4 (2) – 2
The Lörrich mansion could be found on a hill in the centre of Blume. The upper floors of the mansion overlooked the streets and buildings of Blume, as well as the trees that lined many of its streets. Further, in the distance, it was possible to spot the large gardens from which the flowers that fueled part of Blume’s signature industry bloomed.
However, right now it was winter. The trees were bare of leaves and the gardens were covered in snow. The same was true for the gardens and greenhouses on the Lörrich family’s own estate, where the land was cold and withered.
The once flowering town of Blume had now given way to the season’s chill. The town nestled into a quiet sort of hibernation, waiting for the first days of spring to return.
Camilla glumly looked out the window of a second-floor guest room. The sky was overcast with a heavily dour shade of grey, with the snowfall showing no sign of stopping.
As she watched the snow, Nicole was busy making a fuss as she unpacked the luggage. As she glimpsed Nicole working out of the corner of her eye, she could see that she was being as clumsy as ever. Usually, she would just snap at her saying ‘Just let me do it!’ and take over the work, but right now Camilla lacked that sort of fire.
The cause of that might have been the introductions with the Lörrich family, which took place right after they had arrived.
Just remembering that meeting made Camilla rub her temples slightly and although she hadn’t meant to, a sigh escaped her lips.
The House of Lörrich, that both Gerda and Klaus belonged to, was a complicated family.
She had barely arrived before being introduced to Baron and the close members of his family.
There was Rudolph and his wife. They had two sons, the eldest Klaus and the second son Franz. Rudolph had two elder siblings as well, his older sister, Gerda and his older brother, Lucas.
Even though there were only six people she had to either meet for the first time or exchange pleasantries with, Camilla felt exhausted by it all.
– Perhaps it was just because of Gerda that the mood was so…
As the issue of succession became worse, Gerda took leave to return to the Lörrich family home in Blume. Although Alois himself had travelled to Blume in order to nip a potential crisis in the bud before it started, it seemed that she was determined to be involved personally. The amount of work left in the wake of Gerda’s absence to be picked up by Vilmer and the other senior servants must reach dizzying heights.
However, Gerda’s sole focus right now seemed to be securing the succession of the prodigal son, Klaus.
Camilla frowned, her eyebrows wrinkling. Just remembering it was vexing.
– I know it’s just going to make everything more complicated.
Klaus was just far too much of a flirt and a gadabout. Even as she was greeting the other members of his family, in front of Alois of all people, that man had tried to chat her up.
When Lucas flew into a rage at him for it, Klaus didn’t seem to care at all. Franz looked disgusted with his brother, causing Gerda to look disgustedly at him in turn, all the while Rudolph looked utterly helpless. All Alois could do in the meantime was grimace awkwardly.
– The family head really is not playing his role properly, either.
Instead, it seemed like true power resided with his older siblings Lucas and Gerda. To put it simply, Franz and Klaus are their respective pawns in a proxy war for dominance between them. Rudolph, who couldn’t seem to stand up to his siblings, didn’t have the influence to settle matters properly.
– I wonder just how long things have been this bad?
Whilst the usually open hostility Camilla received was the main source of discomfort in Mohnton, there was something else bothering her here.
No matter how much she raised her voice, this didn’t seem like something she could solve. A complex situation like this, where the lines between good and evil were blurred and hard to grasp, was something Camilla would struggle with.
Once Nicole had finally finished unpacking, Alois came to Camilla’s room.
“Camilla, why not take a look through the town?”
Alois said, occupying the frame of the door. He seemed to be suggesting he didn’t have any inclination to sit down and chat. Perhaps he wanted to go out straight away? He seemed to have changed clothes already.
“Blume really does have a different atmosphere compared to the other towns. This could take the place of our usual walks, don’t you think?”
Camilla avoided his gaze as she looked for the words to respond. The idea of a walk through town did sound good to her. Touring a place she had never been to before, that did sound like a good way to lift her mood as the mansion felt suffocating at the moment.
But, she couldn’t just answer him straight away. If she walked alone with Alois, there was no way she would be able to keep her mind off it, after all.
The engagement…it has plagued Camilla’s thoughts for days.
Alois, as if sensing what Camilla was thinking, spoke sympathetically.
“Don’t worry, I asked Klaus to serve as a guide. He probably wants to get a breath of fresh air as well.”
Camilla finally spoke up, though unintentionally. Wouldn’t there be all sorts of problems because of that? He’s the one at the centre of this entire debacle, after all.
If Alois showed particular favour to one side or another, wouldn’t that only hurt his position? What’s more, Camilla had very little desire to go anywhere with Klaus in the first place.
Camilla realized that she had a hard time even being in the same room as Klaus.
She couldn’t stand his flirting and disrespect, but there was more to it than that. There was just something in the way that he walked and talked that was eerily reminiscent of Prince Julian. Even if they didn’t truly look alike and they certainly acted differently, there were fleeting moments where there was a glint in his eye or just a slight gesture that brought her back to those days in the capital.
– I want to go outside. There really isn’t any reason to refuse him… But…
As Camilla pondered on the spot, her face furrowed with anxiety, a voice of salvation suddenly poured forth from behind her.
“Mistress, are you heading out? In that case, please take your shawl, it’s very cold outside.”
As if by reflex, Camilla spun around on the spot and grabbed Nicole hard by the shoulders as the maid was holding out a shawl. She was saved.
“Nicole! Can we take Nicole with us!?”
Nicole sounded completely confused in her surprise, but right now, Camilla needed her to be a saviour.
“You’ve finished unpacking, haven’t you? You should get changed now as well. Lord Alois, I trust this is fine?”
“I don’t mind. The more the merrier, after all.”
When Alois agreed, Camilla breathed a sigh of relief. She thanked him with a wry smile, trying to mask her clashing feelings of insecurity and respite.
The smile that Alois returned to Camilla was far from comfortable either. But even if both of them were aware of just how awkward the other was, neither Alois nor Camilla really knew what to do about it.
Nicole, meanwhile, found it all baffling as she glanced at both Camilla and Alois.
Edited by: ApoPie