Chapter 16:

The Council of Rainford

The Rise of Outcasts

It had been almost 2 years since the incident at Lavister Hall. I wondered what he had been up to all that time.Bookmark here

My heart couldn't hold it anymore. I got excited and scared whenever I thought about the consequences. But all I could do was hope.Bookmark here

“Sophia, come here for a second.”Bookmark here

“Coming.”Bookmark here

Father had been on the edge since that incident. Our family status dropped to the lowest degree but that didn't concern me at all. The one thing I was worried about, were the bounty hunters. Bookmark here

My brother got a bounty over his head and the prize was extreme. I wouldn't doubt it if my father was involved in that as well, since he wanted the headship back more than anything and he would certainly go to extreme lengths for that. Bookmark here

"What is it, father?"Bookmark here

“Are you doing as I instructed you?”Bookmark here

Father asked me while signing up some papers.Bookmark here

"Yes, indeed."Bookmark here

"Good, I don't want any more problems. Our status has taken quite the fall and I am trying to regain it back. You should understand your responsibilities and fulfil them by heart."Bookmark here

“I understand.”Bookmark here

Apparently, he had asked me to be friends with Stefano's son. A typical way to gain influence, but I followed my father's order since that day. I didn't want to provoke him any further since I didn't want to create unnecessary hurdles for my siblings.Bookmark here

Father was just working left and right in a foul mood, most of the time. Riccardo and Antonio were getting tired of this as well.Bookmark here

“You know sis, he was right.”Bookmark here

"What do you mean, AntonioBookmark here

?"Bookmark here

"Life is getting truly exhausting here. I and brother Riccardo have to be with father most of the time. It is for the sake of teaching. Teaching us how to gain a higher status in society but his approach seems really pathetic to me. If I had to knock on their doors and beg, then I would rather not have a higher status."Bookmark here

“What about Riccardo?”Bookmark here

“I am not sure. He never discussed the matter with me but he looks exhausted all the time. It seems like he is done with all of this.”Bookmark here

"Hmmm."Bookmark here

"This place is cursed. I wonder if it's any better out there. I wonder where my brother is residing at the moment. Hey sis, how about we pay him a visit. We will sneak out at night; I know how to ride a bike."Bookmark here

I had a smile on my face.Bookmark here

“Do you take me for a fool, Antonio? Try something better next time.”Bookmark here

“Ah, you got me. Father asked me to force you to tell us about brother’s location.”Bookmark here

“So, all of what you just said was on father’s orders?”Bookmark here

"No. Those were my genuine thoughts. I truly feel that way but I am stuck here and can't do a thing. That's just fate, I guess."Bookmark here

Antonio stood up from his place.Bookmark here

“Going already?”Bookmark here

“Yes. Otherwise, Father will be furious.”Bookmark here

"Just for your information, I don't know anything about our brother. I have no idea where he is and what he is planning to do. I haven’t seen or heard anything from him since then. All I know is there will be something big after two years. I am telling you this so you can spare me with your games."Bookmark here

"I got something for you as well. It wouldn't be nice to have you providing info which I might not even give to father."Bookmark here

“What is it?”Bookmark here

"Father is tirelessly hiring bounty hunters to kill him but not a single one of them has returned.”Bookmark here

"I, kind of, figured that out."Bookmark here

"It's hilarious if you actually think about it."Bookmark here

And we both giggled.Bookmark here

“See you later, sis.”Bookmark here

Things were surprisingly getting better among us siblings since that day. I guess father's extreme behaviour put them on the edge as well and now, they are trying to find comfort within their close bonds.Bookmark here

Thinking back, it was right after the ceremony when things started to get worse for father. Giovanni was the one who cornered my father, along with the ones that hated us. It was not like I sympathized with father but they were trash as wellBookmark here

-Next day after Lavister Hall Incident-Bookmark here

“That stupid brat ruined everything.”Bookmark here

Father was extremely angry at the moment and why wouldn’t he be? Our elder brother organized this entire coup and stole the symbol of Leonardos. But I was more than happy with that.Bookmark here

