That day, a particular barrack for newcomers in one corner of the headquarters of the Saint King’s chivalric order was engrossed in a certain topic. The origin of the matter was the notification sent to the whole of the chivalric order a few days back. The contents were that a new person that had enlisted would come. Although enlistments that happened in the middle, without going through the open recruitment examination conducted every year, were certainly less, there was no need to make any special fuss about it.
Then the reason as to why it had become a hot topic was because the age of the one who had enlisted in the middle was far below the originally stipulated age. Since it was a boy of 13 years old. It was the enlistment of the youngest person since the establishment of the chivalric order. That itself wasn’t a lacking subject, but since he had single-handedly defeated a few dozen senior knights during the enlistment examination, their curiosity about exactly what kind of person he was, was never-ending.
The newcomers of the same term who filled the barracks of the 94th term were especially noisy. The ones who were the most noisy were the members of the 7th squad of the 94th term who were to live together with the boy.
「Say, if that newbie is a guy like in the rumors, what to do?」
The leader of the 7th squad, Isaac, while fidgeting nervously, asked that question to his squad members.
「That again? The contents of the rumor are all unbelievable, and I think that it is a bit too far-fetched…….」
「But it seems the part about him beating up many of the seniors is true, so at the very least, he might not be ordinary」
「A brawny guy with a height of more than 2 meters and he clobbers his opponents without even using any weapons while none of the attacks work on him………. was it? I don’t have the confidence to work with a monster like that」
「Actually, there are people who believe that he is a ghost formed from the collective grudge of the knights who died on the battlefield. That’s why attacks don’t work, it seems」
The words that were successively coming out of their mouths were the indication of anxiety they were feeling. This was because from the past few days, the rumors regarding the newbie were too unreal. The contents were things that should have been laughed off, but they couldn’t do so because there was some authenticity. But the things like him being a ghost were too crazy.
Therefore, lately whenever they were free they would express their respective speculations, about how he was like this or that, about the identity of the newbie. But that too would end today. Since the newbie, who was the center of topic, was going to come here today.
At that time, suddenly, without even a knock, the doorknob was pulled. The four’s gazes simultaneously concentrated on the door. While raising an old-fashioned creaking sound, the door gradually opened. And then, the one who appeared from the other side was–
「Excuse me for a bit. Are all of you here?」
It was a man with unkempt hair, which extended until the nape of his neck, and an unshaven beard. They didn’t know about the man since it had only been a few months since their enlistment, but recognizing that he was a superior officer by looking at the arm band on his shoulder, they took a posture of saluting him.
「Yeah, yeah, good work. I’ve only just brought the thing to be delivered, so I’ll leave the rest to you guys」
From behind the superior officer who stated that in a very careless manner, a boy with a height of about 160 cm showed his face. His expression was grim.
「You have quite the guts to treat me like an object, huh, Cody. Should I stuff you in a wine barrel and kick you out into the sea?」
When they were thinking that he might be nervous, without even hesitating, the boy abused the superior officer all of a sudden. With a spectacle which they hadn’t predicted at all in front of them, starting from Isaac, the other 4 froze up with their mouths gaping widely. Not only had the newbie, who had just enlisted, not used honorifics in front the superior officer, but had actually spoke in this manner. It couldn’t simply be settled with reasons like just because he was a child or because had some backing. It was a behavior that was very far apart from their common sense.
「At that time, I wish you fill barrel completely with alcohol too. With something I’m not able to drink usually, like Cognac」
「Be satisfied with low-class ale. It’s fit for you」
「That’s quite a cheap brand. There’s no way I can have low-class ale for the last drink in my life」
But even the superior officer behaved as though he didn’t mind it. Rather, he was even grinning broadly. While they were standing there with their heads still unable to process this abnormal situation, the superior officer left with a 「Later」 while swinging his hand. Thereupon, naturally, only the boy, who was brought by him, was left in front of them.
