Chapter 39 – Checkmate (1)
Stephan’s gaze sharpened slightly, suspicion alight in his mind. How could he not be? Any intelligent person would also be wary when they heard a piece of important information coming from a mere prostitute.
However, he didn’t show it to the woman before him as he slowly took one long and slow drag from his cigar one last time. He then stubbed it out on the ashtray and looked straight at her eyes.
“The horseman? Is that what he said to you?”
While he was suspicious, Stephan was also taken aback by the information she gave; just like her before. So, he couldn’t help but to confirm it once again with her with a pale face. Gris stared back at him and rubbed her hot, red eyes with the back of her hand as she answered.
“Yes. I think he was giving me a chance to tell the truth by inviting me for breakfast before he turned to the horseman himself.”
Stephan gritted his teeth, inexplicably annoyed, and threw down his cigar. He then began to think, trying to figure out what Vianut had in mind.
Although it was not explicitly shown on the surface, it was clear that their relationship was a rough one. It was a power struggle between family members, but it wasn’t just that. Stephan, just like any other second-in-command, coveted the power Vianut already held in his hand.
Knowing this, Gris expressed her sorrow in advance. After all, their fight would only end when one of them died… and she had a feeling it wouldn’t be Vianut. As such, she started to pray for Stephan’s soul, since there was no doubt which one would end up getting buried in the end.
After ten minutes or so of silence, Stephan vaulted out of his chair. He had finally decided his course of action.
“If the horseman is coming back, he will be coming through the port, since I sent him overseas. I’ll just deal with him before Vianut can get him.”
“I should’ve just killed him in the beginning rather than needlessly inviting trouble to my door.”
This wouldn’t be an issue in the first place if he didn’t plan to bring over a fake niece.
How dare he regret, not of the actions he had taken, but of leaving the horseman alive?
Gris quivered with indignation, but she didn’t speak her thoughts out loud. Instead, she quickly opened her lips to ask something.
“T-then let me hide somewhere during that time.”
She thought it was a perfectly reasonable request. She could stay low and run away if her true identity became known. Or she could return if her true identity stayed hidden.
But Stephan furrowed his brows with annoyance. He walked over to Gris and let out a deep sigh. “Yuliana… do you think you can escape this with your silly little plan?”
Stephan’s pretty face glowed from the sunlight. However, all Gris felt was pity for his bottomless greed, that not even with all the beauty, power and money he had could satisfy him. And thus, he chose to venture straight to the path of no return.
“You stay here and do your part in the mansion.”
He clearly wanted her to not make a big deal out of it and act as usual. But how could she do so, knowing that her life was at risk? Therefore, for the first time ever, Gris steeled him with a firm look and uttered.
“This is my life you’re talking about. What if he finds out who I am?”
His brown eyes shining brightly in the sun, stared down at her. Face with such an unsettling, impassive gaze, Gris felt like she was being sucked. All her fear, anxiety, and hopelessness had coalesced and had started to eat her inside out like a parasite.
In the end, she was scared he might read her frustration towards him. So, she dropped her head and stole glimpses at his chin, when she suddenly saw a smile forming on his face. One that of triumph at her submission.
“… Just like that,” he said as he ran his fingers through his gray hair.
He was implying Gris, who was quivering with fear, was just like the puppy. But she didn’t have the energy to respond. The dry smell of tobacco and the scent of lavender in the air was filling her lungs, making her dizzy.
As the dizziness slowly overwhelmed her body, she couldn’t resist but reach for something to hold. When she opened her closed eyes, she found her hand was already gripping onto his forearm.
He watched her hand too. However, unexpectedly, he didn’t shudder and enraged by the fact that a prostitute was touching his body. He didn’t even push her away. Instead, he brought up a different subject.
“I’m going to put assassins on standby at the port and the border. It’ll only be a matter of time before the horseman dies,” he said in a low voice that could be mistaken as the voice of one who was plotting a rebellion. It seemed to be the first and last solicitude to the woman who was risking her life.
“If we get rid of the witness, you’ll become the real Yuliana. As long as I, his uncle, is the one who brought you here, Vianut can’t express his suspicion any longer. Now…”
“You go and do your part.”
Of course, nothing had changed.
Stephan didn’t show himself until sundown. Perhaps he was busy planting people around the locations where the horseman might appear and was receiving reports from his people.
However, what was even stranger was the fact that Vianut didn’t show himself either. Though, from Bellin, she came to know that he was acting like he normally would. He followed his usual schedule of staying in his office on the second floor, attended his evening training, went for a bath and returned to his room.
She wondered what this meant.
Did it mean there is still time till the horseman arrives? Or did it mean matters like this weren’t worth his time?
All sorts of speculation filled her mind, but soon a dark, silent night went by. And a misty morning sky greeted Gris.