"SOPHIA!"Bookmark here

“YYYY…Yes.”Bookmark here

“Tell me anything you know. Any information that will lead us to him. He must have told you something. Don’t try to hide it from me.”Bookmark here

“I swear, I don’t know anything.”Bookmark here

“What about you two?”Bookmark here

“We don’t know anything either.”Bookmark here

"DAMN IT!"Bookmark here

Father punched the table with full force. Bookmark here

"I kept telling him not to do anything that will put us in a sensitive position but he was more into rescuing those trash."Bookmark here

The day went by with my father's constant ranting. Bookmark here

The next day, he arrived.Bookmark here

"Andrea Leonardo, you seem to be not doing well."Bookmark here

"What is it, Mr. Giovanni?"Bookmark here

"There will be a meeting with the council at Rainford Chateau tonight. You are a special guest so make sure to join us."Bookmark here

“What do you mean by that?”Bookmark here

“You need to find that out yourself.”Bookmark here

Father fell onto the chair as soon as Giovanni left. He was both physically and mentally exhausted. Bookmark here

The maid ran and brought a glass of water. Father gulped it down and asked for a second glass. Naturally, I would have felt a little bad after seeing my father like this but he didn't put any effort to make things better. He was the sole reason for his downfall.Bookmark here

“Riccardo…”Bookmark here

“Yes.”Bookmark here

“It seemed like what I feared the most will happen at Rainford Chateau. The council never interfered with our matters, but that was due to the fact that we possessed Nox. But it's gone now…"Bookmark here

We quietly listened to our father's rambling and didn't try to interfere. Although I did realize one thing, that father was one big coward. Bookmark here

-Before the Meeting-Bookmark here

"Why can't we go with you, father?"Bookmark here

"This is not a child's play. We will discuss the uncertain future of this district and the unknown threat that is yet to come. They will not allow some kids into such affairs."Bookmark here

That was, probably, an excuse. He probably sensed the humiliation from miles away that awaited him at Chateau. Bookmark here

After half an hour drive, he finally reached his destination.Bookmark here

Guards opened the door for him and two butlers guided him to the meeting room.Bookmark here

There was a round table and seven seats around it. All of the guests had already arrived and they were just waiting for the VIP. Bookmark here

"Look, who it is."Bookmark here

“Someone who failed to raise his kid, am I right?”Bookmark here

“Not only that, he failed to prevent the coup.”Bookmark here

The inside of the Chateau was filled with laughter.Bookmark here

"Enough with that, gentlemen. Mr. Andrea, pardon for such a rude welcome, take a seat."Bookmark here

He was expecting this so it didn’t bother him much.Bookmark here

“Without wasting any time, we are diving right into the problem on our hands. First of all, Mr. Andrea, you are not the head of the district anymore. You not only let such an incident happen but you also let them steal Nox as well.”Bookmark here

“I understand.”Bookmark here

“The question is who will be the next head.”Bookmark here

"I say, we should nominate the one with the highest status. There are multiple of them so we need to figure out who to choose in this room."Bookmark here

“If that’s the case, then I will nominate Alan.”Bookmark here

“You mean Alessandra De Capo?”Bookmark here

“Yes.”Bookmark here

"I doubt it. That man doesn't care about status or anything. His mind works differently."Bookmark here

"Then, who do you nominate?"Bookmark here

He was completely left out of this discussion. It made complete sense as he was not a member of the council and he wasn't the district head anymore. There was no room for his suggestions.Bookmark here

“How about taking my suggestion?”Bookmark here

“Of course, Mr. Giovanni.”Bookmark here

"How about we place a bounty on Nicolo Leonardo and the one who brings his head will be chosen as the next head of the High End?"Bookmark here

Everyone was staring at Giovanni, including my father. He gave the most absurd suggestion.Bookmark here

