6 – 6
If she thought back, Camilla could remember a time when, as a young girl, she and Therese were very close.
Therese’s father, Viscount Neumann and Camilla’s father, Count Patrick Storm, were very close as brothers. The Count often invited his brother to visit him.
And whenever the Viscount and his wife would visit, Therese would always be with them. Back then, Therese was fascinated with Camilla and always followed her around, whilst Camilla loved her like she would a younger sister. Whenever it was time to go home, she would cling to Camilla, not wanting to leave.
But, when Camilla was around seven or eight years old, something started to change in their relationship. Camilla herself had no idea why it happened.
Therese kept visiting the mansion as per usual, and left in the usual way. The first difference was that her tantrums at not wanting to go home got worse and worse. She began to refuse to leave more and more, essentially having to be half dragged out by an apologetic looking Viscount and his wife.
Then, it was as if she suddenly came to despise her. After that, Camilla never felt anything but hatred from Therese.
At the time, Camilla had absolutely no idea what could have possibly caused Therese’s wild change in behaviour towards her.
But, she had been deeply hurt by it at the time. That was the truth.
Black hair, just like Camilla’s.
A face that resembled Camilla’s as well. But, whereas Camilla’s expression always felt sharp, Therese’s was much softer.
When she smiled, it was like a blooming flower. When she cast her eyes down, it made others want to protect her. In the afternoon, Therese returned to the Storm mansion, where she was beloved by all.
“Welcome home, Therese. How was tea with Miss Liselotte today?”
“Thank you for welcoming me back, father. I had a lot of fun. We discussed a lot of things as well.”
“I take it Liselotte hasn’t changed much, Therese?”
“That’s right, mother. She hasn’t changed. She’s still deeply happy to be getting married at last. Miss Liselotte also asked me to convey her greetings to you as well mother, father.”
Camilla’s mother and father greeted Therese in the entrance hall after she arrived.
She looked tired, but still gave them a natural looking smile all the same. Looking at them from afar, they looked like a perfectly normal and happy family.
Camilla, meanwhile, who was supposed to be the true daughter of this house, frowned as she watched from a distance.
She’d heard that Therese had returned and decided to come and see, but she was already regretting that decision.
It was as if Camilla had been nothing to the House of Storm. They had simply replaced their daughter with another, and life continued unaffected by her absence. Whether it was Camilla or Therese, it made no great difference to those parents.
Those parents of hers, who doted on Therese, were much more gentle and kind with her than they ever had been with Camilla. Therese, a girl adored and loved by many, was a far more suitable future lady of House Storm than their true daughter, a problem child with an awful reputation.
Camilla averted her eyes, clenching her fists. She didn’t want to watch anymore.
– …Time to go back.
She wanted to leave, before anyone noticed her. That’s what Camilla hoped to do, but Therese trampled on that thought with almost perfect timing.
“Father, mother, did anything happen whilst I was away?”
Therese’s high pitched voice echoed through the entrance hall.
“I can see someone over there, but I cannot quite make out their face… May I ask who that is?”
Therese raised her voice, her high tone mixed with a note of confusion. Her gaze was fixed straight on Camilla, who had been watching from afar. After squinting, she turned to her mother and father, a strangely joyful smile on her face.
“Perhaps it’s a guest?”
She didn’t betray anything in her tone. But, Camilla understood the malice in those words straight away.
She had taken a step towards her room, but she immediately turned on her heel. She saw red.
Before she even had time to think about it, Camilla heard herself speak.
“…This is my home.”
Stepping out of the shadows, she glared at Therese.
“What is your problem with me? Asking me who I am? How utterly shameless!”
“Shameless…? No, I… I didn’t mean to do that…”
Flanked by her parents, Therese shrank away, as if she were intimidated by Camilla’s pressure. Katarina put a hand on Therese’s shoulder as support.
It was a scene she had seen many times before. Camilla’s parents, who believed themselves to be allies of justice, were always looking to protect the weak. They always took the meek Therese’s side against the brash Camilla.
