The Capital; One Month Later (1)
Springtime in the royal capital was much warmer than in the frigid northern expanses of Mohnton.
They arrived just as the waning weeks of spring arrived, with the flowers truly in full bloom. Under that deep blue sky, as singing birds sung with spirit on flowering trees, only a month ago everyone would have anticipated such a festive atmosphere to accompany the celebrations of Prince Julian’s wedding.
But, it wasn’t as if the capital was in a gloomy mood now. People had reacted well to the news of the capture of the ringleaders of the traitorous plot to take over the kingdom.
An investigation was still ongoing to see just who had been assisting both the traitors in the capital and their allied rebels in Mohnton, but that was something that would take years to fully wrap up.
In the meantime, however, the most popular figure of discussion was none other than Alois Montchat, who was being hailed as one of the key people credited with putting down the plot. Now that the fraudulent man posing as Prince Julian had been locked away to await his fate, Duke Alois who had been revealed to be the real Julian now found himself being pulled in two directions.
Alois himself had stated that he only ever wants to remain ‘Alois’ and continue living in Mohnton, but there are a sizeable number of people who wish for him to once again be ‘Julian’. Whilst the First Prince Eckhart respects Alois will to remain himself, he still steadfastly maintains that he would like Alois to become a sort of ‘Julian’ when it comes to providing assistance in matters of state. People seemed impatient for a decision to be made, with many people still trying to jostle for influence over the argument one way or another.
– But, well, I suppose there’s no helping talking it over until a compromise can be made?
Camilla looked around at the unfamiliar parlour as she let out a small sigh.
With a view towards the south, this guestroom that oversaw the courtyard was the finest one the Royal Palace had to offer. Of course, the Montchat mansion back in Mohnton wasn’t shabby, but it paled in comparison to the splendour on show here. From the size of the room, to the intricately made furniture, all the way down to the fluffy softness of the seats. But, despite being surrounded by such finery, Camilla couldn’t quite feel at ease.
“Sorry about all this, Camilla. For you having to come along with me, I mean.”
Alois, sitting opposite Camilla, looked genuinely apologetic.
“We barely had time to settle back down in Mohnton before… you must be tired, right?”
“There was no helping it, after all. It was at the request of His Highness, Prince Eckhart.”
As she looked back at him, Camilla remembered just how it was that they came to be here in the first place.
It was about a month after Camilla had returned to Mohnton after all the turmoil in the royal capital.
Although they had rushed back as fast as they could because of the rebellion still ongoing in Mohnton, they found that things had almost been completely settled by the time they got there. Many people had taken up arms for Alois’ cause or switched to his side, with the now isolated Falsch soldiers surrendering. Not long after, Vilmer who had been leading the rebellion, was captured.
The soldiers that Eckhart had sent along with Alois ended up being completely unnecessary and were eventually sent home. Everything seemed like it was going swimmingly.
Everyone who had performed meritorious deeds were rewarded and investigations launched into bringing to light the truth of the rebellion. Of course, Alois also began to make a tour of inspection of the duchy, assessing just how much damage had been done. When his soldiers had returned back and Eckhart learned that the rebellion in Mohnton had been put down without further incident, he sent word for Alois to return to the royal capital.
As for Camilla, she understood Eckhart’s intentions. The royal capital was the most important place in the country and Alois was quickly becoming one of the country’s foremost figures. It was absolutely necessary for him to come and discuss crucial matters of state in person.
What’s more, the emergency in Mohnton had ended. Wrapping up the rest of the matters there could be done without Alois’ direct involvement. Besides, it wasn’t as if Alois was being ordered to return immediately. Perhaps as a sign of good faith as well as his own feelings, Eckhart had given them a grace period of about a month to return.
But, still, they really hadn’t had time to settle back down. It took that long for Alois to assess the events and damages of the rebellion through reports, set out a framework for what needed to be done in his absence and prepare for the journey… with Camilla in tow.
