The events at the masquerade and the reinstatement the Lesprey family spread across the entire Empire in a heartbeat, as if it was being carried on the wings of a wind spirit.
As there had been many families banished during the reign of Eclard, the people were full of hope that there would be justice for all of them.
But unlike those other families, the Russen family appeared to be demolished.
The family’s atmosphere was miserable due to the young lord that had been seriously wounded by the emperor.
Many doctors came by, but they all said that it would take the divine powers of the Goddess to fix the hand that had been cut off.
They could at least fix the wrist where the nerves had been severed.
The Count sent a message to request a priest from the temple, but he was worried that there would be no priest willing to come to a family that was in the emperor’s disfavour.
The only quiet place in the house was the drawing room, where Count Russen and Marquis Piett were sitting.
The Count was tired from staying up all night and frustration had overcome him.
He slapped his hand down on the table.
“What is happening, Marquis Piett! The fact that the female slave is the child of the Lesprey family is preposterous! Why is His Majesty favouring her”
Piett was fondling the cigar that the Count had given him, studying it with curiosity.
The cigar was higher quality than he thought a Count would own.
“I gave you a heads up that she was close to the emperor.
That’s why I asked you to bring her out quietly.
I’m disappointed that you failed in retrieving her,” Piett said as he savoured the cigar.
The anger in his voice made Count Russen flinch.
Russen usually avoided speaking with Marquis Piett, due to the sinister rumours about him.
It was said that all of the heirs of the previous marquis mysteriously died after Piett had been taken into the family as a bastard child.
This resulted in Marquis Piett rising to the position at a young age.
Those that opposed him had been hung and it was even said that he wiped out an entire assassin’s guild, after they had been supposedly hired to kill him.
Even though there was no proof to any of these rumours, all the deaths were certainly suspicious.
It was apparent that the marquis was crazy enough to do anything to achieve his goals, like a poisonous snake hiding in the bushes.
Count Russen’s mouth dried up as he realized that the marquis might even be more dangerous than the emperor.
He gulped down some tea to steady himself.
It was his son who knew Marquis Piett first, and introduced them.
The Marquis informed him of where Iona had been hiding and instructed him to retrieve her in secret.
He made promises of business and mentioned the name Rackden.
Rackden was a famous place in the continent.
It was a centre for smuggling and even though Count Russen knew it was dangerous, he agreed to the Marquis terms.
As the Emperor tightened the defenses around the borders, it was getting much harder to smuggle in goods.
If he was able to use the skills found in Rackden, he might be able to grow his smuggling operations back to the way they were.
His son Hedin also wanted the deal to go through.
Russen knew, when the slave girl was in his house, his son had been obsessed with her and locked her up so she wouldn’t be seen by anyone else.
If the duchess hadn’t educated him about the consequences of having a bastard, he would have already had a child by her.
To ensure her son’s safety, the duchess sold the slave to some far-off market.
She didn’t want the slave’s hold over her son any longer.
The moment Hedin found out, he went to every slave market in the Empire, screaming Iona’s name.
Count Russen knew that if he had allowed his son to make the deal, Hedin would have ruined it for sure.
So, he paid a man from a lowly noble family to sneak her out of the palace.
But the Emperor wouldn’t leave the girl’s side, and when Hedin spotted an opportunity to take her, the emperor returned just in time to stop him.
Russen hadn’t realized that Hedin had snuck into the masquerade until it was too late.
Luckily, the emperor didn’t kill him, but he would live the rest of his life with only one hand.
Russen just thanked the Goddess that his bloodline hadn’t ended that night.
The door to the drawing room flew open.
Hedin stumbled across the threshold, looking pale and weak.
There was a bloody bandage wrapped around his wrist and another across the gash on his head.
His eyes were bloodshot and wild.
Count Russen stood, rushing to his son who had only regained consciousness that morning.
“Hedin! Are you all right”
Iona!” Hedin croaked out, coughing.