*Click For Audio Drama*
Winter soon passed, then spring came and went like a breeze…
Now the time for summer has arrived once more. The war had eventually come to an end with the Northern Union coming out as victorious, however, both sides suffered enormous casualties during the war. Whatever advantage both sides had gained from the war was nothing compared to the losses they had suffered in the end. The citizens could only comfort themselves by thinking that their friends and loved ones died fighting for what they believed was right.
A single golden tower was erected as the symbol of victory that would mark the end of such a historic war.
“What is the use of such honor in the face of sorrow?” A noble lady lamented as the procession of returning soldiers ensued. Many family members had come to greet their long separated relatives, finally reuniting with them once again. Still, messages of condolences and fond stories were exchanged here and there for the families who had forever lost their loved ones. Amidst the many questions that were asked at the moment, the most prominent was…
“Who would succeed the Herhardt Family?”
Any recent mention of the late Duke would often lead to the issue of his succession. The topic was both considered taboo and intriguing for everyone who had visited the Herhardt Matriarchs to give their condolences. Without a successor left behind after the Duke’s passing, his loyal followers had taken to vaguely answering any questions regarding succession, not willing to reveal any future plans. As much as they had wanted to proceed with choosing a fitting successor, the current figurehead of the family, Elysee von Herhardt, refused to choose until her son’s body was returned and buried in their home estate.
Until then, the seat of the Duke would remain vacant for the foreseeable future.
“They shouldn’t delay deciding for the successor of the Duke for far too long. If he had only married Lady Brandt the year before last then this tragedy wouldn’t have happened.”
“Marriage doesn’t guarantee that Lady Claudine will have a son though. Alas, they are still a very prestigious family in the end.”
“I guess that’s true.” Everyone either agreed or disagreed with various stories regarding the issue.
“Although I guess it’s also a relief for the Brandts, if their lady had gotten married in a hurry before the Duke participated in the war, he would have made their daughter a widow.”
“How’s Claudine doing?”
“I heard she’s going to have a new engagement soon”.”
“There’s no reason for her to delay when the engagement with Herhardt Family has been nullified anyway. Count Brandt must have been very diligent to be able to find a pretty good marriage so quickly.”
“No matter how good the marriage candidate is, he couldn’t be better than the Herhardt Family’s heir. I felt so sorry for Claudine and Count Brandt when I heard the news about the annulled engagement.”
Multiple individuals exchanged their opinions with a feeling of compassion and relief. Suddenly, enthusiastic cheers began to resonate from the other side of the street.
Before long, their lost husbands, sons, and lovers were finally able to march their way back home.
The park currently felt desolate and empty since the people of the whole city had gone to greet the returning army. Thanks to this, Leyla was able to enjoy a leisurely walk more than usual. The sound of light footsteps walking slowly with the sound of the wheel rolling of the stroller, and the sound of the wind shaking fresh leaves harmonized like music in her ears. As she left the street lined with trees, she raised the shade of the stroller that casted a shadow over her sleeping child. The child, who was born smaller than normal, now grew up well and healthy, and the days where she was filled with worry had long passed. He was such a blessed child because he didn’t catch any illness even once and had a gentle personality.
Leyla continued walking and deliberately chose the way around the boulevard. The sound of footsteps continued along the quiet road. She was not confident, nor up to the task of seeing the returning army. Still in deep denial that Matthias wasn’t going to return to her side in the end, she became more unwilling to go greet the soldiers marching back home to Berg.
“The weather is so nice today, right?” She whispered to his sleeping son for no reason. Her breath gently moved the child’s soft hair. “Mom likes summer.”
She shared offhandedly, before looking down at her baby. “How about you? Well, I guess you still don’t know autumn yet.” She hummed thoughtfully, a rueful smile showing on her lips, before her smile began trembling due to sorrow.
Not even the child in her arms could stop the deep loneliness festering inside her.
She continued talking quietly to her child who was sleeping soundly, when suddenly, she finally realized that the residential area where their house was located was now in front of her after looking around. The house, which Matthias had decided for them to stay temporarily until he returned, had now become her and her child’s home. The Herhardt Family’s lawyer and butler tried to fulfill everything that the Duke promised to become a reality, allowing Leyla and their child to live a stable life.
The days she’d had since then had been peaceful.
In the end, these boring days will continue in the future, because he was not here anymore.
He was never coming back.
Realizing the depression trying to flow inside her heart once more, Leyla hurriedly walked as if running away from the feeling she had long hated. In the end, it didn’t take a long time before the sadness disappeared once again like a bad dream, and she finally realized her shoelace had already been untied.
