A Butterfly's Virtue by Elijah Rainey
"A soft knock sounded throughout the room, pulling me out of a deep sleep. The first rays of light cascaded through the window, followed by a chilled breeze. I slowly stirred, feeling disoriented and groggy. Rubbing my eyes, I sat up and tried to shake off the remnants of my dream.
“Excuse me, young miss.”
I watched as the young woman, dressed in servant attire, drew closer to me, reaching to pull the blanket that had wrapped me throughout the night.
“What time is it?” I asked, still struggling to fully awaken.
“It’s nearly dawn, young miss. Your father has requested your presence in the study.”
My eyes grew cold. It was rare for my father to summon me to his study so early in the morning. I quickly got dressed and followed the servant down the dimly lit hallway towards my father’s study.
As I entered the room, my father sat behind his large mahogany desk, his stern gaze fixed upon me.
“Good morning, Father,” I said, indifferently.
“Good morning, my dear,” he replied, his voice cold and unfeeling. “I have received some disturbing news that requires your immediate attention.”
“What kind of news?” I asked, knowing full well that bloodshed would follow soon after.
“It seems that an ant believes itself to be a tiger,” he said, his voice remaining low and cold.
“Please explain in detail, Father.”
My father leaned forward, his eyes narrowing. “A man who works for us has been stealing money from the family.”
“His name is Gerald.”
“Gerald, is it?” I spoke, glancing out of the window behind my father. Thousands of thoughts raced through my mind as to how to deal with this thief. Father remained still, watching me with the same callous face as always.
"Father, may I use the Royal Guard?" I asked, knowing well that he would allow their mobilization. For reference, the Royal Guard was our family's private military, strong enough to rival the US military in full.
My father gave a slight nod, his eyes never leaving mine. "I will allow it. But remember, use them wisely and make sure there is no evidence left behind."
I nodded, understanding the seriousness of the situation. I left the room, making my way to the Royal Guard's headquarters. I met the leader of the Royal Guard, Underboss Giovanni, and he owed me a favor.
"Giovanni, I need your assistance in dealing with a thief who has been stealing from the family," I said, making sure he understood that this was an order.
"Of course, young miss. Whatever you need," he replied, bowing respectfully.
"I need you to track down Gerald's whereabouts and inform me when you do. And, of course, make sure it is done discreetly."
"Consider it done, my lady," he said, before turning to his team and giving orders.
I watched as the Royal Guard mobilized, their black vehicles leaving the compound one by one. I knew well that once given an order, it would be done without fail.
Finding myself with nothing to do for the next half an hour, I walked towards the garden that sat behind the manor. What adorned the perfectly trimmed hedges were roses bleached of red.
As I walked through the garden, my mind only thought of the filth that dared to steal from the Luciano family. Once the Royal Guard found him, I would finally quell my boredom."
Sitting on a stone bench in the middle of the garden, I suddenly recalled the dream I had last night. It was a pleasant one, unlike my usual nightmares. I could still see the face of my visitor clearly in my mind. A young girl around the same age as me seemed quite interested in the book I was reading, despite my attempts to ignore her.
"What was her name again...Nia-"
Before I could finish my thought, a small, quiet voice sounded in front of me.
“Good morning, sister,” said a young boy, taking a seat next to me on the bench.
“Good morning, Luc. What brings you here?” I asked in a voice as soft as cotton.
“I heard Father had summoned you to his study. Did anything interesting happen?” he asked, his curiosity piqued.
I hesitated before answering, not wanting to burden him with the family’s troubles. “Just some business matters, nothing to concern yourself with.”
Luc looked at me, pouting in his usually playful manner. “Can't you tell me, Mai? Please, big sister.”
I sighed, watching him act as if he were a little puppy. “As I said before, Luc, it is nothing that concerns you."
Luc's face then contorted into a sly smile. “Fine, I'll just go ask Father himself.”
As he said that, he turned to head towards the manor, passing by an old man dressed in a butler's attire. The old man approached me and gave a light bow before speaking his purpose.
"Young Miss, the thief has been located, and you can depart whenever you are ready."
The old man spoke clearly, making sure the message was heard without the need to be repeated.
I looked at him deeply within his eyes before speaking, "Sebes, prepare for my departure at once."
Sebes bowed once more and made his way back to the manor. I stood up, taking a deep breath, and smoothing out my dress before making my way towards the entrance.
