Chapter 96 is here at last! This chapter was edited by Fordoom, who did a great job as always 😀
For the Patrons, chapter 97 and its preview are available here.
Anyway, here is the chapter, I hope you’ll enjoy it!
A little while after entering the mountain, Harold noticed that Erica was feeling awfully down. She was walking slowly and there was a heavy aura coming out of her. Although he did not understand the reason for that, it was too abrupt a change for him not to worry about it, it felt ominous.
Wondering if perhaps she had been affected by the miasma, Harold called out to her. He did not have any reason in particular to do so, but Juno had touched on the matter, saying “What shall we do about this, Harold-sama?” and the others’ had facial expressions that seemed to be asking “What should we do?”, as well. So, in the end, Harold could not ignore this matter.
Hence why he went to talk to Erica, and while she responded with a somewhat suspicious behavior, it did not feel like there was something wrong with her physical condition. According to her own words, she had just been lost in her thoughts.
But what could she have been thinking about to be surrounded by such a gloomy atmosphere? As he asked himself that question, Harold grew restless.
To make matters worse, Erica was suddenly attacked by a monster so Harold ended up hugging her to protect her. That in itself was a good thing and there shouldn’t have been anything wrong with his behavior, but from the perspective of Erica, who utterly despised Harold, this was likely akin to sexual harassment. Harold cursed his fate, he had let his instincts take priority over his reason, and he was now probably going to end up getting slapped for it.
However, Erica’s response was actually extremely light. Or rather, her mind was lost elsewhere and was not focused on the situation. As Harold expected, this was worrying.
So, he tried asking her “Are you really okay?”, but all that came out of his mouth was “This is no time to get lost in your freaking thoughts”, after which Erica looked like she was about to cry. At this point, having the bad reputation of a brute or a rascal who made women cry did not really matter to Harold, but it would still deal quite a bit of damage to his conscience if he really did it.
Adding to that, if his predictions were to come true, then after this, Erica was going to play an active role in the mission; and chances were that it would be difficult for her to do her part if she stayed in her current state until then.
So, he could have sent her back for the time being, but that was not an option, for Harold did not think it would be a good idea to separate Juno and Erica from the group and to therefore lower the team’s power.
So, while resisting the impulse of letting out a humongous sigh, he grabbed Erica by her wrist. Then, he forcibly pulled her with him as he advanced towards his destination.
Considering the miasma’s effect, the device had to be deactivated promptly. Hence why Harold couldn’t just leave Erica as she was. Fortunately, the place where the machine was likely to be located was already at eye range, all that was left to do was to finish the mission right quick and to then leave, and everything would be just fine.
Moreover, since his mouth would only bring bad consequences whenever he opened it, Harold opted to deal with Erica through actions only, instead of speaking to her. Surprisingly, Erica followed Harold as he held her wrist. Perhaps she was so dispirited that she didn’t have the energy to resist.
Come to think of it, when I was sent to Itsuki’s wedding in Kablan half a year ago, the same thing happened, but with our roles reversed. As Harold thought back upon those past events, the team finally arrived at its destination.
There, was a huge pit that was surrounded by the mountain from every direction. Although its shape was distorted, it was still roughly circular, with a gentle slope that went towards the center. Its diameter was in the hundreds of meters, and although Harold couldn’t see the whole thing due to the miasma obstructing the view, the pit looked like a giant hole.
Facing that scene, Harold could feel the team’s nervousness reaching out from behind him. The cause of their tension was the inside of the pit.
【”Wha-What is this…?”】
Liner muttered while in blank amazement. His words might have also represented what everyone else was feeling.
In the huge pit, a great variety of monsters were crowded and cramped together. Since this was the site of the miasma outbreak, it was needless to say that all of those monsters were in a frenzied state. It would have made things easier if those monsters crushed each other, but it didn’t seem like such a convenient development was going to occur.
Well, Harold had expected as much.
