As the bastard child of Count Green, Fiona Green’s childhood had been quite depressing. Then one day she began to show signs of magical talent, and eventually, she grew up to become a powerful mage.
Her story makes her seem like the protagonist of a novel, does it not? After all, what’s more cliché than the story of a childhood prodigy overcoming past hardships? Unfortunately, destiny would never allow Fiona to become the protagonist.
I couldn’t help but sigh when I saw him approach.
“Fiona, listen to your father!” he shouted.
Hurriedly, I looked up to meet the eyes of the man before me. He looked to be in his early forties—the head of the House of Green and Fiona’s biological father—meaning that, now, he was my father too.
“I’m sorry, Father,” I replied meekly.
“What an insolent brat,” he spat, his tongue sharp.
For Count Green, Fiona was less of a daughter than a nuisance to be dealt with. However, he was chained down by his pride. As she held the bloodline of his noble lineage, he had no choice but to accept this bastard child into his household.
As for Fiona, with her own father against her, she never had any chance of happiness here.
“You need not mind such a lowly girl, Father,” said a voice by the count’s side. It came from Caindel, Fiona’s half-brother, who looked at me with contempt in his eyes.
That boy! I wish I could sew his mouth shut, I grumbled in my head.
Caindel, the eldest son and the heir to the title, treated Fiona as if she deserved less dignity than livestock. His attitude exemplified the entire family’s feelings toward Fiona in general. But I had no choice but to accept such ill-treatment. After all, Fiona was only a thirteen-year-old girl without any power.
In other words, I was just a thirteen-year-old girl without any power.
Somehow, I had become Fiona Green.
Yes, the one and only Fiona who—despite being an ugly duckling—would grow up to become a magical prodigy one day.
As much as she sounded like the protagonist, she was not. She was actually an antagonist and not just any antagonist either. Fiona would eventually become the ultimate villain of the storyline, fated to be killed by the real protagonist and her significant other.
How do I know this? Well, I know this because I somehow seem to have entered the world of a novel called The Emperor and the Saint.
Per its title, the story is an epic tale of romance between an emperor and a saint who, together, save the world. Fiona was not the saint. Fiona was simply the villain who met a terrible, merciless end. I still remembered her last moments well.
Fiona had always been a natural magical talent, but she elevated her powers to astonishing levels by signing a pact with the darkness. This darkness ultimately blackened her own heart and transformed her into a being who could not easily die. In the end, she became a near-immortal threat to both the protagonist and the emperor.
To kill her, the emperor had to cut off her head, pierce her chest to pull out her black heart and impale the still-beating organ in his hands. But that was not all. Fiona, the cruelest witch in history, would have her head displayed on a stake on the castle wall. Her body would be burned to ashes and her soul would suffer in the darkness for eternity.
This was the fate that awaited Fiona Green—the fate that awaited me.
I smiled bitterly.
Perhaps it would be a blessing if I died right here and now.
Kind and Ruthless
With a shudder, I shook off the thought of Fiona’s—no, my terrible fate.
I had to compose myself, for Count Green had summoned the family to the reception room. If he caught me daydreaming again, I knew he would not hesitate to whip me with his cane. There was a grave look on his face as I walked in.
“As you know, the northern front is currently under threat,” he said. “The imperial palace has ordered our family to send a mage to the front.”
My siblings broke into worried murmurs at the sudden news. However, I nodded calmly. If I had guessed correctly, I still had six years until the main storyline began. I didn’t have to worry about battling demons just yet.
I lived in a world that endured constant warfare. However, this war was unlike any war on Earth. Instead of different nations battling one another, it was between humans and demonic beasts. Mercenaries, mages, and knights constantly fought against the dark forces led by cursed dragons. Right now, the empire was backed into a corner by these monsters, protected only by the warriors of the northern front.
For those curious as to why the world in this fantasy romance novel is so bleak, it was all designed to make the protagonist shine. The saint and her lover were meant to save a dying world plagued with dark powers. This was the gist of the story.
Count Green began to speak again. “This means that one of you must join the troops at the northern front.”