With a small sigh, she leaned down and began to tie the loosened string. As soon as she was about to tie a knot, unexpected memories came inside her mind like a raging flood.
A day she once spent together with Matthias in a strange city, where everything was so bizarre. His image kneeling in front of her as he tied her loose shoelace came to her mind as if it happened just now.
His quiet blue eyes…
The warmth of his long fingers….
The texture of the shoes she wore….
and the neat knot he tied that would shake along every step she took….
As the memory became clearer in her mind, her eyes became blurry with tears once more. She didn’t wipe the tears away, but let it fall freely from her eyes as he cried her sorrow out until nothing but numbness was left once more.
After catching her breath, Leyla hurriedly finished tying up her shoelaces and stood up. Breathing in deeply, she gripped the handle of the stroller and began to walk again, feeling lighter and more determined than a while ago.
Just as she arrived at the front of her house, the redness in her eyes now barely noticeable, she noticed a tall man donning a military uniform standing at the front of her door.
Her breath hitched, and heart stuttered.
The man slowly turned around, and although Leyla beamed at the sight of him, the excitement inside her died down a little upon the realization that it wasn’t the person who she was waiting for.
Still, she couldn’t help but to smile once again upon seeing him return home.
“Kyle!” She greeted warmly, before the sleeping child fussed and opened his eyes upon the commotion.
Kyle stayed inside the sunny living room together with Leyla’s child as she diligently prepared tea in the kitchen. The baby did not cry in front of him, but despite Leyla’s assurances that he was a gentle child, Kyle felt a little skeptical.
He would have believed her, if it wasn’t for the way the baby was looking at him. Almost like in a distasteful manner, the child seemed uncomfortable at the mere sight of him. It was a bit jarring to Kyle too, to see such a familiar face in a younger human being, but he still smiled and cooed at the child to the best of his abilities.
“What’s his name?” Kyle asked Leyla with a grin, who had just arrived with the tea as he bounced the baby on his lap.
“Felix.” Leyla answered with a sullen smile. Kyle handed the baby back to her, as she hugged the child and sat opposite of him.
The two exchanged some mundane conversations with each other, with a friend who they felt that they hadn’t met in a long time. Wars, in some way, had its way of making time stretch longer than they actually were after all. Kyle smiled at the fact that he was able to face Leyla now in a comfortable manner.
“It’s a great relief to see you home safely.” Leyla told him with a smile.
“You too.” Kyle, who quietly put down the teacup, also looked at her with a smile.
“I’m so glad that you have recovered your health and that you gave birth to a healthy child.”
“It means we kept our promise to each other.” Leyla beamed at him widely.
“I know.” Kyle’s voice dropped to a whisper as his eyes turned a little red due to the memory of last autumn that he remembered due to Leyla’s words.
Originally he received a vacation certificate and planned to visit her, but it was canceled due to a sudden change in the permit. Leyla, who had not fully recovered and just gave birth, was going to be alone with her child. Kyle wanted to stay with her but she assured him that she was going to be fine alone with a bright smile.
That day, he promised he would return as he said his goodbye. He left and was assigned to a military hospital on the border.
“Let’s meet again in good health.”
The moment he held her hand, Kyle finally burst into tears that he couldn’t hold back. She comforted him until he cried his tears dry. She told him he needed to hold his luggage tightly, to be brave. He knew her slender back was also shaking, but Kyle decided to pretend that he didn’t notice. That was how the two of them bid farewell to each other.
“Are the Duchesses of Herhardt aware about Felix’ existence?” Kyle, who was looking at the child laughing in his mother’s arms, asked worriedly. Leyla shook her head, determination in her eyes.
“Are you going to be fine? Raising the child on your own?”
“I’ll wait until he comes back.” She answered him resolutely.
He was a little taken aback by her answer, before nervously wiping his hands on his lap. “Leyla-“
“He promised. He made a promise to me.” She snapped almost immediately, cutting off anything he had to say. She then patted the child’s head, before laughing suddenly.
“He promised he’ll be back. So, I will wait.”
“Leyla…that person…” Kyle continued softly, before trailing off as he watched her eyes begin to be filled with tears.
“I know. I know, Kyle….” Her watery eyes glistened with tears, but Leyla did not lose her smile. “…But I still want to wait. I thought he’d definitely come if I waited. I know it doesn’t make sense, but I will still wait.”
‘What should I do with this fool waiting for a man who has already died?’ Kyle stared at Leyla with an indescribable look.
He personally went to the place where Matthias was last seen. He braved the terrible battlefield himself when they realized the Duke hadn’t returned only to see the walls had all been turned to rubble and dust. It smelt like a day-old tomb as allies and enemies alike were strewn about just anywhere.
