4 (2) – 9
Camilla followed Klaus along a short path into the back of the Lörrich mansion’s rear garden. They kept walking until they reached a small building.
The walls of the building were white and featureless. It barely seemed suitable as a storeroom and was hardly fit for anyone to live in. There were several windows, but they were all located on the sloped roof so she couldn’t peer inside. There wasn’t a chimney either, so there couldn’t be a fireplace inside.
As she was led inside the hut, it was surprisingly warm, as if it were designed to keep out the cold.
The source of that warmth was the vast amount of manastone lamps that lit up the interior, making it as bright as if the sun was still hanging in the sky. In all four corners of the room as well, there were magical heating tools. Just how many manastones were being consumed to keep this room warm throughout the winter?
Thanks to the extravagant use of manastones, stepping inside the hut felt like leaping forward in time into spring. Camilla could scarce believe how comfortable it was inside, no fireplace could replicate this.
But what surprised her the most was the scene she beheld in the cabin.
It was as if she were looking at a field of snow, from which a beautifully sweet aroma wafted in the air. Besides the old looking shelf sitting next to the door, the hut had no other features.
Her vision was dominated by the wholly white flowers that sprung up all around her.
“Just what is…?”
A greenhouse. She remembered hearing about these once before. It was a small building that was warmed and lit with magic tools to keep the same climate year-round. Because it naturally cost a small fortune in manastones to maintain, it was rare to see one outside of the confines of a rich florist’s business or in the garden of some aristocratic hobbyist.
“You really are carefree, huh? Even though I’m a man, you followed me to this corner of the garden with no one around. If I were a bad guy, wouldn’t you be in trouble?”
As Camilla blinked in surprise, looking at all the flowers, Klaus’ joking voice came from behind her. It was a threatening joke in poor taste, but Camilla didn’t turn around.
“I didn’t make a mistake when accompanying you. Since you are all bark and no bite, after all.”
“Harsh as ever, huh?”
With a smile, Klaus overtook Camilla and made his way further into the greenhouse. Reaching the centre, he stopped in his tracks.
“This place here, y’see, is my secret little hideaway.”
Klaus’ voice sounded slightly higher pitched than usual as he said that, his back to Camilla.
“When I was still a kid, Father said he would buy me whatever I liked, so I asked for a flower garden that would stay in bloom all year round. Ain’t it great?”
It was certainly true that the field of blooming flowers was a sight to behold. If she looked down at her feet, it was easy to forget that she was actually indoors.
Looking closely at the beautifully white and delicate looking petals on those flowers, she could see a slight red tinge at the base. The petal’s colour transitioned from red to a light pink and finally to pure white as it stretched out towards those rounded tips.
– I’ve seen these flowers somewhere before.
Camilla frowned as she bent over, looking closely at the flowers stretching out in front of her. It was a flower that she had never seen in the royal capital…
“The flowers growing in here are my favourites. They smell good, right? They’re one of the most important ingredients in the perfumes made here in Blume. They’re Sehnsucht. In the language of flowers, they represent ‘desire’.”
“That’s right… They were on the biscuit you gave me.”
Camilla remembered when she met Klaus for the first time, as well as the flowers with which he decorated his baking.
“You never really took it, though.”
“I crushed it, actually.”
When Camilla said that, Klaus laughed.
His laugh today really was different from usual. Despite not liking his usual attitude much, something about it still bothered Camilla.
“The flower begins to bud during winter, then when spring hits they bloom all at once. This town really is amazing in spring, y’know? The streets are just awash in flowers. It’s not just Sehnsucht, there’s all sorts of colourful flowers.”
The trees that were planted along the sidewalks of town, the flower beds lining the square that were now buried in snow, the flower gardens in all the public spaces, and the potted plants that sat in the gardens of all the common homes.
When spring came, they would all bloom into life as one. The people of this town planted the spring seeds and awaited the thaw, as if praying for an early change in season.
As much as the town was covered in snow now; come spring, it would be similarly adorned with flowers. Just how beautiful would it be?
“I like this town in spring. Even from the windows up here, you can see flowers blooming everywhere. The white walls of the houses are covered in flowers too. When the snow melts away, the streets come to life with people as well. The whole place becomes brighter. I’ve always loved seeing this town like that.”
Camilla couldn’t tell what kind of expression Klaus was making with his back turned to her. She wasn’t even sure that he was talking to her at all.
Perhaps Klaus wasn’t really expecting Camilla to say anything in response. In fact, he might not want to hear one at all. Maybe the only reason he brought Camilla along was because he didn’t want to feel as if he were speaking to a wall.
“If this place becomes another mining town, the flowers won’t bloom anymore. Uncle and Franz are obsessed with excavating as much as possible. Flowers are weak and unbecoming, apparently not fit to represent the pride of the Lörrich family. My uncle has always been pushing to make this place more like Einst.”
The modest and taciturn town of Einst. A town that resembled a barracks, obsessively ordered where people lived and worked like a regiment. They would follow the orders of their leader to the letter; left, right, left.
Camilla had learned that all the townspeople of Einst still retained their own beliefs, thoughts, and feelings. But the impression others still had of the town was one of a monolith, where the people were equally made of stone.
“The people in this town just won’t go for something like that, y’know? You saw it in the young musicians you met, right? How they’re still hiding and playing despite everything? When people try to ban them from doing something, it only makes them want to do it more. Even if there might be trouble if the truth comes out, I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to go against these taboos.”
Camilla spoke, though she wasn’t sure that he had heard her.
Those people they had met in town, Klaus’ ‘teachers’ from all different ages and walks of life, had embodied that rebellious ethos. It couldn’t have been a coincidence that they only ran into Klaus’ teachers like that. Perhaps, most of the people in this town had taught Klaus something over the years.