As I walked, I couldn't help but think back to the dream. The young girl with the bright eyes and curious nature seemed to be a distant memory, a figment of my imagination.
But something about her stuck with me, like a small voice in the back of my mind. Perhaps it was a sign of something to come, something that would bring light in the midst of darkness.
I pushed the thoughts aside as I entered the black Bentley Mulsanne that was waiting in front of the estate.
Inside, I found Giovanni sipping on a glass of wine that held a hue reminiscent of blood. It was only after he finished the glass that he turned and spoke to me.
"Young Miss, the thief Gerald has been located. We have found that he owns a bar in the west slums, and it is currently open. Though we have gotten word that it will close soon enough, and we can mobilize at any moment."
It was only after he finished speaking that he gave me room to voice my own thoughts.
"Giovanni, how many men do we have at our disposal?"
I asked this, knowing well the answer that would follow.
"As of this moment, we can fully mobilize 180 men. This is excluding the 10 shadows that follow."
That was all I could say about the matter as it was far too exciting to let pass. It had been a long time since someone had been foolish enough to cause trouble for the Luciano family.
We then departed from the estate and headed towards the west slums, which housed the cockroaches that dirtied the Luciano name.
Thirty minutes passed before I caught sight of the dilapidated bar. Even saying 'dilapidated' was giving the bar too much credit.
At the time, I only wanted to case the place out, so I instructed the driver to drive past the front of the bar. This way, I was able to get a clear sight of the bar's interior, but it seemed like wishful thinking. The view inside the bar was blocked by a familiar-looking girl who was sweeping the inside of the bar. Upon seeing her, I was briefly reminded of the girl in my dream from the night before.
Still staring at the girl through the black-tinted windows of the Bentley Mulsanne, I caught sight of something else. It was a white butterfly that had lost one of its wings and was slowly gliding towards the ground.
"Young Miss?" A deep voice brought me back from my muse. I turned to face Giovanni before giving my order. "When the last customer leaves this bar, I will have you give him a warning. If he does not comply with our order, then you are free to act as you please. Ensure that he or anyone else within the bar survives. I have a feeling he is nothing more than a puppet."
The last customer finally stumbled out of the bar. The moon was slowly rising over the western slums, signifying the beginning of the second act.
As I looked at the hundreds of men, armed as if they were going to war, I let out a chilling smile unknowingly. I watched Giovanni approach the worn old door.
“Gerald, I thought I warned you properly,” a strong, deep voice sounded through the door, overpowering the small bell behind it. “The supply you so graciously stole, I want it back.”
Within the bar, Giovanni confronted Gerald in a threatening manner as I had instructed him. This was a method I liked to use when faced with another's puppet. As I was sure the information he would give would be of no use, entertaining me was good enough.
Only after the men stopped firing into the bar did I walk inside to make my final move.
Just as the familiar girl was about to be shot, I gave an order.
Stopping myself from smiling too much, I continued the command.
“Just knock her unconscious. She may be of some use later.”
"Yes, young miss."
Executing my order, the Royal Guard member raised the butt of his firearm and struck the nape of the girl.
A moment later, the young girl gasped a question.
I stood over the now unconscious girl with a slight smile on my face before correcting her.
Only then did I remember the name of the girl from my dream. This trip outside was worth more than the short-term entertainment I thought it would be.
Giovanni soon stood beside me. I turned to face him before asking, "Is Gerald dead?"
Giovanni's face was slightly covered in blood. He only glanced at Gerald for a second before responding, "It was the young miss's order not to kill anyone within the bar. He was only knocked unconscious by the rubber rounds. I believe he will wake up in a day or so."
"And what about the item?"
Giovanni lowered his head apologetically, "It would appear that the item is not within Gerald's hands anymore. My sincere apologies, young miss."
"I see, well, it's of no concern as of now. Giovanni, grab hold of that girl and put her in the car. As for Gerald, just throw him in the trunk. Also, there is no need to clean this place up. I highly doubt the police will know the difference."
Executing my orders to a tee, Niamh was soon placed into the car and Gerald in the trunk. We departed from the bar and headed back to the estate. It would be there that the fun truly began.
With one last gasp, the butterfly breathed,
Its dreams and promises, unfulfilled and bequeathed,
For a world too harsh and a heart too pure,
It gave one last look and finally endured.
The winter had taken its toll,
As the butterfly lay still, a lifeless soul,
Its wings of lace no longer beat,
Its heart of fire had lost its heat.