Chapter 73, I know, it’s very late, but I’m doing my principal exams right now, the whole semester depends on this, so I don’t really have time, but don’t worry! I’ll be done with them on Thursday, and then I’ll have all the time in the world!
For the Patreon donors, Chapter 74 and its preview are available over here!
Anyway, here is chapter 73, last chapter of volume 3, I hope you’ll enjoy it!
The Berlioz’ family’s celebrations lasted for three days. Then came the moment for Harold’s stressful mission of guarding Erica to end at last.
He was completely exhausted and wanted to let out a very long sigh. He felt like he owed himself some praise for carrying out his duty to its end despite the heavy mental fatigue it brought him.
Through a conspiracy between Itsuki and Justus, Harold had been forcefully made to escort Erica, without even being notified. And once he stepped into the Berlioz’ residence, he was attacked by the head of the household, a hot-blooded man with a muscle-brain who, once he was beaten by Harold, offered him to take his eight-year-old daughter as a bride. Just when he thought things couldn’t get worse, he was attacked once again, this time by one of the original story’s characters who was participating in the celebrations. To stop him and calm the matter, Harold proposed to have a duel, which somehow turned into a death match with a marriage with Erica at stake.
Upon enumerating these events once more, it seemed to Harold like he had suffered through a massive series of disasters.
Incidentally, on the last day of the celebration, Francis was acting over-familiar with Harold, while in contrast, Erica was acting somehow suspiciously, and, watching that happen, Itsuki was grinning from beginning to end despite being very calm on the whole. Due to Harold’s presence, no other men gathered around Erica, so it was safe to say that Harold had carried out his duty perfectly.
However, Harold did not feel any sense of fulfillment or accomplishment. What he felt however was pent-up resentment towards Justus and Itsuki who had deceived him.
However, concerning Itsuki, is seemed like on the evening of the celebration’s second day, Erica made him go through some intense moxibustion. Hearing him apologize to her with a tearful voice was sufficient for Harold to lose his grudge.
So the only one left was Harold’s annoying boss, Justus. After once again being shaken in the carriage for two days, Harold returned to the royal capital; he then single-mindedly went to the research center and forced the door to Justus’ laboratory open with such strength that he almost kicked it down.
Harold’s anger was so intense that even the staff members, who would usually poor out all their hostility on him, averted their eyes.
【”The hell was that about, Justus?!”】
His tone of voice was horrifying, as if he had just crawled out from under the ground. But that did not break Justus’ habitual cold behavior.
【”You’re back? I won’t be needing a report for this time’s mission. It was just for playing around after all.”】
Said Justus, and after no more than single glance towards Harold, he returned to his work.
Harold hadn’t come here with the goal of making his report. Justus knew that perfectly well when he spoke those words to him, which made this all the more irritating.
【”Yeah, what a lame farce this was. I won’t cooperate with you to act upon such stupid matters again, bastard.”】
【”Cooperate? Don’t forget that you’re just a pawn under my control. Know your place, Harold.”】
Justus spoke that indifferently, yet it was an established fact.
Even if Harold was sarcastic with him and complained, he was just abusing of Justus’ goodwill. No matter the incident or the happening, Justus would always draw every single conclusion all by himself to bring said event to its completion. He could not be shaken by others, and it was impossible to influence him.
The strength of his will was akin to a monster’s.
Still, Harold would have felt unsatisfied if he didn’t talk to him about this.
【”We’ll see if you can handle me. However, I have some ideas if you ever stick me to those people again. “】
【”Is that fiancee of yours that important to you?”】
【”You’re joking, right? That girl and I are completely incompatible, just like you and I, if not more.”】
【”Ahahaha, you say some interesting things! However, that’s only natural, isn’t it? Because you and I are the same.”】
Justus exaggeratedly spread his arms, laughing as his shoulders shook.
His eyes were like an abyss, there was no trace of light in them, and yet his cheeks were distorted up into a crazy smile as he looked at Harold. Harold could not bear to be treated as being similar to such a lunatic.
He had said what he wanted to say at least, and speaking anything more than this would only make things worse and more unpleasant for him.
While Harold was about to leave in a hurry, Justus kept talking to him with an intoxicated tone of voice.
