So, Chapter 66, I was going to post this tomorrow as per my schedule, but I’m in a very good mood today so here it is! 😀
And the next chapter, Chapter 67 is Availible on Patreon! If you’d like to donate, support my work, and get access to the chapters earlier as well, here is the Patreon Link!
【”So you came to escort me?”】
【”Yeah. And it’s damn annoying.”】
Harold, who was forced to board on the ship despite his futile resistance, honestly told Erica about the circumstances that he didn’t necessarily have to hide.
Erica’s reaction upon finding out the truth was to deeply lower her head and apologize.
【”I am sorry for my elder brother’s selfishness.”】
【”If you were going to apologize, you should have taken hold of his reins from the get go.”】
Although even Harold himself felt that his mouth’s complaint was absurd, he did believe that if Erica could take control of Itsuki, his chances of meeting with her would decrease. So he wanted Erica to work hard at it, for the benefit of each-other’s mental health.
Well, that’s a matter for another time. Thinking that, Harold put his feelings back in order at once. And then, he addressed Erica.
【”So, that’s it? You didn’t do all this just so you could ask me about something that trivial, right?”】
【”…. Indeed. There is something I’d like you to confirm, Harold-sama.”】
【”Just keep in mind that I have no obligation to answer your questions.”】
From the questions he could expect, there was hardly any answer he could freely give out to her. Be it his current position, or the contents of his mission, he had to keep silent about basically everything when it came to the matters related to Justus.
【”Of course, it’s fine to just answer what you can, Harold-sama.”】
【”Mhm, just hurry and get this over with.”】
【”Thank you very much. Then, I’ll get right to the point. Why did you try to cancel your engagement with me at that time five years ago?”】
As she asked that, Erica lowered the volume of her voice. That was likely in order to avoid being overheard by the sailor.
But said sailor did not seem to have much interest in Harold and Erica as he was working hard at introducing Kablan. It seemed like he was only speaking because he was obliged to do it, rather than to inform the customers on board about the town. However, even though the man was doing his job halfheartedly, it was quite convenient for Harold.
【”Why ask about something that obvious?”】
【”Allow me to rephrase my question. Why did you do try to cancel it at that timing in particular?”】
That timing was when the decision of his execution was overturned and it had been decided that Harold was going to get transferred to Justus’ research establishment.
After the revision of his judgement, Harold directly confronted Tasuku, who was watching the trial, about the marriage cancellation. Though Tasuku had a sad expression on his face, he didn’t seem to be very surprised. He had probably prepared himself mentally as he knew from long ago that this day would come sooner or later.
Harold was very happy and surprised as he didn’t think that Tasuku would agree to break off the engagement, though he only did it indirectly.
Harold’s parents, Hayden and Jessica, who were together with Justus as the time, were greatly troubled. They were, of course, strongly opposed to the cancellation and they persistently tried to make Harold reconsider his choice, but he still insisted that he was not willing to get married with Erica.
Even now, Harold’s father, Hayden, was still regularly sending him letters to try and persuade him, but this was a decision Harold had made before he even met with Erica. He wasn’t going to change it now.
Incidentally, Harold had suggested the cancellation immediately after the end of the retrial, just before people left the tribunal.
He did that so as to make it known to the surroundings, and most importantly, to Justus, that he had broken off his link with the Sumeragi family.
Justus was the one responsible for the miasma outbreak that was still happening within the Sumeragi territory. If Harold was still on friendly terms with the Sumeragi after becoming affiliated with Justus, there was risk that the fact that he was the one who gave the medicine which limited the damage caused by the miasma would be exposed.
If that happened, then Justus would be suspicious about how Harold, who was ten years old at the time, and yet knew how to produce a medicine that could raise immunity to the miasma. Being under Justus’ suspicion while working for him would have been fatal.
With that being the case, Harold was really regretting not reminding the Sumeragis to keep the matters concerning the antibody-drug a secret, but it was too late for that. Although the information wasn’t made public, there were many people within the Sumeragis’ mansion, and among their relatives, who knew that Harold was the one who came up with the idea of the medicine. Additionally, Harold couldn’t deny he was afraid that Justus would dissect him out of curiosity, so as to find out how Harold was able to anticipate the range of the contamination on the map etc….
