After finishing the examination and returning to the Royal Capital, Harold continued living busy days like before, working on the miscellaneous tasks and training, while waiting to be informed of the results and also racking his brains on how to get in contact with Justus. Justus’s laboratory existed within the Royal Capital and in the game he had also come to the Royal Castle. If he thought of making contact, then he could do so.
But if the condition of not making him vigilant was added, then the difficulty level skyrocketed. But Justus’s plan was a covert one and an absolute secret, and even if he were to include someone in the process to use them, he must have done the core part of it alone. More than anything, Harold had a complete grasp of this plan which was supposed to be an absolute secret. There was the danger of him seeing through that truth from Harold’s behavior since he was a genius. And if that happened, he might use any and all means to seal Harold’s mouth.
Then he might as well take him by surprise and arrest him, but again the risk was high. The main concern was the degree of completion of Earth Encroachment. Even if it was possible to arrest Justus, if the Earth Encroachment plan had progressed, then at the current stage the only one who might be able to stop it was the person himself.
But Justus himself stopping the plan was absolutely unlikely to happen. Even if he had to throw away his own life, Justus would try to fulfill his desire. On top of that, if he were to awaken “that power”, then it was unthinkable for him to be able to defeat him alone. If it went wrong, then even before Ryner’s party took any action, the continent would fall.
In the first place, there was not enough evidence to arrest Justus. Even if he were to frankly give the whole picture of the plan to Vincent and the others, it wasn’t difficult to imagine that they wouldn’t pay any proper attention to it since it was too crazy. Who would believe some nonsense like Justus turning the world into a vessel to fulfill his desire to revive the dead.
He interrupted the repeated calls for him that had been coming from a while ago. With his name being called so persistently, there were limits to ignoring it. Stopping the arm that had been swinging the sword, he reluctantly turned towards the owner of the voice, Shido.
「What, you noticed, huh」
As though it was unexpected, Shido said that. Unfortunately, since he was practicing in a place where not a single person was around, he could immediately know if someone came. A dim place under the shadows of a thicket and a dilapidated building that seemed to have been a stable, it was the best spot to be alone. As to why he was practicing in such a place, it was because recently, he had started to get into quarrels even in the training grounds. They must have thought of tormenting him overtly in the name of practice. He had judged that in the worst case, even if he got into a quarrel here, they wouldn’t be a bother to the surroundings.
「Isn’t that obvious? I was just ignoring you」
「Isn’t that worse?」
Really, that was exactly right. That said, since this mouth couldn’t even gloss things over, he couldn’t help but give up. Harold ignored Shido’s comeback and continued the conversation.
「So, what do you want?」
Being shown interest, Shido suddenly bowed vigorously. It was a deep bow with his torso bent in a right angle. Towards Harold, who was inwardly bewildered at this sudden action, Shido made a request.
「Please train us!」
Harold lost his words for a bit. Sure Shido still couldn’t be called first-rate, but still he had endured harsh training for a knight for 3 years and had improved his strength. And he had requested Harold, who was a newbie and moreover 6 years younger than himself. It was quite unexpected to the one who had been requested.
「You’re being an eyesore, raise your head. To begin with, who are you indicating by saying “us”?」
「Me, Robin and Aileen」
As expected, the request seemed to be from the usual trio. Listening to that, Harold sighed without even trying to conceal it. The feelings that were in it was “these guys too, huh”.
「Where did those 2 go?」
「They’re in the middle of patrolling the city. That’s why, only I have come to request this of you, but all of us agree」
Being requested like this to train them, he couldn’t help but be perplexed. Because most probably, there was no technique that Harold could teach them. It went without saying that Shido and the other 2 had a deeper understanding of the basics for the members of the chivalric order, and being relied on to such an extent, he could only be baffled. He was just trying to reproduce movements from the game without having any reliable basis for techniques, and in that condition what could he possibly teach.
And those were his true thoughts. But it wasn’t as though there were no merits in working out a way to increase their strength. There was a possibility of the 3 of them, Shido, Robinson and Aileen, losing their lives in the battle 2 years later. And Harold still hadn’t decided whether to save them, resolving himself for the destruction of the original work, or not. In the first place, he didn’t even know whether it was an event where he could do something to save them.
