Chapter 5:

An Artist Reborn

My Sweet Gentle Veteran (Under Reconstruction)

“… So, Étienne Marson made this first masterpiece of his when he was still studying as an engineering student in The University of Aronessia.”

“Hee, that’s awesome. I never knew he had an engineering background!”

“Yeah, it’s impressive he ended up as a professor while still doing art from time to time.”

On the next day, after the parade, two girls stood before an old oil painting. One of them sat in a wheelchair, wearing a pink blouse and a top hat adorned with flowers. Behind her was another girl, dressed from top to bottom in the familiar black and white dress of a maid.

“I always adored his impeccable use of contrast. It is as if he manipulates anyone viewing his work into looking at it the way he intended to.”

I , not being an artist, have no idea what that meant. To me, they’re simply a bunch of paintings that are way beyond my grasp so I never really thought much about it. But seeing how passionate Lia is about this whole thing, I just followed along, nodding on to her explanation.

“You see, he puts the Angel on top of the man, demonstrating the difference of importance between the subject. And then he puts a stronger contrast between the Angel and the background when compared to the man, meaning that …”

She went on and on, explaining every little detail , insisting that they all have meaning and purpose. Down to the last brush stroke.

“… W-whoa, that’s impressive.”

“I know right! I always wished I could paint like him.”

That’s an artist to you. They really see the world differently from us. For me , the painting we’re looking at looks good simply because the artist thought it looked good, and went ahead with it. Not wanting to be a mere listener, I tried to voice my own opinion.

“But what if Étienne didn’t really think of anything when painting this, and just did what he thought looked good?” I suggested.

“No way! With all these intricacies in his painting, there must have been something going on in his deep and complex mind!”

“A-ah… You’re right.”

Well, that blew up on my face, Lia vehemently disagrees.

But still, I refuse to let my one day of cramming on the subject of the history of arts go to waste. Yesterday, I managed to clandestinely borrow a book on that subject from the library, just so that I can talk about art with Lia.

"So you liked these types of painting, Lia?"

"Yeah! I especially likes Impressionism in particular. I could really feel their flow and emotion when I looked at their paintings.”

Impressionism. If I recall reading from that book, it's a style that expresses feeling through a dramatic composition. The impressionists included things like light and color. As a matter of fact, it's the style the artists of this painting follow.

The paintings that follow this style are usually smaller-scale and more abstract, and tend to express energy and mood through the freedom of paint... according to the book, that is.

Speaking of the book. I remember it mentioning a popular artist that follows this style...

"Ah, impressionist, like Ludwig Van Bock?"

"Wah!? You also know about that, Lonnete?" Lia said, turning to look at me with a curious gaze.

"W-well, a little bit. I've heard about him in a book" That I just read yesterday...

"I never knew you were also into art. Had I known, I would've talked about it to you soo many times before"

"Ahaha, hahaha..." And you probably wouldn't have talked about anything else...

But still, I felt like that style fits someone like Lia.

"Well to be fair, I adored all types of styles. All but realism."

"You disliked realism?"

"I didn't dislike it per se. It's a wonderful style to hone your technique. But as an art piece, I found most realist pieces are rather uninspired . They just copy what they see with their eyes without much room for their own imagination to create a beautiful composition. "

“Is that so…”

“Yeah. If you just paint a scene following a strict technique in order to copy what you see. How is that any different than assembling an artillery piece in a factory?”

W-whoa, that’s quite an analogy. And why do I feel like she just made quite a strong take that a lot of people would attack her for...

"Okay then, why don't we look for Van Bock's piece. I'm pretty sure some of his work is on display here." I suggested.


We spent the entire day touring the museum. Every so often, when a painting struck her , she would go on and on about how that particular painting is such a masterpiece, and we would be standing there for half an hour. Well, when I said we, I meant one of us... To be honest, it made my feet quite sore at times. I wanted to tell her she had it good sitting on a wheelchair the entire time, but I remembered she probably faced far worse in the war.

Throughout it all, whenever I glanced at her, I saw a face brimming with life and passion. There was light in her eyes, and I couldn’t help but feel my chest warm whenever she gazed at me with that pure and childlike smile of hers. At that moment , the person in front of me was not the hero Lieutenant Cromwell. The person in front of me was Lia, an artist and a person with a big, harmless heart.

“Ahh, I can’t believe I finally get to see the authentic Fire Lilies and Starry Sky in person. I will not forget those images for as long as I live.”