“I’m sorry, sister. I truly didn’t think that it could have been my sister listening in on us. Like some sort of criminal… no.”
As Katarina pulled her closer, Therese smiled suddenly.
“You really are a criminal, aren’t you? I’m sorry, I wasn’t really thinking straight.”
“Criminal, you say?”
Taking a step forward, Camilla’s voice rumbled angrily.
“How dare… how dare you say that!? If I am a criminal, then what does that make you!? Whilst I wasn’t here, because of you, everything has…”
– Everything has…
Her voice trembled. As her shoulders shook in anger, a group of passing servants looked stared at her. Perhaps, some of them looked at Camilla with a slight amount of pity in their eyes. But, most of them looked at her with harsh, accusing glares.
When Camilla was gone, Therese became the daughter of the House of Storm. Therese had also taken Camilla’s room, and Camilla had never been close with most of the servants. In short, the people in the mansion felt that Therese was an integral part of it.
Whereas now, Camilla was the outsider.
“Are you not a shameless thief!? You’ve been stealing everything of mine!”
Bet it her favourite toys, or a servant that was sympathetic to her. Her father, her mother, her friends. Everything that Camilla held dear, Therese had never hesitated to take for herself.
“Give me back my home! Give me back my family!!”
But, it was always Camilla who was made out to be the villain, bullying those weaker than her. Always. Always, and forever.
“Give it back…? Then, you don’t see me as family…?”
Therese’s eyes trailed sadly to the floor, as Patrick stepped forward in her place.
There was a sense of justice burning in Patrick’s eyes. He had to protect the weak. That daughter of his, who lashed out so rashly and unfairly, had to be chastised. That was the only thing he could do, as a good person.
As Patrick stood infront of Therese, Camilla could only imagine the sort of grin she’d give if no one was watching. But Patrick and Katarina would never suspect those intentions, being the honest sort they were.
“Stop that at once, Camilla.”
Patrick spoke sharply.
“Therese is just as much a part of our family as you are. When you were exiled, you have no idea just how much Therese did for the good of our house.”
Camilla looked up to glare at her father. As father and daughter, they had exchanged many harsh gazes like this before. To him, Camilla’s attitude had always been selfish. He had hoped that by chastising and scolding her, he could somehow reform her behaviour.
“After I lost credibility because of your selfish actions, it was Therese who helped me regain connections. Thanks to Therese, as well as her friend Liselotte, the House of Storm can live peacefully, without facing anger. Therefore…”
Camilla’s browed furrowed even deeper as she cut off Patrick’s words.
“Why is Therese now friends with Liselotte?”
– Therese should know better than anyone that she was the woman who framed me.
Camilla held those words in check. Thinking harder, it was obvious why the two of them had a strong relationship now.
Therese and Liselotte were both very similar people. It was only natural that two people openly hostile to Camilla would find common ground as her enemy.
“It was just over a year ago that I began to grow close with Miss Liselotte.”
As Patrick stood in front of her as if to defend her, Therese’s voice was faint as she answered.
“She gave me the opportunity to talk to her about you, sister, and we kept seeing one another. I know that you’re still deeply jealous of Miss Liselotte, dear sister, but I beg you not to harbour a grudge against her. Because she’s the one that did her best to protect you.”
“Protect me? Just how can you stand there and tell such an outrageous lie!?”
As Camilla took an angry step forward, Therese trembled. As if she were terrified, she shrunk back, hugging her body with shaking hands. To any onlooker, Therese must have looked like a petrified baby animal, something you’d desperately want to shield and protect. After looking to Katarina for reassurance, she turned to keep talking to Camilla.
“It’s the truth. Please don’t be angry, sister. The only one who is at fault here is me. Because I couldn’t bear the weight of my sister’s crimes anymore, I had to confess to Miss Liselotte…”
“What did you just say…”
“I told Miss Liselotte that the truth, that the noblewomen who harassed her were all your friends, that you were the one who started that awful rumour about her, and that you had hired those thugs to attack her on the road. That’s how His Highness heard about all of it.”
