Chapter 9 - Secret Scion

Noelle Steward stood behind the crowd with an expression of solemnity. She knew that Carter's every word was meant for her. She could not hide the sadness in her eyes as she stroked her hair.  

"Elle, if Grandpa asks you to sacrifice yourself for Erick's sake, will you do it?" Livia whispered her question to Noelle after inching her way closer to the elder.  

Noelle remained silent, knowing that if it came down to it, she would not have a choice in the matter.  

Livia continued, "I'd definitely not agree to it if it were me. This is Erick's problem. Why should I be the one to pay his debts for him? I would call Ash and have him take me away if Grandpa made me do it."

Livia's words seemed like a demonstration from Noelle's point of view—a demonstration that she had someone who would back her up. It did not matter whether Asher had the means to do so or not. Noelle felt incredibly uneasy simply because Asher was her ex-husband.  

Asher's words before he was driven out flashed in her mind. Everything she was owed had been paid back in full.  

Noelle's heart ached and her eyes showed her sorrow.

When Livia noticed Noelle mourning for her loss, she could not help but comfort her. "Don't worry, Elle. Asher isn't a ruthless man. He'll help you."  

Noelle, however, could not muster any joy. The man refused to take her calls. Why would he give a damn about her safety?  

"Do you trust Asher that much? What can he do? You're not young anymore, Livia. Stop being so naive. Please?" Noelle thought that her cousin was simply showing off so she made an effort to dampen her enthusiasm.  

Livia, however, disagreed. She believed that as long as Asher was around, no one could touch her.

"I bring grave news, Sir. Master Erick and I were intercepted by Radley Leonard as soon as we left the premises. Master Erick is with them now. Please, Sir. You must save him."  

Mr. Wilhelm barged frantically into the main room.

Carter was shaken. His wizened face revealed a trace of fear as he walked out hastily.  

Outside the Steward's residence.  

A dozen luxury cars were obstructing the vehicle Erick was in at the entrance. Radley had his left hand tucked into his pocket and a thin cigarette in his right as he smiled humorlessly at Erick who was still seated in his automobile.  

A beautiful young woman who was dressed impeccably with her face caked in cosmetics stood to Radley's right.  

The woman thoughtfully gave Erick a once-over and could not help but laugh to herself when she noticed how pale he was and how much he was trembling. He was just an heir to a miniscule household who insisted on swaggering around like he was first-rate goods. Was it not funny that he had become a spineless turtle the moment he encountered trouble?

"This Erick Steward requires your personal presence?" the woman asked.

Radley took a puff of his cigarette and chuckled. "Erick Steward may be a speck, but the problem is quite the big one. My cousin died in that drag race. How can I, as an elder brother, ignore it? Not to mention that the Stewards have stood upright for years. They do have some capabilities. You shouldn't underestimate them. You know what they say, a cornered beast would take desperate measures. The Stewards are quite the same."

The bombshell was none other than Frejya Sullivan, and the man who stood beside her was the scion of the Hoffmans, Julian.  

Frejya and Julian shared a look when they heard Radley's words. There were some things that did not need to be said for one to catch on.  

The reason Radley had gathered them here was to make an example out of the Stewards as a warning to them.  

They both saw right through his schtick, but there was nothing they could say about it. They might as well enjoy the performance Radley was putting on since they were here.  

After taking one last drag of the cigarette, Radley hooked his fingers in a come-hither motion to Erick, signaling for him to get out of the car.

Although Erick had tried his best to take control of his fears while he was seated in the vehicle, his legs were quaking up a storm. Radley had brought at least twenty people from the community with every one of them having a much more powerful background than he did.

Erick hemmed and hawed, waiting for Carter to arrive and remove him from the situation. 

How could he not alight from the car now that Radley had asked him to? He wiped the sweat off his face and warily got out. "Mr… Mr. Leonard…"  

Radley slapped him across his face before he could finish. His face grew red and swollen in no time at all.  

That was when Carter hurried over with his kinsmen in tow.  

Carter was taken aback by the sight of the numerous individuals that Radley had brought along. It was no exaggeration to say that these youths represented half of the force behind Rollinsford.  

