6 – 4
“…Alois, later, do you have a moment?”
As people began to disappear back into the depths of the mansion, Klaus stopped Alois before he walked back up the stairs.
When Alois looked back at him, his face was pale. That was only natural. He had been betrayed and backed into a corner by the people who should have been his vassals, and now they’ve even taken away Camilla, who was the one who could emotionally support him the best.
It would have been strange for him to look healthy at all. One could almost forgive him if he chose to throw everything away and give in to his heartbreak.
Perhaps that’s what he really wanted to do, and everything he did before was just putting on a brave face.
“I don’t mind but… what is it?”
As he tried to collect himself, Alois responded to Klaus. Klaus, meanwhile, found himself slightly at a loss when faced with that expression of his, as if he were trying to mask his exhaustion.
“I just need a second, there’s something we have to talk about.”
Klaus swallowed hard, managing to force his lips to move the way he wanted them to.
Could he really tell Alois? Just how would Alois react to his words?
If Alois heard Klaus’ story, he was willing to bet that he would go to the capital straight away. The royal capital, the city to which Camilla was on her way. He really hadn’t wanted to let her go. And if he knew, chances are he would chase after Camilla immediately, without any hesitation.
But, there was no way Alois could leave this place right now. If he turned his back on such a crisis now, all those people who pledged their support to him, who believed in him, would be scattered like dust to the wind. There was no way that a Lord who seemingly ran from the land he was dutybound to protect could ever claim legitimacy to rule it.
He had to believe in him. Alois wouldn’t act rashly, he knew what he had to do.
“It concerns you. It’s not something we can talk about just standing around, though. Sorry about this, but it’s important.”
As Klaus spoke so mysteriously with such a serious face, Alois’ eyebrows furrowed.
But, before Alois could say anything, there was suddenly a panicked rushing of footsteps up through the entrance.
“Report! The Ende magicians have begun to attack from Falsch! Battle has been joined, but without a way to respond to their magic…”
One of the guard captains in charge of the capital of Mohnton’s defense shouted out. Alois tore his gaze away from Klaus to look at the man as he delivered his report.
“Klaus, that story will have to wait… What kind of magic are they using? Give me a damage report.”
Alois quickly walked over to the soldier. Staring at Alois’ back as he left him, Klaus clicked his tongue in frustration.
They would definitely find the time to speak later. But, for now, this was the more pressing issue. Taking a deep breath, Klaus cleared his mind for the problem at hand.
For now, he had to act as the strategist for the Montchat family.
Five days after leaving Mohnton.
Camilla’s arrival in the royal capital was a plain affair.
During the trip, she had been worried she would simply be killed and left by the roadside, but it seems like that had been an empty concern. The envoys from the capital had merely escorted her back to the royal capital, and all the way to the gates of the Storm family mansion.
It looked just the same as it had the last time Camilla had seen it. The garden had bloomed beautifully with the onset of spring, full of flowers that wouldn’t survive the humid swamps of Mohnton, gently swaying in the breeze. There weren’t many servants bustling about. The ones that were around averted their eyes as Camilla walked past as if they were afraid of her.
Once they reached the parlour of the mansion, the envoys departed her company as they came face to face with the Count and Countess Storm – that is to say, Camilla’s parents. After exchanging rote pleasantries and the necessary documents, the two that had delivered her to the capital had finished their work. After a quick bow to the Count and his wife, they left without another word.
The only ones left in the room were Camilla and her parents.
The sky outside was a vapid bright blue. Wispy white clouds ran across it, as birds floated by on the wing. The busy thoroughfares of the capital that she could see from the window were full of hustle and bustle, with wreaths of decorative flowers being put up everywhere.
Perhaps the procession for Prince Julian and Liselotte’s marriage would pass through those streets. The city was bursting with joy, awaiting that wondrous day.
However, if anything could cast a dark shadow on that momentous occasion, it would be the return of Camilla to the capital.
And, in stark contrast to the buoyant scene outside, the faces of her mother and father were grim. The way they looked at Camilla was nothing even close to the faces of parents who had missed their daughter.
“Camilla… you… just what have you…!?”
Her father Patrick Storm’s voice shook with rage as he finally spoke. That face that was usually so mild-mannered and flattering in public was now twisted in bitter anger. Perhaps things had been truly hard on him this past year? Although she remembered his hair being just as black as his when she had left, Camilla could see strands of white streaking through it now.
“What have you done… just why did you do such a thing…!?”
Next to her, Camilla’s mother Katarina’s eyes were cast down to the ground. Her face was so pale and devoid of colour, it was as if she were the one being accused of a crime.
It was obvious that she wasn’t welcome from the moment she stepped foot back in this mansion, but to go this far?
“Did we really ever treat you so poorly!? Why would you go so far to betray us!?”
“…What do you mean, betray?”
“We loved you with all we had. You never lacked for anything, we let you get away with all sorts of selfishness, and we did our best to teach you right from wrong. But, once again, you’ve betrayed our expectations in you!”
Patrick gripped his hands into tight fists as he bit his lip. Through all the pain, frustration and sorrow in his voice, it was the obvious disappointment that truly struck like a dagger at the child in Camilla’s heart.
“Because of the grace of His Highness, you were given the opportunity to have a fresh start in Mohnton But, even that wasn’t enough to teach you some measure of remorse. You spat on His Highness’ mercy and disregarded our feelings, and now you’ve…”
Patrick ran out of breath, panting in exasperation. Then, spat out his final words angrily.
“And now, you’ve misled the Duke Montchat and caused a general revolt in Mohnton.”
“I have never done anything of the sort!”
“You’re still going to lie even now!? There is a witness!”
“Who is the witness!? I am not lying!”
“How unsightly! Just why is it that you’ve never been able to honestly apologize for your wrongs, even back when you were just a girl!?”
Camilla frowned in frustration.
Just why would they not believe Camilla’s words? Their own daughter’s words?
It had always been like this. When it came to fights between Camilla and Therese, they had always taken her side. When they saw the brash Camilla and her crying cousin, they would always side with the girl who shed tears.
Because there are other people who have it so much harder, because she had all that you could ever need here, because she was so blessed. So, she wasn’t ever allowed to cry herself – that’s what her mother and father had said, as they locked Camilla’s tears away.
“We have given you a life full of anything you could ever want. But just why did you become such a person!? Why are you so intent on betraying our love for you!?”
“That’s enough! Darling, that’s enough already!!”
Katarina leaned into Patrick’s chest, weeping as she cried out. Patrick pulled Katarina into an embrace as if to protect her. Then, taking a deep breath, he tried to regain his calm.
“…In three days’ time, a trial will be held for you. Until then… you have been permitted to spend your last days here with your family, as a final mercy.”
There had definitely been a sense of foreboding.
During the journey, the envoys who took Camilla to the capital kept a cold distance that wouldn’t befit escorts… but something closer to captors.
“Take this time to reflect, Camilla. Then, you can spend your final days peacefully together here with your family, just the four of us. Please… don’t cause your parents any more pain.”
Patrick said that quietly, between Katarina’s sobs.
Camilla bit back the words she wanted to shout out, grinding her teeth. Despite having spent a year away from the royal capital, her parents were just the same as the day she had left this place.
Whether it be now, or all the times in the past, they never believed a word Camilla had to say.