Since Harold made the decision without even thinking about it, the rumours circulating in his territory about him being a battle junkie might’ve not been necessarily wrong. Although it wasn’t as dangerous, having his resistance towards fighting drop is a major change. This was the result of him deciding that if it wasn’t like this, he’d perish.
“By the way, is your body alright? I heard that you fought against a huge Horn Head on this expedition.”
Perhaps because Tasuku asked the same question every time they met after an expedition, Harold’s voice sounded completely fed up.
But for Tasuku, or rather for the Sumeragi it was the complete opposite. In the past, they had received Harold thinking he had come to visit, when in truth he had been seriously injured. When they had encountered such a situation, although they came to know that he was strong, they were still extremely worried. Moreover, because it was the Harold who had wanted to conclude the matter saying, “It’s just a scratch”, they were all the more concerned.
Especially Erika, who on the surface did not show any excessive concern and respected Harold’s feelings by saying, “Since Harold-sama himself has decided so, it should be alright.” Though from that day onwards she seriously began practising her healing magic, her honest emotions were that she couldn’t simply sit still without doing anything.
From the time Erika had started practising healing magic, Harold had not gotten injured, and so as of yet her power still hasn’t had any use. But still, Erika’s devotion towards Harold, which was clearly shown by her diligent practice of healing magic every single day, was real. Although, Harold had not realised it yet.
“Did you really think that I would lose to that small fry whose only characteristic was its large size? Speak only after you think.”
“Saying that with Harold-kun’s age itself is surprising.”
“Even your son is like that though.”
Itsuki, who had recently turned 16, could easily defeat a Horn Head on his own. He was the only person who had enough ability to equal Harold in the same generation.
It was the same for Itsuki too, and so they would always compete by holding bouts frequently.
Although Itsuki had just been addressed as Erika’s brother in the game and without even his name appearing in it, he was that strong. Most probably, there were still many formidable people unknown to Harold.
It was huge that at the current stage, he became aware that the overwhelming advantage of having the game’s knowledge might become an obstacle.
When he took this into consideration, Harold thought that it was correct of him to deepen his relationship with the Sumeragi even if the risks increased. Even with the prime unresolved problem, which was his relationship with Erika, there had been almost no progress at all since 3 years ago. He had blatantly kept a distance and had conversed only when necessary while keeping it to the bare minimum.
There had been no fiance-like events at all.
(With this, it would be impossible to raise a flag, right?)
Things were going so favourably that he unintentionally wanted to laugh. Although he could not be careless about the situation of the expanding miasma in the Sumeragi territory, only this had to be resolved by the protagonists, so he could not interfere. But still , with the introduction of the resistance drug and the experimental implementation of LP farming, it was true that the situation had become considerably better.
‘That said, carelessness is one’s greatest enemy. If I think about the future, there are piles of problems and before the start of the game 5 years from now, as much as possible I’ll pluck those death flags that will eventually be raised from their roots! ‘, thought Harold, as he once again strengthened his determination.
* * *
On top of a square platform made of stone, each side of it twenty meters long, two people were exchanging intense sword strikes.
One of them was a boy who was approaching the transition period to his youth, with a height reaching 180 cm and with black hair, which appeared to be somewhat tawny. His usually kind face to which the words pleasant youth would perfectly fit had a grim expression.
Facing the youth was a boy with a height of 160 cm, about a head shorter than the youth, with deep crimson pupils as his defining feature. He moved so intensely that his black hair, which was much darker than the youth’s, became dishevelled. Converse to those intense movements he had a sharp glint in his eyes as he dished out sword strikes.
The two who had a close friendship would often cross swords to confirm each other’s growth when they occasionally met.
“Haa… haa… yeah, if it’s like this, it looks like you’ll be alright in the tournament.”
Itsuki, who had moved away from Harold’s sword range, lowered his own while steadying his breath.
“I don’t need your concern.”
“Only in strength, though. It’s good to know that you’ll have no problems in handling a fake sword.”
“Don’t make light of me. I’m not so weak that this amount of weight would become painful.”
“Not that, I was worried about whether you’d be able to hold back or not.”
‘Because there’s practically nobody in the same generation who can react to your sword,’ Itsuki thought. If he had to say it, then he felt pity for the opponents who would end up fighting against Harold. Well, it was just needless anxiety about such matters of ability.
