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On a sunny autumn day, Mariella was picking flowers in the garden near the annexe when someone behind her called her name loudly.


She spun around and saw Marianne there. Daisy, Marianne’s maid, was standing ten paces away.


Mariella grabbed Marianne’s hand and lowered her voice.

“You promised not to call me that in the castle.”

“Does it matter now. I haven’t seen you in so long, what have you been doing, you haven’t answered my letters, I’ve been worrying about you, wondering how you’re doing, what’s going on.”

Marianne skilfully tuned Mariella’s nagging out of earshot. She grabbed Mariella’s hand and whined.

Marianne’s words made Mariella shake her head and ask.


“Yes, a letter! Have you been so busy? Why haven’t you written back?”

Instead of answering, Mariella turned her head and glanced at Daisy, who was at her feet. Daisy coughed, avoiding eye contact.

‘I can tell without looking at it.’

Not wanting to share the princess’s affections, Daisy snatched the letters away. A smirk escaped her lips at the simple gesture.

“Anyway, I came to give you this!”

After a long moment of tugging on Mariella’s arm, Marianne pulled a small box out of her bag. Mariella unwrapped the box, and inside was a food she’d never seen before.


“They’re from the East! I tried one and it was so good, I saved it for you. Don’t give it to anyone else, eat it alone, promise me.”

She looked like a grandmother sneaking something delicious to her grandson.

“If that duke, Julian or whatever, ever bullies you, tell me! I feel like I have a place in this royal castle now, and no one can touch me.”

“Ah, yes… You’re so… trustworthy.”

When Marianne put her hand on her waist and shook her, Mariella reluctantly replied with a shy expression.

* * *

After parting ways with Marianne, Mariella returned to Julian’s quarters. Julian had been away for a while on Church business. The deserted annex was rather desolate than serene.

She sat in a chair and sewed. Mariella made a small pouch. It was made of a thin, soft fabric with a hole that showed through if you looked closely.

She planned to make a sachet out of it. She would dry the flowers she picked from the garden during the day, add a little incense, and mix a few herbs to help him sleep.

‘I hope Julian can sleep well in this sachet.’

She searched her memory while she was sewing.

Knowledge of flowers and herbs that emit a scent that makes one sleep well floats in her head. It was the knowledge that her father, who was a forester, had taught her.

After her family had been wiped out, she had once relied on this sachet to help herself fall asleep. There were days when she could barely make it through the day.

It seemed like a distant past now.


She sighed suddenly. Her head was spinning with thoughts.

The reason she was worried about Julian’s bed even while going through the trouble of sewing and making her own potpourri wasn’t just because she couldn’t keep her bedside because of the gazes of the ministers.

In a week’s time, the Pope will return to the Verdan capital, and Mariella must fulfil the plans she and Josef have been working on.

They must change ministers, shake up the aristocracy, and identify and eliminate the real enemy. Then the coronation would take place.

Once Josef is in full power, Mariella will have complete freedom.

‘The trap is set, now we just have to wait for the beast to be caught.’

The air fills around her, a mixture of anxiety, anticipation, and an unknown emptiness. She takes a deep breath and lets it out in a sharp intake. Her fingertips were full of pockets that had yet to be sewn.

‘Let’s take care of the people around us for the rest of the day.’

Marianne, Josef, and Julian…

The three faces flashed through her mind.

She plans to take Marianne with her no matter what. She can’t leave Marianne behind, who is naive and even self-centered, among people who are worse than beasts who don’t even hesitate to kill for their desires.

She has a rough plan to steal her away. A plague will strike, the princess will be declared dead, and then he will sail out of Verdan and down to Ashakal.

Unlike the more commercially orientated Piette and Greenard, the more belligerent Ashakal is still not on good terms with Verdan. If they could keep their identities hidden in rural Ashakal, no one would realise who they were.

Josef would be fine. Mariella trusted him. He was a man who could control his emotions as needed, and he wouldn’t be irreparably upset by Marianne and her departure.

The problem was Julian. Julian was nothing like Marianne and Josef. She couldn’t be taken away like Marianne, and she couldn’t be brushed aside like she had been with Josef.

Whenever she thinks of the second act of her happy, peaceful life with Marianne, she thinks of Julian, sleepless with fear of the dark.

She couldn’t leave him behind now, even if she hadn’t wanted to from the beginning.

So Mariella made a sachet. She wrote down the instructions for the sachet in case the potpourri ran out of scent.

So that Julian could sleep well without her.


‘… So that there would be no regrets when I left.’

Mariella shifted her gaze to the window. The sun was setting.

Soon, night would come. A night that would turn everything upside down once and for all.

