6 – 14
“She’s my sister! That’s my sister’s hand! You can’t just take it like that!”
As she lost her balance and tumbled forward, she reached out towards Camilla.
“You can’t take the hand of a man like that! You know that his real identity is just that ugly toad swamp! How can anyone call him a good man!?”
The people who watched from the periphery looked at Therese with cold eyes.
After the true identities of Julian and Liselotte had been revealed, both Camilla’s ostracization and reputation had been flipped on their head in a matter of moments. Right now, everyone saw Camilla as a sort of tragic heroine, who had been framed as a villain.
Meanwhile, people were keenly aware that Therese had been the source of information for many of Camilla’s supposed crimes. In order to isolate and cause Camilla’s downfall, Liselotte had used Therese.
The fact that Liselotte and Therese had become so publicly close after Camilla’s exile would also become a major point of suspicion against her. Therese was one of Liselotte’s accomplices. A key figure in Camilla’s tragic wrongful conviction.
All the people in the audience saw was the second of the two villainesses, who had worked so hard to frame Camilla.
“Choose me instead.”
But, Therese didn’t care about any of that.
A man had suddenly appeared to rescue Camilla, who she was supposed to save herself, and was now going to take her away for good. It was the worst possible turn of events for Therese.
“Don’t go back to the swamps. Such a disgusting place, I’m sure that you don’t want to return there again either, sister!”
Therese didn’t listen to Camilla’s words. Like the same little girl who threw tantrums all those years ago, she shook her head as tears streamed down her face.
“Don’t leave me, sister…”
It was the first time she had ever seen Therese so truly desperate. Camilla, who never took anyone’s hand, had chosen someone else. She didn’t care about the hatred in the eyes of those who looked down at her, the only thing she was terrified about was the thought of losing Camilla.
Therese didn’t even look at Alois, that odious man who was trying to steal her Camilla away. The only person she stared up at was Camilla herself.
“Please, take my hand. I’ll save you, sister. No matter what!”
Therese reached out to her. Compared to Alois’, her hand was small and dainty. Hands that couldn’t protect anyone.
“Because we’re family! I’ll hold you close, whenever you need me! No matter how much it hurts, no matter how painful it is, no matter how sad! I’ll share it all. All of your sadness! All of your pain!”
As they heard Therese scream that word, Viscount Neumann and his wife raised their heads. Therese, however, didn’t notice.
Not caring at all about her appearance, her eyes were red and puffy as she wailed, tears streaking her face. And as she begged, no one took the hand that she reached out.
“Don’t abandon me, sister… Please, don’t throw me away again… Don’t apologize… Don’t leave… If I was in your position, I’d never let you go!!”
– Don’t abandon me.
Don’t apologize. Don’t leave. Because we’re family.
Sharing the same burdens. The same hardships. Even if they fell into poverty, even if they faced painful days, that was fine.
They would struggle together, overcome adversity together, and live happily together. As a family.
Don’t apologize, father. Don’t be sad, mother. Please don’t abandon me, my real mother and father.
She didn’t care about how hard things got. She didn’t care about being poor. If they could be together, then she could bear all of it.
But, no one could be her real family. She was an abandoned child.
Soon after she was born, her real family abandoned her.
And as a young girl, Therese had always cried.
“Don’t abandon me, don’t abandon me, don’t abandon me, please, don’t throw me away… please don’t go!!”
Camilla looked down at Therese as she sobbed.
It wasn’t as if she didn’t feel something for her.
It wasn’t as if she didn’t understand how she felt. Camilla too had always wanted a family that cared for her.
But, Camilla didn’t feel sorry for Therese. That’s because Therese had always had what Camilla had wanted.
Therese kept stretching her hand out towards her, not wiping the tears from her eyes. Like a selfish child. After gazing at that hand for a moment, Camilla took a deep breath.
Then, after a moment’s hesitation, slapped away that hand.
“A hand like yours could never save me.”
Her voice was cold and stern. It was almost too cruel of a voice to use against a crying child.
But, Therese wasn’t a little girl anymore. How could she pity or forgive her now, after everything she had done?
“If you want someone to save, then save yourself, Therese!”
Therese was stunned by those harsh words of rejection.
She lost strength in her legs and sank to her knees.
As she did, she collapsed into heaving sobs.
Even at the very end, her sister still wouldn’t take her hand.
