Mia knew that in a direct speed confrontation, there was no way that her top speed would be able to outrun the boar. However, she knew that thanks to the laws of physics, there would be one drawback to the boar's high-speed Charge!
Objects in motion must stay in motion. Even if this was a magical world, and the scientist known as Newton didn't exist here, the laws of physics still worked – well, for the most part.
Mia surmised that a high-speed Charge would only be able to charge in one direction. The bane of high speed and acceleration was sharp turns, after all. Mia jumped right to the side when the boar began charging, but it still wasn't enough. The boar's Charge clipped the right side of her leg, causing her to nearly stumble.
Mia quickly took a glance at her status using the Status Stone she borrowed from Colson. The Charge attack only glanced off her, but it still gave her 3 damage. She shuddered to think what would have been the result of a direct blow, as she had only a paltry 13 HP to begin with.
The boar seemed unfazed as it turned around to face Mia again. She couldn't tell its status, as there was no more convenient visible HP bar any more like a game's to determine its condition. She had gone over this scenario with Colson already. According to his calculations, it would likely take her four good hits on the boar to defeat it.
This time, the boar's speed was obviously slower than the first time as it rushed towards her again! Mia was unsure if there was anything like a cooldown limitation, a use restriction, or if it was just the boar's random whim on how to use its only known skill. But, this definitely seemed easier to dodge, even in a child's body.
Mia mentally calculated the boar's course and speed as she sidestepped. She considered her reaction speed above average. Not only did she play turn-based RPGs before in her past life, she also played real time strategy games before and had some experience in dodging enemies' attacks. However, that was all in a game in the past, and didn't extend to her physical body. Well, that was part of the point of this training against low-level monsters, to train her body's reaction time to follow her brain's.
This time, the boar zoomed past Mia at a speed resembling a dog's without managing to touch her. Mia sliced down diagonally in the basic form that she had been practicing, and her wooden sword smacked with a satisfying thud against the boar's back.
If Colson's calculations were correct, this attack should have reduced the boar's HP to approximately half! A natural wild animal's first instinct in this type of situation would have been to flee, but the Wild Boar was a mana-infused creature whose aggression had overtaken its sense of reason. It only knew that it absolutely had to take down the hated enemy before it using the only method it knew: brute force.
The Wild Boar used Charge once more, but Mia was beginning to get accustomed to keeping up with the Boar's speed.
Just as Mia was about to prepare for her next attack -
A figure suddenly stepped out of the woods and intercepted the boar, before slaying it with a single vicious slash! The boar's corpse vanished and transformed into two earth element crystal shards which fell onto the ground.
Mia was too stunned at this sudden occurrence to even react, but she quickly regained her senses. Colson, however, still had his mouth wide agape.
The figure turned around and smiled at Mia. He was a young boy that Mia judged to be roughly three years older than she was, so perhaps eight or nine years old. He had a head of blonde curly hair with a fair and handsome complexion, and was dressed in what Mia saw as regal attire. Add on to the fact that following him out of the woods were several adults dressed in a typical knightly fashion, Mia guessed that this boy must be a wandering noble from somewhere else. No commoner boy would even have such knowledge of swordsmanship or be out here with such an escort, after all.
When the noble-seeming boy noticed Colson standing behind Mia, his wide smile instantly changed into a frown.
"You there, just what do you think you're doing? I assume you're this girl's escort? What could you possibly be thinking, just standing by and watching as this young lady fights with her life in peril?"
Mia understood instantly as the young boy who was obviously used to being in a position of authority began berating the much older Colson. This boy had mistaken her for a damsel in distress! Before the dumbfounded Colson could respond, she decided to respond first as she believed it was only right for her to deal with situations that arose as she was the master. Imperceptibly, she was also getting used to a position of authority.
"I think you've misunderstood something here. While this young man here may indeed be my guard, he was merely standing aside as per my orders. This was merely part of my personal training. Besides, just who might you be, and what are you doing here? This is the Hart domain, and I am Mia Hart, daughter of Count Hart. You appear to be noble yourself, so what business do you have here?"
Mia wasn't inclined to interfere in political affairs at her current young physical age. She was just somewhat displeased at having her training interrupted like that on her very first try at defeating a monster, so challenging this noble boy's presence in the Clearlight Forest was merely her way of venting.
The adults standing behind the boy seemed more taken aback by her question than the boy himself. They appeared to become uneasy and Mia even heard one of them say "Milord..." in a low voice. This caused her to mentally go on guard, and she began counting the adults. There were seven of them, six men and one woman, spread out in a semicircle behind the boy.
'Did I accidentally trod upon something I shouldn't have? I know it's definitely breaking noble protocol to visit another noble's domain unannounced. Are they doing something they shouldn't be doing here?'
At this time, the blonde boy raised his right hand and quelled his followers' murmurs. "I understand. I am Jared Asharon, son of Count Asharon from your neighboring domain. I should be asking you instead: if you are a noble lady as you say, what are you doing in a forest such as this, entangled in an encounter with a dangerous, vicious beast? Why do you have only one personal attendant? What is this personal training you speak of?"
