Even in his dreams Harold didn’t think that the opponent who was openly baring his hostility just before the match was thinking of such things now, but still he sensed that Itsuki’s mood had changed and he was puzzled at that sudden change.
Well he might just be in a good mood since he won- he came to this conclusion which was completely off the mark.
(Or rather I lost. What”I don’t feel like losing at all”)
And that too he lost by disqualification against a kid. It was more pitiful than losing normally.
He was thinking that perhaps this high-spec body excelled at some flag collection ability.
As though sweeping away that worst possible case which crossed his mind, he shook his head 2 to 3 times, and wishing to puck up his mood which had sunk by breathing fresh air, his feet headed outside the dojo.
Instead of going outside the entrance from which he came in, he went towards the opening which was connected to the changing room, and stood under the blue sky.
While bathing in the comfortable wind which felt good against his perspiring body, he continued barefoot on the the white stone pavement which was laid down beautifully.
From the dojo which had its entrance set up on a hill, there was an unbroken view of the Sumeragi’s town.
The townscape which resembled old Japan spread out below the cliff. The buildings which were spread out were only wooden ones and there were no buildings which were high enough to cut across sky. Here and there, nature was overflowing, and as though to color them, pink petals were fluttering about.
Although it wasn’t a scenery he was particularly familiar with, it was without a doubt one which directly stimulated a Japanese person’s nostalgia.
Maybe that was the trigger.
The time since he came to this world was approximately 5 months. Remembering about his home world which came across his mind, his tear glands slackened and his vision became blurred.
As though that was the signal for the burst, Harold’s mind was attacked by a wave of emotions in succession.
The feeling of solitude being far away from his hometown, the future that awaited him, always steeling himself to maintain the tension, and yet carrying the inexhaustible factors of unease- all of these which combined into anxiety.
Even if it was a world similar to the game he loved, there were limits for enjoyment. The mental anxiety of living as a character before he knew it, who would die if the world flowed according to history, wasn’t ordinary.
Harold was inwardly writhing at the various feelings rising up and twisting around. Being unable to endure, tears finally flowed out from his eyes and left their traces along his cheek.
Honestly, he would have broken down and cried out at the unreasonable situation he was placed in.
But the reason he stopped at crying silently was because of the high pride of the original work’s Harold. Or rather, the Harold who had a personality of not accepting defeat even if he died being reduced to crying showed how cornered he was currently feeling.
「……….As if I’d stand losing」
Even though he was like that, only these words came out of his mouth. Even if he wanted to whine, sticking to pride so stubbornly was actually magnificent- Harold was thinking of such things in the corner of his mind where there was some composure was present. If it weren’t for this steel like mental toughness, Harold might have already broken.
While thinking of these sentimental things, he was gazing at the cherry-blossom petals fluttering about the Sumeragi’s town. And before long, his heart started to gradually calm down. While thinking of returning back to the dojo soon, as he was about to turn around, he was called out.
As soon as that voice reached his ears, his heart started palpitating. Obviously, it wasn’t due to feelings of love.
It was because he didn’t know what to do when nothing good could be expected at all when this person came into contact with him.
When he turned around with movements as though he were a corroded tin toy1, the figure that was there was unmistakably Erika’s.
But Harold had no idea as to what Erika was thinking to come here or why she had called him out. Because he should be completely hated by her.
Well, his perception that he was hated in itself was wrong. The reason why she purposely came looking for Harold was because her back was pushed by Itsuki saying -「It seemed like he was discouraged so how about you go and console him?」.
Honestly speaking, it didn’t look like Harold was feeling dispirited to Erika. She even received the impression that the way he was talking to Itsuki seemed to be easygoing.
As a matter of fact, at how Itsuki was speaking as though he could sense Harold’s true feelings, she felt exceedingly annoyed, and by the time she realized it, her feet were already heading towards Harold.
But when she thought about it carefully, this was the ideal time to apologize to him. According to Tasuku’s intentions, she couldn’t inform that the misunderstanding had been solved, but she should still properly apologize for slapping him.
At the time when she was about to compromise with him, Erika ended up seeing it.
His right hand had covered both his eyes while he was facing the sky, but there was a single tear which flowed through the gaps of his fingers and down his cheek.
Erika’s feet stopped in panic. She instantly understood that she had seen something that she shouldn’t have. The reason for crying, the emotions behind the tears, Erika couldn’t understand at all. Since she didn’t know Harold well enough to do that.
With the shocking scene of Harold shedding tears in front of her, a small muttering of “As if I’d stand losing” reached Erika’s ears.
Harold, a boy of the same age as herself, might have always kept fighting like this.
Always confident and wearing that fearless smile which was like him, he might have been crying secretly, and he might have always been contending against adults without making his true motives known.
Only being strong wouldn’t be enough, and only being intelligent wouldn’t make one win. If one didn’t have an indomitable spirit to push aside adversities, they wouldn’t be able to behave like him.
Erika keenly realized at this time that what her father had said was true.
And she finally realized that she was misunderstanding a thing. She had thought that Harold was a person who wouldn’t crumble no matter what the predicament was and would be able to easily overcome them, and that his confidence came out as his usual haughtiness.
However there was no way Harold would have only strength. Harold too was a child of the same age as her. Naturally, he would also have his weak parts.
It was just that he was pretending to have that haughty attitude so thoroughly that his surroundings wouldn’t realize about such an obvious thing. Since there was no person to whom he could show his weak appearance, he couldn’t help but behave like that.