In the original story, while Lifa was deactivating the device which was located at the center of this same pit, the rest of the team battled against the monsters for ten minutes. In that time, groups of two to five enemies would appear, and once they were defeated, some new similar random group of enemies would come from the edge of the screen, that cycle would last for ten whole minutes and the player had to fight until the time limit is up. Therefore, Harold had expected that there would likely be large numbers of monsters around the machine.
Incidentally, since Francis was not a party member yet by that time, the team was forced to fight with four people only while Lifa was dealing with the machine, and those people were Liner, Colette, Hugo and Erica. Among them, Erica was the only one who could use healing spells and long-ranged attacks, so whenever she was put in a near-death state in the game, the player would be met with an awful development.
This time however, not only Francis was present, but there was also Juno, and above all, Harold himself. So, he wanted to think that the team wouldn’t be pushed into a hard fight, but from what he could see, there was a considerable number of monsters. It would probably take several hours to beat all of them.
Harold would not know how much time it would take Lifa to deactivate the device until she actually tried, but he still believed it would be better to withdraw immediately right after her success.
【”This is where the real thing begins. Everyone, pull out your weapons.”】
【”Hey, Harold, wait. You’re thinking of going in there?”】
【”That’s right. Our destination is at the center. That’s where the machine is installed.”】
Harold’s excessively brutish strategy was to keep killing the monsters around the center of the pit until Lifa was done. Although this would ordinarily be considered to be reckless, the thing was that this team was not exactly ordinary.
【”I’ll create a path through them first, and you’ll follow me after that.”】
Harold pulled out his two swords and turned off his “Switch”. He had already readied himself from long before to face off alone against a large group of monsters here. This fight would serve as the perfect practice for him, in case he would be met with the worst-case scenario in later events.
【”Don’t tell me, you’re going to start the attack on your own~?”】(Juno)
【”Well, that would be fine… but, Liner. How about you show me how much you’ve grown, bastard.”】
【”Oh? Well, you’re on! Let’s see which one us can beat the most of them.”】
【”You idiot. This isn’t a contest.”】
However, for now, the most important was that Liner seemed to be eager to attack. Although his reckless personality had been a source of anxiety on the way here, in this situation, that trait of his would shine through.
Since that was the case, Harold could execute his strategy.
Her reply was not long by any means, but Harold could still feel Erica’s strong and unshakable determination from it. Earlier, she had been so down that she seemed like she was about to cry, but now, there were no traces left of her cloudy expression as she looked at Harold with powerful eyes.
That complete change was a little scary. But well, she seemed to be motivated now so it was probably better not to worry about that.
【”Among the spells you can use, which one is the most powerful?”】
【”Well,『Meteor Blast』, I guess.”】
“Huuuh?!”, Harold barely managed to stop himself form shouting that. But he had actually been compelled into reacting that way, because Erica’s answer was just that shocking.
Meteor blast was a form of suppressive fire, it was a spell that Erica was supposed to acquire at Level 50. In the game, the blast would take two thirds of the screen. In other words, even if she were pushed back by the monsters, as long as she was able to use the spell, she could bring forth an explosive power that would completely turn the tables at once. Accordingly, it consumed a fitting amount of MP and the incantation took some time as well, but at any rate, Erica was not supposed to know that spell at this point in time.
The MP consumption problem could be solved with a mere “Mana bottle”, which was an MP recovery medicine. So, if Erica joined the hero’s party with her current power, she might ruin the whole Game Balance. The spell was that powerful.
There were plenty of things Harold wanted to ask, such as why did she know that spell and when had she gotten so strong? But he stayed calm and managed to keep those questions to himself.
Right now, Harold did not care about the reasons for this. “Rather, I should be glad since it’s going to be easier to clear the event” Thinking that, Harold turned his gaze forward.
【”Fire one shot straight towards the center.”】
Erica focused her concentration and started the incantation. A pale, crimson light came forth and surrounded her.
There was a beautiful yet heavy and coercive feeling to the spell. Which made Harold realize a surprising fact: this was the first time he was seeing Erica use any magic other than healing spells in this world. But that realization was blown off to pieces and swept out of Harold’s mind by Erica’s magic.
