After a while Alan came out of the bathroom toweling his wet hair. He looked at Siana. “Primo said Yulia is here?” said Alan.
“Yes,” said Siana, “She arrived early this morning.”
“Ah,” he said, “I should have greeted her. But it’s too late right now.”
“It’s alright. You were busy,” she said, “You can say hi tomorrow morning.”
“That’s a good idea,” he said, lowering the towel from his head. He told her to rest. She laid down on the bed. Lan pulled the lamp cord killing the lights with a click.
It was dark now. She still found Alan and snuggled close to him. He wrapped his hands around her. A familiar touch. She felt like she had to say something but couldn’t find the words.
“Goodnight, Sia,” he said softly.
“Goodnight,” she responded.
Siana woke up earlier than usual on the next morning. She had already chosen her outfit yesterday, so it didn’t take her much time to dress up. She put her hair up into a bun. When she went outside, she saw Alan waiting.
“You put your hair up today,” he said, with a smile.
“Does it look weird?” she asked.
“Nothing you do is ever weird,” he said, “You look very pretty, Sia.” His hand touched her cheek as he took a strand of hair falling on her face and tucked it behind her ear.
Siana’s face turned red at his compliment and warm smile. She turned away a bit so that he wouldn’t notice.
“Thank you for your compliment,” said Siana. “Let’s go and see Yulia now. She must be waiting for us.”
“Of course,” he said, “Let’s go.” He offered her his hand and she took it before they descended to the first floor.
Yulia had already gotten ready and was seated on a sofa, waiting for them. She was sipping on a cup of tea. She placed the teacup on the table and got up when she saw them approaching down the stairs.
“Greetings, Lord Legarde,” said Yulia.
“Countess Linen,” he acknowledged her with a bow. “I apologize for the late greeting. I wasn’t able to say hello yesterday. I know it is late to say this, but I am most grateful that you came all the way to help us.”
“You’re welcome,” said Yulia, “I came out of concern for my friend so there is no need for such formalities.”
“It is indeed fortunate that Siana has a friend like you,” said Alan.
Yulia smiled at his words. Alan offered her breakfast and the three of them ate together for the first time in a long time. Everyone was anxious of the imminent trial but at that moment, there was peace.
They talked about the scenery, the weather around the Legarde mansion. Soon, the conversation turned to Yulia’s estate and her husband. When talking about her husband, Yulia grumbled a little about how he always was working, and she didn’t get to see him enough.
“You both are planning to have your ceremony in the capital, is that correct?” asked Yulia, “Normally people like visiting the estate of those who are getting married. Are you sure you want to celebrate it in the capital instead of your own estate?”
“I have also received such advice from those around me,” said Alan, “But I am still planning to have it in the capital anyway.”
“Is there a particular reason for doing it in the capital?” asked Yulia.
“There are various reasons,” said Alan, “Too many to narrow down.”
Siana, who had never heard of any of the reasons, looked at Alan in confusion. It certainly would have been nice to have the wedding in the countryside and invite people. It would be exciting to build relationships and connection. But the capital was where they had been born and raised. Perhaps that was why Alan insisted on it.
Yulia didn’t press further. She understood that the capital must be meaningful for the couple to decide to have their wedding there.
Since she nodded. “If you say so.”
Yulia also said that she would absolutely attend the wedding under any circumstance and Alan thanked her gratefully.
* * *
Hugh Veridian, their lawyer, visited the mansion while the three of them were in the middle of enjoying their dessert. They discussed one last time about the things they needed to pay attention to while at the courthouse. Finally, they boarded a carriage to leave for the trial.
When they reached the courthouse, Yulia told Siana to proceed to the courtroom while she visited the ladies’ restroom. Siana, Alan and Mr. Veridian made their way to the courtroom first.
“The plaintiff and defendant are present, and the trial will commence once the judges enter the room,” said Mr. veridian, “Before we begin there is something you must… Oh, damn it.” Hugh cursed while looking over at the documents.
“Is everything alright?” asked Alan.
“Not really,” said Hugh, “But I forgot about one procedure that you need to complete. I apologize, but Lord Legarde, could you follow me out for a while? It shouldn’t take too long. Ten minutes at the most.”
“Of course,” said Alan, “We do have time left.”
Alan stood up from his chair and made to leave, Siana stood up too. “You stay her, Sia,” he said.
“Why? Can’t I come too?” she asked, tugging at Alan’s coat sleeve.