The youngsters of the Stewards were as silent as cicadas in late autumn. None of them even dared to breathe.  

"Freya and Julian are also here, Elle. What is Radley trying to do?" Livia anxiously asked Noelle.  

"The Yaegers, the Sullivans, the Hoffmans, and the Leonards make up the four great households of Rollinsford. But the one with the absolute power are the Yaegers. The other three remain indistinguishable from one another. There've been rumors floating about that the Leonards will soon lose their place as one of the big four. The Leonards have aroused the masses to confront us because they want to use this opportunity to prove that they are still standing tall."

Noelle frowned as she spoke. "Radley's show of bringing all these people here proves that he's done toying with us. No one can save us now."  

Livia was suddenly enlightened by Noelle's explanation. Radley was such a methodical man.  

"Ash might be able to. It's just that he may not come forward himself to lend us a hand."  

Livia spoke those words with great certainty. The Leonards, Hoffmans, and Sullivans may be powerful, but they were insignificant compared to the Crawfords of the Capital City. That was why Livia was absolutely confident in Asher. What she was worried about was whether or not he would offer his assistance now that he had been thoroughly hurt by the Stewards.  

It was as if Livia could not stop mentioning Asher's name. Noelle found herself unable to take it any further and snapped. "Ash. Ash. Ash. Can't you think of anyone else? I'm here to tell you right now that our family's troubles are not something he can solve. I went to see Dove a few days ago. Castor was also there. Do you know what he said to me? He says that our family's greatest problem isn't the Leonards but someone even the Yaegers cannot afford to provoke. I don't know who they were talking about but we're probably done for."

Noelle thought that Livia's blind confidence in Asher was due to her infatuation with him. After all, all was right through the eyes of a romanticist.

Livia frowned slightly. Were the Yaegers also privy to Asher's true identity?  

"Are you alright, Erick. Did they hit you?" Laura rushed forward. She felt distressed by the sight of her son's face that was so swollen and red. "Who hit you, Erick? Tell me. I'll deal with them myself."

Erick glanced at Radley from the corner of his eye but had no courage to speak up.  

Radley sneered. "It was me. I'm here today not just to beat up your son. I also want a life for a life. What can you do about it?"  

Laura gritted her teeth as her face grew red.  

That was when Michael hurriedly interrupted his wife. "Shut up, Laura. This is not the place for your ramblings!"  

Carter was also furious. Laura was not just adding fuel to the fire, she was intentionally contributing to the chaos. He gave Michael a look and had his servants escort the woman back to her room.  

"Do calm down, Mr. Leonard. Let us not act like common women." Carter forced a smile as he walked out the door. "I wasn't expecting quite so many distinguished guests to visit us today. I'm flattered. Come, let us not stand around. Come have a cup of tea in the main room."  

Carter's only option was to keep Radley calm to find another opportunity to send Erick away.  

Radley, however, offered him no respite. He gave a cold laugh. "You don't have to feign confusion, Carter Steward. I'm here to demand an explanation on behalf of my cousin, Jackson. As we all know, this drag race was organized by Erick Steward. I suspect that my brother's death was caused by premeditated murder. You're a smart man, Carter. Try not to do anything stupid and let me have Erick. Then, we can forget all about this. Otherwise, the rest of your family will suffer!"

Erick was horrified. "It wasn't. Jackson's death was an accident!"  

Everyone knew that if it was proven that the murder was intentional, Erick would have to pay with his life.  

Radley smiled wryly. "And, who can prove that it was an accident?"  

"I didn't kill Jackson. Please believe me, Grandpa. I really didn't do it." Erick could only look to Carter for help.  

Carter frowned. "You say Erick planned Jackson's murder, Radley. Do you have proof of that?"  

"It was discovered during the police investigation that the breaks in Jackson's car were tampered with. This joyride was organized by Erick. Who else could've done it if not him?"  

Radley grinned from ear to ear. "He was still involved even if he didn't plan for this to happen. My brother can't die in vain. Only with Erick's death will he be absolved of his crime. I've come here to offer you an ultimatum, Carter. You could also choose to wait for the cops to come by for him. You can decide for yourself on what to do!"