“Mr. Veridian, please state your defense.”
“Your Honor. It’s correct that Siana Lagarde has divine powers. Also, I am not denying that Lord Lagarde is carrying a curse. But his curse has been there since the beginning, even before he met Siana after the battlefield.” Hugh continued calmly. “Lord Legarde kept a low profile as per military regulations to suppress the curse. However, upon hearing that Siana Legarde was in trouble and was forced into marrying the plaintiff, he rushed to the capital.”
“Can you elaborate on how Siana Legrade might have married the plaintiff?”
“Siana Legarde was fully capable of paying off her debt,” said Hugh, “In fact she was taking steps to pay her debt when the plaintiff made an unreasonable demand of her. That was why she wrote the letter in the first place.”
The judge nodded. “What exactly was the unreasonable demand?”
“According to the law, creditors or lenders cannot force the debtors to pay all their debt at once if it exceeds a certain amount. The plaintiff, however, gave her an ultimatum: pay everything upfront or marry him so that her debt would be forgotten.” People gasped in the courtroom and the jury members turned and glared at Viscount North.
“Can this be proven, Mr. Veridian?” asked the judge.
“Yes, Your Honor,” said Hugh, “I ask for permission to call Viscount North’s former butler, Anthony, to the stand.”
The middle-aged man, who had made Viscount North very shocked, stood up. Siana now understood why Viscount North had reacted that way. For someone who had worked in the Viscount’s mansion, especially a butler, who would be the person closest to the Viscount in all matters, would know almost everything about the happenings inside the mansion.
Siana was glad that he was standing against Viscount North, otherwise he wouldn’t have agreed to accompany Alan. That was why Alan called him out secret weapon. It all became clear why Viscount was so nervous and had lashed out when Alan had appeared in the courtroom with the butler.
“Permission granted,” said the judge. Anthony took the stand.
“Anthony, you previously worked at Viscount North’s mansion, as his butler, did you not?” asked Hugh, “How long have you worked there?”
“I worked for Viscount North for two years,” said Anthony.
“Have you known Siana Legarde in the duration that you worked there?” asked Hugh.
“No,” said Anthony, “This is my first time seeing her personally.”
“Her maiden name was Siana Anetta,” said Hugh, “Does that ring a bell? Have you heard that name before?”
“Yes,” said Anthony.
“Where have you heard that name before?” asked Hugh.
“I heard that name through Viscount North’s mouth every single day before I was fired from the mansion,” said Anthony.
“Can you tell me the reason why Siana Anetta’s name was brought up?” asked Hugh.
“Of course,” said Anthony, “Viscount North always talked about marrying Siana Anetta because he wanted a young woman in his later years. The Viscount has been married thrice, but none of them are together with him now. The rumors about him aren’t good.”
“Did he tell you the reason why he wanted Siana Anetta to marry him?”
“He would talk about citing her father’s debt so she would have no way other than to marry him.”
“Do you know for sure if Viscount North has deliberately tried to prevent Siana Legrade from being able to pay her debt?”
“I can say that with absolute certainty,” said Anthony, “Because he ordered me to write some notices and have them delivered to shop owners and such with the instruction to turn Siana Anetta away if she visited them to apply for a job. This is one of the many notices that I was ordered to send.”
Anthony pulled out a folded paper from his breast pocket and offered it to Hugh. Hugh took it and handed it to the judge. Viscount North slammed his fist on the table and stood up. “Your Honor,” he thundered, “This person is lying! He is framing me because I fired him from his job.”
“Please quiet down,” said the judge sternly, “Please refrain from speaking out of turn in the courtroom, this is your warning. If you create any more disturbances, you will be held in contempt of the court.”
“Viscount North, calm yourself,” urged Viscount North’s lawyer. Viscount North huffed and sat down. His face was red with anger.
“Mr. Veridian, please continue,” said the judge.
“Thank you, Your Honor,” continued Hugh, “It is evident the the plaintiff ordered the defendant to pay the debt all at once or marry him. He went as far as to prevent her from even searching for a job to pay off her debt.”
The judge rubbed his chin as the courtroom became noisy and was leaning in the favor of Siana and Alan. He let out a grunt and turned to Siana. “There is something I want to ask the defendant, Siana Legarde.”
“Upon checking the date of the letter sent, it came to my attention that it was two days before your marriage to Alan Legarde,” said the judge, “Why isn’t Alan Legarde mentioned in the letter?”
Siana glanced at Hugh and Alan before she spoke. She wasn’t sure if she was allowed to say the whole truth. Alan squeezed her hand in comfort. “It’s alright, Sia,” he said, “Go on. Tell him.”
