Erika was awed by his look of strong determination. She didn’t know what Zen’s real intentions were when he spoke out those words.
Without any basis and just by her intuition, Erika felt that if she refused his offer, then sooner or later, she would deeply regret it. She was spurred on by an uneasiness similar to a compelling feeling.
「Understood. Which way should we proceed in?」
To lead her to that place, Zen turned on his heels and with firm footsteps, he stopped in front of a certain room.
Zen chose it as a fitting place for talking about the truth. That was–
At the development which was outside her expectations, she involuntarily leaked out a stupid voice. Erika was so confused that she didn’t even have the composure to be embarrassed about it.
From the flow of the talk, she thought that he would reveal some kind of circumstances regarding the murder of the servant that Harold was hiding, that is to say, Harold’s secret.
What did it mean by doing that it in the room of the person who had wanted to expressly hide it. Maybe, she had fatally misunderstood something in her conversation with Zen.
But where in the world, what kind of misunderstanding was it?- Erika’s mind was in complete chaos.
「Now now, go on」
「Eh? Ah, hey……..」
While she wasn’t on guard due to her confusion, Zen pushed Erika’s small back and stepped inside the room. He didn’t hesitate at all since he had already confirmed that Harold wasn’t present.
Zen looked around the room restlessly, and when his eyes fell on the closet, he opened it and pushed Erika, who couldn’t keep up with the situation, inside it.
「Sorry! Please wait here for some time!」
Closing the closet, Zen tried to run out of the room.
Once again, a voice which couldn’t be though of as her’s leaked out from Erika. She was a guest of the owner, and that too when she was a person who had the position of the fiancee, locking her up in this kind of place had already surpassed the level of being disrespectful. If it were some other person, they would even go as far as killing him.
Fortunately, Erika wouldn’t choose to express her anger in such a severe manner, but still normally thinking, she couldn’t not offer some complaints about this kind of treatment. But this wasn’t the time for that. Before anything else, she must give the highest priority to getting out of this room.
From Erika’s viewpoint, although it was completely against her will, she was still an intruder. If this was exposed, she didn’t know what Harold would spout out.
Thinking of following after Zen, the moment she put her hand on the closet door, cruelly, a ‘gacha’ sound reached Erika’s ears.
Subsequently, Zen’s surprised shout reached her. With a timing when he was just about to open the door, since the owner of the room returned, it wasn’t unreasonable for him to be surprised.
Hearing his shout, Harold frowned.
「Don’t give out an annoying voice. Or rather, what are you doing in my room?」
「Uh, umm ～……….. Actually, I needed to inform you about something, Harold-sama, but even though I knocked on the door, since there was no reply I peeked inside the room」
「If there’s no answer, leave obediently. How much of an idiot are you」
Erika peeped through the gap between the blinds furnished inside the closet and observed the situation. She had completely lost the chance to escape.
If she came out here and explained, she could still make some excuse. But what would happen to Zen?
Harold was a person who would kill someone just because he didn’t like them. Even though it could be said that Zen reaped what he sowed, she wanted to avoid getting him killed.
But it wasn’t known whether Harold would listen to Erika’s pleas to spare his life. Judging from his behavior, she thought that the possibility was low.
(What should I do……..?)
While Erika was trying to make a decision, the situation was rapidly growing worse.
「So, about the thing I wanted to tell!」
Zen forcefully returned back to the topic. To that, sighing as though he was exasperated, Harold sat down on the sofa.
And against Erika’s expectations, Harold urged Zen to continue speaking.
「What is it? Keep it short」
「Ee, it’s extremely difficult to say this, but that rumor has spread quite far…….」
Zen was being ambiguous with his words by calling it that rumor, but to the people present, it was obvious as to what it was.
「Just now, when I had gone to buy goods from the town, in the shop where I stopped by, the shopkeeper and the customers altogether were persistently questioning me」
Harold crossed his arms and with his eyes closed, he just kept listening to Zen.
Even Erika, who was inside the closet, didn’t understand what he wanted to say, so she listened closely.
