“Ma’am, please…”

“Do you want to see your children dangling like freshly slaughtered piglets?”

“I can’t go along with that, ma’am. Please take back your orders, please…”

That was the last sight of her father that Mariella Hoban remembered. Kneeling before a noblewoman, his hands clasped in front of him.

She’d stolen a glimpse of him and felt misery, fear, and resentment all at once.

It was a terrible day that she wished she could erase from her memory, but she couldn’t. Her father was hanged on the gallows a week later, along with the rest of the family she loved so much and wanted to protect.

Mariella’s father was a forester. A forester of the Lassane Hunting Grounds, the sole pride of the Counts of Riedenburg, who had no mines, no specialities, and no talents.

Though he was routinely looked down upon by noble children and the knights and servants they brought with them, her father never felt ashamed of his job.

He had two great prides. One was his pride in the Lassane Hunting Grounds, a magnificent forest known to all the nobility.

“Every tree in this forest is under my control. The same goes for the mushrooms and herbs.”

On days when he got really drunk, he would always gather his children around and give them a speech like that.

Another was about the goodness of himself and his family.

“Who cares if we don’t have luxurious food or noble titles? We value the most precious thing that the God Bari gives us, so we will surely receive that blessing someday.”

The Hoban family was poor, and for generations, the men had worked as foresters and the women as maids.

Despite their lowly status, they never missed a worship service, nor were they envious or jealous of others. On the contrary, if there was a poor person in their midst, they would selflessly share a piece of bread, even if they were hungry themselves.

It was because of her that the dreaded word ‘murder’ was attached to the name of the Hoban family.

The Countess’s husband, Count Riedenburg, was the second son of a baronet, a kind of son-in-law who gained the status of a Count through marriage.

Count Riedenburg was known for his harsh words, violent behaviour, and sexual harassment of his subordinates. But it was when the Countess’s father died that his nasty nature really began to show. As soon as the funeral took place, Count Riedenburg began to take lovers.

The Countess was a jealous woman, and whenever he took a lover, she would do all sorts of nasty things to him, but that didn’t stop him from cheating on her. Pushed to the limit by his wife, he even built a cosy house outside the castle where he could have his affair.

The woman who came and went from the cosy house kept changing. Sometimes it was a middle-aged woman with a voluptuous figure and fair skin, sometimes it was a young woman with a slim figure and tall stature, and sometimes it was a short-haired woman with a girlish appearance.

From season to season, from year to year, the owner of the cosy house changed. Until one day, the owner of the cosy house was decided.

A woman with blond hair, pink lips, and pale cheeks.

People didn’t know what her charms were, but they did know that the Count had settled on her.

When the Countess heard the news, she wanted to kill her husband’s mistress. But she didn’t want to be caught or harmed in the process, so she decided to use a simple yet effective method.

It was an order to choose a lower-class person who could be killed without any consequences.

It’s no surprise that the forester was her choice: he was both an outsider to the estate and an insider to the Count. When the truth came out, it would be easy for him to deny that he had done it, and it would be easy for her to order the murder.

However, Mariella’s kind and good-hearted father was not a man fit to kill.

He resisted the Countess’s orders with every fibre of his being, but he couldn’t resist her threats to kill his entire family if he didn’t listen to her. Eventually, he lured the Count’s mistress, the pale-cheeked woman, into the forest and killed her.

Her father carried out all the Countess’s orders, but death awaited him.

Her entire family went to the gallows. Her father, her mother, her brothers, her little sister. When the pale-cheeked woman was found dead, the Count unleashed his men to find the culprit faster than anyone else.

The Count’s anger could not be quelled by the life of a lowly forester.

Everyone knew who the forester was, but the Count didn’t bother to find out. He simply killed the forester’s entire family to quell his anger.

Mariella was spared from this punishment, which was more of an outburst than a punishment, because she was the playmate and maid of Lady Marianne, the only child of the Riedenburgs.

