Everyone present was shocked silent by the bold declaration.
Though he realized he had just put himself in a very suspicious position, Harold did not opt to offer any explanations or excuses. On the contrary, this was the exact reaction he had been expecting seeing as these people were being told to be quiet and obey by an arrogant, overbearing person.
Once silence completely dominated the room, Harold immediately followed up on his words. There was little hope for slow persuasion to work with his mouth anyway, so he decided to force his way forward through swift and brute force.
【”You don’t trust me, you say? Don’t get full of yourself, your trust was never necessary to begin with.”】
Although there was no killing intent behind his words, they definitely emited a small pressure.
That being said, a small pressure from Harold’s standards was enough to intimidate even the members of the knight order who had a certain level of skill, leaving them in a cold sweat.
As for the town’s representatives, they had no such resistance against intimidation. The overpowering pressure left them literally short of breath.
Though the commanding officer of the order had flinched from the pressure as well, he still found it in himself to overcome the atmosphere of terror and ask a question in return to Harold’s declaration.
【”...What is that supposed to mean?”】
【”It means you should get it through your thick skulls that none of you bastards could ever hope to defeat me, even if you combined all your forces. There would be no point to me going out of my way to set up some roundabout trap.”】
In truth, Harold was feeling that perhaps showing his strength would yield faster results than talking under the circumstances. He was keeping that as a last resort for now, but the means of persuasion at his disposal were few. He likely had no choice other than to quickly cut to the chase.
【”Let me put it in terms that even you fools will understand. I could slice and dice you right here and now if I so wished.”】
Saying so, Harold showily rattled the black sword hanging at his waist.
Some people were on alert, some completely stopped breathing, and some even let out small yelps of horror. While the reactions varied, everyone was unanimously terrified.
With the limited time at Harold’s disposal, his greatest priority was to seize the initiative. Even if he was being a bit too severe, he had no choice in the matter.
【”If you still don’t get it, pull out your swords. I’ll demonstrate with your soon-to-be corpses.”】
The warning behind the intense feeling coming from Harold was clear: “all of you had better not take a stand”.
And while almost everyone consequently stayed silent, one person did start walking towards Harold.
That person was a man with orange hair that was reminiscent of a lion’s mane. It was Sid.
He stood before Harold and looked at him with unwavering determination.
【”I believe in you, Harold.”】
Sid spoke with a big smile, leaving Harold a little bit confused. This reaction was not within his expectations.
Old acquaintance or not, he never thought it would be so easy to convince him given the chain of events that had led to this standstill.
【”Sid, what are you meddling for...!”】
【”Forgive me, captain. It’s true that people have a lot of terrible things to say about him, I understand why you’d think he can’t be trusted. But he’s... Harold is not as bad a person as the world makes him out to be.”】
Sid spoke with great resolve. In Harold’s eyes, Sid was looking unbelievably much like Liner at this moment.
Of course, Liner would likely have been more straightforward and impulsive in this situation. Still, he too was the type to easily believe in someone no matter how many bad rumors the world spread about him just because he spent a few months living with him.
【”Besides, I’ll admit that Harold has a sharp tongue, but he never lies. So if we want to understand what’s going on, what he’s planning and what he wants us to do, we should start by asking him.”】
Sid’s very direct argument left his commander silent. He did not seem like the type who could be easily convinced, but there was no denying the knights did not have any decent information in regards to the situation as of yet.
So far, there had been no grounds for discussion whatsoever seeing as the commander had no faith in Harold. However, perhaps due to Sid’s persuasions, the commander’s mindset seemed to be shifting towards accepting to hear out Harold with a cool head, if only for a little bit.
Though this show of support was unexpected, Harold couldn’t have hoped for better. There was no way he would miss his chance to jump on this opportunity.
Harold pulled his sword form his waist and then leaned it against a wall. With his now empty hand, he grabbed hold of a chair and pulled it to the center of the room before sitting down.