* * *

Ansen Siegrid’s head was spinning. Baron Dominic and Marquis Alphonse had been coming to him day after day, urging him to make a decision.

“Why on earth would you turn down such a good offer? How long do you think you’re going to be chasing Count Brett’s tail? Think it over.”

Marquis Alphonse didn’t bother to remove his pathetic expression.

There was an abject disgust beneath the stare.

It made him nervous.

The Marquis was not a clever man, but he was not a fool either.

He knows very well that the royalist faction despise a baseless man like himself.

Nevertheless, offering him a second chance meant there was a greater purpose.

Siegrid boldly asked what it was, and Marquis Alphonse told him that he wanted to use him as a lever to pull the central forces of the nobility out of the ground, like large stones driven deep into the earth, while at the same time using him as a fulcrum to expand the power of the royalists.

Seeing that there were deep sighs from skepticism in the middle of the conversation, it seemed that he was sincere.

“We’re bringing you here for a reason, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to treat you poorly. It is not our place to interfere in the affairs of a nation, and, as you know, His Royal Highness is not the kind of man to do so…”

The Marquis of Alphonse hesitated, and said all he had to say. He felt guilty for speaking ill of his lord.

At the sight of him, Marquis Siegrid shook his head again.

What the royalists want to achieve can only happen if Siegrid himself becomes chancellor now. That means it’s now or never again.

It’s a huge proposition that makes his head spin. He didn’t want to dismiss it, but he also didn’t want to accept it.

‘It’s not that easy.’

Siegrid remembered Baron Dominic’s words from last night.

‘I see our friendship was worth little more than a few pennies. You owe me no favours!’

The Baron drove him back, furrowing his brow. It was a rude gesture, but more fear than displeasure washed over him. Siegrid was sweating profusely, trying to calm Baron Dominic. Already his mind was racing with regrets that he should have held out the cheque.

‘Don’t forget that I’m paying for the asylum in Radecci!’

With those words, Baron Dominic left the room. It was, in effect, his last warning.


Marquis Siegrid was deep in thought.

‘It would be nice to be Chancellor, but I can’t go against Baron Dominic. I’ve become inseparable from him, and this is a problem. He’s Count Brett’s brother-in-law, and no amount of cajoling will get him to join the royalist faction… It’s probably best to just say no, rather than make a mess of things… But I don’t know how long Dominic will stick around, and shouldn’t I leave myself a way out?’

His thoughts twisted as two completely unrelated things became one.

“Why don’t you answer me? This guy, I’m getting tired of trying to convince you. I’m hoping you’ll give me a quick yes or no answer.”

“I’ll think a little longer, a little more, and then I’ll tell you.”

In the end, all the Marquis of Siegrid can do is delay his answer again. Siegrid rushed out of the room, afraid that Marquis Alphonse would catch him.

* * *

Lindgren was a rising star of the Blue Deck Theatre Company. She was a ready-made star, both beautiful and talented, with luscious orange hair the colour of a sunset, a cute little nose and full lips, and the acting skills to dazzle audiences. Everyone was looking forward to her next film and wanted to be a part of the play she would be starring in.

…Until two months ago.

When she fell behind on her stage props and costume bills, people began to ignore her as they always did. They said she was blind, that she had seduced the near-bankrupt Baron, and they concluded that he was the only man worthy of her.

This left Lindgren unable to find another patron to pay for her costumes. Her status in the eyes of others had been reduced to that level.

When aristocrats make theatre actors their mistresses, they treat them as accessories. In this era, an actor’s reputation was their value. In this situation, all Lindgren could cling to was Baron Dominic.

“Where the hell have you been all this time!”

Lindgren shouted, grabbing hold of the Baron as he slipped through the back door of the theatre, not giving him a chance to make excuses.

“The wardrobe department told me that if I don’t pay them in full by the end of the week, they’re going to sell all the costumes to another theatre company–my dresses, made with my own ideas!”

“Lindgren, calm down and let go of my hand…”

The Baron bristled, trying to calm her down.

“Tell me the truth, you were planning on toying with me, throwing me out there for everyone to laugh at, and then going all in on yourself.”

“No. Why would I do that?”

“Everyone in Verdan knows, everyone laughs at me.”

She whined and fell into his arms.

Lindgren knew. Incapacitated men were evasive, and to win them over, you had to ‘pretend’ to believe in them, not drive them. If she pretended he was the only one in the world she could trust, she could get what she wanted.

She wasn’t wrong. Baron Dominic, his confidence restored, patted her on the back and spoke soothing words.

“I have a way, I’ve already tried everything. My brother-in-law is the current foreign minister, Count Brett, and my best friend is the Marquis of Siegrid, who has substantial property. A little while, just a little while, and it will be all right.”

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