While they were fretting, they arrived at the waste incineration plant.
Ryan tossed the bag roughly into the waste pile.


 

Another flame was burning on the other side of the incineration site.
It seemed to be burning the corpses of enemy troops.
Smoke rose in the sky that was getting darker by the second.

 

Annette, who had been staring at the smoke, opened her mouth.

 

“I don’t really know how to say this, but—I—there are people I would like to ask forgiveness from.”

 

“Forgiveness? For whom?”

 

“I don’t know who or even how many people …… and that’s why I’m here.
Atonement— I think.

It’s the only thing I can do.
I am someone who has nothing more to give.”

 

Annette laughed bitterly and dropped her head.

 

“I’m trying to stay on the front lines because, yes, it makes me feel a little less guilty.”

 

It was a feeling she was putting out for the first time.
Even she herself realized a decent reason only after speaking out of turn.

 

Perhaps she didn’t know if she needed someone to say this to.

 

“Atonement for your father?”

 

“…… not necessarily.”

 

“Then Annette has done enough.
Everyone here thinks you’re amazing.”

 

“You don’t need to comfort me.”

 

“It’s not comforting, it’s true.”

 

Ryan mumbled, but Annette listened with one ear and let it out in the other.
Suddenly he stopped walking back to the barracks.
Annette couldn’t help but stop with him.

 

“When the shells were pouring down here so thickly.”

 

He looked down at Annette with a serious look on his face and spoke.


 

“While we were all face down on the ground—you ran out to another broken barracks and brought first aid and bandages.
As you bandaged up James, who had a gunshot wound, you told him he was going to be okay the whole time.”

 

“…The man eventually died.”

 

“Many people lived with the items you brought.”

 

Annette looked troubled without reply.
Ryan raised the corners of his lips and smiled.
The impression that had seemed grim softened somewhat.

 

“I am a person who has always done what I was told, so I am ignorant of what goes on in the world.
I had only vaguely heard of Annette, so I don’t know exactly what you were like off the battlefield.”

 

“…”

 

 “At least here Annette is a really nice person.
It’s not empty words when I say people think you’re great.”

 

Her eyes warmed a little.
Annette gave a small smile on her lips.
She was speechless.

 

“So you don’t have to beat yourself up about it.”

 

It had been a really, really long time since……… she had heard those words.

 

 “…thank you.
For saying that.”

 

She barely whispered.
The sun had set completely beyond the horizon.
The ground sank into darkness.

 

***

 

The nurses sat gathered in their tents and made nursing supplies such as splints and triangular cloths.
They talked about this and that to relieve the boredom.

 

Annette sat in the far corner, her hands moving silently, unmixed like oil in the sea.

 

“I heard Haley’s fiancé got a letter of return?”

 

“Yes, I’m going home soon, too.”

 

 “So you’re getting married as soon as you get back?”


 

“Probably.
…….”

 

Haley replied shyly.
She giggled and said, “It has been a good time.”

 

“You must get the proposal right and get married.
I got married for goodness sake, and how disappointed I will always be.”

 

“Still, the ring is very beautiful.
It looks like your husband chose it with care.”

 

“…He did say that he did.”

 

She pretended to be casual, but could not hide her proud smile.

 

Annette, who had been quietly listening to their conversation, suddenly looked at her left ring finger.
Only the part where the ring had been worn for a long time was particularly smooth and pale.

 

During the conversation, a nurse came into the tent.
She handed out additional materials to each of them.

 

“Excuse me, please take these.”

 

 “Oh, there’s no end to it.”

 

“There’s still a mountain of stuff left over there, and if we don’t do it when we have a little bit of time…”

 

The nurse replied, turning her head as she held a full load of material.
Just as she reached Annette’s seat, several items fell off her arms.

 

Annette hastily raised her hand to catch them.
At the same time, she felt her left arm catch somewhere and heard the sound of fabric tearing.

