And here is chapter 55, sorry for being a day late on this one, it was a busy week for me with the exams and stuff. This chapter was edited by Pepto, who I’m really thankful for, and myself.
Also, I’d like to thank my Patrons as always for supporting me!
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Well, that’s pretty much it, here is chapter 55, I hope you’ll enjoy it!
After Justus’ intervention, Elu and the others were invited to his reception room. It was a calm room made entirely of wood, from the floor to the ceiling, including the walls. It didn’t quite fit the image of a research center.
The room was also perfectly clean and tidy, and on the south side, there was a wooden sunroom where a few colorful flowers were growing.
How should I say this, that doesn’t match the impression I got from Justus’ appearance at all. Those were Elu’s frank thoughts. Next to him, Lifa looked similarly surprised.
However, when Elu thought about it, Justus was only the research center’s chief executive. It was unlikely that he would be involved with the interior design of the building, or that he would personally manage a reception room that had no direct relation to his research.
So the room was probably made based on the preferences and the original concept of the one in charge of the room.
【”So, where’d you leave the tea cups?”】
【”Just sit the hell down. Who’d want to drink that disgusting tea you make?”】
Even towards the man who, according to Elu’s information, was supposed to be Harold’s direct superior, he had no mercy.
However, while his mouth said those words, his hands were skillfully preparing a teapot and as many cups as there were people. It was a surprising spectacle for Elu and Lifa.
【”Who said anything about you drinking it? I was just trying to entertain these ladies”】
(TLN: People tend to assume Elu is a woman, but we still don’t know about that, he probably keeps it ambiguous on purpose)
【”Oh, so you want your guests to see your stinginess in all its glory, you’re as vicious as ever.”】
【”Says the one who ensnared a girl while on duty. You want to get yourself a side wife?”】
【”Like hell I’d willingly marry such a thin girl.”】
【”So you’d consider it if it was a voluptuous woman. Good luck getting your fiancée to approve of a mistress.”】
【”How ridiculous for a scientist to jump to conclusions so easily. If you judge everything with such extreme logic, then that astral body research you take so much pride on isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”】
【”And who’s the one who benefited from that research? Careful what you say, you’re being rude.”】
【”You better worry about yourself, bastard, your dementia is getting worse. How many times have I told you that I broke my engagement with that girl?”】
Their verbal war kept going without eye contact. The other two spectated the savage exchange in mute amazement. While they argued without interrupting each other, they inversely seemed to be in perfect harmony.
But even though the content of their talk was completely hostile, the atmosphere between Harold and Justus was surprisingly calm. Of course, there wasn’t even a ghost of a friendly atmosphere between them, but despite the enmity they threw at each other, their exchange seemed more like a business conversation.
There was a very mysterious sense of distance to it.
Meanwhile, Harold had served them tea.
Elu and Lifa were on a two-seater Sofa, and Justus was sitting face to face with them, as for Harold, he alone sat down by a window at a distance.
【”Oh well. Please pay no heed to that eccentric man, you two― which reminds me, I haven’t heard your names yet, have I?”】
【”I- I am Lifa Goodridge.”】
【”My name is Elu. It’s quite an honor to meet the famous Dr. Freund.”】
【”I’m Justus Freund. Please don’t stand on ceremony.”】
It was quite abnormal for something like that to be said without a smile or any expression at all. Well, Elu thought, I don’t quite fit in the normal category either.
【”Thank you for your concern.”】
【”So, why are you two here? I don’t suppose you were invited by Harold, that would mean you’ve been through a cataclysm.”】
【”Well, actually Lifa is the one who…”】
Elu poked Lifa’s arm with his elbow. After that signal, Lifa started to speak.
【”I’m interested in magical research and I’m actually studying it myself. So I asked Harold to let me meet and speak to an expert of the field and…”】
【”With his reputation being what it is, we thought the one he worked for might fit the criteria.”】
【”I see, it’s quite unusual for that guy to accept a request like that.”】
【”Well, it seems he was interested in an idea of hers that could involve the use of astral powers, though it’s not really part of her research.”】
Explained Elu, taking over Lifa’s conversation. Justus took a sip of his drink while looking at Harold with a stern face, as if he was telling him he had been too careless.
The setting they had agreed upon was that the two friends, Lifa and Elu, had been staying together in the town of Attis where they happened to meet with Harold, and since they were aware of his connection to Doctor Justus, the two kept pestering him to bring them along with him.
Elu’s first task had been to make an impression on Harold. When Lifa asked Harold to accompany her on her trip to mount Giran, she made a deal with him, a sort of trade-off stating【”If you lend me your strength, I’ll accept your terms”】. Though she hadn’t expected the outcome of her words at the time, Elu believed that if he brought up that deal in this situation, it would be beneficial for Harold.