As soon as the decision to hang the Hoban family was made, Lady Marianne spent five hours crying and pleading with her father. Unable to break his daughter’s will, the Count eventually listened.

From her family’s humiliating demise to a moment of salvation. There was nothing Mariella could control. Everything was decided by those noblemen.

Their anger, their joy, their sorrow, their desires were more precious than the lives of the commoners.

When she realised this, Mariella made up her mind. I may have been born lowly, but I will not be lowly until I die.

She was a practical woman. She had no frivolous plans such as receiving a noble title by doing a great deed, making money and becoming an object of desire, or falling in love with a handsome young nobleman riding a white horse and becoming his legal wife.

In the estate of the Count of Riedenburg, there was the Lassane Hunting Grounds, which was the pride of the Count’s family, and was often visited by the Count’s friends and other noble people.

‘I’ll be a mistress, like the pale-cheeked woman Count Riedenburg loved.’

It might seem like others would criticize her for becoming a married woman at such a young age, but it didn’t matter to her. Being vulgar was better than being lowly.

The ladder of social mobility. Even if it meant struggling in that vicinity, the chances of survival were higher. Mariella witnessed her family’s death firsthand and saw the power of social status that led to their demise. To survive, she knew she didn’t have to fight against that power, but rather find a way to climb up that ladder.

Thirteen years passed, and she turned twenty-five.

She had grown into a woman who could play a damsel in distress without blinking an eye if it meant getting the life she wanted.

It is because of Lady Marianne that Mariella Hoban, a good-looking, intelligent, and ambitious maid who is eagerly awaiting her chance at being a mistress, is living a life that has gone nowhere until she is twenty-five.

“Marie, I have a present for you, come to my room quickly!”

“Marie, pick out a dress for me.”

“Marie, how should I reply to this letter?”

Marianne was oblivious and constantly interfered with her plans. As a maid in the Count’s household, Mariella couldn’t ignore her duties, so she always obeyed Marianne’s every word.

For more than a decade, she told herself that someday she would get her chance. Finally, she was presented with a golden opportunity that would change her life forever.

“Ex, excuse me… if you don’t mind, could you help me out?”

The man was blind and stumbling around the market. He was dressed like a beggar, but Mariella recognised him instantly.

‘Noble blood. Probably higher in status than Count Riedenburg…’

Mariella thought her hard life had finally blossomed, that the rest of her life would be nothing but pink.


“…Do you, the bride, swear eternal love to the groom, Prince Josef Heisen Derschabach?”

Presently she was behind the bride, holding the hem of her dress.

Glaring at the bride with all her might.

Whether or not she was aware of her fury, the bride answered shyly and cautiously. It was truly a disgusting attitude.


Seeing that, Mariella felt stunned and lost her strength. Rather than hating the immature bride, she was dumbfounded.

‘I’m the one who wooed the prince, but you’re the one who’s going to marry him.’

The bride who took Mariella’s place was named Marianne Diphne Riedenburg.

She was the honoured daughter of the count whom Mariella serves.



✦✧✦✧ Some extra info:
Male lead: Prince Josef Heisen Derschabach (27M)
The one and only prince of the Kingdom of Verdan. Although he has an image of laughing carelessly, in reality, he is a cruel and quick-witted man. He shows his true self only to Mariella, but she thinks that the prince is only trying to use her.

Female lead: Mariella Hoban (25F)
The sole survivor of the Hoban family, who were exterminated for killing the Count’s mistress, the pale-cheeked woman. She attempts to rise through the ranks by becoming the mistress of a nobleman, but is repeatedly thwarted by Lady Marianne. Even the prince he is lucky enough to woo is stolen from her by Marianne.

‘Don’t be silly, Mariella.’

She bit the inside of her cheek, trying to pull herself together. Now is not the time to be steeped in romantic sensibilities. The reality she had to be aware of was the following two lines.

After burning the letter, her beloved Master Jay was a wreck.

An idiot who held her life in his hands.

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