Come to think of it, Erika had an older brother- although it was too late, Harold remembered. If he had to give a reason as to why he had forgotten about him so much, it was because not only had Itsuki not appeared even in an episode not related to the main storyline, even his name wasn’t made clear in the game.
But if he thought about it calmly, if Erika were the only child, with her getting married off into another family, the Sumeragi house would most likely become extinct. With such a situation, there was no way they would easily agree to an engagement, so to not realize about the existence of an older brother was Harold’s blunder.
Well, that in itself wasn’t a huge problem. But Itsuki being the older brother having such a heavy sister complex was completely inconceivable.
Having Itsuki, who had a dark smile on his face, laughing with a ‘Fufufufu’ as the opponent would be extremely bothersome.
「I’ve heard about it. Well then, come fight with me」
Those eyes closely resembled a ones of a carnivorous beast eyeing its prey. He was completely receiving unjustified resentment, and Harold also didn’t want to take him on looking at his behavior, but still Harold convinced himself that it was for the sake of gaining precious real battle experience.
「Don’t touch me acting all familiar, you small fry」
He had wanted to just normally request 「My shoulder is hurting, so could you please remove your hand?」 and he had no intention to pick a fight.
But as long as he had this mouth, he couldn’t avoid falling into perilous situations. The mouth is the origin of calamity- Harold could even believe that this proverb was a wise saying written down in the Shinten1.
「You’re more than motivated, huh. Then, prepare immediately」
While inwardly drawing away from Itsuki whose smile deepened, thinking that it would certainly be hard to move around with the current attire of a boy from Britain, in accordance to those words, he changed to the garments prepared in the changing room.
On top was a white dougi, and below was a dark blue hakama like an outfit for an archery club member2.
Looking at Harold who came out after changing his outfit, Tasuku, Itsuki and many people sitting in the spectator seats of the 2nd floor gasped. Although the boy who was only 140 cm tall was wearing a clean, brand new dougi, no innocence could be felt from his behavior. Harold was emitting an intimidating pressure which pricked one’s skin.
「Is this the weapon?」
Similar to the one Itsuki was holding, he took a shinai which was on the wall.
For the sake of grasping the sensation, when he lightly swung it, it was light enough to make him think that there was almost no weight at all. While making ‘Hyunhyun’ sounds of cutting the air, Harold freely swung the shinai around as he pleased.
It was a flowing sword handling which was so sharp that onlookers could only stare at wonder. Looking at that, Itsuki breathed out a light 「Hee」 in admiration.
Although he had heard about Harold beforehand, actually looking at Harold’s sword skill, he renewed his awareness to not be negligent. For Itsuki, though he was a detestable opponent who stole his beloved little sister, looking at how a kid of only 10 years of age had trained to this extent, he was honestly feeling admiration.
Simultaneously the hope that if it were Harold, he might be able to enjoy the fight boiled up.
If talking about swordsmanship, Itsuki was outstanding. He might be a person in the domain of prodigies.
Therefore, even at the present time he wouldn’t easily lose to a grown man in a fight, and on the other hand, there was a huge difference in power between him and the other children of his age, so much so that there was no way they could fight him.
If said that he didn’t feel any discontent about that at all, then it would be a lie. Somewhere in his heart, he had always wished for a rival who was close to him in both age and strength.
And now, an opponent who might perhaps become that had appeared. If only Harold wasn’t Erika’s fiance, Itsuki would have even thought of welcoming him with open arms.
「It’s as though it’s a stick」
Harold’s impressions after swinging the shinai briefly was only that.
Though that way of putting it was too much, for Harold who had continued to train with an iron sword until now, he felt that the shinai’s weight was lacking.
「Well then, are you ready?」
「Don’t ask foolish questions. Let’s start already」
Towards Tasuku who wanted to take confirmation, in an arrogant manner which felt as though it was even refreshing, Harold replied.
He was nervous. It would be fine to even call it fear. Although Itsuki was a character who didn’t make an appearance in the original work, he was a human who was living in an RPG like world where swords and magic and monsters existed as though it was natural. He was inside such a world and was called strong so there was no way he would be ordinary.
When thinking normally, there was no way a person who was care-freely living in modern Japan could win. But Harold also believed in something other than this body.
Although this mouth which repeatedly used abusive language and provocative statements which gave him trouble, this high-spec body which could implement movements and ability which could never have been possible with his original body, was without a doubt a huge asset.
As he closed his eyes, in the darkness, the fight with the original Harold floated up clearly. When he had fought for the 1st time, he was made to had experienced hardships at the overwhelming speed and skill.
