Volume 1 - Chapter 1
【”Wells, do you really believe his words?”】
A town representative who had been silent up until now raised a voice of concern towards the mayor’s decision.
From an objective point of view, Harold and his allies certainly were suspicious in all sorts of ways. It was understandable for the representatives to have a hard time believing a story that was grounded so shallowly in reality.
Wells let out a sigh before giving his answer.
【”I know what all of you want to say, and I understand it perfectly. But Fiona… Am I right in saying you actually believe in that man?”】
Upon being asked, Fiona replied without any hesitation.
【”Yes. I have seen for myself the monsters and the clearly man-made underground facilities that he mentioned. We need to take urgent measures to deal with this situation.”】
【”I hear you, but…”】
Still reluctant, the skeptical representative gave Harold a sideways glance.
While Fiona understood what that glance meant, she carried on talking.
【”I understand why you think he’s suspicious. Based on what we’ve heard so far, it’s hard to believe that mister Stokes is an upright and irreproachable man. Who knows, he might be the one responsible for everything that’s happening.”】
【”If you understand all that, don’t you think we should be having a more careful discussion about this?”】
【”It will be difficult for us to come to a decision regardless, seeing as he’s the only source of information we have. And whether this whole story is only a facade to drive us out of town or not, that will do nothing to reduce the danger of having hordes of monsters crawling under our homes. What we need to do now is to promptly confirm that the information is true. And if it is, we need a solution, a basis to work from.”】
Fiona spoke with a resolve that made it seem like the blue face of fear she had been wearing until that very day’s morning was an illusion.
Facing such resolve, the representatives were feeling less and less like counter-arguing.
【”To that end, our first priority must be to evacuate the people. If my father was still of this world, if he had seen what I’ve seen, he would have made the same decision.”】
【”Sir Lawrence, huh… You certainly resemble him a lot…”】
Harold did not know enough to tell how much faith the town had in Fiona’s father when he was alive, but the mere mention of him seemed to be the last push the representatives needed. This time, no one raised an objection against him.
Seeing that the timing was right, Harold used this chance to bring the meeting to a close.
【”I’d say that’s enough talking. Now hurry and get to it.”】
Every successive move following the discussion came quickly.
The town’s representatives and the knight order immediately began selecting the people that were to explore the underground tunnels and confirm the situation.
It was decided they would go to the depths of the tunnels along with Harold the very next day.
The town selected three people: Fiona, then the vice mayor, and a representative member of the vigilance committee. As for the knight order, they selected two people: Sid, who had at least somewhat of an understanding of who Harold truly was, and Lagares, the unit’s commander.
And so, a total of 6 people, including Harold, left to explore the underground facilities. Each of the people sent by the town and the knight order went through the rite of pa.s.sage of seeing the hordes of monsters and being stuck speechless.
Having confirmed Harold’s story, the town’s representatives began calling for the evacuation of the town, telling the people the tunnels under the town were filled with combustible gas that could cause a ma.s.sive explosion.
This was a lie that the town’s presenatives, the knight order, and Harold had agreed upon beforehand. They felt this would stimulate the town’s sense of danger better than a story about hordes of monsters lurking under the town that might eventually attack them.
This led some people to leave the town the day after they were advised to evacuate.
Perhaps this was a trigger to the people who felt trapped in Barston or who were already thinking of leaving beforehand. The uproar in the town had most definitely supported their leave, and the fact they had a place to relocate to also helped their decision.
The use of the term “temporary evacuation” when addressing the town’s people to evacuate had played a very large role. They were led to believe they would be able to return once the situation would be settled. But Harold doubted they would actually be able to come back ever again. If the situation was to escalate the way he expected it to, it was going to be impossible for anyone to live in the town from then on.
Of course, he did not share that part with anyone.
（It’s fine. They have funds and a place to migrate to. That will definitely make up for it…）
Harold kept repeating such excuses in his mind, not holding himself accountable for the consequences of his lie. After all, It was obvious that foolishly sharing the entire truth was only going to make the situation more complicated.
Two weeks had pa.s.sed since the start of the relocation plan. The evacuation was progressing at a reasonable pace.
That being said, since there was no knowing when exactly the monsters underground would start moving, there was no room to feel relief. Some measures had to be taken in case the evacuation could not be completed in time. With that goal in mind, Harold was making some preparations.
【”What’s the progress on the shortages for the “red line”？”】
【”With tomorrow’s delivery, we should have the required quant.i.ty according to our estimations.”】
Harold was discussing the measures for the incoming performance. The man answering his questions was none other than Lizst.
It seemed they would be getting the required equipment on time, but taking into account the time necessary to set everything up, chances were they were going to barely meet their deadline. Harold briefly let himself wonder if maybe he would actually have a comfortable enough margin of time to not only make all his preparations but also complete the evacuation. However, he immediately denied that possibility.
In case of a timely evacuation, Harold would not have to put his life at risk. But his death flags were far too fond of him to let him make it past this event without actually putting his life in danger. It was a rule of thumb at this point.
That being the case, it was more worthwhile for him to use his time to reduce the difficulty of the incoming danger, if only a little bit.
【”We have already completed the preparations for the “white line”. If that proves to be effective, our preparations for the “red line” might not matter at all…”】
【”Humph, that strategy is not reliable on its own. Hence the red line.”】
The strategy to be used once the monsters would start moving was split in two stages. First the “white line”, and then the “red line”.
