4 (3) – Final
Eventually, Günter couldn’t stand it anymore and sent Camilla away.
“Be sure to remember this!”
And, after yelling that back into the stall, she began to walk down the main street. After that, she was caught up in various crowds and mobbed by people…
Eventually, after escaping to a quieter corner of the town square, Camilla finally managed to take a rest.
Looking up at the stage from the square, the band of young musicians were playing a cheerful tune. Just below the stage, the children hopped up and down in their own sort of dance. Those other people near the stage, were they cheering or jeering? She couldn’t make out their voices from here. Near the entrance to the square, a group of young girls were making garlands of flowers.
With all the commotion, there was no one to bother anyone deciding to take a break in a shady corner of the square.
Camilla sat down on one of the flowerbeds that marked out the plaza’s border. The flower bed was full of those beautiful white ‘flowers of desire’, that were also a key ingredient in Blume’s perfumes.
Looking up, she could see similar beds of those white flowers dotting the main street as well. As the wind rustled through the square, the white petals shimmered and swayed as if in a dance.
It truly was a town full of flowers.
As she watched the petals shake in the breeze, Camilla sighed and turned to the person next to her. It was a person who seemed to have been here before Camilla arrived. Someone who must have wanted to think about a lot on their own.
“…Lord Alois, are you also taking a break?”
Camilla called out to Alois, who was staring off into the distance.
Alois, who usually dressed like a stiff aristocrat, was wearing casual and loose-fitting clothes, the type she had never seen him wear. Of course, Camilla had no idea that it was actually the uniform of Lucas’ private soldiers. He had taken off the jacket which was the main identifier of the uniform, only wearing the slightly ill-fitting shirt underneath.
“I’ve been sent away from everywhere. Everyone is just so selfish! They would mob me, get me to help a little bit, then they just move me on!”
Alois silently turned to look at Camilla as she pouted. Camilla didn’t seem to notice how cold he seemed.
“Günter took back his stall, so I thought I could at least help with the flowers like I had wanted to in the beginning. The garlands… see, the children are doing them now. But even that too! It was taken away by the florist! You see!?”
Camilla pointed at the proprietress of the floristry in another corner of the square. She had gathered children around her, teaching them how to make garlands and wreaths. Originally that was Camilla’s job, but since the florist had a lot more know-how and tricks up her sleeve when it came to teaching, one way or another her place was taken.
Instead, an excellently made garland of flowers made by that same florist now sat atop Camilla’s head. As much as Camilla fumed, it was certainly much more skillfully made than anything she could do.
“After that, I tried to help Mia re-sew the ruined costumes for the band. But she said that she wouldn’t let me sew, so instead, she made me model everything she was sewing like I was some kind of doll! After that, I fell in with the vigilantes, and after that, it was the turn of all the stall owners!”
As an apology, they always gave her something from their stall out of gratitude. As a result, Camilla’s arms were full of sweets and fruits of all kinds. When she could barely hold onto the amount she had been given anymore, she tried to find Nicole to help her, but eventually gave up when she couldn’t find a trace of her anywhere.
As Camilla seethed in frustration, Alois still looked at her silently. He opened his mouth to say something, but closed it straight away on second thought.
“What’s more, I met a lot of Klaus’ ‘teachers’. The child who taught him pranks and the old man who was his poetry teacher, also that one teaching the children near the stage, that must be his dance teacher? I also met that drama teacher of his on the main street as well! I decided to question him since I had free time, after all! I had a feeling he was involved in Klaus’ theatrics!”
Once the uproar on the main street had settled down, disguising himself as a regular festival-goer to come and see… and, well. Camilla remembered the words of the dramatist who divulged everything after being faced down by her glare. Klaus had never intended to let the festival end in complete failure.
Whilst he would use it to his own ends, he had intended to manage the ramifications as well. Of course, it sounded good, but it was small comfort to those who had to live through those consequences.
That being said, if it wasn’t for Klaus, there wouldn’t have been a festival at all. But, that only made Camilla dislike the whole sordid affair even more.
“It really is vexing! That fox! The whole time I was trying to calm things down with Victor and the others, I was wondering… I really ought to give him a piece of my mind!”
After calming down the fighting on the main street and before Alois and Klaus returned, it had been unbearable.
Verrat had hunched over and wasn’t responding to anyone, whilst Victor and the rest were exhausted and depressed. The young vigilantes were utterly remorseful that they had played a role in destroying what they had tried to protect, whilst the stall keepers were in shock at everything they’d lost.
