I tried to smile and not show my frustration. Ravis was so overprotective, and it was making me feel uncomfortable. The emperor was the one that was taking this whole situation to the extreme, so why was his brother acting just as bad? Perhaps Ravis thought I was the only one who could control the emperor. If I disappeared, the emperor would fall back into the ways of evil.
I shook my head and interrupted Ravis’ stream of apologies. I needed to get what I saw off my mind. “Ravis, I met the person you told me to look out for, at the masquerade. Actually, I’m not even sure if it was a human.”
“What person?” Ravis asked.
“Someone who triggers the unpleasant feeling in me.”
Ravis coughed as he choked on a sip of tea. Liquid splashed everywhere, but Ravis didn’t take any notice. “Iona, are you hurt? Are you all right?”
“No, I’m not hurt.”
“Oh, my God, I made a huge mistake yesterday. I should never have left.”
“I’m really fine, so you don’t have to blame yourself.”
I told him the story of meeting Piett. I described how it was terrifying at first and that I felt a very dark and unpleasant sensation. I even went over the part where Piett said he already knew me. Of course, I didn’t mention to Ravis that I already knew who Piett was from reading the original story.
Ravis’ face turned serious. “It must have been the Marquis Lavor Piett. I didn’t notice him at all.”
“I heard he rarely appears in the palace in the first place.” I had certainly never seen him here before.
“That’s right. He has been confined to his estate and rarely shows up. He hasn’t been seen at the palace since the oath of allegiance during His Majesty’s coronation ceremony.”
“Who the hell is he? Why does he make me feel that way? Why doesn’t anyone else not seem to notice him at all?”
Ravis seemed to be troubled and wouldn’t say a word. But he looked like he was struggling to tell me something. Ravis had said that this person was incredibly dangerous, and I shouldn’t even consider going near him. But Piett already knew me, threatened me, and tried to intimidate the emperor by putting his hands on the emperor’s doll. So, Piet was undeniably connected to me, whether I liked it or not.
Seeing that I would not back down on this matter, Ravis sighed and confessed the truth. “Piett must be a demon.”
“What? A demon?” I had heard that the demons of this world had been cursed by Theres, the God of life. They had all been driven out to the demon realm long ago, during the God-Demon War. I asked Ravis if the stories I had heard were right, and he seemed surprised.
“Now that is an old story that most people have forgotten now,” Ravis told me. “From what I remember, not all of the demons were contained. Some demons remained and continued to threaten the human race. When you were first attacked, in the entrance hall, there was a residual of magic power that remained. I had been trying to find the source, and this could explain it. As it had been your first public appearance, I was worried that something might go after you and, unfortunately, I was right.”
“So, those assassins weren’t after His Majesty then? Why me?”
Ravis just smiled, sadly. It was obvious that he knew something, but he was not going to tell me what he was thinking about yet. My mind started running through all of the possibilities. Was it because I’m the emperor’s doll? Was he going to kill me so that the emperor would become destabilized again?
Ravis straightened his posture and leaned back against the chair. “Anyways, it is apparent that we have a clear threat from the demons. It might be necessary to move into the temple for safety.”
“Are you sure we need to take such precautions simply by what I told you? What if I was mistaken?”
“No one can feel it as accurately as you can. I do not doubt anything that you have told me.”
I still felt skeptical about this whole situation but nodded my head as Ravis had never been wrong before. “Maybe I will leave the palace for a few days, just in case. I’ll let you know where I will be, so please let me know when it is safe to return.”
“I will,” Ravis assured me. “You should be safe in a temple. The natural enemy of a demon is a holy priest.” One of the duties of the priests of the Temple of Theres was to clear out any traces of demonic presences. That was why there was hardly any sightings or information about them that still existed. Sometimes, the information I had gained from the original story was beneficial.
“Just relax here for now. I will have the church send an escort soon.”
“An escort? You don’t have to go that far. This is the Imperial Palace and his Majesty is here. He can provide an escort. After all, he is not fond of priests.”
“I insist,” Ravis would not back down. You need a paladin escort; it is the safest option. His Majesty, or his guards, would never notice demonic energy. But I will make his Majesty aware of the situation and inform him that you will be placed under protection.”
Ravis placed a hand on my shoulder and gave me a comforting smile, as he rose to leave. Although I saw him off with a smile, I could not help but feel a little scared about this entire situation.
My head was a mess since my conversation with Ravis. That evening Raven came by to explain what I needed to do when I was called to the court as a witness. It didn’t seem complicated. Even the emperor had said that it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. I simply had to prove my identity and state what I had witnessed as a child. My testimony, along with other evidence that had been compiled, would prove that any claims against the Lesprey family had been fabricated.
The trial was held two days later. The morning of the trial, the emperor paced anxiously, going over in his head the testimony that he would present. Like him, I was also worried about what might happen to those who would be damaged by this trial. Ridrian saw me and we calmed each other down with a smile.
Our nervousness proved to be unfounded, as the trial went smoothly. All of the situations, where various people had been framed to cover the actions of the accused, had been brought to light. The victims, who had been struggling for ten years with injustice, testified until their voices went hoarse. Count Claude and Marquis Aon, who profited enormously from the illegal transactions at that time, were found guilty on all accounts. The two families were sentenced to take responsibility for their misconduct, each family’s social status was demoted, and all assets were confiscated.
During the investigation, evidence was revealed that Count Russen, a colleague of Marquis Aon, was also involved in the incident. He was charged with illegally distributing weapons. Count Russen heard the news that his family members were trembling in their white mansions, awaiting the final ultimatum.