“Fuwaa~ why do we have to do something like patrolling at a time like this?”
Donning armour with the emblem of the Saint King’s chivalric order (black obsidian-like wings growing from a silver sword) engraved into it, a man in his late twenties muttered listlessly while expelling a yawn.
Following behind him was his subordinate, who chided him after seeing his lack of enthusiasm.
“Since it is work, please don’t complain Captain. Even I don’t want to patrol this early in the morning.”
Currently, the clock’s needle was pointing just slightly past 5 AM. Moreover, the patrol had started during sunrise at four.
The reason was because of the already open and bustling shops. Especially flourishing were the stores that served alcohol.
Once a year, during the three days the fighting tournament was held, almost all the fishermen would take a break from work to drink alcohol from the bright of dawn in celebration of it, allowing merry-making to unfold.
The town would overflow with drunk people, so there were repeated quarrels and public order would decline. The patrol would act as both a deterrence force and as a solution to those cases.
“I believe that you shouldn’t be too merry just because there’s a tournament going on.”
“Although you’re saying that, why are you trying to go drink alcohol?”
The subordinate grabbed the shoulder of his superior, Captain Cody, who was trying to enter a bar as though it was the most natural thing to do.
Him being this informal in his speech and attitude towards his superior was sole because of Cody’s personality. It wasn’t that he didn’t respect Cody.
“The ale is calling me.”
“Don’t say idiotic things with a serious face.”
Cody’s subordinate brought him back to the patrolling course as though he was being dragged.
Without being able to do anything, Cody saw off the bar which was becoming more and more distant. It wasn’t clear as to whose position was higher anymore.
“Haa… so not being able to do anything other than look at the surrounding people drink alcohol will continue for another three days, huh…?”
“Even though you say that, Captain, are you not weak against alcohol yourself?”
‘Moreover, it’s irritating that you get involved with quarrels after you drink’, and towards the subordinate who added such a complaint, Cody replied.
“It’s not that I like drinking alcohol. I like getting drunk.”
For Cody, drinking ale was a means and not the objective. He declared that anything was fine as long as he got inebriated.
While for his subordinate, accompanying Cody in drinking some cheap, unappetizing alcohol only to get dragged into a quarrel afterwards, was nothing but an unbearable punishment.
As the two of them were engaged in such a worthless dialogue, they suddenly heard a sound akin to glass shattering from the alley in front of them. Consequently, they also heard a woman’s shriek and a loud noise.
After exchanging quick at glances each other, and the both of them gave a deep sigh.
“Looks like it’s time for work.”
“Good grief… can’t they drink in a more enjoyable manner.”
“That’s not something that you chastise them for, Captain.”
“Shut up. Well, Robin-kun, let’s control the situation with that frightening face of yours that always scares everyone without exceptions.”
They ran towards the direction of the sound as they conversed. Turning around the corner of the alley, they pushed through the crowd to confirm the situation. Cody ignored Robin (aka Robinson) who was muttering, ‘Did you really have to describe it like that…?’, from behind him.
“Alright, please excuse me.”
“Haah? Don’t push- !?”
The robust man who lived on the seas, turned around to complain towards Cody, who was forcing his way through, but behind Cody, he saw Robinson’s face and quieted down.
Robinson was a 190 cm tall figure with a muscular physique, and dark skin more tanned than a fishermen’s. His dark grey sanpaku1 eyes were slanted, making his fiendish face look as if he was intimidating the other party.
He was even scarier than some monsters.
Despite his looks, Robinson’s temperament was actually quite gentle. He was the so-called type of person who was put at a disadvantage due to his appearance.
That said, the number of times they were used as an advantage while working as a knight wasn’t scarce. If the enemy was weak-willed, they’d become timid the moment they were ‘glared’ at, and in situations like these, the path would naturally open up.
Even this time the effect was instantaneous. It was to the extent the moment they noticed Robinson’s presence, the crowd parted for them.
