"Charlotte! Has Prince Bradley come back from the palace yet?"
In the side yard of the prince's mansion, an anxious Valentina stroked her protruding abdomen and paced back and forth at the door.
"How is my grandfather's family doing now? Did he succeed in pleading with His Majesty? My grandfather's family have been wrongfully accused!"
"Please do not worry, Consort Bradley. With the help of Prince Bradley, I'm sure there isn't any need to fret about the affairs of Duke Johnston's Mansion," Charlotte the maid shrilled, with a hint of barely discernible viciousness in her eyes.
The utter obliteration of Duke Johnston's Mansion had begun at the moment the Prince decided to take matters into his own hands!
"Really?" Valentina Hughes grasped Charlotte's hand as if clutching to a source of reassurance. "Despite myself, I just cannot calm down. I keep feeling as though something big is going to happen!"
Looking at her pale hand, a trace of resentment flashed across Charlotte's eyes. Ever so composed, she pulled out her hand and said flatly, "You're overthinking, my lady."
Only her overthinking turned out to be right on the mark!
Something big would indeed happen, but that was not all. Not only would no one in Duke Johnston's Mansion survive, but also Consort Bradley would soon be doomed!
Fortunately, as smart as Charlotte was, she'd already pledged her loyalty to the Second Miss. Had she relied on the naïve and simple-minded First Miss, who knew how she would have ended up?
"My lady, please take a seat first. Your baby can feel your stress. Now that the Prince is taking charge, what could you be worrying about?"
Charlotte pulled her to sit on the chair. The Second Miss had told her to keep a close eye on the idiot and not let her escape.
Valentina sat on the chair, but her beautiful watery eyes were still glistening with uneasiness. "I must thank my husband for his contribution."
She caressed her abdomen. When she thought of her husband, Nicholas, she felt sweetness welling up in her heart.
Her husband, Nicholas Morrison, was the eldest son of Prince Morrison's concubine. He had never been in line for the Prince's title, until his marriage to Valentina. From then on, he'd obtained the support of her maternal grandfather, Duke Johnston's Mansion, and finally succeeded in being crowned the prince.
They owed a great debt of gratitude to Valentina's maternal grandfather.
Her maternal grandfather, the Matthews family, was a military family. Her ancestors had built from scratch what they could enjoy today. Her maternal grandfather was also favored by the previous emperor. Back then, the Matthews family had only had a son and a daughter. Having made great contributions on the battlefield, the heir of the Matthews family had been bestowed the title of nobility. The talented Miss Matthews, one of the most famous women in history, had given birth to Valentina after marrying the Chief Secretary.
But her life had been cut short. On the day that Valentina came of age, she lost her life in a fire. Seeing how Valentina had lost her mother at a young age, the Duke spared no effort in doting her.
Given that Valentina had chosen Nicholas, the eldest son of a concubine, the Matthews family still enlisted him in the army, even if they didn't think highly of him. They helped him build up his military achievements and successfully secure the position of Commandery Prince.
Nicholas, on the other hand, had not let the Duke down. He had always taken good care of his granddaughter.
Now that the Matthews family had been framed, it was also Nicholas who went above and beyond, begging for mercy for the Matthews family. Thinking of this, Valentina couldn't help but be moved.
"By the way, where is my sister?" Valentina asked.
During the period when her husband was out seeking help for her family, Caroline was also helping her to manage the domestic affairs of Prince Bradley's Mansion. Otherwise, the heavily pregnant Valentina couldn't have managed everything on her own.
"Charlotte, you must tell Caroline not to spread herself thin and get enough rest. Poor Caroline, her life has been rough enough. I brought her into the mansion so she could enjoy better days ahead of her." Valentina sighed.
Whenever she thought of what her sister had experienced, she couldn't help but feel distressed.
Caroline's husband passed away less than two years after the girl got married. Her mother-in-law and sister-in-law all pushed the blame on her and were bent on cornering her to death.
Seeing that she was having a hard time, Valentina took her in and let her stay in Prince Bradley's Mansion.
As Charlotte listened to Valentina's monologue, the ghost of contempt surfaced on her face.
Oh God, the stupid woman was still worried about all the petty things, she sneered inwardly. Valentina was obtusely oblivious to what was going on, the Prince was getting married to Second Miss in the main hall!
She was so stupid, she was beyond salvation. How could the Prince, who wanted nothing more than to see the downfall of Duke Johnston's Mansion, really plead for Duke Johnston? Only when every last one of them died could he could be with Caroline!
And people from the Duke Johnston's Mansion?
Oh, at this point, I'm afraid they're already... done for, she thought.
"Miss! Let me in, Miss!"
A familiar voice suddenly sounded outside. A figure rushed into the side yard. She was in a mess and was crying so hard her body racked with sobs.
Charlotte clearly had not planned to see her. "Hurry, someone, stop her and take her away!"
How had this b*tch got out?
The sentinels outside were about to take action but were stopped by Valentina.
"Hold on! What do you think you are doing?"
Standing up, Valentina walked over with her hands on her belly, her face full of astonishment. "Melanie, didn't you go to Duke Johnston's Mansion to care for my grandmother? Why are you here? And look at what happened to you!"
"Miss! Run! You have to run!" Melanie might have been stopped, but she kept rushing forward and cried, "Get out of here, they're here to kill you!"
Valentina was aghast. "Melanie, what are you talking about? Who are they?"
"Prince Bradley and Miss Caroline!" Being dragged out by the guards, Melanie flailed her arms and resisted. She cried and said, "Duke Johnston's Mansion is nearing its end. Everyone in the Matthews family has been beheaded, and even the animals have not been spared! The Prince had never gone to the palace to plead for mercy. He and Miss Caroline are exchanging nuptial cups as we speak! I overheard them. They would deal with you after the marriage! They will not let you go!"
She'd finally escaped in order to send the message. Seeing Valentina's blank face, she cried and kowtowed on the ground, her speech almost incoherent: "Run away now, my lady! Your time is running out! Please!"
Valentina staggered and held the door frame, her mind buzzing.
"What? But how..."
Her grandfather's family had all died. Impossible, this was absolutely impossible!
Hadn't they said that it was just a suspicion? Hadn't they said that there was no evidence? How could the whole family have been executed?
Why hadn't her husband saved them?
And how could Caroline marry Nicholas...
Valentina clutched the door frame. Her face was pale, and there was a sharp pain in her abdomen.
Not far away, Melanie was crying in shock. Valentina looked down at her belly. Her legs were wet, and her light-colored skirt was slowly being dyed red.
She finally couldn't hold on any longer. She stumbled and fell to the ground, clutching her stomach. She was in so much pain that she couldn't speak.
"My lady, are you all right? Please don't scare me!" Melanie finally got rid of the guards' hold. She rushed up to hold Valentina and barked to the maids next to her, "Hurry! The Consort is about to give birth. Call the midwife, now!"
Charlotte did not move. She stared at the blood on Valentina's skirt, and there was even a glint of morbid pleasure in her eyes.
Behind her, Elliana and Adeline looked at each other and lowered their heads, pretending they hadn't seen anything. They were in no place to be standing up for anyone. The entire household was now under Caroline's control. Even if they were Valentina's personal maids, they could only survive if they stayed in their place.
Melanie was frantic. Valentina, who was in her arms, suddenly widened her eyes and looked at the gate of the courtyard.
In marched a group of people, led by Nicholas and Caroline in bright red wedding clothes.