Without coming across any large-scale monsters after encountering the Hammer Treants and without any particular problems arising, the field training continued without any delay. A large part of the final examination was combating monsters. And the monsters that were to be fought against were already decided beforehand while taking the new recruits’ strength into consideration. Mainly, it was from small-scale monsters that could be defeated individually to mid-scale monsters that could be defeated using coordination.
But there was no way they could conveniently encounter the monsters that they were aiming for, and in those cases, it wasn’t rare to camp around the living habitat of these monsters for a few days. Therein, not only combat ability, but also stamina, resilience and also the ability to coordinate with comrades were observed. This time, since only Harold had appeared for the final examination as an exceptional case, although the progress rate was considerably fine, it was unavoidable that it would take some time while they were on alert or when they were searching for monsters.
Eventually, the final examination completely ended only after 3 days from its start. At the end, by the time the Basilisk had been defeated, it had already grown dark. While Harold and the others were making preparations to set up camp on the riverside, Sakrith looked back on events that had occurred in these 3 days.
The basic training curriculum’s final examination held in a hurry with its only participant being the boy of hot-topic, Harold.
There was the fact that his age was only 13 years, but the most surprising thing was the fight against the Hammer Treant. If only new recruits had to defeat large-scale monsters like that, it would be difficult if more than 4 of them didn’t fight together.
That was why Sakrith had sent the platoon leaders Lukas and Selim as support, but Harold had easily defeated the Hammer Treant without borrowing their strength. He could declare that even for him, it would be impossible to slaughter a Hammer Treant at that speed. An absurdly high combat ability. He was made to realize what kind of people those outstanding talents that could carve their names in the history of the chivalric order were.
Since Harold had so much strength at this age itself, it might be obvious that it was the cause for his arrogance. Sakrith thought that this was the cause for his overflowing confidence, snappy attitude, and his words which disdained people.
But looking at it the other way, it could be tied to selfishly taking independent action. Because the more one was like Harold, who were confident in their strength, the more they tended to disdain cooperating with their comrades. No matter how strong one was, there were limits to what they they could do alone. Getting worked up thinking, ‘If he isn’t able to understand that, he won’t be able to pass so easily’, was only for a short while.
When the time came for him to cooperate with Cody’s squad, he handled it without any flaws. At first, there were parts where their coordination wasn’t smooth, but as the number of times they did it increased, those parts also improved. And when it was the 3rd day, it even reached a point where they could display stable combination. And that was only possible because Harold had adjusted his level to the members of Cody’s squad.
If only individual strength was considered, then Harold was above Robinson and the other 2. If they tried to adjust to Harold’s skill, then they would be nothing more than baggage. Only because Harold had held back his strength was it possible for them to coordinate smoothly.
Although he was abusive from beginning to end, his conduct was one of trying to make use of his comrades’ strength and erasing their weaknesses. Even though he had higher strength, without having anything to do with him looking down on them, he respected them and even excelled at working with them. He was a boy whose speech and conduct wasn’t in gear at all.
If he really looked down on his comrades as worthless existences, then he wouldn’t have been able to coordinate this well. Although he thought so, on the other hand he couldn’t help but think that Harold’s strength was high enough to do even this no matter what his true feelings were.
All throughout the examination, he wasn’t able to grasp Harold’s true nature. That said, Harold’s results were so good that there was no way for him to fail Harold even by mistake. However, he felt an indistinct sense of discomfort.
While he was being bothered by that, the examination ended and they started moving so as to return to the Royal Capital by the next morning. They departed at 6 in the morning, and if nothing were to happen, they would return before the day came to an end. Forming ranks in the same way as they had come, they had lunch en route and progressed without any delays. Eventually, by the time they had traversed more than half the distance from the Capital, that happened.
「What is that?」
The one who noticed it first and raised his voice, was Lukas. To that, everybody’s gazes concentrated towards the front. A few hundred meters from Sakrith and the others, a dark red something was squirming.
「……… Is it smoke? No, for it to be that, it’s color and movements aren’t normal」
「It’s somewhat hazy though」
「Perhaps, a monster of some new species?」
Each of them voiced their speculations, but it wasn’t as though they were able to ascertain it’s identity. Since it was on their way, for now, they decided to approach it for confirmation, but among them, Harold’s face was grimmer than usual. The ones who noticed it were Sakrith and another person.
