It happened a year after the first prince's first visit...
Miriette and Horeo would often see each other and Zoemi would be accompanying them without question.
There was hardly a month when the three children weren't playing together – and during all the time in-between visits, Zoemi was being pulled around by Miriette and playing with her as a representative stand-in selected by the young prince.
At first, it was a very much anxiety-inducing nightmare for Zoemi but soon, the black-haired boy got used to talking to the most important person in his life without the crippling fear of being hated for every little action that he did.
Was there even a need to say how he was feeling about his life?
Zoemi was honestly happy.
Miriette liked the prince and, thankfully, Horeo favored Miriette just as much.
But no matter what, Espine's castle wasn't only a place for Zoemi, Miriette, and Horeo – it was the house of the great duke after all – and going with that logic, it was obvious that other nobles besides the young prince would come with a visit from time to time.
Therefore, one day a general of the Bellcephora Kingdom's army Telorius Graxul Victureo, who wielded rare variant magic - a lightning attribute which attack spells were faster than those of the fire magic but still weaker than the pure light attribute ones - came to the duke's estate to discuss some important matters.
And he brought his son with him.
The young red-haired Grazio Mera Victureo – the first capture target after the first prince Horeo, whom Zoemi met in that world, and the only capture target whose route Zoemi was never able to finish – since, well, he died before he was able to.
Grazio... the one who was hiding his flaming personality under the mask of seriousness.
As the red-haired boy and Miriette were of the same age, Telorius thought that his son could become Miriette's friend and therefore an alliance between the houses of Espine and Victureo could be formed.
When the father and son arrived with an escort - and duke's servants gathered to welcome them and guided them to the dining hall where the duke and his family were waiting.
The official greeting was going without any hitch.
Everyone was calm and presented themselves with great dignity...
Only Zoemi was jittering in his seat.
The black-haired boy who was originally a commoner was attending an official meal with the kingdom's general and the great duke!
It was different than eating with the first prince since the prince was still young and he invited him on his own, but this situation?
After the greeting Zoemi couldn't even properly raise his head in fear that it would offend the important man.
Miriette sneaked a peek at the black-haired boy to her right and sulked a bit seeing him with his head down like that.
It was her idea to have Zoemi there, she eloquently explained to her father that Zoemi was the friend of her fiancé, the first prince, and the first prince himself ordered Zoemi to protect her - therefore, it was only natural that Zoemi would be accompanying her at any and all times!
There were some holes in her logic but she looked so cute pouting with her arms crossed, that duke Espine benevolently agreed.
But now Miriette felt bad because it looked like Zoemi was hating it there and that was the opposite of what she intended!
Both children were so preoccupied with their own thoughts that they missed a contemptuous glare that third child...
Grazio was glaring at them from behind his father's back the whole time.
After the meal, children were allowed to play in the gardens.
"What do you want to play?"
Miriette spoke to Grazio while holding a colorful ball was tilting her head like a puppy. 𝐢𝚗𝚗re𝐚𝚍 𝘤𝘰𝒎
Zoemi was standing a bit farther away and, deep in thoughts as he observed the two.
|Things look great for Miriette and Horeo, but having a backup plan is never a bad idea.|
He thought to himself as he still had some hopes for the unfinished Grazio route...
When the time of condemnation of the villainess would come - it would be better to have as many allies as possible, than not have them at all.
"Hmph! Why would I want to play with someone who has wielded a mere wind attribute!"
But Zoemi's train of thoughts derailed and crashed when Grazio opened his mouth and spoke in an arrogant tone.
Miriette was lost for words and had no idea how to act but Zoemi's blood was boiling.
"Sir Grazio! Lady Miriette's has at least as much mana as a magician with the light attribute! Even Lord Lazaram himself had confirmed that! How dare you try to make it sound as if she was some weakling?!"
This time he definitely sounded rude, but he couldn't care less!
What was wrong with this Grazio guy!?
He was supposed to be calm on the surface but passionate on the inside - and not be a complete asshole!
But Grazio didn't even spare him a glance and looked away with his head held high.
"Why would I believe the words of magicless trash like you?"
Zoemi went silent but Miriette clenched her fists and trembled in anger.
Completely unaffected Grazio just started to stroll around the garden.
"Hey! Where do you think you are going!?"
Miriette stomped her foot and called after him but the red-haired boy did not bother to answer her call.
"Zoemi, we need to go after him!"
Miriette grabbed the black-haired boy's hand and pulled him with her after Grazio.
Zoemi blushed slightly and obediently went with her.
Little lady Espine was so daring!
Zoemi was sure that she picked it up from Horeo, the first prince would always grab their hands and pull them like that whenever he wanted all of them to play together, after all.
The red-haired Grazio stopped only after reaching the training grounds of the castle's guards. Since the morning practice finished long ago the place was now empty.
Grazio was carefully observing the stone shed that was locked away by a big lock.
"What do you think you are doing? Do you even know where you are?!"
Miriette asked angrily.
"Silence, weak wind. There are training swords inside, right? We have a similar thing behind our house."
But Grazio wasn't listening to her at all, and even offended the girl again by calling her weak!
By this point, Zoemi was seriously doubting the information he learned from the game.
|Do you call THIS a childhood friend?|
He couldn't understand how it could be possible for any warm feeling to bloom between those two!
Grazio was just a bully!
Zoemi decided to scrap that whole backup plan of his regarding the red-haired boy without giving the other boy a second chance.
Zoemi was unaware about it since that part of the backstory was revealed only in the Grazio's route that he did not finish, but the thing about Grazio and Miriette being childhood friends actually had a pretty simple in-game explanation.
In the storyline where there was no Zoemi, Miriette would be alone without any playmates her age, and the first prince wouldn't visit her at all, she was lonely and clung to the first chance of companionship, even though it was the self-centered, rude, and vain Grazio.
Good for her that now things were different thanks to a certain black-haired boy's meddling.
"Hey! You there!"
Out of nowhere, Grazio started calling all the maids and knights that were watching them and started sending them to bring various things, causing Miriette to scoff in annoyance.
Soon enough children were alone and the red-haired boy reached towards the lock of the shed.
"What are you...?"
Miriette became confused but her question was answered outstandingly fast as bright fire lit up in Grazio's hand and a stream of flame slowly melted off the sturdy metal lock off of the storage shed!
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