Mia was actually just joking about eating rat meat for breakfast. It was just her way of offhandedly responding to the servants' earlier comments that she overheard.
After some consideration, Mia forced herself to enter the storeroom and take a look at the rat's corpse despite Colson's pleas to the contrary. It was imperative to her that she understood precisely what had happened here.
There were some brown pellets underneath the rat's body, a result of the rodent losing control over its bodily functions as it perished. Mia idly wondered if she had some sort of mystical connection to animal feces – why was it that she was constantly having such encounters over the past two days?
The rat was bleeding from its eyes, an unpleasant sight to see, which Mia ended up averting her gaze from. Colson had an incredulous expression on his face – all Mia did was close her eyes for a few minutes, and she managed to kill the rat through a closed storeroom without even lifting a finger? It was as if he'd witnessed an ant suddenly throwing down a heavy boulder. He knew about Mia's E rank in wind magic, and that she didn't have anything more than the power to summon light breezes.
"What happened here? How… how did the rat become like this?" Colson couldn't comprehend at all.
"Well… science." Mia didn't know how to explain the concept of asphyxiation via lack of oxygen to him, so she went with a simpler explanation. "You know that all of us have to breathe air in order to survive, right? I basically removed all the air in the room so that that rat had nothing left to breathe. This is the end result."
Colson was stupefied as he listened to Mia's explanation. Remove all the air from a room to prevent a person from breathing? This seemed… unimaginably scary to him. Wouldn't this mean that Mia had the ability to kill anyone she wanted with the power of her mind?
"It's not as powerful as it looks," Mia added upon seeing his expression. "There are many limitations on using this. As you can see for yourself, it took everything I had to even accomplish it. Who knows if this will even work on an actual human? Relax, I have no intentions of killing my half-brother Barnaby at the duel. Back to the drawing board, I suppose."
This indeed had too many limitations for her to be using it in the duel. Just having used her magic to drain the air from the storeroom caused her to run out of mana. Not to mention, could she really just kill Barnaby in the duel with zero consequences for her?
In this world, nobles were the ones who made and enforced local laws, as much as Mia could tell. Count Hart basically acted like a king in his own domain, viewing citizens' lives like insects that could easily be trampled on. But no matter what, Barnaby was his own son, bastard son or not. Mia highly doubted Count Hart would react in a friendly manner if she killed her half-brother right in front of him.
There was also plenty more for her to experiment with when her mana recovered. For instance, whether she could replicate the effects, or if she would be able to do this in an open-air environment.
She also needed to start thinking of a method to deal with Barnaby on fire… whoops, Barnaby's fire magic. After all, fire also relied on oxygen in order to burn. Would it really be the same for magical fires, though? Mia felt that it would. After all, what she read before in the introduction to magic was that elemental magic would be affected by the environment a mage was in.
If that was the case, with water mages being weaker in deserts and so on, wouldn't lacking oxygen inhibit the ability for the fire to burn as long as it could have? Mia figured it was worth a try. How she could safely experiment with fire was the main question at hand.
Theoretically speaking, as a wind mage, she should have been the weakest in enclosed locations or underground areas. Instead, such areas might actually become the best possible places for her to fight in, as they would be the easiest to thin out the oxygen from, Mia bemusedly thought to herself.
Mia returned to her room and rested for several minutes before packing some of her things. There was the matter of the ice magic book and the unknown potion that she received from the treasure chests, which she wanted to ask Dega more about.
Rather than actually waiting to have a rat breakfast, Mia grabbed some simple rations to eat as breakfast on the way and left the Hart mansion to go to her meeting with Dega. Colson was left behind to his majestic rat catching duties for the sake of magical experimentation.
However, she was too preoccupied with her thoughts and plans to realize that Colson had interpreted her words regarding rat catching a little too seriously.
Catching that many rats would be no easy feat. Colson accepted Mia's words at face value and took the "advice" to ask some other household servants for rat catching assistance.
He recalled another piece of advice from Mia regarding not saying more than necessary. And so, he headed to the kitchen and asked the maids working there for assistance…
"Hey, could you all inform me if you see any rats around here? Lady Mia said that she would like to try eating some for her breakfast." The way Colson thought of it that it was a joke excuse that Mia was using to catch rats for her magic experimentation. Even he didn't interpret it literally that she wanted to actually eat rats.
