4 (3) – 12
She had run into the plaza as she searched for Victor and the others. The first thing that Camilla noticed was Verrat raising that violin high above her head.
As she saw the desecrated stage and the shock on Victor and his friend’s faces, she instinctively knew what she was about to do.
So, she dived in, not really thinking about what would happen next.
“Just what are you doing, you!?”
Camilla shouted as she sat on top of Verrat, grabbing her collar.
There wasn’t even a shadow of her usual cool face. The expression with which she looked up at Camilla with was unstable and trembling.
When Camilla tackled her, it seemed like Verrat had dropped Victor’s violin. It had fallen a little ways away, but no one had picked it up. Victor, Mia and their friends were just looking at Camilla and Verrat in stunned silence.
“…Let go of me.”
Despite that expression of hers, Verrat’s voice was calm. With a tone that sounded as if she had lost all of her emotion, she grabbed Camilla’s arm that held her down.
“This is for Victor’s sake.”
“Just what are you saying?”
As Camilla glared at her, Verrat paid her a quick glance. Then, she looked away again, her eyes drifting to Victor’s violin.
“Mia isn’t worthy of being with Victor. So, Mia is bad. Mia was the reason Victor learned to play music as well.”
Verrat spoke plainly. It wasn’t a loud voice, and the violent ruckus playing out in the main street could still be heard, but somehow what she was saying cut through all of that.
Listening to her words and the way she said them, Camilla felt something was truly off.
“…Didn’t you say that you wanted to learn how to sing, so that you could celebrate their marriage?”
“That’s right. But, Mia is bad. So, I’m going to end it like this.”
Verrat let out a small, derisive laugh.
When she saw that crooked smile of hers, Camilla finally realized it.
Earlier, when Victor and the others were caught by the vigilantes, Camilla had her suspicions that someone must have sold them out. But when Camilla realized that Alois was the most likely suspect, she ruled out the possibility of a traitor.
But, Camilla’s suspicions were almost correct.
“You were the one who told the vigilante militia. You told them about the cellar.”
Verrat didn’t answer her. But, that told her all she needed to know.
After Victor was freed from the vigilantes, she had heard that his engagement to Mia might be in jeopardy. Since it was a disgrace for a wealthy merchant’s son to be caught up in something like that, someone would have to take responsibility. Since Mia was the daughter of a poor tailor, Verrat figured that she might have been made an easy scapegoat.
The reaction of Victor’s family must not have factored into Verrat’s plan at all. Instead of cancelling his engagement to Mia, it was as if they encouraged him to have another go at music.
“For the sake of Victor’s happiness, Mia isn’t suitable. Everyone said that it would be for the best if the two of you separated.”
“…Who are ‘they’?”
Verrat smiled contemptuously. It had an unsettling quality to it.
“Is this seriously what you think?”
Camilla hated looking at that distorted face. It was unbearably irritating. The words coming from Verrat’s mouth were equally uncomfortable to hear.
“Something like that is…”
As she said that, Camilla looked around.
Around that stage, which they had talked about like it was a dream. The costumes that had been tailored to fit them all perfectly. The instruments that had finally felt natural in their hands. She remembered them practising constantly, all looking forward to this day.
Everything had been ruined, the stage they had dreamt about was gone. Verrat’s friends looked down bitterly, without raising their voices. They were sad, but they were also hurt.
Verrat, who they had met with, practised with and laughed with, she had ruined everything with her own hands.
“And you’re saying, this is all for Victor’s sake…!? Surely you must know just how much pain you’re putting him through by doing this!?”
She inadvertently poured power into those hands that gripped at Verrat. Even Verrat seemed startled by the sudden force. Something human showed itself in that distorted expression.
“How can you say that this is for anyone!? If you’re seriously saying that, then you are the lowest of the low!”
In response to Camilla’s scream, Verrat muttered.
“I didn’t want to see Victor get hurt either. But, it wasn’t just me, everyone said that this was the right thing to do…”
“That’s what I said, who is this ‘everyone’!?”