He wasn’t a brawny 2 m man like in the rumors. His noble features, compared to his age, gave off a somewhat grown-up impression, but it also gave off an immature impression suitable for his age. Black hair and clothes, and those crimson eyes that seemed as though it would suck in those who looked at them. Those eyes suddenly narrowed, and a sharp look captured the four.
「I’m Harold. You bastards, pay the utmost attention so that you don’t displease me」
As though it were natural, and also concise enough for one to unintentionally miss it, the boy who named himself Harold declared that. He was beyond cheeky, almost outrageous. Although they were contemporaries, as seniors normally they should have shown their anger, but when it was so outrageous, they could only be taken aback.
「…….. Um, okay. I’m Isaac. Pleased to meet you」
Isaac, who somehow responded even while being dumbfounded, could barely respond like that in an very polite way with a cramped smile. There was no one who looked at that figure as being pathetic for acting like that in front of a boy younger than him.
All of them were overwhelmed by that intense presence Harold held, not allowing them to say no. If one were to say pathetic, then without a doubt all of them were. This was, for the members of the 7th squad of the 94th term, their chance meeting with Harold, one they would never forget in their lives.
Maybe because Harold was silent originally, after that, he only spoke for the minimum required amount. It was also because Isaac and the others couldn’t speak to the silent Harold due to hesitating. They welcomed the next day with that atmosphere that seemed to choke them. During the early morning, when the mist still hung in the air, including the 7th squad, all new recruits that had been enlisted for less than a year were gathered at the outdoor training field. It was normal, the usual morning drill.
If something were different, then it was that Harold’s introduction had been inserted before the start.
「Even you guys would have heard the talks, but this guy is the youngest in history to enlist, Harold Stokes」
Due to those few words from the instructor, murmurs spread about among the new recruits. Most probably, it was because he could only be seen as a normal boy unlike the man in the rumors. Almost all whispers were skeptical ones, doubting whether he was actually strong. Maybe because Harold, who was standing next to the instructor, hadn’t heard those whispers, he didn’t even bat an eye.
「As long as one has enlisted, age doesn’t matter. Everybody are treated equally. Harold, are you prepared for that?」
「Don’t ask foolish questions. Being treated equal to these guys is too lukewarm」
「It seems that it’s true that you don’t know how to speak. You can participate only after running around the training field 30 times! Go!」
Listening the instructors words, everybody were startled. Morning training was first warm-up exercises along with running 10 laps around the training ground, and after that working the body and practice swings. It wasn’t rare that people were punished by being made to run extra laps around the field if they were judged to be late or slacking off. But still, it was rare for someone to be punished with 30 extra laps. It was the first time the recruits of the 94th term had heard this number in the less than half a year they had been enlisted. It seemed as though Harold’s behavior had irritated the instructor considerably. Being handed the punishment, Harold started running without talking back. Immediately after that, the instructor raised his voice once again.
「What are you guys doing! Do you guys also want to run the same amount as him!? If not, start running immediately!」
Being driven by that voice, everybody simultaneously started running thinking, ‘Please spare us from that’. 1 lap of the training ground was about 400 m. For 30 laps, it was about 12km. Even for them, it would take about about 50 minutes. For people around Harold’s age, it would take more than an hour. It was unthinkable that he would have the energy remaining to participate in the training after finishing that.
He might drop out on the first day itself. Everybody thought so. But as they entered their 2nd lap, they noticed that something was strange. The gap between them and Harold, who was leading, hadn’t decreased at all. On the contrary, it gradually became wider.
「No matter how you look at it, he’s going too fast」
「If he’s like that, he won’t be able to hold up until 30 laps」
Some of the people who were running next to Isaac gave their frank impressions. Everybody thought that that was right.* But against those expectations, when they were in their 5th lap, Harold had left them behind by so much that they had fallen behind by 1 lap. But still, his pace hadn’t dropped.
Well-regulated breathing, steady body, hands and legs that were being moved strongly. That nimble running of his was far from his limits which made them feel as though he even had some leeway.
They couldn’t believe it. If they were running at the same pace as Harold was, their breath would have most probably been faint by now. Harold glanced behind, and as though he was thinking, after a moment, he muttered to nobody in particular.
