4 (3) – 6
After leaving the basement of the diner, Camilla was accompanied by Alois as they made their way to the florist.
Klaus and Nicole, meanwhile, were still busy in the cellar. Klaus was busy personally instructing Victor and the others, whilst Nicole was staying with him since Klaus wanted to use her.
Apparently, Klaus was determined to have Nicole sing. Nicole was a typical denizen of Mohnton and was hesitant about getting involved with this sudden new vice at first, but lately, she seems to have been swept up in Klaus’ rhythm and they even seemed to be getting along a little better.
That’s why, for the first time in a while, she was alone with Alois.
Just like always, she could hear the faint echoes of that detestable hymn on the air.
There weren’t many other people trudging through the snow covered roads. As she walked alongside Alois, Camilla felt awkward, leaving behind a trail of footprints in the snow.
Blume was a town famous for its flowers and perfumes. However, since flowers were only really seen as an ingredient, its main export was the perfume. There weren’t all that many shops that were specifically dedicated to floristry, and amongst those there were only a handful that Klaus pointed out as potential collaborators for the festival.
In the first place, it wasn’t an uncommon opinion in this land that flowers, being so vividly coloured and eye-catching, were in themselves a form of ‘vice’. Although people tolerated the flowers that grew in the flowerbeds and on the trees as articles of nature, there were those who frowned on florists displaying bouquets and wreaths in their shop windows.
Of course, it goes without saying that perfume is considered a luxurious item, but the perfume produced in Blume isn’t typically sold there. The vast majority of it is exported outside of the territory, with it being an open secret that in Mohnton itself the products are only used by a cadre of high ranking nobles and wealthy merchants.
The point being, they weren’t sold much in the public eye.
There was still a little ways to walk before they reached the florist.
As they walked side by side, it didn’t seem like Alois was going to say anything either as the silence persisted between them.
Thinking about it, it was probably the first time she had been alone with Alois since the time in the greenhouse. She was acutely aware that the pitiful side of herself she showed to Alois must still be fresh in his mind.
After all, Alois had proposed to Camilla. How could he simply forget that the woman he wanted to think about becoming engaged to him was crying her eyes out over another man? In fact, Alois had often kept Camilla company when she had something to vent.
So, Camilla thought that she should sincerely respond to Alois’ kindness.
Alois responded straight away as Camilla awkwardly called out to him. Although, seeing how bitter Camilla’s face was as she looked up at him, Alois seemed a little confused.
“Is something wrong?”
“Ah, well, you see? I thought I should thank you for the other day. I showed you something unsightly after all…”
“Ah, don’t mention it.”
With that answer, Alois’ gaze drifted. It was as if he was looking over the snow-covered town for some inspiration as to what to say next.
“I loved Prince Julian.”
“Yes. I know.”
“And when it came to marrying you, Lord Alois, I was against it from the start. Why should I have to live apart from His Highness? That was the kind of thing I was thinking.”
Alois’ voice that responded to Camilla’s sounded unnatural, betraying no emotion.
It had always been plain to see from her attitude. In the beginning, Camilla refused to marry Alois. Although his appearance played a big part, there was also the apprehension towards marrying anyone other than Prince Julian.
“All I wanted to do was force them to regret. Not just His Highness, but all those who exiled me. To that end, I intended to use you, Lord Alois. So… I have to apologize for that.”
“…I thought it might have been something like that.”
Alois’ voice was quiet as he sighed. Then, looking back down at Camilla, Alois smiled as if to reassure her.
“So, that’s why you wanted me to lose weight? Somehow, I had an inkling.”
“You don’t hate me for it?”
As Camilla asked that, a note of trepidation in her voice, Alois calmly shook his head.
“It’s no wonder you would think that way after everything that happened, Camilla. Besides, it’s a different story now that we’ve gotten to know each other, isn’t that right?”
At those kind words, Camilla’s mouth felt like it tightened into a knot. Alois wasn’t angry, there was just a slight sadness in his eyes.
Now… Just what did she think? Camilla thought to herself.
Even now, Camilla’s desire to have Alois lose weight hadn’t changed.
Despite being much thinner than before, he was still overweight. His ruddy and pockmarked skin had improved considerably ever since applying the ointments and cream she obtained in Einst. She was worried that he would have constant rebounds through outbreaks of pimples, but surprisingly it was going smoothly. The food he was served was still horribly overseasoned, but at the very least Alois only ate a reasonable amount of meals these days.
