Since Harold made the decision without even thinking about it, the rumors circulating in his territory about him being a battle junkie might not have been necessarily wrong . Although the danger was less, his resistance towards fighting becoming lower was also another change . This was the result of him coming to the clear decision that if it wasn’t like this, he wouldn’t survive .
「By the way, is your body alright? I heard that you fought against a huge Horn Head on this expedition」
Maybe because Tasuku had asked the same question every time they met after Harold came back from an expedition, Harold’s voice sounded completely fed up .
But for Tasuku, or rather for the Sumeragi, in the past when they had thought that Harold had come to visit, 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 didn’t show any excessive concern by respecting Harold’s feelings saying, 「Since Harold-sama himself has decided」, since she started to seriously practice healing magic from that day onwards, her honest emotions were that she couldn’t simply sit still without doing anything .
From the time Erika had started practicing healing magic, Harold hadn’t gotten injured, and so as of yet her power hadn’t healed any injuries of Harold . But still, Erika’s devotion towards Harold, which was shown by her practicing healing magic diligently every single day, was real . Although, Harold hadn’t realized 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, too 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 favorably that he unintentionally wanted to laugh . Although he couldn’t be careless about the situation of the expanding miasma in the Sumeragi territory, only this had to be resolved by the protagonists, so he couldn’t 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 with sides of 20 meters, 2 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 somewhat appeared to be tawny . His usually kind face to which the words pleasant youth would perfectly fit, had a grim expression .
Facing against 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 . While moving so intensely that his black hair, which was much more darker than the youth’s became dishevelled, converse to those intense movements he had a sharp glint in his cold eyes and was dishing out sword strikes .
The 2 who had a close friendship would often cross swords to confirm each other’s growth when they occasionally met .
「Haa, ha……… . yeah, if it’s like this, it seems as though you’ll be alright even in the tournament」
Itsuki, who had moved away from the sword’s range, lowered his sword while arranging his breathing .
「I don’t need your concern」
「Only in the strength portion though . It’s good that you have no problems in handling the fake sword」
「Don’t make light of me . I’m not so weak that this amount of weight will become painful」
「If it’s about that, I was worried whether you’d be able to hold back or not」
‘Because there’s practically nobody in the same generation who can react to Harold’s sword’, was Itsuki’s opinion . If he had to say it, then it was consideration 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 want to board an airship)
Airship was something that appeared in the game, a wooden vehicle with an appearance similar to a ship, and it flew in the air . Its 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 crystals1, called 『Crystal2』, 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 armor .
「Ah, right, do you want to change your name for registering in the tournament? Almost everybody who participate in the tournament are commoners, so I think that your parents might not like you appearing in that kind of place」
「I don’t know about that . Rather, they might say,”You did well in beating down those inferior species!”, and get pleased」
No matter which, it wasn’t a proper reaction .
In that case, if he changed his name and hid his identity, then even if the tournament winner’s name entered his parent’s ears, it wouldn’t become troublesome .
「Anything is fine for the alias」
「Then I’ll think of it while 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 wouldn’t end only at that .
The evening of the day they reached Delfit a few days after traveling . With the tournament being held the next day, after they checked into a lodge, when Harold walked to the joint restaurant accompanying Itsuki to have dinner, for some reason Erika was present .
Unintentionally, his body stiffened .
「Sorry, Erika, for being a bit late」
Without even minding Harold’s thoughts, Itsuki sat down at the table where Erika was sitting . Harold glared at the both of them demanding an explanation, but even faster than that, Erika asked Itsuki
「Onii-sama, I heard that only the 2 of us will be eating together though?」
「That’s right . It’s not wrong that 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 wasn’t 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 it was 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 in Delfit?」
「Because there are chances of getting injured in the fighting tournament, I thought of making someone who could use healing magic accompany us . However, coincidentally since it was inconvenient to the people in the house, I reluctantly requested Erika」
It was extremely doubtful whether it was a coincidence or not .