「Harold-kun, do you know what that is?」
Cody asked in a whisper. Only Harold and Sakrith were able to hear it.
「Who knows. But if you don’t feel anything from it, then you bastards have lost quite your edge」
Being questioned, Harold answered without moving his gaze away from the dark red body. He didn’t know why the boy was feeling so much danger from it. But he would soon come to know that Harold’s senses had hit the mark.
Becoming distinct after they neared it, the dark red body was like mist. Its form was similar to a column, and as though it was oozing out from the ground, after it rose to about 150 cm high, it was dispersing. But other than that, they weren’t able to find a single clue that came close to finding out the dark red mist body’s identity.
「Is something buried?」
The instant Shido bent his knees and tried to lean over, the mist swayed greatly. That part transformed as though it possessed a will. Simultaneously, Harold’s sharp voice flew.
The formed sickle bent like a whip and attacked Shido. The one who pulled Shido, who wasn’t able to deal with the abrupt change, by his nape to evade the attack was Harold, who had leapt while shouting. It was precisely a hair’s breadth. If he had been late by even an instant, then Shido’s head would have been cut off by the mist sickle.
His bangs, which seemed to have been cut by the mist sickle, fluttered down. Understanding what had occurred, Shido, with a somewhat blue face, expressed his gratitude towards Harold.
「Y, you saved me……… Thanks, Harold」
「That doesn’t matter. Stand up immediately, you blockhead」
It was a very harsh manner of speaking to someone who had just almost lost his life, but that was how pressing the situation was. That was because before they knew it, a few more dark red mist bodies had appeared.
「What the hell is this?」
The mist bodies had appeared as though to surround them. The 6 mist bodies, including the ones that had newly appeared, uniformly formed sickles and started moving as though drawing a circle. Looking at this bizarre and unreal spectacle, everybody tottered.
There was a single person who didn’t waver at this creepy scene in front of him. After a single breath of time, Harold started attacking the mist without any hesitation. It was a speed which he hadn’t shown in the examination. Sakrith was astonished by his seemingly endless ability, but meanwhile, Harold cut the enemy using that untraceable speed.
The mist body that was attacked looked as though it was dispersed……. but immediately, it became the same as before. After repeating it for a few times, Harold returned back towards them.
「Physical attacks don’t work. Even if the blade comes in contact, the sword just goes through. Also, we probably can’t defend」
「On top of that, their attacks are effective, huh……..」
Looking at how Shido’s hair was cut, there was no mistake. Attacks were ineffective against the enemy, and they were exposed to undefendable attacks.
「T, there’s no way we can win against something like that……..」
「Won’t it be fine if we just run away!?」
Robinson and Aileen, whose experience in falling into unexpected situations was shallow, were flustered. Shido too hadn’t recovered from fear. With their conditions, combat would be impossible. When he was about to make them fall back temporarily, Harold rudely remonstrated them.
「If you have the time to be flustered, work your head. If you don’t want to die, draw your swords. 『Bolt Lance』」
With a crackling sound as though the air was being ripped, an enormous lance of lightning was fired. That lance which boasted more than enough power to kill the enemy directly hit one of the mist bodies. Due to that, the mist dispersed, but once again, it immediately returned back to it’s original state. But as though he didn’t even care about that, Harold consecutively fired magic.
「『Flame Column』『Aqua Slash』」
The effect immediately became visible. The mist body that was engulfed by Flame Column regained its former shape as though nothing had happened, but the one that was hit by the Aqua Slash dispersed, and as though drifting towards the sky, it disappeared.
「Water attribute magic is effective, huh?」
Harold fired Aqua Slash towards the mist objects in rapid succession. Every attack made a direct hit, but only a single one disappeared due to the magic. The other 4 were same as before. The answer that could be derived from this was–.
「Only magic of a specific attribute is effective, huh」
「The attribute that is effective changing depending on the specimen is a problem」
「Are you bastards morons? Before complaining, hit each and everyone of them with magic」
「You are quite right」
Harold, Cody and Sakrith simultaneously fired magic. Lightning rained down incessantly, massive flames surged and winds blew violently. The grasslands which were green turned into scorched earth before their eyes.