As Erica said those two words, a rain of meteors fell from the sky. Harold and the others could feel the meteors’ tremendous impact, which was accompanied by a thunderous sound. Several voices of surprise came from the group, the only people who were silent were Erica, who had fire the spell, and Harold who knew what was happening.
But in his heart “What the hell…” is what Harold was thinking.
First of all, there was something strange about the attack’s power. From here, Harold was able to see that the monsters had been and scattered all over the place. Just where in the world was the original Erica who would feel sorry for killing monsters even if they harmed people? The meteors had formed countless craters in the ground.
Thinking that perhaps this attack would be aimed at himself someday, Harold felt like his spine was about to freeze.
However, just like Harold had ordered her, or rather, even more than expected; she had opened up the path ahead, making it easier to rush forward.
【”Let’s go, Liner.”】
【”Huh? ….Ah, yes!”】
【”Is this already enough? I can still use the spell…”】
【”…Save your mana.”】
If that ridiculously powerful spell was used, Harold wouldn’t have any chance to measure the capabilities of not only Liner, but also of the other members of the team. But well, now there was no doubt that the monster extermination would go smoothly as the team could leave everything to Erica in the worst case.
There was not much to say about the results that came afterwards. Harold and Liner quickly killed the enemies that still remained on the path ahead, and following behind them while being escorted by the rest of the team, Lifa arrived in front of the device without a hitch. After that, during the 20 minutes that it took to deactivate the machine, the team members kept on killing the monsters determinedly while protecting Lifa.
It seemed like the one who had defeated the most enemies was Erica. Acting as the rearguard, Erica was standing right next to Lifa and had turned into a fixed artillery, she was alternating between her magic and her bow to attack, therefore showcasing clearly her high capacity for both suppression and destruction.
Thanks to that, Harold did not need to do anything unreasonable in particular, so he defeated the monsters indifferently and he had some room to observe the other members’ battles.
As for Harold’s thoughts on the matter, he assessed that Liner and the others’ abilities were not bad at all, and they had been able to advance without being swallowed by the waves of monsters that came at them. At present, he could give a passing mark to their power as individuals and as a team; And they would likely become even better as long as he gave them some pointers afterwards regarding a few concerns that he had.
They were inferior when compared to Erica, but at this point, that couldn’t be helped anymore. Rather, what the hell in going on with Erica’s level? Harold wondered.
The Sumeragi town regained its energy. That was to be expected, the miasma which had tormented the Sumeragi territory for many years had disappeared, and the people who were stuck in their sickbed because of it had now recovered.
Everything Harold had said had come true. Just how much did the Sumeragi family owe him? How in the world would they be able to return his favors?
Harold did not want anything. He did not show interest in getting rewards or fame or anything of the sort. Rather, what he wanted was to break his ties with the Sumeragis. So, the Sumeragi family was in no position to do anything for him, and this was also a difficult problem for Erica as an individual.
Harold had said that the Sumeragis would owe him nothing as long as they cut through the restrictions of the mountain to let Liner and the others pass. So, the family could not display their gratitude to him, all they could do was to praise the group for their success; And when they did so, a dispute occurred.
It was within the Sumeragis’ residence, one day after the device that caused the miasma outbreak was deactivated. Liner’s voice resounded, full of anger.
【”I can’t agree with this! Why didn’t you put Harold’s name?!”】
【”Because I told him it’s not necessary.”】
The information regarding the group’s great efforts in solving the miasma problem was spread not only inside the Sumeragi territory, but outside of it as well. However, Harold’s name was not included in that.
Needless to say that was because he had refused to be included.
【”Why would you do that?!”】
【”You absolute moron, is there any sign of a brain left in your head? Although I’m not happy about it, I work under Justus. What am I supposed to do if people start talking about how I came in the way of something that is a part of his plans?”】
【”Then just leave that guy.”】
【”Idiot. I told you before that I have something to do that requires me to keep my position.”】
Harold and Liner’s opinions were like two parallel lines, never meeting with each other. However, in the end, the Sumeragi family would have no other choice than to respect Harold’s wishes anyway.
