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6 – 9

The seating gallery of the immaculate court, located in the very center of the royal capital, was filled to the brim with nobles of all standing.

They had all come to see the downfall of the quintessential villainess, Camilla. In order to tip the balance in the ongoing struggle between Prince Julian and Prince Eckhart, all the nobles of the capital were invited to observe the trial.

The courtroom was packed to the rafters. There were even members of the lower aristocracy outside, bargaining with the guards to be permitted inside the full courtroom. Beyond them, it seemed as if every journalist in the city had turned out for the occasion, climbing trees and pressing up against the gates to try and catch a glimpse of the courtroom through any and all windows.

Amongst those in attendance were the Count and Countess Storm, Camilla’s parents. Diana had come as their servants, whilst Therese stood beside them as well, waiting for the precise moment when the stubborn Camilla would finally break down.

Therese’s parents, Viscount and Viscountess Neumann, were also watching in trepidation.

Sitting opposite those in attendance in his high seat was a judge who had pledged to God to be fair and impartial. Sitting on the judge’s left side was Prince Eckhart, whose serious face seemed even dourer as he crossed his arms with a glare.

On the other side, were the two who had brought the accusations against Camilla; Prince Julian and his betrothed, the Lady Liselotte.

A slender and beautiful form. The silver hair that she had lost herself chasing after. But no matter how much she chased him, those beautiful crimson eyes had never looked Camilla’s way.

Now, however, they coldly regarded Camilla, as she stood below their high seats.

Liselotte sat right next to Prince Julian. She had the blonde hair all the members of the Ende family possessed, as well as red eyes imbued with magic that matched those of the Prince. That expression of fear and hurt, mixed with a touch of pity, was it true or just another falsehood? It didn’t matter to Camilla anymore.

She had once loved that man, and she hadn’t yet forgotten him. Yet, despite how coldly Julian looked at her, it didn’t budge Camilla’s heart anymore.

The crime that Camilla was charged with, as accused by the Prince himself, was being the leading cause of a general revolt in Mohnton.

She was accused of seducing and sullying the hardworking and diligent Duke Montchat, twisting his heart around her finger and making him lose his mind. Using her puppet, the Duke, Camilla had set out to destroy the territory by striking at its very foundations.

It was only thanks to his faithful servants that Duke Montchat managed to regain some of his sanity, but when he tried to have the treacherous Camilla leave his lands, she had him poisoned. Then, in her most dastardly act yet, she framed the loyal servants of the Duke as the culprits, those noble souls who only wanted the best for Mohnton.

With those faithful servants gone, Lord Montchat once again lost his mind. The people, finally sick of Camilla’s tyrannical hold over both the Duke and the Duchy, rose up in revolt to save their land.

“That is false.”

The Prince didn’t even raise an eyebrow at Camilla’s firm denial. Folding his arms, he breathed out, staring down at Camilla.

“Can you prove that?”

“Lord Alois knows the truth of it.”

“…You expect us to take testimony from a man you’ve caused to lose his mind?”

As if Camilla had said something utterly absurd, Julian spat out those words quietly. Then, he shook his head slightly.

“Right now, Duke Montchat is busy in his attempts to pacify Mohnton. He would not abandon his land to come and attempt to futilely prove your perjuries. On the other hand, however, there is a witness here who can corroborate all the details of your crimes.”

As he said that, the Prince cast a glance at the court wardens. They immediately left the court, then came back with a person in tow.

The light brown hair of the Lörrich family, mixed with streaks of white. Those cold and hateful eyes with which she had regarded Camilla before were nowhere to be seen.

When that woman stepped into the courtroom, she let out a frightened cry.

“It’s that woman! That evil witch tried to twist Lord Alois’ mind, and when that didn’t work, she poisoned him! Oh, it hurts even to think about…!”

Shivering like a terrified doe, she covered her face with her hands. There were few in the courtroom who didn’t feel sympathy for the shivering old woman with the trembling voice.

“…Gerda!”

“Make no mistake, just as I have testified to His Highness Prince Julian, this woman has plunged our land into despair! Look at how she stares at me! That shocked face of hers, that’s the face of someone who knows her crimes are about to be revealed!”

She uncovered her eyes, pointing one of her thin fingers at Camilla. Following that finger, the eyes of everyone in the court settled on the girl who stood accused.

“The people of Mohnton can never forgive that woman. She is the reason why they were forced to rise in revolt. Everyone in Mohnton agrees. Please, I beg you, make her pay for her crimes…!”

Camilla felt lost for words in the face of Gerda, who screamed in anguish. It was as if she had seen a ghost. She couldn’t even begin to understand why she was here. And the fact that she had thrown away the mask of the cold woman she had always known, instead playing the part of the despairing old woman, only confused Camilla further.

