5 – 9
“I’m sorry you had to see something like that…”
After finally calming down somewhat, Alois said that embarrassedly.
“I showed you a really shameful side of myself.”
Alois finally freed Camilla from his hug as he said that. Camilla finally took a deep relieved breath, as if she hadn’t breathed at all as Alois held her so tightly.
Contrary to those rumours about her being a loose and vile woman, Camilla had never been touched by a man like that before, except for her father and uncle. That was only natural since, for a long time, Camilla had only ever had eyes for Prince Julian.
Thanks to that, she’d never experienced anything like that before. It was a strange feeling.
“No, not at all. Well, in the first place, I did something not too dissimilar only a while ago…”
As she took a step back from Alois, Camilla said that. Back at the flower garden in Blume, Alois and Camilla’s positions had been wholly reversed.
At that time, it had been Alois who had listened to Camilla. Therefore, it was only right that Camilla listens to him now.
Noticing Camilla had put just a little bit of distance between them, Alois smiled wryly. After wiping away the tears, his face looked strangely bright, like a weight really had been lifted off of him.
Then, Alois suddenly looked as if he remembered something. Turning away from Camilla, he looked back bitterly at the family portrait that had been hanging above the table.
“…I’m sure my parents would think of me as a wretch now.”
That faded family portrait… Alois’ magical power had torn straight through it, leaving a massive scar, though it still stayed in one piece. With such a gaping wound running right through the painting, it would definitely be a difficult thing to restore.
Or rather, maybe the way the portrait was now reflected his true feelings perfectly.
“Maybe I was a bastard? Or honestly, maybe I’m not really the son of either of them? I’ve always wondered about that.”
The Duke Montchat in the painting was abnormally slim and almost hauntingly pale. Because of the constant practice of incestuous marriage in the noble houses of Mohnton, his body was supposedly weak as well. The only way Alois resembled that gaunt man was his hair colour.
His wife looked like a fragile but kindly woman. She had a certain elegant air about her. That gentle atmosphere seemed similar to Alois, but an atmosphere is not something passed on through blood.
“I suppose that’s part of why I was so desperate for them to recognize me. And after they died, all the more so. That sense of guilt must have played a part as well. It really was childish, looking back. It really was like I was a young boy, who just wanted his parents to praise him.”
Camilla had heard about Alois’ family before. When he spoke about his parents, what little he could remember weren’t gentle memories, as he told them. But, still desperate for that affection, he had set aside this room to hang up their portrait and keel all sorts of mementos to their memories.
Yet, this shrine to the past had been torn apart by Alois’ magical power.
“But, father and mother are long gone, now. The only one binding me is myself. That magical power of mine, I suppose it was my own feelings that really kept it sealed away as well? How do they say it, you make the bed you lie in?”
Alois shook his head softly. Then, he suddenly turned to look at Camilla, his face slightly more serious looking as he frowned.
“I’m sorry, Camilla. You got hurt because of me.”
“Something like this doesn’t hurt at all.”
With a derisive sniff, Camilla turned up her nose as she brushed some of the dust off her arms. But, Alois didn’t look relieved.
“…I’m still worried. What if I hurt you again like this, someday? Whether it’s my magical power, this land, or even this mansion… this isn’t a safe place. I’m sure this won’t be the last time you’ll face danger, if you stay.”
“So, after all that, you’re going to tell me to go home again?”
As Camilla glared at him, Alois began to stammer, his tongue tripping over itself. As he kept hemming and hawing, Camilla grew more and more impatient.
Alois didn’t manage to get his words out straight before Camilla lost her patience. Stamping her heel into the floor, Camilla stepped forward. Then, walking straight up to the surprised looking Alois, she raised her voice.
“Then, I’ll show you! My magic charm!”
“It’s a magic that breaks curses. A secret spell, that I can only use once. With this, I’ll break that cursed past of yours, Lord Alois, so you don’t have to concern yourself with it anymore!”
As she said that, Camilla thrust her finger towards Alois’ chest.