So, while having instructed Lifa to back up his words so that he wouldn’t be exposed, Elu tried to read any information he could make out of Justus’ words and conduct. However, even though he had been careful about more or less everything, he made no progress.
Therefore, he focused on Justus’ research on magic― or rather, on what he called “astral bodies.” But still, it was quite difficult for Elu to do much more alone.
Perhaps having anticipated that, Harold had spoken to Elu beforehand saying【”I’m not expecting much. I’ll consider any knowledge you achieve as a gain. Other than that, focus your whole attention on making sure that he doesn’t notice any relation I might have with the Giffelts.”】
Even Harold himself was that vigilant. In other words, the man called Justus was extremely troublesome.
Elu thought back on the chain of events which surrounded Harold five years prior. He considered the all-powerful puppet master who was even able to manipulate the Tribunal, still hiding his identity.
Maybe that puppet master was Justus, or someone close to him.
Elu’s honest thoughts were that if Harold was going to make him confront someone like that, he should have told Elu everything he knew. But Harold refused to do it, or perhaps he couldn’t, which led Elu to believe Harold still had some big secrets.
Well, he’s obviously no ordinary man after all.
(For now, I’ll concentrate on the problem before my eyes. I can’t lose my focus when facing this one.)
Elu reined his thoughts in and put impregnable defenses on his mind, ready to resist any scrutiny, while he smiled naturally, challenging Justus so the two would sound each other out.
【”But you sure do know a lot about Harold.”】(Justus)
【”That’s probably ’cause someone’s been slyly spreading rumors around as they please.”】(Harold)
【”I didn’t know there were people like that. They’re really the complete opposite of me, as I’ve only been speaking the truth about you.”】(Justus)
【”Yeah, thanks to them, I get gloomy looks wherever I go, it’s really annoying.”】(Harold)
【”I didn’t know you were that sensitive. That discovery should be written down in the record books.”】(Justus)
You’ve really been telling people whatever you want, thought Harold spitefully. He couldn’t hide that resentment as it oozed out of his words and his facial expression.
Needless to say that the one responsible for spreading Harold’s bad reputation and ruining his image was none other than Justus himself. His ulterior motive was likely to isolate Harold and put him in a helpless state to make it easier to bind him. There is no such thing as a person who would be benevolent enough to help someone they heard only bad rumors about, so for now, Justus’ expectations had been met with a huge success.
Because of him, Harold got stuck with that extremely disturbing alias, Knight Killer.
Moreover, his reputation was very bad with the staff of the research center where he lived. But there was no helping it since, from their perspective, they were living next door to an evil murderer who couldn’t be described as a human being, and Harold had his faults, too.
To put it briefly, his open hostility frightened them. And so, Harold started living with his Switch constantly on whenever he was in the research center, with the exception of his room. Otherwise it would have been too hard for him to keep calm. His reasoning was that human hostility was much more frightening than any mighty monster.
Hence, Harold’s words became even worse, thereby increasing the staff’s animosity, and trapping him in a vicious circle. And that’s basically what led to the current situation.
【”But what I’m wondering about is that idea of yours that piqued Harold’s interest. Can you tell me about it?”】
【”Yes. I wondered whether I could combine magic, which relies on an individual’s nature, with the versatility of science and what I figured was―”】
Lifa’s self-made science and magic hybrid technique. Harold had instructed her to talk about it but to pretend that it was still just a theory.
Though Harold had many reasons, his biggest motive was to use Justus’ technology and ideas to strengthen Lifa’s power. From her fight with the Hydra, he deemed that the power of her attacks was not sufficient and that it needed to be raised further.
Truthfully, he initially intended to take care of the problem by meddling with Liner’s group from the shadows later on, but this way was more efficient. Each man knows his own business best, so it was better to leave science to an actual scientist.
Naturally, since Lifa was going to join the Hero’s party, she would have to fight with Justus sooner or later. It would disadvantageous if he was aware of her means of attacks when that time came. But that was just the logic on paper.
But no matter how smart he was, it was unlikely that Justus would consider the battle aspect behind her research at this point in time. It would be difficult for him to find countermeasures even once he found out his opponents had Lifa in their ranks.
At that time, Liner’s and the others’ obstructed plans would just have to be corrected. Furthermore, Harold would secretly intervene and put his game knowledge to efficient use. And there wouldn’t be much time wasted either, aside from the correction of the plan.
