【”…… and that’s apparently what happened”】
【”That’s scary! What the hell?!”】
Lita, having heard Elu’s story, was trembling while holding her shoulders with both of her hands . It was scary indeed .
But that was the very reason Lita wanted to hear it .
The bits and pieces of the circumstances surrounding Harold had a strong impression on her . She was brimming with curiosity .
【”What happened next?!”】
Elu had met his goal . He had managed to catch her interest .
【”It should be enough for today . If you don’t sleep soon, you’ll doze off in the middle of the night watch . ”】
【”Er… . ”】
【”Besides, tomorrow we’re going to go up the mountain and fight against monsters, right? We have to rest properly . ”】
【”I know, I know……”】
Saying so while somewhat sulky, Lita lied down and rolled over . Before long, she fell asleep and started breathing peacefully .
That has already been said before but, Elu still hadn’t revealed his gender to Lita . And regardless of him/her being a man or woman, she should at least have felt slightly vulnerable being next to a complete stranger .
Despite that, the sun still came up the next morning .
Maybe from how effective the story from the night before was on her, Lita was fidgeting as she kept repeatedly looking at Harold to then avert her eyes .
She was extremely restless . Perhaps her curiosity and self-discipline were conflicting .
Harold was aware of that but he silently proceeded ahead .
His destination appeared to be the top . The hydras were in the summit’s vicinity so there were no doubts in Harold’s steps .
Most of the monsters that the three occasionally encountered were taken care of by Harold, who was walking in first position .
He was doing well, but he wasn’t one to chatter pointlessly so Lita couldn’t find a chance to talk to him . As for Elu, he was observing the two with interest, therefore no one in the group uttered a word .
Unable to bear the atmosphere and Lita’s glances, Harold suddenly stopped walking and looked behind him .
Then, he had a word with Lita .
【”You’ve been a pain for quite a while now . If you have something to say, say it . If you don’t, then stop stealing glances at me . It’s annoying . ”】
His manner of speaking was quite overbearing . An ordinary person would have been pressurized by that, but Lita’s reaction was the complete opposite .
She went on to ask her question as if saying this was convenient for her . That’s really something, thought Elu .
【”Geez, I’ll stop being a pain in your ass and just ask you then . Is it true you were almost executed?”】
Harold’s sharp eyes pierced into Elu .
Lita, who did not know Harold the day before, was now asking such a question . There was no need to ponder over who gave her the information .
【”… . . How much did you hear?”】
He didn’t ask from who, but how much . He indirectly gave a positive answer with his question .
At the same time, according to Elu’s observations, the likelihood that some parts of the story were still kept secret had increased .
If Harold was just making an affirmation, there would hardly be any need for him to worry about how much Lita knew . To put it another way, there was something he didn’t want to be known, or rather, that he wanted to hide .
Harold’s answer, while confirming how much Lita heard, also served as a check on Elu who had shared the gossips with her . He wanted to ascertain whether he had hit on any inconvenient truths .
Seemingly unaware of those intentions, Lita started telling the story she had heard from Elu in its entirety . Harold, who listened to her from beginning to end, looked displeased .
【”―― and that’s about it . ”】
【”And it’s basically what happened . Now that you know, you better stop with those annoying glances from here on out . Otherwise, I’ll cut both of your tendons and leave you on the mountain by yourself . ”】
【”You have some frightening ideas… . ”】
Having finished listening to her story, Harold gave Lita a warning but he still confirmed her inquiry once again .
Although she was likely not completely convinced, Lita still withdrew regardless . She was thinking that, based on his wrongdoings which she learned of by hearsay, he might actually put his threats into action .
However, Elu was paying close attention to Harold and did not miss the moments where he slightly reacted . It happened twice .
The first time was when Cody’s name came up, the second time was from the words “test subject” .
Judging from that reaction, Harold had probably noticed a strange point in the story . Moreover, he just confirmed it without pointing that out .
In that case, there was a chance that he would come in contact with Elu .
Elu was very much looking forward to how much information he could draw from Harold . He felt something close to the excitement of a treasure hunter finding himself in front of a treasure chest in a labyrinth .
As Elu was getting excited within his innermost thoughts, Harold’s steps did not slow down one bit . And then, around noon .
The trio arrived at the peak of mount Giran .