“Then, let’s end it here for today. Since the plan is to depart tomorrow morning.”
(Carriage again, huh. It can’t be helped because Delfit is nearby, but I really wanted to board an airship)
Airships were something that appeared in the game, wooden vehicles with appearances similar to ships, yet were able to fly in the air. Its main difference from a ship that sailed on water was that there were wings that sprouted out from both sides of the hull and propellers were attached to the mast and the stern.
It was a vehicle that oozed out impressions of fantasy due to the stress placed on the design, but at the same time, it was unknown as to how it could fly stably with that shape.
Well, since it was powered by ores, called “Crystal”, that monsters dropped when they were defeated, it wasn’t something that could be explained using Science or Physics. By the way, when Crystals were used during compounding, they would be extremely useful in creating and enhancing weapons and armour.
“Ah, right, do you want to change your name for registering in the tournament? Almost everybody who participates in the tournament is a commoner, so I think that your parents might not like you appearing in that kind of place.”
“I don’t know about that, they’d more likely say ‘Good job beating down those inferior species!’ with smiles on their faces.”
Though no matter which reaction they choose to do, they weren’t the appropriate ones they should’ve had.
In that was the case, he should probably change his name and hide his identity, then even if the tournament winner’s name entered his parent’s ears, it wouldn’t become a problem in the future.
“Anything is fine for the alias.”
“Then I’ll think of it as we travel.”
Later on, Harold would stand on the stage with the name “Mr.Lord” that would involuntarily make him doubt Itsuki’s naming sense.
Harold had no idea that such a future was awaiting him, but his suffering would not end at that.
After a few days of travel, they had finally reached Delfit in the evening. The tournament was only a day away, and having finished registering in the lodge, Harold decided it was about time he and Itsuki left for the restaurant to have dinner, but for some reason, Erika was present at their table.
His body unintentionally stiffened.
“Sorry Erika, we’re a bit late.”
Without even minding Harold’s thoughts, Itsuki sat down at the table Erika was at. Harold glared at the both of them demanding an explanation, but even faster than that, Erika asked Itsuki:
“Onii-sama, I thought that only the two of us would be eating together here?”
“Well, you’re not wrong, I invited you saying, ‘How about eating together once in a while?'”
“…so It’s like that.”
Perceiving Itsuki’s plan, Erika grumbled exasperatedly.
In short, Itsuki had invited Erika saying, ‘How about eating together (with Harold-kun) once in a while?’, while intentionally omitting the parenthesized words and making Erika misunderstand.
“If my presence is a nuisance, then should I leave?”
“Stay here.” “Please stay.”
Harold’s and Erika’s voices overlapped.
If Itsuki were to leave now, then Harold would have to eat while facing Erika. Frankly speaking, it would be hell.
It was not that Erika disliked it, but her feelings of not wanting to be a hindrance to Harold when she knew that he was keeping a distance from her, was strong.
Nevertheless, if she were to leave after she had already sat down only by looking at the other person’s face, then it would be too rude. Even if the seat that she was invited to was a trap. Maybe because he had planned it after taking this personality of his little sister’s into consideration, Itsuki’s expression was saying, ‘I’ve done it’.
“…why is she here?”
“Because there are chances of getting injured in the fighting tournament, I thought of making someone who could use healing magic accompany us. However, since it would inconvenience the people of the house, I hesitantly requested Erika to join us.”
It was extremely doubtful whether it was a coincidence or not.
Seeing that Erika, who had similarly been deceived, was not refuting, Harold had doubts whether or not it was true. He couldn’t help but think that this situation was intentionally created.
“I won’t get injured.”
“There’s a proverb- ‘Well prepared means no worries.’ That’s why I made Erika accompany us.”
“I was told that I wouldn’t make contact with Harold-sama unless it was absolutely necessary, though.”
“I decided that meeting face to face is a necessity. That way, you can move smoothly if something happens, right?”
What Itsuki said wasn’t wrong, so they couldn’t complain about it. So in the end, with the situation being as though they were taken for a ride by Itsuki, the three of them sat around the table. It went without saying that there was no conversation between Erika and Harold. It was so bad that if Itsuki wasn’t there to act as the intermediary, they might have remained silent until the very end. And so the time, which seemed like penance for Harold continued for more than an hour.
By the time they had finished dinner, Harold’s mental exhaustion had reached its peak. After finishing dinner with somewhat unreliable footsteps, Harold returned to his own room and Erika saw that back off with an apologetic feeling.