Currently, the body he was in had the capacity to accomplish that eventually. And if he were to control this body of his own will, then–
(I don’t feel like losing)
In both of Harold’s eyes, a never before seen strong light was burning. With those eyes, he glared at Itsuki who was in front of him.
After the 2 of them became silent, Tasuku confirmed the rules.
「Weapon is the shinai. Including the head and face, attack to the vitals, and also usage of magic is prohibited. No time limit. The match will conclude when any one of you is unable to fight or gives up. With the exception of these, it’s equal to real combat. Are there any problems with the rules?」
「Are you saying that this is equal to actual combat? It’s considerably lax」
「Although you’re dissatisfied, no matter what I want to avoid any large injuries. Unless you put armor, it has to be at least this much」
「……….Well fine. For today, those conditions will do」
Rather, he was thankful for that proposal, but on the surface he reluctantly agreed. Tasuku was inwardly relieved looking at that. The reason was because he had proper understanding of Itsuki’s ability. With his swordsmanship which wasn’t inferior even when compared to a soldier who had experienced actual combat, if it wasn’t limited to a certain extent, the chances of him injuring Harold were high.
Even if it was something that Harold himself wished for, it wouldn’t be fine to injure a noble’s eldest son, that too the child of another noble who providing assistance.
Even without it being said, Itsuki understood his Father’s concern. If possible, he had wanted to fight with his all, but considering both their positions, it would be difficult.
Then, let us cross swords as much as possible within the given extent was what he thought. That was why he unexpectedly said the following words.
「I’ll leave the first hit to you. Give it your all」
Itsuki had no intention to look down on Harold. Since he couldn’t use all his strength, he wanted to know what Harold’s full strength was like.
So to speak, it was words with feelings close to apology since he couldn’t help but hold back against Harold who had wanted a serious match.
Towards Itsuki’s attitude which could even be called complacent, Harold unexpectedly didn’t respond. It was just to the extent of raising his right eyebrow by a little. Maybe it was because he was calm enough to accept it as worthless behavior, or maybe because of quite anger which suppressed his irritation.
In exchange to Tasuku and the others moving back to the wall, a man with wide shoulders stepped forward and stood in between Harold and Itsuki who were gazing at each other.
Confirming that the 2 of them had taken their stances, he loudly pronounced the start of the mock battle.
「Both parties, take your stance………..Start!」
Simultaneously moving with the declaration to start was Harold who was given the first hit. That in itself was roughly as expected.
But the thing which was out of anybody’s expectations was Harold’s speed. With a speed as though he had disappeared, Harold stepped in and closed the gap between him and Itsuki in an instant.
It wasn’t only Itsuki who raised his voice in shock. Among the ones who were watching this match, people either had the same reaction as Itsuki’s or no voice even came out because they were doubting their own eyes.
But even if Juno, the only person who had actually seen Harold’s speed with her own eyes, were present here, even she would react like everybody else. Because, that speed and the sharpness of his movement, when compared to a month ago, he had improved exceptionally.
Since it took Itsuki completely unguarded, he couldn’t respond properly. But still, it was only possible because it was Itsuki that he tried to take a defensive form out of conditioned reflex.
But that was it. As their shinai collided, a ‘Shiiin’ sound reverberated inside the dojo. In the middle of that echo, a ‘Gasha’ sound rose up as one of the shinai fell to the floor.After Harold passed by in an instant, the one who stood bare-handed and paralyzed was Itsuki.
While everyone were at a loss for words, with the shinai hanging loosely next to him, Harold spat out words while sneering at Itsuki.
「If this were a real death match, you would have already been dead. Aren’t you glad, that I wasn’t serious」
It even came off as a sarcastic remark. But for Itsuki, he heard it as though it was even filled with disappointment.
As though enduring his frustration, he clenched his right hand, which still had a dull numbing sensation due to having the shinai knocked away from his hand, tightly.
「…….Right, it’s like you’ve said. I apologize for underestimating you」
The feeling of regret welling up in Itsuki’s heart wasn’t towards Harold. It was because he was ashamed at his own foolishness of unconsciously looking down on Harold although had no intention of being negligent.
And as he realized that Harold was disappointed in him, at the same time he was also convinced.
(Even he was searching for a rival with whom he can compete with his all, huh? Like me)
Itsuki imagined thinking what he would have done if their positions were reversed. If Harold had held back like how he had done, then as expected Itsuki wouldn’t have been able to suppress his anger.
Harold might have placed that discontentment in that last strike. On the other hand, because he was angry he wasn’t able to give his all.
Itsuki’s kinetic vision was somehow able to perceive Harold’s sword. If he hadn’t seen it wrong, Harold had intentionally matched his sword’s trajectory to the defensive posture Itsuki had taken and had knocked his shinai away.