Almost everyone was wiped out.
Still, Kyle kept going because he was a medic, they needed to see if there were still survivors that they could save. Had he been anywhere other than the field hospital and was transporting critical patients during the raid, he would have become part of the casualties in the end.
There was a lot that he wanted to say to Leyla, to make her understand, but he chose to keep his silence instead. They changed the subject and talked about typical everyday stories once again, but Kyle and Leyla knew that it could never be the same as before. When they realized that, they felt more comfortable with each other. With the war over, recovery from the trauma they had garnered during the war was their greatest concern.
Leyla needed this time to recover most of all.
He clapped his hands, and gave her a smile. “Well, I need to get going. My train’s almost here.” Kyle informed them before he stood up and gathered his things.
“You’re going back to Carlsbar, right?”
“Yes. I’m going to stay with my parents until I return to school.”
“Take care, Leyla.” He said with great wishes and concern, before winking at the baby. “Felix, take care too.” Kyle smiled and greeted the two people who escorted him to the front door. This time, he reached out his hand first, just like what he did to a strange girl he met in the garden of Arvis, which was full of rose scent in the summer.
It was really time to say goodbye.
The day that changes one’s life may come accidentally, just as it did many years ago with him. But when that same reason appeared once again in front of him, he hoped he could greet her comfortably despite past sorrows. He could now finally accept the fact that despite his heart still longing deeply for Leyla, parting from her was what’s best for him to do. It was the best for both of them.
“Thanks, Kyle. Take care too.” Just like on that fateful day, Leyla held his hand with a smile. The child, who was looking at the two people shaking their hands with a curious face, also burst into a clear smile.
Without any remorse or grief, Kyle turned around and began to walk along the not-so-hot summer road as a cool wind blew past him.
He didn’t look back until he passed the corner of the street.
A luxurious black car stopped in front of the military hospital in southern Lovita. An old gentleman with a tired face came down when the driver in uniform hurriedly opened the door of the back seat.
“Thank you for coming.” The waiting officers bowed their heads at the old man. It was none other than the King who asked him, someone whose lineage was from the royal family of Lovita and a prestigious nobleman, to such a remote place. He said there was a serious issue to be confirmed and it was a royal order, so he had to follow it.
One of King Lovita’s beloved nephews was seriously injured during the war and was being treated at a military hospital in Berg. When the royal family of Lovita asked for prompt repatriation, the Kingdom of Berg demanded that conditions must be offered. It was an absurd task entrusted to him to inspect said ‘conditions’.
The reason was because he was the cousin of Catharina von Herhardt.
“I’ve already confirmed his identity through our most verifiable means, but I must ask for your final confirmation.” The officer who led him to the quiet ward politely explained.
“This is it.” Their footsteps stopped at the door of a certain hospital room at the end of the hallway. When he nodded, the officers who came with him knocked briefly at the door.
As soon as the door opened, a young man, who was reclined in an upright seating position, was revealed. He was looking outside while smoking, white wisps of smoke billowed around the room. He slowly straightened himself up at the arrival of visitors. The daylight behind him made it difficult to identify him with the shadows in his face, but physically, he appeared healthy and in good condition.
These days, one can never be too careful since the war had turned many good men into insane people upon the slightest of sounds. Despite the patient not looking like a sick person anymore, his arrival to the hospital wasn’t easy. The officer who found him even had to drag his battered body to the hospital for treatment. The officer knew he was an enemy, a part of the Berg army that they’d just wiped out, but he was a medic first and foremost. He only saw a patient whose life he could still save.
And so, they cared for him and nursed him, even as he remained unconscious for a long time due to severe blood loss and injury. Whether by miracle or sheer force of will which made him survive such a massive attack on their camp, the man kept breathing. And now here he was, awake and physically able to move and was able to smoke too. His status alone allowed him the privilege of staying in the hospital rather than being sent to their concentration camps for POW.
The Herhardt Family said they were ready to hold a funeral as soon as the war ended and the Duke’s remains were recovered, but it seems they were fooled by a scammer. If not a scammer, which sane man would let himself be treated as a dead person and for what reason?
No matter how chaotic the war was, all military doctors who believed in a swindler’s words and participated in such acts should be governed by strict military law. As anger began to soar inside the old man’s chest, the young man threw his lit cigarette into an ashtray then began to walk slowly towards the group of officers. As soon as he thought that the young man’s straight posture and elegant steps were real, the old man suddenly stumbled and gasped for breath.
The young man, who glanced at him after a while, looked very calm.
The moment the old man bowed his head and greeted the young patient with a slight smile on his lips, the said young man burst into a ridiculous smile.
It was the only answer that he could give.