out, it spreads in an instant. And I’ve endured all this time. It’s not impossible.”
“It’s not okay, you idiot! Is this okay? You can’t even get up!”
Rosen shot back at him. Pointing to his trembling hands, his bloodless blue face, his sweaty neck…
“What? If a war hero is scared to death by the sound of fireworks, it’ll be on the front page of the newspaper?”
Ian was staring at her. But he didn’t look into her eyes for a long time. He soon leaned against a keg to catch his breath, clenching his teeth and grabbing his chest. Even if he was out of breath like this, he never seemed to ask anyone for help.
‘I want to cry, yet he is the one who should cry now, not me.’
-You’re a hero.
Rosen sighed. She said without hesitation that she depended on him. She believed he would not fall. Knowing that he was also human, she arbitrarily assumed that fear would not exist within him. By doing so, she confiscated his feelings from him.
With no flexibility, he carried the expectations of the Empire on his back. Without a single moan or complaint, with a normal face.
“Aren’t you taking medicine? It can be prescribed without a doctor’s knowledge.”
She was sure he had something. Whether it was drugs or sleep candles. There was no medicine that was not available at a military hospital. The same was true even if not formally prescribed. He did not answer.
“Where is it? I will bring it.”
“I can’t escape anywhere anyway. The fireworks will last for a few hours, and you’re stuck here. It’s a sea infested with beasts, I don’t even have the lifeboat key, and you threw all the Maeria fruits into the sea!”
Rosen did not mention the other possibilities. The possibility of stealing cutlery from the party deck and stabbing herself or taking someone hostage. Even the possibility of jumping into the sea to die.
The possibility of another accident where his eyes could not reach.
“I won’t force you to believe me. Because that’s too much of an unreasonable request. But if you don’t want Henry to find out, and you don’t want anyone to know… You can get caught by me. It’s all right. Even if I wanted to spread the secret, no one would believe me anyway.”
No matter how she thought about it, wasn’t it funny? The only person who could offer him help at this moment was a woman the whole Empire called a liar.
“Because I really am nothing.”
No one would believe her, but she really wanted to help him. She didn’t want to watch him suffer.
“…Are you disappointed?”
He worried endlessly until this moment. Rosen was almost on the verge of tears. If that was the question he was seriously asking now, he didn’t deserve to be called an idiot. Because Ian Kerner was truly the best man in the world.
“Is that important now? You’re out of breath.”
“…I didn’t want you to find out.”
For the first time, she heard his real voice. A raw voice that lacked confidence and even the indifference that he had been wearing like armor.
“Actually, I didn’t want to get caught by you the most.”
“Why are you ashamed that I caught you? What are you so ashamed of? I thought, ‘Isn’t it weird that he’s fine after all that fuss?’ You should be ashamed of yourself, you stupid coward!”
Rosen knew that she wasn’t the one he wanted to protect. He was looking at Leoarton through her. Of course, it wasn’t her that he wanted to save, it was the good people who had a speck of conscience…
‘What can I do? Life isn’t always fair. Those who deserved to survive died and I was lucky to survive. The whole Empire hates me for that, especially Leoarton. I understand it. They don’t know me, and I don’t know them either.’
[I will protect you. You can rest assured.]
“I wanted to protect you. So I got on a plane. I did my best. It wasn’t a lie. It wasn’t…”
But it was not fair that Ian was so distressed. It was inevitable. It was ridiculous that everything he said was treated like a lie.
“Sorry. In the end, it turned out to be a lie.”
He spat out an apology without knowing who it was for. Then he opened his eyes and stared at the sky where the flames were rising and exploding. As if that was the punishment he deserved.
‘What are you looking at now?’
‘The last view of Leoarton he remembers?’
‘People who believed in his broadcast and went into their basements?’
Rosen clenched her teeth and shook her head.
“No, don’t apologize. I wasn’t deceived, I pretended to be deceived. Everyone knew. We pretended not to know because we needed you. It was an impossible promise.”
Rosen covered Ian’s ears. She grabbed his face so his eyes were on her and not the sky. His grey eyes looked at her, unable to move.
“Ian Kerner, you know? Just because you couldn’t keep it… Not all of your promises were lies. You were always sincere.”
“I do not resent you. I have never been disappointed.”
‘No matter how hard you try, I would never be.’
“So let me help you. Just once. You don’t want to admit it, but I’m one of the people you saved.”
It wasn’t something she believed. She was just saying it. She couldn’t stand the fact that he had to suffer for the rest of his life.
That was the moment.
He reached out and wrapped his arms around her waist. He forced her to sit down and held her in his arms. Startled, Rosen reflexively pushed him away, but he didn’t care and hugged her tighter. Rosen held her breath, trapped between his long legs.
“Stay like this for a moment.”
Ian buried his face in her shoulder. Rosen unconsciously laid her hand on his back. Reality was hard to believe. He hugged her so tightly that she couldn’t breathe.
“Until the flames burn out.”
‘Did the sound of the fireworks explode my eardrums?’
At that moment, all sounds except his voice disappeared.
Time seemed to have stopped.
Her heartbeat fluttered like a fish out of the water while being held by Ian Kerner.
Ian clung to Rosen like a beast seeking warmth, his breaths hot. His heavy breathing had subsided, and his chest, which had been rising and falling steeply, became calm. It was only then that Rosen understood how embarrassed he must have been.
Obviously, she was trying to calm him down, but the moment he hugged her… her heart started beating like a child caught doing something bad.
For a moment, she was overcome with a strange fear and tried to get away. But he didn’t let go. Rather, he whispered in her ear threateningly. It wasn’t a very scary threat.
“Stay still. Don’t say anything.”
“I said I was fine. You chose to help me. Since you made that decision, take responsibility until the end.”
His hand gripping her waist used more strength. She was forced to hug him countless times. Ian Kerner was surely out of his mind. Fear paralyzed her reason. Even now, she was short of breath, but as if hugging her wasn’t enough, he started stroking her hair.
Fireworks still lit the sky. His body trembled every time he heard the pounding sound, but his breathing was definitely more stable than before. Rosen asked in a confident voice.
“Did I help you?”
He didn’t answer. It seemed like he wasn’t even listening to her. He began to mumble to himself as if possessed.
“You saved me.”
“As long as you, the only one I saved, survive, I can keep going…”
Her heart ached. In those few words, Rosen realized.
She was a comfort to him.
‘There are people in the world who worry about breaking twigs. A person should not feel guilty about breaking a branch. Ian Kerner did that. He was a man who only saw the forest.’
‘And we believed that because he was such a person, he endured a hellish war, survived, and returned unscathed.’
Rosen was wrong.
They were all wrong. Had he really been that kind of person, he wouldn’t have gotten on a plane in the first place. He would have abandoned his weak homeland that could not do anything and moved to Talas to eat and live well.
He was a man who felt responsible for even a rat that had escaped from his ruined hometown. So he was just using her for comfort. The hometown he couldn’t protect was so heartbreaking… Even a prisoner who should be thrown into a cell without a key was embraced so preciously.
It was sad to know that Rosen, who was nothing, was a comfort to him. It was heartbreaking to know that the only thing that supported him was a rat like her.
“Second drawer in the cabin.”
How much time had passed?
Ian Kerner whispered again in a very low voice. He relaxed the arms that were holding her and looked straight into her eyes.
“It is unlocked. It’s a brown medicine bag.”
“Bring it to me.”
He gently pushed her away.
Rosen suddenly came to her senses.
She jumped out of her seat and started running across the deck.
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