6 – 12
Why was the first Duke Montchat, a member of the royal family, exiled to a land of criminals?
Why did the nobility of Mohnton repeat the practice of marrying within the family?
Why did the land forbid any entertainment or fun, simply allowing people only to subsist?
The shadow of the royal family. The reverence of the past. The endless traditions. It all made so little sense.
Without knowing the truth, it was impossible to figure out why things were the way they were.
A member of the royal family was found guilty and for political reasons, things were kept a secret, as they often were. Defeated in the struggle for succession against his elder brother, he was quietly exiled to a land of criminals. The four houses that pledged fealty to him and believed wholeheartedly in his innocence followed him into those abominable and miasma filled swamps.
From that point on, the Montchat family became the royal family’s shadow.
In the past, Sonnenlicht was often at war with multiple foreign nations at the same time. Mohnton, a border duchy, was often subject to raids and incursions. Grenze was a fortress. Einst provided the soldiers. The Ende family researched sorceries with which to fight back. Mohnton became the bulwark that defended Sonnenlicht against foreign invasion, and the Montchat Dukes became the shadow that operated in the darker corners of the world at the royal family’s behest.
They engaged in cruel experiments. They made battlefields become awash with blood. The truth of the Montchat family was kept in that far away land, as they became the royal family’s dark hand.
But, such things weren’t known to the people. The dark shadow that stretched behind the throne was kept secret and the shadows remained in the shade until their role became obsolete with the end of the wars.
Now, those unsightly scars only marred Mohnton.
Just when was it that they began to pine instead for the light?
The noble families of Mohnton, following the lead of the Montchat family, sought to protect their lineage from the taint of criminal blood.
In order to maintain their innocence, they kept marriages within the family, not contaminating their descendants.
They had never accepted this exile as the ultimate fate of their houses. This was not the place where their legacy would die. A land simply to subsist. In order to avoid being known as lords of a land filled with vice and corruption, they prohibited the sorts of entertainment that might have ignited such desires in people, whilst also imposing those same harsh restrictions on themselves. They didn’t need joy or fun until the Montchat family and their followers had returned to their rightful place back in the light.
But, that wait soon seemed to be eternal.
A hundred years later, a certain Prince was born to the royal family. An unfortunate Prince, who was barely known to anyone and kept from the public eye.
By coincidence, that very same year, a boy was born to the Duke and Duchess of Montchat.
The time that they had waited for so long to come had finally arrived.
Now, the light and the shadow could be exchanged.
After the death of the Second Queen, the Second Prince whose true face was unknown, was secretly swapped with the son of Duke Montchat.
That boy’s hair and eye colour were altered through the use of magic, and he became Prince Julian.
The Prince, who was whisked away to the north, had his memory sealed.
The truth was only known to the upper echelons of the Mohnton noble families, as well as a select few servants of the Montchat household, known for their faithfulness to the Duke.
No one else knew a thing. And because the deception was kept so secret, movements were made behind the scenes.
Everything had gone as planned.
Though eventually, there were two problems in the plot.
The first was the death of the Duke and Duchess of Montchat.
Being a branch family of the royal house, the Montchat family had always been blessed with strong magical powers. Before the practice of insulated marriage was put in place, that royal blood had been diluted somewhat after being exiled to Mohnton, but there was still strength in that line.
But, even their power combined was nothing compared to that of the Prince. Despite their efforts, the two of them could not completely seal away the young Prince’s memories.
The result was that magical accident. As their magical was repulsed by the Prince, the couple lost their lives.
Fortunately for them, it seemed like the trauma over the incident caused the Prince to finish sealing off his memories himself. Despite it costing their lives, the last spell those two cast ended up producing the desired result.
The other was what would happen when the doppelganger ‘Prince Julian’ grew up.
Although his appearance could be altered with magic as a child, eventually the features of the Duke Montchat would be seen in his son as he grew up. Although the Montchat family were rarely seen in public, their features were known to the royal family. They had to keep up the deception somehow.
