『Brave Hearts』was an authentic, Oudou* RPG . The protagonist, Liner, grew up as a close witness to the strength of his parents who were quite skilled thanks to their past as adventurers . From his childhood, Liner kept training himself, yearning to become stronger than his mother and father, and before he knew it, he reached a point where he was dreaming of becoming the leader of the saint knight order .
Anyone would acknowledge the leader of the knight order as a mighty hero and it was no exaggeration to say that most children aspired to become like him .
On his 17th birthday, Liner was supposed to take over a certain sword that his parents had obtained in their adventurer days and head to the royal capital so as to enter the knight order .
However, a certain evening soon before his 17th birthday, some thieves broke into Liner’s house and stole the sword . Thus, after shaking himself off his parents’ restraint, Liner went out of the village to get the sword back from the thieves, with his childhood friend, Colette, accompanying him .
That was the introduction of the game, and this was the trigger that got Liner involved with an atrocious plan that was going to shake the whole world, therefore making him do all he could to get in said plan’s way .
Incidentally, sending the thieves away and fighting them was a part of the game’s combat tutorial . At that point, the player could experience a real battle with magic mixed in . It was an event that could not be avoided when playing the game .
Well, in this world, there was an extremely high chance to eventually experience such a battle at later times, but that didn’t change the fact that this event was the first major turning point for the story’s development . A turning point that would have been impossible if not for those thieves coming to steal the sword,
and Harold was convinced that the whole operation had been carried out by the people under Harrison, the Minister for Defense . Those people had no name in the game, and even their lines of dialog were poorly prepared . They had no particular background to investigate or anything of the sort either . They were plot devices that merely played the parts they were given .
However, that was just in the game’s story .
From Harold’s analogical reasoning based on his dialog with Justus, the young man and woman were almost surely the ones who were supposed to trespass into Liner’s residence and steal his sword . The problem was that Harold was ordered to join them and manage them, and that, in the game, the thieves were actually… a trio .
Having finished listening to Justus’ lecture, Harold questioned him so as to clear his own doubts .
【”I get what they are . However, why do I have to go with them? It would be fine if you just prepared some other doll, right?”】
【”I’ve considered doing that but, to reach this point in the research, I had to expend more of the stellar tribe’s members’ bodies from my stock than I expected, so I’d rather keep some spares . ”】
Those people of the stellar tribe had been captured by Justus in the middle of the confusion of the battle that he had caused between the knight order, the imperial army and the stellar tribe; and he had just declared that they were “spares” . For him, they were not even human beings .
That realization was frightening, but this time’s matter was actually also due to Harold intervening in that battle and therefore obstructing Justus’ plans . If Justus had been able to capture the stellar tribe members like he did in the original story, this issue would not have occurred, and in the first place, if Harold hadn’t intervened in the battle, he would not have fallen to the position of Justus’ subordinate .
In short, this was merely the result of the seed Harold had sown himself .
Harold was going to be working on two fronts, both as Harold Stokes and as the ringleader character responsible for the theft .
Although he could somehow deal with the former role by maneuvering himself through it, the latter would make him a complete antagonist . So it would likely be a troublesome matter if his identity were to be discovered on the job .
Justus, unconcerned about Harold’s dilemma, swimmingly pursued the conversation .
【”And so, from now on, the three of you are going to be under the commands of a man called Harrison . Are you acquainted with him?”】
【”I’m not . If I’m not mistaken, he’s the military’s defense minister, right?”】
【”That’s right . It really was’t easy to make an inflexible and stubborn person like that succeed, but I was finally able to get him to a position where he could be of some use to me . ”】
【”You’ve been keeping your eyes on him for quite a while, huh . ”】
In the game’s story, Harrison was a foolish man who was too fixated on his pride, and in the end, he was pathetically killed by a subordinate who was supposed to be under his control… . thinking of that, Harold realized that the role of killing Harrison had fallen onto him .