She wanted to do away with that horrid salting and sugaring that ruined every meal so that he could enjoy truly delicious food again. She wanted to mold that excess meat of his into muscle. She wanted to finish clearing up his skin. She wanted him to wear clothes that were at least a little more fashionable.
That’s what she thought… But who was all that effort for?
“Lord Alois, I… I have one more thing I need to apologize for.”
Camilla’s voice came out much quieter than she intended.
“This talk of our engagement. I would appreciate if you could wait for my reply for a little while.”
As she said that, the sense of guilt pricked at her heart as she looked up at Alois, her face once again looking bitter. That face of his that looked back at her looked troubled, his brow slightly furrowed.
“In the springtime… His Highness will be married. Until then, I will reflect on it properly. About myself, and what I want to do in the future.”
The hint of frustration didn’t leave Alois’ face as he forced himself into a grimace. Using that self-control he always exerted over himself, he didn’t want to let his feelings show on his face.
“I will wait for you as long as it takes. If it satisfies you, Camilla, then please take as much time as you need to think it over. That would make me happy as well.”
Those words rang hollow in Camilla’s ears.
There wasn’t a single hint of justified indignation in his voice. Just why was he so fine with Camilla selfishly delaying her answer, considering how selfish she had been up until now?
She wanted to be thankful… But it was stifling instead. As she felt weighed down by Alois’ words, Camilla felt a sense of deja-vu.
Lately, when she looked at Klaus, she had thought that he was similar to Alois. This was the reason.
– They go too far for the sake of others.
Klaus had been intent on putting Franz above himself. As for Alois, perhaps, he put everyone above himself. It was as if he didn’t consider himself important at all.
For the sake of others, he endured. For the sake of others, he sacrificed. That’s why when he felt his selfish thoughts or feelings of dissatisfaction might burden others, he didn’t voice them.
That was the impression she got.
“Mu,” Camilla bit her lip. Her hands balled into fists.
Then, she glared at Alois’ face, that hid his feelings like a mask.
“I see then!”
Alois looked bewildered by Camilla’s sudden shout. ‘What’s wrong?’, he wanted to say.
“That’s the end of my apologies. From now on, let’s talk about other things!”
Camilla said that with a strong voice as she clapped her hands together beside the confused Alois.
“Lord Alois, festivals are very fun.”
“So, let’s make it a success! Lord Alois, I’ll have you enjoy it to the fullest!”
Alois blinked. He had no idea what Camilla was getting at all of a sudden.
“You’ll see after experiencing it just how fun it is, so you can do something for your own sake for once!”
Stepping in front of Alois, she pointed his finger at him. As she did, Alois stared at her, dumbfounded.
Camilla was a selfish person. Because she had been trying to use Alois for her own ends, she felt guilty now whenever they were close. Yet all she had to do was apologize for her wrongs and easily accept his goodwill as he forgave her. However, she could force goodwill onto him as well.
She was quick to anger. She was quick to fall into a slump. She did the same thing over and over without learning her lesson. Even if she gets into fights, finds herself pushed away and falls into depression, she couldn’t change so easily.
Camilla was selfish.
And so, she could tell Alois what she wished for.
Alois smiled like she had placed him in a tough spot. Camilla didn’t know the true intention of that smile, but to her, it was as if he were peering right into her.
But, for some reason, she couldn’t look away from it.
“You really are like the spring’s first ray of sunshine. The light of the sun that melts away the snow.”
As Alois spoke the type of words she never expected to hear from his mouth, Camilla looked bewildered.
“You’re bright and strong. To me, you are the sake I would do anything for.”
Camilla felt her throat clam up.
“Gugugu..” Camilla couldn’t face Alois as she stifled the sounds coming from her mouth. Inadvertently, she hurried ahead of him.
“Just where did you learn words like that?”
It was like a rehearsed pick-up line. Even though Klaus often said things like that, he usually said it like a joke, so it was unfair for Alois to say it with such a straight face.
“Did you hate it?”
As Camilla hurried ahead with her quick steps, Alois followed after her with his long strides.
Camilla stubbornly didn’t answer him as she glared straight ahead.