Harold wasn’t good enough with words to give a genius mad scientist a plausible explanation without contradicting himself, so all he could do was to crush the possibility of ever being questioned.
Well, long story short, he cancelled the engagement to protect himself. To begin with, in the game’s story, the original Harold was not assigned to work under Justus and the like. Originally, Harold, whose mind was burning for revenge over Liner’s and the others, who had defeated him twice, was taken advantage of by Justus, who gifted him a special medicine called『Astral potion』.
It was a doping item which, upon ingestion, amplified the magic within the user’s body, in other words, it amplified his astral body, therefore granting him an unusually potent power-up.
However, his body couldn’t keep up with the strengthening, and it swelled up, overtaken by its own power. By the end, it took on a grotesque shape that couldn’t be called human, and then, the original Harold lost his life as his own body broke down.
Though Harold could avoid all this by simply not taking the astral potion, there was a demerit that came with it, because Liner’s party would not gain the experience they’d have accumulated by fighting the boosted Harold. So he had no choice but to strengthen their equipment, and teach them the tactics that were effective in the game to raise their abilities and potential.
Putting that aside, the reason why Harold agreed to work under Justus despite that never happening in the game’s story was simply that it was his only way to survive. At any rate, Justus had suddenly appeared before Harold who was incarcerated and gave him two choices【”Would you rather be executed or work for me? If you come with me, I’ll give you more power. Well, you’ll probably go through hell though.”】.
Harold had no choice but to accept his proposal so as to survive. However, that choice he was given had an absurdly high sense of upending death upon it.
Helping Justus with his work meant lending him a hand for his ambitions. That would inevitably lead him to becoming Liner and the others’ enemy, and if things went well for Justus, it would cause the downfall of the world. Harold had also considered well enough whether he’d just end up as a throwaway piece for Justus.
Although the option Justus gave him was his only way to survive, it wasn’t simple to select it…. or rather, it shouldn’t have been simple.
Harold had been starting to forget about this but, that cynical mouth of his had other functions than automatically changing his words. That function had appeared only twice in the past, in addition, it was when Harold had just come to this world.
Said function simply made Harold repeat words from the original story’s character. Which meant that the lines the original Harold had spoken in the game would come out of Harold’s mouth. Though the time and setting were different from the original story’s, the situation where Justus gave power to Harold was the same as the game’s event.
After a loud laugh that took even Harold himself aback, his mouth went and said to Justus.
『Give me power and I’ll teach you what true hell is, bastard. 』
That was the brisk decision the original Harold had foolishly taken in the game.
And thus, in a completely unforeseen development, Harold became a henchman under the commands of the story’s last boss.
But no matter how unexpected this was, it was a good thing for Harold. Thanks to that, he could focus on the next route to take, and on his ongoing problems.
While reflecting upon those bitter memories, Harold answered Erica’s question.
【”That was because it was the best setting for me to cancel it.”】
【”You actually wanted to make it known to your surroundings that you’ve cut your ties with the Sumeragi family, right?”】
Her guess was dead on, it was as if Erica had read Harold’s mind.
That was impossible, but then, how had Erica reached that answer? Could it be that she knew something about Justus? Such doubts crossed Harold’s mind.
【”Well, I wonder about that.”】
Harold was careful so as not to carelessly bring up Justus’ name.
It was unlikely that Erica had laid her hands on information that even Elu couldn’t obtain.
Even if she somehow knew the true nature of Justus’ identity, she could only speculate on Harold’s intentions. Which meant that despite her earlier words, Erica had not seen through Harold’s aim, and her answer was just derived from her own point of view. But there was a higher probability that her words simply happened to be right by chance, and she actually didn’t know the deeper meaning behind them at all.
【”You went that far and ended up all alone for…”】
【”What’d you say?”】
【”Nothing, don’t mind me.”】
Harold was too deep in his thoughts and had missed the murmur which escaped from Erica’s mouth. He was interested but, judging from the blunt attitude Erica answered him with, she likely wouldn’t reply if he asked her to repeat herself again.
Well, in the future, rather than Erica…. Harold had better observe the Sumeragi family as a whole to check whether they were investigating Justus for something. Since Itsuki was the one who made the request for Harold’s mission, there was no way the Sumeragi family wasn’t acquainted with Justus to some extent.
As Harold had been under the impression that his link with the Sumeragis had been completely broken off, he had not considered at all the option that they would take action against Justus.