“After everything that’s happened, my brother was concerned about how you were doing as well, Camilla, so he asked me to bring you along. You were the one who suffered the most from all this, after all.”
“I think that particular honour should go to you, Lord Alois.”
Though as she said that, Camilla thought to herself that maybe this wasn’t the sort of thing to compete over. Especially since now, after the dust had settled, Alois and Camilla’s reputations had been completely flipped on their heads
Camilla, who just over a month ago was probably the most detested person in the country, had become a tragic heroine overnight. Every time she saw her name printed as part of an attention-grabbing headline in a newspaper, Camilla thunderously glared in disgust. It was as if she and Liselotte had swapped places from where they had been a little over a year ago.
Much the same was true for Alois. Although he was once reviled as the ‘Toad of the Swamp’, a man no one would come near even on the rare occasions he did leave his boggy lair, now there were so many people clamouring for his attention that he couldn’t deal with them all. Of course, now that the fat had been burned away and those royal features were on full display, the girls flocked in droves as well. When it came to light that Alois and Camilla were not yet married, some noblemen even came to offer him their very willing daughters’ hands in marriage.
– Everyone is all too eager to make hay now!
Camilla herself had been repulsed by Alois in the past, never truly wanting to marry him. But, that was then, this was now. In a burst of anger, she suddenly stood up.
– Well, I suppose I can’t deny that he’s definitely become handsome.
Alois, who had lost enough weight that he wouldn’t look too out of place with other young noblemen, had become quite fetching, even in Camilla’s eyes. Along with those royal features, his face was neat and handsome, whilst also looking much healthier than before. There was no puffy skin hiding away those mystical red eyes anymore.
He still stood very tall but was much leaner than he once was. Camilla oftentimes found herself craning her neck to look at him. But, she never felt intimidated by that height of his. Those soft and warm red eyes always helped to give him a gentle impression. Even after coming to the capital city, they hadn’t needed to bring any of the ointment with them since his skin had already become smooth… however…
Camilla stared at him. Alois fell captive to her stern look.
“Lord Alois, are you sure that you’re not the one who is exhausted? You really don’t look too good.”
Despite his skin looking healthier, she could see the shadows beginning to form under his eyes. Despite Camilla’s stare, he didn’t break his smile, although he averted his gaze ever so slightly.
However, Alois shook his head.
“Do you even know what ‘fine’ means?”
Camilla frowned at his response. Despite everything that happened, Alois was still Alois, after all. He cared deeply about others, but seemed to care little for his own health.
“Are you sleeping properly? Are you eating enough? Or, rather, are you eating too much?”
“Ah, no, no.”
As Camilla began questioning him, Alois quickly shook his head even more.
“I’m eating and sleeping normally, there are no problems. My brother has been taking care of everything for us, after all.”
“Hmph,” Camilla’s frown only deepened. Just as Alois said, Eckhart had looked after both of them incredibly well. No, rather, instead of Camilla and the others, it should be said that Alois had been given especially intent care.
Perhaps this was the way the older brother wanted to express his feelings to his younger, who had gone through so much hardship. Eckhart paid extreme attention to every minute detail of Alois’ stay in the capital, making sure he would never want for anything. Camilla, of course, was treated well, but there was definitely a difference in the sense of gravitas afforded to Alois.
It’s no wonder, after all. Camilla herself fully understood why. But, with how little she saw of him between all the meetings Alois attended with Eckhart and other high ranking noblemen and ministers, she felt herself getting more and more frustrated. Often times, when Eckhart wished to talk to his brother alone, Camilla was left to her own devices.
Camilla, who had never had a brother, couldn’t even imagine what the two of them were getting up to. She’d never gotten along with Therese like that once they’d grown older, after all.
Since it was Eckhart, surely his time with Alois would be nothing like how Therese and Camilla constantly butted heads. Eckhart was a caring person, behind that stern face of his. Their talks were probably kind, if a little stuffy and boring.
– But, maybe…
“Lord Alois, are you not getting worn out?”