This has been in my mind for quite some time, but it seems to be the right moment to bring it up:. I had been holding a certain thought in my mind up until that moment. The true reason why I brought her into this museum wasn't just to cheer her up. I had been waiting to tell her this, and at that moment, I decided it’s time.

“So, what about it? Wanna try painting again?”

“Ah… I wish I could but…” She said, gesturing her handless arms.

“You can do it, Lia.”

“I don’t know, Lonnete.”

I stopped the wheelchair and walked in front of her. Then I grabbed her shoulder and looked her in the eyes.

“You can do it, Lia.”


“I’ll help you with everything. I’ll help you prepare the brushes, the wood palette, the canvas. Heck, I’ll even learn how to mix paints just to help you. So, what about it?”

“W-well… My problem is not so much the technical issue, it’s just that…”

“It’s just that why?”

She looked away from me for a brief moment. And then, with a shy smile, she looked up at me.

“I’m just afraid.”

“You’re… afraid?”

“The pure white canvas… always reminded me of snow. The snow that fell on the Radovian tundra, the snow that fell atop of the bodies of the dead, the snow that fell on my ruined house when I discovered the body of my siblings, the snow that fell on-“

'Oh my god.' I remember thinking to myself. 'No, not this again. I was not about to let this happen again. We were having such a good day. I will not let today end on a sour note.'

So I knelt down to her height, and gripped her shoulder tight.

“And whenever you do, I will drag you out of your nightmare and hug you tightly. I will sweep all of those bad memories away like how I sweep the dust on your house. I will give you all the hugs you’ve missed all this time, and all the hugs you’ll ever need. So, trust me, okay? I believe in you, you can do this, Lia. I will always be there for you,”

My plan to encourage her to pick up the brush again almost backfired. I thought I could do it because I read a section on the book about Jennifer Pearson, a certain limbless artist from Anglicia that managed to make a good name for herself. I didn’t take into account that Mrs. Pearson wasn’t a trauma- ridden war veteran like Lia was…

After a short moment of silence. She looked at me with a sincere expression, a sweet smile gracing her face, her eyes slightly wet with tears.

"Ah, It turns out I still have some tears left in me."

"Can’t a girl get a little emotional here?"

She giggled. Still, true to her army background, she quickly regained composure, and sat upright.

“Very well. I will try. I will pick up the brush again, even if I have to bite it. I am, after all, an artist.”

A wide smile appeared on my face as relief washed all over me. I managed to save this day from ending on yet another bitter note .

“That’s my Lia!”

I don’t know what it is within me that makes me want to help her this much. What I know for certain is that she has suffered enough. The horrors of the war have turned an artist into a killing machine, a fact she hates more than anything else. It left her broken and barren, and without anyone else to take care of her, it left her alone in this world.

I didn’t know how painful it was to live like that, I couldn’t imagine it. That’s probably why I was so driven to help her out. I only wanted to ease her pain at first, but now, I want to help her realize her dreams .

And that will begin tomorrow .


The sun shines as summer takes over. Warm light entered the painting room, followed by a light, sweet fragrance of grass and flowers.

With this bright and luscious atmosphere, I entered the room with Lia in tow, still wearing her white dress . I put the wheelchair at a stop just in front of the easel. Next to the easel was a small table with oil paint and brushes.

"How are you feeling, Lia?" I asked.

"I feel good."

"Awesome, let me prepare everything for you."

"Thank you, Lonnete. I am really grateful, I really am ."

"Save your thanks for after you've created your first masterpiece in years, hehe!"

She smiled at me warmly.

I pulled out a small pad of paper and some oil painting paints. I prepared the table and put the easel at the center. I found a brush for Lia and I placed the pad and the brush on the table and the oil painting kit beside the pad. I poured water into the bowl and wiped off all the brush cleaning stuff and the paper with my hand towel.

“Mm, I’m… Actually, I’m a bit nervous… Lonnete, can you light me a cigarette?”

“No chance. You don’t need that stuff anymore, Lia.” My reply is immediate, I didn’t even need to look at her.

“What?! No way…”

“I’ll be honest with you. I always dislike it when you smoke .”

“W-what about some Schnapps… ”

“Nope. I’m sorry Lia, I will not indulge you in that unhealthy habit of yours anymore.”


“And I will not accept the threat of court martial this time. I will not change my mind.” I can feel her pouting behind my back after I declared that.

After tidying up all the necessary tools , I turned to Lia.

