5 – 6
Camilla was furious.
That was only natural. For ten days after that incident, Camilla and Alois barely said a word to one another.
Alois spent almost all of his time in his study, barely leaving at all. He didn’t answer when she knocked on his door, and on the rare occasion they met in the corridor he excused himself with an ‘I’m busy’. It would take a saint not to be angry about all this.
Had he shut himself off in there to think about what to do next? It was like he was at work constantly. All the food was delivered straight to him directly, it was like he didn’t take his eyes off those documents for days at a time.
– He’s running away from reality!
Feeling no end to her bitter irritation, Camilla slammed a fist into the cookie dough. No matter how much she took her anger out on the dough, though, it didn’t seem to fade at all. Camilla had haunted the kitchens so much lately with a terrifying looking face that even those usually rowdy cooks didn’t dare speak out to her.
Thanks to that, Camilla made more cookie dough than anyone knew what to do with. At first, she was making it to properly bake it into cookies, but she soon realized that the kneading process was much more suited to her mood, so instead the amount of dough just kept on increasing.
– At least hear what other people have to say! Stop running away from things! And this comfort eating of his absolutely has to stop!
Because she spent so much of her time in the kitchen, Camilla had picked up the gist of Alois’ current food situation. Apparently, Alois had completely regained his appetite from before. No matter how many meals a day he was served, he was returning cleaned plates of that disgustingly overseasoned food. If this kept up, Camilla’s efforts would be all for nought.
He had finally begun to really lose some weight and was even beginning to exercise, what’s more, she felt like she had been on the verge of a breakthrough in regards to getting rid of all that excess seasoning in his food.
But now, Alois seems determined to not even face Camilla before she returns to the royal capital. It’s as if he really does believe that this is what’s best for her.
– Coward! Craven! He’s scared, so that’s why he’s running away!
Alois wouldn’t leave his room, she couldn’t find that small case of flowers, and her progress when it came to making sweets was going off the rails as well. Nicole was beginning to scratch at her skin again like back when the miasma was thick in the air. Günter still didn’t recognize Camilla’s skill, and Gerda was as hateful as ever.
Everything felt like it was spiralling out of her control. And everything, all of it, was all Alois’ fault.
“…Just as wild as ever.”
Stepping past the cooks who had slunk away in fear at the sight of Camilla pounding the cookie dough into a pulp, Günter looked at her without a trace of fright in his face.
“What else can I do!?”
As Camilla snapped back at him, Günter frowned. He didn’t yell at Camilla, who was making a mess of his kitchen, perhaps he even sympathized with her.
But, first and foremost, he was still Alois’ close friend.
“Well, I understand the young master’s feelings. Even just talking to you about it like that must have taken a lot of pluck.”
“Hmph,” Camilla breathed out angrily through her nose. That know-it-all Günter, he had always been aware of Alois’ dark past. ‘It’s an open secret around here,’ he had said. Apparently, all the veteran servants in the mansion knew about it.
Of course, no one spoke about it openly. It was only natural that Günter kept his silence about it as well, but even though she knew that deep down, she still hated it.
“Bandying words about like that is cheap! Especially if you have no intention of ever talking to that person again in the first place!”
It’s easy to say whatever you please if you completely ignore what the other person has to say in response. You may as well be speaking to a brick wall.
“Even if you say that, he’s doing this for your sake, ain’t he? I’m sure that you have unfinished business back in the capital? Like… with Prince Julian, for example?”
“Enough about my sake! Does he really not care? Is Alois really going to give up on me that easily!?”
Günter’s frown deepened. To him, as far as he knew, Camilla hadn’t given up on Prince Julian. He still harboured a slight grudge against Camilla for what she had said back then, out of the deep respect he held for Alois.
“Not everyone thinks the same way as you do. Think about it from his angle, he really is doin’ this for you.”
“How can you say he’s doing this for me!?”
Camilla slammed a fist into the cookie dough.
“I… I don’t want him to give up! An Alois who’s running in fear from the past, who is so easily able to give up, I don’t want that at all!”
When she was in love with Prince Julian, Camilla had always dreamed about being his rock. Someone who could share his burdens. Someone who could support him by staying at his side.
But, it was as if Alois didn’t want Camilla’s support at all. He was scared, so he rejected her, pushing her away. Was Camilla truly a person he could open his heart to? He must have thought that. A weak man, who would rather run away than believe in Camilla.
That was unforgivable. But, even more than that, it was disappointing. She felt the anger flaring up even brighter as she thought about it. And also… it hurt.
“Lord Alois, was that really all I was to him…!?”
Camilla sighed angrily. She couldn’t keep still, pacing short steps back and forth in front of the bench. As Camilla moved around restlessly, Günter looked at her with a raised eyebrow.
“…Hey, you. The way you’re talkin’…”
That suspicious look of his caught Camilla’s eyes. Without feeling any pressure from Camilla’s palpable anger, he looked straight into her eyes.
“It’s like… no, I know that you’re in love with Prince Julian and all, but even so… maybe…”
“What is it?”
Camilla felt irritated as he stumbled over his words. It was rare for Günter to not be straight forward like this. It was as if he really was suddenly intimidated by Camilla, and that’s why he was hesitating.
But, after a shake of his head, he suddenly spoke up, more determined than before.
“Ah… No, I’ll tell ya! Just, well, I’m not great with women, so I might be wrong about this.”
As he scratched the back of his head awkwardly for a moment, Günter faced Camilla again.
This time, it was Camilla who suddenly felt a little overwhelmed by the strange pressure. With a deadly serious face, and a new found confidence in his voice, he finally said it clearly to Camilla.
“You, the way you’re talkin’… it’s as if you actually love Alois or somethin’!”
Camilla was speechless.
Those were the last words she ever expected to hear from that man’s mouth.
For a while, it was all that Camilla could do to blink at him in sheer surprise. She combed over every syllable of the words she just heard in her head. She had completely stopped laying into the dough, and it felt like even her breathing had stopped. As she stared at Günter, his face began to look increasingly uncomfortable.
After a long time, the words she spoke had completely lost all the fire from before.
“…I’d never really thought about it like that.”
She’d thought about being someone close to Alois. There was also the talk of engagement and marriage. What married life with Alois might look like, she couldn’t really imagine it clearly still, but she had thought about it.
But, that… How strange.
– Do I love Lord Alois?
Could it have been because she had always been thinking about Prince Julian for such a long time? Or was it because of the awful first impression she held of Alois subconsciously blocking out the idea of ever possibly falling in love with him? Or, perhaps, was she afraid of the fact that she herself might have changed?
Yet, Camilla realized that she loved Alois.
That simple yet all-important fact had just never crossed Camilla’s mind.
“I… I’m going to talk to Lord Alois one more time.”
Holding her hands together, Camilla decided that. He might try to run away from her again. He might completely refuse to see her. But, she couldn’t just do nothing, especially now.
“I will not let things end like this!”
She didn’t truly understand her feelings herself. What Alois thought of her, and what she thought about Alois, Camilla had to make sure. If Alois was going to try and escape from her again, Camilla would have to pursue him harder than before.
– Because… how can I possibly return to the capital with things the way they are!?