Winter is over and spring is here.

Mariella enjoyed tea time with Marianne and Daisy.

“It smells so good.”

One thing that had changed from her days as a maid was that she had moved from serving them to drinking tea with them.

“I can get you some more, if you like. Do you want me to put in a call back home?”

And that between them sat the Marquis of Arell, a nobleman of Greenard, casually.

Mariella shook her head at the Marquis of Arell’s excessive kindness.

“You don’t have to do that.”

“No, it’s not difficult, it’s a common type of tea in Greenard.”

Mariella replied with a smile.

She sipped her tea in silence, but it felt strange. Even though he was a noblewoman of Greenard, it was strange to speak with the Marquis with such mutual respect.

Her relationship with the nobility had been one of exploitation.

Exploitation of her youth and beauty, exploitation of her labour.

It was overwhelming to be treated like a human being.

‘It’s something I’ll have to get used to.’

It had been a month and a half since Manuel Coburden had walked into the meeting and dropped the bomb.

With Prince Josef’s support, Mariella had officially inherited the title Marquise of Coburden.

There were some who argued that a woman shouldn’t be able to receive a title, but Manuel Coburden silenced them by finding a passage of law that prohibited women from entering politics.

The law had been written by Josef’s great-grandfather, King Bayon II himself. The three holy wars may have erased the witches from the world, but they hadn’t erased all traces of them.

In any case, it allowed Mariella to safely become the Marquise of Coburden.

After that, everything went smoothly. She accompanied Manuel Coburden on a tour of his estates and was given a portion of his property in advance. As soon as she arrived at the castle, she became Marianne’s handmaiden. For the time being, she was to live in the castle, near Marianne’s quarters, until a suitable mansion could be found in the capital. Mariella decided to settle into this life for now.

After she was knighted, Josef no longer spoke of being a mistress. He seemed content with the situation as it was. It was the best of all possible worlds.

‘I think I’ve adjusted enough. Let’s get back to planning.’

Even though she had spent the night with Josef, and he had become the Marquise of Coburden, as he wanted, Mariella’s resolve was not broken.

She took a small slice of the cake that had been served for refreshments and tried to redeem herself.

“Thank you for the invitation, my lord, but if you’ll excuse me, I’d better get up from my seat.”

“It was a pleasure, and I hope to see you next time.”

Tea time was over.

The Marquis of Arell and Marianne exchanged pleasantries.

Next to her, Daisy blushed. Clearly, the Marquis of Arell had taken her fancy.

Mariella followed suit and rose from her seat.

They were to tour the capital’s mansions together.

Manuel Coburden, the good king’s chancellor, had sold all his property near the castle twenty years ago and retreated to his estate, so she had to find a new home in the capital, and there were no mansions in the capital worthy of a high-ranking noble like the current Marquise of Coburden.

If she were still a commoner, it would have been one thing to have a house, no matter what it looked like, as long as the roof and walls were intact, but now that she was a noble, she had to worry about every single pattern on the wallpaper.

Reputation is power, after all.

In any case, with no mansions of her stature left in the capital, her only option was to buy a dilapidated or unwanted house, tear it down and fix it.

Marquis Cedric Arell was the man for the job.

The mansion the Marquis was staying in was originally owned by the Farni family, a manor that had survived the Third Holy War unscathed, save for a few scorch marks.

The people of Verdan, knowing what had happened to the manor and what had become of its owners, shunned it as a haunted house, but this was of no concern to the Marquis of Arell from Greenard.

The Marquis bought the manor, which had originally belonged to the Farni family, at a bargain price and decorated it accordingly.

After a while, people forgot that it was once the home of a dark mage.

“I think I’ll call it a day–”

She was about to say a simple goodbye to Marianne when Marianne suddenly grabbed her arm.

“Hey, Mariella.”

She turned to look at her with an eager expression. She didn’t say the request out loud because of the Marquis of Arell, but Mariella knew what she was asking. She wanted to see Mihael.

After being released from the dungeon thanks to Mariella, Mihael had cut all ties with Marianne shortly thereafter.

At first, Marianne didn’t know what to make of it, and later became frustrated when she heard that Mihael and Mariella had seen each other at a jousting tournament.

