4 (2) – 8
In the end, Camilla returned with Alois to the Lörrich family mansion.
Despite it ostensibly being an extension of their hospitality, the dinner they had with the Lörrich family was a thoroughly awkward affair. Not to mention her discomfort with sitting at the same table as Gerda, the barely disguised hostility between the members of the Lörrich family made it even more uncomfortable for Camilla as an outsider.
But above all, the one she felt the most awkward being near was Alois. At the dinner party, they barely talked to one another, only exchanging words when they had to. She didn’t know whether or not she was keeping up in these conversations at all, either. Was Camilla even properly answering their questions anymore? Just what kind of expression did she make while sitting next to Alois? Just what did they all think of her appearance right now?
– Why did this have to happen?
When that awkward dinner party finally came to an end, everyone retired to their rooms. Camilla, alone, stood exposed in the night air.
She stood on the balcony of the mansion’s second floor. The white balustrade that ringed it was nearly buried in snow and the chilly wind numbed the skin on her face. Even though she wore her shawl, it did little to keep out the biting cold.
Going outside on a blustery winter night like this was a ridiculous idea… If she wanted to wallow away in her own sentiments, why couldn’t she have done it in front of the hearth? Even as she thought so, the cold air helped in cooling down Camilla’s heart. She regained a little of the calm she had lost during the day.
– It is true that I may have gone too far.
Those two girls were just ignorant commoners. All they knew of Camilla was the figure peddled in the rumours.
They didn’t know her face, nor her true self. For them, Camilla was merely a villainess, a wicked woman who had stepped out from the fairy tales and into the real world.
They didn’t know that the Camilla they giggled about had been standing right in front of them. Perhaps because he leaned more towards human than toad nowadays, they didn’t realize Lord Alois was there either. They had no intentions of insulting the people who stood in front of them like that.
What’s more, the fact that Camilla fought against Liselotte wasn’t fiction. It’s true that if one considered the love between Liselotte and Prince Julian to be a fact, Camilla, who opposed it, did play the role of the villainess. Camilla must also have looked unsightly as she chased after the Prince, desperately averting her eyes from the defeat looking her square in the face. As for the face she made when she cursed and scorned Liselotte in hatred, what could one call it but ugly?
– And yet…
“Even so, I didn’t do anything wrong.”
But those young musicians weren’t really at fault. If Camilla hadn’t been the subject of them, she probably would have laughed and gossiped with her friends about the rumours as well.
However, Camilla wasn’t wrong either. Thus, it was only natural that she would get angry.
According to him, the words that Camilla said had wounded Alois as well, but in saying so, Alois hadn’t done anything wrong.
Then, just who was at fault?
“Ah, jeeeeeez, what am I supposed to even do!?”
Walking over to the edge of the balcony, she grasped the railing. As her fingers were buried in that freezing snow, they became so numb she could barely feel them anymore. All she could see in front of her was the dark courtyard and the faint lights of the town below. At the horizon’s edge, the trace remains of the crimson sunset bled into the hues of a darkened sky. She looked south, towards the royal capital, but she couldn’t see it from here.
In the capital… In the capital, Prince Julian and Liselotte must be looking forward to a beautiful wedding.
The spot by Prince Julian’s side that Camilla had always dreamed of would be Liselotte instead.
Everyone would give the two their earnest blessings. Prince Julian and Liselotte would embrace happily, never again remembering Camilla who stood numb and freezing only in winter’s embrace.
Camilla wondered just where everything had gone wrong. Was there really just something wrong with her after all? Should she have given up on that hopeless love? Should she have thrown away the feelings she kept in her heart for over a decade?
Camilla bit her lip in anger. She had already lost the calm it took her so long to get back. She squeezed the railing in her grip as much as she could, her breathing ragged.
“But I’ll definitely be the one looking down on you all someday!!”
Did they already think she’d given up? Frustrating. Frustrating. Vexing. Frustrating. Suffocating. Frustrating.
She wouldn’t ever be satisfied until she could lord it over all of them. Camilla would make them regret their scorn from the very bottom of their hearts.
