William touched the side of his neck. His fingers came away damp with blood. The guards hadn’t been pushovers, and their coordination had been excellent. Their soul defenses were somewhat lacking, but they couldn’t really be blamed for that. Such techniques were rare enough that it wasn’t usually important.
William considered that if he got into enough trivial fights, he would die doing something unimportant. That would be… unfortunate. William considered that he didn’t have to worry about people he knew dying of old age if he died and reincarnated again, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t die of other things. This seemed to be a critical point for the gevai, with the Demon King weakened and able to be destroyed.
So, had what he had done been important? The particular fight might not have been, but the idea behind it was. He had to be in control in the manor, and he had to run the manor because it was part of gaining more political power to better shape the future. So, it had been important. Still, he kept the thought that he could die from any fight, if he got careless. The level of carelessness depended on his opponents, of course. If he was fighting a human child, they probably couldn’t do any real harm in any short amount of time unless he bent down and let them stab him in the eye with something, though perhaps his eyes would be resistant enough for that. He wasn’t inclined to check.
The next weeks were spent meeting with the various staff and guards that now worked for him. He asked various questions to assess their suitability to work for him, and kept notes. However, he didn’t plan to announce the results until he was done. He wanted people to give their own honest answers, instead of what they thought he wanted to hear.
Of course, they still weren’t entirely honest. William had practiced reading people, alone and with Lorelei’s help, but he couldn’t say he was perfect yet. When someone shifted their eyes when asked about stealing, did that mean they had stolen… or knew someone who had? Perhaps there was an incident in the past where they had been stolen from that made them uncomfortable. Unfortunately, William had to come up with his own answers. Everyone also still tried to tell him what they thought he wanted to hear, it was just that they didn’t have any sure guidelines.
William had finished his evaluations. Now, it was time to call people in for the second time. He started with Joel Antonsen… the guard who had helped him during the fight. Or rather, the guard who had taken the opportunity to kill another guard he didn’t like.
“Greetings, Lord Rutten,” The guard nodded politely as he entered. “Should I start packing my bags?”
William raised an eyebrow, “And what makes you think you should do that?”
Joel shrugged, “Oh, you know… the fact that I said I’d ignore your orders, and have no feeling of loyalty towards you.”
“Well… you’re wrong. Loyalty is important, of course, but I don’t exactly expect you to feel loyal to someone you just met, and before that didn’t even know existed. As for my orders… I do expect you to follow them. But honestly… did you expect that I would actually order you to kill a little girl?” William held up a hand, “Don’t answer that. I won’t. It would be stupid and meaningless.”
“Ah… okay. So, what am I here for then?”
“You’re here to be promoted to captain of the guard.”
“Umm…” Joel frowned, “I’m pretty sure I said I didn’t want to be captain of the guard. Didn’t I?”
William shrugged, “So? You can be captain of the guard, or you can leave.”
“You have a few days to think about it. Could you call in the next person, please?”
William sorted through the papers on his desk. Some of them he’d written, but he was pleasantly surprised to find detailed records on most of the guards and some of the servants and staff. Of course, most of them were written from the perspective of potential blackmail. The other notes seemed to be from the perspective of paranoia. Still, all of them had helped him in his decisions, and even coming up with the questions. For example, he had learned that Joel Antonsen had a little sister. William had asked a number of people if they would kill a little girl at his orders, but the question was mostly for his sake, to see how he would respond. Well, it also helped to weed out a few who seemed a little too enthusiastic about the idea.
A knock on his door had him look up from the papers. He didn’t have anyone else to meet with today, did he? “Come in.”
A woman he had seen before, though only a few times, came in. Before he could say anything, she was kneeling with her head to the floor, “Please let me stay!”
William sighed, “I don’t need a mistress. Not even one.”
“Please! You don’t have to buy me anything… I don’t even need my own room! I’ll do anything.”
William frowned. This wasn’t such a nice manor that people would be desperate to stay, even as a servant. Certainly not a former mistress. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much information about her. William looked through the papers. She was the timid looking one that hadn’t said anything. This should be Theresa Bennett. She had caught Lord Harridan’s eye one day as he was travelling… and that was it. There wasn’t really any information on her, just the city where she had come from. To catch Lord Harridan’s eye she must have had some sort of elegance to her, as the rest of the mistresses had been daughters of weak nobles or the rich. Not that it was much relevant to William currently. “Fine. I’ll give you a chance. Come back tomorrow at… noon. I’ll give you an interview about your skills, and see if you can fill any necessary positions here.”
Her face lit up and she raised her head, “Thank you! Thank you!” William saw tears going down her face, and sighed again. She was either a very good actor… or had a very good reason to not want to leave. He wondered what it was, if it was the second.