It would already be more than a month since meeting the 3 of them. There had been many chances for them to deepen their friendship, and if possible he didn’t want them to die. For it to also not become a situation where when he made the resolve to save them, it was already too late, it shouldn’t become useless if he were to strengthen them.
「……… Alright then. Tomorrow, bring the other 2 also here」
After worrying for a bit, Harold decided to accept. No matter how it went in the future, it should be helpful in dealing with the situation. And he also had another purpose. Even if he used them, it wouldn’t a problem.
The next day after giving a reply smeared with self-interest. In that desolate and gloomy space, 8 people, quite a number, were gathered. They were Shido’s group of 3 and the 5 members of the 94th term 7th squad including Harold. The mood had become awkward because Shido’s and Isaac’s groups weren’t acquainted, but Harold ignored that and started speaking.
「Then, let’s start」
Without any preface or explanation, all of a sudden, those words came out. To that, the other seven each exchanged glances and became baffled.
「You say start, but first what should we do?」
「Draw your sword. All of you simultaneously come at me」
「Haa!? No matter what, that’s underestimating us too much!」
The owner of the voice was the only female, Aileen. Though it was a queer unfeminine voice. Although he could understand that feeling of reflexively reacting like that, his mouth wouldn’t come along in explaining each and every reason. And above all, to make them understand various things, it would be faster to actually fight them at least once.
「Don’t talk back」
He didn’t know what kind of change occurred, but his irritation at not being able to explain came out as wrath. Thereupon, everyone’s face’s instantly became pale. ‘I’m so scary that just by threatening them a little, this happens, huh. Even for me, I feel doubtful’, thought Harold. If that was the case, he could understand why people usually didn’t approach him. The person was troublesome enough since he quarrels with his seniors, and if such a person were to give off an intimidating air, then it was natural for normal people to avoid him.
「Small fries should act like small fries and attack in a group. I’ll teach you that even if you do so, I’m an existence that you can’t reach」
While reflecting upon his solitude, this time he provoked them. This 1 vs many situation was exactly what Harold desired. Until now, he had fought against multiple monsters alone, but he hadn’t fought against multiple humans. For the future, he wanted to accumulate experience of fighting against a large number. Since at any rate, there was a possibility of him having to face-off against the protagonist party alone.
「I’m going to make use of you bastards as my stepping stones. If you want to become strong, then learn from fighting against me and try to steal my techniques. Well, I think that’s impossible though」
As an insurance, he also ridiculed them.
「……… Bring it on!」
Shido glared at Harold as though wanting to intimidate him and drew his sword. Following him, everybody took their battle stances. No matter what, all the people who were in the chivalric order were exceptional ones. Being made fun of to such an extent, there was nobody who wouldn’t get mad.
「That’s good. Struggle as much as possible to entertain me」
With those words as the start, a melee with 8 people jumbled together started.
「–And that’s it for the report」
Sakrith finished giving the report about this time’s final examination held as an exception. Listening to it, the people who had been gathered here to decide the result of the examination would voice out their impressions. More than a few people must have been surprised at the report that had been given just now. Almost all of it was about Harold’s high ability and the existence that seemed to be a monster they had met in the middle of their journey. There were even some of them who were skeptical about the contents of the report. In front of these people, Vincent started speaking.
「Each of you must have your own opinions, but as you’ve all heard, Harold might be young, but if it’s only about strength, then he surpasses the company commander class. And we can also see that even in commanding abilities he is rare, so if we officially assign him to a squad early on and foster his actual combat experience, it should be possible to increase his strength more」1
「I understand Vincent-kun’s thoughts. Even I think that that training plan is logical」
The one gave that reply was the person who administered the composition of the corps of the chivalric order, Maelstrom2. When he narrowed his eyes, his age could be felt from how the wrinkles around his eyes deepened. It wasn’t a sharp gaze which could pierce through a person, but still, with a oppressive air, Maelstrom asked Vincent.
