3.5 – 3
That afternoon, the plaza set up next to the kitchen facilities was full of people who had come for their lunchtime meal.
When it was mealtime, everyone would pause whatever work they were doing to come and receive the bread and soup that was being distributed.
People were free to take their meals with them. Families often returned to eat in private, but for the most part, everyone found a place to sit and socialize with others in the plaza as they ate. Thanks to that, the once empty plaza was eventually filled with long tables and plenty of chairs.
It would have been a hard thing to imagine just a little while ago: townsfolk from Einst and Grenze sharing meals at the same table, chatting, and laughing as if they were lifelong friends.
Standing on the edge of that scenery, Irma felt strange as she watched. Would the climax to the feud between their towns that had lasted generations end on such an anticlimactic note? She didn’t think it was a particularly good or bad thing… Just a little ridiculous.
“…Ah, Irma, look.”
As Irma sighed, a familiar voice called out to her. She frowned as she looked towards the girl who had spoken and was currently standing beside her, Frida, who now leaned on a cane to walk. Those porcelain cheeks of hers were slightly flushed as she looked at something in particular with a twinkle in her eye.
“Lord Alois is eating alongside everyone else. He really does like the same food that we do, then?”
The man that Frida was staring at was of quite a substantial build. Yet that man who was partaking in such meager food despite that figure of his was none other than the person who was infamous outside of this region as the ‘Toad of the Swamp, Lord Alois Montchat of Mohnton.
He’d been given that moniker because of his enormously rotund body and horribly rough and pockmarked face, but that name didn’t quite fit him as well nowadays. That bulbous and gelatinous flesh of his had been reduced by around half, not to mention his skin seemed to be getting gradually better day by day.
Nevertheless, he was definitely as big as two men combined and that skin condition of his still stood out. It was hardly as if he suddenly looked like some stellar catch for a young lady.
And yet, Frida still gazed at Alois so earnestly. Irma frowned as this girl who was usually as taciturn as her brother, rarely if ever showing any emotion on her face, suddenly looking so smitten.
“Frida, are you sure about doing this?”
As Irma whispered to her, Frida nodded. Looking at those determined eyes of hers, Irma sighed for the umpteenth time that day.
“Don’t you think this is being a bit too forward? Who exactly do you think that guy came to rescue? You shouldn’t feel like you have to do this.”
“I know that, but…”
“Since you can’t walk this well, I helped you all the way here. But don’t think I’m nice enough to hold your hand through this crazy confession of yours.”
“I told you, I’m not confessing! I just wanted to thank him!”
As Irma brusquely told her that, Frida felt flustered as she shook her head in a panic. But if she stares at him with such obvious yearning, her cheeks getting redder by the second, what else could Irma think was on her mind?
“I understand you feel like you owe him for helping you, but you shouldn’t fall in love over something like that. You’re such a beautiful girl, there’ll be a lot of better men out there for you.”
“I know that…”
Frida looked at the floor as if those words had hurt. Seeing those sad eyes of her, Irma shifted on the spot uncomfortably.
“But, I really did come to love him. Watching him over this month only made me love him more. He’s resolute, fair, and kind.”
“He’s kind to everyone, you’re not a special case to him.”
Frida said it like she accepted that, but that trembling body of hers said otherwise. Irma reached out to support her body in a panic, since she was still unstable on her feet. Had Irma’s words really hurt her that much?
But, even if she felt like she might have said too much, she didn’t think she was wrong. The sooner that Frida gave up on this hopeless unrequited love, the better it would be for her.
“So, I’ll tell him. I’ll tell him that I’m thankful. Then after that, once he knows how I really feel, I’ll give up.”
Irma looked exasperated as she slapped a hand to her forehead.
No matter how thin he is now, she could still remember just what Alois looked like, so it was hard for her to see him as anyone’s potential partner, much less her best friend’s. Although he might be kind, that only led to him seeming bland and inoffensive, far from what Irma thinks a man should act like.
But, just maybe, that’s what Frida saw in him that she liked so much? She just couldn’t get her tastes at all.
She couldn’t understand her preferences, but Irma did know that Frida was serious about this.
“…So be it, I guess. Tell him how you feel. But when he gives you his answer, make sure to give up properly, okay?”
“Okay. Thank you, Irma.”
As Irma heaved another deep sigh, Frida smiled on her lonesome.
As the afternoon wore on, eventually the plaza began to clear. Before Alois could get back to work, however, Frida stopped him and asked to talk.
Irma peeked from the shadows of one of the newly constructed houses, watching over the scene. Even if Frida’s voice wasn’t the loudest, she was close enough that she could still make out what she was saying. Although all she could see from this angle was Alois’ broad back, she could see Frida’s anxious face clearly.
Frida said that she would be fine doing it all by herself, but Irma couldn’t help but worry about her.
“I wonder if she’ll really be okay…?”
“Nah, it’ll probably be a miss.”
Whilst Irma was speaking to herself, a voice suddenly replied to her out of nowhere.
“But still, I’m surprised she’s being this bold. I always thought she was more of the quiet type.”
“Frida… You fool.”
“…This sort of mood makes it hard to say anything.”
“Geh,” Irma moaned, knowing exactly who those familiar voices belonged to before she even turned around.
Two men she knew well. And one woman who she had come to know recently. Theo and Leon, as well as Camilla. Just like Irma, the three of them were listening in on Alois and Frida’s conversation.
“Why the hell are you…!?”
“Shh! They’ll hear you!”
Theo cupped his hand over Irma’s mouth quickly. Just why on earth was she being treated like a naughty child suddenly? Irma fumed in silence.
“Lady Camilla, I’m deeply sorry about my younger sister, she’s…”
“It’s fine. Well, I wouldn’t really call it fine… Rather, I am hardly in a position to complain about it.”
Camilla and Alois weren’t married. In fact, Camilla had made the bold declaration that she wouldn’t marry Alois until he was a man she could stand to kiss. That’s why, when it came to thinking about suddenly acting like his wife and putting on those airs, Camilla’s sensibilities wouldn’t allow her to make such an unflattering mockery of herself.
However, those three didn’t know anything about Camilla and Alois’ private circumstances.
“You’re not going to get mad about this?”
When Theo reacted with surprise, Camilla at first responded with a small and enigmatic snort.
“…I suppose whether or not I get mad depends on what Alois has to say.”
Saying that, Camilla turned back to watching Alois’ back.
Frida was bowing in front of him with a deep sense of gratitude. After expressing the carefully chosen words meant to convey those heartfelt feelings of hers, Alois was about to respond.
The way Alois spoke made it seem as if he chose every syllable very carefully. Those four who watched and listened from the shadows stopped talking at once, straining their ears to hear.
“Frida. Thank you, but…”
Fiddy chapters (´•ω•｀♥)
Also, double release again.
Edited by: ApoPie