While being jostled by the heated-up crowd, Cody forcibly pushed his way through. He apologised to the surrounding crowd and with light movements, quickly arrived at the front row of the spectator seats.
“Oh, it seems like I somehow made it in time. It was worth it to leave the work to my subordinates.”
Stroking the stubble on his chin, Cody muttered after he found the black-haired boy standing on the stage. Cody’s squad had been ordered to patrol all around the city yet he had pushed that work onto his three subordinates, including Robinson while sneaking out to observe the fighting tournament. Right about now, his subordinates would be working while resentfully complaining about him. He’d receive scoldings after they met later, but for now, he forgot about that and gave preference to satisfying his curiosity.
Sitting in a seat with a good view, he watched a few matches that weren’t very interesting and finally, the boy whom he had been waiting for appeared on the stage. His outfit seemed like it was tailor-made for him with the material being good quality leather and even the gauntlet equipped on his left arm, from its colour, it seemed to be made from materials different from the general bronze ones.
(That’s superior to the ones used by the low-class knights (us). Is he a noble from somewhere?)
Even the name that was called was Mr.Lord, which was obviously an alias. From his outfit, the probability of him being a common citizen was low. In that case, it would be quite hard to lure him into the Chivalric Order. Though actually recruiting him would depend on his strength,Cody had come here to ascertain that.
In other words, this would work out as a splendid pretence of him scouting out a talent who could carry the chivalric order in the future. By no means was he slacking off. He had also prepared to argue with such sophistry when the time came. With this, he could concentrate on the boy’s match without any anxiety.
“Now let’s see what you’ve… got?”
Before Cody could even finish his sentence, the match was over. Immediately after the ‘Start!’ call, Lord closed the distance, flicked away his opponent’s sword and thrust his own, all in a single step.
The match didn’t even take three seconds, being concluded at lightning speed. It was understandable that the opponent boy’s eyes had become dots.
Yet that sharp gaze filled with killing intent might’ve induced much more fear than the fake sword thrust in front of the boy. Swallowed by the murderous aura of Lord, the opponent declared his surrender with a quavering voice.
Due to the match ending instantaneously, even the excited crowd didn’t know what had happened and was making a stir. Yet without even minding the crowd’s bewilderment, Lord swiftly left the stage.
“…are you serious? Isn’t this actually a real outstanding talent?”
The strength of the participants in this sort of tournament would naturally vary. Even Lord’s current opponent was considerably strong, but it was only to the degree of when speaking within that given age group. In other words, it was not the part about him winning that needed to be noted, it was his speed. Most probably, the other boy had noticed that something had happened and before he even realised it, he had lost. If he only compared speed, then Lord would completely outclass his current subordinates.
Even while being surrounded by thousands of spectators, without faltering in the slightest, he had overwhelmed his opponent in an instant without any excessive movements. Although he was still immature with regards to the mind, skill and body, being able to exhibit that physical ability under that much pressure was extraordinary.
With this much talent, it would be a waste to keep it hidden. Thinking like that may be due to the ego developed from belonging to the Chivalric Order, but as far as Cody was concerned, they would lose nothing by increasing their number of talented individuals. Even if he called it scouting, the right to decide whether one would join or not was left to the individuals themselves, but Cody didn’t have such an admirable personality to hold back due to something like that.
(It would be good to call dibs on him now but…)
From the previous match, Cody perceived a certain indication from Lord. It was as though he was rushing the match, a negligible but sure impatience was present.
It was that Lord who had seen through Cody’s strength without even an instant passing when their gazes crossed this morning. There was no way that Lord couldn’t have perceived the difference in strength between himself and his opponent. Yet that wasn’t a reason to rush for the win, though that might have just simply been Cody’s misunderstanding.
But if that wasn’t the case, then why was he so impatient? This doubt remained within Cody’s head as the tournament went on.
* * *
From the moment he noticed Colette, Harold’s actions were extremely fast. With the call for the start of the match, he broke into a quick attack, made his opponent surrender instantly and left the stage.
He hurriedly returned to the tournament participants’ room and while frantically moving his eyes, he started searching for a certain boy.
Since Colette was here, there was a high probability of him being here as well. The protagonist of “Brave Hearts”, Ryner.
The problem was whether he was a spectator like Colette or a participant in the tournament. The worst case scenario would be him facing off against Ryner in a match.
Unfortunately, Harold’s prayer of ‘Please be in the spectator seats’, vanished into thin air. The embodiment of naturally high spirits and liveliness, his spiky hair entered Harold’s vision. Its colour was just as he remembered, a burning red.
When the name ‘Ryner Griffith’ was called, he dashed towards the stage, burning with fighting spirit. Harold’s head hung down when he confirmed that figure. With this, it became definite that Ryner was participating in the tournament.
(Seriously…? Should I give up before I face him?)
This development shouldn’t have been there in the game. In the game, when he reaches Delfit, there was a scene where Ryner would be surprised looking at a huge ship. ‘So it was the first time he had come to Delfit’, such words were said. He completely did not understand how that would lead to him participating in the fighting tournament.