「But on the other hand, I feel that it is somewhat fast. With Harold’s nature that I’ve heard about, without a doubt he’ll raise waves in his relationship with his surroundings. He’s still young and it won’t be too late even if we take some time to teach him about those matters, right?」
「What you are saying is exactly right. And because I have the perfect squad for that kind of rectification, this time’s plan is the result」
「Let’s hear about it then」
「Yes. I think that Maelstrom-dono doesn’t know, but………」
Vincent explained the circumstances that were presently surrounding Harold. Harold had overwhelmed his seniors one after the other in a fight held in the name of enrollment examination. Due to that he was being resented by a part of them and kept being attacked persistently. And because of this, many people were keeping away from Harold, isolating him. In this condition, it might be difficult for him to get involved with his surroundings.
「………. I see. Quickly inserting Harold into a squad that bears no ill will towards him, huh. In that case, even if it’s only within the squad, he might able to build a relationship」
「Yes. And the one I’m suggesting, Cody, excels at understanding humans. Especially building relations with subordinates, there’s no other person who’s better than him. And moreover, Cody was the one who invited Harold, and he also seems to be acquainted with the members of his squad since he has been seen having friendly conversations with them」
He was exaggerating a bit. From what Shannon had said, it seemed as though Shido would obstinately get involved with Harold, who was basically always frowning, and Robinson and Aileen would watch over them while being exasperated at times or while smiling wryly. But still, since Harold hadn’t show any stony kind of behavior, it seemed as though he too had somewhat opened up.
「Nevertheless, it’s sad. Although Harold’s behavior is also at fault, to think that there were insolent people who would play dumb to their own short-comings even in the chivalric order」
「It is my lack of care. As soon as I identify those who attacked him, I’ll hand out the proper punishment. And also, since there seem to be people who are instigating others to act against Harold, I’m in the middle of confirming it」
「Since you are taking action, I won’t say anything more. And so, getting back to the topic, assigning him to a squad is to get him to accumulate experience, rectifying his personality and also for it to act as an obstruction to the animosity shown towards him from the surroundings, right?」
「Yes. I’m saying this even though knowing it isn’t admirable, but I don’t mind if you think of it as a measure to avoid destroying Harold’s ability」
To his words, everybody in that place became unsettled. The him who was famous for being just and upright in regards to his duties and who would be an impartial judge towards anybody, was openly saying that Harold should be given special treatment. And they understood. That Harold was an existence who possessed such extraordinary talent that it was enough to even make Vincent back him.
「……… He has so much talent that it has even charmed Vincent-kun, huh. Then I won’t say anything anymore. Then, I approve of him officially enlisting into the squad」
「Thank you for understanding」
There was nobody who objected Maelstrom’s decision. Harold joining Cody’s squad had been officially decided. Until now, it had all gone according to Vincent’s plan, but at the last moment an unexpected interruption came.
With a snap, the door to the conference room opened. Without even any kind of acknowledgment and with just a 「Pardon me」, the one who appeared was a middle-aged man with a protruding belly.
「You all, sorry for being so sudden. But it seems like a somewhat hopeful newbie has joined, huh」
「Right, thankfully. By the way, what kind of business does Harrison-dono have?」
「Since I heard that that kid’s treatment is being decided, I was curious. I didn’t mean to hinder it, but since I had a helpful suggestion right when required, I just unconsciously intruded」
While patting his stomach, Harrison, who had sat in a vacant seat without even excusing himself, laughed as though something pleasant was happening. It was an extremely haughty attitude.
「Can we receive a concrete explanation?」
「It’s a kind of patrol duty. It isn’t like there’s an emergency or that there’s high risk, but the place is far. He’ll have to go to the national border」
「That is again quite difficult」
「But if it’s around the border, there should be people who are normally assigned to patrol duty though, right?」
Since only the headquarters at the Royal Capital couldn’t quickly solve all situations, there were a few branches of the chivalric order established within the Kingdom. It was arranged so that when there was an emergency, they would all unite and take actions, but if the branches themselves could take care of a situation, normally they would solve it on their own and would later on send a report to the headquarters. Patrolling duties near the national border was a general duty of the branch.
