It was a few minutes later. Suddenly there was a commotion in the parlour.

“Oh, suddenly my stomach…!”

Daisy exclaimed anxiously as Marianne grabbed her stomach and folded her waist in half.

“Your Highness!”

At the sound, a young maid opened the door to see what was going on.

The maid’s eyes caught sight of Mariella with Marianne on her back, who had stripped off her skimpy dress to reveal a one-piece undergarment.

“Let me pick you up.”

Mariella deftly picked her up and carried her out of the parlour, Daisy following closely behind.

Their steps brought them to the front door of the mansion, where the maid and Cedric Arell were having a final conversation before leaving. The two were polite and formal with each other, not the usual master and servant relationship.

They looked somewhat surprised when Mariella appeared, carrying Marianne on her back. Whether it was because Marianne looked ill, or because Mariella was wearing a thin dress that could hardly be called underwear, or for some other mysterious reason altogether, was not yet known.

“Her Royal Highness is complaining of stomach pains. We need to see the doctor urgently.”

Marquis Arell smiled gently at Mariella’s urgent words.

“We’ll send for a doctor.”

Mariella shook her head no.

“No, I will only borrow a carriage.”

“How can I send a shabby carriage for such a distinguished guest?”

“I don’t have time for the doctor’s visits.”

“You will have to make time.”

Now he doesn’t even consider going around anymore.

Mariella’s eyes sharpened. Cedric Arell was only looking down at her leisurely.

She handed Marianne in her arms to Daisy and called his name.

“Marquis Arell.”

“Yes, Marquis of Coburden.”

“Aren’t you here in the capacity of a Greenard diplomat? I must ask if you have permission to be so rude to us, or… was this all the intention of the Greenard royal family?”

The tips of Cedric Arell’s eyebrows rose slightly. He seemed to admire her shrewdness in discerning his true nature in such a short time.

“You are quite correct. I cannot avoid your sharpness, even if I try.”

The corner of Cedric Arell’s mouth lifted very gently as he slowly closed and opened his eyes.

A certain desire flashed in his cloudy green eyes, hidden and revealed by his eyelids.

Something more like a longing than an eagerness stirred within him.

“Princess Marianne, Marquis of Coburden, and Lady Daisy. You have all been detained in this manor. I suggest you return to your quarters and remain quiet.”

He addressed the three of them politely, with no hint of coercion in his tone, urging them to return and remain quiet. The three were speechless at the turn of events.

As if he hadn’t been so harsh before, he turned his face into a gentlemanly expression and walked out the door.

The maid called after the Marquis of Arell.

“One hour from now.”

The Marquis of Arell scowled at the maid.

“Take good care of her.”

“We will.”

Their conversation ended, and the door closed firmly behind them.

* * *

“Marianne is at your mansion?”

Later in the day, Josef greeted the Marquis of Arell in the royal drawing room.

“Yes. She is in the process of being stabilised. She inhaled some smoke, but nothing to worry about.”

Josef’s expression remained calm as he told them that his wife was safe.

Not surprisingly, his concern was for the well-being of others.

“I understand her two handmaidens came with her. Are all three safe?”

“Ah, yes. All three of them are unharmed. However, the carriage they were travelling in was destroyed by the fire, wherever it may have come from. I would like you to send me a comfortable, plush carriage to my mansion for the princess to ride in on her way home.”

“That is of course a matter for us to take care of, you don’t need to ask so politely.”

Josef smiled mildly, in keeping with the image of the glazed, docile prince he had so well constructed. His gaze returned to the Marquis of Arell’s shabby attire.

The Marquis of Arell was dressed in his best fire-fighting clothes, and Josef was almost taken aback.

After stifling his laughter with a cough, he naturally changed the subject.

“By the way, the Marquis had quite the outfit. I don’t need to see the fire to know how big it is.”

“My apologies. I was in a hurry to get them to the mansion, and I thought it was an urgent matter…”

The Marquis of Arell flashed a wry smile.

Josef shook his head slightly and said softly.

“I didn’t mean it as a rebuke.”

That was it. Suddenly, the door burst open, and the knights of the Order of the Black Wolf burst in.

“We’re in trouble!”

“Her Royal Highness has been kidnapped!”

The Marquis of Arell jumped to his feet as soon as he heard those words. The Marquis looked bewildered and denied the situation.

“What do you mean, Her Highness was surely escorted to my mansion…”

The knights, eager to report on the situation, cut off the Marquis of Arell’s words and rushed forward to relay what they knew.

“Unknown assailants have barricaded the gates of the manor. They’re holding the princess hostage.”

“It seems they were responsible for the extreme fire in the first place.”

The Marquis of Arell gave them an improbable look and once again denied the situation. It was a masterful performance that would have fooled a stranger.

“How did you know Her Highness went to see the play. I had secured the tickets separately.”

The icy gazes of the Black Wolf Knights focused on the Marquis of Arell.

“As a diplomat for Greenard, you must be well versed in international affairs, so I assume you’re familiar with Verdan’s relations with Ashakal these days.”

“I am aware that there is some sort of conflict between the two countries. But what does that have to do with this case…”

“Of course it does. We are the Knights of the Black Wolf who have been investigating Duke Pakal and the royal family of Ashakal. Do you know why we were the first to notice this incident?”


“You said you had new servants and maids.”

“The homesickness of the original servants got worse, so I sent them back and found new ones here, but..”

“Do you also know that your new maidservant is from Ashakal?”

“…I was unaware of that matter as it was entrusted to my assistant. However, it’s highly unlikely. You think I would scheme to deceive His Highness, the Crown Prince? Me, a powerless marquis from Greenard?”

The Marquis continued to deny the situation. All of this, of course, was carefully planned acting and dialogue.

‘First, I play dumb and let everyone’s guard down, then I throw information at them that will make them suspect me. Then, to them, I’m just a stupid, pathetic nobleman who couldn’t even cover up my own mistakes. There’s no more perfect way to avoid suspicion.’

The knights stared at the Marquis of Arell, unable to hide their pathetic expressions, and the more they did so, the more satisfied the Marquis of Arell became.

‘I must appear as a poor Greenard noble who unfortunately got entangled with the Duke of Ashakal. I cannot risk my alliance with Verdan just to get what I want.’

The Marquis had played his part to the hilt.

The knights’ gazes shifted from the Marquis of Arell to Josef. They cautiously weighed the possibilities.

“Could it be Edmund Pakal?”

“The royal family of Ashakal could be behind it.”


Josef rubbed his chin and made a troubled gesture.

It was then that the Marquis of Arell stumbled to his feet and knelt before him.

“I, for one, will take the blame. I have unintentionally put Her Highness in danger, and I will pay for it with my life.”

The deputy leader of the Black Wolf Knights helped him to his feet and made another offer.

“In exchange for your cooperation in helping us to rescue Her Highness, can you show us the internal structure of the mansion?”

The two men discussed the matter of the princess’s rescue. The prince’s presence was at once a distraction. The apparent disregard didn’t bother Josef. His interests lay elsewhere.

“So that’s what happened…”

Josef’s gaze was fixed on one place.

Cedric Arell’s black sleeve buttons were glistening.

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