After all the dark red mist bodies disappeared, Sakrith, after somehow escaping danger, was relieved, but instantly became cautious of the surroundings and confirmed their safety. Thinking, ‘It seems as though there are no reinforcements’, he regained his composure.
「Is anybody hurt?」
「W, we’re fine……..」
None of them were injured. Sakrith was relieved at that, but that too was thanks to Harold’s instant judgment and finding the clue to solve the situation. If, for example, were he to be in command, would they have gotten through it in such a fast yet accurate manner, and also without anyone being injured?
He couldn’t help but think that it would have been difficult. At the very least, he wouldn’t have been able to avoid Shido getting fatally injured. It was as Harold had said.
『If you don’t feel anything from it, then you bastards have lost quite your edge』
In spite of being warned, not stopping Shido from approaching it unprepared, was without a doubt his fault since he was the current leader of this squad. He had almost let a person die right in front of him. Sakrith bowed towards Harold.
「Thank you, Stokes-kun. And forgive me. The cause of this crisis was my judgmental error」
「Don’t count something of this level as a crisis. But don’t make the same mistake again」
With this, it was unknown as to who the superior actually was. But still, Sakrith engraved those words in his mind, and gave a reply showing his resolution.
「I’ll bear it in mind. For sure」
Sakrith’s gratitude hadn’t reach Harold’s ears. He was shaken to such an extent that he could do nothing other than reply mechanically. Looking at it from a distance, he was suspecting that it might be possible, but when he understood that they were the real thing, Harold’s frank mental state was 「Why is this here!?」.
Dark red mist, its official name in the original work was Eerie Cloud. It was an enemy on whom physical attacks were ineffective and which could only be damaged by a randomly predetermined magic. There was no need to give a special mention of its offensive ability or stamina or resilience, but the troublesome point was that it was impossible to defend against Eerie Cloud’s attacks. There was no way other than to somehow evade them and hit them with magic.
Due to that, he fought against them while deducing in front of Cody and the others. In the game, there was an item called 『Search Glass』 that could confirm an enemy’s stamina and weakness, but for some reason, it didn’t exist in this world. He had thrown away his thinking about how each and everything was the same as in the game a long time ago, and the non-existence of Search Glass was a huge aid to that.
But what was important wasn’t that. Eerie Cloud was a monster that had a deep relation to the progression of the story, and originally it was a monster that appeared near the middle to final stages of the game. More clearly, their appearance was proof that the Last Boss, Eustace’s plan called Earth Encroachment was progressing steadily.
That which should have appeared 5 years from the start of the game had appeared at this stage. No matter how he thought about it, it was too fast. There was a possibility that in the produced game, they hadn’t appeared until the story had progressed to a certain point and had actually existed from the start. But if he were to assume the worst, then it could be thought that Eustace’s plan had sped up compared to the game. If that were the case, then the original work’s events might accelerate, and it might develop into a direction unknown to Harold.
Not each and everything was the same as the game. In spite of thinking that, why had he been so conceited as to think that the story would progress like in the game. The promulgation of the medicine in the Sumeragi territory and his own enlistment in the chivalric order. If said, even those were ahead of the original work. It was Harold’s fatal mistake to have taken the speeding up of the original story lightly.
(Wait, wait, calm down. It isn’t sure that that is the case……..)
He quietly adjusted his breathing and somehow maintained his calm. The thought just now was only assuming the worst case. The story might not necessarily have sped up. But there was a need to confirm it.
Outwardly, he was a scientist who was praised as a genius. But his true nature was that of one who would fine in even destroying the world for his own ambitions, a lunatic. And he was also the perpetrator who had guided the original work’s Harold to his death.
If Harold wanted to follow the story, then making contact with him was unavoidable, but Eustace was such a dangerous existence that he was considering what he could do to avoid him. If he himself didn’t approach the other party, he wouldn’t be able to gain information. Even for avoiding a development like- being too late by the time he realized it, he had to take the risk.
And so, with a new and extra-large anxiety factor budding up, Harold’s final examination came to an end.