Mab: Finally, a Knight worth the trouble.
The badass has achieved high rank: king, CEO, crimelord, whatever. He's done so by sticking up for himself and what he believes in, and never taking abuse from anyone. He's pretty settled in when he notices a problem: he's surrounded by gutless yes men. They're weak. They crawl before him. They can't possibly take over his role if he were to step down.
Except that one guy. Who hates his guts. And quite possibly has tried to kill him.
That's his new sole heir.
It doesn't have to go as far as hate and murder. Just being willing to defy, correct and generally stand up to the power figure can qualify.
Since standing up to someone when you're supposed to is easy, this may involve a Secret Test of Character. But the strongest evidence is when the rebellion happens entirely unprompted.
- In Muslim folktales (not quite canon), humans are God's children and heirs precisely because we can defy Him, unlike angels, who are perfect and therefore mere servants.
- Merchant Prince Etienne Avare in The Philosophical Strangler leaves his entire fortune to the first great-grandchild to assassinate him.
- Uncle Enzo in Snow Crash regrets that none of his lieutenants "would ever volunteer to go get his legs shot off in the jungle, just to piss off his old man. They lack a certain fiber. They are lifeless and beaten down."
- Cornelius Stuyvesant, the richest man in the world, in The Grimnoir Chronicles makes Francis his sole heir, saying "You're the only one worth . . . a bucket of warm piss . . . in . . . in the whole lot". Their previous conversation was when Cornelius disowned him for taking a moral stand against the Imperium.
- The Diamond Age centers around an "attempt to add an element of subversion to our institutions" so that the next generation will contain people like this.
- One of the reasons Tomanak selects Bahzell as a champion is that Bahzell is willing to argue with him about anything. This tends to upset those who worship Tomanak in a more conventional fashion.
- Harry Dresden wins the respect of Queen Mab, and to a lesser extent Donar Vadderung aka Odin this way.
- A mild example in the Hercule Poirot novel Cat Among the Pigeons: Honoria Bulstrode, headmistress of Meadowbrook school, asks her chosen successor what she would change about the school. The would-be successor answers, "Nothing," disappointing Miss Bulstrode, who doesn't think the school should be run just out of tradition. Miss Bulstrode then asks another teacher the same question, and the other teacher says that their are lots of things she thinks should be done differently. It is this that persuades Miss Bulstrode to change her mind and name the second teacher as the new headmistress.
- The Wheel of Time: Aviendha, an Aiel being trained as a Wise One, finds herself assigned a long series of ever more pointless and embarrassing tasks until she snaps, refuses to comply, and tells them either to acknowledge her as a Wise One or send her away. They then reveal that she's passed the final test: a Wise One needs to exercise her own judgment and not accept anything unquestioningly, even from her peers.
- Angel: Wolfram and Hart are in the habit of promoting people who try to overthrow the firm, culminating in handing CEOship to archrival Angel ("You've earned it").
- Babylon 5:
- When Londo Mollari gets permission to divorce two of his three wives, two of them compete to be the most sickeningly sweetly loyal and subservient wives you could ever see. He divorces them both and keeps the one who found that beneath her dignity and continued honestly expressing her disdain for him, saying "with you, I always know where I stand".
- Three seasons later, Micheal Garibaldi, as the new CEO of a major pharmaceuticals company, tracks down a bunch of middle managers who had been giving intelligent complaints about the way the company was run, and promotes them to the board of directors.
- Higurashi: When They Cry: In one of the later arcs, Keiichi realizes that if he truly wants to unite the town to rescue Satoko, he's going to need the head of the Sonozaki family, Oryou, on his side.When he tells her that he's willing to do anything to save Satoko, Oryou asks what he'd do then if she refuses. Keiichi replies, without hesitation, that he'd smash Oryou's head wide open and install his best friend Mion (Oryou's granddaughter and designated heir) as the new head of the family. Oryou reacts how you might expect someone to react to that statement and throws him out, but later Mion tells him that Oryou will support him, and that proclamation of his was what convinced her that he had the spine needed to do this (though she also says it might be unwise for Keiichi to approach her again for a long time, even to apologize or thank her). Oryou is later shown telling her daughter (Mion's mother) to look after Keiichi should she die, as she thinks having him around would be good for the village.
- Girl Genius: Baron Klaus Wulfenbach (pictured in the trope image) deliberately makes mistakes in unimportant things to make sure his son and heir, Gilgamesh (also pictured), is willing to call him on them. It's said that if Gil fails, Klaus will "break him down for parts and try again". Gil finds the testing "tiresome". But he picks up similar habits himself, later promising to promote the one guard who tries to maintain proper security procedures against him.
- Quoteth the original Evil Overlord List: "If any of my minions should point out a flaw in my evil plan, rather than kill him for speaking out of turn I shall immediately promote him to my second-in-command."
- In 101 Dalmatians: The Series, Malevola DeVil (Cruella's mother) named Cruella her sole heir when Cruella finally had the guts to tell how much she despises Malevola.