As she fell to the floor, there was another commotion in the crowd.
There were two pairs of people; Viscount Neumann and his wife, as well as the Count and Countess Storm.
Camilla’s uncle and his wife went straight to Therese’s side. Meanwhile, Count and Countess Storm surged straight past them without stopping.
Camilla’s father, Patrick, didn’t even spare Therese a glance as he took the hand of his daughter that Therese couldn’t.
“You… you really were innocent this whole time…!”
Camilla’s mother, Katarina, took her other hand. She felt the breath stop in her throat. Just when was the last time she had touched her mother’s hand, Camilla wondered? She could only vaguely recall the soft touch of her mother’s hand when she was a young girl. The only other times she felt the harsh touch of her mother’s hand from then on was when she was being punished.
“I’m so sorry, Camilla. We didn’t believe you…”
As she looked past her parents who seemed like they were on the verge of tears, she saw the Viscount and his wife take Therese’s hands in the same way.
It was as if Camilla and Therese had swapped places once again. Camilla continued to look at Therese, who still received hateful glares from the people in the crowd.
“I’m sorry… no.”
Viscount Neumann almost said it, but he stopped himself.
“I won’t apologize. You don’t need to apologize to me either. If people wish to blame you, then we’ll bear it together.”
“We should never have let you go.”
Viscountess Neumann looked so pale it wouldn’t surprise anyone if she collapsed after she pushed her frail body to run after Therese.
Although her hands were small and trembling, she hugged Therese as hard as she could.
“You’ll always be our daughter.”
Something she had always dreamed about.
What Camilla had truly always wanted.
“…We were tricked! We never suspected that Therese was someone who could do something like that!”
But, it was something she would never have. Her father’s words reminded her of that.
“Because of Therese, you were put through so much pain. Ahh, we’re so sorry… because she was an unfortunate child, we spoiled her too much. Who could have ever believed that she would do something like that to her real sister…”
Therese must have heard what Patrick was saying only a few footsteps away. Or, perhaps she was lucky and didn’t hear him above her own sobbing. But, Camilla was sure her father wasn’t thinking about that at all.
“It must have been so hard, being alone like that… I’m so sorry that we never noticed.”
“You have always truly been our only daughter. Yes… because of an awful lie, we’ve done something awful. Even though you’ve been with us your entire life…”
As Katarina began to cry, Camilla looked down at her. Camilla and Therese. Both of them were their daughters. But, just once, have they truly thought about their words?
Camilla called out to the two of them without any wavering in her voice. She tried to keep calm, but it seemed like it would be a futile effort. She could feel something beginning to boil in the pit of her stomach, and she felt like it would soon find its way to her voice, like it always did. But, for whatever reason, she felt strangely cold instead.
It was as if she had finally woken up from a dream.
“All this time, I told you that what they said was wrong.”
“That’s right. You truly were innocent.”
Patrick nodded. He had always heard Camilla deny everything thrown against her. But, more than anyone, he should have truly listened.
“My innocence… did you ever truly believe in it at all?”
Patrick blinked. It took him a moment to realize that those were words of blame.
– Why did you never trust me?
He realized that’s what Camilla was trying to say.
“…I did, or rather, I always wanted to. Of course, I wanted to believe in my daughter! But, there was so much evidence against you… We were taken in by the lies and believed them… we were fools.”
The proponents of the lie were a web of conspirators that fooled the entire country. Believing in it, her parents really may have been fools. But, the conspiracy was too powerful. It was simply all an unfortunate series of events.
“Forgive us… you really are our true daughter. We love you, you have to understand that…”
We love you.
So, forgive us. Let everything be water under the bridge.
Camilla just couldn’t understand it at all.
They adored Therese out of love, and begged Camilla’s forgiveness out of love. When one waxed, the other waned. As they asked Camilla for forgiveness, just where had their love for Therese gone?
Did they think that just with ‘love’, everything could be forgiven and forgotten?
And in doing so, tear Camilla and Therese apart?
“…Let’s go, Camilla.”
Behind Camilla, who looked down at her parents, a stern voice spoke out.
It was Alois. He looked at Camilla with a severe expression.
“They’ve said more than enough. We don’t have time for this.”
Camilla looked back at Alois. But, Camilla’s parents didn’t let go of her hands.
They hadn’t yet heard the words they desperately wanted to hear from Camilla.
I forgive you. Those are the words they were waiting for.