Harrison treated the automaton dolls just like tools . He forced impossible demands on them and mercilessly slayed them with his sword when they were unable to succeed, and in his final moments, his life was going to be snatched away by one of those dolls that was supposed to not have any emotions . That was the conclusion awaiting him .
【”His thoughts are biased and he’s too narrow-minded, but nobody’s as easy to handle as he is . So at least, he’ll make for a fine throw-away pawn . ”】
【”Your hobbies are as bad as ever . ”】
【”That sarcastic mouth of yours won’t do . I’ve explained to Harrison that the dolls don’t have a language feature, so be careful not to talk to him . And while you’re at it, cover yourself with a robe so that he can’t see your face . ”】
Harold’s face and name were pretty well known, so these types of measures were certainly indispensable .
If he were honest, he wasn’t all that up for the mission, but he could expect his returns to match the risks . To begin with, having been given an order, Harold had no right to refuse . If he did refuse, he’d probably end up directly on the road to being culled or to becoming some experiment’s test subject . Either way, he’d have low chances of survival .
Therefore, it was more constructive for him to put his head to work and figure out a way to accomplish his duty while doing his best to avoid making things worse . Due to his experiences so far, Harold had reached a point where he had resigned himself to having troublesome matters coming his way out of nowhere .
He told himself that was just how things went with this body and decided it was best to just let it be .
【”As for you two, you’re forbidden to act without my permission or Harold’s . ”】
At Justus’ words, the young man and woman moved their heads vertically and nodded . From that, it looked like they were going to follow the command perfectly well, but there was still a part of said command that Harold could not possibly ignore .
【”Hold on . I can order them, too?”】
【”Of course . There will undoubtedly be many situations that will require a judgement to be made on site . They’re officially Harrison’s henchmen, but if they listened to his orders only with no exception, then there would be no end to it . ”】
Justus certainly had a point, and if Harold was indeed able to get them to move at his own will to some extent, then when a critical situation came, he would have a wider range of actions to help him deal with it . That was pretty reassuring .
【”What’s the order of priority on the commanding rights?”】
【”It goes I, you, and then Harrison . But even though it’ll be up to you whether to follow Harrison’s instructions or not, you should stay as loyal to him as possible . ”】
【”That will depend on him . ”】
【”Hmm, well, that will be fine . ”】
Though it wasn’t clear how Justus came to that conclusion, it seemed like he had given Harold a passing mark .
Actually, so as to follow the flow of the original story, Harold had no intention to face Harrison head-on . So his primary concern was that his bad mouth would stand out in a conversation, but with Justus covering him, he would probably manage somehow .
That left Harold with the question of whether to kill Harrison or not .
There was no fight against Harrison in the game . His main fight was the one against the black-robed people under his control, whose role was now going to be played by Harold in disguise . Despite it being pretty tiresome, the three-way fight’s experience value and reward items were comparatively lacking, but Harold left that aside .
As explained before, in the game’s story, Harrison was killed by an automaton doll that was supposed to be under his command . From the scene, it looked like the black robed person, who had been completely obedient before, rebelled when his/her companion was killed, but judging from Justus’ earlier exposition, it appeared like that scene was actually a result of him ordering the doll to kill Harrison;
or perhaps the doll’s suppressed emotions simply overflowed when its companion was killed .
Either way, Harrison died . But really, his death was completely irrelevant to the game’s story . He was just a man who was used by Justus, moreover, he wasn’t even aware of it at all, and he ended up bidding his last farewell to the world while attempting to assist some fake plan that Justus told him about .
Then, what would happen if he survived? Well, nothing special . Thinking about it normally, if he wasn’t killed, based on the proportions of the matters he was guilty of, he would surely be arrested for treason .
There was no doubt that if the offenses committed by Harrison were to come to light, he would be tried in the tribunal, and Justus, who intended to discard him from the get go, would not go out of his way to cover up for him or help him .
If so, then Harrison would definitely be sentenced to death . That was as far as he would get .
He was also involved in the battle five years prior between the knight order, the Sarian Empire and the stellar tribe; and since he participated in guiding the imperial forces, he would not be able to find any excuses for himself .
