In the imperial capital Amajil, there was a castle called Regalia castle. It was the so-called royal castle where the royalty that ruled over the country lived, and it was also the place where the high level executives that managed the country discussed affairs.
This Regalia castle was situated at almost the exact center of the capital and because it was erected on an artificially built rectangular platform, it was a symbolic structure that could be seen from anywhere within the capital.
And at the foot of Regalia castle, stone walls had been built as though to enclose the platform. Those walls had 2 places at the north and south where gates were placed, and the distance to the castle from the walls in a straight line was about 150 meters. The space that expanded between the platform and the walls in the form of passages surrounding the castle didn’t only function as a fortress in the times of emergencies, but was also the core of the military unit directly under the supervision of the King, the Saint King’s chivalric order.
Starting form the headquarters that supervised the whole chivalric order, lodging for the residence of the members and training grounds for them were included, and excluding the people who were on long term expeditions or placed at other locations, all the members of the Saint King’s chivalric order ate and slept within these grounds.
While receiving this explanation from Robinson and the others, Harold partially ignored it while waiting for the time to come. By the way, inwardly, even now he felt as though his legs would give out when he looked at Robinson’s face.
Even at the time in the middle of their journey towards the imperial capital, when he was pressed for confirmation of him being able to use magic from Robinson, he had spontaneously fired out magic due to fear. Although he had conquered his fear to a certain extent by fighting against monsters, Robinson’s appearance was shocking enough to shake even that mental strength.
「………Rather than that, where did that guy go?」
「I think that he’ll come back soon. Well, it’s fine to simply wait without minding it」
「’In the meanwhile, become an exhibit’, is it? Don’t screw around」
As if his inward annoyance was oozing out, Harold spat that out. His true feelings were unusually in agreement with his words. The reason was the situation that surrounded Harold and the others currently.
At the training grounds that was being used for inter-personal combat drills, Harold was standing stock still while being surrounded at a distance by a great number of the members of the chivalric order.
That face was irritation personified. After they arrived at the imperial capital, when he thought they were passing through the chivalric order’s establishment directly, the person responsible disappeared before he knew it, and on top of it, because he had been neglected and left as an exhibit, it wasn’t unreasonable that he was like that.
「Yaa yaa, Sorry for the wait」
Without even noticing even a little bit of Harold’s irritation, Cody returned in his usual lax manner.
Restraining his urge to send Cody flying with a kick, Harold demanded an explanation about the situation for now.
「You bastard, where had you gone. To begin with, who are they?」
「Sorry, sorry, I had some small business, you see. And, I want Harold-kun to fight with those guys. The thing called enrollment examination?」
Harold wasn’t the only one who reacted to Cody’s words. All the members who had gathered also burst out in murmurs. It seemed as though they too hadn’t been given an explanation beforehand. And then, a bearded man questioned Cody.
「What’s this, Cody. We only heard that we’ll be testing the fledglings though」
「That’s right. This fight will act as both that test and also as an enrollment exam for him」
With those words, all gazes concentrated on Harold. And what everybody were thinking was voiced out by the bearded man.
「By enrollment exam, you mean for that kid? No matter how you look at it, he hasn’t reached the stipulated age」
(This conversation again……… And also, as expected, he doesn’t go through any ordinary means, this bastard!)
He’d predicted that there would be something looking at Cody’s personality, and it was just as he had thought. Since it had already proceeded up to this extent, it wasn’t as though he hated it so much, but Harold wished that Cody had at least talked to him before. Well, most probably he would have kept quiet due to some stupid reason like, 「I thought I would surprise you」.
「In the first place, although they’re called fledglings, they’ve already trained for more than 2 years and even though it’s a small amount, they also have experience in real fights. For a kid, they’re opponents that are a bit too much」
What he had said was reasonable. Although the amount of people who wanted to join the chivalric order was huge, the acceptance rate was quite low. Also, many people would quit after becoming members of the chivalric order due to the harsh training, and if they failed the test after enrollment, they would be dealt as leaving in groups.