After that, they had to clean up the shattered remains of the festival. Victor and his friends’ instruments had been bent and broken, and whilst considering what to think about doing with Verrat, it didn’t seem like there was any hope for the festival to continue. That’s what she had thought.
But now, Victor and the others were playing their instruments as best they could upon the stage. They were wearing the jackets and dresses that had been sewn back together in a rush, and were standing in front of all those spectators in the plaza. Verrat sang alongside them, tears still streaking her face. The business owners were returning to the stalls, people were beginning to gather, and now the main street was filled with light and laughter.
She was disappointed at how things had gone… but, in a way, this is what Camilla had always wanted.
“Hmph,” Camilla snorted with her nose, raising her chin up. And, as Alois looked at that seemingly haughty attitude of hers, she glanced at him from the corner of her eye.
“…But, maybe this isn’t the time for that?”
She said she wanted to complain, but she decided not to in the end.
It’s true that the festival she had worked hard on had been ruined.
It’s also true that Verrat had deeply hurt the people around her. As long as there were people wounded by her actions, she couldn’t ever easily forgive Verrat. Later on, something would have to be done about her.
Camilla didn’t feel sorry for her. She acted for her own sake, so she should also own the consequences. She should face up and take responsibility for her actions properly, then when she returns to see her friends, she can stand tall.
Alois thought the same way.
Camilla answered straight away, as Alois called out to her quietly.
The Alois who looked Camilla’s way didn’t have that normal gentle smile painted across his face. He looked almost wooden, expressionless.
However, buried somewhere in that mask, there was something troubling hidden away.
“Lord Alois, I… I was truly looking forward to today.”
Hearing it like an admonishment, Alois nodded meekly.
“I wanted you to enjoy yourself, Lord Alois. I said as much, didn’t I?”
“But, it seems like I was the only one who really thought that way, wasn’t I?”
Even if the outcome was positive, Camilla wasn’t so saintly to forgive and forget everything that happened. If anything, Camilla was the type to hold a grudge. She couldn’t easily forget any perceived wrong, and if she can’t reach a satisfying conclusion for that ill, it would take root in her heart. If she wasn’t that kind of person, she would never have hatched the idea to slim Alois down and parade him back around the capital in the first place.
“Lord Alois, I… I’m angry.”
She might even be angrier than Alois realized. Alois and Klaus knew just how much Camilla was looking forward to something like this, perhaps even before Klaus proposed the idea of the festival, and the idea that they were just using that to their advantage wasn’t far-fetched.
Even if they made up for it afterwards, it didn’t change the fact that it had happened.
“Do you not have anything to say?”
Alois nodded as he looked at Camilla.
Even though he was a big man, the way he looked up at her was like a young boy being scolded.
Alois faltered for a moment, as if looking for the right words.
He tore his gaze away from Camilla, staring at the ground. Camilla couldn’t quite understand what he was thinking as she looked at him.
“Camilla, I don’t really understand people’s feelings.”
“I cannot argue with that.”
“I do somewhat understand how it is that people think. What sort of moves could they make? Or what are their aims?”
He was quite a shrewd man, especially for his age. Alois had always been good at discerning others’ thoughts from their tones, their mannerisms, their expressions. What they say, and what they left unsaid. He understood joy and sorrow like two sides of a coin. He knew what people expected, and what he could expect of them.
“But, I never had any hesitation when it came to stepping on them. I knew that this time as well. About you, Camilla, and the band members. Perhaps, to a degree, I even understood what Verrat was thinking.”
Alois gripped his hands into fists as they rested on his knees. The music and laughter in the distance only served to make Alois’ sullen tone stand out even more.
“But, even so, I still chose to sacrifice them. Because I thought that going down that road would be better for Mohnton. That it would be better to sacrifice the needs of the few for the benefit of the many.”
Alois’ line of thinking wasn’t exactly wrong. Even if Camilla didn’t know what Alois hid from her and did in the shadows, she knew that Alois wasn’t the type of person to act callously. He weighed the options presented to him, and chose the most obvious course of action. She understood that was the type of person he was.
“If it’s for the benefit of the territory or its people, I won’t hesitate. If it were you, or Klaus, or even myself, the sacrifice would always be worth it… maybe even if that sacrifice meant death. What matters to me the most is the territory left to me by my father and mother… I’m sure that’s the reason Klaus hates me, because he knows what I’m truly like?”
“…But, Lord Alois, you still chose Klaus because you like him, didn’t you?”
“That’s because he’s a good man – he’s clever and knows how to win people’s trust. The reason I like him is that he would be good for the land.”
– To that extent…?
