Chapter 1

“Hugh, I swear I didn’t try to kill her! Please, you have to believe me!” The rain continued to pour mercilessly. Iris Baron spread her arms out in a desperate attempt to stop the Aston Martin in its path. The night sky was as black as ink and the chilly air permeated her flesh and bones, making her shiver badly. Meanwhile, the atmosphere inside the car had dropped to a freezing point. In the back seat was a handsome man exuding a cold aura. The driver turned to him with a troubled look and asked cautiously, “Sir, what should I do?" The man closed his eyes slowly. There was not a trace of emotion on his defined face. He ordered blankly, “Run her over.” Within seconds, the Aston Martin’s engines roared and it crashed into Iris! Her body was, therefore, sent flying… The moment she landed on the ground, she felt as if every bone in her body had been shattered. The pale white dress she wore was dyed red by her blood. She felt she was going to faint from the pain, but she held herself together. She knew she could not pass out now! Biting her pallid lip, she forced herself on her feet! Then, she dragged her bloodied body and limped toward the car where she desperately flailed her arms and beat against the backseat windows while crying out. “Hugh! Please believe me, I’m not a murderer! What happened to Olenna was an accident!” The heavy rain blurred her vision, so she could only faintly make out the vague shapes of his cold expression. After her desperate plea, the windows suddenly opened. Before she had time to react, the man stretched out a hand through the window and seized her by the neck. “You’re better off dead!” Hugh spoke in a stern, icy tone. The man she had known as her brother for the last eighteen years, who had spoiled her rotten, had now morphed into a stranger! Everyone in Capital knew that Hugh Baron was a man who pampered his sister to an obsessive degree. As if his sister was the center of his existence! With his hand around her throat, Iris could feel every cell in her body quivering! She had an overbearing, suffocating feeling as she endured the pain and said, “Let me explain… Ack! Ack!” “You’ll pay for what you’ve done,” he said. Hugh bore an ice-cold glare. Before Iris could finish her sentence, the hold wrapped around her neck was tightened significantly. Everything had changed overnight! Their family love had turned into vehement hatred! The younger sister whom he once loved to bits had turned into his enemy! Iris wanted to speak but was unable to make any sound! Every part of her body was screaming with pain. Despite all that, none of the physical pain could compare to the sharp throb in her heart. The man’s grip was ever-tightening, and her vision began to go dark. Her consciousness was slowly fading out. Just when she thought she was about to die, Hugh released his hold abruptly. Immediately afterward, she was shoved away and collapsed to the floor! “Scram.” Hugh’s voice was cold and hostile. Right after, the engines roared thunderously, and the car drove away. Iris felt aggravating pain all over her body. She clenched her teeth as she limped toward the car, “Hugh! Wait! Let me explain!” The freezing rain continued to pour relentlessly and beat over every inch of her body. Drops of blood stained the ground behind her with every step she took. Alas, the Aston Martin vanished out of sight. An immense wave of despair devoured every part of her, swallowing her whole like the mouth of a ferocious beast. The combination of excessive blood loss and exhaustion had gotten to her. She succumbed to her weakness at last and crashed to the floor again. - Five years later, the gate of the Correctional Institution for Women located in Capital slowly opened. A woman with sallow skin and whose face was covered with hideous scars emerged. She carried a crumpled plastic bag and walked in the scorching midsummer sun. It was Iris. For the last five years, she was jailed in this desolate place where there was no telling the difference between day and night. At first, she could not come to terms with her fate. She could not get used to it and lashed out endlessly. Eventually, she succumbed to the hopelessness and had grown numb to it all. Now, she was finally free! In the past, she was the daughter of the richest man in Zwanda. Pampered by her loving father and her brother, Hugh Baron, she had free rein to do whatever she wanted. Everything in the world was at her fingertips. Blessed with so much privilege, she never realized that freedom could be something so indescribably precious. After stepping out of the prison, she turned around and beheld the familiar, oppressive walls of the courtyard. Then, she walked across the road. It was a very remote region not accessible