If she couldn’t force him to change his eating habits, fix up his meals or convince him to exercise, then only her fourth and final method remained, ‘socializing’.
A noble’s duties included being present at social engagements and balls with other members of high society.
The midday tea party isn’t loud, but it has a certain quiet elegance that catches the eye. The musical shows and theater troupes that play at night engage both emotionally and intellectually. And when it came time to dance at a ball, only the boldest outfits were chosen.
The gatherings of nobles were always rigidly assessed affairs. A slight mistake could make you the object of laughter and appearing out of place would see you scorned and ridiculed. Alois would probably find himself shown the door no matter what he wore, but it wouldn’t hurt to freshen up his appearance just a little bit.
It may sound cruel to say this, but if she appeared in public alongside Alois as he was right now, Camilla would certainly be exposed to mockery. Truth be told, she hadn’t wanted to resort to this just yet.
But, since every other means had failed, this was her last resort. In order to make them all pay one day, she could endure this temporary shame.
In order to slim Alois down, she would have to resort to a more direct method.
As Camilla made her intentions clear, Alois looked troubled as he tilted his neck. Well, frankly speaking, it was hard to tell where his neck ended and his chin began, but that’s beside the point.
“The Montchat family aren’t really the type to go out in public much.”
‘Let’s go to a salon, that much should be fine!’ Camilla had enthusiastically said those words as she burst into Alois’ room just before.
“The Montchat family isn’t quite like everyone else, didn’t you know that, Camilla? I thought it was quite well known.”
Alois sighed as he shook his head. Even though they were supposed to be married, she didn’t even know that? He didn’t say those words, but Camilla averted her eyes as if he had.
It was true, Camilla truly didn’t know much about Alois or his family. He had never shown his face in the capital, after all. Of course, she had heard the bad rumours, but since he had never been on her mind as a candidate for betrothal back then, she had never thought to ask about him at social occasions.
“My family serves as the king’s shadow. As members of the branch family, we did the work that the king can’t put his seal to, for one reason or another.”
It’s an old story, one he’s grown used to over the years, so Alois simply shrugged. As the meat on his shoulders jiggled, Camilla looked at him bitterly.
“We took on the more under-the-table work of the royal family, not things I would want to talk about. It would be strange for a family like mine to go to social occasions like normal, don’t you think? Of course, things are more peaceful now, so there isn’t quite as much need for shadowy work. But, I suppose it’s more like a tradition nowadays.”
Alois’ father, the previous Lord Montchat, also had a reputation for not appearing much in public. Did Alois have a similar reason for not wanting to appear in the capital?
But, if it’s a tradition… There’s not much she could do about it.
Then, Camilla shook her head furiously. She was this close to being coaxed again. If she was simply satisfied with that, then that meant all her plans had failed completely. Camilla’s ambition to create a proper man out of Alois would have amounted to nothing.
“That’s just ancient history now though, isn’t it?”
Over a hundred years had passed since the last crisis in Sonnelicht. There had been neither civil strife or a war with a foreign power. There wasn’t even a hint of battles for the succession over the years. Under the King’s wise administration, the kingdom had enjoyed the fruits of peace for many generations.
“That was then, this is now. Lord Alois, your time spent in the shadows should end.”
No matter how much a silhouette resembles a person, it’s all to easy for it to be swallowed up by the shadows that dwarf it. What reason is there for him to hide away in them now when there’s no reason for it?
“So, with that being said, we’re going out. Outside! Get a change of clothes! Anywhere will do!”
“Anywhere, you say?”
“The most important thing is to get you through the door!”
As Camilla said that to affirm it, Alois nodded.
“I see, then let’s go out then, shall we?”
“Even if you use some smooth words with me, you aren’t getting out of it this time! Whenever I try to make you lose weight you always have some sort of excu…! Wait, what did you just say?”
“Let’s go out. There was some business I was to attend to anyway.”
Camilla blinked as she stared at Alois.
Was he trying to play her for a fool again? The sharp edges of Camilla’s mouth softened just ever so slightly. Perhaps one day they’ll truly smoothen out?
The place that they went out to was a manastone mine.
The purpose of the trip was to inspect the site and assess just how successful the operation was. Then, after that, locating new sites. It is done by detecting the magical resonance from manastones deep inside the swamps. As someone with impressive magical power, Alois was the only one who could do that.
So, simply put, this was work.
Somehow, it was always going to end up like this.
The Duchy of Mohnton was vast. It may be a remote region, but the family that ruled this land was still a branch of the royal family, after all. The manastone site was near the northern border of the duchy.
Just a little ways from the mine, there’s a huge river. That marked the border with the neighbouring state. By crossing over the movable bridge, you would find yourself in a different country. A long time ago, a war was fought with that nation and forts were erected on both sides of the river, but they’ve long since been abandoned. Instead, nowadays, the tents of merchants are what line the shores of the river. There was usually such a huge amount of foot traffic from merchants and travelers over the bridge that it very seldom had the opportunity to raise itself. The place that once saw the fires of war was now a cornerstone of international trade.
The manor of the Montchat family was located in the southern part of their territory. It took more than half a day for a carriage to reach the mine from there.