Lita let out a delighted voice, as if she had forgotten her objective .
Although the top of mount Giran had some noticeable rocky areas here and there, it was basically flat . The snow was scarce in the current season, but in winter all the rocks would be covered up .
And, at the center of that flat summit, there was a crater of about 200 meters in diameter .
Disregarding Lita who was savoring her accomplishment of reaching the top of a mountain, Harold approached the crater . Curious about what he was doing, Elu followed after him .
As he looked into the crater, Harold located a place with a relatively gentle slope with many parts that could be used as footholds, and he jumped right down .
Harold descended in a steady rhythm . Though there was no danger of him falling into lava since this was a dormant volcano, he had gone down by a whole 100 meters, and in no time at all .
Harold who had arrived at the bottom of the crater took out some machine-like object . It wasn’t really clear because of the long viewing-distance, but he installed it in the middle of the crater .
Having finished working after no more than a few minutes, Harold came back the same way he went in, with a light jump .
【”What an amazing athletic ability . There is no way I could imitate this”】
【”Hmph, I wonder about that”】
【”So, what were you doing?”】
【”That’s none of your business”】
What a blunt reply . Well, I didn’t expect him to talk easily .
Maybe it’s some sort of observation device from the research establishment that he belongs to, guessed Elu .
【”By the way, you……”】(Harold)
Harold’s sharp eyes narrowed down even further . Is he going to ask about that strange point?
The moment Elu thought that, there was a scream that split the atmosphere between the two . There was no time for their dialogue anymore .
They looked for Lita and they found her at once . The problem was that she was facing a gigantic dragon wearing an armor made of ice .
That was a hydra .
Maybe because it had recognized her as an enemy, or maybe as a prey, the hydra was chasing Lita . She very narrowly evaded it, and threw some test tubes at him, causing an explosion .
Though the attack had hit, it didn’t seem to have dealt much damage . With the way things were proceeding, Lita was going to be defeated .
When she accidentally looked at Harold, he was standing with his arms crossed . He seemed to be observing the battle between Lita and the ice dragon .
【”Aren’t you going to help?”】
【”I never intended to lend her my power from the get go . I’ll let her handle it herself ’till she reaches her limit . ”】
From Elu’s point of view, the hydra being brought down by Lita’s power alone was an unlikely scenario . Helping her was not a matter of if but when, and considering the danger Lita was in, it would be wiser to help her immediately .
【”…… There is no way she’d be at her wit’s end against an opponent of this level . ”】(Harold)
【”What do you mean by that?”】(Elu)
Asked Elu having heard Harold’s mutter, but his answer was silence . He was watching Lita’s fight attentively .
Elu gave up on asking anything at the current time as it seemed useless and he turned his eyes back on Lita’s fight . For the time being, he prepared himself to assist her in case of an emergency .
While evading the ice dragon’s claws and ice breath, she once again threw some test tubes at him . However, they didn’t explode, there was just some transparent liquid that flowed from them, wetting the hydra’s body .
Lita repeated that action several times, and next she threw a test tube in the middle of the space between the dragon and herself . Thereupon, in the blink of an eye, a white haze spread out .
It was likely a distraction to snatch away the dragon’s field of vision . That was a skillful aim . Due to the thick mist, the hydra lost sight of Lita and started going left and right in confusion .
Not missing that opportunity, Lita took some distance to complete the magic-casting and shoot her spell .
【”―― It’s over…!『 Flame burst』!”】
Balls of fire rained down on the hydra like meteors . The moment they hit it, a deafening noise and a large explosion occurred .
The blows’ strength was different from the flame burst that Elu knew . Certainly, the spell consisted of innumerable fireballs pouring down like rain to then explode at the end and swallow the opponent in flames .
However, it shouldn’t have been that powerful . Just what on earth had Lita done?
The flames rose up high . Lita, the one responsible for that, was gasping for breath while watching the insides of the flames intently .
The shadow of the ice dragon was lying down on the ground . He was likely dealt some considerable damage this time .
However, with a twitch, said shadow started moving . The hydra stood up with its neck up high, and it roared at the clear sky .
【”No way… this wasn’t enough to defeat it…?”】
Lita’s voice was filled with despair . Despite her facing the dragon with her full power, it didn’t go down .
