“I have confirmed from all of the evidence and witnesses that the Viscount Lesprey was framed and destroyed instead of the real culprit, Count Claude, the descendant of the abolished Emperor Eclard.”
As the emperor spoke, memories flowed into my mind.
When I was a child, my father had been dragged away by soldiers.
My little brother was crying and wailing and my mother, who tried to resist them, fainted after seeing my father being dragged away.
I was scarred forever from witnessing all those nightmarish acts against my father.
The nightmare of the past had never not let me go.
Sometimes, like now, the memories swelled up to try and devour me once more.
My mother, who lived several more years in emotional shock, eventually fell ill and died.
I lost all sense of humanity after being sold away as a slave.
It was common for me to beaten, simply because of the supposed acts my father had committed.
I don’t know what happened to my brother.
After that moment, I never laughed again.
Six years later, after being sold around to many different families, the memory of my father’s supposed actions started to fade.
The slave traders saw my origins from the paperwork, but no longer cared.
All they thought about was how much money they could get from a skinny girl who never smiled.
The emperor threw another paper in front of the Count.
“This is the supply list of his cargo.
A quarantine certificate was issued at the time he crossed the border.
Rydan completely messed up the investigation.
He didn’t research any of the facts.”
Rydan was the former prime minister and was disposed alongside Eclard, the previous emperor who was dethroned by Ridrian.
They were both burned at stake dramatically, in a large square, along with the evidence of corruption they had caused.
Even as I watched the executions, I knew it would still not be enough to vindicate my family, so I just cried alone.
I ended up collapsing on the floor of the dance hall.
All strength had left my body.
The tears of the past poured once more from my eyes.
I was startled by the unfamiliar title the emperor addressed me with.
When I looked up, his golden eyes were watching me with sadness and compassion.
As I look at him, I felt my burden lessen.
I got up slowly, realizing that I was on the floor again in front of all the gathered nobles.
I was not longer a slave, but Iona, the doll of the emperor.
I cleared my eyes and bowed to the emperor.
I could feel all of the nobles watching me.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” I said, assuring him I was all right.
He looked at me silently for a moment and then turned his head towards the crowd.
“From now on, in the name of your emperor, Ridrian Ferid Lebrooks, I vow to establish the Viscount of Lesprey’s innocence and restore his family’s honour and prestige.
I also acknowledge that his only descendant, Lady Lesprey, is the legitimate successor to the Viscount Lesprey, and that she will succeed to the head of the family.”
Each word the emperor spoke was a shaft of light that pierced my heart.
I cried once more at the warmth that gently descended into the darkness of my mind and soothed the bruises of my family.
My voice barely escaped my mouth.
I could once again speak the name of my family, something I never thought I would do.
“I, Iona Lesprey, serve at your command.
Thank you, Your Majesty, for your kindness.”
It was this moment that I realized the purpose of the education the emperor had given me for the past fortnight.
Aristocratic manners, grammar, genealogy, and all the rituals of a noble way of life.
It was all for this moment.
My heart filled with emotion as tears of joy continued to fall.
“I also ordered the detention of Count Claude, who is alleged to have framed the Viscount Lesprey.
In three days’ time, a trial will be held.
Commander Kraman, please arrest him immediately.”
“I serve at your command.” A knight in silver armour, who had been standing to one side of the banquet hall, came forward and bowed to the emperor, then took a contingent of knights from the hall to seek out Count Claude.
“Chancellor Deluke,” the emperor called.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Chancellor Ivan Deluke came to the emperor’s side and bowed his head to him.
“There must be more than one family involved in the incident of the Lesprey family.
All data related to this case should be put in evidence for this trial.
Investigate every piece, no matter how small or trivial it seems.
I want to re-examine everything that has occurred from ten years ago.” He handed over all of the paperwork that had been retrieved from the floor by Raven, and handed them to Ivan
“I serve at your command,” Ivan said, bowing once more.
The emperor turned and addressed the remaining people at the masquerade.
“I’m sorry that such an unsavoury thing happened at this magnificent ball.
The Russen family, who caused the trouble, should remain vigilant and wait for my punishment.
Moreover, Lady Lesprey will remain in the Imperial City for the time being, as she is the most important witness related to this case.
If there is anyone who makes unnecessary contact to the Russen family or Lady Lesprey, he or she will be considered involved in the case and interrogated.”
My tears suddenly stopped flowing.
Did he just officially announce that I will be kept in the Imperial City so no one can touch me I had intended to leave the palace in eight months, but that didn’t seem to be the situation anymore.
The stress of this entire night overcame to me, and I began to black out.
I could hear voices calling my name as I slipped into darkness.