6 – 13
The guardsmen lead Liselotte and the others out of the court.
With that, Eckhart pronounced the trial over and ordered the court to disperse.
Half of the reporters outside of the court had already begun sprinting back to their papers to hopefully make tomorrow’s edition, whilst the others still loitered, sensing that there was still more to come.
The nobles in attendance couldn’t cool their own excitement either. People’s eyes were still locked on the centre of the courtroom. Straight at Camilla and Alois, who had overturned the trial together.
“Julian, Miss Camilla, you two ought to leave as well. I don’t believe things will settle down anytime soon.”
Eckhart spoke to Alois and Camilla with concern in his voice.
“I’ll have a room prepared for you. I am sure we have a lot to talk about, don’t we? And forgive me, but there are some questions I have to ask. But before all that, the two of you should get some rest.”
The exhaustion in Alois’ face was even more pronounced now than when he had burst into the courtroom. Ever since Mohnton’s rebellion broke out, just how little sleep must he have gotten?
Eckhart also knew about the situation in Mohnton. That poor brother of his, just what burden did he have to carry in order to come here? It was all too painful.
Alois returned Eckhart’s gaze. After a moment of brief hesitation, he softly shook his head and stepped back.
“My deepest apologies. I have to return to Mohnton as soon as I can.”
“The sole reason I came to the capital was for Camilla’s sake. Please excuse my rudeness for not being able to receive your hospitality properly. I am sure that, one day, we’ll be able to talk about everything that’s happened.”
As Alois bowed gratefully, Eckhart frowned. He looked at Alois and Camilla incredulously, as if he didn’t understand what he was hearing at all.
“Do you… truly mean to return?”
Alois grimaced at Eckhart’s words.
Mohnton’s uprising had been instigated for the purpose of ensnaring Alois once again. After winning, either they would have done away with him for good or, if not, attempted to break his heart once more.
Alois’ magical powers had been sealed off by Alois himself. It had been a symbol of that heart of his that had once been broken. An intangible manifestation of his remorse and regret.
They couldn’t afford to let Alois unseal his true magic. Their former masters, the Duke and Duchess, had died sealing it away, along with his memories. Because with that power, Alois could overcome it all.
So, that’s why Gerda had used that poison. And by framing her for the act, sought to separate him from Camilla. In order to protect the people of Mohnton, it was necessary to betray their lord and start a revolt.
Mohnton should be a place that Alois had come to despise. Both his circumstances and the miasma in the air had forced him to take on a grotesque appearance, the nobles of the land blamed him for every single thing they could, whilst the servants of his house had been overtly trying to exercise control over him.
The days he spent in that land had been hard and painful, it seemed insane that he would want to go back.
“You aren’t a member of the Montchat family. You don’t have any ties or responsibilities to that land, either. With the real heir to the Montchat family captured, the revolt should die down soon enough.”
Even if Eckhart didn’t know the full details, he could only imagine what Alois had been through. If that land was also truly loyal towards the Montchat family, then no one would welcome Alois’ return now. On the contrary, he might be in danger of someone seeking to take vengeance against the man who was the cause of their master’s condemnation.
“It would be especially dangerous for Miss Camilla as well. If you’re concerned about the situation, I can send some men up north for you. There’s no reason for you to return in person, is there?”
Alois shook his head once again.
He knew that Eckhart was saying all this out of genuine concern. And, just as Eckhart said, the fires of rebellion would soon be starved of oxygen. Perhaps, there was no real reason for Alois to hurry back at all.
But, still, Alois had a reason to return.
“In that land, there are people who are still fighting for my sake.”
The people of Grenze, who had been on Alois’ side from the beginning. Klaus and the people of Blume, who decided to throw in behind Alois despite knowing just how much opposition was arrayed against him. The people of Einst who refused the orders of the rebellion’s masterminds, the Meyerheim family.
And, all the people back at the capital, who had stood by his side.
“Even though the crisis is still raging, it was thanks to them I was able to return.”
When Alois made the decision to return to the royal capital for Camilla’s sake, there wasn’t a single person who tried to stop him.
Klaus told Alois that he’d protect his home until they got back.
Günter laughed heartily, whilst the cooks mentioned that without Camilla, the kitchen felt like something was ‘missing’ from it.
Nicole entrusted all the faith she held that Camilla would return in Alois, and the rest of the servants saw him off on his journey.