So, she won’t cry.
If she showed them weakness, wouldn’t it be over before it began?
“…Oh? A rare visitor?”
As Camilla stood on the balcony, she heard a joking voice from behind her. She didn’t even have to turn around to know it was Klaus.
Camilla took a deep breath as she closed her eyes. Letting all her emotions seep back into that sallow darkness of the winter night, she turned on her heels to look at him.
“What are you doing here? If you stand around outside in the cold like that, you’ll get ill.”
“First, what are you doing here?”
“I just came to enjoy the twilight.”
Klaus’ smile was odd, it didn’t seem to suit that usual joking attitude of his at all. Then, without giving Camilla a chance to rebuke him, he stood next to her, leaning his back against the railing.
“So, what about you? Are you alright…?”
“None of your business.”
With a ‘hmph’, Camilla snorted and turned away as Klaus gave her a sidelong glance. Klaus was the last person she wanted worrying about her.
Klaus shook his head a little at Camilla’s ever bullish attitude. When he opened his mouth to speak again, it was back to his usual frivolous voice, as if trying to change the subject.
“So…the truth about the noise coming from underground wasn’t a big deal after all, huh? I was half hoping it would be a monster or some secret organization, though.”
“That’s right. There were always rumours about a ghost in the royal palace as well, but I’m sure they were something similar after all.”
Camilla remembered the rumours about a pale ghost that stalked the halls of the royal palace at night that was at one time the most popular topic amongst the ladies of high society. There had been many who claimed to have seen it, and there were all sorts of ridiculous stories flying around that it was the spirit of a nobleman who rebelled against the royal family or the revenant shade of a royal family member executed long ago.
To try and impress the noble girls that they were wooing, many irresponsible young noblemen’s sons tried to outdo each other in stupidity by attempting to capture or sight the ghost somehow, but nothing ever came of it. To the young ladies who eventually tired of it, it was just another amusing piece of gossip.
– That was nostalgic, just when was it that I last thought about that?
At that time, Camilla still had people who at the very least pretended to be her friends. Though that changed a lot after she began to oppose Liselotte.
Laughing slightly, Klaus looked at Camilla.
“By the way… Can you play music?”
Camilla inadvertently looked at him incredulously in response to that sudden question. Just where on earth had that come from?
Klaus simply shrugged as Camilla looked at him suspiciously. With another carefree laugh, white steam stained the air.
“Back in the cellar, you were giving them a hard time for that instrument or another. Because of how things are around here, there isn’t really anyone who knows their stuff when it comes to music, right? So I was thinking that if you could play an instrument…”
“I have never done it, not even once.”
Camilla said it like that was only the most natural thing as she cut off Klaus’ words. It was hard to describe Klaus’ expression, halfway between annoyance and disappointment.
But, she was hardly going to claim that she could do what she couldn’t.
“I don’t know how educated you are when it comes to this, but in the royal capital a musician is left to playing music whilst the nobility are entrusted to hearing it. I could potentially sing if pressed, but I have never picked up an instrument.”
This time, Klaus raised a rare loud voice for him. To Camilla, his face looked as if she had said something completely unbelievable. Even that shocked face of his was somehow well kept together, as expected of a good looking man.
“Even though you’ve never touched an instrument before, you still gave them such a hard time!? Just where do you get off!?”
“I may not be able to do it myself, but that doesn’t stop me from being able to criticize.”
‘Hmph’, Camilla’s exhaled breath was visible in the air as she struck out her chest, her strength of will put into the arm she placed on her hip.
“What’s more, I possess ears. Even if I cannot play an instrument, I can still hear them.”
“That’s… Well, that’s true.”
Klaus chewed on Camilla’s words for a moment, but then gave up. With a laugh, he looked back up into the night sky. There really was something slightly different in that smile compared to his usual flirty self.
“I really like that part of you, y’know? You could say I love it, even.”
“Are you trying to make a fool out of me again?”
“No, it’s praise!”