The illusion magic used to disguise his appearance was incredibly costly when it came to consumption of magical power. Eventually, the magical power of the Prince himself, supplemented by manastones provided the conspirators in Mohnton, would be exhausted.
So, when he couldn’t keep the magic up anymore, the Prince ceased his magic in the darker parts of the royal palace. He had done his best to ensure that no one would see him, but as the number of times his magical power was nearly exhausted increases, inevitably there were sightings.
A pale face. The gaunt and lanky figure inherited from the deceased Duke Montchat. He was like a shadow, suddenly appearing and then disappearing in the blink of an eye. That was when the popular rumours about the ghost in the royal palace had begun.
Eventually, as an emergency measure, the most talented young magician from the Ende family was dispatched to the Prince’s side.
A person who could both supply the Prince with the necessary magical power as well as be someone whose cover story would appear natural. Her name was Liselotte Ende.
In order to create a pretext for the two of them to be side by side, a false love story was concocted.
But, the lies they spun around Camilla to increase the validity of the tale inadvertently became its undoing.
“Sir, you are…”
Eckhart was breathless as he looked at Alois. In his face, he saw the soft features of the Second Queen who had passed away.
“You are… You’re the real Julian, aren’t you?”
Alois didn’t need to say a word. The truth was there to be beheld itself.
The imposter Prince and the man who bore the features of royalty, Alois Montchat. As the magical residue spread through the courtroom still, everyone was lost for words.
Alois looked up at Eckhart. His eyes looked almost nostalgic as he smiled.
Eckhart never knew just what the Second Prince, his younger brother, had truly looked like, but Alois remembered him. He had often felt sorry for his younger brother, locked away in the tower, and disobeyed his mother often to secretly come and see him. He had fond memories of his elder brother, who was always so serious.
“Brother, it has been a while.”
Eckhart jumped down from his seat and rushed towards Alois.
But, before he could reach him, a voice shouted out.
“W-Wait just a moment!”
That frustrated and angry voice belonged to none other than ‘Prince Julian’. He called out to Eckhart, whilst covering up his face with his hand.
“Brother, why are you calling that man ‘Julian’? Do not tell me that you have truly fallen prey to that illusion of theirs!?”
Whilst hiding his face, was he also hiding his expression? He couldn’t suppress his emotion as he bellowed.
“That man has cast magic on me to change my appearance! How could you believe the words of a man who just committed a crime against the royal family!?”
“Julian… Or rather, Sir Montchat.”
Eckhart turned to look at ‘Prince Julian’. His expression was stern and confident.
“Do not attempt to tell me that you did not recognize the magic cast just now.”
The spell that Camilla had cast. Everyone in that courtroom had seen her do it. Anyone familiar with such magic would recognize it at once.
“That was undoubtedly the dispelling magic of the royal family.”
It wasn’t just Eckhart who was convinced, either. In the courtroom, there were not just a handful of people who had immediately recognized it.
Only through the use of that secret magic was the truth uncovered. It was irrefutable proof of the subterfuge at play.
‘Prince Julian’ bit his lip in frustration. As he fumbled for the words that would spring him from this dire situation, he looked around him.
He scanned the crowd with his eyes.
He was met with a sea of inquisitive eyes. That ever insatiable and intrusive public interest that had been his weapon of choice until now. As for the reporters crowded at the window, their eyes looked at him with a mixture of anger and hunger for a story.
Every single move he made was being watched, no matter how minute. He struggled to find even a single person who still looked at him with belief. Disappointment, pity, indignation. The utter dismay on the faces of those who had thrown in behind his cause. But, above all else, nauseating inquisitiveness. The same sorts of eyes that had always been pointed Camilla’s way.
There was nothing else to say.
His mouth agape, his breath came out in gasps.
Then, Liselotte took his trembling hand in her own. Her eyes were full of resignation as she pulled ‘Prince Julian’ towards her.
