Mia looked directly at Dega when she heard that he "wanted to become the domain lord" as well. While this was no job she was particularly enchanted with, she still felt somewhat obligated to do what she could for the citizens.
Yet, a free adventurer's lifestyle was what Mia would truly prefer. She idly wondered if she could really just leave the domain lord job to someone else like Dega. That would mean leaving the domain in the hands of a bandit… which didn't seem like such a good idea. Wait, wasn't she technically now a bandit as well?
"Ugh, I just made a mistake with my words, a mistake! Ignore what I just said. I definitely won't overthrow you!" Dega was obviously quite flustered.
Seeing how he was, Mia decided not to pursue the matter. There were more important things for her to be focusing on right now.
"That's fine. I'll make sure it doesn't come to things such that you want to overthrow me. Could you tell me more about occupations and job classes? You mentioned being a former mercenary, and you're currently a bandit. What exactly does that entail?"
Dega scratched his face as he thought about how to explain to the young noble, glad to have a distraction. "Well, mercenary, adventurer, and so on are all simply occupations that people work at in order to support themselves. You know, to make money. I hadn't entered a job class yet back when I was working as a mercenary. As for bandit… that's just a job class like any other. I was basically forced into it by the Count," Dega stated bitterly.
"What do you and your men do to support yourselves?" Mia wanted to know if they also acted like real bandits or if the job class title was just a name.
"…We lay in wait for merchant caravans and rob them," Dega replied sheepishly. It wasn't exactly something he considered glorious. "I don't really have much of a choice," he added to defend himself. "I'm now a wanted criminal. I can't even have a proper job if I wanted, so I've been reduced to highway robbery for the past few years… and before I knew it, I became a Bandit Lord."
"Bandit Lord?" This term caught Mia's attention. "Is that your job class?"
"Yeah." The brown-haired man nodded. "I've just reached level 20 recently and entered this job class. I didn't even know of its existence before then! I don't know a single person who's gone this far down the bandit job class line. Since this job class is typically only received by those who go down a certain lifestyle, it's not one where most people can have a long and peaceful life…" Dega chuckled sarcastically at himself.
"If you could work again, would you like to come work under me when this is all over?" Mia gave Dega a job offer. He was the first level 20 advanced job class member she had come across, after all. But even if he wasn't at this level, she wasn't in a state where she could afford to be choosy about her allies.
Still, what was with her unbalanced party composition? She was still only level 4 and incredibly weak, while Colson was level 12. Add the level 20 Dega to the mix and all three of them would have wildly differing skill levels. Weren't player character parties in games supposed to be well balanced? Well, real life was quite different after all. Mia had no intentions of "partying up" with other little kids on her level.
If she had it her way, once she became a full-fledged noble, she would use her money to hire the most powerful adventurers she could and train up her own team. Wouldn't that be one of the best ways to make use of her noble status? She could be allowed such a small selfish personal desire, right?
"Really? You'd take me in even after knowing that I've committed robbery?" Dega was shocked to hear this. He had presumed that they would only be temporarily working together until Count Hart was stopped. Nobles had their pride, after all. What noble would want to take in a criminal like him? Even he looked down on his own current situation and lifestyle.
"Of course. What happened to you before wasn't your fault. If you still want the chance to work at a proper job rather than being an outlaw for the rest of your life, that means you still have at least some decency left in you. Besides, I need allies as well, people I can trust. You know how the Hart soldiers really are, better than anyone. They're all just my father's lapdogs. I fully intend to do internal cleansing once I'm able to take power."
Mia knew from her studies in psychology that one of the ways to truly reform a criminal was to give him an honest job. Of course, this only worked for criminals who were forced into crime by their circumstances, rather than hardened career criminals. She hadn't lied to Dega at all, as she indeed needed allies to stand by her side even after Count Hart was dealt with.
When she had been asleep in his arms, Dega hadn't done anything towards her at all even though she was at her most vulnerable. Not only that, he was an adult who was willing to talk to her and hear her out as an equal rather than simply treating her as a child. It wasn't like she could go straight out and tell a person she just met that she was actually mentally much older inside, so having someone she could talk to like this was quite invaluable to her.
Colson worked under her as well, and would do as she asked, but he still had the tendency to treat her as a young child. Not to mention, he was still quite immature himself, being only sixteen years old. Mia actually found it far easier to talk to the adult Dega. She could only hope that Colson would mature soon.
Dega was quite moved at hearing the silver-haired little girl call him a "person she could trust." When was the last time he had heard something like that?
