Annette nodded her head.
As her father said, criminals always said they had committed no crimes.


 

Having come to the conclusion that it was no big deal, she stood in front of her parents and the photographer.
A happy smile was all over her face.

 

“I’m taking the pictures! One, two, three.”

 

The shutter speed was slow, so Annette had to remain still for quite some time.
While she was pouring her heart and soul into a beautiful smile, the commotion that had occurred in front of the concert hall disappeared from her mind.

 

“Mom, I’m going to rest for a minute.
My head hurts from the smell of the flowers.”

 

 “The dean should be here soon.
Go back quickly.”

 

Annette went to the window to catch her breath for a moment as the crowd that filled the surrounding area gradually diminished.
Her heart was pounding from the tension that had not subsided and the excitement she felt immediately after the performance.

 

Annette let out a long breath and touched the window pane.
As she casually looked out without much thought, something caught her gaze. 

 

In front of the door of the concert hall, two strong men were struggling to drag out a woman.The brown-haired woman held onto a lamppost, unwilling to move.

 

That seemed to be the commotion her father had mentioned.
Annette studied the woman with a faint frown.
From the second-floor window, she could see the  situation at the entrance quite closely.

 

“….!”

 

The screaming sound could be heard even through the closed windows.
After several jostles, one of the woman’s arms fell from the lamppost.

 

It was not difficult to pull her away who had lost her strength.
Then the woman whose arms had been grabbed was dragged out.

 

She struggled and resisted to the end.
Her face, scorched with anger, regret, and despair, turned to the second floor window.
Annette involuntarily took a step back.

 

Oh, that face.

 

A feeling of horror and discomfort, for reasons unknown, crept up her legs.
It was as if she had seen the bottom of the human race.
Annette shook off the afterimage with misery.

 

Suddenly, someone grabbed  Annette by her shoulder.
Startled, she spun around.

 

“Ah!”

 

Ansgar was smiling as he raised his hands in surrender.
His eyes were squinted as he spoke teasingly.

 

“What, why are you so surprised? Were you having strange thoughts?”

 

“Strange thoughts……….! It’s because you caught me so suddenly.”


 

“Sorry, sorry.
By the way, why is the main character here instead of mingling?”

 

 “Oh, I just saw a commotion outside.”

 

“Commotion? What happened? It is not a big deal, is it?”

 

“No, just a person who was displeased with the trial……”

 

Annette looked back, stretching her words.
The woman had already been taken away.
It had been peaceful outside for some time.

 

Annette turned her head again and said monotonously.

 

“…They were making a fuss.”

 

***

 

The woman in her memory and the expressionless face in front of her overlapped.

 

Annette slowly lowered the hand that was covering her mouth.
Her throat was tight.
She reached for her teacup, but it was shaking so badly that it made a loud rattling sound.

 

“My brother was shot the next morning.
There was no appeal.
Because it wasn’t a trial in the first place.” [C]

 

Annette was barely quenched, and it tasted nothing.

 

“When I heard the news of the fall of the royal family, I had high hopes.
I hoped that the man would apologize properly and receive the appropriate punishment.
But the next morning the news of the death of the Marquis was in the paper….
He was killed immediately after a gunshot by the revolutionary troops at his mansion—well, that was how it ended.
Without a word of apology.” [C] (*Remember, Catherine has two brothers, James who died back then, and David who shot Annette)

 

The more Catherine continued to speak, the more disgusted Annette’s face became.
It was an emotional face that seemed to crack when touched.

 

Annette struggled to swallow  a groan.
Somewhere in her head she could hear her ears ringing and Catherine’s voice overlapping.

 

“I am not asking for leniency or agreement.
I know there are situations where violence is the only language, but this was not one of those situations.
My brother committed terrible things against the madam.
I have nothing to say on that point.
My brother must be punished.” [C] 

 

“…”

 

“But I just—I wanted to tell you once.
I wanted you to know how my other brother died.” [C]

 

Catherine dropped her gaze for a moment then looked at Annette.
Her dry voice flowed out quietly.

 


“Is ignorance a sin? Can I really blame you for this? I still could not come up with an answer.
Maybe I will never find the answer.
So I am not saying this because I think the madam is guilty.” [C]

 

“….”

