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Chapter 1

Malisha was so furious she saw red. The day that had started well had ended up being the worst day of her life yet.

She had waited for so long. For too long to redeem herself. She had even hoped to make a new name for herself. A new name to wipe away every stain from her past life.

Today had accorded her a perfect chance and the perfect opportunity to slip back into the halls of Society. However, after the events of the morning, nothing short of a miracle could save her.

Therefore yes, she was angry.

Four years of hard work had all gone down the drain, and she could not make up her mind whether she was angrier at herself or him for provoking the incident.

Why did he always have to make it so hard? Had he been absent from the situation, had it been someone else. Then, Malisha was sure that the situation would have been less dire and not as bad as it had eventually panned out.

Why did he always seem to derive so much pleasure in tormenting her? The answers evaded her, but certainly, it was all his fault. She finally decided.

” Urgh! ” She screamed as she pulled at her hair in a fit of frustration.

” Who on earth goes out horseback riding and in the wee hours of the morning at that?” She grumbled to herself even as she walked down the pathway that was beside an empty asphalt highway.

It was a lovely day, nonetheless with great weather and a beautiful view. On any other day, she would have taken the time to admire the scenery. To bask in the glory that nature provided, but the same view now seemed like it was mocking her. It invoked such feelings within her that seemed to put a damper on her already frayed-up moods.

And yet, the poplar trees continued to dance in the wind. The palm trees stood majestically, waving their branches at the mid-morning sun. In the distance, the silhouette of a great city glimmered. Tall, shiny glass-covered skyscrapers immersed within a sea of green.

That had been her earlier destination.

She scoffed at the thought, and yet, her actions could not diminish the beauty of any of it. Not of the city. Nor that of the glistening blue lake some several leagues to the west of it.

It was the lake of Urb. The gem of the city and the capital city of Veterum. She was supposed to have made it to the annex there, but thanks to him and his endless shenanigans, it ended up becoming the place she had failed to arrive at for her new job appointment.

Her mind drifted back to the incident, and Malisha found herself frowning at the recollections she was having.

“Who were they?” She muttered to herself even as she thought back to the group of ladies that had gathered around him and her other arch-nemesis, Genevieve Mathers.

‘His visitors or part of his harem?” she added scathingly. She still bore in mind that the man had been anything but kind with the words he had doled out on her, and it made her angry.

“Seduce him? What a ridiculous notion!” She scoffed. Outraged and burning up with so much anger that it soon became a welcome distraction that served her overt escapism rather well. For that was who she was in a nutshell. Malisha was a person who could not bear the thought of shouldering responsibility or reaping the repercussions that her actions had just sown.

It was easier than thinking about the alternative or the whirlwind soon to be unleashed upon the Veterum grapevine. It was easier. She decided as she embarked down the path of anger.

“Seduce him?” She repeated the words to herself. She reflected on them if only to keep her mind from going down that particular lane.

“As if I would ever stoop to such a lowly standard. How desperate does he think one can get?” Despite everything, her principles were a thing that still mattered to her, and it irked her to no end to find out that he could think of such a thing concerning her.

Assaulted by not just his words but the mental images from that morning, Malisha shook her head, but the thoughts would not leave her mind.

It was painful, and the more the thoughts persisted, she found herself groaning out in frustration. It was a struggle not to pull at her hair, and her frustration was evident on her face from all the mental incursion. Yet, she still found herself wondering, “what will I do now? Is there even a way to salvage a situation wrecked beyond reprieve?” She contemplated even as she looked down at her muddied singular shoe that was a sharp contrast to the clean grey tarmac that she was now treading on.

There was simply no other way around it. She finally admitted defeat. There was no way to avoid the fallout, and this time, it was going to be a scandal of epic proportions, if not bigger than the one of four years ago.

“Why couldn’t I leave the damned scarf alone?” she cursed as her lone red-clad foot connected with yet another stone. The pebble flew loose and scattered off into the main highway stretching ahead of her.

“And that blasted wind!” She remarked scathingly, dragging along with her a barefoot and a single red shoe with a broken heel along the narrow, tarmacked pathway.

Her appearance in itself was a testament to her ordeal and considering her great mood that morning. It also made sense the number of loose rocks that were continuously hurtling off with every step that she took forward.

She was lucky that the road was also empty. It usually was, but with the unfortunate turn of her morning, she was also suspecting nature itself of colluding to see her disgraced.

“Nature conspiring against you?” A voice scoffed.

She could hear the laughter in it and more, the mischief that coated the tongue she was least expecting to hear.

“Not now…” she groaned inwardly. “My day is already hard enough without adding this breed of insanity into the mix.” She spoke to herself.

“Or maybe, it was a real person speaking?” She perked up as she looked around and dared to hope.

“It’s me, dummy!” the voice added, and Malisha could not believe her evil luck. ‘How you never grasp things is simply amazing. Putting yourself up to all these silliness, what sense is there in any of it?” the voice nagged, and her poor heart could take it any longer.

The surprises. The turns. Everything that had happened that morning seemed to be all geared at plunging positive emotions into a darkened abyss.

“Just ignore it. Just ignore it!” She told herself conscientiously, but it seemed like always, her conscience had a mind of its own.

“Have you no shame?” The voice berated her. ‘You should take a good look at a yourself in a mirror. Not just at your reflection, but well…” It paused in a manner to suggest it was thinking things through.

“Well I guess, it is all in your reflection either way but really, have you stopped to think what your parents will say? You are dead meat Malisha!” It suddenly cackled, and for a second, her heart seemed to stop. Her form stilled even as she ceased walking altogether. Her thoughts were now muddled even as she drenched up memory after memory and projections of what their reactions would be.

Up until now, the escapist in her had not allowed her to think about such things. She had even managed to put aside her memories, her conscience. The little devil was always quite effective in knowing what buttons to press to drive her further insane.

With a single blow, it crumbled all her walls and scrambled her inhibitions as she finally succumbed to the panic. A panic that had been eating at her from the very beginning when it all started that morning.

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