3.5 – 2
“Ahh, jeez! Just sitting here thinking about this all alone won’t get me anywhere!”
Even if there was no one there to hear it, Camilla shouted in a familiar way as she got to her feet.
This wasn’t the time to get absorbed in thoughts like these.
In situations like this, the best thing she could do was get out of the house until she felt better. Maybe things would get resolved without her having to worry about it, that was what Camilla hoped. Either that, or by getting absorbed in something else she might be able to get her mind off it.
That’s why Camilla was now in the kitchen, just a slither of time before noon.
The kitchen was already packed full of people getting ready to cook.
Most of the hastily built temporary homes didn’t have kitchens in them. They usually didn’t even have their own bathrooms either. When they said that these homes were to be temporary, they really did mean that. The best thing you could really say about them was that they had four walls and a roof.
Therefore, communal facilities had to be hastily erected as well. Another large building was constructed near the temporary residences, replete with kitchens, bathing areas and restrooms, made free to use by all.
And inside the communal kitchen in that place was Camilla. The kitchen, which was constructed in a way that it could be easily taken apart later, had an oven that was a nightmare to ignite and a kiln that was cumbersome to bake bread in. Bumpy and mismatched countertops were placed side by side to form a bench.
On top of a faulty and worn-out furnace a brand new pot sat in complete disparity. Chopping up ingredients and adding them to that big pot were the cooks and chefs of the Montchat family, who had travelled all the way from the capital.
After a month, help had come from further afield than just Grenze. The relief from Grenze had mostly come in the form of physical labour, whilst from the capital Alois had made gold and supplies flow.
The land had begun to stray into the winter months. On top of that, the land of Mohnton was the northernmost territory of the Kingdom of Sonnenlicht. So in Einst, a land even further north than the territory’s capital, the biting chill had already begun to set in. Those few farmed fields around the mining town had already begun to wither away, with the animals themselves shepherded inside for the season. Left to their own devices, what could they eat? Toxic plants or poisonous toads out of the bogs? With their food reserves ruined, the looming specter of starvation hung very ominously over the people of Einst, who had only just begun to find their feet after that disaster.
Therefore, in the aftermath of the calamity, meals were provided for the people of Einst. Led by the cooks employed by the Montchat household, cooked food was distributed to the people daily, and Camilla often pitched in.
For Camilla, who had neither physical nor magical strength enough to help in the rebuilding and reclamation process, the least she could do was help prepare ingredients for the cooks.
At first, the people there were a bit anxious about having Camilla in the kitchen, but after she put in a few shifts they didn’t mind her being there at all.
Right now, Camilla was dicing up vegetables alongside the other chefs and didn’t look out of place at all whilst doing it. Camilla, of course, was very picky about making sure the vegetables were thoroughly washed and peeled before she cut them up.
“…About Lord Alois?”
Theo and Leon exchanged looks with one another, as they carried large sacks of wheat into that busy kitchen.
“That’s right. I want to know exactly what kind of impression you have of him.”
With the knife she was using to slice up the vegetables in hand, Camilla turned to look at the two manservants whose faces she had gotten used to.
Theo and Leon looked a bit puzzled at the sudden line of questioning. Wondering just how to answer her, they did their best to answer without causing any offense.
“I suppose he’s a calm person, but why are you asking that so suddenly?”
“Just a whim. I was curious about what the two of you thought of him, that’s all.”
She was still worried about just exactly what Alois was thinking, so Camilla decided to do something herself. If people in town were happy with Alois and with what he was doing, then everything should be fine. In a way, by listening to the thoughts of the townspeople, she hoped to avail herself of her own doubts.
Theo nodded in a way that implied he didn’t see what she was doing at all. He nudged Leon who stood next to him as if asking for help.
“Lord Alois is a mild-mannered and serious man. In his own way, he always seems calm and measured. No matter what kind of attitude or words he received from the influential people of Einst in the past, he never once lost his cool.”
“Hmm,” Camilla mused to herself. This town had always had a prickly attitude against Alois. Camilla had never actually witnessed those sorts of clashes in person, but it wasn’t hard for her to imagine what it was like when she thought about how she was received here originally.