Camilla and Alois, however, rode in different carriages. ‘I have no intention of traveling in a carriage with Lord Alois alone,’ Camilla didn’t say anything selfish like that. Rather, it was simply not physically possible for her to fit alongside him.
Camilla traveled in a two-horse carriage. Meanwhile, Alois’ was pulled by four. It was quite easy to judge just how much Alois weighed when you saw that both carriages kept the same pace. And, although they had trotted the exact same distance, Alois’ horses looked terribly exhausted compared to the ones that had pulled the other carriage. Those poor things.
“Please take a rest here for a while. So long as you don’t wander too far, you’re welcome to have a look around.”
At a residence set up nearby the mine, Alois told Camilla that.
“From here on out, I need to do some work. If I have some spare time once it’s over, then perhaps we can spend some it together?”
“I don’t mind, but…”
It only made sense. She had proposed that they go out, but this isn’t what she meant at all.
The mining town of Grenze.
The second biggest settlement in the Duchy of Mohnton, behind only the town nearby the Montchat family’s main manor.
Although the entire territory was covered in marshes, this area was particularly swampy and filled with miasma. The miners flocked to this town to dig the manastones that were in abundance in these swamps.
Grenze was the greatest source of manastone collection in the duchy. In addition, since it was so close to the border, it was very easy to sell the commodity to foreign merchants.
The town was built in such a way that it surrounded a swamp at its center. The town itself is surrounded by forested marshlands, with the only road running through it leading towards the bridge over the river border.
Since it was such a melting pot, filled with merchants and miners, it was a vibrant place. There were market stalls set up on the main street nearly every day, its vendors hawking all sorts of exotic goods.
The miners are well built and energetic men, though they had a tendency to get a bit boisterous and rowdy. It wasn’t just the sound of laughter that echoed through the town. There were often shouting matches and the yells of a fight breaking out. Those kinds of voices could always be heard somewhere in the town.
It was a coarse and rough place, through and through. All that being said, it was still a prosperous town with people from all sorts of different cultures intermingling together, with not much care paid to how people looked. It was the polar opposite to the constant focus on maintaining proper appearance and etiquette in the aristocratic world.
“Lord Alois, I don’t think you really took what I said seriously.”
“Now now, please don’t be mad. When I come back, we’ll spend some time outside together.”
Outside. Just how much faith can she put in the word ‘outside’ now? No matter what, it’s not going to be the kind of place that Camilla would expect, like a dance hall or a poetry gathering.
“Where are we going to go?”
“…I’m not sure it would be the sort of place you would be interested in, Camilla.”
Alois turned to look at Camilla as he prefaced his next words. He gazed into her eyes, as if wondering how they would react.
“It’s the orphanage that I spoke to you about before. It’s on the edge of town, so I thought I would go and see how they’re doing.”
“An orphanage, is it?”
Of course, she’d react like this.
Camilla’s voice had become quieter than before as she heard it. Seeing her like that, Alois scratched the back of his head worriedly.
“You would find that unpleasant though, yes? It makes sense, there’s no way that Camilla would want to go to a place like that, right?”
“I don’t find it unpleasant at all, though. Back in the capital, I visited orphanages quite often.”
She had no sense of disgust at the idea of visiting a home for orphans.
Such a thing isn’t an issue to her at all. It seemed that Alois had misunderstood Camilla’s feelings completely. But, he still reacted to the words she had used.
“You visited ‘quite often’?”
As Alois looked puzzled, Camilla averted her gaze. It was only after he repeated it that she realized her slip of the tongue.
When living in the capital, Camilla often visited the orphanage alongside a friend of hers. But, because she was a ‘noblewoman’, she kept these visits an absolute secret. No matter what, she can’t let Alois know about it, so she tried to play it off with an ‘I didn’t mean it like that’.
“Umm… You see, it was an act of noblesse oblige, so I often went to help. S-Since, I like children, after all…”
“Liking children? I see, somehow I thought it might have been something like that.”
Alois nodded at Camilla’s words, he didn’t seem to doubt her at all.
Camilla almost breathed a sigh of relief. Beyond her cooking hobby, ‘that side’ of her couldn’t ever become known.
“Well then, I should be back before nightfall, so shall we head out then?”
She hadn’t actually agreed to go with him yet.
But, before the rebellious words in Camilla’s heart came forth, Alois continued.
“The truth is, it seems like the elderly woman who runs the orphanage has fallen ill, so that’s another part of my reason to visit.”
Going by the story he had told before, the old woman ran the place by herself. Just how strong must that ailment be to keep someone as sturdy as her in bed? And what of the children?
Of course, Camilla didn’t feel any obligation to visit an old woman who was a complete stranger to her.
But, despite that, she can hardly say ‘I won’t go’ after hearing that sort of story. What kind of person would refusing make her? What’s more, she’s a little worried about it all.
“…I understand. I shall accompany you.”
“Ohh, thank you very much!”
Alois’ eyes narrowed as he smiled. In his relief, the flabby skin on his face that had been pulled somewhat taught loosened and sagged.
“I knew that you’d agree to come along. It truly is a great help that you’re so honest.”
Not suiting his massive body, Alois let out a just a little laugh, exhaling sharply from his nose.