「Although it hasn’t been revealed, and precisely because of that, Harold-sama’s reputation will fall to the ground, and I feel that it’ll be bad is we don’t take any measures……….」
「And here I was thinking of what you might say, worthless. Hasn’t such a thing already fallen down and completely smeared with mud」
「But, What? Do you want to announce that “Clara and Colette have run away to the Brosch village and are still living”?」
「No way! Even if I die, I won’t speak of that truth」
Listening to their exchange, Erika’s mind became completely white.
What did Harold say? The servant and her daughter, Clara and Colette are still alive?
What did Zen say? That is the truth?
The shock she received exceeded last night’s acknowledgement of the murder. Erika, whose thoughts and body were frozen over, could do nothing but listen to the 2 of them talking.
「Then don’t think of meaningless things. If by chance my parents find out that they are still alive, I’ll be under suspicion. To thoroughly eliminate that possibility, it’s already a determined matter」
「Although I know that, at least how about telling Erika-sama the truth? Due to believing in that rumor, it seems as though she’s very depressed」
A clear refusal.
If the temperature of his voice could be measured, without a doubt, it would be below freezing point. Zen and Erika’s muscles froze in an instant.
Zen couldn’t help but ask.
Why did Harold reject Erika to that extent. That was because, for Harold, in this world of 『Brave Hearts』, in a way he thought that the one he must be the most cautious about was Erika.
The main feature of the character called Erika was kindness. But before that “the way of living” was included.
In the original work, Harold thought that he was a special existence and he was lump of consciousness that believed himself to be the chosen one by thinking that no matter what was done to other people, it would be allowed. That was why he could unconcernedly kill a servant, discriminate and oppress the powerless populace, and could even make a town into a complete sea of fire as a sacrifice for the monsters just so that he could continue to live.
He had all these atrocious deeds piled up, and yet Erika, even while hating Harold, without giving up, continued to suffer by staying as his fiancee.
The reason for that was because she was felt a sense of obligation since the Stokes family had provided financial aid. Normally thinking about it, due to the connection with the Stokes, their family would get scorned at and there was even the danger of the Stokes pulling their legs, but as expected, that was just to enliven Erika’s event, for the convenience of the game’s scenario.
And so, there was a fear that the kindness due to the setting would stick through with the idiocy and bare its fangs against Harold from here on.
Firstly, as the main premise, Harold’s objective was to survive without dying. The things he thought that were necessary for this was avoiding death flags and clearing the original work’s scenario.
There was no need to explain the former. Then the reason for the latter was, if for example, in the case the last boss wasn’t defeated, then almost all the people of the continent including Harold would die.
Although it wasn’t confirmed, by guessing from the information inside the game, that possibility was exceedingly high. At any rate, if the rampage of the last boss isn’t stopped, then the only continent in the world would sink- was how it went.
In other words, even if he avoided the death flags, if the last boss wasn’t defeated because of deviating too much from the original work, there would be no meaning in it.
There was a need for the protagonists to clear the scenario by any means possible, and inside the protagonist party, Erika held an important position of being the healer. With her presence or absence, the quest’s difficulty level would change. Since their survival rate would be greatly influenced, even for Harold’s sake, it was absolutely necessary for Erika to become friends with the protagonist and if that didn’t happen it would be troubling.
Moreover, he had a faint hope that if the scenario was cleared like the original work, he might be able to return to his original world. Or rather, he couldn’t think of anything other than that with regards to returning back to the original world.
Returning back to the topic, what would happen if Erika, who couldn’t abandon Harold until the last moment, learnt common sense and general conscience, and on top of that saw Harold extending a hand to the Sumeragi when they were in a predicament.
It was a hypothesis he didn’t want to imagine. She might actively push for the engagement. Well, that would still be fine.
But if because of that, she didn’t join with the protagonist, what would happen. That was the situation that Harold was afraid of.
That was why, other than not walking the evil path for avoiding death flags, Harold judged that the the risks would be lower if he got hated by Erika thoroughly in everything other than that part. It would even be fine to declare- Let her affection points eat shit.
How easy it would be if he could explain it like that, but the drawback would be that they would suspect the condition of his head. He decided to just make up some appropriate reason and stop Zen’s questioning.
Breaking the long silence, Harold started talking.