by public transport, and it would be very expensive to hail a cab. However, traveling to her destination on foot was going to exhaust all the life force left in her. After much thought, she decided to wait for a taxi. Upon inspecting the measly five hundred dollars in the plastic bag as well as an outdated smartphone, she cracked a bitter smile self-mockingly. In the past, she could splurge millions on a bag without any hesitation. Now, even something as simple as hailing a taxi was a matter of long and intense consideration. Perhaps this was the fate that she deserved. After waiting for a long time, she finally managed to hail a taxi. When she got in the car, her entire body was soaked in sweat, and perspiration continued to run down her forehead. “Mister, how much is it to go to the Baron Family Cemetery?” she asked while pulling at the T-shirt that was clinging to her sticky skin. The driver gasped at the sight of her face in the rearview mirror. He then muttered, “One hundred and forty dollars.” “Sorry, but is one hundred fine?” After taking a look at her, the driver began to feel sympathy for her. He reluctantly nodded and said impatiently, “Fine, one hundred it is…” - An hour later, the taxi stopped at the Baron Family Cemetery. Iris stepped out of the taxi and approached the tombstone with a black and white picture of her father imprinted on its surface. The recognition of her father’s familiar smile ripped her heart into pieces. She had always been the apple in her father’s eye, and he spoiled her rotten. Nothing was ever out of her reach; she could have anything she wanted. Perhaps that was what eventually caused her father’s death. If she had managed to keep her impulses under control and was content with being Hugh Baron’s little sister… Then her father would not have died in front of her. If only one could turn back time. At the thought of that, she trembled and knelt on the ground. She wrapped her arms around the tombstone while tearing up and lamented, "Father, I’m so sorry for letting you down. I am a terrible daughter.” She remained perched by the tombstone for a very long time before finally getting up and heading down the mountain. Then, she walked three kilometers to the nearby bus stop before taking the bus back to the city. It was night by the time she arrived. She was exhausted by that point. A long time ago, she had part of her liver cut off and transplanted to Hugh. Then, one of her kidneys was also cut out during her time in prison. Her body was no longer what it used to be. She was extremely fragile. Despite that, she held on and went to buy some bread from a roadside stall. She also bought credit for her phone. Then, she managed to get a room in a motel for thirty dollars. It was a cramped room and absolutely nasty. In the past, she only stayed in five-star luxury hotels and barely knew there were such filthy places in the world. Now, however, even a den like this was plenty for her. After finishing the bread, she lay on the bed and considered her next move. The money she had was not going to last long at all, so she had to find a job. When she closed her eyes, countless old memories appeared in her mind. The first thing she saw was her father in his last moments. Her father’s eyes were filled with tears as he uttered, “Iris, promise me you’ll live on.” Then, she saw the girl she knew in the prison, Rei Garnet. She recalled the scene of Rei laying in her arms so weakly and whispering, “Iris, please take care of my parents, they live far out in the mountains. It’s the least you can do since I gave my life for you.” Iris knew she had to live on—to honor her father’s dying wish and to fulfill the final promise she made to Rei. Rei had given Iris her mother’s contact information while in prison. Iris recalled it based on memory and called Rei’s mother to find out how they were faring. The call connected and Tracy told her what was going on in her family. It turned out that Tracy was afflicted by severe uremia and urgently needed a kidney transplant. The doctor had stated that her life would be at risk if a kidney transplant was not done within three months. As she did not have the money for it, Tracy had chosen to accept her fate. She would wait it out and expire at home. Iris immediately assured Tracy that she would put together the money to help her. Despite having given her word with such confidence, she began to feel greatly disconcerted the moment she hung up. Three months. Half a million dollars. Where in the world was she going to find the money? Not only did she have no college qualifications, but she also had a criminal record. In that case, how could she find so much money in such a short time?
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