Many people had died because Harrison had tried to satisfy his selfish desires .
While he thought that Harrison was a dead man anyway, Harold could not wipe off his feeling of wanting to avoid killing a person . Though he had almost killed Ritzert in the battle five years prior, he was not in a normal state of mind at the time as he was unable to handle having his Switch turned on .
But with his own hands and out of his own will, he would not even be able to kill in self-defense if he didn’t have a good enough reason for it, so could he really straight up “murder” someone? However, Harold realized that thinking of such things at this point in time was pretty unreasonable .
Well, it didn’t matter since there would be no harm done even if he didn’t kill Harrison personally .
【”Then, I’ll be handing you over to Harrison this evening . Do your best not to cause any trouble . ”】
Having heard those concluding words, Harold returned to his room . Though he had many more things to think about now, if he had to give a conclusion, it would be that this whole development was not bad .
Justus said that he would be handing Harold over to Harrison, which meant that Harold would be able to get away from Justus’ control for quite a while . With the original story starting, this turn of events was exactly what Harold was hoping for, as he wished to be able to move more freely . It was going to be somewhat easier for him to come in contact with Elu .
And even though he was worried about being exposed by Liner and the others, as long as he was careful about that one thing, there would still be great benefits .
While Harold thought of that, the day made way for the evening . Harold and the others, who were dressed in black robes that could slip within the dark of the night, were led to a quiet bar in the back of a popular little alley, far away from the city’s center and main streets .
In the bar, which was very dark, not a single light was turned on . One could not even see his own feet clearly inside . Nobody would be enjoying alcohol in such a situation; or rather, to say nothing of clients, there was not even any sign of a shopkeeper .
Yet, why was the door’s lock opened? Without giving any explanation about the mysterious, uninhabited store, the man who served as Justus’ envoy directly went forward inside . Far in the back of the shop, there was a door .
Though Harold thought it was connected to the shop’s interior, what appeared behind it was actually a stairway made of stone that was extended underground .
With that man in the lead, the group of four steadily descended the stairs . What was waiting ahead of them was a room made of the same kind of stones that composed the stairs . The ceiling wasn’t very high, there were stone pillars installed here and there, and in terms of space, the room was pretty much as big as a tennis court, if not bigger .
【”Oh, I’ve been waiting for you . ”】
Such a voice echoed within the room that was no less dark than the shop’s interior . The owner of that voice was Harrison, who was sitting at a round table . Just like in the game, he had quite the protuberant belly . If Harold opened his mouth, he would probably insult him saying【”It’s not everyday that you get to see cattle chatting like that . Is this some sort of show?”】or something like that .
He not having to talk was one really helpful setting .
【”Are those the dolls the doctor was talking about?”】
【”Yes . Please look forward to their flawless work as your servants . ”】
【”Sounds promising . What are their names?”】
【”They don’t have any . You’re welcome to name them as you like, Harrison-sama . ”】
【”Then, I guess I’ll just name them “dolls” . I heard the doctor call them that . ”】
Harrison and Justus’ envoy started conversing before Harold’s eyes . Within that conversation, they talked about how Harold and the others did not have names, and the envoy explained that they had lost their language capabilities because their brains were tempered with while still in the development stage, but despite their lack of response, the dolls would obey orders perfectly well .
However, the important part was that Harrison was well aware of Justus’ existence . If so, then when a critical moment came, even if Harold did not take care of Harrison personally, it was highly likely that Justus would seal his mouth anyway .
Harrison had some splendid death flags going for him . He could be said to be Harold’s comrade in a sense .
While thinking of such trivial things for a few minutes, Harold silently observed the scene before his eyes . Before long, the delivery was finished and the envoy went away .
Having confirmed that, Harrison turned towards Harold and the others’ direction, and a light yet eerie smile stretched itself on his face .
【”Now then, my faithful dolls . Let’s have you work immediately for my noble self’s salvation . ”】
* An Oudou Rpg is a sort of classical RPG, with the hero going on a journey and the like, like Dragon quest .