「Shall I raise the pace a bit more」
The once that picked that up shuddered, thinking, ‘He’ll go even faster?’. Instantly, Harold’s strides became larger. Proportionally, Harold steadily accelerated.
Almost simultaneously, their legs suddenly became heavier. The degree of fatigue they normally felt towards the end of morning training had already been accumulated at this point.
‘Why?’- This question rose, but was immediately cleared. Lured by Harold, even their paces had increased. Even their breath had started rising. Remaining 4 laps. Just becoming conscious of that was painful enough to almost stop their legs.
Due to their pace being disrupted, by the time they finally completed 10 laps, they were 5 minutes late compared to their usual time. Despite that, their fatigue was heavy. But the most surprising thing was, a few minutes after they had finished running, Harold completed his 30 laps. With an astounding speed. Even the instructor was making a face as though he was seeing something unbelievable. And Harold, even while sweating, hadn’t broken that refreshing look on his face.
「……… It seems you have considerable stamina」
「Naturally. I haven’t done training weak enough to be exhausted by this level」
「Hou. Then for the form practice next, I’ll have you swing this」
Maybe thinking that the punishment wasn’t enough seeing that Harold’s haughty manner of speaking still hadn’t reduced, the instructor handed Harold a lengthy sword that wasn’t normally used for form practice. Since the blade was long, due to its weight and the centrifugal force it would produce, handling it would become extremely difficult. With that body where his frame and muscles still hadn’t developed, just swinging it properly would be difficult.
But that was only common sense. Including the instructor, everybody that were present here were starting to vaguely sense that Harold was an exception that didn’t adhere to that kind of common sense. Maybe paying attention to the others, Harold took some distance from them after accepting the longsword, and probably wanting to confirm the sword’s center of gravity and the burden it would give off, he swung it freely as he pleased. The way he freely handled the sword looked as though it was a dance.
It was at that time. A gust of wind blew. It wasn’t strong enough to be called a gale, but it shook the trees and scattered their leaves. The green leaves in midair were led by the wind and flowed towards Harold. The moment the green leaves passed in front of his eyes, Harold unleashed multiple sword slashes. Since the speed was astounding, to Isaac, the sword seemed blurred and he could only see afterimages. Most probably, it was the same for the others too.
It was obvious that Harold’s action of that wanting to cut the scattering leaves. ‘Is that even possible?’, were their frank thoughts. To cut the irregularly moving leaves that get blown away by the sword’s wind pressure would demand extraordinary skill and kinetic vision.
But Harold was the type that could actually execute it. 6 leaves which were slashed by sword, tore. Cut vertically and horizontally like a cross, they became 24 pieces. The leaves that were cut were blown away by the wind and disappeared towards the horizon. Without paying any attention to them, who were watching that in a daze, Harold stared at the longsword seriously.
「Humph, not bad」
He was just trying out the sword. It was only a trial, and it was natural that he could do it. Harold’s attitude indicated that.
Including the longsword, the blades of all weapons that were generally classified as swords were heavy. Cutting leaves fluttering in midair like before was difficult. If it were to be done, then only the part of the sharp tapered point, of a few mm, used to pierce opponents should be used.
Only the point of the hard to wield and heavy longsword could accurately cut an object with irregular movement which was literally light enough to be blown by the wind and limp enough for its shape to easily change. If the slashes missed by even a single mm, if the gap was different by even a single hair’s width- it was a move that couldn’t be accomplished if even just slight differences like these occurred.
How high was Harold’s ability if he could easily accomplish such a thing. The rumors that they had heard about how he easily overpowered a few dozen senior knights were most probably true.
Every single person in the 94th term understood. Harold was at a level where they couldn’t possibly reach. They realized it instinctively. It was close to the momentary instinct a wild animal held against its natural enemy. An absolute rank as though it were already determined at the time of their birth.
2 days after enlisting, Harold seized every single person of the 94th term by showing his overwhelming ability.