With tears in the corner of his eyes, Klaus said that. Camilla didn’t get it at all. As he looked at her staring at him dubiously, it only made him smile again.
“Those guys, can you go and see them one more time? I’d like you to listen to their sound with those prideful ears of yours. Maybe if it’s you, you could instruct them when it comes to music?”
“Why would you ask me?”
“Now now, doesn’t this fall under noblesse oblige? This is your chance to show them how calm and dignified a noble you can be, right? Verrat and Dieter were talking about wanting to apologize, too.”
Camilla kept her silence.
To put it bluntly, it seemed that teaching music was just an excuse and what he really wanted was for Camilla to return to that cellar again. He wanted to show those commoners that they hadn’t incurred the life-long wrath of a noble and that bygones could be bygones.
As it stood, Verrat and the others must be fearing what could become of their lives. There are nobles out there who wield their power like a cudgel, always eager to make examples of anyone who crossed them. That impression of nobles was only enhanced because of the Lörrich-backed vigilantes in town right now. They were probably even more afraid than usual.
Camilla couldn’t pretend that she wasn’t still angry at them. Yet, all the same, Camilla had no intention of abusing her social position to get revenge. In any case, as it stands, Camilla would have to rely on Alois’ power to do anything like that. Alois was far from the type of person to torment commoners in such a way, and what’s more, Camilla couldn’t say they were totally wrong about everything.
She knew that she hadn’t acted calmly. By letting the blood rush to her head like that, she hadn’t done much to dispel the image they had of the ‘Camilla’ from the rumours.
Camilla didn’t care what people thought of her. Whether they hated or feared her, Camilla would never shirk from what she believed. At least, that’s what she thought before she came to Mohnton.
But now, there was a strange sort of self-control she felt restrained by.
If people truly thought of Camilla as a horrible person… Wouldn’t that surely cause trouble for Alois?
After letting go of the breath she had been holding in, Camilla looked at him bitterly.
“However, I never want to hear that noise again. I will whip that sound of theirs into shape until it suits my ears!”
“Thanks, you really are a nice person after all!”
“That attitude of yours…”
As Klaus blurted a thing like that so casually, Camilla glared at him. But no matter how much she scowled at the man, it only ever seemed to further encourage his frivolity.
Klaus leaned on the rails, looking back up towards the night sky. As his arms sunk into the snow, his cheeks were dyed red from the cold. Those winter stars shone through the clear sky, their blue and red twinkling standing against the endless dark.
“You’re different from your usual self.”
Even though she was looking up at Klaus, it sounded as if she were looking down on him as she stood with her hands on her waist. As she stared at him haughtily, Klaus shot back a flirtatious smirk.
“Oh, you’re worried about me? Even though you looked so depressed just a second ago. You’re so sweet you made my heart skip a beat.”
“I am not depressed at all. I’ve already gotten used to that carefree side of you, so stop looking so miserable. It’s unpleasant.”
With a sigh, Klaus exhaled. Then, he smiled at her as if he were giggling.
“Even though you’ve been moaning and groaning this whole time?”
“Who is moaning!? Just how rude can you be!?”
“I’m just going off what I’ve heard from you tonight.”
Klaus shrugged as Camilla shouted in his direction. As Klaus turned away and let out a laugh, Camilla angrily gripped her fists. She thought that there was something slightly off about him tonight, but in the end, he was just making a fool out of her as always.
“I see you’re doing just fine. I needn’t have worried about you at all, then!?”
“No, no, it really is all thanks to you.”
With his face slightly brighter than it appeared before, Klaus swept back his hair with a hand. Then, with a breath, he pushed himself off the railing.
He proceeded in taking a few steps to go back into the mansion. But just before crossing the threshold to leave the balcony, Klaus stopped.
Turning back to look at Camilla, Klaus opened his mouth once again. At first, he closed his mouth as if the words had left him. But after looking at his feet, he opened it once more.
“…Actually, do you have a moment? There’s a place I’d like to show you.”
With that fake smile painted on his face, Klaus said those words.
Edited by: ApoPie
I thought of putting an AF joke here but I couldn’t think of one