Year 193 of the Hoplian calendar, Mia Hart (7 years old).
An almost imperceptible change in the wind jolted Mia awake from her typically light sleep, as she always cast wind magic passively even while sleeping these days. While her magic was weak in terms of offense, its nature made it quite suitable for scouting-related purposes such as what was apparently happening tonight. Her [Detection lvl. 3] spell had notified her that another human presence was approaching the nearby vicinity.
Mia took a quick look outside her window. There were no clocks in this world, so she wasn't sure of the exact time, but the faint light trickling in from the moonlit night informed her that it must have been close to twilight.
An unknown figure was skulking around in the corridor outside her bedroom in the Hart mansion. However, their target didn't appear to be Mia's room. Rather, the furtive intruder slowly took their time in front of the room adjacent to hers – the bedroom that belonged to her father, the lord of this domain.
No normal servant of the Hart household should have been up and about at this time of night. If he was a servant, his purpose here at this timing could only be a nefarious one. With her curiosity naturally piqued, Mia silently picked up her ceremonial sword which was basically a glorified dagger from her bedside table as she slipped out of bed barefoot in an effort to muffle the sound of her footsteps as much as she possibly could.
Mia smoothly slipped out of her nightgown and into clothes that were easier to move around in, having a premonition that freedom of movement may come in handy. The simple action of changing her clothes was something incredibly normal, but the feeling of fabric against her skin only raised her tension instead of giving a comforting feeling. She also grabbed her pouch of sand that she carried around for the sake of blinding a potential attacker's eyes and loosened the pouch's drawstring. Then, she summoned her pet Slime and put on her armor.
Tiptoeing through the darkness to her bedroom door, Mia opened it by an unnoticeable amount and peered through the crack. Although the corridor was dimly illuminated, the moonlight streaming in from the window showed her the clear side profile of a medium height black-haired boy who had an intense gaze as he focused on breaking through her father's bedroom door without making too much noise. He had a slender build that showed signs of malnourishment, and he was evidently trying and failing to prevent his hands from shaking as they were still trembling ever so slightly.
He was concentrating solely on the door, showing no vigilance towards his surroundings. If looks could kill, he would have burned a hole through the door already with the crystal-clear killing intent that he was exuding.
Mia recognized who he was, even if she wasn't too familiar with him. He was a new 'servant' who had been picked up by her father for 'training and pleasure' purposes just three days ago. She hadn't spoken to him yet, nor did she know his name. Was he here for his own purposes, or was someone instructing him? The expression on his face seemed far too serious for someone who was merely carrying out orders, so she suspected it was a personal grudge of some sort. No surprise there, given that her father Count Hart ruled this domain with an iron fist and was as corrupt and depraved as any typical storybook noble one could imagine.
This was a private hallway on the second floor, with guards stationed at the staircase. Nobody that didn't have permission would be allowed here, but this boy had been stashed in the other room adjacent to her father's bedroom, which explained how he was easily able to appear here.
After about one minute, there was a soft *click* in the air as the lock popped open and the boy clenched his fist in a victorious pose. Without even a second's hesitation, he rushed into her father's bedroom.
Mia didn't have the luxury of taking her time to consider. She made a split-second decision – to follow him and find out what his intentions were. If what he was planning matched her suspicions, then the two of them shared a common cause – desiring the demise of her father.
Just in case, Mia used her wind magic to envelop this area with a soft breeze blowing inwardly, serving to trap sound within an isolated pocket. This worked on the same principle of how she typically controlled the airflow around her to bring faraway sounds to her ears. Mia had a hunch that it would serve her purposes for nobody to overhear what was about to occur.
Even if there was any danger to her, Mia considered it likely that she would have the advantage of surprise over him. It also seemed as if the boy was unarmed: there were no telltale bulges of weapons on his figure, nor did he pause to draw one as he excitedly rushed into the room.
With her body fully tense, Mia stealthily approached her father's bedroom door with drawn dagger at the ready. Fortunately for her, he didn't close the door behind him and left it ajar. Was it recklessness or inexperience on his part? Or could it be… that he simply didn't care about the consequences of being discovered now?
The black-haired boy was holding his hands over the sleeping figure of Mia's father. His back was turned to her, and Mia couldn't quite comprehend what was going on. However, Mia quickly figured out the situation when her father's previously peaceful sleeping figure began contorting.
Although Mia had mentally prepared herself beforehand, witnessing the death of a human firsthand was no simple thing to tolerate, even if it wasn't her first time by now. She still hadn't hardened herself to such an extent. However, she felt disgust only at the way he died, with no remorse at the fact of his death.
