The day of the jousting tournament had arrived.

It was a small competition held within the royal court in the spring.

All the nobles who boasted about their expertise in the trivial competition attended without fail.

There was no ulterior motive for their attendance. They just didn’t want to miss out on the fun, as the jousts were the best spectacle in town.

Josef, of course, felt differently.

He watched the whole time with a smile on his face.

It was eerie to see him in the middle of a violent arena where spears were being broken and people were getting hurt.

Mariella looked around to see if anyone else had noticed the eeriness.

Most of the nobles were too focused on the game to notice the prince’s expression.

“You should have hit further right there!”

“Kill him! Don’t let him get up again!”

The normally unusually stoic nobles were raving like madmen on this day.

Mariella shook her head gently and looked at Marianne.

Marianne was sitting in her seat, her face hidden by a cotton shroud, but the way her head was turned away, her ankles shifting uncomfortably, suggested that she was finding the game very boring.

‘She’s never been interested in this stuff since she was a kid.’

For some reason, the Count had once assigned Marianne a swordsmanship teacher. The teacher lamented Marianne’s lack of competition and drive to achieve compared to her natural athleticism, and whether she realised it or not, Marianne struggled to find ways to skip sword practice.

Mariella wondered how long Marianne would endure the boredom.


After a few games, Marianne clutched her forehead and pretended to collapse. Everyone around her, including Josef, looked at her.

As if waiting for a response, Marianne cut to the chase.

“My head is very dizzy from all that sunshine. Pardon me, Your Highness, but may I go inside first?”

It was an obvious ploy, but Josef pretended to be oblivious and put on a concerned face.

“Of course, my dear flower. I’m afraid your body hasn’t recovered.”

“Don’t worry too much. I’ll just have to stay in bed and rest for a while.”

The couple exchanged a superficial gesture of affection.

Marianne rose from her seat, followed by Daisy and Mariella.

Marianne ordered Daisy.

“You stay here and watch the game.”

It was a low voice, but it reached Mariella and Josef’s ears.

To prioritise a maid over a maidservant was to disrespect and insult her.

Daisy’s face flushed with embarrassment. Mariella, not to be outdone, quickly stepped forward.

“I’ll stay.”

“I want a report on the outcome of the match, every detail.”

For that, Daisy would be better suited.

“If that’s what you’re asking me to do. I’ve been in and out of the rehearsal hall all the time, thanks to the Duke of Bayer.”

Mariella’s words made Marianne think for a moment. On reflection, she might have a point.

“Okay. We need to get a closer look. Even if you haven’t seen it, you’ll understand what it’s like.”

Marianne nodded and left the room. Daisy thanked her and left before she could follow.

Despite a job well done, Daisy was not happy. She realised that she would always be second best to Princess Marianne for the rest of her life.

Mariella felt bad for Daisy, but she didn’t feel sorry for her. Daisy’s business was Daisy’s business.

She had more pressing matters to attend to. Like the play that Josef had organised, the script of which was unknown.

Nobles who hadn’t dared to approach Marianne for fear of being seen flocked to Josef.

“Your Highness, we have something to tell you. It’s about the secretary I told you about the other day.”

Marquis Alphonse rushed out.

Without taking his eyes off the jousting knights, Josef replied.

“As you wish.”


“I think the lord are right, as they have always been.”

Alphonse winced at how easily things seemed to be working out for him. He seemed to wonder if this was a trap.

Josef turned his head to look at Alphonse’s face, and he used his trademark quizzical, innocent expression to dispel Alphonse’s suspicions.

“We’ll talk about who it will be at our next meeting, but for now, can we focus on the tournament? It’s one of the few royal spectacles.”

“If you’ll excuse me, I’ll leave you to it.”

Marquis Alphonse and the nobles following him bowed and left. They all had puzzled looks on their faces.

Mariella was not alone in not understanding the situation. Mariella stood beside him and asked in a small voice,

“What on earth are you planning?”

It hadn’t been in her calculations that he would comply so easily.

Josef pulled the corners of his mouth into a smile.

“Watch this. I’m going to put on a spectacle you’ve never seen in your life.”

His gaze was still glued to the pitch.

Mariella followed his gaze and watched the game.

A knight had just knocked his opponent off his horse. It was already three wins in a row. The crowd erupted in applause. Josef jumped to his feet and clapped furiously.

‘What is this?’

Mariella frowned. She felt uncomfortable, like she was being played for a laugh.

Meanwhile, the knight who had won three in a row finished thanking the crowd and returned to his seat. For the new game, two new knights took their places, each holding a spear and sitting on a saddle.

“Ah, there’s a new knight. The one I’ve been eyeing lately.”

Josef jerked his chin toward one of them. Mariella’s gaze naturally moved to the knight. Mariella froze in place in surprise as she recognised the knight he had been eyeing.

It was Mihael.

The knight Marianne loved.