「A notification that they want reinforcements has come. Recently, it seems as though the Beltiz3 forest is turbulent so they want to make a serious investigation, but it seems like they don’t have enough personnel」
「I didn’t receive such a report though……?」
「What, is that true? There must have been some kind of mistake」
Folding his arms, Harrison tilted his head. Although he looked barefaced, more than that, there was a word that couldn’t be ignored in what Harrison had said.
「By the way, if you’re talking about the Beltiz forest, it’s the region where the Star Reader 《Stellar》 tribe live. It won’t be easy to enter」
Star Reader (Stellar) tribe. Also called as the people of the stars, they were the continent’s oldest race. Even the people of the stars, who had been ruling the whole continent in the past, after exhausting their prosperity had their population reduced due to the many conflicts over power over a long period of time. The negligible amount of descendants who had survived until now were living as a small and closed-off community. They were a race which had many mysteries.
Maybe because of that history, their hate towards other races’ interference was extreme. If the chivalric order were to investigate the Beltiz forest, they would oppose quite strongly. If they tried to forcibly push through, there was a danger that it might even develop into battle. Towards Maelstrom’s worried question, once again Harrison answered looking triumphant while shaking his belly.
「We’re currently in the middle of negotiations. Well, it isn’t as though we will intrude into their livelihood sphere, so if we just tell them beforehand, there will be no problem. Coming to the real issue, I thought about having that newbie accompany them on this patrolling mission」
「…….. The reason is?」
「No matter how outstanding he is, won’t the risk be too much if we suddenly throw him into actual combat? As I’ve explained, this time’s patrolling mission’s risk is low. If it becomes a long term investigation, he’ll have more time to connect with the other members, and isn’t it the perfect mission for participating in for the first time?」
Certainly, Harrison’s words made sense. Even Vincent hadn’t thought of putting Harold in a mission that required combat as his first one. But it was true that he wanted to send him out on missions from early on. Seeing through Vincent’s plan, Harrison had called this suggestion as “help arriving at the right time”.
What he was worried about was as to why Harrison was being so cooperative. His official post was the supervision head, which was to bring together the chivalric order and the national army. In other words he was the person in control of this Kingdom’s military.
However, the chivalric order and the army were unable to cooperate. The main reason was because of the awareness that the chivalric order was above the army that was spread among the public. Originally, there was no above or below with the chivalric order and the army, and as organizations they were equal. Then as to why that kind of awareness had spread about was because of the huge difference in the chance to play an active role.
The chivalric order would actively move out with regards to various situations, but because the army was passive since their main mission was defense, large-scale missions were scarce for them. The chivalric order which had many flashy activities was a flourishing job while the army was simple- this image had taken root. In reality, the number of people who aimed for the chivalric order but entered the army because of failing the examination was extremely high. They too perceived that the chivalric order was above the army.
While being exposed to that tendency, Harrison had a history of climbing up to the supervision head while he had been affiliated to the army. Even from the time he was affiliated to the army, he had been competitive with the chivalric order regarding each and every matter that had come up. He had even narrated, “I turned the resentment of not being able to enroll into the chivalric order into power and rose up in the world”. Although only he himself knew what his true motives were, taking his behavior until now into account, it could be seen that he was making the chivalric order out to be his enemy at each and every turn.
It wasn’t a good way of putting it, but he was suspicious. When he was being cooperative to this extent, more than a few doubts rose up in Vincent’s head. That was how much unlike Harrison it was.
「……… You’re right. I’ll take into consideration」
He was unable to read Harrison’s aim, but since he didn’t have any definite reason to refuse the proposal, for now, Vincent gave that reply. Hearing that, leaving behind 「More than anything else, I was able to help you all」, Harrison left the conference room. And a few days later, Harold’s name was there in the list of members that would participate in that patrolling mission.
1. Vincent is speaking to his superiors so he is being very respectful
2. Maelstrom – ミルストラム (Mirusutoramu)
3. Beltiz – ベルティス (Berutisu)