“What are you trying to say?”Bookmark here

“What are the two most important things at the moment? The new head and Nicolo’s dead body. The reason I am desperate to get him dead is because of the intel that I had gathered which I will discuss later. The game here is that we will publicly announce the bounty and its prize. If some high-class family manages to kill him then we will assign them as the head with some conditions. If some fodder somehow kills him, then we will create a new story saying some XYZ family killed him. We will remove the evidence of that fodder killing Nicolo. It’s like killing 2 birds with one stone.”Bookmark here

Everyone was still staring at Giovanni.Bookmark here

"That's... not a bad idea."Bookmark here

He was still stunned to hear that; he couldn't say a thing.Bookmark here

“Indeed. This will also give Andrea a chance to reclaim the throne.”Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

His eyes widened after hearing those words. This was exactly what he wanted, not knowing he played right into their hands. Or maybe he was aware of that but opted to ignore it.Bookmark here

“You mean it when you said that?”Bookmark here

“I do, we decided to give you another chance to atone yourself.”Bookmark here

Everyone had a big evil smirk on their faces, he realized that as well.Bookmark here

"Bring us the head of your son and the seat will be yours, once again."Bookmark here

"But..."Bookmark here

“The full authority will not be granted to you unlike before.”Bookmark here

There it was. The condition that you must agree upon before getting the seat.Bookmark here

"What do you mean by that?"Bookmark here

"After the death of Nicolo, we will retrieve Nox as well but it won't be yours anymore. That weapon will be in our custody. You won't make any decision without consulting us, the decision will only be made if the majority of us agrees on that. To others, you will be head but we will be the ones to run the system from behind. Do you now understand the position you will get?"Bookmark here

“It’s not a bad deal if you ask me. You will still be viewed and respected as before. that's all you care about, right?"Bookmark here

He was in deep thought. He understood the reasoning behind this. With the Nox being stolen, the council was currently the one with the most power in High End. But, to avoid creating any chaos, they went with that approach. This way, they could control High End while not being in public. Bookmark here

“What do you say, Andrea? Are you willing to join? Whether you win or lose, is not in our hands. If someone else succeeds before you, then you will lose your only chance.”Bookmark here

All he cared about was fame. He would not flinch on killing his own blood for the sake of something like this.Bookmark here

“I will definitely take part in this.” He gave an expected reply.Bookmark here

“That’s the spirit.”Bookmark here

"So, when are we going to announce the bounty, Mr. Giovanni?"Bookmark here

“Tomorrow.”Bookmark here

"Why are you in such a hurry? You still haven't told us about the information you got."Bookmark here

Giovanni spoke after few seconds.Bookmark here

“According to my informant, Nicolo and his friends will launch an attack in two years.”Bookmark here

“Can you trust that guy?”Bookmark here

“He has never been wrong before.”Bookmark here

“Well, we kind of expected this since they stole the Nox.”Bookmark here

"Yes, and I want to prevent that from happening, no matter what. We have two years to find and kill Nicolo."Bookmark here

“What about his team?”Bookmark here

“They won’t be a threat once Nicolo goes down. We will deal with them later.”Bookmark here

The meeting went on for a few more hours and father came home late at night. He didn't tell us a thing that was discussed in the meeting.Bookmark here

The next morning, the news from Mr. Giovanni shook the entire district.Bookmark here

His statement went something like this.Bookmark here

“In the light of the recent incident at Lavister Hall, I and the council decided to unseat the Leonardo Family. As for the new head, we have come up with a little game. The bounty has been placed over the head of the mastermind of the coup, Nicolo Leonardo. There is no deadline for this bounty hunting game, and the prize of this bounty is the headship of High End."Bookmark here

This caused a massive uproar. Getting the headship through such easy means was like a dream come true. My father was in his office, along with five more people that looked like mercenaries.Bookmark here