The reason he hadn’t hit Itsuki’s hand or body like that itself was because it was an implicit complaint -「You also Fight seriously」, was how Itsuki interpreted it.
Only a single part, that Harold had intentionally aimed for the shinai was correct. It was just that Harold, who looked 10 years old but whose mental age was close to 20, had no courage to strike Itsuki, whose age wasn’t odd enough to call him a child.
Although he was resolved to get hurt, as expected he was hesitant to hurt Itsuki. This time’s battle’s 1st step was to overcome that kind of feeling, but it wasn’t possible when the opponent was a kid.
「And this time, I want to request from my side. Please, fight with me for real」
「Are you an idiot. From the start, this contest was for the sake of doing that」
Without the least bit of hesitation, Harold stated. So quickly that Itsuki unintentionally felt let-down.
Although even Harold didn’t want to do it, but since from the start he intended to survive in this world of survival of the fittest there was no need to hesitate.
「………..Ah, that’s right, huh」
「If you still want to fight, hurry up and pick up your weapon. If it’s just that much, I’ll wait」
「Thanks. But I’ll take the first move next, alright?」
Picking up the shinai from the ground, Itsuki addressed Harold in an informal manner different from up until now.
Receiving those words, even Harold’s mouth curved, and in a voice as though he was somewhat enjoying it, he replied.
「Fuhn, try it. If you can keep up to my speed that is」
「I’ll show it to you」
Because that was the courtesy he had to show towards Harold who wished for a serious battle.
With the match about to be restarted, the tension from before intensified much more. When Tasuku was about to cut into that mood, he received a glance from both Harold and Itsuki.
The gazes which seemed to complain together.
We’ll obey the presented conditions, and yet even with that we’ll fight seriously. That’s why don’t stop us.
Tasuku who felt as though he was told that, after hesitating, retracted his right foot which had gone forward. Confirming that, different from up until now, Itsuki showed Harold his original gentle smile.
「Here I come!」
Those words became the signal to restart.
They started moving almost at the same time. However as expected, Harold was faster. But the one who made the first move was Itsuki as he had declared.
Harold’s speed was already superior to Itsuki’s. But if he knew that and concentrated, he wouldn’t lose sight of Harold’s figure.
And from the 1st time’s face off, Itsuki formed a hypothesis that Harold’s speed might not be only linear. The basis for that was because Harold himself wanted to experience combat. He judged that Harold most probably lacked combat experience itself. This meant that it was hard to think that a person who lacked experience, in other words an inexperienced person would be able to move around as they pleased with that much speed or would be able to mix in feints with their attacks.
Itsuki’s conjecture hit bull’s-eye. He instantly predicted where Harold’s destination would be, and the slash he fired off at the empty space became a counter that attacked Harold who appeared there.
Against that strike which wouldn’t be odd if it had settled the battle, Harold defended due to his superhuman reaction speed. But because of that, his feet had stopped.
This was Itsuki’s aim. Without letting go of the chance to win brought forth, he showered attacks on Harold.
Even for Harold who had confidence in his speed, with the gap being close enough to trade blows, he couldn’t use the rush he had shown during the start.
That said, even if he tried to take some distance, Itsuki closed the gap between them to prevent him from doing so.
If it were simply battling using sword techniques, Itsuki held the advantage.
Harold was fundamentally an amateur and on top of that when he wasn’t able employ the speed used by his legs, his sword speed fell remarkably, and Itsuki wasn’t troubled dealing with his attacks which became too linear.
Conversely, since Harold’s eyes were too good, he reacted for each and every feint. Since he hadn’t cultivated something like “reading the flow” during a battle at all, his body ended up being pulled around by his exceptional kinetic vision. When that was the case, the scales of victory gradually tilted towards Itsuki’s side. Aiming to hit Itsuki’s torso, when he swung his shinai, it was prevented by Itsuki blocking with his shinai, and like that itself they locked swords and started pushing at each other.
Finally, Harold’s feet came to a complete standstill.
「What’s wrong? You have just been defending」
「Your breathing is getting ragged and seems to painful」
「That could be said for the both of us」
Contesting strengths, Itsuki who was 10 cm taller held the advantage. Being repelled back as though he was pushed away, the instant Harold’s posture crumbled a bit, Itsuki’s body suddenly sank.
Harold instinctively realized that this blow would be unavoidable. Even if he wanted to defend with the shinai, in the state where his torso was inclined backwards, he wouldn’t be able to properly defend.
The most he could do was to get pursued when he became defenseless after his shinai was knocked away.
Harold tried to intercept the slash aimed at his left torso with the shinai held in his right hand. It was impossible to prevent the attack which had his whole body weight behind it, defense was just some poor and vain struggle.