【”Was that all you wanted to confirm?”】
【”There is one more thing. Could you tell me to where the truth starts and ends in those rumors about you?”】
【”I have no interest for these detestable kinds of things. I don’t know about them so whether they’re true or not is none of my concern.”】
【”There is the one about you being a “knight killer” who slaughtered dozens of knights. Then there is the one that said you had a pact with a devil and that you could get riches by kidnapping children and selling them to him. And, also, the one about you dyeing your hands with every evil deed in existence, therefore completely mastering the path of evil. I guess there are other ones, but these are the main rumors circulating.”】
Harold had heard about every single one of these rumors. But hearing them again from someone else’s mouth was still considerably difficult.
Well, most of them were due to Justus dramatizing the facts.
Regarding the knight killing case, it was in the middle of one of Harold’s missions where he simply happened to encounter a group from the knight order that was attacked and almost exterminated by a herd of monsters. The group had about ten people in it, but when Harold arrived, more than half of them were already dead, and the others were on the verge of dying. The monsters had pretty much annihilated them and, in the end, there were only two people among the group who preserved their lives.
However, they both retired from the knight order immediately after that because of the remaining after-effects of their injuries.
As for the kidnappings rumors, it came from the times when Harold would take the orphans and juvenile vagrants that he happened to see in the slums and on battlefields, he would then leave some money and goods for them and take them to an orphanage that he deemed to be decent. Harold could count the number of times he did that on one hand so it shouldn’t have caught Justus’ eyes, and yet the matter was somehow still exposed to him. That made Harold realize all over again how terrifying Justus really was.
And that last thing, about him “mastering the path of evil”, was probably just an image people had of Harold after combining various rumors. Upon hearing of this, Justus had lamented;【”Oh come on, It’s too vague. They made it way too halfheartedly.”】so he likely had nothing to do with it. Harold found it extremely annoying that Justus was so devoted to ruining his reputation that he would lament over something like this.
Whenever he heard rumors about himself, Harold could not help thinking “If that had really happened, I’d have been arrested long ago, wouldn’t I?”.
Erica was probably able to realize that as well, but the fact that she asked about the rumors meant that she was likely still half in doubt. If that was the case, Harold was going to use this to make doubly sure that Erica’s evaluation of him was at rock bottom, but, if possible, he’d prefer it if she didn’t spread her hate within the hero’s party after joining Liner, lest this turn into a full-blow confrontation between him and Liner’s party.
He wanted the party to have just enough faith in him to accept his advice and information. If that turned out to be impossible, he’d have to do it via Elu.
【”Yes, this hand of mine is tainted with blood and sins. But, so what? The weak can only blame their foolish selves for turning into preys.”】
This answer was a massive lump of elitism. But even though things may have appeared this way, Harold had actually managed to control himself and held back the words “inferior species” from coming out of his mouth.
Harold looked at the palm of his right hand. This hand had wielded a sword which brought down monsters and humans alike, there was no denying that, but still, that didn’t mean Harold felt nothing from it.
【”Perhaps we can’t understand each other because our values differ too much, but….”】
Suddenly, Harold’s right hand felt warm, and was wrapped by a soft feeling. The heat then gradually spread.
The source of that warmth was actually Erica’s hands, which were grasping Harold’s right hand. Erica gently and lovingly held it close to her chest.
【”But, with this hand, you’ve protected my important people. That’s the undeniable truth. So, no matter how much of a sinner you are, I’m willing to accept you.”】
Harold could not allow himself to look away from Erica’s eyes which seemed so warm that they could pull him in.
He felt like his reason was ringing alarm bells to stop him from looking at Erica’s eyes any longer. Even so, as if he had been possessed, Harold unintentionally gripped Erica’s hand, and――.
【”Well, that’s probably what my brother would tell you. I mean, he likes you a lot after all.”】
As Erica said that, she released Harold’s right hand. The warmth in Harold’s hand went down as it was exposed to the air, and, at the same time, Harold regained his calm.
While a mischievous smile appeared on Erica’s face, Harold realized he had been tricked. He, who suddenly became embarrassed, turned his eyes towards another direction and folded his arms.
While listening to Erica’s discreet and yet cheerful laughter, Harold kept looking the other way, to hide his embarrassment, until the boat arrived at the dock.