Siana was grateful for his support. She looked up at the judge with a determined look on her face. “Your Honor,” said Siana, “The reason why Alan Legarde isn’t mentioned in that letter is because I had written it before I met him.”
“How so?” asked the judge.
“I couldn’t cope with the pressure from Viscount North and had no intention of marrying him, so I packed my things to run away from the country and penned that letter to my friend. I was meaning to post it in the evening, but Alan arrived in my old mansion that day and proposed marriage.”
“Your Honor, this random story of hers cannot be—”
“Be quiet,” thundered the judge to Viscount North, “Isn’t the defendant speaking? Siana, please continue.”
“Thank you, Your Honor,” said Siana and continued, “As it has been already established, Alan and I have been friends since we were kids. Our father were friends, so naturally when Alan came to live with us in his childhood, we became good friends. When he proposed marriage to me on the day that I had made up my plan to run away, I didn’t accept it because we hadn’t been in contact since he went to join the military. Another reason I refused him was because of the debt. I didn’t want to burden him with it.”
The judge along with everyone in the courtroom listened attentively to Siana’s words. “Alan told me to take my time and consider it,” she said, “But I couldn’t really change my mind. I didn’t want to burden him. It was my problem not his. So, I stuck to my plan and posted the letter to my friend later that day.”
“I see,” said the judge, “However, you didn’t leave on that day and married Alan Legarde. I want to know why you changed your mind.”
“I sent my letter, but I thought it would be rude to leave without saying goodbye to Alan after not being in contact for so long. He had come looking for me, so I didn’t want to disappear on him so suddenly. He had said that he would come back to hear my answer on that day, so I waited for him.”
“So, what you’re saying is you didn’t plan to accept his proposal until the next day when he came looking for you again?”
“Yes, Your Honor,” said Siana, “I had a problem fulfilling this debt but as I said, I felt like I would regret marrying him and burdening him. Alan was a very precious friend of mine and I didn’t want to make such a huge decision impulsively.”
Most people in the courtroom nodded. Seeing that the judge was reacting in her favor, Siana continued, calmly. “I was worried if I could ever be a good wife,” said Siana, “I was worried that it would destroy our friendship more than anything else.” Siana turned to look at Alan. “But after having married him, I realize that I love being with him and that I love him. I am fortunate to call this man sitting next to me my husband.”
Alan’s hand covering hers was shaky and his face wore a surprised look, as though he hadn’t expected her to ever say that.
Oh, I didn’t intent to confess to him in this way! She regretted saying it out loud in a room full of people. This was the first time she had confessed her feelings, she felt embarrassed. I can’t believe I said it out loud.
Siana felt herself blush. She reprimanded herself internally for doing such a half-assed job of confessing to him in front of all these people. She felt even more mortified by the silence in the court when she had finished speaking. A clap broke the silence and another followed. The courtroom burst out clapping.
Siana was shocked at the sudden sound. The judge slammed his gavel down on the table. “Silence, please,” he thundered.
The applause died away and the courtroom once again returned to silence. The judge cleared his throat. “I have heard the defendant’s statement. It was touching, indeed,” he said, “But we must proceed with the trial.”
He then faced them all. “I will read the verdict now,” said the judge.
“Your Honor!” exclaimed Viscount North, “We still haven’t finished our side of the story!”
“Mr. North,” said the judge, “Another word, and you will be thrown out of the court.”
“Mr. North, please calm down,” said Viscount North’s lawyer.
“I shall now decide the verdict,” said the judge. Viscount North opened his mouth, but his lawyer stopped him.
“The plaintiff claimed that the defendant was not capable of paying the debt, so she committed a ‘purchased marriage’. But it is now evident that Siana Legarde was completely capable of paying her debt if she wasn’t barred from getting a job. Seeing the long-term relationship between the two defendants, it is also evident that their marriage wasn’t just a transaction. The plaintiff’s claim is dismissed.” The judge slammed his gavel three times, marking the end of the trial.
At the sound of the gavel hitting the table a third time, Siana felt so relieved, and her eyes burned with tears. Viscount North and his lawyer left the courtroom accompanied by booing and jeering from the crowd. Alan and Hugh shook hands, smiling. The judge and the jury left the courtroom as well.
“Sia!” Yulia jumped from her chair and hugged Siana. “Congrats! You did it! We did it!”
“Thank you so much for your help, Yulia,” said Siana trying to hold back her tears.
“Oh, I didn’t do much…,” said Yulia, looking at Siana, “Sia, are you crying?”
Siana sobbed. “I can’t help it. I am so relived.”
Alan and Hugh looked over. Siana was trying her best to wipe away her tears with the back of her hands. “Somehow, these tears keep flowing…”