「Don’t go from the front! Split to the sides and counter-attack!」
In one corner of the normally quiet and peaceful vast expansive grassland, a loud bellow resounded as though tearing through that atmosphere.
The owner of the voice was a robust man, wearing an armor with white as its undertone, who was issuing orders without any break to about 40 soldiers under his command. But the Horn Head’s roar easily drowned out his voice.
‘Guoooon’- Ringing out through the ground, it was a low and heavy cry which shook the core of the body. The lead colored body was 5 meters long and even it’s height exceeded 2 meters, and moreover its feature was the long, thick and rustic horn emerging from its head, from which its name originated. Horn Head was a frenzied monster which would charge using its horn and head hardened to resemble stone, as its weapon. It’s appearance was similar to a large rhino wearing iron armor.
Although it was omnivorous, it didn’t have any preference to prey on other animals including humans and other monsters. However, it was extremely territory conscious and since there were no monsters which could rival the Horn Head in strength in the surroundings, it had rapidly increased its influence and had extended its territory close to the sphere of human livelihood.
This was the reason they were currently confronting the Horn Head, wanting to subjugate it.
The biggest threat which was it’s rush had enough power to easily destroy a single house. If humans were to receive it directly, they probably wouldn’t remain alive.
Due to that, although they were trying to finish it by attacking from the sides the Horn Head was preventing them from doing so by swinging its long horn and tail to intimidate the surrounding soldiers.
Although it had suffered some wounds, they weren’t enough to dull its movements. And as the combat dragged on, some of the soldiers also started getting injured.
Fortunately, there was no one who got an injury serious enough for it to become an obstacle in the fight, but if they continued to fight in the current condition, eventually even casualties would occur. The captain of the soldiers was pondering about what to do. Suddenly, a small shadow noiselessly passed by beside him.
「P, please wait! It’s dangerous!」
When the captain noticed this, he tried to stop the small shadow, but the boy’s legs didn’t stop.
Without even turning back, the boy addressed the captain.
「Anymore than this is a waste of time. Make all those guys fall back. They’ll be nothing but a nuisance」
Listening to that indifferent tone, the man couldn’t speak.
The employer of these soldiers was Hayden Stokes. His son, Harold, drew out the sword from the scabbard hanging at his waist. Different from the soldiers whose defense was strengthened by iron armor, Harold stood in front of the Horn Head while wearing a jacket, tight leather pants and boots which came up till his calves.
As the Horn Head stopped receiving attacks from all sides after the soldiers fell back, the Horn Head’s eyes captured Harold’s figure.
Against Harold who was calmly closing the distance with unfaltering footsteps, the Horn Head gave out a loud roar. Finally, there was a change in Harold’s expression.
「It is said that weaker the dog, louder it howls」
It was neither fear nor nervousness but ridicule. Those eyes were completely looking down on the Horn Head.
That might have provoked it. While wildly howling again, the Horn Head charged at the existence which was much smaller than itself. The large figure drew near but Harold wasn’t perturbed and didn’t show any movement to indicate dodging it.
And the instant the distance between the 2 reduced to just a few meters, Harold moved forward.
Immediately a shrill sound resounded. The origin of it was when Harold’s sword and the Horn Head’s horn collided the instant they crossed by. The things that conveyed the result of the clash were the Horn Head’s cry, different from before, which was filled with pain and the horn, which symbolized it, that had been cut off at the root.
「If I’m not mistaken, blacksmiths will swarm around this guy’s horn. Well, it’ll only become loose change, but retrieve it」
Harold didn’t even spare a glance at the Horn Head which was suffering in agony. It was as though from the start, the Horn Head hadn’t even been in his eyes.
But although it was a painful blow, it wasn’t fatal. The Horn Head put power into its bent limbs and stood up.
Anger was present in those eyes. As though it wanted to strike with its rage, it howled thrice.
「T, that is!?」
Towards the Horn Head’s change, a single soldier raised a surprised voice. A Golden yellow light surrounded its huge body. That was a magic formation.
There were 2 categories of monsters that could use magic. They were either the species that innately excelled at using magic or those which were the strongest within their respective species and had acquired magic during the process of their fast growth.