As Alois said that, Camilla was lost for words.
It was as if he judged things entirely on whether or not they were useful to him. It was like a craftsman picking his tools. Even if they may cry or weep, in the end, they’re only damaged tools. Even if he understood, it was as if he lacked any true empathy. It was too distant, too impersonal… as if he was barely a human at all?
“Camilla… until I met you, I’d never truly been angry.”
“And, I’d never truly loved someone.”
“Ah…” Camilla let out a breath. He had given those words so little fanfare that she felt restless. This was how Alois did things, wielding his goodwill like a blunt object. Perhaps that was a reflection of how ignorant he was when it came to other’s feelings?
“Up until now, I’d never truly had strong feelings for anyone. I never wanted to hurt anyone, but I convinced myself that it was necessary for the good of the land, so I told myself I had no choice… but…”
Alois’ words trailed off. Then, he raised his head, once again looking at Camilla.
“I regret it.”
He looked straight into Camilla’s eyes. That solemn face seemed to be overflowing with guilt.
“Not just today, but everything up until now. I’m sure I’ve hurt you in even more ways than I can imagine, haven’t I?”
“If I could do everything over from the beginning, I would. In the past, I treated you like some piteous thing and only went along with you out of sympathy, always thinking of it as a chore. And today, despite knowing just how much you were looking forward to this, I chose to let it be trampled on. If it weren’t for Klaus, I’m not sure I’d ever have been able to see your smile again. I regret it all.”
“Mu,” Camilla held her tongue. Alois had locked her gaze firmly in his. Camilla, meanwhile, could barely stand it.
– How frustrating.
Camilla bit her lip, slowly blinking as if trying to escape. Then, after taking a deep breath, she opened her eyes and her heart towards Alois.
“Are you going to apologize?”
“Yes. For today, and everything up until now. I’m sorry for everything that I’ve put you through.”
“In the future, can you not try to martyr yourself and others for the sake of the land anymore? Not just myself, but Klaus and everyone else.”
“…I’ll do my best.”
It didn’t seem like he was willing to commit to that point just yet. Alois was still a Lord, after all. Doing everything he could to protect the land was a part of his duty.
Therefore, it would at least be a start if he would worry more about it in the future. If he would at least hesitate. That would certainly have an impact on the types of decisions Alois would make from now on.
“Alright, I understand!”
With a strong nod, Camilla suddenly jumped to her feet.
“I’ll accept your apology for today! Since I’ve accepted it, then that concludes everything!”
As he looked up at Camilla, Alois was torn between surprise and relief. Then, Camilla took Alois’ hand.
“For now, let’s have some fun! That’s what today was all about, after all!”
Lead by Camilla, Alois stood up as well. For some reason, Alois couldn’t resist the strange strength that hand had over him.
“Let’s spread the fun around. Let’s let everyone find something precious to them. I’m sure that you’ll only come to love this land even more.”
And in that way… instead of thinking about people merely as tools or sacrifices for the greater good, perhaps he’d first think about saving them instead.
It wasn’t just that the idea of the territory was important to protect. Wasn’t it better to think of protecting the territory for all the precious people and things within its borders?
“Let’s dance, Lord Alois. We’ve gone through a lot to get here, after all.”
“But, I’ve never danced before…”
“Even a child that has just learned to walk can dance. All you have to do is move your feet to the rhythm!”
Camilla’s small hand that held Alois’ seemed almost impossible to throw off.
As she led him out of that lonely corner of the square, the two of them emerged into the center of all the music and laughter.
“It’s the meat lady!” “Stop that at once!” As soon as the children saw Camilla, they piped up. But even Alois, who wasn’t good when it came to others’ feelings, realized that the nickname only had good intentions behind it.
The broken instruments kept playing those out of tune melodies. It would be hard to call it good, but the song intended for a wedding day was bright and cheerful. Camilla took both of Alois’ hands, spinning around and around in time with the tune.
To Alois, it just felt like he was being swung around. As he barely kept up with Camilla, the children nearby poked fun at him. The happy laughter mixed in with the sounds of joy that echoed all through the main street.
A spring wind blew, swaying the flowers that lined the road. As the petals danced on the breeze around them, Camilla laughed as she watched Alois try to match her steps.
The garlands of white petaled flowers seemed to shine, nestled in her raven black hair. Her long, unbraided locks that swung in time with the music were beautiful.
Even as tears streamed down her face, she wore a brilliant smile.
Alois couldn’t figure out just how that smile was so bright, without even a hint of sadness.
As they danced, the clear spring sky stretched out endlessly overhead.