5 – 5
Alois’ parents passed away when he was fifteen.
That was only eight years ago.
Officially, the cause of death was an accident.
An accident caused by out of control magical energy.
“Camilla, you know that my magical power is stronger than that of most people, don’t you?”
They were alone together in Alois’ study. As they sat facing each other in front of the crackling fireplace, Camilla answered Alois.
Although she said that, Camilla hadn’t ever seen the true extent of his magical power. The most she had seen him do was dispel Nicole’s illusion, as well as strengthen his body with magic when they escaped the underground in Einst.
However, even if she hadn’t seen it fully, the level of his power was obvious. Those vividly red eyes above all else told her more than she needed to know about just how much magical energy was stored within his body.
“I used to be unable to control the power I had in my body… no, even now, I still find it difficult to keep under control properly. But in the past, I truly couldn’t wield it at all.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Most of my magical power is sealed away. Now, I can only use a fraction of the power in my body.”
Camilla raised her eyebrows. Even though Alois’ power had apparently been curtailed, he could still follow the veins of the manastones underground. To do something like that would require strong magical power. To put it simply, Alois still possessed exceptional magical strength. And if he says that’s just a ‘fraction’ of his real power, just what was he really capable of…?
“The sort of out of control magical energy that Nicole sometimes has trouble with, I also experience it. It’s often just small things, though. Only once has my power truly gone out of control in a huge way. My magic came into contact with the magical power of other people, and ran amok.”
Alois sank back into his chair, gripping his hands into fists on his knees. Those downcast eyes of his seemed like they were solely focused on those clenched hands. Although his face was expressionless, the slight trembling in his hands betrayed his feelings.
“It was eight years ago. The day when my parents died, and the day that I killed people.”
A deep breath left Alois’ lungs. As he curled his hands into even tighter fists, he looked at Camilla dispassionately.
“I barely have any memories of my childhood. Maybe that incident is what caused it? Whenever I try to remember anything that happened before it, it’s like there’s nothing there. I’m sure that’s because a part of me desperately wanted to forget. Honestly, I can barely even remember my parents’ faces.”
Camilla listened with bated breath. Alois, meanwhile, was expressionless. As they sat in front of the fire, their figures cast dark shadows behind them. The way he spoke without emotion, it was as if he was talking about something that had nothing to do with him.
“But, I remember bits and pieces. The outlines of my mother and father, directing their magical power towards me… it was only afterward that I was told they were using their own power to seal mine. But, their magic was repulsed by my own and rebounded… they were torn apart by it, both of them. Mother and father.”
It was then that a flicker of a frown ran across Alois’ face. Then, it passed, and his mouth bent into a smile.
“I killed my parents.”
“…But, that was just an accident? There was nothing you could have done.”
“It was my own power that caused it. My power that took their lives. Even if I didn’t mean to, it doesn’t change the fact that I caused both of their deaths.”
That was the reason why none of the senior servants referred to Alois as ‘Master’. To them, Alois’ father was still the Master of the house.
For stealing away the Master they loved and respected, they never forgave Alois. That attitude only made Alois fall deeper into guilt.
“The last vivid memory I have is when this power of mine tore through them. Because it was my power. The moment it came into contact with them, it was as if I touched them myself, and they died instantly. I still remember the feeling in my fingertips, as if I had ripped them apart with my own hands.”
Alois’ eyes narrowed as he looked back down at those clenched hands. That smile was still on his face, but it didn’t have a shred of warmth. He was speaking about the past, but to him, it didn’t feel like it. Even after eight years, it was still something he carried with him every day.
“Since then, my magic power remained sealed. I’m sure that the magic my mother and father died casting will stay with me forever. Even now, I can still feel their magic in my body. So that I won’t ever be able to forget.”
Although Camilla had tried to interject, to tell him that it wasn’t his fault, Alois didn’t care to listen. Even though it was only a tragic accident, Alois bore the guilt of a murderer.
As they sank into silence, Alois’ expression didn’t change. Sitting back further in his chair, he still stared at his hands, unmoving. Even though he was finally telling her something secret, instead of letting Camilla into his heart, it was as if he were putting up more walls around himself.
– He’s strong.
Camilla knew how she would react if she were in Alois’ position. If Camilla had to go through something like that, either she would drown in that guilt or try to justify herself, saying that ‘I didn’t do anything wrong’.
But, that gravely serious man didn’t allow himself those escapes. There was nothing I could do. It was an accident. I didn’t do anything wrong. He wouldn’t flee from what had happened by saying things like that.
He refused to be comforted, refused to be forgiven, and kept everyone else at arm’s length. He would carry that burden himself, and suffer under it alone.
‘Ah…’, Camilla thought to herself. ‘I understand now.’
– He is trying to atone.
That personality of his, that was so quick to martyr himself for the sake of others… this is where it came from. All he wanted to do was be a ‘good lord’, without desires or greed.
All of it, surely, was part of some kind of atonement to his mother and father.
– But, is that truly it?
There was something strange in the way that Alois had confessed.
Despite telling her this, somehow it felt like he was only pushing Camilla further away. There was still something in his heart that he didn’t want her to know about.
Just what weighed on his mind that was even more dreadful than this? Something he truly couldn’t tell anyone?