That’s why he dragged Lifa to the research center despite being aware of the risks. It could be said that he had found a heaven-sent opportunity, even though it wasn’t on purpose.
【”…..Mhm, I can understand why Harold was interested.”】
Justus let that thought escape him after listening to some of the theories developed by Lifa. By the way, though Harold was listening, there were too many technical words and he only understood about half of it.
Although Lifa had the appearance of a child, as her brain was capable was of developing antibiotics and obstructing Justus’ plans, she was more than qualified to be referred to as a genius. Average as he was, there was no way Harold could follow this conversation of prodigies.
【”So, what do you think? Are there some things that I can improve or……”】
【”Although I can’t really say without putting this into practice, there are several points I have some thoughts about. I wouldn’t mind teaching you, but I’m already too busy as is.”】
Justus shifted his eyes to the room’s clock. He probably didn’t have much more free time left.
Unable to get any advice, Lifa could only reply【”I-I see.”】dispiritedly, but Justus’ next words were surprising.
【”But your ideas and points of view are certainly wonderful. You can stay here for a while if you want. We’ll get to discuss lots of things whenever I have some time.”】
Shit, Lifa bit the bait without thinking. No, even I didn’t think he would be willing to spare part of his private time. That Justus doesn’t care much for other people.
Lifa’s theories must have tugged at his heartstrings.
However, the more she stayed the more the risks increased. Every little thing she exposed from there on out could reveal the secrets of Harold & co, one after the other.
【”Hold on, Lifa, if you do that, we’ll get back to the village too late and our lie will be exposed. You do know uncle won’t just forgive you after one good scolding this time, right?”】
The one who interfered with that predicament was Elu. Harold didn’t know if Elu came up with this on the spot or if he had prepared himself beforehand. But Elu was surprisingly natural as he came up with a lie that explained why they couldn’t stay for too long.
At first, Lifa’s expression looked blank as she didn’t understand what Elu was saying, but she soon accurately grasped the situation and her little face became pale. From an outsider’s point of view, she seemed to become frightened upon imagining the scolding from the uncle that Elu spoke about.
【”What does this mean?”】
【”The two of us come from a small village. Most of the villagers there make a living by working in the fields and raising livestock. Since it’s that kind of village, Lifa, who’s devoted to science, stands out a little, and her family has strictly told her to stop wasting her time on research.”】
What Elu was talking about were Lifa’s actual circumstances in the game’s story. It was no lie.
Though Harold wondered how Elu knew about that, Lifa’s facial expression didn’t turn surprised but embarrassed. In other words, Lifa had probably personally told Elu in the previous days. It seemed like, in just a few days, their relationship had deepened to the point where she didn’t mind speaking to Elu about things like that.
【”Though this time I went as far as Attis, I actually lied to my parents that I was going sightseeing in the Royal Capital. So I cannot stay for too long.”】(Lifa)
【”Mhm. Then, how long can you stay?”】
If it were up to Harold, he would have answered【”We can’t.”】without a second thought.
However, that was not Elu’s answer. After a few seconds, he answered with a serious face.
【”Two weeks is our limit.”】
【”Is that so? But it’s just as I thought. You are smart. I’d have had some doubts if you had directly replied that you can’t stay.”】
From those words, Harold slowly understood Elu’s intentions. And his whole body was covered in a cold sweat.
From the earlier conversations, there was no way Elu didn’t know the time it took to go from the village to Attis and the royal capital. And upon their meeting with Harold in Attis, they boarded a ship with him towards the royal capital. Considering the time Harold’s given duty would take and the time it took him to come back, everything was pretty clear.
Usually, it would be unlikely for two girls who came from a small village by themselves to travel using something as expensive as a boat. At best they’d come by carriage, at worst they’d come on foot. Either way, there was a wide difference in speed when compared to a ship.
And yet, they came to the royal capital. Whether the royal capital was on the way towards the village or not, considering the Royal Capital’s distance from Attis, it would be strange if they weren’t considerably ahead of their initial schedule.
If they had been late, they probably wouldn’t have bothered to meet with Justus at all. Whatever reasons they came up with, there was no way for them to justify not having plenty of time to spare.
Harold had believed that Elu’s lie had no weakness, that it was perfect.
However, far from being just turned down by Justus, Elu gave him enough information to make Lifa, and himself, stay.
And the worst part was Justus’ last words. They implied that he didn’t trust Elu in the slightest. This way, it became impossible for Elu to make any rash moves.
【”When you want to return, I’ll find you a ship that will get you to the closest town to your village. That way you’ll be able to extend your stay.”】
Proposed Justus. But in Harold’s ears, that proposition sounded like a death sentence.