【”No matter how you try to smooth yourself over, at your core, you’re just like me. We’re both mad men who would do absolutely anything to reach their goals, aren’t we?”】
To cut off the insults that were being poured on him, Harold striked the laboratory’s door with the same strength that had almost broken it when he entered the room.
Though he had come to complain, in the end, he was even more irritated. He had gotten his priorities backward.
Harold could not even hide his irritation from his outside appearance. In such a state, he, who was already disliked even at the best of times, would be approached by nobody.
Nobody, except for one person.
【”Oh, you came back.”】
Harold suddenly came across Elu, who was coming from the opposite direction. Despite Harold having an aura of displeasure overflowing from him, Elu did not hesitate to call out to him.
However, Lifa was nowhere near him.
【”What about the girl?”】
【”If you mean Lifa, she’s in her room. She’s preparing to go back to her hometown tomorrow.”】
【”I see. Did you have any trouble in my absence?”】
【”I don’t know if you’d call that trouble, but Justus told me about how he met you.”】
【”What kind of bullshit did he tell you?”】
Having listened to Elu, who answered Harold’s question, it seemed like he had been told an overly-dramatic version of the already kind of dramatic scene of Harold’s encounter with Justus. Though the facts were included at 100%, there were many parts that differed from what actually happened. The part about the sword was completely untrue, and Justus had cruelly emphasized how dangerous Harold was as a person.
And the exact words that had come out of Harold’s mouth were【”Give me power and I’ll teach you what true hell is, bastard.”】but it seemed like even that had been somewhat dramatized.
Harold did not understand what Justus wanted to do with him. He had predicted that he would be used a chess piece for Justus’ plans, but for some reason, he was starting to feel like there was more to this than that.
Well, as long as Justus did not stop his own plans, Harold would probably be able to secure a position where he could perceive the flow of events using what knew of the scenario of the game’s story.
【”And that’s pretty much it, however, I’m not the only one he told this to, Lifa was listening as well.”】
【”…… Is that it?”】
Though Elu asked that with a dubious face, Harold had nothing else to respond.
It was because he was under Justus’ control that he could walk around in broad daylight, and the main cause was that he was supposed to be “A test subject who’s to test the sword developed by Justus for some practical experiments.” Even Elu had failed to grasp the actual truth of the matter, therefore, Harold could not easily speak of it, and so it was safer to just confirm the things related to this.
Well, Elu was going to become Harold’s collaborator, so Harold had better find a chance to eventually speak of this to him.
【”What else is there to say?”】
【”Well, I see your point, but Lifa got quite the shock from this….”】
Though he didn’t know at what level that shock was, it was a normal feeling to have upon finding out that someone she knew was going to die, even if said someone was a person she often quarreled with.
Nevertheless, fact was that there was nothing Harold could say to her in particular. If, for example, he could speak to her in a sympathetic way to console her, it would only hurt Lifa’s feelings as, to her, that would just feel like a dying man’s attempt to cheer her up. Therefore, he thought that maybe it would be better to come in contact with her in the usual way rather than to take on a different attitude.
【”….You said she’s in her room, right?”】
Still, though it was troublesome, he would feel bad if he simply ignored the situation. So Harold went towards the room where Lifa was staying to take a look.
As for Elu, after saying【”Please take care of her.”】, he left and went towards the direction opposite to Harold’s. However, even though Elu was being considerate, Harold actually wanted him to accompany him and back him up, because his mouth was not going to be able to say a single word of comfort.
While thinking of deplorable things like that, Harold knocked on the door to Lifa’s room.
【”Who is it?”】
It was a listless voice that did not fit the usually high-spirited Lifa. When he thought back upon it, Lifa had started acting strange a little while before Harold departed to Kablan.
But still, that didn’t help him understand the reason behind that.
【”Hurry and open the damn door.”】
As soon as he said so, he heard clattering sounds from within the room.
The noises of various objects falling down continued for a little while, and once it settled, the door opened at last. However, there was only a gap of a few centimeters.
Therefore, Harold thrust the tip of his toes into that opening, and mercilessly forced the door open.