Mia's father wasn't a complex man; he was a despot that robbed his own citizens, plain and simple. Mia's mother had died a few years after giving birth to her, which was why her father slept alone. The only reason why Mia hadn't turned out like him was because she was a reincarnator and retained her memories from her previous life. This world was a different one from Earth, with magic taking the place of technology and had the setting of a game she played in her previous life.
Count Hart was now thrashing violently while struggling with his blanket. She could hear nothing but gurgles, as any speech he attempted was incoherent. A reeking stench soon filled the room – he must have soiled his nightclothes. Vomit soon came after, but that was the least of Count Hart's problems, as his hands stopped struggling and went limp.
During this entire time, the boy still had his back facing her. He never touched her father even once that Mia saw, but it was apparent this was the effect of a powerful poison. So, was it magical in nature? No matter if it was physical or magical, it must have been spread through the air. Staying vigilant, Mia sent the air currents in the room towards the boy's direction, not wanting to accidentally breathe even a tiny portion of whatever the poison might be.
Perhaps the boy detected the change in the air, or he was simply finished with his dastardly deed, but he finally turned around and noticed Mia standing in the doorway.
"Serve me, and I shall have you spared."
In retrospect, this may not have been the best icebreaker to begin with, but that was the first thought that came into Mia's mind.
"What? Are you crazy? Just who are you?"
Mia met the black-haired, violet-eyed boy's gaze directly as she held the tip of her dagger out in front of her protectively. He was glaring viciously with his head tilted in confusion, but he had more surprise than animosity. Mixed in with the contempt in his eyes was a sign of surprise at Mia's clearly unnatural request to him.
"Me? I'm Mia Hart, pleased to meet you. Who might you be?"
"I'm Zeke Ester – wait, that's not what's important right now! Hart? Doesn't that make you the daughter of Count Hart!?" The boy – Zeke's expression instantly hardened, but it didn't seem that he was about to instantly attack her. That was a good sign for the discussion Mia wanted to have with him.
Wait a moment, Zeke? While the last name was different, that was the name of a major antagonist in the original game of the world she was now in! Was this a chance for her to recruit him to her side before any life-changing events that transformed him into a pure villain? Well, this current event probably counted as the initial act that set him onto the path of a villain, even if his backstory wasn't expanded upon in the original game.
She knew his character backstory and motivations from the game, perhaps even more than he did. She affirmed her mental decision that she needed someone with his talents on her side.
"Yes, indeed it does. Thanks to you, I'm now going to be the next lord of the Hart domain, as I'm the person in the line of succession."
"Join and serve you? What are you even thinking? I just killed your father!"
"Well, I can guess at the reason why you did so. Obviously, it was something like 'Count Hart was a despot, so let's murder him and improve everyone's lives,' etc. etc. Foolish. Haven't you ever considered the consequences of your actions?"
The boy's wiry frame trembled with what Mia perceived to be outrage. "Why do you think I just poisoned your father to death! I didn't do it for anyone's sake but my own, he ruined my life! Your Hart soldiers are nothing more than bandits masquerading as defenders of the peace! Why don't you have me executed and get things over with!?"
While inwardly sighing at his rash behavior that ended in the outcome of his assassinating her father, Mia kept her patience and began explaining her intentions, judging he would be a useful person to make use of in the future. He seemed like the selfish type who only considered his own feelings, so she needed to first reignite his passion now that he seemed to have given up on himself after accomplishing what he set out to do. Mia still remained tense and on guard against any potential sudden movements by the boy, causing her voice to have a terse tone.
"When I said consequences, I wasn't referring to your fate, I was talking about the domain that you're presumably trying to protect so desperately. Who would assist the common folk after you were caught and executed? As the heir to this domain, what if I was just as tyrannical as my father? Even if it wasn't me, whoever ended up inheriting the Hart domain would make a display of punishing the commoners for this treasonous act of rebellion to discourage further instances. What then? Wouldn't things end up worse than before? Wouldn't more people just like you appear in the end?"
"You… you…" The boy was rendered speechless by Mia's words that resembled a lecture.
"Regardless of what your specific grievance against my father was, you've done something that cannot be undone. There's no use crying over spilled milk, so you must move on and deal with the aftermath. Judging by the magical skill that you just used to kill my father, I can make use of someone with your abilities. I don't hate you for killing my father, it's undeniable that he was nothing more than scum. I shall give you two choices: serve me and atone for your crimes by living, or die right here and now by my hands."
'Just how did things become like this, that I would want to recruit the killer of my father?'
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