The majority of them were eliminated like this, and after surviving even harsher training and real combats, 3 years after their enrollment, they would finally be able to escape being treated as newbies.
They would get treated as first-rate a few years from then, about 5 years from the enrollment. Mind and body, unless both of these were tough, they wouldn’t be able to reach it.
In the first place, the only ones that would be enrolled were those whose superior talent and strength were acknowledged. Among them, those who were selected even though they were inexperienced were the ones called “fledglings” by him.
「Those things are fine. Since this child is an extraordinary talent」
But Cody didn’t even pay any attention to that very reasonable opinion. On the contrary, he said this towards the members who would fight against Harold.
「Instead, if you guys underestimate him and attack lightly, you’ll have a painful experience so be careful. Or rather, if you guys are able to defeat Harold-kun, it’s fine for me to recommend you for the next promotion examination」
The way he said it was similar to saying that those at the level of new recruits couldn’t defeat Harold.
If he said so much, there no way anyone in the chivalric order wouldn’t get unhappy. Although they were still new recruits, they had completely devoted themselves to training and had achieved their current title. They had the conceit in the effort they had piled up and the pride of being a member of the chivalric order.
Even though it was like that, being brought as an opponent for a child’s enrollment examination and having themselves being seen as inferior wasn’t a good feeling. Instigated by Cody, it could be felt with one’s skin that the members of the chivalric order were thinking of overturning the assessment that could only be thought of as unreasonable.
「Well, since it’s like that, do your best」
With a face that was saying ‘I’ve done it now’, Cody lightly clapped Harold’s shoulder. But with only this level, Harold’s arrogance didn’t even bend. From the beginning, accumulating combat experience had been the next most important issue after evasion of death flags.
Although he was somewhat mad at this surprise attack like development, the situation that was prepared itself was something that he wished for.
「What is it?」
「Let me praise you」
While speaking out arrogant words in his usual manner, the corners of his mouth rose up spontaneously. He often felt it after he had possessed this body, a high which could also be called as fighting instinct. That passion was lit in his heart, and the heat was spreading throughout his whole body.
He calmly grasped that in a corner of his mind. It wasn’t the first time he had felt like this.
It was the same when he crossed swords with Itsuki and also when he had confronted a monster for the first time. That thing which appeared in front of a battle that made him feel strong tension was probably something like the vestiges of the original Harold.
Only by defeating strong opponents could he flaunt his strength, his excellence. He had drowned in the joy that could be obtained by doing that. Therefore, the original Harold absolutely didn’t acknowledge a thing like defeat which would be like denying himself. That was why, after being defeated by Ryner in the original work, Harold craved for even more power and because of that he led himself to ruin.
(In a sense, he’s a battle junkie. Although, his nature was nasty because he didn’t genuinely want power, but because he would be envied and glorified for being strong)
That was the original Harold’s true nature, but ironically, it wouldn’t become a flaw in the current situation. Although the origin was warped, basically, the stronger the opponent was, the more his desire for victory increased. And those thoughts would influence his movements during the time of battle.
To make him more faster, more sharper and more accurate.
Stronger the opponent, more disadvantageous the situation, the sharper his body and techniques would get. It had already been verified during repeated battles.
However, recently, starting with the bouts against Itsuki, he had been getting farther away from tense battles against strong opponents. This was because he had gotten used to it while he was increasing the number of fights.
But now, this time’s enrollment examination that was going to be conducted due to Cody, was something that satisfied both Hirasawa Kazuki’s motives and Harold Stokes’ craving for glory.
While taking up a stance after removing his sword from its sheath, Harold opened his mouth turning towards the members of the chivalric order.
He just wanted to normally say, ‘please treat me well’.
「Start attacking from those who want to lose」
Obviously, the words that were actually spoken out were as usual, and like Harold wished for it, were completely different words. Maybe because these words had pushed him, a single youth walked out from within the group. An uncommon amount of fighting spirit was overflowing from those eyes. He was completely serious. Harold smiled wryly thinking how this mouth was really a genius at instigating people. For the others, it might have looked as though he was sneering.
