The next day, Alois paid a rare visit to Camilla’s room.
His face looked utterly miserable.
“I heard about everything from Nicole.”
As soon as Camilla offered him a seat, Alois gingerly sat on it. The reason he didn’t sit down properly is that it would probably break under his weight if he did.
What a shame.
Just as Camilla thought that Alois himself said it.
“I’m utterly ashamed of myself.”
When Camilla asked him that, Alois raised his face to look at her. He looked even more defeated than when Nicole had broken the dish the other day.
“You’re planning on making Nicole your personal maid, right? You would do that, even though Nicole is still related to the Ende family?”
The House of Ende was the family of Camilla’s archrival, Liselotte. What’s more, Nicole’s imitation had broken Camilla’s heart, even if she hadn’t really meant to. Yet, despite all that, Camilla still decided to have that girl by her side. Alois himself had trouble understanding it.
“Nicole told me about everything else as well. Her past and her current circumstances. Meanwhile, I’ve just been pigheaded and obstinate.”
“What do you mean?”
This time, it was Camilla’s turn to be confused. She had been planning on telling Alois about everything, but it seemed like Nicole beat her to it. Her hair was so badly braided this morning that Nicole must have told him whilst she was busy fixing it herself.
“You ended up getting hurt as well. For doing that, I’ll kick them all out. But, even whilst all this was going on, I was feeling so sorry for myself over a dish… I’m so ashamed of myself.”
Alois couldn’t match Camilla’s gaze as he said that. It seems that he’s ashamed just talking about how ashamed he is.
“But, that dish was important to you wasn’t it, Lord Alois?”
Camilla hadn’t truly lost anything. Of course, she had been upset when she saw the illusion of the Prince, but that was it. That dish of Alois’ would never return. Even if it wasn’t quite the same as her situation, she could still understand his feelings.
“It’s not important at all.”
Camilla raised her eyebrows in surprise at Alois’ blunt reply. Although the expression on his face was still miserable when he looked up at Camilla, he didn’t look away.
“It’s not an important thing to me at all… Rather, I don’t really know if it’s important. I don’t remember.”
She couldn’t fathom what Alois was trying to say. After hesitating for a moment as he continued to look at Camilla, Alois continued.
“My parents, you know that they died in an accident, don’t you?”
She had heard it before. Alois had only been fifteen at the time. Ever since then, for these past eight years, he has held the reins to power over the vast Duchy of Mohnton
“When it happened, I was there too. Apparently, it was caused by the magic in the overtaxed manastones running rampant. My mother and father both died there, and although I survived, I lost all my memories from before then.”
In a single instant, all the memories he had held before that point in time were wiped away.
– He has no memories?
Everything before he was fifteen… Indeed, Alois had only ever spoken ambiguously about his past before.
Even when she had directly asked him about his past, he had tried to avoid the question through ambiguity, saying that ‘I probably used to do that’ in regards to exercise and saying that he could ‘barely remember’ Liselotte. Apparently, they hadn’t met for ten years, and Alois is now twenty-three. He would have been thirteen at the time. It suddenly made perfect sense why he didn’t remember her.
“Well, it’s not like I have no recollections at all. Sometimes, I remember certain things. I have faint memories of times that I spent with my parents, but none of them are really warm. Back then, I desperately wanted to remember as much as I could, but nowadays it doesn’t bother me as much, so…”
He was going to let himself forget. His words petered out into a sigh, as Alois laughed glumly.
“I was thinking about just letting it go, but there was still a part of me that felt regretful.”
The specter of his parents would always loom over Alois, whether or not he truly remembered them. His father was strict, his mother stern. They had done everything in their power to shape Alois as a proper future lord. When it came to his life; be it his speech, his meals, his hobbies and his company, there was nothing his parents did not have their hands in.