This was his own desire, and considering his standpoint, the Sumeragis had to abide. The Sumeragis’ opinion was actually that they should not make any official announcements about the group’s accomplishments in order not to make Harold stand out, even though it would be too bad for Liner and the others’ efforts not to be recognized. The one who suggested to make the group’s accomplishments public anyway was actually Harold himself.
He had asked Liner what he would do after all this, and Liner answered that he would take back his sword and defeat Justus, or something along those lines.
Having confirmed that, Harold had then insisted that Liner’s work should be made public. That way he would bathe in the people’s attention, and then, if he was perceived as a hero, it would make it difficult for the enemy to interfere with him. Yet, on the other hand, it would become easier for Liner and the others to take action.
Although a rise in popularity would be a double-edged sword, if handled well, it could be highly effective.
However, Harold had strictly ordered the Sumeragi family not to include his name in all that, and Liner opposed his decision…. And that was the cause for the current situation.
【”But isn’t it dangerous to stay around Justus? You don’t have to go this far…”】
【”That’s none of your business.”】
No matter how much Liner kept holding on, Harold showed no signs of accepting his request. That made Liner lose his temper and heat up out of anger.
【”It is my business! Last time we met, you saved me, and also, when Colette was ―― Mmm!”】
Liner let out a strange voice. The reason for that was Harold, who was sitting face-to-face with him. He had dexterously thrown a tea-cake right into Liner’s wide-opened mouth, therefore forcing him into silence.
Then, Harold quietly stood up and grabbed Liner, who was having trouble chewing the cake, by the nape of the neck.
【”That’s enough of you. It looks like I’m gonna have to teach your empty head a few things.”】
Without a care for the struggling Liner, Harold dragged him along with him and took him away somewhere else.
Liner was likely being stopped because he was about to speak of how Harold had saved her in the past. Upon seeing that, Colette had a bitter smile on her face. The same facial expression could be seen on the faces of everyone else who knew about Harold’s circumstances, and about the past he wanted to hide.
【”Well, leaving those two alone, Colette, after this you guys will continue your journey, right?”】
【”Yes. It’s just like what Liner said.”】
【”If so, is it okay if I accompany you, too?”】
Lifa proposed to travel together with Colette’s group on their journey.
【”Huh? You want to accompany us, Lifa-chan?”】
【”There is no way I’m letting you go by yourselves.”】
【”I’m glad! I’m looking forward to it!”】
With a big smile on her face, Colette took Lifa’s hands and then shook them with an enormous force.
Which made Erica realize that Colette was still using honorifics when talking to her, even though she was open and direct when interacting with Lifa. That was due to Erica’s position as a noble, but the sense of distance it created still made her feel a little lonely.
【”Mhm, then, I’ll come too.”】
【”Oh? Are you sure that’s alright? Aren’t you part of the royal family?”】(Lifa)
【”That’s precisely why I’ll come with you. I can’t forgive those thieves you’re pursuing, but above that, I absolutely cannot forgive Justus for the disorder he’s bringing. This man is tormenting the nation’s people, as a bearer of royal blood, I have to capture him at all costs.”】
【”…You just rose in my estimation. And here I thought you were just a pretend prince.”】(Lifa)
【”You’re being real rude here!”】
It seemed like Francis had decided to follow Liner and the others from here on out.
But Colette was confused.
【”But then, why do you want to come with us, Lifa?”】
【”I have my reasons. Besides, I’ve got a small grasp on what that guy’s goal might be.”】(Lifa)
Colette did not seem to understand what that meant, but when Lifa spoke of Harold’s goals, Erica felt that something was out of place. The actions Harold had taken this time did not seem like himself. His real intention was likely to gather everyone who was present here together.