「Squad Captain Cody, is what you said just now the truth?」
The youth that walked out saluted and questioned Cody. Those movements and his manner of speaking were brisk.
「Of course! Well, that’s only if you win against him though」
「Yes, thank you very much!」
After saluting like a role model, he turned towards Harold.
「Boy, sorry but I’ll be getting serious. But still, this is also a good chance for you to know how small your world actually is」
「Much obliged for your very fine opinion. As a thanks, let me have you grovel on the ground」
Stomping on the youth’s words, Harold stepped forward and faced him. With those 2 at the center, a tingling sense of tension started spreading out.
「For now, anything is fine as long as the both of don’t die or try to kill each other. Well then, start whenever you want ～」
When Cody called out in voice that was too light contrary to the situation, almost simultaneously, the youth rushed towards Harold. As expected of being trained thoroughly, his movements were fast. Even the sword that was swung down from the overhead position had a considerable amount of power. But that was it.
Harold, who slipped through the sword strike coming down from above, stepped in towards his opponent’s chest and thrust the sword edge at the chain-mail on his abdomen.
‘Gakin!’- with a metallic sound, the youth moved as though he was knocked, retreated 2 to 3 steps while staggering, and then fell face up. It seemed as though the stab’s shock reached towards the armor’s innards and caused him to faint. Cody peeked at the collapsed boy’s face.
「………His eyes are completely spinning, this is hopeless. Oi, somebody, get a stretcher」
After seeing off the youth being carried away, Harold once again sent a sharp gaze towards the knights.
Pierced by that sharp gaze, some of them were pressured and shrunk their shoulders. But without without minding that, Harold invited them.
Harold had something he wanted to confirm and also wanted to test and see in this examination. That was why, for now, he pushed aside any unnecessary thoughts and concentrated on fighting.
The one who came forward next was a brawny man who had a larger stature than the previous youth. Without opening his mouth, he gave a bow. When they faced towards each other, this time, Harold moved first.
Firstly, as a trial, he lightly crossed swords. While they kept on exchanging blows, he gradually increased his speed, but the man was able to easily keep up. When his speed became as fast as how it was when he usually fought with Itsuki, the man was still unperturbed. As he had heard, they seemed to have considerable strength. Confirming that, Harold took some distance temporarily.
And then, he unraveled his stance by loosely hanging down his sword and exposed a defenseless state. Surpassing intrepidity, a warped smile as though looking down on his opponent was plastered on that face. This was what was written on the completely provoking face – ‘Come and see’.
Maybe the man couldn’t tolerate that behavior that spoke more eloquently than words. He came slashing at Harold. That speed was remarkably faster than the first exchange, and the strike was much more stronger.
Harold parried that with his sword………something like that didn’t happen. While still loosely hanging the right hand that gripped the sword, he did nothing but evade his opponent’s strikes. It seemed as though he had no intention to shift to the counterattack, and he was seriously observing his opponent’s behavior while he was attacking incessantly. For the time, it was about a few minutes. By doing nothing but evasion, he got confirmation.
(I thought perhaps, but it actually existed, huh. Characteristic motion)
Characteristic motion was as it’s name said, it indicated movements that were already fixed. Game characters each had their own motion that was fixed. The person whom Harold was confronting now was a member of the chivalric order, in game specifications, a character called “Knight 1”.
As the game 『Brave Hearts』 progressed, one would battle the “Knights”, who appeared as enemy characters, many times. They didn’t hold a setting other that a knight’s, in other words, existences that were called small fry characters. Therefore, various movements, motions were unified. Those became the characteristic motions of the knights.
The occasion on which he had realized that characteristic motion existed in this world was during battle with monsters. At first, he was doing his fullest to only just fight, but as he got used to combat, when he got the leeway to observe the opponent, he realized that they were using movements that he was familiar with.
The attacks unleashed and the timing and category of magic that was used from then on completely matched with the movements in the game screen in his memories.
Naturally, the times they showed motion that wasn’t there in the game was many, but still being able to know the opponents next move would become extraordinarily advantageous. Due to that, his sense of stability in battle rapidly increased. That was why, Harold thought like this next – Wouldn’t characteristic motion exist even for human characters?