 

“This is all I have to say.
I have no more personal feelings than this.
I express my sincere regrets for what has happened to you.
Please accept my best wishes for a speedy recovery of your body and mind.
……Then.”

 

Catherine stood up after a short silent bow.
The thudding of her shoes echoed across the  floor.
Annette was still not breathing.

 

“Annette!”

 

Why did she have to hear this story?

 

“We must run away!”

 

Why did she do it?

 

“We have to run, now!”

 

Why was she telling this story…?

 

Catherine reached the door and grabbed the handle.
The cold metal felt on her skin.The moment she tried to turn the doorknob.

 

“I’m sorry.
……” (A)

 

Catherine’s movements came to a halt at the faintly flowing words.

 

“Sorry……….” (A)

 

Her choked voice cracked into a mumble.
Annette stopped talking for a moment and bowed her head.
Her knuckles turned white as she gripped the hem of her skirt.

 

“I’m really sorry.
……….” (A)

 

Dropped tears left wet marks on her dress.

 

“I’m sorry.
……” (A)

 

Annette repeated the words through her tears.
She didn’t know what else to say.
All she could do was repeat the apology like a malfunctioning machine.

 

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.
……” (A)



 

Catherine turned her head and looked at Annette.
Her face was seemingly numb, but there was an old sadness hovering over it.

 

“…… I see.”

 

Catherine murmured quietly as Annette’s sobbing slowly subsided.

 

“I wanted to hear that from someone.” [C]

 

***

 

She once told Heiner.

 

“All the newspapers were saying that all the remnants of the dictatorship must be destroyed.
I am not sure what part of me must be destroyed, but you may do so if you wish.”

 

Those were just words of resignation.
She didn’t say it because she really understood them, felt guilty, or wanted to apologize.

 

In retrospect, she never once tried to understand them.
She never even thought she should understand them.

 

There has to be a shared point in life for people to understand others.

 

Annette saw no such point in her life with the revolutionary forces.
Even though she was currently entangled with them, it was not of the “shared” kind because it was something she did not know.

 

“There was your piano concert that day.”

 

But at the completely opposite point, they had shared a moment in their lives.

 

Annette still did not understand Catherine’s life.
She couldn’t even dare to say she understood.
It was arrogance and deception.

 

A noble with a royal bloodline and a commoner.

 

A highly educated woman dreamed of becoming a pianist, and a woman selling fruit on the market floor.

 

The family of a military commander who had captured and executed revolutionary troops.

 

Even if she tried to fit the pieces of the past together for the rest of her life, Annette would never be able to understand them all.

 

It was an unchangeable fact, diverged from the footprints already lived.

 

The only reason she was willing to listen to her story was to face the past.

 

To know and to judge.


 

To understand.

 

Even if it hurt her…

 

A blanket of cloud retreated, revealing the afternoon sun and brightening the parlor.

 

Perhaps deep down inside, she knew.
That the moment she came to understand them, even a little, there was really nothing that could be undone.

 

Annette cried for a long time in the empty room.

 

***

 

Annette sorted through her belongings and took out the account books and documents from the safe.
They were documents related to donations and sponsorships of civic organizations.

 

She prepared the final financial statements and then organized them for easy viewing by the person in charge.
The work was soon done, as it had been steadily prepared for quite some time.

 

Annette took out a sheet of paper and wrote a letter of mercy for David Buckel.

 

Then, just in time for Heiner to leave for work, she went to his office.

 

Although it was a little past his working time, Heiner was still working.
When Annette entered his office, Heiner noticed her footsteps and raised his head.

 

“…… madam.”

 

He was different from how he usually didn’t even take his eyes off the papers, but Annette didn’t bother to think too much about it.

 

She approached the desk and held out a piece of paper.
Heiner’s brow furrowed.

 

“What is it?”

 

“It’s a letter of mercy.”

 

“Why did you write this?”

 

“Because it’s my right.”

 

“You don’t have to write it.
What did Catherine say to you?”

 

“Heiner, this is my right.”

 

“…”

 

“It is my choice.”

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