Heiner wondered if he was dreaming now.
His fantasy must have gone too far and affected his reality.


 

While he stood there in a daze, she was getting closer before he knew it.

 

Annette stopped two steps away.
Her emerald blue eyes were completely filled with him.
Heiner’s eyes blinked erratically like a broken toy.

 

A gentle voice with a slightly higher tone entered his ears.

 

“Are you all right, sir? You’ve been standing so still for so long…………”

 

He was too nervous to hear her words clearly.
Heiner was too transfixed, only looking at her lips.
Annette asked again.

 

“Um—is there something wrong? Do you need help?”

 

Those words belatedly brought Heiner to his senses.
He put his hand involuntarily over his trembling lips and slowly shook his head as he replied.

 

“No, I’m fine.
I was lost in thought for a moment….”

 

 “Oh, I interrupted you, didn’t I?”

 

“No, it’s fine.”

 

Annette smiled, as if it was fortunate.
Unable to take his eyes off her face, Heiner couldn’t help but smile along with her.

 

“Are you a guest of my father’s?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Are you a soldier?”

 

“Do you know me ……?”

 

“No, I thought I did.”

 

“Oh.”

 

Not knowing how to interpret Annette’s words, Heiner just smiled.
It was obvious that his smile was unnatural, but it couldn’t be helped.

 

He drew and re-drew countless scenes of meeting her, but the moment he actually faced her, his mind went blank.
Heiner managed to open his mouth without direction to continue the conversation.

 

“I’m …….”

 

I have been overseas for a long time for operations and am about to be officially appointed.
I had visited the Rosenberg residence many times before.

 


You don’t know me, but I have actually known about you for a long time.

 

“Father!” (A)

 

Heinerlost his train of thought.
Annette looked behind him and waved at the Marquis.
Heiner looked back a step later.

 

“Why did you come so late?” (Annette to the Marquis)

 

 “Not that late.” (Marquis)

 

“You drank too much again yesterday, didn’t you? I told you not to drink any more alcohol.” (A)

 

Annette bruised the Marquis with a worried voice.
At first glance, the father and daughter had a close relationship.

 

“The only daughter I have is nagging me every day…… more importantly, when did the two of you meet again?”

 

“I just met him.
It seems he  was taking a walk in the garden.”

 

Their gazes turned to Heiner.
Heiner, who had been stiff for a while at the intimacy between the Marquis and Annette, turned his head stiffly.

 

“I was going to meet this girl in the garden, but I forgot.
So I came out  in a rush.
That’s why I’m dressed like this…Excuse me, haha.”

 

The marquis said with a chuckle.

 

“Is this the first time you two have seen each other? Annette, this is Mr.
Heiner Valdemar… soon to be Lt.
Heiner.
Valdemar, this is my daughter Annette.”

 

“…… Yes, it’s a real pleasure to meet you………….
It’s an honor.”

 

Heiner could not speak well, as if his tongue was frozen.
Heiner hid his trembling hands behind his back.
His heart thumped erratically.

 

Annette was the only daughter of Marquis Dietrich.
The two were inseparable by blood, and the marquis was famous for loving his daughter.
It was only natural that they should be close.

 

‘But, why on earth do I have this feeling………..’

 

“You look very young, but are you already going to be a lieutenant?”

 

“Valdemar made a big contribution in a operation.
He was the only one came back alive from Munich operation this time.”


 

“Ah..! That’s him! My father told me.
You’re really amazing.”

 

Annette clapped her hands and looked up at Heiner with sparkling eyes.
Heiner felt the urge to run away from those beautiful eyes.

 

He opened his mouth reluctantly, despite the fact that he knew he shouldn’t speak carelessly.

 

“Yeah…just me, I’m the only one who made it back alive.
All of my friends were in the operation …”

 

Like an idiot, he couldn’t speak well.
He couldn’t count the number of times he had acted as a spy, and yet he could never quite control his own emotions at this moment.

 

“Yes.
The people who gave their lives for the country.
My heart goes out to them.”

 

Annette looked not at all mournful, and said so as if their sacrifice was natural.

 

“By the way, when will your ceremony be?”

 

For an instant, time stopped.