Trusting his straight back to the chair’s backrest, Harold looked at the commander and his men with a grandly arrogant attitude. He crossed his legs and arms in a pose that was undeniably provocative but not without a specific purpose. More importantly, he knew from experience that it was more effective for him to be showy in his attitude than to let his mouth do the talking.
After looking at Harold for a while, the commander was able to pick up on the intent behind his behavior and understood he was willing to talk.
【”Let’s say for argument’s sake that there really are hordes of monsters right under the town. What is your goal? And what do you intend for us to do?”】
【”Soon, the monsters will become active and flood this town through multiple underground tunnels. The role you lot will play will be to convince the people to leave the town and then evacuate them, within a single month.”】
【”Are you mad? Just persuading all the townspeople to leave is going to take far more than a month, let alone evacuating them.”】
Harold was well aware of that. Persuading the people to migrate from their town and then evacuating them could be difficult even within a time frame of several years.
However, not to mention the reports that the monsters were becoming more active, Harold knew that these monsters would not stay put for that long based on their similarity to the monsters in the original story.
【”If you fail, know that a good part of this town’s people will croak. Whether you want to help them or let them die is up to you.”】
【”What a terrible thing to say. You make all that fuss about the situation and then act like you don’t care?”】
【”Why should I? This isn’t my problem. Just be grateful that I brought you up to speed.”】
Indeed, this problem was not something Harold really needed to solve. It was not described in the original story and would not lead to any death flags.
But despite knowing that full well...
【”Ugh, you are infuriating... Why bother coming to this town if it’s so unimportant to you?”】
Harold could not give up on the people of Barston; that was his main reason for coming o the town. There was little to no doubt that the 2000 people living in Barston would die trampled by monsters if left unattended.
However, he did not have a death wish.
After everything he had done to struggle out of death’s way, putting his nose right into a situation of near certain death would be a serious case of losing sight of one’s priorities.
But he could not pretend not to know that his actions could potentially save all those lives.
That being said, he did have another reason for coming to the town.
【”I’m here to thwart some fool’s idiotic plan. There happens to be a clue to my success right under this town.”】
Harold believed that he might be able to prevent Justus’ fortress from arising by destroying his energy portal. Without the rise of the fortress, it could perhaps be possible to prevent or delay the appearance of the star core.
Well, he did not quite have any definite proof of the energy portal’s existence as of yet, but even if things did not occur as expected, he would be satisfied so long as he could get in the way of Justus’ plans one way or another.
【”If that is your purpose, you should not need to evacuate the people.
You are being very compassionate for a man who’s so famous for his heinous ways.”】
【”Huh? I’m doing this because they would be a hindrance, plain and simple. I don’t care for the life or death of the people of this town. If they want to throw their lives away, they’re free to do so out of my sight.”】
Harold chose to speak this answer on purpose.
The truth was that there was no getting his mouth to do what he wanted, but even if not for that, as the commander had said just before, Harold was infamous for his heinous ways.
If someone like him declared that he was doing this because he wanted to save the people’s lives, he would only end up looking more suspicious, like he was planning something in secret.
By showing that he only wanted the people to leave the town because their presence would be less convenient for him, he was trying to give off an impression that fit his image. The arrogant pose he was taking with his arms and legs crossed had a similar purpose.
From the very start of the meeting, he never sought anyone’s trust or faith.
【”May I say something?”】
Seeing that the conversation between Harold and the commander had come to a stop, the town’s mayor started speaking.
【”Let’s assume sir Harold’s story is true. My understanding from the conversation is that even if we evacuate everyone, you believe the town of Barston will still be left in a state of devastation. Is that correct, sir?”】
【”For sure. I doubt you’ll be able to live in this town ever again.”】
As ruthless as that likely sounded, there was no helping it.
The tunnels under the town were too narrow. Once the monsters would start gushing out one after the other, the tunnels were likely to give in. Even if the monsters were to be fought off underground, that solution wouldn’t last for long seeing as there would be miasma all around, as was usually the case when hordes appeared.
