Your Eternal Lies - Chapter 34
She was so startled that she forgot she was wearing a mask and recoiled. She almost fainted when the man reached out to her with a soft smile.
“Lady, are you Sir Ian Kerner’s partner?”
“Yes, Sir Gregory.”
Ian intercepted the man and answered. He stood up and hid her behind his back, strangely tense. She let go of a breath she didn’t know she was holding. Ian must know him.
“Can we be introduced, Sir Kerner?”
“She’s Henry Reville’s acquaintance-“
“How many single girls are there in the Reville family? But this time, she seems to be close to Sir Kerner. Lady, this is rare. As you know, Sir Kerner has a dirtier personality than he appears, and he never treats his partner as friendly as he does you.”
Sir Gregory grinned softly and spat out thorny words. Unless they were an idiot, anyone would have noticed his malice. Ian’s expression also hardened. It certainly didn’t look like they were close.
Seeing that they called each other ‘Sir’, this person was also from the military, but it didn’t seem like he was higher than Ian. They looked similar in age… Was he from the same military academy class?
“Can’t you speak?”
“Or maybe you are shy. If you’re done dancing with Sir Kerner, why don’t you dance with me?”
Why was he picking a fight? What if she really couldn’t speak? Rosen was bewildered and regained her reason. Her voice was not as known as her face, because no one wanted to hear the voice of a witch. She relaxed and tried to speak as naturally as possible.
“I don’t dance with men unless they’re better looking than Sir Kerner.”
It was an outright denial, but Sir Gregory only laughed. He had a personality that Rosen really disliked.
“You are a funny lady. If you’re a Lady of the Revilles, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. What’s your name?”
She hurriedly threw Ian a desperate glance.
What should she do? A cold sweat ran down her back. As her mind raced, Sir Gregory took the cigarette that was in her mouth, put it into his, and reached out to her.
“Let’s get to know each other slowly by dancing. I don’t think Sir Kerner is narrow-minded enough to chain his partner to his side at such a delightful festival.”
“You can’t just keep dancing with one partner. Etiquette goes against it.”
‘What is he up to? Don’t tell me he’s noticed who I am.’
Sir Gregory grabbed her by the arm, ignoring Ian, who stood in the way. He didn’t look very big, but his grip was no joke. She was worried that he would leave a bruise on her arm.
As soon as Sir Gregory’s hand touched her body, Ian pushed him roughly.
“Joshua Gregory, don’t pick a fight and go. Didn’t you hear me say no?”
As expected, he wanted to pick a fight.
Ian immediately dropped all formalities, throwing away the possibility of politeness. It seemed that Joshua being rude was not uncommon. Ian looked more fed up than angry at his behavior.
Ian gently pushed her back onto the sofa. Rosen sat quietly and watched their fight because she knew he would deal with it.
“You drank too much alcohol, go back to your cabin and sleep.”
“…Look, I’m the bully again. It was always like that.”
“Don’t make me upset, go.”
“You’re pretending to be a gentleman again. You’re the only one who always succeeds, and you’re the one who’s always right. Stop staring at people with those contemptuous eyes. It’s disgusting and annoying.”
Ian Kerner was rather inhumane, but he wasn’t unlucky. And those who were despised by him, she thought, had good reason to be. He was a good man. He wasn’t a murderer, a traitor, or someone suspicious… just like her.
So that seemed like an ugly and unnecessary statement of inferiority.
“You’ve done something like that.”
“What did you do? Oh, I ran away? Is that still the story? Is there anyone who doesn’t think that was a really wise choice?”
“What’s the use of honor if you die? I made a wise choice. Now, look, all the boys in your squad who didn’t run away are dead, and their remains have become fish food. You’re a lonely hero.”
“I don’t know when stealing the spotlight from the dead became a good thing. Enough to get drunk and shout out loud? Shame on you. You ran away, and the cadets younger than you–“
“Oh, yeah, you’re so great. Look at the results. Who made the wise decision? All the children who didn’t escape are dead, and Henry Reville, who barely survived, is half stupid!”
The man who looked fine when he approached was actually quite intoxicated. As his sentences grew longer, his pronunciation began to slur. His eyes couldn’t focus and were constantly moving around. The two started arguing, using terms she couldn’t understand.
She hoped Ian wouldn’t get hurt. She knew from experience how sensitive Ian was about his dead colleagues. Sure enough, Ian wanted to grab him by the neck and slap him, but it was because of her that he was putting up with it.
Ian, tired of dealing with Joshua, quietly tried to get Rosen up from her seat.