“Okay! I think we’re all set , do you have anything in mind you wanted to paint, Lia?”

It took Lia a short minute to recover from her withdrawal tantrum. She looked up at the ceiling, seemingly thinking of what she wanted to paint, and then she turned her eyes to me.

“I do, actually. Can you look for a diary of some sort on the table at the edge of the room? I think it’s brown in colour?”

“Let’s see… hmm… here it is"

I took care not to open the diary before her, and brought it to her.

“Ah yes, that’s the one. Can you open it for me please?”

I opened it as she instructed, a bit too gleeful at the thought that Lia let me look at what I initially assumed to be her personal diary… Until I found out that everything on that note was written in Radovian .

“Um… Are you sure this is the correct note? Everything’s in Radovian .”

“Lonnete, try flipping the pages.”

So I did, and now I understand why she told me to get this diary . Most of this diary is filled with breathtaking sketches, descriptions of moments, and short stories.

The sketches were especially beautiful. They depict scenes of natural wonders the likes of which I have never seen before: the vastness of glacier mountains with grassy pastures, the icy blue waters of a lake and a desert of sand, the breathtaking beauty of a cliff, the cold rock of a mountain, and more. The artist took great care in capturing every single little detail .

“Whoa, I see, you wanted to turn some of these sketches into a full painting?”

“Yes, you’re right.”

“But uhh, I wasn’t aware you knew Radovian .”

“Ahaha, this sketchbook diary is not mine, Lonnete.”


Well, that explains it, but my curiosity is not sated.

“How did you come into its possession?”

“I killed the owner .”


Lia stared out at the window with a long face.

“It was in the early years of the war, when I was officially given the role of a sniper.” She recounted. After a deep sigh, she continued. “A Radovian sniper had been picking off people at our line from a certain fortified position on a hill. At one point, they even killed an officer. Our commander had had enough of this sniper, and decided to send me on a counter-sniping mission.”

“Oh…” I think I know where this is going

“I was successful, of course. I shot the sniper dead. In the next hour, we launched an attack and captured the hill. I got to see my erstwhile rival, still lying down with his face planted down on the Earth.” She glanced at the diary. “His name was Sergei Malashenko. Lying beside his lifeless body, I saw a diary of some sort, so yeah, what you’re holding right now was his diary.”

“I see…”

“I was surprised when I flipped through the pages and found these amazing sketches. ‘Wow, so it turns out he’s also an artist, like me. And a really good one too’ I thought. Had things been different, I could see myself talking and being friends with him. We would talk about art, about drawing techniques, I wanted to ask what inspired him, who his favourite artist was. Mind you, I was still a pretty shy and socially awkward girl at that time, and yet, that was still my exact thought.” She took a deep breath, and sighs. “But no, of course that did not happen. I killed him. I killed a fellow artist with a sniper rifle, bullet through the eye. I killed him, because he would’ve killed me otherwise.”

My god, it seems that no matter the context, whatever we talk about always ends in an excerpt from a tragic war story of some sort. Talking to her feels like treading some sort of invisible minefield where you have to avoid standing on the wrong topic in order to not trigger her traumatic experience. Just how much did this girl have to go through in that war?

“I’m sorry that you had to do that, Lia. He probably wasn’t a bad person, but the war forced both of you to kill each other.”

“Indeed, it was such a waste. But I will not let this be the end of him. I will not let his ideas wither away in a piece of paper. Sergei, I will honour your existence in this world by bringing your sketches to life. That’s what I have decided to do .”

One thing is different now, though. Back then, her face would usually be overcome with deep sadness every time she finished talking about her war experience, and I would have to leave her alone with her thoughts. But now, I see the flame on Lia’s eyes, her face brimming with confidence and determination. I have to say that I was deeply moved by this development.

I stood up and grabbed her shoulder gently.

“If that’s what you’ve decided. Then I will assist you to the best of my abilities, Lia.” I said with a smile.

“Well then, why don’t we begin by mixing some paints? Come, Lonnete.”

“Yes ma’am!”

And thus, for the rest of the day, we worked together in the painting room to bring the sketches of a fallen artist to life. He might no longer be with us in this world, but for as long as an artist’s work lives on, they will remain in the hearts and minds of those graced by their art. I’m sure Lia shares this sentiment; this was probably why she wanted to do this in the first place.

And as for me. I’m just glad to see her the way she is now. As I said up above, I’ll be helping her live on and be remembered as who she truly was and always will be at heart.

An artist .