What the hell?
Annette thought about taking another glass, but she didn’t want to draw attention to the situation with unnecessary fuss.
Eventually, she gave up and had to endure the time again.
Suddenly, there was an ah-ha sound from the podium.
The emcee stood on the stage, holding a microphone.
People’s gazes were drawn forward.
Annette looked at the emcee for a moment, then quickly looked out the window disinterestedly.
A distinct darkness had fallen outside at some point.
People burst out laughing at the emcee’s jokes.
After asking if the food was good and if they were enjoying the banquet, he cut to the chase.
“We, at the Belen Hotel, have welcomed a very special person for our guests here today.
Your representative put a lot of effort into it.”
Then came people’s exclamations.
Even then, Annette only stared out the window.
“For a performance worthy of a beautiful autumn evening, here is Felix Kafka, the amazing genius born of Padania, the master of the keyboard!”
Annette’s body jerked.
Her half-closed eyes gradually widened and her pupils began to flicker.
She spun around and turned her head to look at the man who was going up on the podium along with the applause.
A prodigious pianist who had won first place in all kinds of competitions, including the world’s most prestigious Pricarlo International Competition.
He was once Annette’s idol.
After politely greeting the crowd, Felix sat down at the piano.
He took a long breath in and exhaled.
Then he closed his eyes as if immersed in his own perfect world.
His face was as pious and holy, unlike anything of this world.
It was as if only Felix and the piano existed in this huge hall.
Opening his eyes, Felix swept his hair once and raised his left hand.
His fingers, which had been suspended in the air for a moment, landed slowly on the keys.
Annette couldn’t breathe until the keys were pressed and the first notes were heard.
The neat melody wound through the air.
At one time, Annette had played this piece countless times.
Despite a gap of nearly three years, she could recall the notes vividly.
Dispersed chords in the left hand.
Non-harmonic notes and chromatic melodies that were added the more the melody was repeated…
Before the breath of sound died, Felix gave it life by linking the next note.
Key to key and key to key.
Life force was continually given along his hand.
It was as if Felix was the messenger recreating the Idea here.
At this moment, the world they stepped into became meaningless, as if the inhalation and exhalation were all pledged to his performance.
The melody of whispering love to a lover at the window in the middle of the night was so beautiful that it brought tears to her eyes.
Piano Sonata, La Campanella—and until the encore ended, Annette gripped her hands tightly together. She didn’t even feel the gaze on her the whole time.
The applause overflowed as Felix stood up to bow.
People gathered around him as he came off the stage.
Annette stared desperately at him, standing frozen in place.
Her chest was tightly filled with emotion and sadness.
You were my idol.
I nurtured my dreams by listening to you play.
I wanted to be a pianist like you.
Words that she had conveyed at one time and could not convey now lingered in her mouth.
Annette and Felix had met several times in the past.
It was thanks to her father’s connections.
She had gotten autographs, conversations, support and encouragement from Felix.
But nothing was the same now as it had been then.
Felix was a successful pianist prodigy from a commoner’s background.
He probably despised her then, too, even if he didn’t show it.
And now it would have added to it.
Annette’s lashes quivered.
Heiner looked down at her emotional face with sunken eyes.
The moment he opened his mouth to say something.
“Didn’t Madame Valdemar play the piano, too?”
The gentle question was directed at Annette.
Annette, who was half dazed, flinched.
She looked around, not hiding her confusion.
All the people, including Felix, were looking at Annette, as if words had already been exchanged once.
Annette laughed awkwardly and shook her head.
“Yes, but I……….”
“You also won third place in an international competition, didn’t you?”
“Oh, I remember that too.
It also made a big splash in the capital’s newspapers.”
“And didn’t you give a recital as well?”
“It was because of the late Marquis Dietrich who personally paid for the hall……….”
The more they spoke, the more the blood drained from Annette’s face.
While it was true that her father had spent money on her concert, the recital itself was a qualification given to competition winners through the foundation.
The woman who first asked Annette a question suggested it with a smile.
“If you don’t mind, Madame Valdemar.
Would you like to play us a piece?”
I am not capable of that.”
“There is no need to be too humble.
I heard that from a very young age you were taught by very talented pianists.”
