The House of Ende were once vassals to the House of Montchat.
However, their time as direct subjects came to an end long ago. Back during the age where Sonnelicht was constantly at war with its neighbours, the Montchat family had played a shadowy and enigmatic role in service of the crown, with the Ende family as their aides.
These days, however, the Ende family are functionally independent from the Montchat. Although it was small, the Ende family did hold some territory of its own and used that land to launch their own enterprise, no longer relying on the financial support of the Dukes of Montchat.
Still, the Ende family keeps the old traditions they held with the Montchat family alive. Ende family members are often sent to work for the Montchat lords. But now it was for the sake of a business relationship, not any sort of inter-familial intimacy. It had been a practice for many years of the Ende house to send younger family members to be servants or attendants at the Montchat manor.
“Because the Ende family are such big names when it comes to magical research, they can’t be neglected as business partners.”
After they returned to his office, Alois said that with a sigh of resignation.
As he slumped down in his custom-built desk chair, designed to hold his weight, his clothes were damp with sweat. As Camilla glared daggers at him, the sweating didn’t stop as he shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
When Camilla sat in the small chair in front of the desk, she simply scowled at him in silence with her arms crossed. She did nothing but breathe deeply, keeping her tongue behind her teeth. Still, even Alois felt a little cowed by that intense aura of intimidation.
The rivalry between Liselotte and Camilla over the Prince’s love had become a full-blown disturbance. Camilla, the daughter of Count Storm, had been defeated, in the process becoming a vilified person throughout the capital. Nevertheless, the exporting business of Count Storm couldn’t be cast aside so easily, especially since his territory’s signature brand of wine was deeply popular.
Business links between families were like that. No matter how hated Camilla herself might become, no one was ever going to go after her family when their own profits would suffer for it. The trust built up over generations of cordial business relationships weren’t bonds that could be shattered so easily. The Storm family’s business still seems to be going strong… She had learned that from the dribs and drabs of news that found their way to this land. This year’s vintage actually enjoyed more success than the previous year’s.
To damage or potentially sever relations with the Ende family, a partnership going back generations, all solely for the sake of Camilla? As a duke, Alois couldn’t take such a rash and self-destructive action like that. To weigh Camilla against an entire house, it was as clear as day which relationship was more important.
Not to mention, until very recently, Alois himself didn’t exactly have a good impression of Camilla. He had tried to keep her placated at first, but they had finally come to an understanding, so at the very least that was a step forward?
“In the Ende family, children born with strong magical powers are relatively common. Their magic is also incredibly useful for finding new manastone deposits. In exchange for preferential rates on manastone prices, they exchange with us a member of their family… That’s how it has always been between us.”
That’s how Nicole came to be here. Even if she might not be skilled, she should be useful for her high magical energy alone. A person with large amounts of magical power is much more sensitive to the flow of naturally occurring magic in the miasma.
But, Camilla isn’t interested in the practical side of it.
“…Do you know Liselotte?”
Camilla struggled to keep a lid on her passions as she asked that. Since Alois has already given up trying to hide it from her anymore, he didn’t make any excuses, nodding obediently.
“She used to come and play here quite a lot in the old days. I’ve hardly spoken with her since then, though, and I can barely remember her face either.”
“In the old days…”
“It has already been over ten years now.”
Alois doesn’t actually remember exactly when it was that he last saw her.
He barely recalled anything about the girl he hadn’t seen in over a decade. Although he met often with members of the Ende family, Liselotte herself had been living in the capital for years now. There were precious few times they could have ever met, considering Alois rarely leaves his own lands.
The way Alois spoke about her now, his voice was as dry and flavourless as if he were talking about some routine business dealing. If it was a person who had left a strong impression in his memory, that would have shown through in his speech. Perhaps it really is true that they haven’t met in years and he barely remembers her?
But, for Camilla, that doesn’t change the truth that they were once quite familiar.
“Liselotte would have been a cute girl, even back then.”
-At least, on face value.
She kept that part to herself.
What’s more, Camilla herself was well aware of just how loaded that sentence was.
Liselotte was definitely cute. Her bright blonde hair looked soft to the touch, she had a petite and delicate figure and was a girl who seemed quiet and polite when you first met her. But, she was unexpectedly a person full of cheerful laughter, as well as a slight mischievous streak. She wasn’t naturally a beauty that would turn heads wherever she went, but her underlying cuteness made her seem like an uncut gem, something that could easily be polished until it gleamed.