My half-brothers and half-sisters began panicking.
“Father, what do you mean we must join the troops?”
The House of Green was a noble family of mages in the empire. So it made sense that the imperial palace would order us to send support. Now there was only one question to answer. Who among us would join the war? Everyone in the room was a spoiled brat who had never worked a day in their lives, let alone do anything as dangerous as joining a war. With the situation so dire, there was no way that any one of them had a chance of fighting properly either.
Count Green, who was more aware of the situation than anyone else in the room, seemed suspiciously calm. A pretentious smile rested on his lips. “I wonder which one of my children is brave enough to join this honorable cause.”
Everyone was silent as they glanced at each other, then Caindel aggressively poked my side. “You should go, vermin,” he whispered.
Ugh, this little rascal. I glared at him, massaging the area he had struck.
The count had four children. But except for me, the youngest, all three were children of the countess. I didn’t have to ask to know what everyone was thinking. They wanted me, the bastard daughter, to join the war.
Caindel suddenly raised his hand and shouted, “Father, our youngest graciously says she’ll join, though she seems too shy to speak up.”
“W-wait...!” I stuttered, looking back at Caindel with wide eyes. I hadn’t said anything like that at all. But this vicious boy simply met my eyes with a terrible smile. You bastard.
Count Green seemed more than happy at this suggestion. “Oh, I see. Fiona, are you volunteering?”
Like father, like son.
Perhaps the two had planned this all along.
“It’s an honor to represent your family,” Caindel said. “Be thankful that such a lowly girl like yourself even gets the chance to repay her family.”
Who sends a thirteen-year-old girl off to war—to die—without any hesitation?
Then Jane, the second Green daughter, chimed in, “Yes, Fiona. Caindel must inherit the family name and I am getting married soon. Even our brother Zen will soon be engaged to a beautiful lady. How could we send him to his death? I believe it’s best for you to go.”
I felt dumbstruck. No one in this family had even taught me proper magic, saying that a bastard girl had no right to learn such things. While I had secretly picked up some magic by watching the others, I had never been properly trained as a mage. I was only lucky enough to know the basics. All they had done my entire life was lock me in the attic and bully me. And now, it sounded very much like everyone just wanted me to go to the battlefield and die.
“I...” I muttered, quickly trailing off when I realized that everyone was glaring at me for speaking up. They looked at me with such malice. I knew what they were thinking—something along the lines of Do you think someone like you could refuse?
The reality of the situation had finally sunk in. I had never had any choice in the matter to begin with. In this house, I had no friends or allies. They had already made this decision before I arrived, and they were now forcing it upon me. Even if I refused right now, they would still drag me like an animal and throw me into the battlefield.
“I...” Then I suddenly recalled the single line the novel had used to describe Fiona’s childhood: “Born a bastard, she grew up shunned by her family.”
Now I was seeing exactly what that meant. Here was a family who could send a teenage girl off to war without any remorse. In fact, they actively hoped she would never return. Of course, the ultimate villain of this novel would suffer a tragic childhood.
Stifling a sigh, I finally answered them.
“Understood... I’ll go.”
Even if I refused and fought till the bitter end against this cruel family before me, I had no hope for a better life. Killing one’s family was a great crime in this world, and the only way I could escape my current situation was through their deaths. Then I would either be imprisoned for life or forced into a life on the run.
If I had to go, I at least wanted to hold my head high as I went into battle. This was the only way I could protect the last shred of my dignity. My words were met with a soulless cheer from my family members.
“Yes, how wise of you, Fiona.”
“I’m so proud of you.”
“You’re finally showing us your worth.”
So this was what they had been after when they called me in. I had been wondering why they had bothered to invite me to a family meeting in the first place.
I felt somber, feeling even worse than when I had first realized I had become Fiona a year ago. Did Fiona, the villain I created, feel the same?
I began feeling sorry for her. Never knowing what it meant to be loved, Fiona had grown to hate the world. Then, with one mistake, she’d spiraled into eternal darkness.
However, unlike Fiona, I could not hate this world.
After all, I was the one who’d created it.