Humiliation (3)

Translator: Alice

Editor: Claire

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Humiliation (3)

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“I’ve taken on a daunting task, d*mn it. A jailbreaker.”

 

“Think of it as a break. See it as your turning point. It is a remote place, and the scenery is beautiful.”

 

“Did you change after the war ended? It’s more fun to travel through a sea of ​​monsters to the island of Monte than to look at scenery. Those who haven’t been to the military don’t know how precious a peaceful life is.”

 

“After the war, you’ve become a geek, Henry.”

 

“If this is being a geek, I’m a geek.”

 

Henry snorted at Ian’s teasing. When they first entered the military academy, the old officers always said ‘Look at these boys that have never been in a war!’. It was annoying at the time, but after the war, he understood.

 

How could a person who had never escaped from a crashing plane discuss his life? What could be more difficult than drowning in the open sea or surviving twelve hours with only a life jacket?

 

Ian responded with an indifferent expression.

 

“The army tells us that we are children. What do pilots know, who only looked down on the battlefield? Can you call a man a soldier if he has not crawled into the heaps of his dead companions in a wasteland of bullets and shells?”

 

“Do crazy b*stards talk like that to Sir Kerner? They’re half lost without us! Those ignorant old folks who don’t even know how important the sky is to war… We worked hard to save them, and they don’t even thank us!”

 

Henry grabbed the iron railing as they walked down the stairs. The strangely built stairs vibrated and shook unsteadily. Ian sighed as Henry raised his voice again, unable to overcome his temper.

 

“… You must learn to put yourself in other people’s shoes.”

 

“I’m not going to learn that. What is the point of living in a world where it is too much to live alone?”

 

Henry clenched his jaw and stared blankly around the engine room. Coal piled up on a conveyor belt was thrown into a huge, burning furnace. The coal made flames, the flames boiled water to make steam, and the steam created power that fueled engines.

 

It was a boring landscape.

 

Henry looked over at his superior, who was standing as straight as a pillar.

 

Ian Kerner spent most of his time in the engine room. If he wasn’t in his cabin, he was in this humid and steamy space. His eyes were always glued to the heart of the ship; the engine glowing red like a huge sun.

 

‘How many hours have you stared at this?’

 

To be honest, Henry hated the engine room. He wouldn’t have ever come here if it weren’t for Ian. After the war, he felt sick to his stomach just looking at the color red. He even threw away his red clothes and only wore blue. Moreover, what was appealing about a huge engine that made grating sounds?

 

Of course, Henry wasn’t always like this.

 

There was a time when he, too, was fascinated by the new energy that powered the world. In a world where you could fly without magic… How wonderful it was! Even a few decades ago, there were airships, but witches were essential to launch them.

 

Naturally, there were only one or two airships in each country. They were for events, not battles. Once a year, they were launched during the harvest festival. Henry’s childhood revolved around those beautiful airships he saw at the festivals he went to with his parents.

 

-Can I fly an airship like that?

 

-Now, even if you’re not a witch, you can drive an airship. By the time you become an adult, ships will move not by magic, but by steam.

 

-Really?

 

-The age of magic is over. Now everyone will be able to fly. We don’t need witches anymore.

 

“That woman, the witch of Al Capez.”

 

As soon as he said ‘witch’, Ian looked at Henry with pitiful eyes. It was as if he was saying ‘This again?’. 

 

Did he think she was helpless just because she was shackled by chains?

 

Henry didn’t care. What was wrong with being careful? Even with such an indifferent face, he knew his superior couldn’t get rid of the uneasiness that remained in the corner of his heart. The military academy drilled the perpetual fear of an attack into them.

 

“… She said she was also from Leoarton.”

 

Leoarton.

 

Ian immediately responded to the name of the city. He furrowed his brow, withdrew from the railing, and turned his body completely toward Henry.

 

“Don’t look at me with those eyes. Leoarton, Leoarton, Leoarton. I’m fine now, d*mn it.”

 

“…”

 

“Anyway, yes. Rosen Haworth is from Leoarton. She must have committed a crime while living in the slums nearby.”

 

“Yes, because it’s in her documentation. So I’m telling you, I think that’s why you care about her. You even interviewed her separately.”

 

Leoarton. 

 

It was the name of the city that was devastated by bombs during the last war. They couldn’t even call it a city anymore. All that was left were the remains of blackened buildings, and countless bodies buried so deep in the ground that they could never be recovered.

 

It was the hometown of Ian Kerner and Henry Reville, and where they attended military academy. It was also the place where he first flew on an airship.