She had wanted to scold Itsuki for what he did, but maybe because he had sensed that he had left with Harold before so his figure could no longer be seen. In truth, she was delighted about how she could be together with Harold after a long time due to her brother’s plan, but more than that her thoughts of being a burden weighed on her. Originally, Erika did not want to make her existence known during the fighting tournament unless Harold was injured and now that plan was ruined.
While thinking about giving Itsuki a strict warning the next time when they were alone, Erika returned to her room as well. She was staying in the same inn as Harold and Itsuki, but since she had taken into consideration of not wanting to cross into each other, she resided on a different floor.
After opening the door to her room, Juno greeted Erika with her usual nonchalant air.
“Welcome back, Erika-sama~ You seem rather tired~”
“You were watching?”
“Even though it’s like this, I’m still your guard~ Although, since both Itsuki-sama and Harold-sama are stronger than me, I don’t know if there’s any meaning in me being here~”
Being strong or weak was irrelevant to the necessity of a guard, but Erika understood what Juno wanted to say. Since those two would frequently fight each other, the chances to see it wasn’t scarce, but recently she couldn’t understand what was going on because they moved too quickly.
Especially Harold, who would move so fast that people would be doubtful whether he was teleporting or not. However, Itsuki was abnormal too since he could deal with it.
“Come to think of it, have you talked about Colette-sama~?”
The girl who was supposed to have been killed along with her mother for various circumstances was for some reason here in Delfit. If she thought about it while considering the season, then she might have come here spectate the fighting tournament.
“No, I’ve concealed it.”
“As expected, there’s no way you could tell him~”
“Of course, we shouldn’t even know that she’s alive.”
If Harold realised that the Sumeragi knew that Colette and her mother, Clara, were still alive, then they would’ve invited unneeded suspicion from him.
The Emerel mother and daughter were protected by him even to the extent of him being dishonored. Erika absolutely didn’t want to disgrace those thoughts. She had no intention to step into that secret until Harold himself revealed it one day.
Still, she couldn’t simply stay quiet. That’s why Erika said that if they were to meet again, she wished to become friends.
Erika felt it after she actually saw Colette herself. That couldn’t she too become a person who could support Harold? Colette should have known about Harold’s strength and kindness because she had been saved by it, and was still being protected by it.
If they were to meet again, then that might be the time when Harold would speak about the secret. Erika thought that at that time she would once again want to become friends with Colette and that they would become good friends for sure.
“I’m going to retire for the night, so you can return to your room now, Juno.”
“Understood~ Good night, Erika-sama”
After Juno left the room, Erika changed into her sleep-wear, and almost immediately after she had turned off the lights, she dived into the bed. It was different from her usual futon, it gave off an unfamiliar springy sensation.
Compared to the one in the Stokes mansion, it wasn’t very comfortable to sleep on.
Since she couldn’t fall asleep, the things that she was thinking about before started to run through her head yet again.
If she became friends with Colette once they met again, then at that time Colette might get drawn towards Harold.
Although they were engaged, but it was only in name. She knew that Harold was planning to cancel it, and if that happened, no-when that happened, then Colette might become her rival in love.
Normally, one would feel jealous, but strangely, Erika’s heart was calm and it wasn’t because she thought that she had the advantage in love.
‘Colette will become my rival… and I’m fine with that’, was how she thought. In these past few years, Erika had become aware of how she was yearning for Harold. If she were to hope for it, then she wanted her first love to be fulfilled.
But for Erika, those feelings of love were not the most important. What she wished for more than anything else was for Harold’s happiness. That’s why she wanted for Harold to be with the person he himself would choose. It didn’t matter even if that person wasn’t her.
If her feelings were rejected, then she would cry for sure. Her love towards Harold was real.
Still, if Harold were to marry Colette or someone else, she wanted to bless them from the bottom of her heart with a bright smile. These were Erika’s true feelings as well.
It’s not as though there weren’t any other ways to support Harold other than becoming his partner.
(That’s why I’m looking forward to our reunion)
While being bathed in the moonlight from the window, she gently smiled while thinking of her future friend.
The brilliantly shining moonlight reminded her of Colette’s vibrant blond hair. While thinking that, Erika closed her eyes and fell into a deep sleep.
Translated by Madao. Re-edited by KuroInfinity.