Normally, Marianne would have thrown a tantrum like a petulant child, but this time she was unusually subdued. Unaware that it was due to her secret meetings with Mihael, Mariella assumed that Marianne had grown up.

“Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out in ten days.”

Mariella patted the back of Marianne’s hand affectionately.

* * *

In half a day, Mariella had seen almost all the mansions in the capital. This was only possible because there were few properties for sale in the first place.

Most of the mansions for sale were witch-related. The price tags were accompanied by descriptors such as belonging to the Han family, a magic school in Laderci, or the place where the last witch of Farni died.

After exploring the mansion, they stopped at a café.

The arrival of the rumoured Marquise of Corburden drew the eyes of the nobility to one place.

Mariella pretended not to notice their piercing stares and made small talk with Marquis Arell.

“Did you have a favourite place in mind?”

“I don’t know. They don’t look like a place fit for human habitation.”

Most of the mansions for sale were in pretty bad shape.

They had been vandalised by local children.

The hatred and animosity towards witches had degenerated over the years into mockery and contempt.

Young children, who had no idea what a holy war was, began to break into the witch’s house with sticks and stones, and it soon became a game.

Nine out of ten of the houses she visited were wrecked by their antics.

“I thought the same thing.”

The Marquis of Arell chimed in, smiling awkwardly.

The way he nervously and quickly agreed with her was suspicious. A gesture that wanted to emphasise that he felt the same way, that he was thinking the same thoughts as her.


Mariella watched Cedric Arell over the edge of her teacup. He reminded her of the old nobles of the Lassane hunting grounds, except without the bravado.

‘We’ll have to wait and see.’


She set down her finished teacup.

“If you’ll excuse me, I’ve been walking around all day and I’m getting tired.”

The words gave the Marquis of Arell a look like he’d been slapped in the back of the head. It was clear that he had struck a nerve he hadn’t considered.

He quickly apologised grimly.

“I hadn’t considered the lady’s stamina, my bad.”

“It’s okay.”

Mariella accepted the apology grimly.

It really was fine. She wasn’t tired anyway.

A few months ago, she’d been travelling all over the castle, doing chores, and she couldn’t possibly be tired from a quick tour of the head’s house.

It was all a lie to buy time to meet Mihael.

* * *

Marianne was told not to worry, but it wasn’t as if Mariella was treated any differently. Mihael avoided Mariella as well. Neither sending someone to summon him nor going to see him in person worked. He was a wall in every direction, but ironically, it was for that very reason that she simply summoned him.

There was no trick to it.

“Your Royal Highness, Mihael Schlitz.”

She simply used Josef’s name.

In Josef’s office without him, Mariella smiled faintly at the sound of Mihael’s voice outside the door. It felt good to see someone so easy to deal with after so long.

“Your Highness the Prince.”

Mihail’s voice came once more, and she said nothing.

He must have taken her silence for Josef’s anger, because from the doorway, Mihael began his confession.

“I know how you must feel, Your Highness. And I will not hesitate to give you my life if you plan to ask me to pay for my sins, so that you can end it on my terms and bury the whole thing.”

Mariella stalked toward the door.

She had to stop him. Any more and Marianne’s infidelity would become public knowledge.

With a bang, the door swung open.

“You don’t have to, that’s not why I called you in.”

Mariella checked her face, then turned to face Mihael, whose facial muscles were crumpling like paper with contempt in his eyes.

“I’ll go back.”

Mihael turned with a bowing gesture. Mariella raised both her eyebrows mockingly.

“Against the prince’s orders?”

The word made him pause.

“I only take orders from His Majesty.”

“Josef’s orders, yes. He sent for you, for me.”

“What on earth is your connection to His Highness Josef? I thought you were a princess… no, a maid from the House of Riedenburg.”

Turning towards her again, Mihael bared his teeth and snarled. He may have been young, but he could match a full-grown knight in strength and never lose.

Even in the face of his fury, Mariella was undaunted. She pushed the door open a little further, creating a gap just wide enough for him to enter.

“Do you really think we should have such confidential discussions in the hallway? Come in.”

Mihael glared at her with suspicion, but even his unfamiliarity with politics told him she was right.

He let his guard down and stepped into the office. With a click, the door was locked, and the stilted dialogue between the two could begin.

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