4.5 – 2
– I saw something truly harrowing.
Tomorrow was the final day of her stay in Blume before returning to the Duchy’s capital. She had already said her goodbyes to Victor and her others and packed her things, so all that remained was to wait for the sun to rise tomorrow. She felt restless in her room for some reason, so she decided to seek out that balcony once again to feel the cool night’s wind in her hair.
As she passed through the mansion’s corridors, Camilla stumbled upon something unbelievable.
At the end of the hallway, she could see the current head of the family, Rudolph’s room, which was on the same floor as her own. As she stood nearby, she could see Rudolph and Gerda together, talking about something or other.
When Camilla, Alois, Nicole and the rest of the retinue returned to the Montchat estate tomorrow, Gerda would be coming back with them. At first glance, it seemed like a brother and sister simply bidding each other farewell.
That alone wasn’t any cause for alarm. When it came to Gerda and Rudolph talking with one another, Camilla had seen that countless times during her stay.
But, seeing the smile on Gerda’s face when she talked to Rudolph, the warmth in her eyes… it stopped Camilla in her tracks.
Gerda and Rudolph kept talking for some time.
Perhaps because she was a little further down the hall, the two of them never noticed Camilla. Camilla, meanwhile, couldn’t hear her conversation well.
But, something about those two sitting with one another stood out to her.
That willful woman, who seemed more iron than flesh, suddenly seemed so human. Whenever Rudolph said anything, Gerda’s smile seemed so full of kindness as she answered back. She looked less like his older sister, and more of something closer to a mother.
– So, she’s kind to her family?
It may have seemed like a normal thing to anyone else, but when it came to Gerda, Camilla thought that hell would have frozen over before she saw that woman look at anyone like that, much less her family.
Whilst they were in Blume, Camilla had not even once seen her look at members of her family like that. Neither Klaus nor Franz had been given any sort of warmth, and she treated the servants here just the same as she did the ones back in the capital. When others could see them, she only exchanged the barest of words with Rudolph, that was the feeling she got, whilst there was no mistaking her abject hostility towards Lucas.
But now it seems that Gerda truly did hold her younger brother dear to her, as she held his hand so warmly, and sometimes even laughed softly at his words. She always seemed so cold, but perhaps that was just a mask that she wore?
Maybe this is who she truly was? No matter how cold she might seem, no person lived without any sort of emotion. She knew that. She knew that all too well, but…
“…It’s surprising, isn’t it?”
She definitely was surprised. Surprised by the sudden voice in her ear that almost caused Camilla to cry out in shock as goosebumps ran up her arm.
As she barely managed to hold back a scream, Camilla whirled around to see who had said that. Of course, she already had an idea before she even saw him.
“Klaus!? Do not surprise me like that!”
Even though her whispering voice was obviously angry, Klaus merely shrugged.
He still had a black eye and several bruises on his face from where Franz had pummeled him. But all the same, he didn’t seem to be too concerned about himself, as he smiled at Camilla as frivolously as ever.
“Now, now. You’re wondering about my aunt, aren’t you? That person usually doesn’t seem to have much going on by way of feelings, after all.”
“Hmph,” Camilla didn’t say yes or no, simply turning her head up at him. Although Gerda was Camilla’s natural enemy, she was also Klaus’ aunt. And indeed, she was stunned by what was playing out in front of her eyes.
But, Klaus wasn’t really asking a question. Ignoring Camilla’s reaction, he continued.
“That’s why it must be such a shock to see her acting so kind like that, huh? Well, think of it as something like a Lörrich speciality. Thanks to that, it seems as if my old man is completely under her spell.”
If you can know a person’s heart, you can move their mind. Members of the Lörrich family have long since been good at such things. However, it would be a strange irony to only use that speciality on a member of your own family.
“Honestly, that person really is a scary one.”
Klaus grimaced as he looked in Gerda’s direction. As he looked at Rudolph, Klaus muttered in a voice so low that not even Camilla could hear it.
“I wondered if that person was targeting the Montchat family… But, then why bother coming into conflict with my uncle…? Am I overthinking things…?”
As she looked at Klaus, whose smile had turned bitter as his hand covered his mouth, Camilla’s face was even more bitter still.
Even though he was the one who called out to her, suddenly he had a deeply troubled look on his face, so Camilla couldn’t help but feel awkward. After Gerda and Rudolph left, Camilla shifted uncomfortably on her feet.
Camilla whispered to Klaus, who still seemed lost in thought.
“What are you doing here in the first place?”