“Who the hell is that woman that you pamper so much?”
But they must have been too careless. There was never any guarantee that Joshua would be paralyzed just because he was drunk. Joshua grabbed at her mask suddenly.
“Let’s see your face.”
Just as her eyes were about to be revealed, Ian pulled her into his arms and punched Joshua. It was so instantaneous and reflexive that she didn’t process what happened.
‘Did he just punch Joshua and embrace me?’
When she woke up from her daze, she found herself in his arms, and noticed Joshua lying on the deck.
And her mask was still safely attached to her face. She breathed a sigh of relief.
“She is a Lady of the Revilles. Do not be rude.”
“…What did you do now? How could you-”
“I’m glad it’s over. If Alex or Henry Reville saw what you were doing, they would have put a bullet in your jaw, not a fist.”
Eyes were on them in an instant, but those who were drunk only giggled at the sight of Joshua being beaten. In fact, even if he was not drunk, it was obvious who people would side with if they fought. Ian Kerner was a much-loved war hero, and this ship was the Reville’s.
Ian was right. If he wanted to fight, then he picked the wrong place. Even if Joshua was the Emperor of the Empire, it would not have been very wise to argue with Ian Kerner here.
Ian picked Rosen up like a child and started to walk away while holding her.
She knew what Ian was doing now was running away. It was just that his actions were so calm and relaxed that it didn’t look like running away at all.
He embraced her and was now running away from those oppressing gazes.
Rosen muttered as she hugged him.
“There are times when you act more unassuming than you think.”
“…I do it in consideration of others. There is no need to deal with such a low-class person.”
‘Anyway, if you hug me, it’s good for me.’
She asked, resting her chin on his shoulder.
“But who is that guy? Is he your friend?”
“Is he a pilot too?”
“I wish he wasn’t, but yes.”
“Can you hit him like that?”
“It’s nothing to worry about. I’ll take care of it.”
“Maybe he found out who I am?”
“Don’t worry, he’s not that smart.”
She really wanted to see the expression Joshua was making at this moment. She liked to see sloppy men showing their ignorance and being humiliated. But Ian Kerner never gave up. Every time she tried to lift her head slightly, he tightened his arms around her.
“You… you are different.”
Joshua’s voice echoed from behind. Ian’s steps slowed to a stop.
“Didn’t you say you stole the spotlight from the dead? What’s so special about you that you can look at me like that? You’ll see. I don’t know how you’ve held out so far, but you won’t be able to hold your head high anymore. Who has the nerve to destroy their hometown and brazenly walk down the path of victory?!”
“And I’m sure you’re broken too. As bad as Henry Reville. Soon, everyone will understand. That Ian Kerner didn’t really protect anything.”
At that moment, Ian’s body hardened. Contrary to what Ian had just said, ‘There is no need to deal with such a low-class person’, he seemed agitated by Joshua’s words. He hugged her tighter.
She felt weird. Ian seemed to have been hurt by Joshua’s bullsh!t. He was holding her with as much force as she clung to him, as if she was the only treasure he had rescued from the ruins. Like he was afraid she would slip away.
Ian Kerner did not dispute his childish accusations. It made sense, but she was frustrated. Rosen wanted to shout at Joshua over his bullsh!t on Ian’s behalf. She was better than Ian in petty quarrels. And if she had been in a good position, she would have done so.
She whispered into Ian’s ear.
“You care, do you? People like that think they’re the most pitiful people in the world. That’s why they go around blaming people when they drink.”
“Even Hindley thought he was the most pitiful person in the world. I comforted him when he was drunk. Funny, right?
As expected, she had no talent for comforting people. The words that came out of her mouth were probably hurtful for him to hear. He looked at her quietly, and began to walk again.
Ian sometimes touched her so gently. It was a different feeling from being scoured with a sticky hand. He sometimes treated her like she was a girl of Layla’s age.
It wasn’t very good for her. But at this moment, she thought it was fortunate. She didn’t know if such a handsome person needed comfort, but she knew most people needed something to hug at times.
Ian Kerner was a man without a lover, let alone a fiancée, and had grown too big to hug his parents or play. She remembered her childhood days when she had nothing to hold and hugged a pillar. Even though she was a skinny, cold prisoner, she longed to be hugged by something, anything. She was a human after all. A person like him, with blood pumping through her veins and warmth.
“I heard he ran away earlier, is he a b*stard deserter?”
“He’s the son of a general. He fled to Talas and returned after the war.”
“He is a cowardly traitor. But will the military leave him alone? Aren’t they going to shoot him?”
