Due to Juno’s interruption, Kazuki had finished his training faster than planned and since it had come to this, he had spare time.
Recently, whenever he had even a little bit of free time, he was putting effort in sword training. He should have started it because he was driven by the necessity when looking at the future, but he had become addicted to the process of acquiring skills by copying the movements in the game.
Maybe due to its adverse effects, other than swinging the sword he didn’t have any other means of wasting time. He found this body hateful since he couldn’t lightly head out to the town.
Since it was like that, he made up his mind to quietly do some reading once in a while, and picking up a few of the books which were kept in the bookshelf, he started flipping through the books.
Among the large number of books similar to children’s books, the one that caught Kazuki’s eyes was a book related to magic.
Although, the contents weren’t technical. The origin of a magic and its progress, a person who had mastered and represented it and also anecdotes related to it- it was a book where all these were written in detail.
The ones which were taken up were grand moves, where each and every one of them were classified as advanced level magic inside the game. While being convinced that it was something like sure-kill techniques popular with children, he continued reading it.
Inside it, he found a name which he had seen before.
Vincent Von Westerfort.
In the original work, he was a heroic figure who at a young age, served as the captain of the chivalric order of the Saint King. He naturally excelled in sword skills, but he also excelled in magic enough to be introduced on par with historical figures like this.
(TL- Changed knight order to chivalric order of the Saint King)
If he had to be expressed in few words, then it was “ultra firepower”.
Making use of his abnormally high defense where one wouldn’t think he got it just from the armor he wore, he would break through from the front, and having the highest attacking power among all the characters in the story, to speak of it, suppressing the enemy with pure force was his combat style.
And sadly, in the final stages of the story, Vincent was an enemy character who fights with the protagonist party. Although he wasn’t the last boss, his strength was authentic and when the party composition had a weak vanguard or when the healing of the person who played the role of the shield was late, the amount of times they were instantly killed wasn’t less.
And unlike Harold, he had gained a high popularity from the players. Thinking over the reason for Vincent standing in front of the party’s way and his feelings, 「Even this guy was suffering huh」- almost all the players sympathized with him.
Even Kazuki didn’t hate Vincent.
But maybe it was because he had possessed Harold now. Kazuki suddenly imagined a Harold vs. Vincent battle which was impossible in the original work, and he started turning his mind thinking what Harold could do to win.
One had the story’s highest firepower, the other was the story’s fastest.
If he clashed directly from the front, it would be disadvantageous for Harold. If he directly received Vincent’s attacks, he wouldn’t last for long.
But just by depending on moving around, if it was Harold who had excellent attack speed and variations, Kazuki thought that he could contend with Vincent.
During the days when it was released, at those times the concept of depth or 3D movement hadn’t been used like how it was now and the combat system of 『Brave Hearts』 only had 2D movement like in fighting games. And with that, one not only had to control the main character, but also had to give detailed orders to the party members and importance was placed on how high the combo count one could earn was.
Including Kazuki, if it were the experts, it was possible for them to stably connect 80 combos.
But that was naturally because it would be done by a party composed of 4 people. Even though the abilities of the enemy character would be set to a high value since it would be a single enemy, Kazuki could easily connect more than 30 combos in hero fights. Especially, once he had launched the enemy into air, as long as the combo wasn’t interrupted by the other party members, he would make the enemy into a sandbag until the enemy’s life ran out.
That is, for Harold to win against Vincent, he had to keep avoiding attacks somehow or the other, and it would be fine as long as he absolutely didn’t drop the combo once he got it in and kept on slicing him up endlessly. Well, if he could do that, no matter who the opponent was, to start with, he would never lose. In other words, if he couldn’t do that much, winning against Vincent in a 1-on-1 would be difficult.
Then, how would it be if that character was the opponent- Kazuki started thinking of battles with Harold vs. an impossible someone one after the other. Picturing imaginary battle cards and looking for logical moves to win, this was a way of enjoying it only because he was a deep fan.
Like this, once in a while his thoughts derailed and he ate dinner in the middle, and by the time he finished the book which was about 100 pages, it was already late in the night.
Closing the book with a snap, he lightly sighed. It was quite a worthwhile read.
When he confirmed the time, the date was already changing.