But although it was fine until hitting upon that possibility, the problem was that he had no chances for fighting against characters that he knew. There were no opponents for him to ascertain it. The thing that unexpectedly came by at such a time was Delfit’s fighting tournament. Thinking that he might be able to fight against mob characters that were identical to the knights, he decided to participate.
But when he actually looked at the situation, his opponents were only kids. Ryner, the only person whose characteristic motion he knew about there, still hadn’t reached the age he had been in the original work, and so, hadn’t come with movements like in the game.
But today, after about a little less than 2 years had passed since he had hit upon it, it was verified that Harold’s hypothesis was right. Of course, although there was further need for much more inspection, there was a high possibility to obtain the advantage of reading ahead even in inter-personal combat. And so, since Harold was naturally in a good mood, that atrocious smile’s deepness kept increasing. And it was indeed easy to evade the knight’s sword that had many strikes due to characteristic motion, and Harold, who continued to evade with a paper-thin difference as though he had enough to spare, seen from the others around him looked as though he was playing around with his opponent with a clear difference in their power.
Maybe getting impatient at the present condition, the knight took some distance. Thereupon, he somewhat lowered his center of gravity a little and took a posture as though he was bracing himself. This was the motion when knights activated magic. A light blue magic formation emerged at the knight’s feet. For Harold, if he that much information, he could narrow down the magic.
(No matter which magic, the knights’ motion is fixed. And a blue magic formation, they can only use 1 category of the water attribute magic. That means, the one that he is going to use is –)
Harold stuck out his left hand forward and spoke the name of that magic.
When the both of them simultaneously yelled that out, an innumerable amount of water blades appeared in midair. The blades which were about 30 cm long, each went flying towards their respective opponents, but they clashed exactly at around the middle of the 2 of them, and due to that shock, a sheet of water was raised up and then it died out.
This too was what Harold had aimed for.
In the original work, once magic was activated, it could only be either evaded or defended against. Neither physical attacks nor magic could negate it. But that was only a specification inside the game. If it was this world, magic could be negated by magic. This had already been demonstrated.
When Harold looked at him, the opponent’s face was dyed with shock. Naturally, even he knew that magic could be negated by magic. But that was a phenomenon that happened only by pure coincidence in the middle of a battle and even mistakenly wasn’t something that could be “aimed” for. Although the technique of hitting magic, which had a fast attack speed, with magic itself was difficult, fundamentally if magic weren’t intercepted by magic of the same attribute and scale, it couldn’t be negated. The action that Harold showed in the fighting tournament, of negating flames by lightning, was accomplished only because the magic was more powerful than the opponent’s and it was forcefully suppressed.
And on top of that, basically, until the magic was activated, there was no way to perceive what kind of magic the opponent would use. If one tried to stop magic using this method, then there was a need to constantly fire high powered magic. Frankly speaking, it’s efficiency was poor and it wasn’t something that could be included in tactics. That was the common sense with regards to this world.
Nonetheless, that was something that was in regards to this world and that kind of common sense wouldn’t work on Harold. Recovering from the shock, the man once again shifted to the offensive. But that speed and sharpness from until before wasn’t present in the attacks. Both sword and magic attacks’ accuracy became rougher. For the people who didn’t understand the trick, Harold had simply flaunted his overwhelming talent. It wouldn’t be strange if they had even gotten disturbed. Because, if it were like this, both evasion and defense would become easier.
He completely read all the movements of his opponent, and handled him while being absolutely safe. And the moment his opponent exposed a big gap, Harold drove in a single strike which became a counter and defeated him.
Harold didn’t rely on his speed which could even be called as his greatest weapon. This was because of thinking that if he just kept relying only on his speed, someday he might fall into a situation where he couldn’t deal with it using his speed.
Therefore, there was a need for him to improve his combat techniques and at the same time, there was a need for him to make sure how effective his current techniques could be. That was why this enrollment examination was killing 2 birds with 1 stone, but had the value of 3 birds.