Camilla’s thoughts were broken when Alois spoke out to her. Leaning forward in his chair, Alois looked at Camilla’s face. Camilla was a little confused at his sudden change in attitude.
“Camilla, do you want to return to the royal capital?”
“…Excuse me? What are you talking about, so suddenly?”
Even though Camilla obviously had no idea what he meant, Alois didn’t pull back. He repeated the same question again.
“If you could return back home, would you want to?”
“What’s wrong? Besides, the royal capital is-”
“Please answer me.”
Even though Camilla tried to draw out the reason behind his question, Alois coercively pressed her for an answer. Camilla shrank back slightly, not used to how assertive he was being.
– Returning to the royal capital, that’s…
“It’s not as if I don’t want to go back.”
She had a lot of unfinished business in the capital. She no longer wanted to use Alois as a tool to sneer down at those who had scorned her, but she still couldn’t forget what Liselotte and the other nobles had done to her. She wanted to give her answer to Therese’s letters in person, and Camilla also had a few choice words for her parents. What’s more, she needed to find out the truth about whether they really had adopted Therese. She also wanted to see Diana, her maid, as well as the children she once cooked for at the city’s orphanage.
As for Prince Julian… she wanted to see him one last time, then she could give up on him without any regrets.
But, that was it.
“Things are different from before, though.”
“I see. So, you want to return. Of course, you would, right? I understand.”
Alois didn’t listen for the nuance in her words. Taking Camilla’s words purely at face value, he nodded as if he truly understood everything.
“Go back home, Camilla. It’s possible for you to return to the royal capital now.”
“I received a letter from the royal court. Due to the occasion of Prince Julian’s marriage, your exile from the capital has been rescinded.”
“For His Highness’ wedding, I’ll arrange for a carriage you can take back to the royal capital. From there, you are free to do as you want. You don’t need to return to Mohnton. You don’t need to respond to my proposal, either.”
“WHAT DID YOU SAAAAY!?”
Camilla bolted up from her chair, the scream tearing from her lips before she could even think.
– Back to the capital? My exile is over? He’s withdrawing his proposal? No, no, that’s not important right now!
She couldn’t keep her thoughts straight as they raged in her mind. Just where should she even begin? Although she stood up in a rage, she couldn’t find the words.
In front of her, Alois’ calm expression only conjured images of an impassive wall. Despite the thought of Camilla returning to the royal capital, despite telling her that he would withdraw his proposal, despite Camilla’s look of outrage, his expression remained like steel. She couldn’t figure out what he was thinking at all.
Camilla, on the other hand, could barely keep up with what was happening.
“B-but, what about our engagement? You told me to promise you an answer before you were twenty-four!”
“You don’t have to anymore.”
“And that’s fine with you? You don’t want to marry me anymore? Even though that was the reason you started to exercise!? To lose weight!?”
“I’m fine with it.”
Alois answered her bluntly. Just what about any of this was fine? Camilla didn’t know at all.
“Didn’t you love me!? You’re just giving that up!? Was that really all you thought about me!?”
“I do love you, my feelings haven’t changed. But, this is all for your sake.”
“For my sake!?”
As Camilla fumed angrily, Alois remained calm. Camilla couldn’t understand just how Alois could stay so cold, whilst also not knowing just where all this burning rage she was feeling was coming from.
But, she couldn’t help being angry with Alois, whose expression never cracked.
“I am a criminal. To be the wife of a criminal, in a land built for criminals, that’s not the sort of life you should lead.”
Trying to persuade her, Alois talked slowly.
“My power is dangerous, and it’s not something I can always control. Someday, you might get caught up in it.”
“And so, why should that change anything!?”
“I’m saying that I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t ever want to see you get hurt either. Even if you aren’t hurt by me, there are no shortage of people in this land that seek to do you harm.”
“Like I said, why does that change anything!?”
She didn’t care about anything like that. There were plenty of people who wanted to hurt her back in the royal capital as well. And even in Mohnton, there were more and more people who were coming to like Camilla as well. If Alois was worrying about something like that, it was as if he were treating her like something delicate. Something weak.
In the first place, Camilla barely had any magical power of her own. Clashing with Alois’ magic was impossible, wasn’t it?
“This isn’t just about me! Lord Alois, what is it that you truly want!? Is it that you just don’t want me around anymore!?”
“If you could live somewhere safe from harm, that would be enough for me.”
That’s why he wanted her to return to the royal capital.
The sad smile that finally came to Alois’ face only angered Camilla even more. Without talking to anyone, without letting anyone past his defenses, once again he decided to sacrifice his own desires for the sake of someone else.
She thought that he had changed, but the true essence of this man really hadn’t altered at all. It was as if she had only gotten through to him on a surface level, but people don’t change so easily. At first glance, he seemed truly sincere. But in reality, it was just a front, like a mask of papier-mâché.
Camilla balled her fists. She had never felt an anger stir within her quite like this before. Although the blood in her head boiled, all she could feel in her chest was a cold emptiness.
Her lips trembled. Then, after taking a deep breath, her passion gave birth to her true thoughts.
“Don’t play around with me! You… pathetic coward!!”
But, Camilla’s scream didn’t reach Alois, the way he was now.
Feels bad, man.