When I wake up tomorrow, I’ll search for a book on swordsmanship next. He thought that just before lying down on the bed.
And then, Kazuki finally realized.
(Ah, I came back leaving the sword as it is in the forest……..)
After hastily running away, since he was absorbed in reading as soon as he came back, he had forgotten about it until now.
Juno might have payed some attention and retrieved it, but since she didn’t visit after that, the sword might still remain stabbed to the tree even now.
Kazuki came to an understanding that it was obvious that a normal woman who was an attendant would be reluctant to carry a dangerous object like a real sword, which was completely off the mark.
Actually, she couldn’t simply walk around the Stokes mansion holding a weapon, but she also couldn’t inform the people in the mansion about the whereabouts of the sword since she didn’t want to be needlessly suspected about why she was at that kind of place, and so she just left it as it was.
He examined the situation outside from the window. As though to erase the light from a multitude of stars in the night sky, peeking from the breaks in the clouds, the moon was shining brilliantly.
The yard, which was illuminated by the moon which was 2 times bigger than the one Kazuki knew of, was bright enough for there to be no problems in walking even without any lights.
Might as well go since I remembered about it- Kazuki raised his back.
That was a real sword, and truthfully it was a lethal weapon. From his senses as a Japanese person, he couldn’t calm down if a large lethal weapon was left outdoors and neglected. Much less when that sword’s owner was Kazuki (Harold), and if by chance a problem occurred, he didn’t want to be held accountable for it.
He passed through the mansion, which had fallen silent since almost all the people were asleep, without making any noise.
He passed through the empty hall, and pushing open the front door which gave off a feeling of dignity, he stepped outside.
Since it was brighter than expected, he was relieved as he thought that it would be fine even inside the forest. Even though the beings which could be called as monsters didn’t exist here, considerable amount of courage was necessary to wander around a pitch-black forest.
It would be better to get it over with before the moon was obscured by the clouds.
In a slightly fast pace, he went around the mansion and towards the rear. He approached the flower bed in the southwest, which was in the opposite direction of the cellar. The flower bed was expansive enough for it to be expressed as a field of flowers. Flowers of various colors were swaying due to a gentle wind.
Kazuki stopped his legs at the appearance of Erika motionlessly gazing at that scene. The first question that came to his mind was – 「Huh, are you alright?」. Even if she had completely recovered by resting for 2 weeks, the air at night would be bad for the body.
This was just genuine concern. An adult being concerned about a child, this was a very obvious and sensible reaction.
That was why he had no hesitation in taking action by calling out to her in the abusive tone as always, wanting to send her back to her room. Without realizing that it would become 1 of the reasons for the collapse of the original story and his own plans.
If time was turned back to this moment with him retaining his memories from the future, Kazuki would absolutely not call out to Erika. He wouldn’t have been able to call out to her.
But there was no way such a convenient thing would happen, and it would be a few years from now that Kazuki, looking back at the past, would keenly feel that this might have been the greatest turning point in his life.
But it wasn’t now.
「What are you doing, at a time like this?」
At that voice, Erika’s thin shoulders trembled. Timidly turning around, Erika winced as she confirmed Harold’s figure.
To the reaction which she hadn’t made until now, he had a slight sense of discomfort, but without minding much about it, Kazuki closed the distance between them with unfaltering steps.
「I heard that you were staying in bed since you weren’t feeling well. And yet, seeing you standing here in the night air, I can’t help but think that you’re an idiot who doesn’t think」
” To go that far, even for me….” was what Kazuki thought.
From here, he didn’t continue with a -「I, it’s not like I’m worried about you, alright!?」, but as expected, Harold was scum who didn’t have even a little bit of naive nature like a tsundere. He had a despicable nature, but that was how he was.
Even Kazuki didn’t want Harold to change into a mass produced tsundere.
Even just by imagining it, his hairs stood on end.
「Don’t just keep standing there, return to your room. As for me, I’ll feel relieved if you just go back home like that itself」
Even though the words which didn’t seem to be very concerned were hurled at her, Erika was still looking downwards without any signs of movement.
「…….Oi, don’t simply keep quiet. Speak something」
Towards Harold’s mouth which was starting to get irritated, Kazuki felt as though it was someone else’s problem. It could also be called as resignation.
