4 (3) – 4
“Klaus, just what are you thinking!?”
After returning to the Lörrich mansion on leaving the cellar, Alois confronted Klaus in his room.
“Do you actually realize just how precarious a situation you’re in right now? Yet you’re still sneaking out to visit people in town alone, and now this…!?”
Saying that, Alois rubbed his forehead. He felt like he’d grown wrinkles from the stress of the past week.
“Ah, so that’s the reason you agreed to come along today, right?”
But, Klaus’ kept his cool. With that relaxed expression of his not cracking an inch, he nestled down into his favourite lounging chair and crossed his legs.
It wouldn’t be hard to interpret that irreverent attitude of his as pure mockery.
“You feel responsible for getting me into this now, so if I happened to die it wouldn’t rest easy on your conscience. You sure are a kind and gentle lord, aren’t you.”
“Guh,” Alois couldn’t say a word. It was a bullseye.
Alois didn’t regret pushing Klaus into competing to become the successor. Even putting aside his personality and talent, it was natural for him to be in that position in the first place.
However, Alois’ decision had jeopardized Franz’s position, which he must have thought all but secured.
Alois, the Lord of Montchat, had made his feelings known. What’s more, the Baron Lörrich, Rudolph, who had little power to go against him would have to fall in line as well. In quite a stunning turnaround, it seemed like only a matter of time until Klaus became the heir apparent.
This change of fortune had been especially painful for Franz’s hopes of being the next head of the family, as well as for those who supported him. For some, it was too late to even go over to Klaus’ side. What’s more, Klaus had built up a reputation for being notoriously hard to please when his brother’s former supporters came to curry favour with him.
They would much rather have Franz in charge than the difficult to control Klaus. So, to that end, they had been coming to treat with Alois in the hopes of changing his mind nearly every single day.
However, there aren’t only the diplomatic sort who support or are subordinate to Franz’s faction. There are also those who would not be remiss to resort to much more direct and simple methods.
In particular, there was Lucas, the uncle of Franz and Klaus who was obsessed with his ideal of the monolithic personality of Einst. He was the kind of man who wouldn’t balk at using force.
– And if that’s the case…
“Why are you going to such lengths to stand out, then? And this ‘Successor Selection Festival’ only sounds like a huge provocation to me.”
“Well, yeah? It is meant to provoke, after all.”
As he said that like it was just a matter of course, Alois felt like those premature wrinkles had doubled.
“If things keep going the way they are, I’ll have to watch my back throughout the entire year. So, why don’t we settle this with one big bang?”
“You are honestly… the most reckless man I’ve ever met.”
“Hey now, that’s not true. Unlike you, I do actually value my life. I’m giving this proper thought, y’know.”
‘Proper thought’ won’t protect him from a knife between the ribs. His enemies were in this very house. No matter what he did or where he went, chances are he was being monitored.
What’s more, the vigilantes were still a major problem. The people they had rallied to their side in and around the Lörrich household were more known for their brain than their brawn. It would be impossible to win in a straight up battle against Franz and Lucas, who still controlled the vigilante militia.
But despite Alois’ worry, Klaus laughed through his nose. “It’ll be fine,” he said with a fearless smile, tapping the side of his head.
“Don’t worry too much. I’m smarter than you are, so I’ll figure it out.”
From a minor noble to the Duke of the territory, Klaus’ words really were far too arrogant and disrespectful.
But, for some reason, they were also oddly persuasive.
After a moment of silence, Alois sighed as if he had given in.
“…Yeah. It’s just as you said.”
Alois grimaced a little bit as he said that.
Rubbing his temples at the lunacy of it all, he shook his head. Alois didn’t feel the weight of those wrinkles anymore, though.
“I believe in you, Klaus. Just tell me what I can do to help.”
“You sure about that? I might just squeeze you dry?”
Even though Klaus teased him, Alois nodded earnestly.
“That’s not a problem, but…”
For the first time in their conversation, Alois took his gaze off Klaus. He wasn’t looking at anywhere in particular. If he were forced, he would say he was looking back at the cellar. Back at his memory of just how Camilla had looked.
“If you really are going to plan a festival, don’t plan on ruining it. It would discourage Victor and the others… Besides, it seems like she’s really looking forward to it too.”
“For other’s sake, you…?”
Klaus breathed out, his expression a mixture of confusion as well as astonishment.
Camilla meanwhile, not knowing anything about the exchange between the two men, was in high spirits.