Because of how forcefully the door was opened, Lifa stumbled forward. At that moment, Harold happened to see her face that looked surprised, but also worried.
Probably because he expected her to look depressed, to Harold, Lifa, who was more slender than she used to be, looked more pretty and delicate than ever. Though the possibility that she had lost weight out of worry and sadness for him made Harold glad, his happiness was underwhelmed by the pain he felt in his heart as this worry was the result of a falsehood.
【”I heard I’d get to watch the rare sight of you looking like a sad sack but you’re more normal than expected. This is boring.”】
Harold’s sarcasm managed to trigger Lifa in but a second. Her boiling point was way too low.
On the other hand, that meant she was easy to handle.
【”You’re speaking as badly as ever… And whose fault is it that I was feeling down?!”】
【”You listened to that story of your own accord, and you’re feeling down of your own accord. I don’t recall saying a single word to you.”】
【”- – – Uh!”】
Lifa was so angry from Harold’s complaint that she was at a loss for words. Her face was bright red.
Though they had a tense relationship, he’d probably be able to get along with her without that bringing him any trouble in the future.
【”Enough already! If you’re going to be like this, I won’t worry about you anymore!”】
【”Are you kidding me? I haven’t fallen low enough to need your worry, idiot.”】
【”You really have a comeback to everything…. And yet, it looks like you’ll never be willing to break your own determination, no matter what.”】
【”What do you mean?”】
【”I asked Doctor Justus about the details of what happened after the tribunal pronounced your sentence. And he said that, because you wanted power, because you wanted to become strong, you allied yourself with him.”】
Harold affirmed it through his silence. Accepting that, Lifa then asked him.
【”But I think you’re plenty enough strong already, and yet you’re trying to gain strength so hard that you’re willing to exchange your own life for power, why is that?”】
That was a bad question to ask of Harold at this point in time.
The reason why he wanted power was already clear. Because if he were directly attacked by a death flags, it was his fighting strength that would make the difference between life and death. And, moreover, if it wasn’t for him going along with Justus’ story until now, then he would have been executed.
In any case, if he could avoid his death flags before they appeared, that would be the best, but if he followed the events of the game’s story, then he would have to fight three times against the hero’s party and manage to barely get away with his life every single time. Assuming the worst, there was even a risk that he would have to take over some of the events that the protagonists were supposed to deal with.
In preparation for those times, Harold had to be strong. That was why he felt the way he did about death, so as to completely avoid, break, and survive against his death flags.
【”That’s a dumb question. There is something I have to do no matter what, even if I have to risk my life for it.”】
He was genuinely hanging between life and death. Otherwise, he would not have been able to continue training ten hours a day or more for as long as eight years. He was able to do it because great efforts were needed to rework the reality of his death that he could not avoid by merely working on his character.
【”Even if you have to risk your life for it? Really, you’re so….”】
Probably from the fact that Harold intended to keep going even though she thought he didn’t have much longer to live, Lifa was at a loss for words. For some reason, it seemed like she was not able to look straight at Harold.
【”Well, still, I believe there is nothing in this world that is worth as much as my life. There is no way in hell I’m gonna let myself get killed easily.”】
He was not going to die, he said it so arrogantly and with such a mysterious self confidence that one could not simply find it in themselves to call out how incoherent it was. Any listener would just be utterly stunned.
【”Hah…. You are that kind of person after all. If that’s really how you feel, it’s quite amazing.”】
Just like Harold planned, a smile returned to Lifa’s face, though only slightly. There was quite a lot of shock on her face as well, but it was still much better than her having a depressed facial expression.
With time, she would come to realize that the story about Harold dying from his magical power being drained by a sword was a lie. But, rather than letting her gravely worry until said time, Harold was more at ease with getting her to perceive this as the slightly funny story of some reckless idiot who was just throwing his life down the gutter.
Well, judging by how things currently looked, it was probably going to be fine. And in any case, they were probably going to be antagonists to each other the next time they would meet after their parting the next day. It would be bad but it would help her get over the matter.
Harold thought so as he started leaving the room, but he stopped his feet as Lifa called him to a halt with a【”Wait, one more thing.”】. But when he tried to turn his head around, Harold was deprived of his hearing, making him wonder what on earth was going on.