“Truly, it’s so smooth when Robin-kun is here.”
“…I’ll accept that as praise.”
After a bit more struggling, Cody and Robinson had arrived at the centre of the crowd. What they saw was a single boy and an adult man, along with a person who wriggled and flapped his legs madly as his torso was shoved inside a store’s water jug.
While Cody and Robinson were trying to grasp what was happening, the boy pulled out the man stuck in the jug. Looking down on the soaked man, who was coughing and choking on all fours, the boy muttered sarcastically.
“How is it? Have you sobered up a little?”
The man who was frantically inhaling air had no leeway to answer. Instead, the other man flared up at the boy.
“You bastard, what the hell are you doing?!”
“Can’t you tell just by looking? It seems as though you have no recollection of what you’ve done, so why don’t you pour cold water on yourself, like how this bastard did? Well, if you weren’t sane from the beginning, then there’d be no meaning for such a thing.”
“Spouting out shit as you please…! I won’t show mercy even if you’re a kid!”
Maybe because he was too drunk, the man approached the boy in a run while brandishing his right arm, intending to hit the boy.
Despite knowing he couldn’t make it in time, Cody ran after the man to stop him, but then he saw those eyes.
The boy’s penetratingly cold pupils.
Even with a man who wanted to cause him harm right there, forget hostility, the boy didn’t even seem to be interested in him. Not only that, he even captured Cody, who was rapidly approaching from behind the man, in his vision.
In this situation, he had a calmness and a broadness of vision unthinkable of a child.
His eyes met with the boy’s, and in that instant, those emotionless eyes were dyed by a look of surprise, then vigilance.
But that too was only momentary. The boy slipped past the man’s large swing and drove his elbow into the man’s solar plexus right after.
That was more than enough to make the man kneel. The boy, who appeared from the other side of the man who had crumbled down, still had his sight turned towards Cody, severely glaring at him, even while being showered in the surrounding crowd’s applause .
Being in the middle of this series of events, Cody hit upon something.
(Don’t tell me, he perceived my strength? Just by the intersection of our sights that didn’t even last for an instant?)
The unmotivated attitude, dislike towards fetters of obligation and hiding of true strength had affected Cody, making hi be content with his current post of Captain, but his fighting prowess was such that even in the chivalric order, it would be much faster if one counted from the top to reach him. It was to that extent that he could fight on par with the favourite candidate to become the next Commander of the Saint King’s Chivalric Order, Vincent Van Westerfort.
If the boy had become surprised at his strength and went on guard looking out for his intervention, then Cody could understand the boy’s reaction.
(Even more surprising than his strength that’s able to defeat a large man in one blow, is his observant eyes.)
To be able to accurately see whether the opponent’s strength was higher or lower than oneself’s through a glance, the person himself should have a certain degree of ability. It seemed as though the boy was considerably strong.
Wanting to relax the boy, who was still observing him vigilantly, Cody raised his hands and plastered a tired smile on his face.
“Well, that was splendidly skilful. Onii-san was surprised.”
That figure of him laughing, ‘Ha ha ha’, was extraordinarily shady, but maybe because the boy decided that he didn’t want to deal with Cody, he slackened his vigilance. Now thinking that it would be fine to ask him about the situation, Cody continued to speak.
“I’m sorry, but could you please tell me what exactly happened here? We came running just now, so we still haven’t grasped the situation.”
“…it was just that these drunkards were quarrelling, and during that time, one of them was thrust towards me so I dealt with him.”
“I see, that was quite an artistic way of dealing with it. Jokes aside.”
Remembering the legs sprouting out from the water jug, Cody could feel his laughter was welling up. Later on, this might become a funny story when he was drinking. As he thought that, the boy tried to leave since there was nothing else left to speak about.
“Ah, wait, wait! You’re not injured, are you? Even if it’s a scratch, if it gets infected it could get pretty bad.”
“The guys I dealt with couldn’t even help me warm-up, there’s no problem.”