Realizing Harold’s circumstance, the only thought that came to Erika’s mind was that she didn’t want to leave him, who was trying to be alone by his own choice, alone.
(……..This might be what Father was talking about, about how I should “Become a person who can truly understand Harold”)
If that was the case, it became clear as to what she had to do. She wouldn’t hesitate anymore.
Even if she didn’t have the qualifications right now, even if there were many things she still didn’t have, she would surely become a person who could someday support that scarred back. Today was the first day she etched that resolution onto herself. As soon as she decide that, she felt as though her heart became unburdened.
That was why she was able to call his name without getting worked up. After he was called, Harold slowly turned around. His eyes were filled with suspicion.
Certainly, when she thought about his mental state, she could understand why he was making such eyes. But Erika had already sworn that she wouldn’t falter at that attitude anymore.
「The match just now was wonderful. Even with me, who is ignorant about swordsmanship, I could understand that Harold-sama is strong」
「You siblings, have you come to rub salt on the wound?」
「Not at all. Isn’t it something like you lost in the battle but won in the war」
「I see, you came to pick a fight, huh?」
Harold had lost that match by disqualification. If conforming to that saying, then it would be that he lost in the battle and also in the war.
It could only be thought of as purposely taunting him, saying that with a dazzling smile.
「Pff……….I’m extremely sorry. I said too much」
It seemed as though Erika also was aware of it.
But more than that, for Harold it baffling at how naturally Erika was talking to him. On top of that, in this exchange too, she wasn’t feminine.
「Hmph, if you want to say some worthless nonsense, then play around with your servant or something」
Erika blocked Harold’s path when he wanted to leave this place as fast as possible.
The agitation at not being able to read Erika’s aim turned into irritation and his mouth became even more severe.
「Move, I don’t have any time for you. Even if there were, I’d crush them all」
「However, in that case I won’t be able to talk properly with Harold-sama」
「Right, which is convenient」
「Unfortunately, I can’t let that happen. At least only for now, please spare me some of your time」
Erika’s appearance from which only gracefulness like a flower could be felt until now, for some reason he felt her to be unshakeable like a big tree with deep roots in the ground. In short, it didn’t feel as though she would move even an inch.
So this is the pressure from a character of the game, huh- Harold losing to that clicked his tongue, and with his sullen aura in full throttle, he spoke to her.
「……….If you have any business, quickly finish it」
「Thank you very much」
Saying that, Erika bent her waist and took a posture of bowing deeply.
「I’m really sorry for the other day. Even though I was angry, it was wrong for me to hurl insults and also raise my hand. I’d like to apologize」
「Ha, you expressly came here say something like that? Pointless」
Though his words were cold, it wasn’t a lie that they were his true feelings. Harold had intentionally angered Erika, and that reaction was appropriate. Normally, one wouldn’t think to apologize for it. It was because she was Erika that she had come like this to apologize.
It wasn’t a mistake that that kindness was her virtue. She was considered likeable by a majority of the people. Truthfully, it was the same with Harold when he was a player.
But for the Harold now, he could only think of that excessive kindness as fangs with deadly poison. It was a deadly existence where once bit by them, it might become fatal.
She was flourishing a very selfish kindness. When he was thinking like that, his mouth opened.
「There is no value in your apology. Rather, even though you cried so assertively, apologizing right after you said that, are you a real idiot? In the first place, that kindness of yours is a deception which comes from good will. On top of being nasty, it’s nothing more than nauseatingly lukewarm feeling of being friendly. And it is up to you to dance around like a clown like that, but don’t get in my way. Don’t get in my sight. You’re an eyesore and like the extremity of unpleasantness」
In addition to the foulmouthed nature of the original Harold, the resentment against Erika that had accumulated erupted out in one go. After throwing all that abuse, he regained his composure. He completely said too much. Furthermore, he was venting out his anger on her.
For a reason differing from before, he wanted to cry.
Showered with abusive words while being in the posture of apologizing, there was not even the slightest movement from Erika. Did I make her cry, or else did I make her angry- while he was observing timidly, Erika quietly raised her body.
Neither was she expressing anger nor was she tearful. That said, she also wasn’t dispirited at being overwhelmed by those words.
What was there was a calm expression like a holy maiden’s in a painting as though she had accepted all of Harold’s abusive words.
Erika had already resolved herself in advance knowing that Harold would show an attitude like this regarding her apology. Because she knew that he was a person who was strong and severe, and also was a person who possessed true kindness, different from her. There were no lies mixed in those abusive words towards Erika. She was aware without even there being a need to be told that she was an existence that was a minus for Harold.
(The things that I don’t have are too much. The strength to fight against a difficult fate, and the kindness to scold the weak)
From the start she had been mistaken. Lending a hand wasn’t the only type of kindness. Watching over, thrusting away, doing nothing was also a type of kindness. For the sake of that person, so that they would grow.
But to actually put that into practice, the strength to believe in the other party was necessary. The person who would be able to support Harold would also be a person like that.
That’s why no matter how severe she would accept Harold’s words which pointed out at her inexperience, and only by using this as the source to grow would she become an existence who would be able to truly understand and support him. This was just the first step.
Harold left the place as though he had lost his interest.
Erika spoke towards that small back which had disappeared into the dojo.
「I won’t say “Please wait for me”. But I’ll catch up to you for sure. There’s absolutely no way that I’d leave you alone」
Erika’s muttering was carried by the wind together with the cherry-blossom petals and went away towards the blue sky.
1. Buriki Ningyou – Japanese vintage tin toy produced in large numbers after World War 2.
Felt like I was in some cringe-fest while translating the latter half