Glossy black hair and red pupils. Even if he didn’t want to, he could feel that Harold’s face had the features found on people outside Japan and even far away from Asia.
Roughly 140 cm in height and as expected, aged approximately 10 years.
Dressed in a pure white shirt with a cross-tie and knee-high half-pants, he had the appearance which was exactly like a painting of a young boy coming from a distinguished and noble family.
Hirasawa Kazuki had become Harold Stokes. It seemed hard to accept, but with this, he had practically confirmed that this was the truth.
Neither the reasoning nor the process was understood. Well then, should this situation be gathered as possessing a person or should it be fine with viewing it as a frighteningly real dream. Or maybe, Hirasawa Kazuki had switched places with Harold Stokes, or it might also be that the consciousness of Hirasawa Kazuki had been birthed by the delusions of the owner of this body that had gone crazy.
The loss of a factor to verify one’s self. Attacked by a feeling of as though loosing all the support from his feet, at the same time as he put his hands on his knees, which had lost almost all their strength, he held back the sense of nausea which was welling up.
His breathing was agonizing and his visibility was dyed white due to vertigo, while his gastric juices rampaged around in the opposite direction.
In any case, it was an awful feeling.
Shall I throw away everything as it is and just sleep – With such irresponsible feelings, Kazuki collapsed onto the bed. He didn’t have any willpower left to work out his thoughts.
Waking up after sleeping and telling 「It was all a dream, I was seriously flustered」- muttering that, he wipes off his cold sweat. Clinging onto that hope, as his consciousness was drifting off, it was pulled back into his body due to the knocking sounds on the door.
The thought of feigning ignorance passed through his mind.
But before he could think deeply about it, he gave out a reply.
It wasn’t clear whether it was Harold’s will or Kazuki’s subconsciousness.
(Ah, but I wouldn’t abruptly tell them to 「Come in」)
Without even knowing who it was, talking in such a rude manner, Kazuki wasn’t a person who didn’t know about courtesy. If that is the case, like before, did his body move on its own?
Since he had already replied, without a choice, he raised his languid body up while thinking such thoughts, which put him in an even more depressing mood.
While that may be true, it wasn’t as though the visitor would refrain from entering into the room. A man with greying hair opened the door, bowed respectfully and stepped inside the room.
Looking at his face, Kazuki realized who the other person was.
He, who serves as a butler in this estate, given the nickname- 『Conscience of the Stokes house』 by the players, is a character affectionately called as 「Norman-san」. Since he was just a butler and not a blood-relative, he wasn’t a member of the Stokes family.
Anyway, he, who becomes a refreshing agent to the heart in the event related to the highly ranked and valued Stokes house, stepped into Kazuki’s (Harold’s) room.
「Excuse my rudeness」
「What business do you have?」
「To be honest, I want to consult Harold-sama about…….」
Norman’s words trailed off at the middle of his sentence.
Feeling suspicious, Kazuki intently watched Norman’s face. When he did that, the words which followed, bewildered him.
「Perhaps, are you feeling unwell? Then…….」
「There’s no problem」
「But your complexion is――」
「I’m telling you that there’s no problem」
Without even an ounce of consideration, he cut off Norman’s words filled with concern and discarded them.
Honestly, there were all kinds of problems, but it wasn’t as though he could straightforwardly convey – 「Actually, it seems like I have possessed Harold-kun 」. And so, when he mildly wanted to refuse, it became like this. It seemed as though this mouth automatically translated words into Harold’s style. Was the previous 「Come in」 also the work of this mouth. If that was the case, what an annoying feature this was.
In response to Harold’s blunt reaction, Norman felt that something was out of place.
The young Harold that he was aware of had extreme hatred towards holding back, and would never work hard, would run away from pain, and would eliminate everything he disliked.
His parents were also largely responsible for generally approving something like that, that is to say, if Harold was feeling unwell, instead of enduring it like this, he would have exaggeratedly cried out about his condition.
However, only on this day alone, did he not do this, urging to continue the conversation, even though his face was extremely pallid.