Just as Gerda said, Camilla must have looked stunned. People must have also taken Camilla’s shocked silence as a tacit admission of guilt as well.

“This woman is the most senior maid who serves the Montchat family. She has been a faithful servant of the Montchat line since the reign of the previous Duke, and a proud member of the Lörrich family. You can rest assured that her words are as faithful as her service.”

Prince Julian stood up, interrupting the pallid silence between Camilla and Gerda.

“The truth is easy to discern. Who has spoken true, the ever loyal servant or the recidivist exile from the capital? The evidence is clear to see by observing Mohnton itself. If Camilla were truly innocent and Duke Montchat truly sane, then by all rights a popular revolt would not have broken out in Mohnton.”

Prince Julian spoke eloquently to the court at large.

“The conclusion is evident. This woman did not learn her lesson in exile and is as insidious as she ever was. I, too, share some burden of guilt for naively lightening her punishment, believing that there is good in everyone… Now, let us make our judgment, and this time, I shall not make the same mistake.”

“Wait a moment, Julian! Deciding the verdict in such a way is utterly absurd!”

As Julian tried to neatly wrap up the trial, Prince Eckhart raised his voice angrily. Standing up, he glared at his half-brother.

“If that woman is truly guilty of the crimes you accuse her of, then why is she here? If you say that she was attempting to grasp power in Mohnton, then why has she left that land behind to travel to the capital at a time of such crisis!?”

“My first intention was to help this woman. I organized to have Camilla Storm escorted to the capital for her own safety. However, not long after that, I discovered the abnormalities in this case.”

“Abnormalities? You mean, more abnormal than you inviting someone you consider guilty of treason to the capital?”

“I only discovered the truth after consulting with Liselotte. She is a native of Mohnton, after all. It was then that I was also introduced to Gerda. Yet, even after I heard her testimony, I wished for there to be a fair trial so that all may know the truth of the matter.”

“A fair trial!? Where is this fair trial, I ask you!? Without even giving her time to think, to organize a defense, this is nothing more than a show trial!”

Despite Eckhart’s enraged shout, Prince Julian didn’t bat an eyelid. He simply shrugged his shoulders as he shook his head.

“Dear brother, in your excitement, have you truly taken note of your words? Would it not be stranger still to give an obvious criminal time to prepare a laundry list of excuses? Irrefutable arguments and solid witness testimony have been brought to bear against her. Gerda is not alone, either. There are many who await the opportunity to testify in regards to Camilla’s many crimes.”

Then, Prince Julian’s voice lowered an octave. But, that quieter tone still intentionally echoed through the courtroom.

“What’s more, I would hope you would use this opportunity to become more accustomed to trials, brother. Who knows just when you might also stand where she stands now?”

“You bastard…!”

“Let us not profane the court with such words. This is a place of reason, so let it remain so.”

Prince Julian only regarded Eckhart out of the corner of his eye. The difference between the two of them was abundantly clear. Whilst Prince Eckhart had buffeted him with harsh words, Prince Julian had remained calm and resolute. From the whispers and nods in the audience, it was clear they sided with Julian.

As Eckhart stood speechless, Julian turned once again towards Camilla.

“…You pitiful thing. After being exiled from the capital, I had thought you would reflect on your misdeeds. But, it seems even that is beyond you.”

He didn’t shout, but his words were bitterly cold. Though, despite how cold Prince Julian looked… the members of the audience with sharper eyes would have noticed the slight flash of genuine pity in his expression.

“You have no friends, and nowhere left to turn. Not even a land of criminals could accept someone like you.”

She had been betrayed, driven into a corner and used. By those same two people who it was common knowledge, she had similarly oppressed herself. She had nowhere left to turn, no one who could stand by her side. Even the people of Mohnton, whom she had come here to protect, could not help her.

Prince Julian looked down at Camilla, a strange sense of pity in his eyes as he regarded the stepping stone to his ambition that would soon disappear.

Camilla returned that gaze with a glare.

“No.”

– Just saying whatever you please…

Those parents who scorned their foolish daughter. The public who vilified and hated her. The little sister who wished to save her at the moment of her fall, and Gerda the one who wants to push her. Camilla was surrounded by enemies.

– Yet, still…

“I do not want your pity.”

Everything she had done up until now, she would stand by it. That was the way she lived.

Camilla’s love. All the people she had met along the way.

She would not cast aside those days that she spent in Mohnton.

“…So be it.”

That small look of sympathy disappeared, as Julian’s voice became colder than ever.

“Then, we shall pass judgment… are there any objections?”

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