Although exasperated, Mia knew that this would likely be the first in a long line of future similar questions. The society here was somewhat patriarchal, and while it wasn't unheard of for women to be in direct combat, it was far rarer for noble girls to do so. It was considered an issue of class, as direct combat was viewed to be the work of commoners, while nobles preferred what they saw as the elegance of magic. Well, this limitation was only placed on girls, as noble boys would still typically learn swordsmanship as part of their education. Still, it wasn't strictly forbidden, so Mia intended to do as she pleased. She preferred to look on the bright side in this instance: things were still better here for women than in some societies she could name for women in the previous "modern" world of hers.
"I'm sorry, but I see no reason why I cannot do as I please in the Clearlight Forest of my own domain. I'm currently honing my swordsmanship skills for the future. Rather than relying on others, I simply prefer to be able to rely on myself once I have the ability to do so, rather than relying on strength of numbers. As a noble, one must have the proper qualities to take command of others and be worthy of being respected. This has nothing to do with being male or female. As a fellow noble, surely you would agree?"
The blonde boy's face flushed slightly red upon hearing this, perhaps detecting the subtle jab aimed at him in Mia's words. However, he quickly regained his composure and smiled brilliantly once more.
"Indeed, your words make sense. In that case, I apologize for interrupting your 'training,' and I shall be on my way. However, as a gentleman, I cannot possibly let my conscience rest at ease if I were to send off a lady such as yourself with only one guard in this forest where dangerous beasts run rampant. Risa!"
"Yes, Milord." The only woman among Jared's retinue stepped forward.
"Please see to it that Lady Hart and her guard safely return to Count Hart. Act as their temporary escort while they remain in this forest. Meet up with us at the prearranged meeting location afterwards. The rest of us shall withdraw and leave Lady Hart to continue her training or return home as she pleases. Goodbye, Lady Hart. It was a pleasure meeting you."
Mia mentally scoffed at how he described the Clearlight Forest as a location where "dangerous beasts run rampant," when she knew already that there were only level 1 and 2 monsters in this location that was basically a beginner's area. She also noticed that this boy calling himself Jared sidestepped her question, not answering anything about what he was doing here. However, she didn't intend to pry or escalate this into a possible direct confrontation, as the result would obviously be disadvantageous to her. If there was to be another "escort" for her, she didn't mind, no matter what the motivations were as long as it didn't affect her directly, and she wouldn't allow such a thing to inconvenience her plans.
"Goodbye, then. Thank you for your kind offer of assistance. I shall graciously accept your generous offer. Come, it's also time for us to be on our way as well."
Unbeknownst to Mia, as the noble boy's party split up from her, his group walked into an empty clearing before one of "Jared's" followers spoke up.
"Prince Felix, what if your true identity gets exposed? Could this noble girl possibly end up jeopardizing our mission?"
"Relax, haven't our scouts already determined that the lord of this domain, Count Hart, is nothing more than a local tyrant who doesn't pay the slightest attention to politics? It's already an anomaly for him to have such a daughter who's so clearheaded despite her age and upbringing. That's why I sent Risa, who's skilled in clandestine techniques to follow her. I shall also send Risa a follow-up message for her to pay attention to the situation and if my identity as an imposter for the real Jared is uncovered."
The man nodded, but he was secretly thinking to himself that his lord was akin to the pot calling the kettle black as the young prince himself was only nine years old and already being groomed to become a potential future ruler, although of course he wouldn't say such a thing out loud. Meanwhile, Harls, Prince Felix's eldest retainer, spoke up.
"Our current mission involves only gathering intelligence, and causing the disappearance of a young noble would only needlessly stir the waters. As reliable as that young lady just now may have seemed, judging by her age, she must be at most five or six years old? Perhaps she'll mature into a fine leader in the future, but it is highly unlikely that she'll have the time to do so before our Rodan Kingdom finishes its preparations for invading the Hoplia Kingdom. Even if that despot Count Hart of Hoplia managed to miraculously produce a talented heir, it's doubtful that she'll have any influence within her own domain for many years to come. We should have Risa simply observe the situation for the time being and continue our mission of gathering intelligence on the Hoplia Kingdom. This is supposed to also serve as a training of sorts for our young prince, so let us trust in his judgement and decision making and guide him only as necessary."
Felix smiled upon hearing this. "Thank you for your support as always, Harls. Even if the Hoplians will become our enemies in the future, there are some things that simply shouldn't be done to beautiful girls like the girl we just met. She seems to be an interesting one; perhaps I'll have to keep an eye on her in the future if we ever have a chance to meet again."
Felix's smile then changed to a frown as he thought of something.
"Still though, that girl was really a noble? I never would have deigned to intervene had I realized she was a noble. Based on how she was dressed in commoner attire, I never would have guessed! If she had been a commoner, this would have been an excellent opportunity to give some local residents a favorable impression of me, but it turns out that she's a smart-ass noble! Hmph, I'm going to have to teach her a lesson if I ever see her again."
Harls inwardly sighed at hearing this. As the third prince and one of the candidates for inheriting the throne in the future, Felix had received the finest upbringing and education, making him far more intelligent than most children his age. However, his status at the royal palace meant that few would dare to talk back or disrespect him, so Felix had developed an arrogance typical to upper-class nobles. Harls had been assigned to Felix's side and watched the young prince grow up ever since the prince was a baby, and viewed Felix almost like he would his own son. He felt that Felix's only drawback of arrogance was due to the environment he grew up in. Harls privately hoped that the prince could mature through this opportunity of going outside the Rodan Kingdom during this mission to gather intelligence on the Hoplia Kingdom for a future invasion.
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