He thought about speaking at a later time, but looking at Harold’s eyes which were screaming – 「Hurry up and speak」, Norman continued the conversation.
「…….Then, I’ll be brief. I am requesting for reduction of the punishment imposed on Clara」
When he heard that, Kazuki remembered. The reality that the current him holds the life of a person.
The shock of realizing that he had become Harold was too big, due to which his memory had lapsed completely.
His mouth had spouted out the dialog of the event, where he makes the servant as the test subject for his new magic, on its own, and naturally, Kazuki had no intentions of doing that.
That being the case, as he was about to instantly consent to Norman’s request, he wasn’t even able to form them into words.
It wasn’t as though Harold’s will obstructed him. It was that Kazuki himself, swallowed down the words.
This was because he had to answer according to the situation, since he had knowledge about the original work.
If the situation followed the original work, then the servant, Clara, would be burned to death by Harold’s magic. As a result, the woman’s daughter, Colette, would be driven out of the Stokes’ territory, since she would have no relatives.
Before long , Colette, who would have collapsed due to the exhaustion of both mind and body, would then be sheltered, and would start to live with the original work’s protagonist and his family, under the same roof.
In short, Colette was the main heroine and if Clara was saved now, she wouldn’t encounter the protagonist, which would be a huge deviation from the story. Kazuki realized this and was at a loss for words.
In the end, this was just a possibility.
There was a possibility that even if Clara was either saved or killed, Colette might encounter the protagonist and become his friend.
The phenomenon which could be called as the power to alter history.
If this power worked even if Kazuki moved as he pleased, then for better or for worse, there was no need for him to worry.
(If that is true, then the events of the original work can’t be avoided and my future would be pitch black. Let me assume that a power like that doesn’t exist)
If he hadn’t done that, Kazuki’s mental health would have taken a hit.
Conversely, if a thing like the altering power doesn’t operate, using the knowledge about the original work, Kazuki could avoid the messed up actions taken by Harold, and it wouldn’t be extremely difficult to behave in a way that wouldn’t lower his impression.
A ray of hope rose up in Kazuki’s heart.
(For that purpose, if I take actions which deviate too much from the original work, I would lose an advantage, which would be a poor plan. Without changing the scenario in a broad sense, if I could guide only the conclusion to a decent direction, then……..!)
As it was, if he didn’t take any actions and the scenario progressed completely in accordance with the original work, in a few more years, Kazuki would welcome death. He must do everything he can to avoid that.
However, what kind of influence the destruction of the original story causes, wasn’t known. Much less, in an RPG world, where death was ever closer. In a world like this, knowing the rough flow of the future was the greatest advantage, and if this was ignored, death might come due to a development absent in the original work.
A colossal death flag called the world of survival of the fittest. To take on both those parties and survive, the flow of the original work must be drawn while it would be fine to move forward by breaking down his own flag.
Anyway, Kazuki strengthened his resolve to do all he could before he could start talking pretentiously, if he didn’t want to die.
Norman was startled by seeing Kazuki’s eyes, which were harboring such a stubborn determination. This was because, he had never seen the boy making such eyes previously.
「Clara is that servant, right? Bastard, are you telling me to act for the sake of rescuing her.」
Kazuki instantly regretted the opening of his mouth.
As for Kazuki, his intention was to tell – 「Clara-san was the servant from some time ago, right? I really want to save her but, I cannot move openly」. How freely was that translated for the remark to be like this.
Naturally, as though he was dispirited, Norman’s expression became clouded.
(This is bad!)
Kazuki felt through his body that the flow had become extremely bad. The way things were going, his Hate Points was going to increase from the already existing amount.
Somehow trying to gloss over things, he frantically squeezed out words.
「If you want to help, to start with, move on your own. I will listen to your words after that」
「In, in that case……..!」
「Importunate. Get out immediately」
Kazuki, flustered by his own mouth spouting out abusive language more than what was expected, made Norman leave, by driving him out mid-sentence.
