5 – 4
The gift that Klaus had given her was gone.
The day after that tea party they had together, Camilla noticed that the white case she had been given before leaving Blume was missing from her bedroom.
She had treasured it as a precious gift, but… well, since it was technically a gift from a man, after all, she had hidden it on her shelf, in the shadows of some of her other possessions.
“Lady Camilla, is something wrong?”
As Camilla pored over the shelf in an attempt to locate it, Nicole who had just entered the room with fresh water asked curiously. After replacing the jug on her bedside table, she looked at Camilla.
“Nicole, there was a white case here, have you seen it? It was about this big.”
Camilla turned around and held out her thumb and forefinger to Nicole, making a gap between them that she could see the maid through. That said, Nicole was there when Camilla had placed it amongst the flowers, dolls and letters on the shelf to hide it.
However, Nicole shook her head.
“If you say so, it must be gone? Though when I was cleaning before, I don’t remember seeing it on the shelf.”
“Really? I wonder… did I just leave it somewhere?”
She usually kept it in her room, but sometimes she brought it to the kitchen with her. She had wanted to use its contents as a reference for making something like those candied flowers herself. The problem was that, in truth, they were so far beyond Camilla’s level of confectionary making that she couldn’t even use them as a reference point.
“Well, fine. I was thinking of going to the kitchen today at any rate. Perhaps I’ll find them there.”
Camilla had become Günter’s student when it came to the art of baking pastries and making sweets since she got back from Blume. Günter himself was strangely motivated, though that was hard to tell if it was because of some kind of rivalry with Klaus or because he was still frustrated with Camilla from before. But, at least, Camilla was learning. And occasionally, although they bickered, when they were at their most passionate they sometimes formed a surprisingly good partnership in the kitchen.
If she ended up being able to make delicious sweets, then she could eventually be confident enough in her ability that she could have Alois eat some as well. Camilla wouldn’t allow anyone to ruin her dishes, either. Whether that be with syrup, honey or whatever other saccharine weapons this household employed.
And, eventually, if Camilla could work her way into cooking most of his food, it would help Alois change his diet as well. But, first things first, she would have to finish her work when it came to sweets. Then, after that, she could change his diet piece by piece. Considering how straight to the point Camilla typically was, this was quite the long-term plan for her.
“I have no idea what you are talking about.”
Camilla stopped in her tracks despite herself when she heard the voice of someone she truly didn’t want to hear.
As she was on her way to the kitchen, she heard someone’s voice echo down the corridor of the Montchat mansion. As she stood straight against a wall and peeked her head around the corner gingerly, she saw Alois and Gerda facing one another.
It wasn’t an unusual sight to see these two exchange words. Gerda was a senior employee who managed a lot of the employees in the house, after all. Even amongst the senior servants of the Montchat family, she was a veteran, and there was no one more acquainted with the inner workings of the house than her.
But, it was rare to see them so obviously confronting one another like this.
“You’re saying you’re unaware? Just who else, other than you, would take that plate?”
“That maid must have done it without seeking permission. I entrusted her with overseeing cleaning the house so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect her to find such a thing as she worked.”
“Unreasonable both in finding it, and deciding to serve food on it to me?”
Even though Alois’ voice was deep and angry, Gerda’s expression was as icy as ever.
But despite the severity in his voice, Alois’ expression remained calm, though firm. It was as if both of them were restraining themselves, at least compared to how Camilla would express her own displeasure. Yet, all the same, the electric atmosphere between the two of them seemed to almost be tangible in the air. A young maid that had been cleaning nearby escaped the scene as quickly as possible, a petrified look on her face.
“The senior maids aren’t so courageous as to do something like that on their own. This was clearly something you insisted upon, Gerda.”
“How can you be so sure? That one, she had also started serving here during Master’s tenure, after all. Considering the current crisis we now find ourselves in, is it so outlandish to think that she may take action on her own initiative?”
Gerda affirmed his suspicious words without skipping a beat.
It was as if she didn’t care that the man in front of her was the master of the house or a Duke at all. She didn’t feel cowed in her words at all. Somehow, it felt like even if Alois was the short-tempered kind of Lord and had tried to bark at her, she wouldn’t have changed her attitude by even an inch, either.
“Even before abandoning the Master’s words, because of the uproar in Blume, the people of Mohnton are in a state of confusion. I am sure that maid was merely unable to bear the pain of seeing you in such a state, Lord Alois, as you destroyed the cherished traditions of this land one after another. And just what has influenced this? This recent change that you have been going through Lord Alois? Surely you’re aware of it yourself?”
Alois stayed silent as he glared at Gerda. Gerda may have asked the question, but both of them already knew the answer. Clearly, it was Camilla.
“The only thing that I can say is that perhaps in an effort to have Lord Alois remember who he truly is, she decided to serve you with that plate. Lord Alois, whether it be Mohnton or you yourself, neither need change. The most important thing is to maintain this perfect land, in order to honour the wishes of both Master and the generations before him. And above all else…”
As she said that, Gerda cast her gaze to the floor. For just a brief moment, a sad expression passed across her face. An expression Camilla had never seen her wear before.
“Above all else, this is what you owe to the two people that you murdered.”
But, just as Alois tried to speak, he was drowned out by the sudden shout from further down the hallway.
“What was that!?”
Camilla jumped out from around the corner, unable to hold back her words.
Gerda turned her gaze to look at Camilla, whilst Alois’ opened wide in surprise.
“What did you mean by that? What you just said…”
‘Murdered’, Gerda had definitely said that. From the way she said it, it didn’t sound like Alois sacrificing someone for the sake of the territory, or passing a death sentence as the Duke of the land.
No, she had said that Alois had murdered someone. Camilla couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
But, those eyes of Alois’ that stared at Camilla, the fright in them was unmistakable. As his face paled, Alois tried to speak out to her first.
“It’s nothing. Camilla, just now-”
“No, that won’t do, Lord Alois. Eventually, this person may one day be your wife. It would be remiss to keep secrets from her. You can’t hide it forever.”
“This person wants to hear the truth. You ought to be sincere with her, and tell her honestly.”
Camilla looked between Gerda and Alois. She typically hated the mere sight of Gerda, but for once, they were in agreement. Although she had been eavesdropping, she had heard everything leading up to those words. She couldn’t pretend as if she hadn’t heard them now, and unless they talked about it, she knew the thoughts would weigh on her.
“Lord Alois, please tell me honestly. Was what Gerda said the truth?”
Alois bit his lip, staring at the ground. For a little while, only silence ruled. Despite it being spring, a chill breeze flowed down the hallway that was empty save for the three of them.
“If Lord Alois finds it difficult to speak about, then I shall tell you. Would that be fine?”
Gerda stared at Camilla as she said that, without raising an eyebrow. As for Camilla, so long as she heard the truth, it didn’t matter.
She turned to nod at Gerda, but Alois suddenly shook his head.
“…No. I’ll talk to you about it. Camilla, can I have some of your time?”
With that, Alois motioned towards Camilla.
The issue of the missing case had disappeared from her mind. After nodding at him without giving it a second thought, Camilla followed along after Alois.
Camilla back at it again with the eavesdropping