Seeing that Erika, who had similarly been deceived, wasn’t refuting, Harold wasn’t satisfied with thinking that it might be 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 also accompany us」
「It should have been that I wouldn’t make contact with Harold-sama any more than when absolutely necessary though」
「I decided that meeting face to face is a necessity . That way, you can move smoothly if something happens, right?」
It wasn’t as though Itsuki was saying something odd, so they couldn’t complain about it . In the end, with the situation being as though they were taken for a ride by Itsuki, the 3 of them sat around the table . It went without saying that there was no conversation between Erika and Harold . If Itsuki hadn’t acted as the intermediary, they might have remained silent until the end . And so, this 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 . Erika saw that back off while feeling apologetic .
Although she wanted to scold Itsuki, maybe because he had sensed it, he had left with Harold and his figure could no longer be seen . She was delighted that due to her brother’s plan she was able to be together with Harold after a long time, but more than that her thoughts of being a bother weighed on her . Originally, Erika didn’t want to make her existence known during the fighting tournament unless Harold was injured . And now that plan was in this state .
While thinking about giving Itsuki a strict warning the next time when they were alone, Erika also returned to her room . She was staying in the same inn as Harold’s and Itsuki’s, but since she had taken into consideration of not wanting to cross each other, she was in a different floor .
When she opened the door to her room, Juno greeted Erika with her usual nonchalant air .
「Welcome back, Erika-sama ～ . You seem to be tired ～」
「You were watching?」
「Even though it’s like this, I’m also your guard ～ . Although, since both Itsuki-sama and Harold-sama are stronger than me, I don’t know if there’s any meaning in acting as your guard ～」
Being strong or weak was irrelevant to the necessity of a guard, but Erika understood what Juno wanted to say . Since those 2 would frequently fight each other, the chances to see it wasn’t scarce, but recently the times where she couldn’t understand what was going on because they were too fast, had increased .
Especially Harold, who would move so fast that people would be doubtful whether he was teleporting or not . Although, even Itsuki too was abnormal since he could deal with it .
「Come to think of it, have you talked about Colette-sama ～?」
Colette Emerel .
The girl who was supposed to have been killed along with her mother for various circumstances, was for some reason there in Delfit . If thought about it considering the season, then she might have come here to look at the fighting tournament .
「No, I’ve concealed it」
「As expected, there’s no way you can tell him ～」
「Yes, since we shouldn’t know that she is alive」
If Harold realized that the Sumeragi knew that Colette and her mother, Clara, were still alive, then they would invite 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 .
But still, she couldn’t simply not say even a single thing . 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 also known . About the strength and kindness of Harold . 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 . They could become good friends for sure .
「I’ll go to bed for today . Juno, you too return to your room」
「Understood ～ . Good night, Erika-sama」
After Juno left the room, Erika changed into her sleep-wear, and as soon as she turned off the lights of the room, she dived into her bed . It was different from the usual futon, since 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 properly fall asleep, the thoughts that were there previously and their continuation went through her head .
If she became friends after they met Colette again, then at that time, even Colette might get drawn towards Harold .
Although they were engaged, it was just temporary . She also knew that Harold was planning to cancel it . If that happened, then Colette might become her rival in love .
Normally, one would feel jealous . But strangely, Erika’s heart was calm . It wasn’t because she thought that she had the advantage in love .
‘Colette will become my rival . That too is fine’, was how she thought . In these past few years, Erika became aware that she was yearning for Harold . If she were to hope for it, she thought that she wanted her first love to be fulfilled .
But for Erika, those feelings of love weren’t 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 .
But 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 . Even these were Erika’s true feelings .
It wasn’t as though there were no 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 coming from the window, she gently smiled towards her future friend .
The brilliantly shining moonlight reminded her of Colette’s vibrant blond hair . While thinking about that, Erika closed her eyes and fell into a deep sleep .
1 . The kanji used is (鉱石) – kouseki .
2 . The kanji used is (結晶) – kesshou .