“I’m sorry, I was powerless. I truly had wanted to help you.”
“Please, don’t look at me like that. I may be a failure as a mage, but I will stay with you until the end.”
As he turned to face her, only Liselotte could see the expression on his face. Seeing the real face of the Prince that only Liselotte knew, she smiled sadly.
With his hand in hers, he fell silent. ‘Prince Julian’ and Liselotte brought each other into an embrace as they closed their eyes.
‘Prince Julian’, Liselotte and Gerda were all lead away by the royal guards in the courtroom with no resistance.
They were to be escorted out of the courtroom straight away.
But, whilst passing Camilla, Liselotte came to a stop.
“…I suppose, this is what you would call fate, isn’t it?”
Liselotte said that with a sad sort of smile. Fate. A word that had often been used to describe Liselotte and Prince Julian’s love story. It all seemed utterly ironic now.
“It was my decision to exile you to the swamp. But in the end, everything turned out like this.”
As Liselotte spoke with words full of self-loathing, the guards jostled her arm to try and hurry her up. But, Liselotte didn’t move a muscle. She kept speaking to Camilla, as if catching up with an old friend.
“Do you know why I sent you to be with the real Julian?”
Camilla shook her head. She had always thought it was an act of malice. She assumed that the intention was a final mockery of Camilla, forcing her to marry a disgusting toad and become a source of laughter back in the capital.
But, now she felt differently.
“I, too, loved Lord Alois.”
Liselotte eyes closed as that sad smile stayed on her face. It was full of pain and resignation, but it also felt strangely familiar. A smile like she was finally lifting a heavy weight from her chest.
“You and I really are like the light and the shadow, aren’t we? But, whilst you changed Julian, I failed to change Lord Alois. I suppose that’s the real difference between us.”
‘Alois’ and ‘Julian’. Both of them had been set upon a wayward path. But whilst Camilla had chosen to reach out her hand to him, although she had once used that same hand to strike at his cheek, she had sought to bring him into the light. Meanwhile, Liselotte strove forward down the path, not managing to bring the man she was with to the light.
They were two sides of a coin. Light and shadow.
Neither Liselotte nor Camilla had truly changed much as people themselves. They merely fell in love. And in that, wanted to do everything in their power to support the person who had captured their heart.
“It’s frustrating, but I suppose this is the end. My love was also fated, it seems.”
One of the guards forcibly grabbed Liselotte’s shoulder. They were wary that she might hold a grudge against Camilla, who revealed her crimes. She may even do something rash to try and drag at least one person down with her.
When the soldier really applied force, Liselotte couldn’t stand still anymore. She was pulled away from Camilla’s side.
“I always thought that it would have been nice to be friends with you. I’m sure we could have talked a lot about love. You were a stubborn and simple person, but I didn’t dislike that about you.”
Liselotte laughed as she was dragged away. She couldn’t know just what multitude of emotions dwelled in that smile of hers.
But, for once, Camilla felt like the smile on Liselotte’s face was a true one.
The last time Camilla heard Liselotte’s voice, it was bright and cheery.
She had detested Liselotte, who snatched her beloved Prince Julian away.
She’d cursed and bore a grudge against her.
That girl who always pretended to be meek and helpless, she should have been angry at those parting friendly words of hers, as if they were a final mockery
But, just why was it? Somehow… Camilla couldn’t truly bring herself to hate Liselotte.
She had fallen in love with the same person she had, doggedly pursued him in the same way, and used whatever means she had at her disposal. She had never given up. She didn’t have any regrets. She wasn’t the type of person to look back in remorse.
Perhaps, the two of them really were quite similar, in the end.
Camilla quietly called out to Liselotte’s back as she was lead away.
For their final farewell, it didn’t seem very fitting. But, she couldn’t think of what else she could say.
The two of them had always been in opposition. But, if it were a different time. In a different place. Then, just maybe, things may have been different.
As Camilla silently watched her leave, Liselotte gave her a final wave without turning around.