“The people from the vigilantes said that this was for Victor’s sake! I didn’t want to do this either! But, I had to, for Victor!”
Verrat grabbed Camilla’s dress and pulled her close. As she yanked her forward, the two of them were face to face.
“I want Victor to be happy! So even if I didn’t want to do it, I had to!! I didn’t have a choice!”
As dishevelled hair flowed over her shoulders, Verrat yelled out with a desperate expression.
She didn’t look anything like the cool and dignified Verrat from before, instead, she was awfully… unsightly.
“This isn’t what I wanted to happen! But, I had to do it for the person I love! You of all people understand, don’t you!?”
“I do not understand at all!”
As Verrat pulled her close, Camilla didn’t avert her eyes.
“Everything I did was of my own will and for my own sake. Something like ‘I had no choice’ never crossed my mind!”
As a result of that, she had been exiled from the capital and became known as an infamous villianess. Of course, she wasn’t happy about that. She often fumed about just how things went. She had regrets, grudges and simmering anger, but she never once used other people as an excuse. Her actions were never the result of being coerced or coaxed into something, they were ultimately Camilla’s own choice.
She had wished for Prince Julian’s happiness. But, Camilla never acted on anyone else’s behalf.
“Because someone told you to? Because you were doing it on someone else’s behalf? Unless you were being threatened, that’s not an excuse. You really intend to do all of this and then claim that you’re not the one in the wrong!?”
“Everyone is not you! Act for yourself!”
Camilla grabbed Verrat’s wrists that clung to her dress and pushed them back. Even she was surprised by how much force she could put into her arms. Even though Verrat had the momentum, Camilla still overpowered her.
“Do you even understand what you’re doing right now!? Making excuses and pushing the blame onto others… Didn’t you say that you didn’t want to be an unsightly woman!?”
I never want to become an unsightly girl. I don’t want to expose a disgusting side of myself. I want to stay beautiful.
It was Verrat herself who had said those words that caused Camilla to boil over all that time ago.
But, the once ever cool and dignified Verrat now mirrored exactly the words she spoke. A love that Camilla could never emulate, one that graciously accepted its end. When she thought about what she said back then, Camilla only got angrier now.
“Nobody forced you to do what you did here! Take responsibility for your own actions!”
If one could realize their own faults, they could atone for them. And if one wouldn’t accept that, then so be it. Even if the world scorned you, you should stick out your chest with pride anyways.
But, right now, Verrat couldn’t do either. The hands that Camilla had pulled off her didn’t have any power in them, as she sobbed softly.
“But… But, I wasn’t the only one. Everyone said that this was for the best… That’s what they told me… If no one said that, I wouldn’t have ever…”
Camilla said that curtly as she looked down at Verrat, who kept making excuses as she softly sobbed.
“Right now, you’re truly unsightly. Look around you. Look at the faces of your friends.”
As Camilla sighed brusquely, she looked around. As if following her line of sight, Verrat looked as well.
On that broken stage. Watching Camilla and Verrat from a distance were her friends.
Victor, Otto, Finne and Dieter. They didn’t lash out at Verrat, nor did they try to stop Camilla, they just looked on darkly.
In the hearts of those young musicians who were looking forward to today more than anything else, the overwhelming emotion was disappointment. And it was Verrat who had trampled on those hearts.
Verrat groaned as she lay under Camilla.
As tears welled up in her eyes, she blinked, looking at every person in turn. To Verrat, they were friends she had known longer than any other. All the time that they had spent laughing together, the fun they had together, all the encouragement and praise they had given to each other, Verrat alone had ruined it.
Verrat knew that this was what would happen. She had imagined the kinds of faces that her friends would make when they found out.
But, it was for Victor’s sake. Everyone said that this was for the best.
So, it wasn’t her fault… But, she couldn’t take pride in it.
Because the disappointment in their faces were like daggers in her heart.