“I haven’t played for a long time, and now my skills……….”
The woman wrapped her arms around Annette’s shoulders and led her forward.
Annette looked back at Heiner as if seeking help, but he just stood there nonchalantly with an absent-minded look on his face.
It felt like he was about to burst out laughing for a moment.
‘What did I expect from that man?’
If she wanted this situation, he wasn’t the man to stop her.
What on earth did she want from him?
Annette sat at the piano, crushed, and looked at the audience for a moment.
Felix looked at her, nodding at his neighbor’s words.
Annette turned her attention to the piano.
It had been a long time since she had seen the keys up close, and she was infinitely unfamiliar with them.
No matter what she played now, it would look shabby in front of Felix Kafka, the top pianist.
Even more so after a three-year break.
The reason for having her play in this situation was obvious.
She was fortunate to have been born into a wealthy aristocratic family, to have received the best education, and to have given a recital… but she was only this good.
They wanted to insult her by revealing that fact here.
Annette lowered her head with a pale face.
Apart from the occasional clinking of glasses, the hall was frighteningly quiet.
The longer the silence lasted, the more her mind crumbled moment by moment.
After she had not moved for quite some time, some of the people began to whisper.
The whispers sounded like the sound of whips.
Annette closed her eyes and raised her hands with difficulty.
But her hands did not reach the top of the keyboard.
Her fingers began to tremble.
It was not due to nervousness or shame.
It was not because of fear of the ridicule she would get for playing a terrible song.
It wasn’t even because she forgot the song.
“We have to run!”
Just play the piano….
She couldn’t play the piano.
Not a single note.
“Come on, run!”
A chill circulated as if she had been doused with cold water.
Annette involuntarily covered her mouth with one hand.
She felt her stomach churn like mad as a sudden headache came crashing down on her.
Annette jumped up.
The chair was pushed out with a loud crash.
She quickly left the hall, ignoring the bewildered faces of the people.
She entered the restroom before the door had time to close.
Her stomach churned as she grabbed the toilet seat in the corner and emptied the contents inside.
Her throat was burning hot.
Annette vomited continuously.
After a couple of throwing ups, nothing more came out, but she still felt sick to her stomach.
“I heard of Miss Rosenberg.
They said she’s very talented.
I hope we can meet again someday as juniors.”
Who knew they would face each other like this again? Annette’s tightly closed lips trembled convulsively.
She doubted if she even had it in the first place, but even if she did, what was the use now? Even sitting at the piano was hard enough.
Annette, who had been breathing heavily for a while, stood up with a struggle.
Her movements stopped as soon as she flushed and headed for the sink.
Heiner stood like a ghost by the bathroom door.
For some reason he looked surprised.
She had never seen him like that before in the past three years.
Annette didn’t want to think about it too deeply because her head hurt.
She washed her hands at the sink, rinsed out her mouth, and walked toward the door.
Even then, Heiner was glued to the spot.
Arriving in front of him, Annette closed her eyes tiredly.
She was exhausted.
“…I want to go home.”
In her experience, everything happened overnight.
Annette was playing the piano in the practice room of her parents’ house when armed revolutionary forces invaded the Rosenberg’s residence.
A competition was just around the corner.
There was no time to worry about anything else.
With the sound of the piano filling the room, she could not hear the noise outside.
Even until her father with a tense face burst open the door and entered.
“Annette, Annette! We have to run away!”
“Father? Why all of a sudden…”
“There’s no time to explain, just get up for now! Go to the back of the mansion!”
Dietrich’s pupils shook with the sound of the gunshot.
Blood splattered on the walls and floor.
Annette screamed and covered her mouth.
Her staggered body immediately fell to the hallway outside the door with a thud.
From Annette’s vision, all she could see was her father’s sprawled legs.
The footsteps of the revolutionary army rang through the mansion.
They entered the hallway and stood in front of Dietrich’s body and said something.
“Don’t kill him immediately…….!”
“Until they come…”
One of them met Annette’s eyes.
The Revolutionary Guard immediately pointed a muzzle at her and, perhaps deciding she was not much of a threat, he withdrew it.
“The daughter of the Marquis.”
A sneer came to his mouth.
“Leisurely playing the piano, are we? So noble.”
It was three years ago.
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