 

“In a sense, she’s an annoyingly lucky girl. She escaped from the city, escaped death.”

 

“Anyway, she’s a prisoner. It’s a life sentence.”

 

“You saved my life back then. It’s thanks to you that I’m alive right now. You have become a total celebrity,  and I’m on my way to Monte Island under Sir Kerner’s escort.”

 

“Yes, Henry. Monte Island. Don’t you know what that means?”

 

Ian spoke sharply and glared at Henry. Monte was a punishment worse than the death penalty. The Empire didn’t save the witch, but pushed her into a pit worse than hell. Hard labor and torture over minor mistakes, starvation and poor conditions. The prisoners there never served their full sentences, and only left as corpses.

 

“Anyway, you’re alive!”

 

Unable to contain the emotion that erupted while he was speaking, Henry started raising his voice again. Henry sometimes violently poured out his emotions, not directed at anyone in particular. It was a habit from the war.

 

Ian carefully listened to Henry every time. He didn’t say much until it was over, unless he was asked directly.

 

“The war hero escorts the witch of Al Capez to the island of Monte. I’m so excited.”

 

“I can’t help it. A soldier obeys orders.”

 

“Sir Kerner, after this job, you will immediately advance to a key position, right? Maybe a minister? It’s no joke to have so many achievements, especially in the military.”

 

“Well…”

 

“Don’t talk vaguely. The only people in the Empire who hate Sir are the homeless and Leoarton. What are we fighting against right now?”

 

“…”

 

“I know. Why did they entrust you with this kind of work?”

 

Ian glanced at Henry, who was speaking passionately on his behalf. It was ironic, but after the war, those who opposed Ian Kerner were his fervent supporters during it. Their lives in ruins, they ground their teeth and poured out their hatred for Ian Kerner.

 

“In a nutshell, you couldn’t protect Leoarton, so they’re asking you to punish a witch from there. They say that if you drag that b*tch to the ghastly island of Monte, they will support you again.”

 

“…”

 

“The military and the government knew that and ordered this. Ian Kerrner has to be the perfect hero of the Empire. Flawless.”

 

Ian narrowed his eyes. His words were burdensome. He tried to stop Henry’s chatter, but he hesitated, reflecting on the psychologist’s advice.

 

“Just finish this, and live a comfortable life. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

 

“A light…”

 

He was the hero of the war, and people admired him. After the war, he realized that fact only when he passed through the Arc de Triomphe* in uniform. People gathered in crowds, shouting his name. Colorful petals were thrown onto the road he walked on.

[*E/N: The Arc de Triomphe is a famous monument in France. It was built to honor those who passed during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.]

 

But was he happy in that lively landscape? Was his heart full?

 

How did he look when he passed through the Arc?

 

Suddenly, anxiety crept into his chest.

 

He should have smiled. Did he?

 

A commander should always have a confident smile on his lips. But he couldn’t remember the expression he had made. Henry spoke hastily, as if he had noticed his senior’s dark thoughts.

 

“You can’t protect everyone. Who achieves perfect victory? Sir is not a God. The commander has always had to choose the lesser evil, and everyone knows that. They don’t really hate you.”

 

“…”

 

“Everyone expected too much of Sir Kerner… that’s all.”

 

Ian lifted his head, clearing his thoughts. He climbed the iron stairs slowly, leaving Henry behind.

 

He had to get out of the engine room. When he looked at the steam engine, futile thoughts consumed his mind. It was not good to think too much. Bad decisions came from ignorance. If you started to think, understand, and put your heart into something, you wouldn’t be able to take a single step forward.

 

A commander shouldn’t be like that. So, he tried not to think about the war. It worked to some extent. He had broken away from that hellish road and stood here today with a healthy body.

 

But he was no longer a commander or a pilot.

 

The moment he felt the gravity of the earth, and the moment he realized he was no longer holding a control stick in his hands… his legs moved outside of his control and carried him to the steam engine.

 

Ian Kerner was no longer anything.

 

“Commander.”

 

“Don’t call me that. The war is over, I am no longer a commander.”

 

“… It’s become a habit, Sir Kerner. Anyway, don’t worry about Rosen Walker. I’ll threaten her more myself.”

 

“I’ll do it, Henry. Don’t worry about it. Concentrate on healing.”

 

Ian stopped and shook his head resolutely. Henry bit his lip, stopping himself from saying more. Ian knew what Henry was going to say anyway.

 

-I am no longer a patient. You don’t have to take care of me like you would a newborn baby. I’ll find my way on my own, so, Sir, get back on your airship. Follow the light.