「………She was crying」
「I don’t know if it was because of the truth that I killed a person, or if it was for the mother and daughter who were killed. But no matter for what, her heart was pained for some stranger and she shed tears. She’s nothing but an idiot」
He recalled last night’s memories. Illuminated by the moonlight, there was single line of tear firmly traced on Erika’s cheek.
Though she was caring to the extent which couldn’t be helped, that was certainly Erika’s virtue.
「And simultaneously, she is too kind. That too, a kindness which only sympathizes with the other person, a weak person’s kindness. If such a person tries to walk with me, she’ll bear an innumerable amount of wounds」
「That’s why, you’re purposely distancing yourself from her? Thinking for Erika-sama’s sake………」
「Don’t spout nonsense. Why would I need to think for her sake. I’m just saying that cancelling the marriage to a troublesome girl, who cries for each and every little thing, is what even I wish for」
Harold’s words pierced Erika’s heart very deeply. It was very sharp, but it was a completely different pain compared to last night’s.
Pangs of conscience, self-hate, regret.
Negative emotions came out successively and tried to swallow Erika. The wave of emotions and Harold’s words didn’t stop.
「Such……….Eh, Harold-sama has no intention of marrying Erika-sama?」
「There’s no way I’ll have any」
「Then why did talks of engagement……..」
「To put it simply so that even your brain can understand, this is an engagement bought by money」
The Stokes family, who wanted their lineage, took advantage of the Sumeragi, whose revenue was in a considerably unfavorable condition since the proceeds from forestry, which was the linchpin of their economy, became low because of the unnatural outbreak of miasma in the forest.
Since the unnatural outbreak of miasma was a calamity which had no precedents in the whole continent, it wasn’t known whether the Sumeragi would be able to recover, and also repay the money they had borrowed. Among the royalty and other nobles who were hesitating whether or not to provide large-scale financial aid due to these various reasons, the engagement was the result of the Stokes family going to sell a favor without even thinking about the consequences.
After coming to know the motives and circumstances of both the families, Zen noticed a certain thing.
「Then, for the Sumeragi, won’t cancelling the engagement be fatal?」
Certainly, as Zen said, if the Sumeragi lost the financial aid by Harold unilaterally cancelling the engagement, then in the near future, the Sumeragi territory wouldn’t be able to maintain itself. Well, even if Harold threw a tantrum, there was no way that his parents who were obsessed with lineage would allow to cancel the engagement.
But Harold had no intentions of trifling with that.
「I’ve already made a move. The medicine and LP farming are for the sake of that」
In the regions where pollution due to the miasma was weak, by using that medicine they would be able to lumber wood like always. Until the protagonist disperses the accumulated miasma, it would gradually extend its range, but putting it in another way, it shouldn’t extend more than it had done in the game.
Even in the letter to Tasuku, he had dug up the game’s map from his memories and had informed him about the expected maximum range of pollution. If they could predict the maximum range of damage beforehand, even the Sumeragi could pull back their defense line.
Adding onto that, he also had the intention of offering the know-how of LP farming. Although, since the outlook still hadn’t been good, in the letter he had stopped by writing some dubious statement like- 「I’m even considering offering some knowledge about industrial techniques」.
Receiving the explanation which left out the parts of the information about the game, Zen expressed as though he was dumbfounded.
「You have even thought about such things…….」
This was the first time he had heard about the medicine and the letter, and knowing that there was such an intention hidden behind LP farming, Zen could do nothing other than be wonder-struck. How far into the future was this boy gazing at.
And Zen wasn’t the only one to be surprised. Even Erika, who was holding her breath, was shocked by Harold’s foresight and depth of thinking.
Harold had sensed the danger towards the Sumeragi in advance. That too, before the talks of engagement had come out, immediately after the outbreak of miasma. If thought of it like that, then she could understand how he was able to gather the information about the ingredients required to make the medicine even without a few days passing by after the engagement was decided.
In other words, this meant that Harold had tried all possible means for the sake of saving the Sumeragi who should have been completely unrelated to him. Although he was insisting that he had done it for selling a favor, if the money, time and effort spent until the medicine was created, was put on scales, then the merit of saving the Sumeragi would be too less. All the more when considering Harold, who seemed to be for the pure blood principle from the way he talked.