“Really? Don’t take it lightly. If you just move your body for a bit, then any pain might…”
“You’re annoying. If you want to know about what happened, ask the rubbernecks, or did you want to waste my time with questions?”
“Ah, you found out?”
Only 20% of Cody’s true feelings wanted to grasp the situation. The remaining 80% were curious about the boy’s identity, he wanted to drag the conversation on to no avail. After taking a glance at Cody who had easily confessed, the boy left.
“Captain, what to do with these people?”
“Ah, right, let’s see. For now, we’ll wait for them to recover, and in the meantime…”
While firing orders to Robinson, Cody was thinking about the black-haired boy. That discernment, the way he carried himself, and that unflinching grit that he showed even with a person as strong as Cody in front of him. All of these were abilities that couldn’t be learnt if he hadn’t experienced real combat. As he saw it, the boy was about 12 to 13 years old, but it was unknown as to where he had piled up such experiences.
(There’re many points that I’m curious about, but to start with, let’s pay attention to the fighting tournament. It seems as though I’ll be able to see something interesting.)
From his words that said they weren’t even able to warm him up, the probability of him participating in the fighting tournament today was high. The fights for the under-13 division was being held on the 1st day, and the boy’s age seemed to be dead on.
To his usually boring work, a fragment of enjoyment came rolling in. While thinking of remembering the boy’s name, Cody realised that he had forgotten to ask for it.
* * *
(I panicked! I seriously panicked! Why is Cody here!?)
As though running away from the crowd of people, or rather after actually running away, Harold entered an empty alley and held his head.
The reason was because of the one he had just encountered, Cody. It was obvious since Harold knew his name, but as expected he was a character who appeared in the game as well.
He was the core member of the mercenary group “Furiel”, which was made up of wanderers… but he would occasionally appear in front of the hero party and form a common front, and at times would use them in a good way- he was that kind of incomprehensible character. Well, basically he was a good person who came out in some spots and had the role of rescuing the party.
Harold already knew about the setting of Cody being a former member of the Saint King’s chivalric order, so he wasn’t surprised to see him wearing that armour, but he didn’t expect to meet him in this place.
Because of the tumult of the city that started stirring at sunrise, Harold had opened his eyes when the time was a little past four in the morning.
While thinking about the boisterous and somewhat restless air, he was reminded of the college festival in his university years, and as though it was inviting him his legs turned towards the city.
A half-hour after he started warming up by exploring Delfit, a loud shout reached Harold’s ears while he was wandering in the market street. When he turned his eyes towards the origin of the voice, there were two men grasping each other’s collars while quarrelling. Due to their scuffle, a wooden table was overturned making the plates and glasses on top of it fall off, shattering with a piercing crash.
As Harold wondered how they were overflowing with such vigour so early in the morning, and pass them since he wasn’t meddlesome enough to stop them, that happened.
The man who was thrust away came falling in Harold’s direction. Really, it wasn’t a big deal. It would’ve been fine to quickly avoid him and walk away, but when he was about to do so, he realised that there was a small girl behind him, and if Harold were to dodge, the girl might end up squished.
From there, his body moved before he could think. Harold swept the legs of the man, who was unbalanced and was falling down towards him, while at the same time gripping the man’s right wrist and shoving him inside an uncovered water jug. The man who was floating in midair had no means to struggle.
After that, it became something like Harold fighting the other man and paying him back after agitating him with sarcastic words. At this point, Harold had a defiant mental state thinking, ‘I don’t care anymore.’
He’d already given up being hateful at his mouth whenever it spit out reckless remarks since it would just make him tired.
When Harold was thinking of handling it as fast as possible, he noticed the suddenly incoming Cody and his mind went into chaos.
Due to that, he lost his composure and unintentionally erred in holding back as he used his elbow.
(Sorry, I went too far, uncle who’s name I don’t know.)
Remembering the appearance of the man who had fainted, Harold apologized in his heart, and after suddenly calming down, he realized that there had been no need to run away from Cody.