“You can, but I think it’s better for you to stay here,” said Hugh, “It won’t take very long.”
“I am with Hugh on this one,” said Alan, “Besides, Yulia might panic if she comes in here and sees no one.”
Siana was about to say Yulia will be fine. She didn’t want to face Viscount North alone in here. But Alan was right. I should wait for her here. She had come all the way to support her friend. Siana couldn’t leave Yulia alone like this.
“All right. I’ll stay here,” said Siana, deciding to wait for her friend.
“We will be back soon,” said Alan squeezing her hand comfortingly. Siana nodded with a smile. But as soon as they left, she began to tremble with the thought of facing Viscount North alone.
Don’t get nervous. Yulia will be here soon, she assured herself, beside he can’t touch me here. This is a courtroom! The courtroom door flew open right then and Viscount North appeared at the door.
His appearance hadn’t changed since the last time they had met. He looked as vile as he was before. As he strode through the courtroom door, his gaze fell on Siana. He waked towards her with a stupid smirk on his face.
“Oh-ho, who do we have here?” he said, “Long time no see.” His mouth twitched and he narrowed his eyes.
Siana gathered her composure and grimaced at him. “It’s been a while, My Lord,” she mocked.
“From the looks of it, I guess you have been doing well,” he said, “As for me, I have had some rough days thanks to a few people.”
She knew the jab was directed at her and Alan. She felt enraged. It was her who had faced a lot of difficult and humiliating days solely because of him. It was him who had almost destroyed her life, forced her in a situation where she had sold her childhood home and was about to run away from the country. Even after the debt had been repaid, he was relentlessly making her life hell and dragging Alan along with her!
Shameless bastard, Siana cursed inwardly. He had lost nothing compared to her. She felt like disfiguring his face right in the courtroom. He looked at her and it filled Siana with disgust. He was twirling his moustache.
“I am quite disappointed in you,” he said, “Sch shameful behavior for a woman. After you pulled that stunt on me, you went away and got hitched to another man. Tell me, did you seduce him for the purpose of paying off your debt?”
“Unlike you, I never stood so low to make a bargain with somebody else and force them into marriage,” retorted Siana.
“Don’t give me that crap!” said Viscount North, “I know everything about you. You have no inheritance. All you have is your body. A guy came along and married you and paid off all your debt willingly. That sounds ridiculous.”
Siana was deeply insulted. Not only because he talked about her so humiliatingly, but he was dragging Alan along as well. He was trying to besmirch his name too. It infuriated Siana.
“Well, thankfully we get to meet again,” sad Viscount North with a revolting smirk. “I thought you were a naïve, innocent girl but you prove to be very shrewd and cunning. A wily beast you turned out to be,” He laughed looking at her very inappropriately. “I only wish this ends in the courtroom and justice will be served. This time, I won’t fall victim to your plans like I did before, Miss Anetta.”
“It’s Countess Legarde for you,” said Siana, looking at him levelly, “And let the justice be served. The world knows how predatory you are.”
Viscount North chuckled. “Isn’t it better to get used to ‘Miss Anetta’ again?” he mocked, “Since you will be stripped of the title soon. Or do you want me to start calling you ‘wifey’? Perhaps we still have a chance.”
Siana was at the end of her tolerance. She was going to snap at him and perhaps slap him squarely on the face when Alan’s deep voice interrupted it.
“That will never happen,” declared Alan, in a low and dangerous voice. “Siana will remain a Legarde forever.” Siana turned around. Hugh and Alan were at the courtroom entrance.
“Who do you think you are? You—” began Viscount North.
“I am the one who fell for the ‘wily beast’ you are talking to,” said Alan with a cold smile.
Alan looked so different with that smile on. He looked almost threatening. Siana had never seen him like that before. Perhaps Viscount North was as surprised as Siana.
“So, you are Alan Legarde?” he said, stammering.
Alan raised an eyebrow. “I have a higher social standing than you, Viscount,” he said, “And you dare address me without my title? I knew you were disgusting but it seems you lack common sense as well.”
“This yellow-bellied monster who believes a title could—”
“Interesting,” said Alan, with a chuckle. “Haven’t you abused enough people using your title and social standing? And yet you accuse me of using my title.”
Alan directed a cold glare at him, and Viscount North flinched unknowingly. “I could let go of anything except the grave offense you have committed,” said Alan in an icy voice. “You have disrespected my wife.”