And it wasn’t by the use of some kind of magic spell either. He couldn’t confirm it since he had his back turned the other way, but he guessed that Lifa was standing on the tip of her toes and blocking his ears with her hands.
That lasted for a mere few seconds. And byy the time Harold grasped the situation, Lifa’s hands had already gone away.
【”What did you do?”】
【”Nothing really~ It’s just that there was something I didn’t want you to hear.”】
“Then just say it after I’m gone”, Harold naturally wanted to retort, but he swallowed that back. He felt very sluggish due to the worry and tiredness that piled up during his long trip. Defeated by his desire to hurry and got to sleep, in the end, failed to see through the profound meaning behind the girl’s action.
When Harold thought back upon this later, perhaps things would not have developed in such a troublesome direction if he had questioned Lifa properly this time. Still, it was no use crying over split milk.
However, in the future, this choice was going to come back to bite him.
The sky was clear, and the fresh south wind was calmly blowing on the many flowering plants.
It was a good day to set off.
Liner, who had grown from a boy to a young man, stroked the handle of the sword at his waist for a moment as he looked up at the empty sky and took a deep breath.
【”Liner, are you really going?”】
The one asking that with an uneasy voice was Colette, who could also be said to have grown from a girl to a woman. However, just like her voice, her facial expression was filled with worry, and she was teary-eyed. It seemed like one light push would get her tear glands to break down.
To give Colette some peace of mind, Liner showed her a smile as dazzling as the sun.
【”Don’t worry so much. They escaped towards the neighboring town so I won’t be going far.”】
【”But it’s dangerous! There are monsters outside of the village, and you’ll probably have to fight the people whom even Leona-san and Olbel-san were unable to defeat, right?!”】
Colette brought up the names of Liner’s parents in an attempt to hold him back. To her, Liner’s actions were wild and unrealistic.
The night before, some thieves had trespassed in Liner’s residence. Although the thieves had come to steal from a warehouse that was separated from the house itself, however Leona happened to notice them by chance and rushed to battle.
The fight was two on two. Although they hadn’t been in an actual fight in a long time, Olbel and Leona, who were once capable adventurers, were overwhelmed by the movements of the thieves who were moving as if slipping into the darkness while wearing jet black robes with hoods which were pulled low over their eyes. Since it was like that for Olbel and Leona when they fought them, there was no doubting the thieves’ strength.
By the end of the fight, Leona was severely wounded on her left leg, and Olbel on his flank. Then, in the nick of time, Liner barged into the place. Though he attacked the thieves having caught them off guard, the strike was not a direct hit; but still, he did cut off the robe of one of them.
And at that moment, for just an instant, he saw the thief’s pale face which was exposed under the light of the moon that was shining through the gaps in the clouds. Taking on that chance, the thieves dispersed and narrowly escaped from the Griffith’s residence.
However, that didn’t mean that everything was fine. The thieves had stolen a treasured sword that the Liner’s parents had obtained, from inside some historic ruins, when they were still active adventurers.
In reality, it was supposed to be passed to Liner once he left the village for the sake of realizing his dream of becoming a knight leader. Liner could not let the sword be snatched away like that.
【”I’m the only one who knows his face. And, also, I’m the only one who can fight them.”】
Now that his parents had been injured, Liner was confident that he was the only one in this village who could fight with the thieves.
Therefore, he was determined to get back the treasured sword with his own hands.
【”So please just wait for a little while. I’m entrusting you with my father and mother, alright?”】
Colette knew that Liner wasn’t one to yield after making a decision. Therefore, she was aware that she couldn’t persuade him anymore.
I don’t want you to go. I want you to stay by my side.
Though such thoughts were dominating within Colette, she could not let them out. She felt that if she said that, it would be akin to exposing her weakness as one who had become accustomed to being protected.
If she had been able to tell him that she would follow him this time, if she had been self-confident enough to say it, then perhaps the journey that was awaiting Liner would have had a different conclusion.
【”Well then, Colette, I’m off.”】
Step by step, Liner moved away. And Colette was only able to see him off.
They had no way of knowing that these extraordinary steps were the first of a long and grand journey that would involve even the fate of the world.