“Don’t go, Camilla. You’re our daughter. You’re the only child we have.”
“You don’t have to listen to them anymore, Camilla. Let’s go.”
“…You go too far, Duke Montchat! She is our beloved daughter!”
Katarina screamed. To her, Alois’ words were those of a cruel man, trying to tear apart her family. Katarina trembled as she kept speaking.
“Camilla, you wouldn’t abandon us, would you? If we lost both of our daughters like this, how could we go on…!?”
“You are a daughter of House Storm. You will never have to go through hardship again. I’ll make sure that you’ll have everything you could ever need. And I’m sure that we can help the House of Montchat in some way. Therefore…”
Before Patrick could once again beg for his daughter’s forgiveness, Alois brusquely cut him off.
Alois didn’t wear his usual calm expression anymore. There wasn’t even a shadow of his usual gentle smile. His face was cold and hard as he looked at Patrick and Katarina.
“That won’t be necessary at all. Camilla, I have no use for the power of the Storm family.”
Alois reached out his hand again. Camilla was puzzled by this side of Alois that she hadn’t seen before.
She had never heard such a cold voice coming out of that kind mouth of his. Even during the times that she and Alois had quarrelled, there had always been an undertone of genuine care.
“Let’s go. Throw away the name ‘Storm’. You’re already a part of the Montchat family.”
Camilla looked between Alois and her parents.
Don’t go, Patrick’s eyes said. I love you, said Katarina’s. You’re the only one. Our only daughter. Therese’s sobs filled the silence between Camilla and her parents.
But, they didn’t take a single look back at Therese, who was still sunken to the ground. Therese was a villainess after all, who supported a criminal and framed Camilla. A girl who had brought shame on the Storm name.
They didn’t need a daughter like that. In the same way they once hadn’t needed Camilla.
Camilla threw off the two hands that clung to her. She remembered what Therese had said when she arrived in the royal capital.
She was right. This kind of thing would just repeat itself over and over again. She didn’t feel an ounce of heartache as she cast them aside.
“…Are you going to abandon your daughter once again?”
As their daughter threw aside their hands and asked them that, the two of them looked at her in stunned silence. They probably didn’t realize straight away that they would never hold their daughter’s hands again.
They didn’t know what she meant. The two of them loved their daughters. Camilla and Therese both, they had loved them since the day they were born.
“We never abandoned you. What an awful thing to say…! You’re the one who is abandoning us, are you not…!?”
Patrick looked aghast. It was as if he couldn’t believe what Camilla had said at all. How could they ever abandon their beloved daughter? They had brought her up with the greatest of care.
Yet, despite everything, their daughters never understood that at all. As parents, it was terribly sad.
“Why don’t you understand, even though we love you so much!?”
Patrick’s grievous cry echoed through the courtroom. Certainly, some kind-hearted people would sympathize with that pitiable sound. As parents themselves, they must have known what that would feel like. They felt sorry for them.
Perhaps, Camilla might even be described as an ‘awful daughter’ in the rumours once again. The same would be said about Therese. Two terrible daughters, who betrayed their parents’ love. The Count and Countess would be pitied as the two poor parents, who suffered from their daughters’ heartlessness.
They would forever wallow in that sympathy. And their two beloved daughters would never return to their side.
Camilla shook her head.
She was fine with that. Let them call Camilla cold and heartless if they want. A despicable daughter who didn’t return her parents’ love. Maybe, in time, they might come to call her a villainess again.
– But, I do not care at all!
Containing that angry yell in her heart, Camilla raised her head.
She didn’t care what they said about her. She wouldn’t regret the choices she made.
A number of hands had reached out to Camilla. But, Camilla knew exactly which hand she wanted to take.
So, as usual, Camilla puffed out her chest with pride and raised her chin.
“So long, father, mother. Take care.”
With a determined voice, Camilla turned on her heel with those words, walking away from both of them for good.
“Wait just a second! You aren’t leaving me behind this time!”
Just before Alois and Camilla could leave the courtroom together, Diana caught up with them with a shout.
Camilla smiled, realizing that Diana had run up to them the very moment she had made her decision.
She really was like Camilla’s big sister, someone who knew her far better than her father and mother ever could.
To Camilla, Diana was certainly someone she could truly call family.
If I can manage another double release, then I’ll be releasing the (sorta) last two chapters of Yasesasetai tomorrow.