Itsuki sent that shinai flying– should have.
Involuntarily leaking out such a voice right in the middle of a match was because, no matter how inadequate Harold’s posture was, the resistance given by the flicked shinai was too small, as though he had swung at empty air. It was because he’d gotten an impression like that.
Which wasn’t surprising, because the instant both their shinai collided, Harold released his shinai.
The shinai which was launched up easily revolved in midair, and because of that a blank space for a small instant was formed. A fatal gap when one’s eyes and consciousness strayed away from one’s opponent by a little in a battle.
As Itsuki thought “Not good”, simultaneously his right shoulder was hit by an impact.
『Heavy Palm Knock』3
It was a technique which appeared in the story, an unarmed combat technique which dealt damage by a palm strike. Originally, it was technique which was used in combination with normal attacks, and it wasn’t an attack by which an enemy could be defeated if used alone.
But for a defenseless opponent, it could at least knock them down, literally.
Unable to endure the impact of the palm strike, Itsuki fell down face up.
Even with his back being struck by the ground, the next thing he saw when he immediately tried to raise his body and rearrange his stance was Harold’s figure who had caught the shinai which was falling down and pointing its end at his neck.
The referee’s call which announced the conclusion echoed out in the dojo.
With that as the signal, the dojo regained its silence. The only thing that could be heard was Harold and Itsuki’s ragged breathing.
One was looking up, while one was looking down.
In a composition which was easy to understand, while looking at Harold whose grim expression still hadn’t changed, Itsuki accepted his defeat.
As expected, it was frustrating to lose. Right before the match began, him thinking that there was no way he would lose to a boy 3 years younger than himself increased his frustration.
But different to that, the feeling of fulfillment which he couldn’t obtain until now was satisfied. I finally obtained the thing I’ve always wanted- he was experiencing a floating feeling like that.
(So this is the thing where we mutually cultivate each other, a rival, huh. Although I lost, it doesn’t feel bad)
Let alone feeling bad, he was even feeling refreshed.
「Aah, I’m tired. Can you lend me a hand?」
「I don’t remember knocking you down so hard that you wouldn’t be able to stand. Due to sheltered upbringing, your endurance isn’t enough」
Towards Harold who extended his hand even while being cynical, Itsuki smiled.
「I’ll retrain from the basics. That’s why let’s have a rematch again」
「Fuhn, I won’t lose to you again. I’ll repay this debt for sure」
「What do you……….」
Harold was speaking as though Itsuki had won. When he saw that Itsuki didn’t understand, Harold muttered 「Idiot」 and replied with displeasure.
「To think that you were a bird brain who didn’t even sufficiently grasp the rules of the match. It was stated beforehand that the “weapons are shinai”. Do you think that the last attack, the palm strike, which knocked you down was an attack from the shinai?」
Listening to Harold, not only Itsuki, but all the people who were watching the match were at a loss for words. Certainly, if it was like that, then it would be Harold’s loss by disqualification.
But it could be said that Harold who reacted instantly when he was cornered was splendid. At the very least, everybody present here thought so, and nobody would object that it was he who won.
Except for Harold who had won.
As a result, Harold who bluntly stated that as though it was obvious, appeared to be too straightforward, stoic and more than anything pure, so Itsuki unintentionally laughed.
Due to that, Harold’s displeasure grew even more.
「What’s so funny?」
「No, I just thought that you are strong」
「Is that sarcasm, you bastard. I’ll rip that tongue off」
「Don’t say such a scary thing」
It couldn’t be helped that Itsuki enjoyed even this trivial talk.
Turning towards the direction from where he suddenly felt a gaze, his little sister with a reproachful expression on her face entered his sight. He didn’t even need to think about what that meant.
(Well well, it seems as though we’ve exchanged places. Harold-kun might have the charm to draw people)
He was jealous at his little sister being taken away, but before he realized it, his sister was jealous of him. At such a ridiculous situation, Itsuki felt like laughing more and more.
As one would expect, if he were to do that, Harold seemed as though he would seriously get angry, so he somehow endured it, and in one corner of his head, he thought of something like this.
(Harold-kun is a rival and my brother-in-law, huh………Such a future might not be bad)
I thought of splitting the fight with Itsuki into 2 parts, but since I couldn’t find the right place to cut it, I finished it in a single chapter.
And because of that the gap (between chapters) became a bit more, but since it was somewhat longer than usual, please give me a break.
Or rather, the description of the battle is so poor that it is terrible.
1. Shinten – Collectively, sacred texts of the Shintō religion of Japan.
2. The clothes used in Japanese archery clubs are like those.
3. Don’t know what else to call it. Please comment if you have better translations. The kanji- (剛打掌)