When Camilla asked that, Alois shifted in his seat unconsciously. But, Camilla didn’t miss that movement. She continued to stare straight at Alois, who looked away uncomfortably.
After a moment of this one-sided staredown, Alois finally relented as he spoke with a sigh.
“…A little, but you shouldn’t be worried over just this much.”
Alois slowly looked around the room. The beautiful decorations and furnishings that lavished the place stood in stark contrast to the rustic simplicity back home in Mohnton.
“I just really can’t get used to this place, after all. That, along with there being so many people who want to talk to me, it’s a little hard to catch my breath.”
“I suppose a change of pace would be nice? But, well, because of everything that’s happened, it would be hard even just to have a peaceful walk outside.”
Right now, Alois was the biggest celebrity in the royal capital. Any noblemen they meet would try to incessantly rub shoulders with them and any journalists wouldn’t let him escape without giving them some fresh materials, and that’s not even counting the horde of fawning girls that could appear as if out of thin air. If it wasn’t properly hidden, that unique royal silver hair of his would always attract attention wherever it went.
Alois himself surely never imagined that days like this would ever come. For most of his life, most of everyone had kept their distance, and if he were to look their way they would very quickly avert their eyes.
“…Well, I’m just a little tired, that’s all. I’ll get used to it.”
Alois gave Camilla a smile to try and reassure her. But, Camilla’s stern expression didn’t change at all. She still looked at Alois bitterly.
– How can I believe you when you look like that…!?
“Lord Alois, what are your plans for today?”
“For now, I’m free until dinner, but…”
The way he said ‘for now’ was a problem. What was supposed to be Alois’ free time very rarely ended up actually being so. Eckhart, as well as the other nobles, often aimed to get a word in with him during this supposed free time of his. If they stayed in that room, just who knows when someone would come asking for an audience.
But, if they went outside, he would undoubtedly attract even more attention. It was fairly safe to trust the nobles and servants in the highly guarded royal palace, but who knows just who you could encounter out on the streets.
– But, the weather really is perfect for a walk.
The warm spring sun sat high in the sky and the softest of breezes tickled the petals of the newly bloomed flowers around town. It couldn’t compare to the sea of flowers that covered Blume, but the royal capital was nevertheless awash in them. The fresh air outside was much more refreshing than the air back in Mohnton, in no small part due to the lack of miasma.
– What’s more…
With a clench of her fist, Camilla stamped her foot.
“Lord Alois, let’s go and have a ‘change of pace’!”
“We need to get ready, so I’ll call Diana right away!”
When she heard that Camilla was going to the royal capital, Diana made sure that she was brought along. Nicole was also determined to go along as well, but Camilla managed to convince her that Diana should go instead since she was familiar with the workings of the royal capital already.
So, although she felt bad for Nicole, Diana really was the best fit for this trip. Part of that was, because whilst Nicole didn’t have a mischievous bone in her body, Diana was much more of a ‘bad girl’.
“There’s somewhere I definitely want to show you by all means, so just wait here quietly for a moment!”
As the stunned Alois nodded silently, Camilla left the room in a hurry.
After a while, Camilla returned to the parlour alongside Diana.
As Diana walked in behind her, she carried a large suitcase.
When she popped it open, Alois saw that it was full of clothes. Clothes for both men and women were packed tightly together, without any rhyme or reason.
“I’ve heard all the details!”
Diana raised her voice cheerfully. She was always energetic, but Alois saw that she was even more buoyant than usual.
“The long-awaited ‘change of pace’, huh? Alright, just leave it to me!”
Alois felt a cold shiver run down his spine.
He was like a frog being stared down by a snake.
Just what on earth were they going to do to him…?
Sorry for the wait, but here come the Extra chapters. In other news, here is the cover for the light novel’s second volume which is releasing on the 17th. Yes, as per usual, I’ll be getting the illustrations. Also, I know I said I’d be releasing these as larger chunks, but I’m lazy so I’m reneging on that promise. Sorry for being terrible.