Thinking about that dedication and his thoughts, Erika’s vision blurred.
Honestly, even Harold had made this decision only after thinking over it for a long time.
It was clear that if Erika knew he was giving them this much support, then her sense of obligation would be much more than that in the original work. Then the reason why he took actions which weren’t in the game was because he wanted a patron.
In the place where the Stokes couple’s eyes could reach, he wouldn’t be able to move freely and he would also be unable to have his way with gathering people who could act for him.
And there, he thought of making contact with the Sumeragi with the cover of a fiance. He had thought that he could trust Tasuku, since he knew Tasuku’s personality from the game. He had compassion, was understanding and also had personal connections, and if Kazuki could gain his cooperation, it would become easy to support the protagonists from the shadows.
By offering the medicine, industrial cooling down could be delayed, LP farming could bolster the economy and if the protagonist took care of the miasma accumulation event, even forestry could be restored. If that happened, even without the financial aid of the Stokes, the problem of managing their territory would disappear, and if Erika’s engagement was cancelled, they wouldn’t receive a serious blow. Moreover, regarding the cancellation, Harold himself had informed in that letter that it would be fine to do it.
(Exactly like a “debt” parade on the scale of Kazoe Yakuman*. Although that salesmanship feeling of pressure isn’t half-assed, as long as I don’t have any unreasonable requests, Tasuku should cooperate in most of the things)
(TL – *A term in Rīchi(Japanese) Mahjong about which I have no idea of. I think it means the person who has that gets a high amount of points, maybe. You can look it up here. If anybody has a thorough understanding of it, please explain in the comments)
That wasn’t confidence but conviction.
However, he had a single concern. That concern which might be classified as an “unreasonable request” was connected to Zen who was in front of him, so he unintentionally warned him.
「Right, after that think about your future also」
「What do you mean by that?」
Harold who had adjusted his voice so that it couldn’t be heard from outside, reduced it even more. It was to the level that Erika, hidden in the closet, was barely able to catch it.
「I’ve told it before, but in the near future, there is a danger that the Stokes family will fall. If you don’t want to become jobless, it’ll be prudent for you to be prepared just in case」
「But aren’t you spreading LP farming to prevent that?」
「If nothing is done about the current taxation and wasting of money, it’ll just be to the degree of an extension. Even I’ll think of something, but it might not succeed. I have no intention of helping you bastards, so do something by yourself」
Even the always happy-go-lucky Zen lost his composure at this.
Harold who was talking about it as though it was natural, was the one who was weird.
「If that happens, what will happen to the people of the Stokes territory?」
「Who knows. But if it is Tasuku Sumeragi, he won’t do anything bad to them」
He spoke in a slovenly manner. But a name which Erika couldn’t let slide rose up.
(Why is father’s name being used here……….?)
「Err………What do you mean?」
「In the letter, I have appealed to the Sumeragi side to not deal with the populace unjustly when the Stokes family falls. Really, I can’t help but laugh at their weakness since they wouldn’t survive if something like this isn’t done」
Even if he told appeal, it didn’t mean that he asked for the Sumeragi to provide for them. If it were the Sumeragi who were close to the royalty, the people could expect some influence and support from them.
It could also be said that since Kazuki didn’t know whether Tasuku would accept this “request”, he sold an excessive amount of favors.
(Most probably, it’ll become the territory of another noble, and I pray that a person more decent than the one now comes)
Although, by that time, he wouldn’t be there in this land. He was completely ready to throw away everything to the successor.
「Anyways, that’s how it is. If you break the ban by telling it to others, you won’t simply get away with it」
「I, I understand. I haven’t told it to anybody, alright…….?」
Pierced by the sharp glint in Harold’s, Zen’s voice quavered. That there was another reason for his voice quavering, and Zen’s roundabout way of telling- 「I haven’t told anyone」, Kazuki didn’t notice it at this time. Well, even if he noticed the existence of his nemesis (Erika) hidden in the closet, it was already too late.
Kazuki, Harold, Kazuki (Harold) – since many complaints have come out that 3 representations is confusing, I have chosen to use only Harold.
It’s painful for Zen to be called incompetent.
It’s my fault though.