The Path of the Dead (2)
Camilla was speechless after hearing the end of Alois’ report.
Spring had come to an end, with the summer winds now blowing through Montchat. The incident of the rebellion had all but been settled completely now, and peace had returned to the Montchat mansion.
The political trips Alois was having to make to the royal capital were becoming less and less frequent, with the number of reports coming in from various parts of Mohnton also having been halved. Whenever Alois was away, Klaus would travel up from Blume to act on his behalf as Duke, and the reporters skulking around the front gates looking for a scoop would disperse for a time.
From now on, they should be able to peacefully look after Mohnton… were Camilla’s thoughts, just before Alois visited her room.
“…I can’t believe it.”
Looking up at Alois, who sat opposite her, Camilla finally managed to force herself to speak. She found herself simply shaking her head in disbelief as well.
There was a trembling in her fingertips. Even the breath that passed over her lips felt painful. Just what was it that she was truly feeling? Camilla didn’t know how to describe it.
But, the shock had taken its toll on her.
“It’s too unbelievable. You’re saying that… Prince Julian and Liselotte were… murdered in prison? That’s… such a thing…”
“But, their bodies definitely were found. My brother confirmed it himself, so it’s hard to think there has been any mistake.”
As she instinctively stood up from her chair, Camilla denied it.
Of course, there shouldn’t be any mistake in the report coming from the royal capital. She knew that, but still she couldn’t accept the words Alois had just told her.
“Such a thing shouldn’t be possible…! Because what you’re saying is that Gerda killed those two!?”
“…That part of the investigation hasn’t been confirmed yet.”
Alois tried to stay calm for her sake. He frowned slightly as he gripped his knees, seeming to chew over every word before saying them.
“Prince Julian… or rather, the real ‘Alois’… his body, along with Liselotte’s, were definitely found in their individual cells, there’s no doubt about that. What’s more, both Gerda and one of the guards went missing on the same night. She was very cooperative with the investigators, and even denounced ‘Alois’ multiple times when she was being questioned. Saying that she ‘chose the wrong master’, and how much she hated him.”
“And, although he was supposed to be keeping watch on her, it seemed like the missing guard had become quite close with Gerda as he guarded her cell. Some even said he was going too far in favouring her. The guard was quite old, close to retirement age and unmarried… because he had been serving a long time, he was able to give her quite flexible treatment… These are the facts of the case.”
Hearing the words from Alois made it very easy to construct a picture of just what had happened.
Gerda conspired with a prison guard that she had drawn to her side, and used the opportunity to murder ‘Alois’ and his companion, who she held a deep grudge against. After that, the two of them escaped. It was an easy to understand tale.
Camilla chewed her lips as she paced back and forth, biting back her words. Just what was the impulse she was feeling? Camilla didn’t know herself. Julian, Liselotte and Gerda… It was as if all the wrong people had been picked for these roles.
“I still can’t believe it… This is that Gerda we’re talking about, remember? Everything she ever did… wasn’t it always for the sake of the Montchat family?”
Camilla didn’t like Gerda and Gerda obviously despised Camilla. She’d been furious with Gerda’s rude attitude countless times, and Camilla, as well as Alois, had almost been in deep trouble because of her.
But… it’s because of those times that she knows how deep her loyalty runs. She was the type of person who would prioritize her loyalty to the Montchat family over her own life.
Could such a woman really denounce Julian, then go as far as killing him?
“…Something doesn’t feel right.”
“If I’m going to be honest, I get the same feeling.”
Alois looked up at Camilla as she wrung his hands together.
“So, I’m going to visit the royal capital to confirm things with my own eyes. I’m sorry about this, but the details of the case are still being kept from the public, so could you not talk to anyone about this?”
When Camilla finally managed to choke out a reply, she fell back in her seat, the strength had left her legs.
With the shock finally wearing off and giving way to something else, she looked down at the floor. It still didn’t feel real.
They both died. Not even as a measure of justice to atone for their crimes, but at the hands of someone they trusted, someone who had always been faithful to them…
“If I find anything out, I’ll make sure to let you know straight away.”