Seeing him leave while expressing gratitude even after such treatment, Kazuki was relieved that his will to somewhat co-operate was conveyed.
Throwing himself down on the bed, looking up this time, Kazuki started to reflect deeply on his careless thinking.
He cannot avoid taking back his previous opinion already. As long as this mouth was there, it seemed that it would be a considerably difficult problem to alter only the conclusion of the event without lowering his impression.
While that may be true, he couldn’t just tell – 「As expected, shall I give up」. If the worst situation was to be assumed, the situation where death in this world would, without a doubt, be the death of Hirasawa Kazuki, which would be extremely troublesome. There might also be a possibility of returning back to his original world by dying here, but the risk was too high for him to put it into action.
And so, until the clue to escape the current situation was caught, the best way to survive as Harold Stokes was to act in accordance with the original work and avoid taking screwed up actions.
In that way, with a situation close to the original work’s, if the flow of this world was continued to be observed closely, it would become clear whether this place was the same world of 『Brave Hearts』 or a world which was a counterfeit of it.
And so, what was it that Kazuki ought to do now. It was to gather information, to get a good grasp on the present situation.
Kazuki, who had recovered his energy to a certain extent due to the discovery of hope, got off the bed and started rummaging through the drawers and searching the bookshelf. When he did that, other than general goods he also found some items which had appeared in the game.
Nearly everything stowed on the bookshelf were books related to magic or biographies which contained lots of illustrations. Fortunately, the books were written in Japanese, which could be read even by Kazuki.
As expected, it might be a world of made ・in ・Japan.
After briefly finishing his search, he went out of the room. In order to talk with Clara.
He calls out to an armored soldier who was nearby.
The soldier bent down on one knee and lowered his head.
By the way, he stopped minding about the use of his language in each and every single situation.
「Lead me to the dungeon where the servant called Clara is imprisoned」
「To the dungeon?」
「What? If you have any objections, I’ll listen to them」
「No, I don’t! This way please!」
With brisk movements, the soldier took the lead. The armor was clattering noisily. It looked like it would be an annoyance if he wandered around in the mansion during night.
He followed behind the soldier like that for a short while.
They arrived in front of a desolate looking building with a height of 3m, made out of stone, situated behind the mansion.
「This is the dungeon」
「How many people are imprisoned?」
「For now, it should be a single person, but…….. 」
If it was like that, it seemed that the only one inside was Clara. For Kazuki, this was convenient.
「You remain here and keep a lookout so that no one comes inside」
Making the soldier stand outside, only Kazuki entered inside the building after opening the wooden door.
「Ha, Harold-sama!? Uo!」
In the narrow room, which had the appearance of a guardroom, there was the form of yet another soldier. Lying down upon the chair which was lined up, was the posture of the soldier indicating his blatant idling.
The soldier, hurriedly trying to rise up, tripped and fell down from the chair. Kazuki ignored that and extended his hand to an iron grill, furnished on the ground in the left-hand corner of the room, which appeared to lead to the dungeon. When he pulled it, he found that it was locked tightly.
「Hand over the key」
The soldier handed over a key to Harold, from the ones hung on the wall. He inserted the key into the keyhole and when he turned it to the left side, the lock opened with a loud clank.
「I have to talk with the person in the dungeon. Don’t you dare enter」
Nailing down that point, he descended the stairway leading to the dungeon while he still held the key, so that he wouldn’t get locked in, even if by chance.
The stairway was gloomy and even the steps couldn’t be seen properly. He finally reached the prison after carefully descending the 10 odd steps.
The prison had a total of 4 cells, 2 on each side. Each cell only had something which seemed like a bed made only out of straw and a simple toilet out in the open. On the wall at the other side of the prison was a small window, with a height of 20 cm and a width of 30 cm, through which a small amount of light was illuminating the prison.
Kazuki stopped his feet in front of the cell situated at the interior right hand side, in which Clara was imprisoned.
「There is no mistake that you are Clara Emerel , right?」
Kazuki stood in front of Clara’s cell in a position where she could not make out his facial features.
