4 (3) – 7
A scene was already unfolding at the florist.
“We’re here on Master Franz’s behalf! We’re warning you right now, don’t associate with any unsightly displays like festivals! You are only permitted to sell flowers if Lord Franz requests them!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about! How do you expect me to run my business like that!?”
“You criminal! Did you not hear what I said, I’m here on Master Franz’s behalf!”
“I heard you! But Master Franz has never once visited here to buy flowers! Are you trying to destroy my livelihood!?”
“It only makes sense that it would be destroyed if you have no buyers. In the first place, soft and tepid things like flowers have no place in Blume!”
A group of men surrounded a woman who was the owner of the floristry, their voices so loud they could be heard from outside. None of them seemed to notice that Alois and Camilla had entered the shop either. They didn’t look back to see them, still just continuing their argument.
Putting the quarrel aside, the interior of the shop was surprisingly bland.
Was this due to the lack of flowers blooming during the winter? Accompanying the masses of empty flowerpots were a precious few plants that didn’t wither away over the winter months. Considering how empty the store seemed, it was a surprise that she was even in business during winter.
Even the men who were arguing with her now were clearly not there to buy flowers. They didn’t even seem to be from Blume at all, their formal clothes and the swords that hung from their waists made them look more like soldiers than anything. What’s more, Camilla recognized their leader’s heavy tone.
– They’re vigilantes.
It was not a self-governed group of young men who were native to Blume. They were a militia organized by Franz’s faction – the ones who abused Victor’s group and tried to humiliate Camilla in public. Camilla felt her brows furrow as she recalled that unpleasant memory.
And if she looked closely, she remembered their faces. Most of all, the man who stood front and centre as he harangued the shopkeeper was unforgettable. He was the very man who had directly insulted Camilla, after all.
“Stop that at once!”
As soon as she recognized that man, Camilla yelled out without caring about the consequences. “Who the hell!?” the men cried out as they turned around.
But when they saw Camilla, as well as Alois standing next to her, they frowned in confusion and surprise.
“L-Lord Alois!? W-what are you doing in such a place?”
It was the man who insulted Camilla before who seemed the most panicked now. Was it because he had come into conflict with Alois before? Maybe he was thinking that he was here to make sure there wouldn’t ever be a second time?
“I came to purchase from the florist… However, if only Franz is permitted to buy flowers in Blume, then I suppose I am no exception either?”
Alois spoke with a calm and measured tone. Because he spoke so calmly, Camilla couldn’t figure out whether he was being genuine or sarcastic.
“N-No, not at all, how could we ever stop you from purchasing what you like, Lord Alois…”
But, the man clearly took it as biting sarcasm. The bravado from mere minutes ago disappeared as he seemed to shrink before him. The other vigilantes looked confused by how cowed their leader suddenly seemed. Whatever anyone said, Alois was the lord of this land. His influence over the territory of Mohnton was absolute.
As the man backed away, he looked at his subordinates. Then, quickly raised his arm and motioned for them to leave as quickly as they could.
“You guys, get out of here now! Lord Alois, if you’ll please excuse us…”
After bowing his head as low as he could, the man turned to escape the florist alongside his goons.
As he watched them leave, Alois calmly saw them off, before crossing his arms.
“Do those fellows have that little conviction?”
As Alois whispered that to himself, Camilla looked up at him.
– It looks like he’s plotting something.
Even if he cared too much for others or was a bit of a ‘good boy’, Alois was still a lord, after all.
Perhaps because they got rid of the vigilantes from her store, but it was quite easy to secure the cooperation of the florist after all that.
As for the florist herself, she said…
“Because there are flowers all over town, people don’t think much of florists. But bouquets and wreaths can enhance the natural beauty of flowers that people pick… Or at least, that’s what I think.”
Back in the cellar where they always met, Camilla discussed the results of the past few days’ work with the others. They had gone around town and spoken to the floristry shops, and almost all of them seemed to be in favour of the festival.
Part of the reason might have been the unwelcome attention they had been getting from Franz’s faction. In their case, even if they went along with it and boycotted the festival, it wasn’t as if they could get anything useful out of submitting to Franz. Whereas if they went along with Klaus’ plans, it was another story.
On the other hand, the restaurants had proven to be troublesome. The only vice that was permitted in Mohnton was the consumption of luxurious meals. Even members of Franz’s faction were important customers to them.
“About that, I talked to the old man. He said that if it’s for Alois’ sake, he’d cooperate.”
But, it seemed like Klaus had plans to fix that problem. The job of speaking to Günter had been delegated entirely to Alois and Klaus. That was because Günter and Camilla still hadn’t spoken since then.
Although Camilla did feel a touch of remorse, more than anything right now she was getting annoyed with Günter’s endless sulking.
“Now we just need to get him to speak to the town’s chefs. After all, the Brandt name still carries some weight, y’know? They’re so connected in the culinary world it’s actually a little scary.”
Putting Camilla who fumed silently aside, Klaus kept talking.
It didn’t seem like Günter’s boast of being able to ‘move a restaurant with his voice’ was an empty boast. The Brandt family, once a noble house but now fallen from that position, had scattered throughout the land of Mohnton, many of them becoming renowned cooks.
Blume was no exception. If word spread about any of the restaurants employing ‘one of those red-headed Brandt chefs’, the reservations would be booked solid weeks in advance.
Even after the fall, the Brandt family still held influence… Or rather, it held a new kind of influence. Because they were always watched with suspicion by the remaining noble houses, they found life hard after the fall, so they had to support one another in order to survive. In particular, Günter, who was presently the ‘head’ of the family, had strong influence. Simply by having Günter in his employ, Alois enjoyed a good reputation with the restaurants and eateries in the territory.
“And, what about manpower?”
Klaus then turned to Victor. Since they were taking a break from practice, he had put his violin aside. As a participant in the debriefing, Victor flashed a thumbs up.
“It’s going perfectly. I talked to the vigilantes… The original vigilantes, and they were happy to help out with the labouring. People have been fed up with Franz’s men causing trouble lately, it seems… That said, I don’t think we have enough security.”
“It’ll be fine. I’ve got some plans when it comes to security, so we should have enough people.”
Saying that, Klaus nodded, evidently satisfied. After that, they talked about basic things such as where they were going to position the stalls and when they should start going up.
– Everything is working out.
They hadn’t run into any major roadblocks and things were advancing smoothly. Despite his attitude, was this the result of Klaus’ leadership? Even the current head of the household Rudolph, who seemed opposed to the idea at first, had somehow been coaxed into giving his tacit approval.
Most of the people in town were happy to cooperate with Klaus as well. Was that just a reflection of the town’s nature? Or did they have some sort of expectations for Klaus, so much so they were willing to put their trust in him? They hadn’t encountered any great resistance, even though what they were trying to bring to Blume was clearly taboo.
Perhaps, in their hearts, everyone was waiting for something like this. Being able to finally enjoy themselves out in the open without having to hide away in their homes or cellars.
Once tied down to tradition and history, it felt like Mohnton was changing.
There was only half a month until the seasons changed and spring began. They had originally come to Blume ostensibly to offer their New Year’s greetings. After ringing in the new year, Alois and Camilla would be returning to the territory’s capital.
The festival that would mark the end of their long visit would be incredibly fun.
Camilla believed in that.