In the first place, Harold and Cody’s relationship in the game had not been described. By the time the game started, Harold had been a member of the chivalric order, and Cody had already made Furiel. Although there might’ve been some period when they had both been members, it would’ve been very short.
(I mean, wouldn’t it have been easier later on if he had remembered my face?)
Since there were times when Cody would accompany the hero party, so if Harold had some connection to him, Cody could become a source for Harold to learn about the party’s internal affairs. If he thought about it, then his previous actions might’ve been too hasty .
While pondering about how to somehow build a friendly relationship with Cody the next time they met, Harold returned to the inn to have breakfast.
When he arrived in front of the inn, he met Itsuki who had just come out.
“Good morning, Harold-kun. Where have you been?”
“Previewing the venue.”
It was true that along with taking a stroll, he had taken a glance at the venue, and after looking at the unexpectedly big stage, honestly he was a bit nervous.
“It seems like you have enough motivation so I have something that I want to give you.”
Itsuki handed him something that was wrapped in paper. While feeling suspicious, he peeled the wrapping off, revealing a mask that covered from above the nose, like the one used in balls.
“Since you’re participating while changing your name, I thought about hiding your real face as well.”
“Like hell I’d want this!”
That retort came from his very soul. They might have been the most powerfully said words from the time he had possessed this body. Somehow Itsuki’s character had become more and more incomprehensible recently. When they had first met, Harold had thought that he was a person with serious sister complex, but actually, he had a weird playfulness which could be considered quite similar to Erika in the game.
But when he prepared for such an item with a serious face, Harold couldn’t help but doubt whether he was playful or a natural airhead. Was he really the same person who had outwitted Erika and Harold last night?
Harold, who was dejected with the mask given as a present, would immediately come to know that he had been registered in the tournament with an extremely dubious name like “Mr.Lord”, and would once again quarrel with Itsuki before the tournament.
As a result, his nervousness was dispersed with a pointless tiredness replacing it, while he stood on the stage for his first match.
The stage at the venue was surrounded with a huge crowd directing enthusiastic gazes and cheers towards the participants. One could almost physically feel the pressure they emitted. If one took even a step out of the room where the under-13 division’s participants were present, they would unsparingly be bathed in that pressure.
“And facing off against him, with his real name unknown, is Mr.Lord-kun!”
When his registered name was called, Harold climbed up the stage with heavy footsteps. Although this digressed, the only one who had used an alias from among all the participants was Harold, so he stood out even more. Even if he didn’t want his background to be known, if he gathered attention due to it, then wouldn’t it have an adverse affect?
While thinking about such things, Harold pushed down his embarrassment, and as though expelling all his emotions, his face became completely expressionless. Although that appearance seemed as though he was concentrating on the match, if one looked at the young boy from up close, they would feel as though they were looking at some fearful existence.
And when the match was about to start, Harold saw her. With blond hair longer than what he remembered, tied into a ponytail that shined due to the sunlight, was the girl he had saved three years ago. Although she still had childish features, there were vestiges of features that would be there five years later of which only Harold knew, Colette Emerel was there in the spectator seats.
Colette looked at Harold with her chestnut colored eyes as well, and as though to run away from that gaze, Harold averted his eyes.
She knew. When he saw how Colette had widened her eyes due to surprise, Harold was convinced of it. It was the worst timing possible for a reunion since Erika was here. If there was a God, he wanted to curse at his nastiness.
(Ah, if I knew that it would be like this, it would’ve been better to have worn that mask given by Itsuki… it might’ve even been popular. Isn’t it the strongest item since it can hide one’s identity while also receiving laughs?)
Harold, who had just fallen into a crisis, attempted to escape from reality.
1.Sanpaku gan (三白眼) or Sanpaku (三白) is a Japanese term meaning “three whites”, and refers to eyes in which the white space above or below the iris is visible.
e.g. Ryuuji from Toradora
Translated by Madao. Re-edited by KuroInfinity.