In any case, he would let sleeping dogs lie. While he was thinking of withdrawing from the tournament by giving some vague reason, he suddenly realised that he was doing the same thing that he had done this morning. Without even thinking, just because they were characters that appeared in the game, he was reflexively trying to avoid them.
If he thought back to it, the reason Ryner was hostile towards Harold was mainly because of Clara’s death and Harold’s conduct within the story. And Harold had already cleared Clara’s matter.
Although his speech was like that, he planned to prove himself through his actions rather than his words in the future. This meant that there’d be no reason for Ryner to hate him. Instead, it’d be a good plan to get along with him. Although he had no intention to be included in the hero party that always fought on the front lines, it was possible to give them advice on increasing their war potential through his knowledge of the game. If they became hostile, there was no way they would listen to him.
When he thought until there, his head had also cooled down a lot. In the first place, even if Erika and Colette met, it would be their first time seeing each other. As long as Harold was not present when they met, there was no way his past actions would be discovered.
Since Erika would not get close to Harold on her own, it would be a good chance to indirectly inquire about Colette and Ryner’s relationship through this tournament.
While confirming Ryner’s current strength, Harold could get acquainted with him, building a friendly relationship he could use in the future. There was no need to simply stand and watch this chance slip away from right under his nose. As he established his objective, Harold shifted his awareness towards the match. When he turned towards the stage, it was just when Ryner had won the match, happily pumping his fists1.
Although it was hypothetical, he was still the Hero that would save the world in the future. ‘If talking with regards to the game, even if he was level 1, he wouldn’t lose at a place like this’, was what Harold wanted to think. With that said, he should take this chance to congratulate him for his win, it’d be a good conversation starter.
(What should I say? Congratulations? …no, that’d just become ‘Well, aren’t you impulsive?’ What heck is that? That’s so arrogant. Uh… to make it harmless and inoffensive I need to say…)
While he thought of such things, Ryner had already walked past him. Wanting to stop him, Harold spontaneously said:
“Hey you, Red-hair.”
As a result, he made a mistake in choosing his words. Together with his posture, where he had folded his arms while leaning his back on the wall, his words came off as being extraordinarily haughty. But the words had already left his mouth, there was no way he could take them back. At the words ‘Red hair’, Ryner’s feet stopped.
“Ah, it’s you!”
The moment Ryner became aware of Harold, he suddenly drew closer. Harold thought that he might’ve gotten angry, but there was no anger in those eyes, instead they had a flame blazing within them.
“Say, aren’t you that incredibly fast guy? I was watching, but I couldn’t understand it at all! How did you do that?! Can I also do that?!”
That manner of his contained so much force that it made even Harold, who had called him, want to back away. Even in the game, he was a character who had retained his childishness, but when he was actually a kid, that characteristic was all the more apparent.
“Even if it’s just a trick, please teach me! If that’s not possible, I’d be satisfied knowing what kind of training you do regularly! I carry weights when I go on runs, but there’s no way I could move as fast you did!”
“To start with, close that needlessly functioning mouth.”
“Ah, sorry. Come to think, I still haven’t introduced myself. I’m Ryner!”
Ryner cheerfully extended his right hand.
After hesitating for a moment, Harold shook that hand.
“…Harold. Call me however you want.”
“Okay! Nice to meet you, Harold!”
Ryner turned a worry-free grin towards Harold. For him, they were already friends. That’s just how Ryner was. Even for Harold, that was a likeable point. Contacting this pure boy completely due to ulterior motives hurt Harold’s conscience a bit, but he pushed that thought aside.
“I saw your fighting style, truth be told it was a bit impulsive, but it was much better than the rest of this riffraff.”
No matter what, one could only think that he was trying to agitate the other participants. Obviously, grim glares flew towards them from the surroundings, but without noticing them, Ryner became shy. It seemed as though the fact that he was an idiot who couldn’t understand sarcasm hadn’t changed. For Harold, where the forcibly used abusive language was a cause of constant annoyance, he was considerably grateful for that reaction.
“But I have no duty to teach you anything. If you want to know, then fight against me and try to steal it. Though that’s only if you’re able to keep winning your matches.”
“I’ll do it! Harold too, make sure not to lose before you fight against me, alright?”
“Who do you think you’re speaking to? The only thing you’ll learn is that the difference in strength between us like the heavens and earth.”
“I’m looking forward to it! Well, later! Next time, let’s meet at the match!”
Ryner’s friendly smile had disappeared, an aggressive smirk growing in its place, while Harold grinned haughtily in return. The two of them both determined and fearless. For now, this was their preliminary encounter.
From afar, the other participants were glowering at the two. Since the both of them spoke as though nobody else mattered other than each other, it couldn’t be helped that they thought those two were provoking them.
Unexpectedly, he had raised the hurdle for Ryner, but if he was the hero, then this shouldn’t be a problem.
“Only then will this fight be worth it.”
Harold mumbled while looking at his right hand, which had been grasped strongly.
- It was originally written as Guts-pose, a pose made by a the famous boxer Guts Ishimatsu, where he would pump his fists up and down in the air after a win.
Translated by Madao. Re-edited by KuroInfinity.