“I believe you have heard the announcement.”Bookmark here

“Yes, we did.” Bookmark here

"Don't you dare get this funny idea that you will be given the seat if you bring them the head. They will dispose of you in an instant and choose someone of their liking. They will accept only if some High-class noble brings them the head. The whole bounty game is just to tell everyone that everything is fair."Bookmark here

None of them said a thing. They couldn't deny what my father said. They were likely to get disposed of even if they were to succeed.Bookmark here

“So, what do you want from us?”Bookmark here

“Bring him to me, dead or alive and I will give you enough money that even your generations will feast upon for decades. It’s not a bad deal, it’s way better and safer than getting killed for the headship.”Bookmark here

“What are the chances that you won’t get us killed instead?”Bookmark here

"I have no reason to. After our deal, you will be on your way and I will be on my way. If you are not satisfied with that then, we can sign a contract that you will bring me his body and I will give you the said amount of money while not lifting a finger on you. Although keep in mind that a contract like this won't work with the council, they will not sign it."Bookmark here

The deal was beneficial for them, there was no point in refusing that. How hard would it be to catch a brat? They thought. Bookmark here

"Alright, fine. We are willing to accept your offer, but you also need to sign the contract."Bookmark here

My father signed the contract and sent it to the Ministry of Law and Justice. According to the contract, they would send the body to the ministry and receive their money there. Then, the body will be sent to Andrea Leonardo. Andrea would also be held responsible for their unexpected deaths within the boundaries of High End. This condition would be valid for one year once the ministry has received the body.Bookmark here

Once the formalities were done, all five of them scattered across the ten districts to find Nicolo.Bookmark here

The next day, the news came that one of them bit the dust. His body was found in Alibi District. They also found some bodies outside the district, they all seemed to be random thieves, guess they were after the headship as well. This was what you got for underestimating my brother.Bookmark here

The news of all five of them dead came soon after. My father was losing his mind. But he was not the only one, it was the same for other nobles as well.Bookmark here

Soon after that, they completely lost track of brother and his group. The bounty hunters came back empty-handed every day. According to them, they interrogated all the district but couldn’t find any lead.Bookmark here

Things were getting tense in High End. Giovanni was getting a bit anxious as well. He was worried about Nox and the destruction it could cause.Bookmark here

-Two months later-Bookmark here

"Hey, Andrea."Bookmark here

"Oh, good evening, Mr. Alan."Bookmark here

“It’s rare to see you in a bar. You usually drink at home.”Bookmark here

"Things have been really chaotic. No matter how many men I send, they all failed miserably. And lately, there is no lead. They can't find anything. Either he went into complete hiding or he is really good at disguising."Bookmark here

"Everyone is dealing with the same issue but I understand your situation is a bit different than usual."Bookmark here

“You are not sending bounty hunters?”Bookmark here

"I am not interested. Although, I did encounter them last week."Bookmark here

He stared at Alessandra.Bookmark here

“I have some valuable information that might help you.”Bookmark here

He had a grin on his face. Of course, he wanted something in return. He purposely came to this bar; he knew my father was here and in a vulnerable state.Bookmark here

“What do you want in return?”Bookmark here

"You are quick to understand the situation, I like that." He laughed. "I want Xchele."Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Xchele was a historical weapon that was made more than 300 years ago. It was of no use but it served as a memento of our lineage. Bookmark here

“Why that? It can’t fire bullets anymore.”Bookmark here

"I know that, but you see, I am really fond of collecting weapons and that thing is a rare historical piece."Bookmark here

Trading a memento for a piece of information… my father didn't give a second thought to it.Bookmark here

"It seems like they are hunting down weapon traders from High End. They are in desperate need to collect weapons. There is your lead, I am sure you can work."Bookmark here

The information wasn't worth that memento but my father didn't care about any of that.Bookmark here

But, even with that information, he still couldn't do a thing. It has been almost two years and they failed to catch any single one of them. Giovanni was on the edge lately because of something related to Cassius.Bookmark here

Either way, the fated day was approaching. I was fully prepared for that. This whole place would crumble. Soon.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.