What’s more, those young musicians… Even though they feared the repercussions they might face from the vigilantes if they were caught, as far as Camilla could recall, they didn’t seem to have any guilt or remorse over actually breaking the traditions at all.
“Making this place look like Einst must seem like an easy thing to do if you’re sitting up in an ivory tower, but that shoe just doesn’t fit. When you let people in this town live as they please, great things can happen. The whole perfume industry here started as someone’s hobby, after all…”
As Klaus’ words trailed off, he stared up at the roof. Those twinkling manastone lamps illuminated the brown curls of his hair.
“This town… I don’t want it to change.”
“If that’s how you feel, then you ought to claim the succession.”
Camilla placed her hand on her hip as she stared at Klaus’ back. He just continued looking at the roof in silence, not giving her any response.
But, Camilla felt frustrated just listening to his complaints without offering any sort of solution.
“You are the eldest son, are you not? And Gerda is backing you, yes? If Baron Lörrich hasn’t yet decided on his heir, then you have more than a good chance.”
“Father wishes to have Franz inherit his title. In fact, he has been raising Franz as his heir since he was a kid.”
“Why on earth would he bring up the second son as his heir from the beginning?”
In Sonnenlicht, inheritance was usually decided by the right of primogeniture. Although it wasn’t the law, it was seen as common sense to raise and educate the eldest child with the intention of having him inherit his father’s titles and land. Any young brothers born afterward were, to put it bluntly, a spare. It was only in cases where the older brother is useless or a miscreant, the younger brother is some kind of genius, or some other reason where it wouldn’t be logical to have the eldest sit in the position of successor, would the younger brother come to the fore later in life.
As Camilla asked the natural question, Klaus simply shrugged.
After a while, he finally turned around to look at Camilla. A bitter smile was plastered on that pale and thin face of his.
“I used to be quite sickly as a child. I barely had enough strength to stay on my feet, and I never left the estate because of how dangerous it would be to my health. That’s why my father gave me this place, because I didn’t have enough strength to walk all the way to see the flowers myself.”
As a young boy, Klaus was so ill and weak that the doctors surmised he wouldn’t see his tenth birthday.
That’s why the family pampered and spoiled Klaus, whilst Franz received the strict education as the heir apparent of a noble family.
In order to raise Franz as an ideal lord, superior to the rest, he faced a severe regimen of classes and study every single day. The training was as strict as anyone could expect given the position he was being raised to fill. But just how did the young and exhausted Franz feel when he saw that older brother of his, who was indulged and spoiled merely for existing?
However, he would be the inheritor. Consoling himself with the fact that his older brother, Klaus, would one day die and secure him in that position, he carried on.
Yet Klaus, the boy who was supposed to have died, lived on.
After he reached the age of ten, when he was expected to pass away, Klaus in fact slowly regained his strength and vitality.
When he eventually became as strong as any other boy his age, voices started to come out of the woodworks recommending Klaus to once again become the heir apparent.
“Because I’m a genius, I can do things better than most people can. Even though Franz is ardent in his studies, I can usually learn something in half the time it takes him. When I was a young boy, people often said that I was brilliant for my age. I could figure out what people were thinking straight away, seeing through their politeness to understand their real thoughts and attitude. So… I do understand why there are people who support me in becoming heir. I wouldn’t be a bad bet at all.”
Camilla listened in silence as Klaus ended with a sigh.
She didn’t like it. As a person, Camilla felt far more sympathy for Franz’s position than Klaus’.
Having to see his brother pampered like that from an early age, then eventually threatening to rob him of his very reason for being… Camilla saw a parallel between Franz and Klaus’ problems and her own history with Liselotte.
Camilla just couldn’t understand what Klaus was thinking. She knew Klaus had his own problems which he was deeply troubled by, but Camilla couldn’t empathize with him and wasn’t about to offer insincere words of comfort.
“If I succeed though, what will happen to Franz? Just what will he do if the only thing he had been raised up for his entire life is suddenly taken away?”
He’d be bitterly disappointed. And of course, he’d despise Klaus. It would be frustrating. He’d feel like he was suffocating. Camilla knew those feelings all too well.
“That guy has a few things wrong with him and is a little twisted. He can only see himself in how he compares to others and doesn’t know about anything other than inheriting the barony. He isn’t the kind of person who would ever want to work under me, but I can’t see him doing well out in the world either. But since I’m a genius, I wouldn’t have any trouble finding a living anywhere. There’s no need for me to succeed the House.”
Saying that, Klaus suddenly clapped his hands together. Then with a laugh, he looked back at Camilla.
“Alright, that’s how the story ends! That Alois guy can just go ahead and endorse Franz as the successor. Thanks for listening to me drone on like that.”
As he said that with a frivolous laugh, Klaus began to walk back towards Camilla, who was still standing at the entrance. He spoke as if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders, but that smile of his still skewed strangely.
“Are you leaving?”
As Klaus made to leave in silence, Camilla glared at him.
Camilla sympathized with Franz. She couldn’t understand Klaus’ point of view, and in a way, she was envious of him.
– No, but that’s the very reason I can’t stand it.
“Hmph,” with an angry snort, Camilla’s mouth bent in annoyance. With her hands on her hips, she thrust out her chest as she spoke out to Klaus, who tried to go past her and leave.
“This story is not over at all. There is something that I want to say.”
Despite deeply yearning for something, he was taken lightly. He was pitied, then merely had it handed over.
In other words, treated as a fool.
Edited by: ApoPie
Is that him? The fabled triple release?