“I told you, he is the son of a general.”
Rosen immediately understood his meaning.
‘What a rotten world!’
“Why do you care about what he says?”
After a moment, an answer came back. His voice was hoarse.
“Because he’s not wrong.”
It was only then that Rosen realized that he hadn’t let Joshua’s words slip from his mind. She was speechless for a moment and even forgot her plight of having to betray him. She knew it wasn’t for her to say, but…
“You should have hit him more.”
“If you weren’t there, I probably would have.”
“It’s just jealousy. You are good-looking, have acquired a lot of renown, and have a high rank. You’re not even a general’s son.”
“It’s not that he’s jealous, it’s that he hates me.”
“No one deserves to hate you. At least not in this Empire. The whole Empire hates me, but you are a hero.”
There are things in the world that are unavoidable. We always have to make a choice. That was a fact that she was well aware of as she never stepped across the threshold of a school and couldn’t read a single character. There is no one who can keep everything and no one who can achieve everything. The same went for Ian Kerner.
Because he was just a human. And he made the right choice. Henry was right.
“…Don’t talk like that, Rosen Haworth.”
It was a pity that their intellectual levels were so different that they sometimes couldn’t understand each other, like now. What was he telling her not to say? Was he saying not to call him a hero? But he was a hero.
Or was it that the whole Empire hated her? But that was an obvious fact.
He added a few words rather hastily after she became quiet, as if he wanted to explain something.
“You don’t believe that there are people who hate me, but I don’t know why you believe so adamantly that everyone in the world hates you.”
‘Because I’m not a fool.’
She was sensible enough to be able to distinguish between empty words and sincerity.
“Who in the Empire likes me?”
“There are people.”
“Have you seen such a person?”
“Yeah, I saw it myself.”
She asked, smirking and fiddling with his hair. She didn’t know why their conversation had shifted to such an uninteresting topic. It was not that important at all. She asked bluntly.
“You said you didn’t hate me either. Then… do you like me?”
“See? You can’t answer, can you?”
Ian set her down as gently as he had lifted her up. They were back in the corner full of kegs. The ship was very noisy as the fireworks display was being prepared, the highlight of the Walpurgis Festival.
Thanks to this, no one came to the corner of the deck, where kegs blocked the view. It was a good place to hide.
“Let’s go back. You’re very drunk, and we’ve been out too long.”
She was wondering when he would put his foot down. She grinned and pointed towards the direction they came.
“Let’s just watch the fireworks. That’s okay, right? There’s no one here.”
Time was running out. Watching the fireworks gave her enough time to find another excuse. She already knew he would allow it. As Ian said, he had already done her too many favors. It was too late to act the way he did when they first met.
Again, Ian nodded his head. This time he didn’t even resist.
She sat down on the cold deck. It was only after she sat down that she realized she was wearing an expensive dress.
“Oh right. sorry. This must be expensive…”
“Just sit down.”
Rosen glanced at him and tried to get up, but Ian took off his coat. He spread half of his coat on the floor like a blanket, and draped the rest around her shoulders. She felt like a princess, so she smiled excitedly.
“You always look cold. So I gave it to you.”
The sound of the music stopped for a moment, as if the fireworks were ready to be launched. There was a commotion on the second-floor deck, and the first firecrackers finally went up in the sky with the sound of a whistle breaking through the air. Shouts and cheers filled the ship.
“It must be expensive, right? Rich people throw money into the sky unnecessarily.”
“But it’s still pretty.”
Speaking nonsense, she suddenly felt his hand clasping hers. She turned and looked at Ian. And she stiffened.
Fireworks exploded. A light flashed across Ian Kerner’s face and then disappeared.
His hands and lips trembled slightly whenever there was a bang. He raised his hands to cover his ears with stiff movements. His breathing became increasingly rough.
‘Oh my god.’
Desperately hiding his expression, he pushed her away, but it was already too late. She had already discovered his secret.
He was out of breath. Fireballs cut through the air and spread in the sky.
What did that beautiful flame look like to him now, that he couldn’t even breathe?
He revealed to her a secret that should not have been revealed to anyone. Least of all to her. She remembered what Henry once said.
– Does it make sense that Ian Kerner is sick? If so, what’s left of the Empire? There was no point in winning.
And she realized once more. At this moment, how cruel the belief that was being forced on Ian Kerner, who was neither a pilot nor a hero.
She didn’t know what to do and called out his name. At this moment, no one was with him.
Only a humble prisoner who couldn’t do anything for him.