From that point on, everything was oddly busy.
It was hard work cooking skewers for all those children. “Argh, I can’t bear to look at this!”, Günter said in the meantime, and began to grill meat together beside Camilla.
“You coarse girl! Do you even know what it means to be delicate with food!?”
“I’m coarse, you say!? Those eyes of yours must be painted on!”
“Just throwing such succulent meat on the grill haphazardly like that, how can you be anything but!? Argh, damn it! I’ll train you from scratch, lass!!”
“Are you saying these skewers aren’t delicious!? I didn’t need any instruction from you to do this much!!”
“Save the cheek for when you can actually outcook me! You’ll be regettin’ this when we’re back in the kitchen, ya hear!?”
As they kept up their usual screaming match whilst cooking those skewers for the children, the ones that had already received theirs began to walk towards the town square, chatting happily to one another.
After some time, the children’s’ mothers came.
They must have come looking for their children who had gone out to play. After finding their children in the plaza or wandering down the main street, they eventually found themselves at the stall as well after seeing what their children were eating, as if following the scent.
“So there really was a festival going on after all, then? It’s somewhat different to what I imagined it to be.”
As she said that, one of the mothers looked around the main street, with all of its busted and trampled stalls. Looking at the street, Camilla could only see it as vandalized, but perhaps people who had never seen a festival before might see it differently.
“…Those really do like quite delicious don’t they? My kid also had one… Um…”
“Adults have to pay five pieces. Only kids get free food, right?”
The boy who had led his mother over by the hand said that with a proud grin. The mother seemed to be at a loss for a moment, but eventually gave in to her curiosity and bought one.
As they cooked it over the grill, another person came up to the stall. Günter’s plan of attracting customers through smell may have paid off after all.
Some of the people approached the stall out of sheer curiosity. And after some time, that curiosity would turn into custom. Eventually, the stream of curiosity seekers and customers became a torrent.
At the call, Camilla repeated the price, something she’d lost count of how many times she’d said.
“They are five Licht coppers each.”
“Oh? They cost money?”
When she raised her head at the sound of that stingy voice, she saw a face she knew staring into the stall. It wasn’t the sort of person she was expecting, being a pale and elderly man. His white hair was disheveled and the clothes he wore little more than rags. As she looked at the destitute looking old man, Camilla felt the words leave her lips before she could think.
“You, you’re Klaus’ poetry teacher, aren’t you?”
The root of all evil. He was the one who had originally requested Klaus solve the issue of the underground music that disturbed him.
“I remember you. You were with Klaus, weren’t you? I’ll take three then. If’n ya don’t mind.”
“Do you have any money? Buying three wouldn’t be cheap for you, would it? You can have it for free.”
It was easy to tell that the old man was someone in need just by looking at him. People who live for the sake of their passion usually find it hard to earn a living. All the more so in Mohnton, a land that scorns such things, there was no way he would have any money.
“Don’t treat me like a charity case. I’ve already paid for three in advance. I’ll take two more as well, I’ll sort something out to pay for those as well.”
He was also incredibly stubborn.
“You’re a troublesome fellow, aren’t you!? Well, in that case… So be it. One of your songs, then. In exchange, I’ll make you as many as you like.”
“One of my songs? Alright, then. I’ll give you another of my songs.”
Saying that, the old man glanced back at the square.
The bubbling noise of the children had calmed down a little bit. It seemed like Klaus was the one singing now. Then, with a final wave, he gave up his position on the stage.
And the one who walked up to replace him was… Victor. He took a deep breath, a hand on his chest, then took up his violin.
“That god awful din sure has come a long way, hasn’t it?”
As the old man received his skewers from Camilla, a smile spread across that stubborn face as he headed towards the square.
Victor had gone up onto the stage.
Dieter, Finne and Otto had all left as well.
In that tent, in the corner of the square, only Verrat and Mia were left.
As she hugged her knees to her chest, Verrat’s breathing stayed shallow.
– I’m going now.
When he was invited by Klaus, who had been singing on the stage all that time, Victor decided to take to the stage himself. But when he said that to Verrat, she didn’t even raise her face to look at him.
– My violin, thank you for not breaking it… Your feelings, I’m sorry I can’t return them. But, still, thank you.