However, despite all that, he had a vague recollection that there had been some moments of affection as well. For example, when that family portrait was painted. To commemorate his tenth birthday, his parents had commissioned the painting as a present for him. Those feelings were what had prompted Alois to keep that portrait safely in that storage room, where he didn’t want anyone else to enter.
Yet even as time had wound on, and he thought that he had long gotten over the grief of losing both his parents and his memories of them, Alois had still been shattered by the breaking of a single dish. In the end, it was only Alois’ fantasy that he had ever truly left it all behind.
“I’m sorry, making you listen to all that.”
As his story came to a close, Alois seemed to have brightened up slightly. Then, he looked at Camilla with somewhat anxious eyes.
“It must have been uncomfortable, right?”
“No,” Camilla answered without a pause. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but it had given her a lot to chew on.
And Camilla was simply the one hearing the story. What must it have been like to be in Alois’ position, with vast swathes of your life simply missing from your memories?
“Although it is a lot to take in, I realize you have been through a lot.”
Camilla gave up trying to put herself in Alois’ shoes as she sighed.
She sifted through her mind for some words of comfort she could offer him, but none found their way to her lips. In the first place, it wasn’t in Camilla’s nature to console people with kindness.
So, she just says what she feels.
“If you really want to leave the past behind, then you have no choice but to change yourself. What do you want to do from now on? That is up to you now, Lord Alois.”
Alois nodded then, after taking a deep breath, laughed softly.
“I do love the way you cut straight to the heart of things like no one else I’ve ever met.”
Alois said it so casually, with so little fanfare, that she almost missed it.
– Did he actually just praise me?
But, before Camilla could really go over what she just head, Alois continued.
“Nicole changed because of you. I truly think that’s a sort of power you have. It’s as if you can change people’s hearts.”
Alois looked into Camilla’s eyes as he spoke.
He looked at her in a different way than he had when she first came to the mansion, it was a look that was filled with unmistakable honesty and sincerity.
“I want to change as well, side by side with you.”
Confronted by such direct words, Camilla was thrown off balance. The words stuck in her throat as she looked away from Alois, but instead of completely losing her cool, Camilla gained a newfound seriousness.
After clutching her hands together, she turned back around and met Alois’ eyes as she spoke.
“…A-As I said before, when it comes to losing weight, I will not be satisfied until you lose at least half!”
“Just half is enough?”
It felt like they’d had this conversation before. Alois’ reply was exactly the same as well. ‘Is half enough?’ and so on and so coming forth from the mouth of the man three times larger than the average person.
She was ready to come down hard on Alois again, but something was strange. Although he had just said that comeback of his, the expression on his face looking anxious… Even fearful.
“Is half truly enough?”
Alois asked again, as if to check.
“…Since Prince Julian is so slender, after all.”
Ah, Camilla finally realized it.
– That’s what he meant by ‘Is half enough?’.
He wasn’t questioning her standards to poke fun at her, nor was it a challenge to Camilla’s determination to make him lose weight.
Alois had been completely serious when he said that.
For some reason, she had never considered that.
Alois couldn’t keep looking at Camilla anymore as his face turned red.
Instead of the obstinate attitude she had expected, instead, he was utterly bashful. Now she was finally becoming uncomfortable. Even though she was in her own room, she suddenly felt even more restless than Alois.
But, it didn’t feel bad.
For some reason, she felt a strange sense of happiness, much more than when Alois had called her ‘beautiful’ before.
She wasn’t satisfied with this mystifying turn of events.
Because she wasn’t satisfied, she decided to needle him.
“Lord Alois, you do not usually use ‘boku’, do you?”
“………Please don’t make fun of me.”
Alois kept looking away as if he were sulking. His cheeks turned so red it somehow only amplified the puffy, toad-like features of his face. Seeing that, Camilla smirked.
This was a good thing to hold over him. Until now, she had been rolled around in the palm of his hand constantly. It would be nice to be the one doling out the teasing instead for a change.
Camilla was the type to never forget a grudge she held, after all.
End of part 2.