Erika was still keeping quiet, but fundamentally, she was a very understanding child. Deciding that if he continued speaking any more than this, he would just be hurting the girl who wasn’t offering any resistance, Kazuki finished the talk.
It was probably just that she was very young compared to in the game, and she couldn’t be frank in front of a person who held prejudice. She would probably understand what Kazuki was trying to say after Harold leaves and she becomes a bit calm.
「Fuh, Well fine. Even if your condition grows worse, I don’t care」
Then why did Kazuki (Harold) go past her after speaking words which would make one want to ask why he even talked to her.
But unexpectedly, Erika stopped him.
「I have something that I want to ask about」
Her voice sounded very uneasy, but as though she had resolved herself, she was staring at Harold.
Thinking whether there was any question which made her stop him so spiritedly, Kazuki inwardly tilted his neck.
His doubt was cleared away by the next words she spoke.
「There is a rumor that you burnt a servant to death. Is that true?」
(Ah, it’s about that, huh)
Kazuki calmly accepted Erika’s question. He wasn’t flustered or agitated.
This was because 2 week ago when he had guided Erika, at that time itself he had felt that it would shortly be exposed. Since Kazuki and his parents didn’t feel like hiding it. Rather, there were no signs of it not getting exposed.
And from the start, the answer regarding that was already decided.
「No, you’re wrong」
When Harold clearly denied it, Erika stepped forward with an expression as though she was glad.
The girl, who seemed as though she had discovered a strand of hope, was pushed down to the bottom of hell by Kazuki (Harold).
「I killed the servant and her daughter, the 2 of them. Well, no matter how many people are killed, it doesn’t make a difference unless they are people who would be talked about in military stories」
A complete change from joy, as though she had heard something couldn’t believe………..no, as though she had heard something didn’t want to believe, Erika’s eyes widened.
「Why…….? For what reason was such a thing……..」
Sadness, rage, despair.
Somehow pushing down the various feelings that were boiling up inside, Erika tried to probe into Harold’s true motives.
But the words which came back from him were only those which completely mangled her heart.
「No particular reason. If I had to tell, it’s because she got on my nerves」
Harold coolly told that he killed her because he was a bit displeased with her.
Erika didn’t understand even in the slightest how he could easily take lives for just a reason like that. As a human, that was a “shouldn’t be able to understand” line of thinking.
「Those 2 were nothing more than livestock. Depending on my mood, I can let them live or kill them as I please, right?」
「So that the daughter wouldn’t be left all alone in the world, I showed mercy and killed them together. Rather, she might be thankful」
「Stop it, please………!」
「After all, they were inferior species. From the moment they were born, something like freedom–」
Pan- a sound rang out.
The cause was Erika’s palm and Harold’s cheek.
To the statement that discriminated against people who didn’t have the blood of nobles, as 『Inferior species』, Erika’s patience crossed its limits.
Her hand, which was swung out, was shaking in anger and her eyes, which were shedding tears, were filled with disdain. Glaring at Harold, Erika, for the first time in her life, spoke abusive words.
「You are the worst!」
As though he wasn’t enduring at all, he was even wearing the smile that he always wore that made everyone out to be a fool.
Killing a person, being abused as the worst, as far as he was concerned, all these things didn’t matter at all.
Erika realized. That it was impossible to win an argument with this person.
「………..I have nothing else left to speak with you」
「Ha, that is some delightful news」
While he was looking at Erika’s back as she was growing distant, his left cheek which was slapped started tingling with pain.
Although Kazuki had his reasons for pushing her away, even so, directly getting hit with hostility was a painful thing.
(By no means can you think of it as a “reward”)
I’m sorry for one part of the crazy fans, but no matter how you think about it, you must be insane to enjoy this- Kazuki sighed as though he was amazed.
Well, it would be of no help even if he got depressed. It was better than getting slapped by an 18 year old Erika- he forcefully started thinking positively. Since a slap from Erika, who would grow up and experience adventures, wouldn’t simply contain only this much strength.
「Don’t waver. If you don’t get used to this degree, persevering in the future won’t be possible」
The mumbling to cheer himself up was carried somewhere by the wind.
With this, Erika’s valuation of Harold is at the bottom