She knew it all too well.
If she truly married this duke, her revenge wouldn’t be the end of it.
She would have to manage his residence as the Mistress of the house, as well as stand by his side at all types of balls and gatherings. In order to create and maintain strong relationships with other houses, they would have to meet a lot of people together.
But, the most important duty she’d have to take on would be to give birth to his heir. At least one. A boy, preferably. She had to bring him into this world, raise him up and make him a worthy heir.
– Giving birth to an heir…
If Prince Julian was out of reach, she at least wanted to have a handsome man if possible.
But, if Alois lost weight and improved his terrible skin, could he also become a good looking man? At that time, could Camilla truly accept him? Could she marry him and vow to raise his child?
– That’s still far away.
Camilla murmured that in her heart as if to allay the anxiety crawling into her mind.
At the moment, she couldn’t really see any change in Alois. All that flab and meat wasn’t going to disappear in just a month. Although if you looked closely, maybe one his chins really had receded slightly.
– I’ll think about it more once he actually loses that weight.
It was still too early to be sure he was actually going to slim down. The higher he climbs, the further he has to fall. Where had it come from in the first place? His sudden desire to actually ‘lose weight’? For the time being, Camilla feels she ought to pay strict attention so that he doesn’t relapse.
She knew that’s what she had to do.
As Camilla was lost in thought, she was roused by the sudden sound of something shattering nearby.
She had gotten used to it recently. Since it kept on happening no matter how many times she was scolded, no one was really startled by the tell-tale sound of Nicole destroying something anymore.
Camilla just shrugged her shoulders as usual. In a way, she was relieved that something had snapped her out of those strange thoughts. She gave a look of feigned shock as she gave Alois a look that said ‘there goes that troublesome girl again’.
But, Alois himself had a genuine look of panic on his face. As Alois turned his head towards the sound in a panic, Camilla blinked in confusion.
– Usually he would just grimace at this?
Was it Alois’ generosity? Or was he merely indifferent? Either way, he usually tolerated Nicole’s blunders without much fuss. She was a family member of an important business relationship, after all. There must have also been a feeling of not wanting to let such a magical talent go so easily, so he waved aside mistake after mistake when any other maid would have long since lost her job.
– So, what exactly is wrong?
That sound had come from much closer by than usual. – With how close it sounded, perhaps it was the second room over?
Right now, Camilla was in Alois’ private room. The next room over was his office. And the one next to that, if she remembered correctly, was some kind of storeroom. Alois had told her that storeroom only contained old books and other assorted junk.
Camilla hadn’t ever stepped inside. The main reason was that she wasn’t interested at all, but Alois also didn’t seem to want Camilla to go inside. ‘There’s nothing interesting in there,’ he had said to Camilla, his tone clearly telling her that she shouldn’t enter.
As Camilla looked at him questioningly, Alois stood up with a start, his face looking flustered.
Then, with each thundering footstep quaking the room around him, he hurried out into the hallway. After he did, Camilla stood up and hurried after him as well.
It didn’t take her long to catch up with Alois.
In fact, she had caught him before he had actually reached the storeroom, so they stood in front of it together as he opened the door. As soon as they flew open, Alois rushed inside.
The storeroom didn’t look like it had seen much use lately. The room smelt faintly of mold and there was a thin layer of dust on everything. The air inside also felt stagnant and dry.
Just as Alois had said, there was nothing in that room that caught Camilla’s eye at all. Bookshelves lined all the walls, with old magic tools that she couldn’t figure out the purpose of from a glance lying about on tables.
The room itself was also quite small. The bookshelves that also cut off sections from the room from each other only served to add to that cramped impression.
The windows were covered up by those shelves, which explained how poorly lit it was. The only light was a single small lamp powered by manastone that hung on a section of wall. The area next to the lamp was the only spot on the walls not covered by a bookshelf, instead, a large painting was hung there instead.
– This is…
As she approached, that magical light faintly illuminated the painting. It portrayed two adults, a man and a woman, as well as a single child.
The man was tall, with long white hair flowing down his back. The mother was a slender beauty. Then, a serious looking boy dressed head to toe in formal wear, his back as straight as the spine of a book. Although the painting’s original colours had faded with age, she could see that the boy’s cheeks had been painted a flushed pink and his eyes had a reddish tinge.
– The previous Duke of Montchat?
As she looked again at that towering man, Camilla felt a sudden sense of familiarity. She felt as if she had seen him somewhere before, perhaps the prior Lord Montchat had visited the capital when she was young? Although the stories about the Montchat family rarely leaving their own lands was true, it was a different story when it came to royal occasions.
The Second Queen, the mother of Prince Julian who had locked him away for all those years, died about 10 years ago. At the time, this man would have been the duke, not Alois. It wouldn’t have been strange for Camilla to have seen him at that time.
– Then, this boy must be…
Unlike those parents who were almost unnaturally slender, this quite healthy looking young man gave off a very boyish feeling.
As she looked closer, she saw the words engraved on the naming plate attached to the painting’s frame. “Alois, tenth-year commemorations”. Then, this really must be Alois and his parents.
– This is the first time I’ve seen them.
Alois had never talked to her about his family.
She knew that when Alois was fifteen years old, his parents had passed away. Apparently, it had been an accident. But, that was all she knew. Camilla had never pressed him about it and Alois had never brought it up.
There weren’t any portraits hung up around the mansion either. She had actually looked for a portrait not long after arriving in an attempt to predict just what Alois could look like after losing weight, but she had never thought to search this room.
– Not a bad face at all.
He was perhaps just a bit too thin for her tastes, but in terms of looks and height, the previous duke passed. It didn’t seem that Alois’ poor skin condition was something he had inherited either. As she thought about that pockmarked face, she suddenly remembered.
– That’s right, Lord Alois!
As she had been gazing at the painting, Camilla had completely forgotten about Alois, who had made straight for the source of the sound in the back of the room and had already disappeared from sight.
Camilla tore her eyes away from the painting and followed after where Alois had gone.
There was a small space in the depths of that storeroom. In a clearing completely hemmed in by shelves and piled up junk, she found Alois sunken to his knees. In front of him was the obvious culprit in Nicole.
Both of them were looking at a large decorative plate that lay shattered on the ground.
“My… Father’s plate!”
Alois cried out in sorrow as he held some of the scattered fragments of the plate in his hand. For just a moment, the air around them grew numb. Alois’ magical power had almost overflowed in his anguish… But, just as soon as it had begun to seep out, it receded back.
“M-My deepest apologies!”
Standing next to him, Nicole bowed deeply, as if that fleeting burst of energy had terrified her. Is that pale face of hers just because she is now facing Alois himself?
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
“…No, it’s fine.”
As Nicole apologized over and over again, Alois said that with a faint voice as he continued to stare at the pieces he held in his palm. Watching from behind, Camilla could only see his huge figure shaking his head sadly.
As she looked at this new side of Alois she had never seen before, Camilla frowned. Just what was that plate to him? This was nothing like the ever calm Alois that she knew.
Although that question did prey on her mind, there was another doubt that wriggled its way to the forefront of her thoughts.
Up until this point, Alois has been using ‘watashi’ to refer to himself, which is a more polite personal pronoun for a man to use. Here instead he used ‘boku’, which is more informal and ‘boyish’.