「It’s annoying to deal with each and every one of you separately. While at it, I wouldn’t mind even if all of you come simultaneously, alright?」
While feeling sorry for using them for his selfish motives, Harold continued provoking them so that they could fight with all their might.
His mouth that excelled at instigating opponents was in perfect form today too.
「Amazing, that boy………..」
Shannon, who was standing next to Vincent, described the spectacle unfolding below her as though she was befuddled. What that simple word ‘amazing’ indicated, was the black-clothed boy that was engaging the members of the chivalric order in a huge scuffle within the training grounds.
Towards that, Vincent only replied with only a small 「Yeah」.
Certainly, it was amazing. It could even be called magnificent. The boy stopped all the attacks precisely no matter what kind and whenever he attacked, he would almost always finish the fight in a single strike. He was dealing with both offense and defense perfectly. A boy who had come to take the enrollment examination and one who wasn’t even 15 years old.
The impression that Shannon expressed was very natural and correct. There was no room to insert an objection.
But because of that perfectness, Vincent was feeling an extraordinarily huge sense of discomfort.
(What is going on? This is too perfect)
The way the boy fought was something one couldn’t do if they didn’t know their opponent’s movements beforehand. It was different from a safe and steady battle.
Because of it flowing too smoothly, one would unintentionally doubt whether it was a sword battle that was arranged beforehand.
This didn’t simply consist of only predicting the opponent’s attacks. He wasn’t simply evading everything aimlessly, but rather was continuing to choose the optimum place to evade or defend while considering the next attack. That itself, if one didn’t have foresight, they wouldn’t be able to eliminate unnecessary movements to that extent and it would be arduous to dish out attacks. One couldn’t help but think that such a person would always “know” 2 to 3 moves ahead.
It was true that there was a fixed style of fighting in the chivalric order. Especially the new recruits that the boy was fighting, that style had been beaten into them as the basics. After learning it, by going through real battles, they would combine it with their own battle style and would continue to optimize it. Vincent himself, although his current style hugely varied when compared to his former style, it wasn’t wrong that that style was the base.
Well, only a small handful of the powerful people in the entire chivalric order had such huge variations. In other words, what he was trying to say was that the boy, who should be an outsider, that was thoroughly familiar with that style wasn’t “amazing”, but “strange”.
(Right, it’s weird. It would be impossible to have such an efficient battle style by only being strong or experienced)
Then how was it that the boy was making the impossible possible. If he were to think about it, there was a possibility that that boy had crossed swords with the Saint King’s chivalric order in battlefields. That too, not once or twice, but enough times to memorize their style and swordsmanship, combinations, their timing for using magic and their attributes, and the actions that would become cues for these things.
Even if that were true, it was plenty enough to think that there was a possibility of him belonging to a hostile power. If such a person were to come to take the enrollment examination, then probably, their aim was to conduct some maneuvering activities by infiltrate into the chivalric order.
「………..Shannon-kun, there’s something I want you to do」
「Please give any order you want」
「I want you to gather all the battle records of the Saint King’s chivalric order within the past 10 years. Everything from large-scale battles to battles with only a single squad and even small scale fights of individual levels」
「When is the due date? If even individual level records of the order’s members need to be gathered, then it’ll take some time」
「I don’t mind. Gather the others while I’m investigating the large-scale battle records」
Shannon respectfully bowed her head. Normally, he would feel like smiling wryly at her politeness, but he wasn’t in the mood for that now.
Predicting activated magic and negating it, they had been investigated enough for such an absurd thing to be possible. Even habits that they themselves hadn’t noticed might have been discovered. It would be easy to send the boy away by failing him, but that was too dangerous. This wasn’t something that could be ignored.
In that case, they would draw him here and while observing him, try to investigate where he belonged to. There was also the possibility that there existed spies other than him that might have already infiltrated inside the chivalric order or the kingdom. In that case, they could use him to reveal the other spies.
「It’ll be fine if it’s just needless anxiety……….」
「Were you saying something?」
「No, it’s nothing. Let’s return to work, shall we」
While seeing the black-clothed boy take on 20 people, they once again returned back to their paperwork.