“Are you not making any flowers today?” Lisa asked as she brushed Erna’s hair.

   Erna had been making flowers constantly, shutting out everything else in the world and only stopping to sleep.
That was until she took yesterdays delivery to the department store.
Lisa had grown worried about the sudden change in Erna and she could see that Erna was a little paler than usual.

   “Are you feeling unwell?” Lisa asked.

   “No, not at all, I just want to rest a little.” Erna replied.

   Lisa hoped it was the case, but she didn’t feel any confidence in Erna’s words.
She worried that all the bitter talk in the city was not affecting Erna negatively.

   “My lady, no matter what anyone says, I will always like you,” Lisa said, putting down the comb.
“Don’t listen to those people out there, they don’t know the first thing about you and when they realise, it will all quiet down again.
It always does.”

   “Yes, I know,” Erna said with a smile and a nod.
“Thank you Lisa.”

   “Why do you act like we are never going to see each other again? Even if you get married, I’m coming with you, Miss, you can’t get rid of me that easily.” Lisa let out a soft laugh.

   Erna answered with a simple smile.
If only she knew.
The appointed day with Pavel drawn close and this was going to be the last time Erna was going to end the day talking with Lisa.
Tomorrow she will be on the train to Buford.

   After Lisa finished, she gave Erna a warm embrace and left the room.
Erna sat, staring at the door until she could no longer hear Lisa’s footsteps.

   She could only ever seem to recall memories of being deceived, hated and used in while in this city.
Lisa was the only source of goodness in her life.
That and maybe the Prince.
Despite his reputation, Erna had found the Prince to be quite charming and a good person.

   Everything was quiet.

   Erna stood as if cutting off a distasteful discussion and went over to pull out the suitcase from under the bed.
She opened it and began checking through the things she had packed.
Like the day she arrived, she would be leaving light.

   Satisfied, Erna closed up the suitcase and stuffed it back under the bed, just in time to hear footsteps and the distinct shriek of Lisa just beyond the door.

   Giddy with fear, Erna raced over to the door on unsteady legs, but the door burst open just as she reached for the door knob.
Looming over her like an imposing shadow stood Viscount Hardy.
The stink of alcohol preceded him.

   Lisa was desperately trying to hold him back, but Walter shrugged her off as he strode into the room and slammed the door, shutting Lisa out.
He turned on Erna and grabbed a fistful of her hair.

   A strong wind howled outside Erna’s bedroom window.
It carried away the sounds of Walters shouting and cursing, as much as it carried the sounds of Erna’s screaming and sobbing.


The weather got worse as the night passed, so that by the morning, a fierce gale rocketed through the city.

   Pavel looked anxiously through the rattling window, he felt it an ill omen that they should have such bad weather on the day he was set to return to Buford with Erna Hardy.

   He thought about sending Erna a telegram to delay until tomorrow, but if he sent a telegram, it could fall into the hands of the Viscount and that would be very bad news for Erna.
The risk was too great.

   Pavel let out an anxious sigh and drew the curtains, as if denying the storm would make it go away.
The room he had rented in the old stone house was damp and dusty.

   He was only here because of a portrait commission and being only half a days train journey from Buford, Pavel jumped at the chance.
The money he got from the commission was more than enough that the Hardy family wouldn’t have to worry, at least, for a little while and it was not something that would take too long.

   The only problem that Pavel did not anticipated, was the advanced age of the model.
The old lady found it difficult to sit for any amount of time, meaning the portrait was taking longer.
He should have finished two days ago, but working just from sketches could only get him so far.
In the end, he should have it finished by this morning.

   “Mr Lore, the mistress says everything is in order.” The butler of the old lady finally said.

   Pavel rushed down the halls with great strides and haste.
Was it him or did the corridors of the old place seem a lot longer today?

   All the while Pavel kept muttering to himself 7 o’Clock under the old clock tower. As if repeating the promise would make time go faster.
Light flashed out of the window and thunder rumbled over head in a slow peel of noise.
The rain didn’t look like it was going to stop at all today.


The social club was packed to the brim with card players.
The harsh storm outside meant everyone took refuge inside for entertainment today.

   Bjorn’s carriage stopped under the porch of the front of the social club.
He lightly got off as is he didn’t have a care in the world.
His life was kind of peaceful despite the scandal that had reignited.
He was not the point of that sword anyway, it was the one Erna Hardy.

   Bjorn exchanged greetings with the bus boy who opened the door before him and made his way directly to the card room.
Stale smoke, trivial chatter and soft giggles followed him all through the social club.
People seemed to have completely forgotten about the storm outside.

   “Oh, here we go.
Didn’t you take enough from us in that big stake the other day, your highness.” Leonard said through laughter.
“None of us have seen one wit of Miss Hardy since that day.”

   Bjorn simply settled into his chair and sparked a cigar into life.
Leonard knew that Bjorn was just playing around, not rising to his goading, it was his way.

   Although the childish banter made everything seem in fun, Bjorn couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt.
This was all meant to be harmless fun, but their actions have potentially ruined a young woman’s life.
The root cause of which is entirely because of his participation in the game.

   What should he care about anyway? He was the heartless poison mushroom prince, why should he care about a woman he has already lost interest in? He probably wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow if the story of Erna Hardy was ever brought up again.
If the likes of Princess Gladys are insignificant to him, what hope does a destitute young woman, from a broken house have?

   There was no way he was able to help Erna Hardy and there was only a problem if he ever intended in getting back together with Princess Gladys and since he had no intention of ever speaking to that woman again, there was no problem.

   People’s affections and devotion toward the crown prince and princess was unusual.
They made it up like it was some fairy tale match between an irreplaceable pair.
By the time the news of the engagement circled the city, they were already the main characters in a narrative that made them more popular than any musician or artist.

   People watched their every move and loved the stories that poured from them.
A love story, complete with a perfect wedding, was the best selling story in all of Lechen.
Crowds flocked to the streets on the day of their wedding.
Commemorative coins sold out in no time and portraits of the couple hung in every single home.

   Bjorn and Gladys were the figure heads of the royal family and even those who didn’t support the union between Lechen and Lars were onside with the royal couple.
So when they got divorced, a huge rift opened up between the two countries and the only way to resolve it was for Bjorn to strep down as the Crown Prince.

   Once Peter returned from the toilet, Leonard dealt out he cards and they were able to begin play.
Leonard and Peter exchanged glances, before focusing all their attention on the cards in front of them.

   While they cursed Bjorn’s name, most of the supporters of the union still had portraits of the Crown Prince and Princess in a drawer or cupboard some where.
Their anger was still hot because of how much they wanted the fairy tale to resume with their two favourite protagonists.
There was not a single person out there who didn’t hope for Bjorn and Gladys to reuinte.

   “This weather is crazy,” Peter said, organising his cards.

   Bjorn looked up and out of the window.
The scene painted beyond like a landscape picture was a distorted one of dirty water, as it continuously cascaded down the window.
It was certainly a dramatic picture.

   Will she be able to fulfil her wishes?

   He rested his chin in his hands as he considered what Erna had told him.
Either way, by tomorrow he will know the answer, lets hope the raid eases off in the meantime.
Success or failure, why did he care so much? Bjorn let out a sigh and chuckle to himself.

   “Bjorn?” Leonard said, bringing Bjorn back into the room.

   He looked down at the table and realised the others had been waiting on him.
His cool eyes encapsulated the table and all the complicated numbers he saw there.
He noticed the clock on the wall said it was nearly 5.

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