It was at the level where she could only guess at who it was from looking at the small silhouette of the person and listening to the voice of the person.
However, a doubt rose up in her mind.
A doubt about why he came here.
「Perhaps……….Has that time already come?」
Her voice shook.
A test subject for experimenting a new magic. The boy standing in front of her had definitely told that some time ago.
Thinking that the time had already come, Clara’s face was etched with an even more deeper color of despair.
But the reply from Harold was something which greatly deviated from her prediction.
「If that is your wish, then I will do so. But currently, it’s for a different matter.」
Harold folded his arms and leaned his back on the iron bars of the opposite cell.
She thought about what he meant by a different matter. She had already worked in this mansion for almost 2 years and the amount of times she had directly conversed with Harold was uncountable, but still, she tilted her head in confusion.
「A different matter, is it?」
「Just confirmation. You only need to answer my questions without any lies or deception」
「……..Okay, I will answer all the questions you ask me」
The vigor with which Clara could show agreement, was only by nodding. It was completely different from how he normally behaved, where he always wanted to have his own way. She was swallowed by the atmosphere given off by Harold, who was emitting a calm and composed aura and was unbecoming of his age.
「What is the composition of your family?」
「I have a single daughter」
「What is her name?」
「She is called Colette」
「What about blood relatives or close family members other than her?」
「I left my hometown with my husband, which was similar to running away, and from then on it was a state of isolation from my house. 3 years ago, due to a disease, my husband……..」
(So there was reason like that for Colette not having a relative other than her mother)
The purpose of the questioning was for comparing and adjusting the knowledge of the original work.
Clara was getting baffled by listening to him asking questions about her circumstances which had nothing to do with her punishment, but Kazuki paid no heed to that and persistently continued to interrogate her.
「The age of your daughter is?」
「She becomes 9 this year」
「Do you have any experience in martial arts or using any magic?」
「No, things like that in particular……..」
The time it took was a few minutes. Kazuki indifferently repeated the questions. The outcome was rather good.
All the information obtained from Clara was consistent with Kazuki’s. With this, all the information that could be obtained at this stage was present and he was able to decide on what to do hereafter.
「That’s it. Well then」
「Wait for a moment please」
Clara pleaded for Kazuki, who was about to leave, to halt.
「If I die, then my daughter………Colette will be all alone. At that age, she wouldn’t even be able to survive if she is left alone……..」
Clara tells that while shedding tears.
「Therefore, after my death, please take care of my daughter! That girl has done no wrong. Please, please I beg you…….! 」
Instead of worrying about her own life, she, who was anxious about the future of her child, begged while grovelling and bowing her head, to the one whom she should hate to the core, who was similar to a person falsely accusing her.
If it was the real Harold, he might have ridiculed and laughed at that appearance.
But Kazuki was different. He could currently sense the unconditional love from a mother to a daughter, from Clara.
Kazuki couldn’t laugh at the mother who was begging for the happiness of her daughter, instead of worrying about her own life. He now held the conviction that she was an existence that was absolutely indispensable for Colette.
The likes of killing such a person was improbable.
「Unsightly. That appearance and also the utter stupidity of being seized by needless and meaningless anxiety」
For Harold, this seemed to be consoling words. Up to what extent does his haughty attitude go.
「That is, what do you mean by………..」
Without answering Clara’s question, Kazuki starts to walk away. If he were to stay in front of her any more than this, it seemed as though he would start crying out of sympathy. Turning his back on her, Kazuki briefly told her –
「If you love her to that extent, never again let go of her」
Before long, the sound of footsteps also vanished and the sound of the iron grill at the entrance being closed resounded out inside the dungeon.
Clara absentmindedly gazed at the darkness, through which Harold had disappeared, digesting the words he had left behind.
「This despair is needless anxiety, is it……..? Can I once again embrace Colette with these arms……..?」
There was no one to answer the murmur which leaked out from Clara and those words were swallowed up by the silence.
She didn’t know why, but she now felt as though the silence was tender.