Even when Victor had said that, Verrat still couldn’t raise her head. As Victor left, and the others followed him, she still stayed in the same position.
– Vera, we’re going too.
Dieter called out to Verrat before leaving.
– You should come along as well, when you can. Cause, y’know, Miss Nicole will get tired soon as well… and we all like your singing.
No one hurled their frustrations at Verrat. They didn’t say anything about her ruining the day or breaking their instruments.
But even though they tried to comfort her, Verrat couldn’t bear to see them.
Nearby, she heard a sigh.
Without raising her face, she knew it came from Mia. There wasn’t anyone else in the tent at all. Just what kind of eyes was Mia looking at Verrat with? She didn’t want to know.
In the distance, she could hear Victor’s violin. The noise of the square seemed so far away.
“…I don’t feel sorry for you at all.”
In the tent that felt cut off from the outside world, Mia sounded as if she were speaking to herself.
“I knew you loved Victor. I knew you’d always loved him for the longest time. But, I won’t hand him over to you. That’s because I love Victor as well.”
Even though she couldn’t see it, she could feel Mia’s gaze. Those hard words she sent Verrat’s way didn’t have an inch of the sympathy that her friends had.
“What you did was despicable. Doing something like that, how could you ever capture Victor’s heart? Lashing out just to hurt people, then making it seem like you’re the one who was hurt the most, I can’t stand to see it.”
Verrat hugged her knees even more tightly. She had nothing she could say. Those words were painful to hear.
“Even though the people you hurt are trying to reach out to you, you’re still acting like the victim, it’s unsightly… Honestly, just really unsightly. You’re making those people who are worried about you look like the biggest fools.”
Mia breathed out an angry sigh. Unsightly. Verrat felt her shoulders jump at the word. It was like a direct assault on the pride she had carried herself with all this time.
She had always worn her heart on her sleeve and been proud of it. She always thought she carried herself with grace. When she found out that Victor and Mia had gotten engaged, she wished them happiness without letting her feelings show.
Jealousy was ugly. Clinging to him would be wretched. She didn’t want to be like Camilla from the stories. She wanted to be cool, admirable and graceful.
But, that wasn’t truly Verrat.
“You played music with Victor, you were his precious friend. When I thought about how you were experiencing something with him that I couldn’t, I was disgusted at how jealous I felt. I was miserable.”
“…I was hurting as well.”
She was alive. She had feelings. So, it was only natural that she was hurt. Verrat managed to squeeze out her voice.
“I know that. You wouldn’t be human, otherwise.”
Mia exhaled. She still looked straight at Verrat.
But Verrat didn’t realize the envy in that gaze.
“You were always so cool. Even if you were hurt, you still stayed proud and calm. When I saw how much Victor admired you, I was jealous.”
Love, pain, grief, hatred… those sorts of emotions were all natural. They were impossible to just will away. Everyone has to come to terms with them, either face to face or within themselves.
They might become unsightly and clingy, or anxious and insecure, or lose themselves to jealousy or hatred.
But Verrat chose not to confront her feelings and remained proud. She didn’t accept anyone else’s sympathy, nor did she ever let her pain show.
That was the cool Verrat that Mia had always envied.
“So, are you going to stay like this forever?”
Mia asked her.
As she hugged her knees, Verrat bit her lip. Tears began to stain her skirt.
Crying like this wasn’t cool at all.
But, running away from her friends just to hide her tears, that was even worse.
Following the children, more and more people began to gather in the square and even the cooks and peddlers whose stalls had been destroyed were beginning to filter back.
As the younger vigilantes began to rebuild the broken stalls apologetically, trade began to flow down the main street. After that, even more people began to gather.
Thanks to that, Camilla’s stall also stayed busy.
Before anyone knew it, the street was chock full of people.
The children were louder than anyone. After Nicole stepped off the stage after a while, the young musicians began to play their broken instruments, ever so slightly off-key.
Amongst the music, a smooth yet strong singing voice echoed. At the sound of the song that no one in the crowd had heard before, applause broke out.
In one corner of the square, a group of people swept up in the mood began to dance. Someone who liked the song tried to sing along. Those happy voices trailed up into the sky, as if heralding the beginning of spring.
But, Camilla, who was busier than ever cooking with Günter in the stall, didn’t know about any of that.