Same Kind (1)

Translator: Alice

Editor: Claire

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Same Kind (1)

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She was interviewed once a day. No matter how important a prisoner was, Ian Kerner didn’t interview that often. She thought Ian was not wary of her, but apparently he was. He called her in and gave her a lecture on dangerous marine life every day.

 

At first, she dragged on their interviews, but after a few days, she got tired of it. He had a knack for making things terribly boring, and he ignored her whenever she tried to change the subject.

 

Sometimes she thought that it would be better to dig a tunnel. At least then, progress would be visible day by day.

 

“Sharks are-”

 

“Please stop. I get it. To summarize, thinking about escaping from here is f*cking stupid. Do you think I’m crazy?”

 

“There’s little difference between the stupid and the hero. Neither of them thinks about the future. If you start thinking about escape, you won’t have the courage to do it.”

 

“I don’t have any thoughts?”

 

“Not brave ones.”

 

He spoke calmly, flipping through the papers on his desk.

 

“Some prisoners… Some people thought you were a hero. Right?”

 

His expression was calm, but his tone was strangely sarcastic. She had lived her whole life being ignored, so she was sensitive to such things.

 

She shot back immediately.

 

“So you’re saying I’m a fool?”

 

“You’re a long way off from when you escaped from prison.”

 

She glared at him and kicked the desk. When your hands were tied, the ways you could express your dissatisfaction was limited.

 

The desk shook violently. The nib of his pen twisted and scraped the paper. Without a reaction, he took out a new piece of paper and calmly rewrote letters that she couldn’t read.

 

“Don’t be violent.”

 

“You said I was stupid.”

 

“You asked.”

 

“We’ve seen each other so many times that we’re not unfamiliar with each other, right? Let’s talk openly. Should I have served 50 years straight? I think that’s even more foolish.”

 

He stared at her for a long time, as if she was funny. It was the biggest interest he’d shown her in the past two weeks. And it was clear that it wasn’t out of sympathy. It was the first time she had seen a man like him in her life.

 

At first, she didn’t mean to be treated as a mysterious creature by him.

 

In order to play the role of a poor woman, she cried, no matter what he said to her. She tied her tangled hair into a ponytail, wiped her face with a towel she had stolen, and responded to his interviews. She often sent him subtle and sticky glances, and gently lowered her upper body to expose her chest…

 

He didn’t even look at her. He didn’t even bother to understand what she was trying to do.

 

She was confused by his moral character when he didn’t hand her a handkerchief while she cried. But now, she didn’t know what was worse; a callous man who ignored a crying woman, or a crying woman who was trying to elicit sympathy through her tears.

 

He was more interested when she talked than when she cried.

 

So she decided to do what he wanted.

 

“Then what should I have done?”

 

“…”

 

“You’re smart. Tell me.”

 

He let out a low sigh and raised his head. Surprisingly, that was how he showed his interest.

 

He stared at her.

 

“If you had confessed your crime when you were first sentenced, your sentence would have been commuted. If you had done well in prison, you might have been able to apply for parole before serving your full sentence, or you could have been transferred to a more comfortable prison.”

 

“Then I would have been dead. I would have never gotten out of Leoarton.”

 

She laughed, ignoring the chilly atmosphere. 

 

“I was joking, wasn’t it funny?”

 

“…”

 

“No, in the first place, I don’t know why an innocent person has to spend 50 years in prison.”

 

“The crime of murder ranges from 8 to 50 years. It’s written in the law.”

 

“Yeah, I didn’t kill him, but let’s say I did. Why 50 years? Charlie, who lived next door, beat and killed his wife, eight years.”

 

He ignored her protest and pointed to the bookshelf.

 

“The reason is written in the law.”

 

She saw a thick book covered in cowhide. She quickly lowered her eyes and spoke in a soft voice.

 

“I can’t read. I was not educated.”

 

“I know. Isn’t that why I told you with my mouth? It’s written in the law.”

 

“…”

 

“In the end, you were sentenced to life imprisonment on Monte Island, which was purely your own fault. Rather than reflecting on your sins, you escaped from prison twice and deceived the Empire.”

 

He threw the papers into a drawer and stood up. It seemed to mean that the possibility of her innocence was not worth considering. He seemed to regret talking to her about irrelevant topics for a while.

 

She shouted with hope. If she missed this opportunity, she didn’t know when they would talk again. She didn’t want to take his marine biology lectures one-sidedly anymore.

 

“Wait, wait! Hear my story!

 

“The interview is over. Go back.”

 

He pulled her chains. She got up helplessly from the chair and shouted loudly. Soon the door would open, Henry Reville would come in, and would throw her back into her cell. Now was the only chance to do some bullsh*t that would get Ian Kerner’s attention.

 

‘Think about it, Rosen. What do you have to say to get Ian Kerner interested in you?’

 

“Then are you an idiot too?”

 

“…What?”

 

“The difference between a hero and an idiot is one decision! Then isn’t it the same for you and me? You are the hero of the light, I am the hero of the dark. Both are complete idiots. What’s the difference?”

 

The force holding her chains loosened. Ian Kerner had a subtle expression. She didn’t know if he was excited or angry. She just said whatever came to mind.

 

“No one believed we would win the war. We are a small country with only a grand name, and our opponent was Talas, who had already devoured many countries! That’s why everyone ran away from the military. No one wanted to be a soldier of a defeated country. My husband ran away, too.”