Erica, Liner, Colette, Lifa and Francis. Harold had already been acquainted with the five of them from beforehand. The possibility that all five of them would gather in the Sumeragi territory by accident was as likely as an actual miracle. Perhaps even Hugo was included in that.
Therefore, there was no doubt that Harold had caused this situation, and based on the chronology of the events that led to this, Harold had been thinking of making this situation happen for a considerable amount of time. It didn’t seem likely that he would elaborate all of this just to solve the miasma matter.
Then, why had Harold gathered them? This was yet another action that did not seem like something he would do.
He had also revealed his past and the danger that Justus represented. Normally, Harold would have hidden that, he would have faced Justus all by himself while talking daringly, and only then he would have made Erica and the others realize how cruel and dangerous of a man Justus really was.
But right now, Harold was trying to obstruct Justus’ plan. Probably for that reason, he went to work under him, to get in his way from within the obscurity, all the while aiming for the right moment to rebel against him. Also, if Erica and the others were to hinder Justus’ plans from the outside, it would become easier for Harold to take action from the inside.
Obstructing Justus from both the outside and the inside, that was Harold’s goal.
He was walking a thin line, taking big risks. However, that was likely proportionate to how dangerous Justus’ plans were.
Lending her strength to Harold here was likely the only occasion Erica would get to return his favors ever so lightly. She did not know to what extent she would be able to help, but if she could support Harold’s goals, even if only a little, then there was no reason to hesitate.
【”What is it, Erica-san?”】
【”Would you allow me to come with you, too?”】
In response to Erica’s words, everyone had a surprised face, except for Lifa. Erica realized that, as she expected, Lifa’s thoughts were similar to her own.
Perhaps Lifa also wanted to become Harold’s strength.
【”E-E-Erican-san?! You want to come, too?! Oh god, what should I do…!”】
【”Father, brother, please don’t stop me. This is what the Sumeragi family… No, this is what I ought to do.”】
Erica did not avert her gaze, she looked straight in the eyes of her father and brother; and looking like they were beaten by her persistence, each of the two of them let out a small breath.
【”This is a request from Erica who seldom ever asks for anything selfish. Let’s listen to her, dad.”】
【”….Yes. Even if I try to stop her, she won’t. I can see that from her eyes.”】
【”Thank you very much.”】
Erica deeply bowed her head.
Given her standing as a daughter of the Sumeragi family, her request could be said to be outrageous. However, her father and brother sympathized with her feelings and sent her off, so she was glad; both due to that kindness, and due to their trust, as she felt like they had acknowledged that she had grown up.
【”Uh, hmm….. Then, you’re coming for real?”】
【”Yes. I look forward to working alongside you, Colette-san.”】
【”What should we do, Liner?! This is a huge responsibility for us!”】
Colette shouted, seeking for the help of Liner, who was not currently there. Around that time, he was likely being trained by Harold. Harold’s training was tough on both the mind and the body, and he was as strict on himself as he was on other people.
However, that was Harold’s own way of being kind.
Erica loved that awkwardness of his, just like how she loved him, and she had to behave in accordance to that feeling. But right now, she still couldn’t convey her feelings to Harold, neither with words nor with actions.
【”Lifa-san, I look forward to working with you, too.”】
【”Yeah. Likewise, tomboy lady.”】
【”Hehe, this is the first time I’ve ever been called that”】
As Erica chuckled, Lifa smiled wryly in response.
Erica once again felt that Lifa was just like her, that she couldn’t help herself from wanting to become Harold’s supporting strength, no matter what.
Perhaps she and Lifa were actually rivals.
【”I think we’re going to have a hard time on this journey…”】
【”Well, that can’t be helped. He’s a selfish man after all.”】
【”He sure is.”】
As they said so, Erica and Lifa both smiled.
But those smiles had no anxiety to them, they were bright like the blue sky of spring.
Translator’s note: So there you go, you got your rivalry people… though it was fortunately not as bloody as some of you were hoping ><
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Anyway, I hope you’ll have a great day, see you next week 😀