At Camilla’s irritated voice, a smile sprang back to Klaus’ face. He must have realized that showing his feelings so obviously on his face like that had been a mistake. In an unusual display for him, he scratched the back of his head like he was embarrassed.
“Ahh… Well, I came to see you. I was thinking of saying goodbye, after all.”
“You’re going back home tomorrow, aren’t you?”
They were leaving with the light of the dawn tomorrow and, assuming there were no delays, they would be back in the capital after two days by carriage. It was not a distance that could be travelled casually, so she would have to assume it would be quite some time before she next saw Blume.
“You won’t be coming back with us?”
“This town is my home. Moreover, it’s become even more of my home as of late, so I could hardly pack up and leave now.”
Klaus said that with a cheerful grin. Camilla blinked, then finally realized what he truly meant. It was only natural, after thinking about it. Klaus was never truly a person who belonged in the capital, after all.
“…I suppose I’ll miss you?”
“It makes me happy to hear you say that. Well, honestly, it was strange that he ever had me cooking in the first place. If that guy overworked me, I could’ve just gone and made a name for myself in the royal capital, y’know?”
It may have been a joke, but Klaus genuinely did understand why Alois was intent on keeping him in the Duchy’s capital.
As long as Klaus was still breathing, there were going to be men paid to put an end to him. It was only in the capital, in his own residence, that Alois truly felt secure in protecting him. It wouldn’t have been easy for Lucas to strike at the very seat of the Montchat family’s power. He gave him the role of a chef as cover, but other than that he was free to do as he liked.
“You’re a dishonest one. That being said, you were a surprisingly good cook.”
He was merely a cook in name, and didn’t really have any obligation to ever work in the kitchen. But, he was a shockingly talented chef, even if he was a Skipping Devil. Perhaps, he didn’t hate living in the capital either.
“Well, I’m still a man of Mohnton myself, so it’s hard to say that I hate cooking.”
When Camilla pointed that out, Klaus blushed slightly.
“…That said, I’m still a bit scared of that guy’s diet.”
“It’s nothing. I’m just overthinking things too much. Another Lörrich bad habit.”
Klaus shook his head as Camilla eyed him suspiciously. Then, he cracked a grin as he smiled at Camilla.
“Besides, it’s not all that bad being a great chef? The only source of entertainment in Mohnton is cooking, after all. It makes it quite a lot easier to woo a girl… like this.”
With that, Klaus suddenly pulled out a little white case, as if from thin air. Then, he held out that white case that fit in the palm of his hand towards Camilla.
“I’m giving it to you. Open it.”
Camilla was slightly confused but nevertheless took the white case from Klaus’ hand. The beautifully decorated case resembled a small jewellery box. But, it was so light. As if there were truly nothing inside. But, when she finally opened it, she understood why.
The inside of the box was packed full of white flowers. White flowers, candied with sugar. They were so neatly picked that each of the petals was perfectly immaculate. Was that smell the flowers themselves, or the sugar preserving them? There was something familiar about that slightly sweet smell that wafted from the box.
“They’re so pretty, how amazing…! These are… Sehnsucht flowers!”
Those flowers that only bloomed in Klaus’ greenhouse over the winter months, but now bloomed all throughout the town. Those many layered petals weren’t suitable for a simple method of preservation, it must have been a lot of trouble to candy this many of them. Camilla couldn’t help but be amazed.
“You truly are skilled, aren’t you? They’re so pretty and delicate, I’m not sure I can even bring myself to eat them. Can I truly have these?”
“Yeah. I made them for you, after all.”
Klaus looked happy as a smile spread across Camilla’s face.
“The Sehnsucht, the flower of desire… in truth, I had desired you as well.”
But, well… he wasn’t so monstrous as to try and rob his friend of the woman he truly loved. So, his desire would be lost to time. Like a flower, preserved in sugar.
As Camilla didn’t hear the words he whispered to himself, Klaus smiled at her again.
“Take care of Alois for me. Once I’ve wrapped things up here, I’ll come and mess with you again.”
“As insolent as ever.”
Camilla glared at the man who laughed boldly. He was frivolous and rude. That rash attitude of his had always bothered Camilla, ever since they had first met.
– But, Klaus really is a good man, after all.
“Since you’re a self-proclaimed genius, I am sure this won’t keep you long. Don’t keep me waiting!”
As Camilla proudly declared that with a haughty grin, Klaus couldn’t keep his laughter in anymore. How rude can one man be?
But even whilst Camilla frowned at him reproachfully, Klaus laughed happily, wiping a tear from the corner of his eye.