And, on that fingertip, Camilla concentrated all her scarce amount of magical power. There was so little magical energy it could even be questioned as to whether this was magic at all. If anything, it didn’t seem like anything more than a child’s good luck charm.
But, there was something special about it. The fact that Camilla showed this to someone was special in of itself.
The magic that Camilla was casting was one that dispelled curses. It was similar to the spell that Alois used on Nicole all those months ago, but just far less complex or powerful.
There wasn’t any feeling of magic in the air, no mystical sounds or fantastic lights either, as all the magic she gathered quietly seeped into Alois, disappearing forever from her body.
“Just what is this…”
Alois blinked in surprise as he pressed a hand against his chest.
Then, he looked at Camilla’s still extended fingertip. As expected of a man who was so adept in magic, it didn’t take him long to notice.
“That’s a royal sorcery, isn’t it? Just how did you do that, Camilla?”
That’s right. There are a number of ways to dispel magic, but those methods vary wildly between casters. Some spells are widely known amongst all those who study magic, whilst others are only passed down through fraternization and bloodline, secrets jealously guarded against outsiders.
The sorceries of the royal family were no exception. The method of channelling magic as well as the symbols to be drawn in order to bring it forth, these were things kept unique to the royal family, and weren’t something that could simply be imitated by watching.
“I was taught how to do it, when I was still a girl.”
Alois didn’t bother to ask ‘who?’.
“It was Prince Julian, then?”
“Yes. His Highness showed me this magic himself first. When I first met him, he looked like a common boy, but it was only after His Highness cast that magic to dispel his own mother’s sorcery did I see his red eyes and silver hair. That was the first time I truly saw His Highness.”
The dispelling itself wasn’t the only surprise. Although the boy who he had been disguised as through magic was certainly very handsome, his true figure far eclipsed that beauty. Although the magic in his eyes was definitely a concern, Camilla came to realize herself that part of the reason the Prince’s mother disguised his son was that his breathtaking appearance was truly mesmerizing as well.
But, for Camilla, although his real appearance was a surprise, it hadn’t changed much. She had been charmed by him the moment he had told her through his tears that her cookies were delicious.
“‘No matter what I look like, I want you to know that it’s me‘, His Highness had said, and then taught me that magic. But, I kept that magic secret, just for His Highness. Honestly, it really is a secret charm.”
“Even though it’s so secret, you used it… on me?”
“Right. I used it on you, Lord Alois. With that, now you know all my secrets. I’ve told you everything that I held dear about Prince Julian. So… how was it, my magic?”
Alois smiled at Camilla’s words. Camilla’s magic hadn’t just been for the sake of trying to dispel his curse. When she said that she would ‘show him’, she also meant her past as well.
That magic wasn’t just for Alois’ sake either. Camilla, too, was trying to unbind herself from the curses of the past with that magic spell. Her memories of the capital, as well as the regrets she left behind. By using that spell she could only ever use once, Camilla cast away the past that had clung to her for so long.
“Thank you. I’ll… Rather, I shall do my best to live up to that, then?”
Realizing the meaning behind it, Alois smiled at her.
“It’s not ‘I want to change’, but ‘I will change’, right? That’s the only way that I can make sure you don’t get hurt again, and also protect you.”
He had that same calm attitude from before… no, there was something slightly different now. He looked like a proper man.
Camilla found herself staring at him for a moment without words, then, realizing what she was doing with a shiver of embarrassment, she glared at Alois to hide it. Trying to pull herself back into shape in her mind, she swept aside her hair with a hand on her hip and stuck out her chest.
As she looked up at Alois, who looked down at her, she spoke out boldly.
“That goes without saying! How can you say you’ll marry someone if you can’t even protect them!”
“Yes. I’ll do what I can. I’ll show you that I’m worthy of marrying you.”
In the face of Camilla’s challenge, Alois nodded firmly.
The smile he wore below his narrowed red eyes was warm and gentle, with all the sincerity in the world.