It had been such a long time since she’d last seen a festival. Since Mohnton had a strict taboo on things like fairs and festivals, she hadn’t seen one since she was back in the royal capital the better part of a year ago.
She wasn’t wholly sold on the idea of a festival organized by and dedicated to Klaus, but so long as she ignored that part she felt like she would be able to have fun all the same.
The occasions that were celebrated in the royal capital were held to mark the start of the vernal equinox as well as the harvest festivals. Not to mention a celebration of the royal family’s history on the birthday of the ruling monarch.
The celebrations surrounding the monarch’s birthday were a little stuffy and formal. It is usually centered around military achievements of both the current king and his ancestors, so everyone in attendance has to follow strict decorum. There was a tourney held in an open square, as well as a competition for blade dancing. Both of these were restricted to men, however.
There were other smaller festivals that were held for the birthdays of other monarchs, however, and these were usually lighter affairs. Camilla especially liked the celebrations that were usually held for the women of the royal family, such as the Queen. On the birthday of a female member of the royal family, she would have the capital filled with all of her favourite fancies. If she loved singing, tenors would stand on every street corner. If she preferred dancing, the entirety of the business district would turn into a massive ball. The town would be beautifully decorated and awash in colourful flowers and streaming cloth, creating a wondrous atmosphere.
Of course, young noblewomen like Camilla wouldn’t be permitted to go out and join the common people in their raucous festivals all over town. She would always have to watch their festivities from the window of the carriage, feeling a deep sense of envy as they trundled on towards the royal palace, the laughter, and cheers echoing in her ears.
Of course, there would be a festival taking place at the royal palace as well. Since the center of attention whose birthday was being celebrated was there, one would be able to greet them and give their sincere best wishes in person. It was a special privilege only provided to nobles to even be in the presence of the birthday celebrant.
But, despite the pomp and circumstance, it was still a strictly followed ceremony. She had to mind every step she took and every word she said since you could be sure that the other nobles were always watching.
But this time, Camilla could go out and enjoy a festival taking place in town.
She couldn’t wait to see how much fun being on the other side of a celebration could be.
The territory of Mohnton had strict taboos against entertainment. When Klaus had proposed the idea of a festival, she had seen Alois frown at the word, but he hadn’t forbidden it.
It almost seemed like he was ready to ‘look the other way’. As the lord of the land, he wasn’t going to interfere. In other words, they were given free reign to do as they like… Or at least, that’s how Camilla saw it.
“Is a festival really such a fun thing?”
After they came back to the mansion, to Camilla who had been pacing around her room with a smile on her face the entire time, Nicole asked that.
Born and raised in Mohnton, Nicole had never heard of a festival before. The town of Falsch where Nicole was from was nestled deep in the mountains, with no entertainment making its way in from outside. There were no closeted hedonists like in Blume, so she never had an opportunity to see anything like this before coming here.
That said, it wasn’t as if Nicole didn’t understand the idea of ‘fun’. It was ‘fun’ for her to talk with her brothers. It was ‘fun’ for her to comb and braid Camilla’s hair. But, she didn’t really understand the difference between that and getting wrapped up in true entertainment.
Camilla, who stopped humming a happy tune that Nicole looked mystified by, looked her way.
Seeing Nicole’s confused expression, Camilla explained without wiping the smile off her face.
“It’s incredibly fun. Just being able to watch is exciting. There are bands, jesters and all sorts of stalls selling food and trinkets lining the streets.”
There were formal bands and entertainers like jugglers in the royal palace’s celebrations as well, but there weren’t any food stalls, since the palace prided itself on providing fancier cuisine.
Still, surely the festival atmosphere of the town would be more fun, free from the stuffy restraints of a noble gathering.
“And everyone is enjoying themselves. Surely, it would be fun to get involved in such a ruckus together as well.”
It would be fun to organize that ruckus as well. She was having fun just imagining it. A town like Blume that was full of secret entertainers and hidden joys. If everyone could enjoy themselves without having to worry, then surely the atmosphere would be amazing.
– Just what do we need to prepare for the festival, I wonder?
For the stalls, she thought about asking the town’s restaurants for help. The decorations around town would need a lot of flowers and bolts of cloth. She couldn’t forget about the bands either, especially since they were the catalyst for all this. How about having a matching uniform made for Victor and the other musicians?
The more she thought about it, the more there was to prepare.
Finally noticing the huge grin that had spread across her face, Camilla shook her head and lightly slapped her cheeks in a flurry.
But, it wouldn’t go away.