It wasn’t long before Mariella and Mihael’s eyes met.


Both Mariella and Mihael exclaimed in disbelief. For a moment, time seemed to stop around them.


A sharp whistle cut between them.

There was no time to collect their confused thoughts.

Mihael threw on his helmet, lunged forward, and not a moment too soon,


His body hit the ground with a dull thud.

The crowd roared their approval.

A knight who couldn’t even swing his lance once.

It was a disgraceful thing to be a knight, but that was not the emotion that swept through him now. Mihael lifted his head and stared at one place, his gaze landing on Prince Josef.

The seat next to him was empty.

‘It can’t be, it can’t be, but…’

Mihael tried to deny the reality, but the more he did, the more questions grew in his mind.

‘If that’s the case, then why is the princess wearing a maid’s dress right now?’

His eyes moved slightly to the side, and Mariella, who had made eye contact with him, immediately averted her gaze downwards.

After a second glance at her attire, Mihael’s thoughts expanded.

A mere maid can’t just arbitrarily pretend to be a princess.

No matter what the possibilities, all roads lead to the same place.

Mihael’s gaze dropped to the ground. He was helped to his feet by his companions. Something must have gone wrong when he fell off the horse, because he felt excruciating pain in his right leg.

“Are you okay? Can you walk?”

“I think it’s broken.”

He bluntly announced his injury. His attitude was one of resignation.

“Get me a splint.”

“That’s not going to work, get a stretcher.”

The chatter around him was deafening.

One of his senior knights waved a hand over his face.

“But what’s with the look on your face, Mihael? Are your injuries bad, or are you in a daze?”


Mihael didn’t respond. He just stood there with a dejected look on his face.

* * *

Right next to Prince Josef, Mariella’s head whirled as she realised who Mihael was.

‘Is it a mere coincidence, or a trap of Josef’s? Was this the play he was talking about?’


Josef clicks his tongue, a sign of disappointment that this match has gone too easily.

“Is he injured? I was trying to keep him and make him useful.”

Mariella, who still didn’t know where Josef was coming from, remained silent. She tried to think of a way to defuse the situation.

‘I need to shut him up first.’

As soon as she came to that conclusion, she busied herself.

“I’m going to step away for a moment.”

“You’re not my maid.”

At her metaphorical excuse to go to the comfort room, Josef let her go.

Just as she was about to push her way through the crowd and down the podium. An elderly man with a gracious demeanour bumped into her.

“Excuse me.”

Mariella immediately lowered her head, and the man responded with a bold attitude befitting his virtuous appearance.

“No, it’s just that I wasn’t paying attention…”

The man’s expression hardened as he saw the look on Mariella’s face. His large hand tightened on her arm. It was a gesture of nonchalance.



“Are you from any of the estates?”

Mariella felt embarrassed. A man she’d never met before, looking at her and pretending to know her. The biggest problem was that maybe she hadn’t seen him before.

“He looks strangely familiar.

She racked her brain, trying to remember if she’d ever met a man who looked like that. Try as she might, nothing came to mind, only a misty sense of familiarity.

Meanwhile, the man rattled off the names of the estates, trying to guess at her past.

“Halschel? Liebart? Riedenburg? Where did you come from? Did your mother–”

Mariella’s heart dropped with a thud as the exact name of the Riedenburg estate popped out of his mouth. She assumed the elderly man in front of her was one of the nobles she’d tried to woo in the Lassane hunting grounds.

‘I must capture him.’

She turned her head downwards, preventing him from scrutinising her face closely, and then played the deer-like woman, slender and timid.

“I, I don’t know what misconceptions you may have, but I’m just a maid from the countryside. I am not at all who your lordship is looking for.”

“No, that can’t be right, you must be someone I know…”

The uproar lengthens. Eyes gradually shift from the arena to Mariella and the older man.

Mariella bit her full lips. She wanted to pull away from the man, but his tight grip made it impossible.

As she squirmed, a voice stepped between them.

“That’s enough.”

A shadow fell overhead. She looked up to see the identity of her helper.

It was Julian.

He hid Mariella behind his back.

“My maid is embarrassed.”

Then another voice interrupted.

“‘My’ maid.”

It was Josef, leading his knights to check out the commotion.

Julian’s mouth dropped open and he fell silent. Josef turned and greeted the older man.

“By the way, I didn’t expect you to come so unannounced.”

“How could I not come when I was invited!”

Mariella’s eyes widened as she realised what was happening. From the looks of things, he and the older man seemed to be quite intimate.

“I’m sure I’ve sent you countless invitations over the years, but it’s still a pleasure to meet you… Marquis of Coburden.”

Mariella suddenly realised why the man looked so familiar. She had seen his portrait with Josef before.

Chancellor of the Good King Johannes.

A nobleman whose sensible policies earned him the trust and envy of many.

Manuel Coburden.

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