 

No, Henry was a patient. He was a butterfly with broken wings. No matter how much Henry insisted, that fact did not change. The talented young pilot was no longer allowed to board an airship. Not because his limbs were blown away, but because the memories of war broke his mind.

 

Leoarton’s cadets were no longer laughing and flying at 35,000 feet. The only thing that was left was young and wounded soldiers who couldn’t climb up the three flights of stairs due to their heart beating and shortness of breath. All they could do was sit on the decks of sea-shackled ships with naval armbands, smoking.

 

And it was he who ruined Henry Reville in the end. Ian Kerner. He didn’t just destroy Henry. All of the squadrons he led were allowed back into the sky except for one man, Henry Reville.

 

Many said it wasn’t his fault, including scientists and military strategists. All the operations the military gave his squadron were crazy gambles, and without him, the government would have wasted all their resources on a war they couldn’t win.

 

But those words were not comforting at all.

 

Leoarton. The city he couldn’t protect.

 

Ian Kerner closed his eyes as an unbearable headache rushed in. He remembered his duties.

 

-Transport the prisoners to Monte Island. In particular, keep an eye on Rosen Haworth.

 

Rosen Haworth’s name seemed to clear his mind. Funnily enough, he thought it was fortunate that Rosen was the most troublesome prison breaker in the Empire. There was nothing that distracted him as well as a nuisance.

 

He was deliberately paying attention. The justification was sufficient. Rosen Haworth was a felon that had been the focus of the Empire’s attention. Moreover, she was so cunning that she managed to escape twice.

 

He dug into, recorded, inquired, interrogated, and ignored. He blocked opportunities for her to escape. He interviewed her separately and even threatened her.

 

If Rosen felt her sentence was unfair, he had nothing to say. It was true that he had a lot of personal feelings about the matter, and it was true that there was an obsessive side of him.

 

He was most at ease seeing Rosen’s face among the people on the ship. He felt relieved. Of course, Haworth was a ruthless murderer with no remorse for killing her husband, she brazenly cried, told ridiculous lies, and often offended his temper, but…

 

Still, it was better to endure all of that than to face Henry. It was much more comfortable than facing those who approached him as a hero. 

 

Rosen Haworth, whom he met face-to-face, was hectic, frivolous, and talkative. In addition, he didn’t know whether she was smart or stupid, quick-witted or slow-witted… She was much stranger than he imagined. Time went by quickly when he watched her.

 

He stared blankly at Rosen Haworth like a child watching hermit crabs in an aquarium. How they wriggled, struggled, and moved between large conch nests. Rosen was from Leoarton, but neither of them were in Leoarton on that nightmarish day.

 

He was from Leoarton and was alive.

 

He survived that day by simply changing the direction of his airship. That alone was reason enough for him to observe Rosen Haworth.

 

Watching the survivors of the city he destroyed had always given him a strange sense of security. In addition, Rosen Haworth was full of energy. With a fine face that was neither discouraged nor broken, he even felt a little amused when she tried to trick him.

 

He felt like he was holding a hermit crab and showing it off, shouting like a child.

 

-Look at this. It’s alive!

 

At the end of his endless thoughts, Ian came to an embarrassing conclusion. He looked down at his watch and held his breath for a moment.

 

“Is someone bringing Haworth to my cabin right now?”

 

“What? I think so. You said you’d be interviewing her at this hour, and you told them to take her there.”

 

Ian got frustrated. There was something left on his desk. Henry, noticing his hardened expression, shouted in amazement.

 

“Did you leave the key?”

 

“No.”

 

“Then why?”

 

Ian Kerner didn’t answer. Henry called after him as he turned around and walked hastily.

 

“Sir Kerner!”

 

“It’s interview time. I forgot.”

 

“Yes? Need to run? You’re also concerned, right? Because Rosen Walker is from Leoarton!”

 

At the end of the sentence, doubts lingered. Whenever Ian talked about Rosen, Henry became as anxious as a puppy. Ian knew what he was worried about. He wanted to pour cold water over Henry’s head.

 

“Don’t worry. Whatever you are worried about, it is not what you are thinking.”

 

“…”

 

“Besides, this is the last time.”

 

He exhaled like a promise and hurried back towards his cabin, where Rosen was waiting. It was true that an interview with a prisoner was liberating for him. But he shouldn’t pour his emotions into his work. It was like a war; an interview that needed to be finished before it got too long.

 

He didn’t know what the hell he was thinking, bringing his emotions all the way here.

 

Ian gathered the emotions that had piled up and swept them into the black hole of his heart.