 

Instantly Annette’s arm froze in the air.
The items not yet caught fell onto the table and the floor.
Annette raised her arm in a daze and checked the torn area.

 

The sleeve of her left arm was torn all the way to the end and tattered, apparently it was caught on a piece of the table’s grain that had cracked and stuck out.

 

It was only a short commotion, but the air around her became more delicate.
She tried to turn her head, but a step later she became aware of the scar on her wrist.

 

Annette hastily lowered her arm.
But already the nurses’ faces were rigid.
Only the few who had not seen her wrists were curiously looking at them.

 

In the awkward silence, someone began to speak.

 


“Your clothes are torn.
Are you hurt anywhere?”

 

“Yes.
Was there a sharp spot……….”

 

 “What can I do? Do you want me to sew you up?”

 

“Yes, she has really good sewing skills.”

 

They pretended to be unconcerned about her scars.
However, it was difficult for Annette to respond naturally.

 

“No, I’m fine.”

 

The nurses slurred their words “oh…” in response to the firm answer…….
Annette picked up the fallen items and placed them on the table, then bowed her head and continued her work.

 

However, the subtle atmosphere remained the same.
After they had been looking at each other for a while, they deliberately started talking about a different subject.

 

“Ah, did you hear the news that the president of Balichen has dissolved all the other parties?”

 

“Yes, I did.
From what I’ve heard, he’s pretty good at what he does, but he’s very particular about his abilities……….”

 

“Not that his abilities are good, but that he is just a very good talker.”

 

Annette kept her head down and quietly focused on her work.
Unlike before, the nurses’ stories did not reach her ears.

 

In fact, it wasn’t something she had to hide.
It had long been reported in newspapers and magazines that she had attempted suicide.

 

However, she felt a strange and intense sense of rejection and embarrassment.
Even if everyone outside knew what kind of person she was, this was the one place she did not want to be discovered.
Even if it meant living with her eyes closed and ears covered, she wanted to be a normal person here.

 

‘This place…… Is it because it feels separated from the real world?’

 

The frontline was the place where the reality of life and death was most closely connected.
Paradoxically, it was also, therefore, the most unrealistic place.

 

Suddenly, her left hand lost its strength.
She managed to grab the cloth again just before she let go.

Annette took a slow breath and then continued to move her hands.


 

***

 

It was early morning as the sun began to rise over the horizon.
It was in the middle of a troop change and was busy with vehicles and people coming and going.

 

Ryan, who was on standby, said he would soon move to the rear.
He persistently encouraged Annette to move with him, but she finally refused.

 

Annette, who was carrying her  supplies, suddenly looked into the void.
The air was white and cold, as if she could reach out and touch a piece of ice.

 

The weather still hadn’t warmed up, even though it was past the middle of winter.
It had been a really bad winter.
Even more so when she looked back at how many boxes were left during the war.

 

A chill enveloped her shoulders.
Annette moved her feet with her upper body slightly shriveled.
She was about to enter the treatment barracks when suddenly someone stopped her.

 

“Miss Rosenberg!”

 

Annette flinched and stopped.
She instantly felt a chill up her spine.

 

She stiffened on the spot and only her eyes were moving.
Miss Rosenberg.
The name sounded extremely strange and bizarre.

 

Normally, here they called her by her title or name.
Adding a title after a family name was something that was done only in the outside world.

 

Moreover, the family name “Rosenberg” was like a stigma to her.
She had never been called by that name here.

 

“Miss Rosenberg, is that correct?”

 

Annette slowly turned around.
A man wearing round-rimmed glasses and carrying a notebook and pen approached her with a friendly face.

 

From all appearances, he was definitely a reporter.

 

“Pleased to meet you, Miss Rosenberg.
My name is Zeke Arnaud, editor-in-chief of Free Gene.”

 

“…”

 

“I am here to meet and talk with you as I have heard that Miss Rosenberg is a military nurse on the frontline.
May I have a moment of your time?”

 

The man raised his lips and smiled smoothly.

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