 

Heiner’s eyes widened slightly and his lips twitched.
His mouth was now completely dry.
The Marquis laughed and talked with Annette.

 

The air around them felt cold and somber.
Heiner’s legs were barely tied, as he kept trying to get out of the place.

 

“Sometimes… in the future.”

 

 

“Okay…… I will be sure to attend….”

 

He couldn’t remember the details of how he answered the Marquis’ question or what he had promised Annette.
Everything just flowed absentmindedly.

 

“Then, congratulations on your appointment in advance.
See you next time the opportunity arises.”

 

Annette greeted him with her eyes and her characteristic good-natured, innocent smile.
Heiner bowed his head slightly.

 

When he looked up again, the Marquis and Annette had already turned their backs.

 


She chuckled and crossed her arms over the Marquis’s.
When they were a short distance away, Heiner stepped back.

 

The time that had stopped began to flow again.

 

Two, three steps and he staggered backwards like a man who had been shot.
Immediately, Heiner turned around and started walking somewhere.

 

The area was full of blooming roses.
He looked at them as if they were hideous corpses.
The thick scent of roses enveloped him and kept him away.

 

Where his feet unconsciously touched was a bench positioned among the overgrown vines.
It was also where he first discovered the sound of her piano.

 

Heiner sat down on the bench and exhaled roughly.
His large back moved unsteadily.

 

He often experienced breathing difficulties, but this was the first time it had happened in a place that was neither enclosed nor dark.

 

Trapped in the dangerous breathing, Heiner coughed.
It was painful, like a stab in the chest.

 

He knew it was not the woman’s  fault.

 

She was just born so precious, only no one had told her these things.

 

If she knew, she would think something was wrong with the world, she would feel sorry, she would be angry.

 

Because that woman’s soul would be as noble and pure as her music…

 

Ha!

 

A guttural laugh erupted mixed with hard cough.
Heiner gasped and mocked himself madly.

 

Noble?

 

Pure?

 

Who the hell was that?

 

He must have been separating Annette from Marquis Dietrich in a part of his mind all along.

 

He thought of her as neither the daughter of the Marquis nor a noblewoman, but as a more sacred and holy, religious being.

 

It was funny.

 

Annette Rosenberg was no saint.
She was not the kind of person who could sympathize with pain, sorry for the sufferings, or outrage at the unfairness.

 

It was all his own delusion and projection.

 


Everything he had about the woman was an illusion.
It was literally nothing more than a fantasy.
He could tell just by talking to her for the first time.

 

Her demeanor, her words, her tone, her eyes, her actions, her facial expressions …everything…clearly indicated that every thought he had was an illusion.

 

Her voice was mixed in between choking breaths.

 

“Yes.
The people who gave their lives for the country.
My heart goes out to them.”

 

At least she shouldn’t say that.
She shouldn’t say it like that.

 

What other things could make her happier than playing her favorite piano? How many sacrifices were made for her father’s position?

 

“By the way, when will your ceremony be?”

 

 

If she was that kind of person–

 

Why had he had to go through all that pain for such a person?

 

What would he be to come back alive for someone like that?

 

What would become of him who was buried in so much blood to live?

 

His life… for what on earth—

 

Heiner let out a final cough.
His breathing slowly regained stability.
But his bent body still trembled faintly.

 

His lips moved slightly.

 

Annette Rosenberg.

 

Emotions that had been repeated endlessly in the solitary cell of the interrogation center were revived.

 

Missing, longing, resenting, hating, missing, longing, hating, resenting………… his mind, deformed from the start, was terribly warped.

 

Heiner heard the sounds of what had been inside him breaking and distorting.
Deeply rooted, they changed shape on their own and stabbed inside.
He repeated it again.

 

Annette Rosenberg.

 

The name, once pronounced as if in fervent prayer, came out broken at the edges.

 

Before he knew it, his breathing had completely returned to normal.
The hand that had been gripping his throat dropped away, and his back, which had been hunched over, straightened.

 

Heiner’s gray eyes were dark and sunken like a fish crawling on the bottom of deep water.

 

A long, gentle breeze flowed over, as it had at that time.
But there was no longer a piano melody in it.

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