This Horn Head was the latter. This was proof of it having that much strength.
It raised both it’s forelegs. As though it wanted to trample and smash the ground, it struck down with them.
With that as the starting point, fissures ran through the ground in a straight line towards Harold and the ground turned over.
Although it had an exaggerated name, this intermediate level magic was an earth system magic which would turn over the crust as though to trap and crush the target to death. It’s power was high but since the the attack was linear it would be easy to see through it and if some distance was taken, it wouldn’t be hard to evade it.
But against Grand Punisher, Harold charged from the front.
And he leaped just before getting swallowed by the walls of earth. While kicking the earth walls coming from both sides with his legs alternatively, he ran as though he were sprinting on air.
After crossing about 10 meters, in the end, Harold jumped remarkably high in the air. At a height from where he could look down at the Horn Head.
With a crackling sound, lightning clad the sword held by Harold.
「That’s it for your useless struggle」
The sword which was clad with so much electricity that one would think it that the sword blade was shining, Harold swung it down without any hesitation.
Instantly, with a roaring sound, a giant bird of lightning fired from the sword attacked the Horn Head as though wanting to swallow it.
The thunderbird, which held enough heat to burn off the eyes those who were watching, pierced the large body.
A bit later after Harold landed, the Horn Head fell down. Many places on the large body were burnt and roasted, and smoke was rising from the whole body.
It didn’t even twitch after falling down. The Horn Head’s life had completely ended.
「With this, there’s nothing more to do here. Quickly finish tidying up」
Without getting a single injury, without even breaking a sweat, Harold who had defeated a huge monster acted as though it was natural and returned back to the carriage. It meant that he had left retrieving the horn and disposing the corpse to them.
After Harold’s figure disappeared as the carriage door closed with a snap, finally, the air enveloping them calmed down.
As though it was planned, all of them simultaneously breathed out.
「First squad, retrieve the horn. The remaining squads, dispose the corpse. Work quickly! It’s a job suitable for us who bothered Harold-sama for something like this!」
So as to tighten the air that had loosened by a bit, orders from the captain flew out. Among the soldiers who were moving swiftly after receiving those orders, a new recruit in the first squad, which had been given the comparatively easy job of retrieving the horn, still couldn’t believe the scene he had just seen and asked his senior.
「Was Harold-sama so strong?」
「Ah, come to think of it, it’s the first time for you, huh」
‘Then it’s no wonder that you would be dumbfounded at that scene’, saying that, the questioned soldier, Elias, smiled wryly.
「From about 3 years ago, Harold-sama started accompanying the subjugation expeditions. At that time itself, he was quite strong but now, it’s as you can see」
「But is it alright? Even if he is strong, he is still the heir to the Stokes family, so if by some chance he were to get injured…………」
「Well, Captian’s, and some other people’s heads would fly. Physically」
While making a gesture of cutting his neck, Elias said so.
Towards the turbulent contents which were contrary to the indifferent manner in which it was said, the new recruit’s spine froze.
「That’s not at all fine……….」
「That’s not the case. Eventually, even you’ll understand」
Declaring so without any fear or anxiety, Elias lightly clapped the new recruit’s back.
The new recruit still couldn’t understand how Elias could behave in such a composed manner. But the more abundant a soldier’s experience of fighting together with Harold was, the more deeper their trust became.
When Harold had wanted to go with the subjugation expeditions, at the start, even his parents had disapproved of it. For the parents who doted on their son, it was obvious to stop him.
But when he swung his sword lightly and used magic for a bit in front of their eyes, they readily gave their permission. It was because they were charmed by his excellent talent, and at the same time they anticipated that even the Stokes’ fame would rise due to his strength.
Like this, Harold was permitted to accompany the expedition, but that was the first time he had fought with a monster. At the start, he had fought hard battles and had even got injuries which weren’t small.
But when Harold was injured he had hid that fact from his parents. It was particularly bad when even though his bone had cracked, he behaved as though nothing had happened, and after leaving for the Sumeragi territory, he had come back only after his wound had healed a few days later.
Although, other than Harold nobody was aware of what it accurately meant, there were lives that were saved.
Originally, subjugation expeditions would be hounded by danger. Even if encountering strong monsters like the Horn Head this time was considered as being rare, receiving sever wounds in battle and dying weren’t unusual at all.