She wasn’t a truly bad person, but she was no saint either. She knew how to curry favour, when to nod along quietly and when to lavish someone in praise… What’s more, she was an incredible actor.
She rarely shed tears, but that only made the times that she wept all the more impactful. At other times, she would suddenly show off an expression far beyond her years, as if that gemstone truly had been polished to a dazzling shine.
“Prince Julian fell in love with that Liselotte at first sight. So how can you say that you weren’t charmed by her back then, Lord Alois, even if you say you don’t remember her?”
Liselotte was cute, gentle and fluffy, a girl that would easily tickle the heart of any man she met. They had the sense that she was something that they had to protect.
She was the exact opposite of Camilla, who was tall with sharp and well-defined features. With her straight black hair and strong, prideful eyes, instead of seeing her as someone they want to protect, men sometimes felt like they needed to be protected from her.
Camilla herself, however, never wanted to be protected by anybody. Instead of relying on others to do things for her, she would rather step up and manage it herself.
Because of that wilful personality of hers, people often said that she ‘wasn’t cute’. Nevertheless, Camilla never thought that she would lose to someone ‘cute’. That was, however, until she was exiled from the capital.
“…She’s the kind of girl everyone likes.”
As Camilla sighed, Alois looked at her in silence. Then, after blinking once, he tilted his large head to the side in thought.
“I don’t remember much about Liselotte, so I don’t really understand what you mean, but…”
Alois rubbed his chin with his hand as he caught Camilla’s eyes. For some reason, his face looked more serious than ever.
“Personally, I think that you’re quite beautiful, Camilla.”
Camilla’s mouth hung open as she tried to find the words to respond to that, but nothing came out.
All sorts of reactions to that ran through her mind.
‘Beautiful’ and ‘cute’ had very different meanings. If he was just trying to flatter her, would he really have used the word ‘beautiful’ instead of something a little less grand?
Besides, being called ‘beautiful’ isn’t exactly something that makes her happy.
– Well, I can’t say it feels bad, either.
“Please only say something like that after you have lost half your weight.”
Compared to Alois, any random person you could pick off the street could be described as beautiful. It’s hard to meekly feel happy about a compliment like that when it’s Alois paying it.
“…You really don’t hold back at all, don’t you?”
At Camilla’s blunt and honest reaction, Alois laughed incredulously. He can only laugh now because he has gotten used to it.
“So, half is enough then?”
Just what sort of standard is that? That seems to be what he’s asking. With that body of his…
It was hard to really judge exactly what Alois felt though, difficult to read as he was sometimes.
As Camilla glared at that swaying body of meat, she gave him her reply.
“Not feeling like being obstinate today?”
Almost on instinct, Camilla poked him as if she was looking for a fight. That competitive nature of hers was fired up.
– If only losing weight was that easy.
Camilla had always been prepared for a long campaign. Her opponent was someone three times larger than the average man. By her most optimistic estimates, it would take at least a year just to have him eating like a normal human being, much less looking like one.
The most important key to losing weight is strong willpower. Being able to resist the temptations of food. Being able to remain patient. Being able to fully believe in your own ability to lose weight.
For the man who grew up to be such a toad, never showing a shred of that willpower in the past, it was easier said than done. If he had ever truly thought about his weight before, would he have ever ended up looking like this?
This man lacked any willpower at all. With that sort of conviction, she made up her mind about him.
“Fine then, half is good enough for me! Now show me that you can actually do it!”
“I’ll do my best.”
As Camilla looked at him with eyes that burned passionately, Alois simply shrugged. Once again, with that simple gesture as a reply, it was hard to understand what he truly meant. Was he being earnest or was he leading her on again? She couldn’t tell, and that only made her angry.
– I am definitely going to let you have it later!
If only he could really lose that weight, then everything would be fine. As Camilla glared at Alois with that sort of focus, the issue of the Ende family slipped from her mind for the time being.
I never mentioned this before, but I suppose I should. ‘Montchat’ is French, so pronounce it with both t’s silent.
Also, sorry about if you saw ads breaking up chapters yesterday, I was doing some experimenting and it got out of hand. It won’t happen again.
This isn’t AsianHobbyist.