When Prince Julian heard about what Therese had said from Liselotte, he was consumed by rage. But, at the time, it was Liselotte who had stopped Prince Julian from immediately taking up a sword to cut Camilla down himself. The only thing that stopped him was Liselotte’s persuasion that killing Camilla would only make him just as bad as her, and eventually, the Prince had calmed down.
“It was also Miss Liselotte’s idea that you should marry the Duke Montchat. Isn’t marrying a Toad of the Swamp better than dying? No matter how ugly, gloomy and hateable they may be… So, please don’t be angry with Miss Liselotte, since she was the one who saved you.”
Camilla blinked. She needed a moment to fully process the words Therese had just said.
– In short…
In short, everything…
“…was your fault, the entire time?”
When Camilla had been exiled from the royal capital, all the crimes she could barely remember committing, all the crimes that were grossly exaggerated and all the crimes that were utterly fabricated, all of them were backed with evidence she couldn’t refute. It seemed like everything Camilla had ever said or done was proof that she was both complicit in and masterminding the harassment of Liselotte.
Thinking back now, it truly was strange. Just who could have known Camilla’s private life in such detail? There had to have been something off.
“You sold me out?”
Camilla’s voice grew soft. But, under the surface, she could feel her blood beginning to boil.
She could feel a small trickle of blood run over her knuckles as her clenched fist dug into her palm, and the heat began to rise to her head. She was shocked, furious… and hurt.
Since they were cousins, she had at least believed that, deep down, she would still remember the friendship they’d had as children. But, that was now shattered as just a delusional happy fantasy.
“Selling you out, you say…? I’m sorry… I just couldn’t bear to see my sister commit any more crimes…”
Therese sobbed between words. But, in reality, Camilla knew about the malicious grin she was trying to suppress.
The words hanging off her lips, Camilla once again approached Therese. It was just so ridiculous that she wanted to laugh herself.
“Just how much gall do you have, to lie so easily?”
The only sound that echoed through the silent entry hall was Therese’s quiet sobs and Camilla’s footsteps. Everyone watching held their breath. Those parents stood in front of Therese to protect her. It would have been a laughable scene if it weren’t so tragic.
Despite her tears, Camilla knew that she was happy under the surface. Because everything had gone according to her wishes, hadn’t it?
“Are you satisfied now, having robbed me of my life? Are you happy, seeing me suffer like this?”
“No. No, I’m not happy. Because, I still want to save you, sister.”
“Save… just how can you even say that!?”
As she watched Camilla stepping towards her, Therese raised a hand to her lips. The words that spilled from her lips could barely be heard.
“How can I…”
The sound of her voice was quiet, as she tried to cover up her smile. It was far too fun, after all, so it couldn’t be helped.
“Today, I went to a tea party with beg Miss Liselotte. ‘Please, help my sister’, I said. ‘No matter how wicked, nasty and forlorn of any remorse she might be. Because she’s my beloved sister, my only one in the world’.”
“I am not your sister!”
“No, sister. You are my only big sister Camilla. We’re sisters, and we’re family. And families exist to help one another. I’m different from you, sister, because I haven’t forgotten that.”
Stopping in front of Therese, Camilla reached out to grab her. But, before she could, Katarina pulled Therese away, shielding her from Camilla. Just like a real mother and daughter.
“It will be okay, Therese. Camilla has simply forgotten herself right now.”
Therese smiled at her mother’s words. Something in that scene sent a pang of pain through Camilla’s chest merely having beheld it.
Just when was the last time that Katarina had held Camilla like that?
No matter how much she searched back in her memories, she couldn’t find such a recollection. That mother with a kindly face had always said to her; ‘You are a blessed child, there are so many others who face hardship each and every day… so you must be patient’.
That was how she had pushed Camilla away.
“She is my mother!”
Camilla’s face twisted in rage as she screamed. She could feel the heat beginning to build behind her eyes. But, no matter what, she couldn’t cry.
– If I cry, then father and mother will scorn me even more.
The commandment to never cry had been ingrained in Camilla. Because she had parents, because she had been born into wealth, because she could lead a blessed life.