“I always wondered just how he stopped himself flying into a rage. But, he really is a sharp man. He managed to always parry the most barbed questions and hostile remarks. What can I really say? That he’s quite incredible, a man who doesn’t make any mistakes? It’s hard for me to find any fault with him.”
“I wasn’t asking for you to find any faults.”
As Camilla said that, Theo smiled wryly.
“Still, I wonder just why it was? Most people here still didn’t like him all the same.”
“Oh, but things are different now,” Theo added in a hurry, but Theo’s amendment didn’t matter much to Camilla.
“Why did people not like him? Are you quite sure about that?”
It was a simple question. He hadn’t made any mistakes, so what complaints could they have had? As Theo had said, he was calm and level-headed, there didn’t seem to be much about him that was detestable.
In that case, just why did they dislike him so much?
As Camilla asked him that, Theo looked a little put on the spot.
“Hmmm… Well, I don’t know if that was the problem per-say. Whether or not he was an excellent speaker or flawless at his job, things would be the same. Honestly, I don’t think Alois had a chance to begin with.”
“…Something along those lines, is it?”
Camilla spoke with a sigh. She couldn’t sympathize with the townsfolk, but she understood them.
Personal feelings didn’t always follow any logical rules, people simply disliked whatever it was they disliked. To overcome those ingrained emotions, merely being ‘excellent’ wasn’t nearly enough.
“But, like I said, things are different now. Honestly.”
Theo said that encouragingly to Camilla, whose eyes trailed down to the chopping board in front of her unwittingly. She wasn’t actually upset by what he had said, but Theo himself didn’t know that. As Camilla raised her hand to continue slicing up the potatoes piled up beside her, Theo gave her a smile.
“We saw it ourselves since we got out of the underground before you did. How Alois rushed past us all alone, back through the tunnels.”
Back then, Alois who had helped those people trapped underground get towards the surface using his magic was directing the relief effort. Despite the fear and confusion of everyone around him, Alois managed to remain calm and in control, despite yelling instructions loud enough to be heard above the din. He didn’t make any misjudgments and all of his commands were correct. Every order he gave was given with the sole intention of saving more lives.
But, things changed the moment he saw Nicole escape from the tunnels without anyone by her side. It was then that he learned that not just had Camilla been trapped underground, but she had also yet to emerge.
Alois split away from everyone else without a second thought, suddenly plunging back into those tunnels alone. It was obvious how dangerous and reckless a move it was since those tunnels could have completely caved in at any moment.
“He completely lost his cool and acted as if he didn’t hear anyone around him, it was a little surprising to see him suddenly change like that. Everything did turn out alright in the end, but Lord Alois could just have easily been caught up in a collapse and never come back out. I don’t think anyone else there would have done the same.”
“…Is that so?”
Camilla answered calmly, but her eyes wandered. Her hand didn’t stop moving, cutting up the potatoes even faster and finer than she had before.
– Lord Alois did that for me, then.
“I guess to make a person like that lose their cool, you must be quite close? Everyone saw him a little different after that happened too.”
Try as she might, she couldn’t stop her mouth loosening. It didn’t feel bad at all. Alois was beginning to be accepted by the people of this town. Surely, soon enough, Alois might actually be able to win them over to his side. Thinking about that…
– Wait, just why am I so happy about it!?
She swept away the cut up potatoes, which she had accidentally reduced to utterly minute portions through her unconscious knife work, off the chopping board with an angry wave of her hand. Turning back towards the manservant in a fluster, Theo couldn’t help but smile.
“Well, that’s how it is. That’s probably why she thought he looked like a prince, too.”
Leon interjected suddenly out of nowhere as if trying to shut Theo up. Having been instructed by the head chef in the middle of their conversation to carry his sack of wheat to the back end of the kitchen, Leon rushed over towards Theo as if he were in some sort of panic. That man has an awfully keen ear.
Striding up to Theo angrily, Leon grabbed his shoulder.
“Hey, that’s my sister you’re talking about! Don’t say anything you shouldn’t.”
“No, I don’t think I said anything particularly important at all, actually?”
He tried to cover himself, but it was too late. The gaffe had already been made.
“What is all this about a ‘Prince’?”
Camilla crossed her arms, looking thunderously at Leon and Theo in turn.
Edited by: ApoPie