Yet, the scenario was different for the Hart mansion's servants. While Mia often conversed with Colson, she rarely talked to the servants at all, except for the occasional task that she was unable to do herself, such as carrying a heavy barrel of water for her bath.
In a way, it was Mia's own fault that there were so many rumors amongst the servants about her being an eerie child. She was simply unused to acting the part, and much preferred to just be herself.
Her personal maid, Ellie, was one of the main sources of rumors regarding Mia being a creepy child.
While Ellie performed her duties adequately when she first arrived, she was simply a teenage girl who was far more interested in looking pretty than taking care of young children. Well, this was part of the reason she got hired in the first place.
Ellie was a slightly taller-than-average auburn-haired beauty with violet eyes, dressed in tight clothing that accentuated her busty figure. She soon caught the eye of Count Hart, and became just one of his women among many.
In theory, she was the maid assigned to take care of any and all of Mia's personal needs. In practice, since Mia didn't particularly need Ellie's services, Ellie had more free time than the average servant and used a lot of time on idle gossip.
"Lady Mia never smiles or even laughs. She's always reading a book or together with her bodyguard. Ha, I almost feel sorry for the poor kid for not knowing how to have fun."
"Did you know? She hardly ever screamed or cried even as a baby. She always just sat there, staring at me. I bet anything that she's not right in the head."
"Lady Mia has a fascination with monsters. Just recently, she asked me if there are any books around about slimes. Slimes! Could it be that the only thing she loves is a slime?"
It could be said that Ellie had no respect for her noble master at all. Mia was more than aware of this, which was why she'd never even considered the idea of taking in Ellie as one of her close personal retainers. This was also why Ellie had incredibly few duties to take care of, as Mia generally didn't want to have Ellie around to bother her.
So, when Colson told Ellie that Mia would like to "eat some rats for breakfast" as the reason why he was searching for rats, Ellie actually didn't even blink in surprise. Mia's eccentricities were nothing strange to her. But of course, with her gossipy mouth, this was destined to become headline new all across the mansion almost instantly.
"But of course. Would Lady Mia like them boiled or fried?"
That definitely wasn't what Colson expected to hear. He had been expecting a laugh, or at least a question as to why. Instead, Mia's personal maid seemed to just take this in stride. Did she really consider his master Mia as the type to actually eat rats? He let his mouth hang wide agape for a few moments before he finally thought of something to say.
"…Uh, there's no need for that. She said that she wants the rats to be alive."
"Live rats for breakfast? Understood. I'll have it arranged for tomorrow."
Colson really didn't know what to say anymore. This was what his master Mia wanted, right? She would be getting some more rats tomorrow morning, as she wished. However, he was having serious doubts about the excuse that Mia had given him in order to obtain rats.
Meanwhile, Mia arrived at the bat monster's cave, where she saw Dega waiting for her as expected.
"Did you wait long?"
"Not at all." Upon seeing Mia arrive, Dega stood up and greeted her. "I just arrived here maybe fifteen minutes ago."
Mia thought about what to go over first with Dega. Yep, although she needed to go over future plans with him as well, the most important right now was to learn more knowledge about the present. Specifically, regarding the fact that she was now apparently in a bandit sub-class, according to her status. She also wanted to know more regarding his specific power level.
"Dega, please allow me to formally introduce myself again, as we're now going to be allies, not enemies. I am Mia Hart, the daughter of our local domain lord, Count Hart. My goal is to overthrow Count Hart and become the domain lord. This is for my own sake. However, I believe that our goals coincide. Now then, could you please tell me more about yourself?"
Hearing this, Dega thought back to his first encounter with Mia Hart. Now that she mentioned it, he never really did properly introduce himself, did he? During their first meeting, he had brought along all his subordinates in an attempt to intimidate her since he learned that she was Count Hart's daughter. Now that he thought back onto it, that was actually rather embarrassing of him, especially since she never seemed scared of him at all.
Still, a proper introduction was something he hadn't done in a long time with the lifestyle he'd been leading as of late.
"Cough, I'm Dega Stormwell, former member of the Bluewing mercenary group, and current bandit chief, at your service. My goal is also to overthrow Count Hart and become the domain lord. No wait, that's not what I meant to say!" Dega had tried to copy Mia's format for doing an introduction, but accidentally ended up copying a little too much. He definitely had no intentions of becoming the domain lord!
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