But, was it a fulfilling one? From the beginning, Camilla had always had to bite her lip and swallow back her tears, bearing everything that came her way.
“Stop stealing everything I have! You are not my sister! They are the only parents I have! They’re my mother, my father!”
Her voice began to crack up as she shouted, trying to grab Therese again. She wanted to wring her by the neck. She wanted to drag that lying Therese out of here, out of the place that was supposed to be her home. She wanted to peel off that mask, and let the world know her true face.
However, she couldn’t reach her. Before she could grab her dress, someone else grabbed Camilla’s arm.
“Stop this at once!”
Patrick’s voice was sharp and enraged.
Her father turned her around to face him, his face full of anger. It was the face of a good father, protecting his daughter.
“Take those words back this instant, Camilla. Just as I am your father, I am also Therese’s! You truly are sisters!”
As those cruel words finally fell, Camilla stared at Patrick.
“It was our fault for never having told you. But, that does not mean I can abide by what you said. Apologize at once, Camilla. What you’ve said has hurt Therese.”
Therese clung to Katarina. Katarina hugged Therese back.
Patrick stood in front of the two of them, holding Camilla’s arm firmly in place.
Camilla opened her mouth.
She wanted to say something, but the words died on her tongue.
So, that’s how it was.
Therese’s mother, Viscountess Neumann, had always been frail and sickly. She had always been told that giving birth to a child would have been difficult.
Despite that, the couple kept trying, and eventually, a miracle known as Therese came into their lives. But, the truth was, she was not really a miracle.
Viscount Neumann and his brother had always been close. Therefore, Patrick and Katarina gave him their baby to raise as his own.
To Viscount Neumann and his wife, Therese was such a cute child that she instantly became the apple of their eyes. Moreover, it wasn’t difficult for the Storm family to take her back after all this time either. Thinking about it logically, they were simply replacing Camilla, the daughter they lost, with another of their trueborn daughters.
It really was a simple tale, in the end.
The Neumann family only occupied the lowest rung on the ladder or peerage, only nominally considered nobility, and their property was not worth much at all . Without the assistance of the House of Storm, it was hard to see them surviving as a noble house.
Therese was a daughter of House Storm. However, despite that, she lived a life of comparative hardship, whilst her sister Camilla had lived in opulence.
The way Patrick and Katarina defended Therese now was like the physical manifestation of their guilty conscience. Whilst Camilla lived richly and selfishly, at times their other daughter lived in a household that didn’t know whether or not a roof would still be above their heads the next day. She was a pitiable girl.
‘You are a blessed child, there are so many others who face hardship each and every day.’
The intent had never been malicious. Everything had begun with only thoughts of kindness in their hearts. That was the truth about the warm and gentle Storm family.
“…I understand now.”
Shaking off Patrick’s arm, Camilla murmured quietly.
The blood that had been boiling in her head ran cold. She wondered just what everything she had ever strived so stubbornly to do was even for in the first place.
When she had been in pain, when things just hurt too much or when she felt like she was about to burst into tears… Camilla had bit her lip and gone to the orphanage.
As someone born into privilege, she had helped those young children from the poorest strata of society.
She hadn’t done it for the sake of others. She had done it so that she herself could carry on. So that she could swallow those bitter tears and carry on.
But, in the eyes of Camilla’s parents, it was wasted effort. No matter what Camilla did at the orphanage, their view never changed.
Because, the truth was, there was only one person that Patrick and Katarina truly sympathized with.
“In the end, the only value I had to you, mother and father, was someone to push their guilt onto?”
She could feel the tears welling up.
But still, Camilla bit her lip and blinked them back.
She couldn’t admit just how much it hurt.
Poor Camilla. I feel like that’s my reaction to a lot of chapters, though.
Also, just a couple of things. I translated a fan manga of Yasesasetai yesterday. It’s pretty cute, and you should check it out here! -> LINK
And, I know it’s the last thing you probably want to see now, but I found a fanart of one person’s interpretation of Therese so I thought I’d share. I’m curious to see how close he’ll be if we ever get official art of her. [Source]