Either way, the monsters’ rise above-ground was inevitable.
Harold had given some thought to containing the monsters before they would come out, but he didn’t have any plan without a low chance of success. Even if he was able to succeed, there was a risk of the town collapsing in consequence.
Even if the monsters were somehow wiped out before they could cause much damage above-ground, it would not possible to live in a town that might collapse at any moment.
【”In that case, this will not be an evacuation but a relocation. But then, even without considering the emotional aspect, I believe that will be difficult.”】
【”Are you talking about money?”】
【”Indeed. We do not have the funds to move more than 2000 people out of this town that has been left behind the times.”】
【”Your town is federated, your lord will take care of that. Given the urgent nature of the situation, the kingdom will likely send some aid. “】
【”It might turn into one of those matters that get left alone by the kingdom until the problem comes up and it is too late to fix it. There are many people in the town who do not have enough money to feed themselves until the kingdom recognizes the situation and finishes the different meetings and measures that will occur before they send any support.”】
The original Harold would likely have answered “So what? Let them die.” But if Harold spit out that sentence in this situation, he would ruin everything he had done so far.
Moreover, Harold had alreeady found a plan to deal with the financial problems that would surface.
Well, plan was a big word for a solution that consisted essentially of using his own assets that were inflated by his LP farming strategy, but that was no doubt going to be enough to handle the needs of a short amount of people for a limited period of time.
Moreover, before he even came to Barston, Harold had already used Tasuku Sumeragi’s network to send multiple appeals to different territories, starting by the Sumeragi territory.
Though no one had accepted yet, the gist of the appeal was a request for multiple territories to prepare themselves to welcome some refugees if they so wished.
It was unclear whether any other noble would accept the request, but he knew that, at the very least, Tasuku Sumeragi himself would not flat-out reject them.
Harold’s line of sight turned towards Lizst. Understanding what that meant, Lizst took charge of the conversation again.
【”Regarding this aspect of the evacuation, our employer has said that they are willing to provide the necessary funds. They will be able to provide some level of financial support, but only to the people who need it. Furthermore, although the decision is still in the adjustment phase, there have been discussions in regards to accepting refugees from the town.”】
When they heard Lizst’s words, the mayor and the rest of the town’s representatives started making a ruckus. It was a natural reaction given how generous this offer was to them.
【”Financial support? Humph, they’re still as hypocritical as ever. It’s nauseating.”】
Harold tried to show through his words that he was not involved with this offer of support. Obviously, if the funding was said to be from Harold himself, it would be riddled with suspicions.
Then again, even coming from Lizst, the offer was still plenty suspicious.
【”I’m surprised to learn there is someone willing to go so far for us. May I inquire about their name?”】
【”For various reasons, I cannot disclose the name of our employer. But if I tell you that the Sumeragi family is listed as a candidate to accept refugees from the town, that should give you somewhat of an idea.”】
This family was famed for its wise ruling and good government. Commoners had immense trust in their name. Barston’s people were no exception.
Tasuku had not confirmed that he was going to take refugees yet, so Harold was actually borrowing the family’s name ahead of time. Still, he knew Tasuku would never refuse, so he decided not to think about it further.
【”So, what will it be? We can also prepare some personnel to take care of the evacuation and guide you. You’re getting all of that and you’re still complaining?”】
Though Harold was purposely making a show of supposedly how little he cared, he still pressed the representatives for a quick a answer.
Normally, this would not be a decision to be taken quickly, but the situation called for immediate action.
【”...I would like a few select people from the representatives present here to be taken underground to confirm that the monsters really do exist. Under that condition, we will be willing to take sir Harold up on his offer.”】
【”Good. Bring some people from the order along while we’re at it. I’ll give you a taste of reality.”】
As he said so, the corner of Harold’s mouth rose into a smile.
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