“I’m sure that Gerda still has a grudge against you, and now that she’s escaped… I’ll make sure security is doubly tight. But, for just a while, please be careful if you decide to go out…”
“Yes… you don’t need to concern yourself over me.”
She didn’t want to worry him, so she wouldn’t be reckless. As his fiancée, it was her role to protect the house and everyone in it when Alois was away.
– I have to be strong.
Whether or not Gerda had killed them, things wouldn’t have changed much. Julian and Liselotte were in prison awaiting the day of their execution. They were doppelgangers, traitors and criminals.
The soldiers in the royal capital would certainly catch Gerda, her escape wouldn’t last long at her age. Everything would be settled soon.
– I’m okay… It was just a little shocking to hear…
Curling her hands into fists, Camilla raised her head.
“I’m alright. Please take care on the road. Lord Alois, I leave the investigation of Gerda to you.”
Alois gazed at Camilla’s face in silence for some time.
He blinked slowly and opened his mouth before closing it again and swallowing whatever words died on his tongue, as Camilla couldn’t figure out what lay behind those red eyes of his.
“Is something wrong?”
After calling out her name, Alois hesitated. Then, taking a deep breath, he mulled his words over before calling out to Camilla once again.
“…I don’t know much about who you were back when you lived in the royal capital, but…”
When Camilla answered him, Alois averted his eyes slightly. His face seemed troubled and lost for words, but there was also something painful in that expression.
“Camilla, you spent a long time living in the royal capital, didn’t you? And when you were there, the one you were always looking at was always…”
Alois slowly blinked, as Camilla saw his reflection in his eyes.
In those eyes of his, that seemed to be on the verge of tears, Camilla saw herself with the same exact expression.
“It was always… ‘Prince Julian’, wasn’t it?”
She looked at him in silence, as she began to grip her hands so tightly into fists that they began to hurt.
She couldn’t stay calm. Not just now, but from the very moment she had first heard the news from Alois. Even if she sat down or stood up, the feelings boiling inside her that she just couldn’t understand wouldn’t abate.
It wasn’t anger. It wasn’t hatred. She didn’t feel sorry for them either…
…Those two were traitors. Being executed was the sort of end they deserved.
They hadn’t just tried to bring Camilla down, but put the entire country under their thumb.
Not just that, but they had brought war to Mohnton.
Even Alois’ life had been in danger.
It was only natural that they be punished. Camilla herself could never forgive what they’d done. She didn’t feel sorry for them. She had no sympathy at all. Camilla thought that they should face the punishment that they deserve. And, in the end, they had.
“Camilla… It’s okay, you don’t have to overdo it.”
“I know it’s not my place to say this, but… you shouldn’t push yourself too hard. More than anyone, you were the one who looked at him the most, didn’t you?”
Him. Listening to his words, Camilla bit her lip again.
The image that came to mind was that slender back, that she almost lost her mind chasing in vain when she lived in the royal capital.
No matter what she did, it had never turned around. From the beginning, he had never even looked her way. And it was all because of a misunderstanding that Camilla loved him so deeply.
But, back then, Camilla was serious.
“…He’s a criminal.”
“That may be true, but…”
Alois showed Camilla an awkward looking smile.
“Let’s mourn anyways. It’s not such a bad thing to do, after all.”
She wasn’t angry, she wasn’t filled with hate, but she didn’t pity him either…
That’s right, surely this was…
– I’m sad…?
The hands that she had clenched into fists lost their strength. As Alois looked at her, Camilla felt her hands slowly coming to her face, as if on instinct.
Both Julian and Liselotte were gone.
She covered her face with her hands. The breath she felt on her palms was sticky and hot. Even when she closed her eyes, she could feel the heat building up behind them all the same. Standing up silently, Alois stood by her side.
She felt something wet on the hands that covered her face.
And, in that darkness, Camilla finally realized she was crying.
Even if he was a fake, even if she was being tricked, Camilla had been serious.
She really had loved him.