3 – Final (2)
With only one thing on her mind, Camilla waited for Alois.
“Lord Alois, please take a seat right there.”
“Huh? Um… Okay.”
After dark, Alois returned to the house that they had been lent, but he was taken aback when Camilla suddenly accosted him.
What was Camilla doing in his room? Why is she suddenly barking orders at him like this? Alois had absolutely no idea what was happening, but he still followed Camilla’s command and sat down.
Instead of the customized chair built to carry his weight back at the mansion, he sat down in an ordinary chair whilst Camilla sat opposite to him.
“Please give me your hand.”
Alois gave Camilla an obedient nod as he held out his palm to her. Grabbing his wrist without any warning, she yanked his hand towards her brusquely.
Ignoring Alois’ surprise, Camilla produced a small container and scooped a large amount of a stiff and thick cream onto his hand. Then, she began to rub it over Alois’ fingers and palm.
A strong and unfamiliar smell burned his nostrils. Was it some kind of medicine? Alois puzzled over it, but he really didn’t know.
“…What exactly are you doing?”
“It’s as you can see.”
Camilla didn’t even look at him as she lathered his skin with the cream with all the passion of a great artist. Having his skin stroked by her slender fingers like that, Alois’ felt like he couldn’t escape her even if he wanted to.
“It stops itching and I was told it also helps with patchy and dry skin. That maid Irma gave it to me.”
Saying that, Camilla shot Alois a glance. As those judgmental eyes of hers pored all over him, Alois felt even more uncomfortable. Had he done anything recently to incur her wrath somehow?
On the day of the disaster, he had left Camilla in the mansion to head out himself. In the first place, despite knowing the danger, he let her accompany him to Einst. He could think of quite a few reasons she would be mad at him, actually.
“Lord Alois, have you ever truly taken care of your skin? Why is it that all the people who live around the mines have beautiful skin, but you don’t live anywhere near a mine yet look like this?”
“…Ah, no. I never really worried about caring for my skin.”
“I would rather you do worry about it!”
Alois’ shoulders jumped as Camilla suddenly shouted at him. It seemed like she was upset, but instead of lashing out, she continued to apply the ointment to his skin carefully and thoroughly.
“Apparently, you can find ointments like these at any pharmacist in the mining towns. Normal creams and lotions don’t seem to work at all against miasma. The local people here said that was just ‘common sense’.”
Hmph, Camilla snorted angrily. The daily skin care routine that Camilla had believed in for so long didn’t seem to have any effect on stemming the miasma, but Alois didn’t have a clue that was actually the main reason she was so annoyed.
“Since I have it on authority that this ointment works well, we ought to stock up before returning. So then, Lord Alois, please make sure to take care of your skin! Otherwise, that itching feeling will be unbearable!”
Camilla looked hard at Alois as she said that.
Since Alois had already long gotten used to the constant itching, he didn’t think that healing his skin was all that important. He knew there was medicine like this out there, but he didn’t ever feel the need to use it.
But for Camilla, it was probably something very important. She would prefer a man whose features were clean and smooth. Just like Prince Julian’s ceramic white skin.
Alois sighed, closing his eyes for a moment. Camilla finished with one hand and had already moved on to the other.
Her thin fingers pulled and pushed the skin on Alois’ palm. They didn’t have any power to them. Those small hands of hers though, just how many people’s lives had they saved under the surface?
“…The people in this town, they’ve taught you a few things, haven’t they?”
“I thought that getting this place to open up their hearts to me was impossible.”
Opening his eyes a crack, he could see Camilla’s looking back at him. And as she did, Alois showed her an envious smile.
“This town is archaic and xenophobic, the people mired in its traditions and stubborn as mules. Once they’ve decided to distrust you, it would take heaven and earth to get them to change their mind, so all I hoped to do was keep them at an arm’s length. Far from friends, but not sworn enemies either. Yet, somehow, you managed to accomplish in a single day what I had given up on a long time ago.”
Alois wasn’t the kind of man who could sway the heart of such obstinate people. But Camilla was capricious, impulsive, and recklessly passionate, someone who could confront and ultimately break through to people without reserve.
Through her outbursts of emotion, she drew in close both those who admired and detested her. In her own way, capturing the true feelings of the common people.
Alois knew just how hard it was to draw out what people truly felt. And if you’re a man like Alois, people are only going to be more likely to hold their real thoughts in check.
“I really am jealous of you.”
Camilla looked confused as she held Alois’ big palm with her two hands. After hesitating for a brief moment, Alois clasped his hand around her own.
There wasn’t a single lie in the words he spoke… But, they were slightly calculated.
“I admire you and I envy you… But most of all, I’m charmed by you.”
Reflexively pulling herself free of Alois hands, Camilla jumped to her feet.
Alois didn’t look after her resentfully after Camilla stepped away. Never trying to grab her trailing hand back, he simply sat there staring at her.
“W-What do you mean by that, so suddenly!?”
“I just said what was I was thinking.”
“What you were thinking, you say…!? That was… was…!”
It sounded as if he was trying to court her. But, she was hesitant to truly call him out on it, so Camilla swallowed the word.
“Guh… Say things like that once you’ve lost half your…”
Camilla’s words trailed off as she thought.
– Half his weight?
He was still big, she judged that even if you split him in half he would still be bigger than two regular sized men. In the first place, it’s not as if she had a true grasp of just how much he really weighed at the beginning, so it was hard for her to say just what half really was.
But, there was no doubt that he had become leaner than he was before. Looking at him carefully, she could finally see his neck where before it had been completely covered by his multiple chins and his eyes that had once been buried away in his puffy fat face were now more pronounced. He was still round, but the shadows he cast now seemed more human than toad. In fact, was it possible that he had actually already lost half of it…?
Camilla clenched her palms together as she chewed her lip in vexation. She scowled at Alois, but he didn’t shrink away at all, simply looking back at Camilla.
Alois sometimes showed this side to himself. Was it just him being candid? Or honest? When he attacks her in such a straightforward way like that, it was impossible for her to say anything back.
Wait, but wouldn’t that mean she lost?
“Just… Half is just the first step…!”
Shaking her head furiously, Camilla found a new determination.
Because as someone she could bear to kiss and marry, Alois was still far away from Camilla’s ideal. That outrageously disgusting toad had just turned into a fat frog, that’s all.
Just as she had said from the beginning, Camilla intended to turn Alois into a man that would turn them all green with envy. When he was, Camilla would parade Alois around the capital arm in arm, lording it over all those who had messed with her.
Right now, no one could call Alois handsome. There were still so many things she needed to fix about him. That rough and pockmarked skin most of all. Not to mention, he still looked fat, his hair greasy and that fashion sense of his utterly miserable to boot.
Until she fixed every last one of those points, achieving her goal was still a far off prospect.
“The next step will be to turn that leftover fat of yours into muscle! Until those flabby arms of yours that are somehow softer than mine are strong and hard, I can’t accept it at all!!”
As Camilla made that declaration, Alois smiled bitterly. Glaring at him, Camilla wracked her brain over those troubling words that he had spoken before.
She couldn’t bring herself to accept it.
– Accept what?
Camilla didn’t have an answer to that.
End of Part 3
Edited by ApoPie