Although he had fellow bandits working under him, Dega knew quite well that some of them weren't exactly the nice type. But, what could he do about them under the circumstances? He needed every bit of power he could muster, and all of them were connected together by mutual grudges against Count Hart.
Ostensibly, he was the bandits' leader. This was due to the law of the jungle, as he was recognized by everyone as the strongest among them due to his time working as a former mercenary. Derek was probably the most trustworthy person he had with him, if only because of Derek's simple mind.
Still, speaking of trust? Dega did his best to rein his underlings in and not kill unnecessarily. Basically, all they could do was pick on the weak and avoid the strong. A normal lifestyle had completely gone out the window for him ever since he returned home that day and found his wife and daughter dead.
Could it be that he really had a chance at returning to a normal lifestyle once again, rather than having to hide in the woods and mountains?
"Yes, I'll be more than happy to accept, if you'll have me!" A faint smile even replaced his previously bitter expression.
Mia nodded when she heard his acceptance. That was one peg assured of in her plans now. However, that was something quite a way off in the future. It was now time to discuss the present.
"I found out that the next tax collection levying is scheduled in three days' time. As you and I both know, that's basically just a euphemism to outright rob the citizens. There will be too many guards going to face directly. My idea is to warn the citizens of Clearlight Town before it happens, along with seeing if we can do anything about any guards that separate from the larger groups they'll be traveling in."
By now, hearing such detailed planning from the silver-haired little girl no longer surprised Dega. "Alright, I'll talk with the other guys in my group and see what we can do about telling some of the folks in town. There's some families that sympathize with us, even if I don't dare to show my face around due to the reward money placed on my head."
"This time, apparently the Count won't be personally going, but my older half-brother Barnaby will. I'm going to have a duel with him two weeks from now. …Think of it as an internal power struggle among nobles. Are you familiar with Barnaby Hart?"
Dega shook his head. "I've only heard of him but have never seen him in person. You nobles sure have it rough as well, huh. Dueling family members like that? Sure must be a fancy lifestyle." He'd heard before of nobles' internal struggles for power, but never expected to find out about something like this happening to kids so young.
"It's complicated. By the way, did you realize that I've now become a bandit job class member as well?" Mia had a subtle expression in her eyes. She wanted to see Dega's reaction to this.
"You what?" Clearly, Dega wasn't expecting to hear this. A bandit girl of Mia's age? Besides, all he did was give her a skill book on one of the most basic bandit class skills, [Ransack]. For her to have entered the bandit class, didn't that mean that she mastered it already? In just such a short period of time?
"Mia… how? Just what did you do to actually enter the bandit class?" Did she rob some merchant blind?
Mia shrugged. "Nothing much. All I did was read the skill book you gave me. The next thing I knew, my sub-class was a bandit, according to my status. Oh – there is one thing. I integrated the [Ransack] spell with my wind magic so that I could use it constantly without having to activate it over and over again. I'm primarily a wind mage, by the way. Does that count?"
"You…" Dega didn't even know what to say as he paused for a moment. "Yeah, you enter a job class by mastering one of its basic skills, just like what you've apparently done with [Ransack]. Do you know what you've done? There's no changing your job class once you've entered it! This will lock you out of all other class-specific skills! All of the bandit class skills are basically related to violence and robbery!" He felt as if he had ruined her future.
Mia wasn't nearly as concerned as Dega. Violence and robbery? Perhaps that could even come in useful in this world. Technically, just fighting an ever-stronger onslaught of monsters and demons meant that there would be an endless amount of violence.
Besides, her gaming experience told her that it was fruitless to simply rage at circumstances out of her control. Keeping a good mentality was more important than anything. She would just have to make the best out of what she had.
"It's fine, really. And no, I clearly didn't know that it would happen. Otherwise, I wouldn't have done what I did. But, it's not the worst-case scenario. Don't I have you? Are you willing to help teach me the bandit class skills along with training me to become stronger?"
Although she already had Colson, Mia figured that she couldn't go wrong with wanting to learn even more. After all, Dega was also stronger than Colson was. Dega would likely have more techniques he could teach her along with greater combat expertise. She wanted to master everything she could.
"Well… I suppose I could… But, are you really sure this is what you want? To officially become a bandit?" Dega had experience teaching his subordinates already. It was just that he had never taught anyone like Mia before – the other bandits in his group were all young men. He was still hesitant on getting Mia involved any further as a bandit.
"Do I have any other choice? You've already made me into a bandit, so take responsibility!"
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