 

“…”

 

“Who didn’t know that Talas took people in before the war began? Elites like you are highly skilled workers. Honestly, it would be better to be treated as a war hero in Talas than being swallowed by them.”

 

“…We won in the end.”

 

His jaw was tense. Ian’s eyes burned with anger and hostility. But it didn’t matter. The fact that she did something to elicit that reaction was important in itself.

 

“Yeah, we won. So, did Talas fail? They just stepped down because they thought fighting would do more harm than good. I’m relieved that our country hasn’t been captured yet. On the other hand, what did we get? A humble and shallow patriotism? People were killed and land was destroyed. And you, the hero, wear shards of medals on your uniform, and escort meager prisoners.”

 

“…Shut up.”

 

“You call that victory? You must be so proud, right?”

 

“I told you not to talk freely.”

 

“Why is the war hero doing this now? Aren’t you broken too? Have you become an eunuch*? Like an idiot lying on the street?”

[*E/N: a man who has been castrated, especially one employed to guard women’s living areas in an oriental court.]

 

She didn’t stop being sarcastic. He pulled her chain. She was dragged towards him like a dog. The medals on his chest drew closer, and her body was completely engulfed by his shadow.

 

She believed that at that moment, he would raise his hand and slap her. Maybe he would trample her down with a baton. And, honestly, she thought that wouldn’t be too bad. Violence by men was often accompanied by s*xual acts. With just a little bit of patience, she might get a chance to get into his bedroom.

 

‘That’s okay. I’m used to the pain’

 

“Rosen Haworth.”

 

…But Ian Kerner betrayed her expectations. He didn’t hit her or trample her. He just stared at her and called her name in a cold voice.

 

“You are right. But you don’t deserve to say that.”

 

“…”

 

“In the skies of my motherland, my comrades died and were wounded countless times. As always, history will not remember them. But despite knowing this, they gave up their young lives to protect the people of the Empire. Including people like you who are mean, cowardly, run at the first sign of danger, and live only for their own comfort. I didn’t think you’d appreciate it. But at least-”

 

He paused, as if suppressing his anger.

 

“At least you shouldn’t have insulted them. You don’t know war. You were a civilian under the protection of soldiers, and besides, you were in prison the whole time. During the war, it was paradoxically the safest place.”

 

She didn’t quite agree with him. But she didn’t have the heart to come forward and respond. Ian Kerner was offended by her words. 

 

Her goal had been achieved.

 

He was just disappointed. Angry, he reacted completely differently from what she had expected. Everything went terribly wrong.

 

“Not everyone lives like you. Some people seek something more than their own interests. And the world is maintained by them.”

 

“…”

 

“I want you to know that. Don’t make me mad. Stop playing tricks I can see through. If you want sympathy, you’d better find someone else. Your lies are too shallow to deceive me.”

 

Ian, who returned to his indifferent expression, stared at her. He seemed to be daring her to say it again. If he were a stranger, she wouldn’t be able to repeat the ridiculous lies about his dead companions.

 

But unfortunately, she was a woman who had long since abandoned her shame and conscience.

 

“…I did not lie.”

 

She repeated what she always said. The long conversation they had been having, in fact, was only a variation of that one phrase. 

 

“I am not lying.”

 

“You, in a really negative sense, do not deviate from expectations.”

 

He was right. It was an absurdly shallow to appeal to faith. She didn’t want to persuade him either. Because Ian Kerner wouldn’t believe her. So, she tried to stimulate his desire to win and conquer.

 

“I’ve fully figured out what kind of person you are. There will be no more interviews.”

 

“…Wait a minute! Wait a minute!”

 

“I won’t explain it again. I think you understand.”

 

…She failed cleanly, though.

 

Clink Clank

 

A stronger chain was shackled around her wrists. The old iron rings fell to the floor noisily. It was also the sound of her fragile hopes and expectations crumbling. She held back the desire to dig in her heels and stay in his cabin.

 

Ian silently opened his cabin door. He was too gentlemanly to kick someone out. She knew it was just a habit of upper-class men. Even Henry Reville, who had sworn at her, caught her as she fell. Still, she thought it was annoying.

 

That meaningless etiquette, combined with Ian’s handsome face, which was pasted throughout the Empire as a symbol of victory, took away her sense of reality for a moment.

 

“Actually, there is no need for chains on the sea. Hell is everywhere.”

 

“…”

 

“Nevertheless, you are standing here, immobilized by shackles. That is the weight of your sins. The sin of making a living person disappear from the world.”

 

Somehow, one person could speak in two wildly different ways. One of his broadcasts during the war played in her mind.

 

[You can relax. No one will be able to hurt you. When the air raid alarm rings, turn off your lights, go to the basement, turn on the radio, and listen to the broadcast. You just have to wait. I am always guarding the skies of the Empire. For you. Until the end of the war, until we all go back to our peaceful lives and forget all of this…]

 

She heard his voice too much. He was her jailer, and she was his prisoner… 

 

‘I mean, it keeps getting weirder.’

 

If he kept talking to her, she thought something warm would pour out from between those lips. But it would never happen, because she was a crazy woman who was mesmerized by his shining appearance.

 

There was a time when his photos and his voice were her only comfort.

 

“You really…”

 

He raised an eyebrow. He looked like an icy sculpture, who wouldn’t bleed even if he was stabbed.

 

But, unexpectedly, he waited patiently for her to finish speaking.

 

With the feeling of a prisoner on death row who was allowed to say her last words, she glared at him and spat out.

 

“You really are an idiot.”

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