Siana wondered if the vile Viscount had already paid spies to watch her secretly. She must be careful. She packed the money, the letter to Yulia, some clothes and a small portrait of her parents. It was such a depressing fact that her life was now packed in a few bags. She had lived here her whole life. Her glum thoughts were interrupted by loud noises from outside.
She looked outside the window and saw men in uniforms seated on horses. There were no other private residences around her house, so it was obvious that they had come for her. Did that gorbellied clotpole find out I am planning to escape? She wondered, panicked. There were still two days left till the end of the week, so why was he here? She had to hide her luggage! She pushed the luggage under the bed and draped the blanket so that it fell over the sides, covering them from view. She could hear them knocking and the doorknob being yanked.
Siana felt scared when the large iron door shook. It was frightening listening to the sound of it instead of the familiar doorbell ringing. The last time Viscount North had rung the doorbell, this time, his men seemed adamant to break it down. She curled up in a ball and held her breath. After a while, she heard a man say, “Lady Siana, Are you there?”
His voice echoed through the mansion. But Siana didn’t respond. She trembled and wished for them to go away. Soon after, the door stopped shaking, and the voice disappeared. Siana waited a while, still curled up on the floor. Several heartbeats later, she risked a peek through the window. Ironically, when her head appeared at the window, her eyes met with a man’s, who was still standing outside, looking up.
Siana hid quickly behind the curtains, but the man had seen her. He turned to another man next to him and gestured something, occasionally glancing her way. She acknowledged defeat and sighed wearily. She had been caught. She straightened her dress, put on a smile and went downstairs.
If she still had her servants, they would enquire at the door for the reason of the disturbance. But she was the only person in this enormous mansion now. She felt utterly alone. She opened the main door and realized that there were more people than she had seen from the window. They were all armed. The magical guns hung from their shoulders. These were no ordinary guns, they only worked by the user’s ability to create the bullet from their own power. So, the guns only responded to a power holder. They were akin to wizards or a mage with a gun. Far fewer people were alive with such abilities.
The power holders were respected greatly, because most of them worked for the state and the kingdom. They were welcomed everywhere with warmth. It was rare for them to work as mercenaries. Siana was confused. No matter how rich Viscount North was, it was close to impossible for him to hire so many power holders for his wicked task.
“Excuse me,” said a man politely, “Is this Anetta residence?”
“Yes,” replied Siana, “May I ask the purpose of your visit?”
“Lord Legarde has a message to deliver,” said the man, “Is Lady Siana inside?”
She frowned at the name. She raked her memory for any Lord Legarde that she might have met in her lifetime. But nothing came to mind. One thing was clear, though. These men weren’t sent by Viscount North. Perhaps he came to collect his debt as well, she thought. Maybe father borrowed some money from some Lord Legarde. It was disheartening to think that there were more debt collectors. The shock was so great that she froze where she stood.
“So, Lady Siana isn’t here?” asked the man. The servants usually opened the door, and Siana was dressed far too plainly to look like an aristocrat’s daughter. Perhaps she could use this to her advantage.
“Oh…,” she began. She was ready to declare that Lady Siana wasn’t present, but she was interrupted by a pleasant voice.
“You can stop asking now, Sir Raymond,” he said, “That is Lady Siana herself.” A shadow appeared, followed by a figure behind Sir Raymond. “Hello, Sia,” he said.
Siana tilted her head to get a clearer look. He had a handsome face. His gold hair shone under the brilliant sun, and the black uniform made him stand out among others. She looked into his eyes and widened hers. How does he know my name?
She studied his face carefully, trying to summon any memory whatsoever of knowing him. It didn’t take long for her to match the handsome, sculpted face with her childhood friend who had left her for the battlefield.
“Alan?” she asked in amazement.
“Sia,” he nodded with a smile.
“Is it really you?” she asked, still not able to believe her eyes.
“Yes,” he said with a laugh.
“How?” she had so many questions she wanted to ask, but none of them came out in a coherent sentence.
“Now that conversation might drag on a bit,” he said, ruffling his hair awkwardly, “Can we talk inside?”
“Oh, sorry,” she mumbled, “Please come in.”
She stepped to the side and he strode in. He, of course, didn’t need to be ushered to the living room. He knew the mansion like his own, as he had spent his childhood here. She followed him into the living room. Unfortunately, it was completely empty. She had sold the furniture and décor for money to repay her father’s debt.
Alan unbuttoned his outer coat and looked around the room. Siana felt a little sad, especially since this house didn’t hold many things that had been always there when they were kids. “So empty, isn’t it?” asked Siana, trying to start a simple conversation.
“So very empty,” he said.
Siana shrugged her shoulders. He had always been straightforward, not overly concerned with niceties. He sure hasn’t changed, she thought, remembering him from when he was young.
“I don’t see your butler, or your servants,” he commented, looking at her.
“I let them go,” she said sadly.
“All of them?” he asked, surprised.
“Yes,” she said, looking down, “I am in a bit of a difficult situation.”