As Alois left the capital of Mohnton, the soldiers who had been manning the outskirts of the city saluted him as he left.
We look forward to your safe return.
“I’ve lived half of my life as Alois.”
Alois calmly gazed at Eckhart. But, the determination in his face was plain to see.
“The ruler of Mohnton, Duke Alois Montchat. The people of that land still recognize me as their lord.”
In his absence, Klaus was taking care of things.
But, before Alois left, he grabbed him by the shoulder and said ‘Make sure to come back.’
“I have people waiting for me to return. Those who are making sure I have a home to return to. A land that I have to protect.”
The northern land that was scorned by all in the south. Mohnton, a land of criminals and sinners.
That swampy land filled with nauseating miasma, that was Alois’ place to return to.
“I can never go back to being ‘Julian’. To throw away the name ‘Alois’ now, given everything that’s happened, would be like a betrayal.”
Eckhart sighed. Then, after a moment of consternation, he spoke.
“…Then, so be it.”
Eventually, he looked at Alois with a stern frown.
“I’ll prepare a carriage for you to return in. What’s more, I’ll assign some of my men as an escort. That is your land, after all. Make sure to take care of it well, Duke Montchat.”
Although his face looked severe, Eckhart’s words were full of his true feelings for Alois. And, because of them, he accepted Alois’ decision.
He was a serious and honest man, who no one had ever seen laugh at a joke. But, that serious man had his similarities to Alois.
“Your Highness… thank you.”
“…Once things have settled down, promise me you’ll come and visit the royal capital once again. I’ll be content with that.”
Alois’ eyes opened wide with surprise as Eckhart gave him the smallest of smiles, before turning on his heel and leaving the court to help organize the carriage and escort he had promised.
After Eckhart left, Camilla finally felt able to breathe again, as she whirled around like a storm and grabbed the lapels of Alois’ coat.
“…So, it is true after all!? The fighting is still going on!?”
Alois was slightly confused by just how pale Camilla had suddenly become. Camilla, meanwhile, had no idea why or how Alois had suddenly appeared in the royal capital.
“Is it truly fine for you to be here, Lord Alois!? Is everyone safe!? Just what is happening back in Mohnton!?”
Camilla had come to the royal capital alone for the sake of Mohnton. But, right now, she was desperate to know what was going on back there.
“What about the people in the mansion!? Grenze!? Einst!? Blume!?”
Nicole and Günter. Those irreverent cooks in the kitchen. All the people that Camilla had met in her travels. Was everyone alright?
When Eckhart was talking, did she stay silent because she didn’t want to interrupt the Prince? Or, was she simply overwhelmed with relief to see Alois? It felt like all the anxiety that had been building up in her mind for days was tumbling out at the same time as her words.
“We have to get back straight away…! If something happens whilst you’re away, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life!”
As Camilla finally found her voice again, Alois spoke over her. Despite how anxious Camilla sounded, she stopped to listen to his voice that was by contrast calm and confident.
“Camilla, if we go back, you really could be in danger, are you okay with that?”
He had come to the capital to bring Camilla back. But, he also wished for Camilla to be safe as well.
Now that the truth has been exposed for all to see, the royal capital wasn’t a dangerous place for her anymore. If he asked Eckhart, he was sure that Camilla would be kept exceptionally safe.
Staying here would certainly be safer than returning to Mohnton with him.
But, that worry Alois held in his heart was blown away by Camilla’s strong words.
“Of course I am!”
Still holding his coat with her gripped fists, Camilla answered without a moment’s hesitation.
Alois couldn’t help but laugh as he marvelled at her strength. The cautious and prudent Alois, who always thought, or perhaps sometimes overthought, one step ahead… she was his complete opposite.
But, maybe that’s why he liked being with her so much. Perhaps, that’s why she was able to force him to change.
And, maybe, that’s why he fell in love with her.
“Let’s go home, Camilla. Everyone is waiting for you to come back.”
Alois smiled, as he held out his hand.
Camilla, again, didn’t hesitate to let him go and reach out to take that hand of his.
But, just before she could, she heard a voice from the crowd behind her.
As that scream broke through the courtroom, Camilla turned around to look.
“I won’t let you take her! The one who’ll take my sister’s hand is me! The one who’ll save my sister… is me!”
At her screams, everyone turned to look.
As they did, they saw a pitifully desperate Therese clambering over the pews set out for the audience, rushing towards Camilla.