But after Harold had started tagging along, people who got severe wounds reduced remarkably and there were no deaths at all.
This was because Harold himself would defeat most of the monsters, but although he would deny it, he was trying to protect the soldiers. The injury where his bone cracked had also happened when he had protected the soldiers who were about to be struck to death by monsters.
It was obvious that this time too, he had judged that some soldiers might get injured if the battle drew any longer.
The soldiers were glad for his consideration but more than that, they were also frustrated.They were protected by the one whom the had to protect. And that too he was still a child.
That’s why there were many enthusiastic soldiers who had sworn to become strong enough to protect Harold. It also became motivation for them to train.
(I’ve acquired enough combat experience against the monsters that come out in this area. If possible, I want the expedition to go more farther, but I’ve to make sure that nobody gets injured. There’s still a huge amount of monsters that I still haven’t encountered so I want to collect the data quickly)
Even if it was known that the reason for Harold’s behavior was entirely for making it more efficient to earn experience for him to survive, it wouldn’t change the fact that the soldiers lives had been saved.
By the way, the reason he had hid the injury from his parents was because he thought that they would prohibit him accompanying the expedition if they came to know about it.
Like that, after piling up encounters with many people due many things, these 3 years had brought about a huge change in Harold. The prime changes were the improvement in his combat ability and his mental growth. Thanks to desperately continuing to fight, he could fearless confront and fight multiple monsters on his own, and could even safely defeat them.
But due to him looking forward to fights a bit too enthusiastically, he had become known as a battle junkie (Berserker), a symbol of fear, among the populace.
And one more thing, this wasn’t Harold himself but the change that had occurred in his surroundings. The largest was Tasuku Sumeragi.
Due to his efforts, the day when LP farming could come under the sun became close.
Harold, who had returned to the Stokes mansion after finishing the expedition which took about 2 weeks, without even sparing much time to recover from his fatigue, jumped onto the carriage returning to the Sumeragi territory with Tasuku. Regarding this, his parents had conveniently interpreted it as him being passionate about Erika. His stomach became heavy thinking about what kind of reaction those 2 would have when this engagement was annulled, but thinking,’what will happen, will happen’, he decided to forget about it.
「How were the negotiations?」
「They advanced without any issues. With this, we can seriously start working towards propagating it」
Tasuku answered while smiling towards Harold who had a sour look. Advancing successfully meant that as planned, the Stokes house were satisfied with taking the profits which were only there in front of their eyes.
Profits only meant that when LP farming was used the Stokes’ farmhouses would be exempt from the contract fee and the utilization fee would be reduced, and also that a part of the tax collected based on the harvested amount would be returned to the Stokes house.
Due to this, the farmhouses in the Stokes territory could use LP farming with less burden. If LP farming which had a fast harvest cycle became popular, they would be in an advantageous position due to exporting it to other territories and countries, and due to the returns comparatively rising up, the populace would be able to pay the tax levied by the Stokes house without any delays.
From Hayden’s point of view, the revenue would rise even with him doing nothing, so he might have decided that there would be no need to forcibly get involved in the experimentation of LP farming. It wouldn’t be late even if they asked for the rights for joint ownership after Harold and Erika officially got married.
「To think the negotiations would go so easily」
Although it wasn’t something that the perpetrator who had devised everything should have said, he involuntarily sighed thinking of what a careless decision his father had made. And towards such a Harold, Tasuku saying, ‘That’s right’, started talking about a new topic.
「There’s a message from Itsuki to you」
「Is it another bout?」
「Ahaha, well, habitually without omitting, there is that too, but this time, there’s one more thing. ‘How about participating in the fighting tournament in Delfit?’, was his invitation」
He remembered about Delfit, and also the fighting tournament. Because in the narrative of 『Brave Hearts』, there was an event of winning in Delfit’s fighting tournament.
(That was also one way to fight against human rival characters. It’s also fine to not seriously try to kill each other………)
This meant that it was a huge chance to obtain new combat experience. It was the best bait to fish the current Harold with.
「………Interesting. I’ll participate」
And so, Harold’s participation in the fighting tournament was determined.