There was no mistaking it, this was her limit .
The dragon spread its wings and flew to the sky . Its body that appeared from the flames was filled with many wounds that were anything but light .
However, the hydra still had the intention and the power to fight .
The hydra steadily rose up . As Lita thought it was going to escape, the dragon suddenly turned its gigantic body over .
It proceeded to free-fall vertically from the sky . As he fell down, he obtained propulsive power from its wings and accelerated .
Naturally, its target was Lita, and with her having run out of power, she could not deal with that attack .
Being hit directly meant death . Even if she was grazed she wouldn’t go unscathed .
That kind of attack that could be called a certain killing blow was intercepted with a heavy sound of clashing metal .
The hydra that was falling at a considerable speed was flipped over and sent tumbling while scrapping off one of the summits rocky areas .
Lita, of course, and even Elu, who was far away, were completely bewildered . No, it can be said that it’s precisely because he was far away from the action and was watching seriously that he couldn’t believe what was happening .
The large body of the ice dragon that attacked from the sky weighted easily over 1 ton . And Harold knocked that down with only two swords .
Fatigue, fear, surprise . From all of those, Lita lost her strength and fell down on the spot .
【”… . Such a pain . ”】
Harold said to himself . Following his line of sight, there was another hydra heading towards his position .
Perhaps it had used its roar to call its comrades .
Thinking normally, the situation was too critical . Still, Harold didn’t have the slightest intention of escaping .
In his right hand, he held a long broadsword . A blue stream ran through its heavy dark-gray blade, a jade green crystal was embedded at the base of the sword, and its hand-guard was shaped like a burning flame .
As for his left hand, it was holding a thin black sword . It was well suited for Harold in that it had no useless decorations, which made it feel all the more sharp .
With the sword in his right hand being supported by his shoulder, and the sword in his left hand hanging low, Harold caught both of the ice dragons in his sight, the one who was raising its body while roaring, and the one who was coming over from the sky .
Before long, those two were standing in line . They let out an intimidating air that would make one think they’d have to lay down their lives to challenge them to a fight .
Harold addressed those very same ice dragons .
【”The only thing waiting for you is death . Be obedient and let yourself be killed without resistance . ”】
He was talking to monsters . The chances were that they wouldn’t understand his words .
Still, the hydras were angry . Maybe it was because of the wounds, maybe it was because their territory was invaded .
But their anger did not last long .
They felt a sword flash . They couldn’t actually see it, but they were proven right within a moment .
But the neck of the wounded hydra had already dropped down . It was too quick, without any resistance .
Like a toy broken by a child .
As Harold stood on the back of its companion whose cut neck was now spurting out dark red blood, the other hydra shot his ice breath at him .
Shot by an attack that would freeze a person in the blink of an eye, Harold’s figure disappeared for a second . And then, a shout rose .
The dragon’s right eye had been sliced right off .
When did that happen? There was no time to think about it . Next, the dragon’s three left claws were all cut off together .
Unable to resist, the ice dragon opened its wings trying to escape from the sky and flew off for a few meters, but then, its wing’s patagium was sliced and the beast fell back to the ground .
Harold did not stop . He continued attacking again and again, left and right, leaving only his afterimages behind .
This could no longer be called a fight . It was the brutal deed of an overwhelmingly strong man bullying a weak individual .
Even though he had secured a field of vision which allowed him to overlook the whole situation, Elu’s eyes could not catch up to Harold’s speed . The nearby hydra was getting wounded, overwhelmed by sword attacks, as it most likely couldn’t figure out what was what anymore .
This was Harold Stokes .
Was he a bad boy? Was he a knight killer? Was he the youngest genius in history to join the knight order?
He wasn’t a being that could be described with such words .
With a splash, something stuck to his cheek . And Elu suddenly came back to his senses .
He wiped that with his right hand, and it turned out to be the hydra’s blood . That very hand was slightly trembling .
So far, Elu had seen many people who were referred to as strong . He had heard exaggerated anecdotes in various places about strong men who accomplished prowesses beyond anyone’s expectations .
However, they were thoroughly overshadowed by him, his power couldn’t be put in the same category as a human’s strength . He was like a calamity that spread death .
At this moment, what Elu and surely Lifa as well felt towards Harold, was fear .