If even that proved to be insufficient, everything would come down to Harold’s last resort. Naturally, Harold was suspecting there was a high possibility the situation would take that turn.
He heaved a long sigh…
This was a race against time, with many lives at stake. No stone could be left unturned.
As soon as he was done syncing up on the situation with Lizst, Harold stood up and left. There were still other matters for him to attend to.
Walking around Barston, the atmosphere in the town was clearly less lively and gloomier than it used to be.
Well, that was understandable when there were talks of a ma.s.sive explosion set to occur beneath the town.
What was even more problematic was the part of the town’s people who refused to respond to the call for evacuation and insisted that they would not leave. These people thought that the stories about the explosion were exaggerated or outright fake.
Then again it was impossible to expect everyone to docilely say “yes, I understand” after being told to evacuate because of some sudden explosive gas leak underneath their town.
As he made his rounds through the town, Harold’s sight settled on a man who was making a loud racket.
【”I don’t care what anyone says, I’m not leaving this house!”】
【”I get where you’re coming from but it’s all true. It’s too dangerous to stay here.”】
There was a man in his thirties standing right outside of a house, quarreling with Keith. Even facing Keith, who had a tough look and quite the build, the man kept a firm att.i.tude and was firmly holding his stance of refusal. This showed he was a man of great courage.
The likes of him were many among those who refused to heed the call to evacuation.
Well, that trait of personality was likely why they were refusing to leave in the first place.
【”What’s all the noise about?”】
Harold pushed some of the curious onlookers around the scene and stepped in between the two men.
The eyes of all the surrounding people naturally gathered on him.
【”I’m this guy’s employer. And I gather you are… some fool who’s refusing to evacuate?”】
【”…Yeah, that’s right. This is my family’s home and――”】
【”Spare me the chit chat. Long story short, this is some “I’d sooner die than move from here” nonsense.”】
The instant he was done speaking, Harold pulled out the black sword hanging at his hip and slashed it towards the man in one fell swoop.
The motion was natural and elegant. Although brutal, the sword move had an intrinsic beauty to it.
The blade was stained by the man’s fresh blood— or so it should have been but it only cut through the coat he was wearing.
It took a short interval for the man to understand what had just transpired. Without saying a single word, he simply fell on his backside, on the same spot he had been standing on a second prior. This sparked a commotion within the crowd.
【”W-what d-did you just…”】
Though the man attempted to question Harold’s attack through the quakes in his voice, he did not seem to be able to get the last words out.
This was a natural reaction for someone who had just faced the terror of being sliced right through.
【”You don’t plan to leave the town, but if you don’t leave the town you’re as good as dead. If you’re going to die anyway, I’ll make it quick for you. Oh and let’s get your family in on the action while we’re at it.”】
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Harold talked indifferently, like he had done nothing wrong.
【”…Hold on, what the h.e.l.l are you talking about?”】
【”Allow me to explain.”】
Fiona stepped in with a timely helping hand. After all, if Harold tried to explain to situation, it was guaranteed he would also include provocations along the lines of “You still don’t get it? Looks like that big head’s just decoration for your shoulders.” It was very well done on Fiona’s part to have sensed that.
【”Immediately after closing our discussion the other day, sir Harold instructed me to “find someone among the townspeople who has experience or is familiar with acting.” And this is the man I ended up choosing out of the candidates I found.”】
【”When I was young, I was part of a theater troupe. It was small but I was an active member…”】
The man spoke a little shyly.
Lagares’ expression looked out of focus, perhaps because he could already tell the gist of the story with what was said so far.
【”Sir Harold asked him to act as a leader of the movement opposing the evacuation for a while and to then take in the residents with similar views. His second request was to have him pretend to be attacked in front of a crowd of witnesses. Lastly, he asked him to keep all of that a secret from everyone, including his family. Of course, no one forced his hand. This collaboration was agreed upon after negotiations, and due compensation was offered.”】
【”I’m not against the evacuation, so I had no reason to decline the offer seeing as it would allow me to get a more generous disaster relief payment.”】
【”Long story short, Harold’s goal was to…”】
【”Yes, as you can probably guess, the goal was to set someone up as a leader of the opposition movement, and then to make it seem like that person was scared into accepting to leave. This way the leader would serve as an example that would cut off everyone else’s tendency towards opposing the evacuation. Hence that whole act earlier in the day.”】
【”Enough with the explanations. How did your meeting with that bunch from the opposition go down ?”】
【”Most of them came to ask me about the rumors of what happened in the day and about what I intend to do about it. I answered that my family and I are going to be killed by sir Harold if we stay in town and that I’m going to leave before that can happen.”】
【”Just as planned.”】
After this night, this story was likely going to spread among members of the opposition, leading some people to change their minds.
Once the explanations were over, Lagares spoke with a shocked tone of voice.
【”Why didn’t you tell me about this ?”】
【”If you want to keep a secret, the less people know about it the better. That’s just common sense.”】
Moreover, Harold also believed the people around him would interact with him more naturally if they did not know the truth. In his eyes, Sid and Irene were probably not good actors.
In any case, everything had gone exactly as Harold expected.
Through his plan, the summit of the opposition to the evacuation was reduced to nothing. In the meantime, he was able to evacuate as many people as he could from the town, all the while preparing his contingency plans to deal with any incoming emergencies.
The one miscalculation he did make was a positive one; he did not expect his plan to be so effective so quickly.
The number of people was quickly decreasing, and the word was traveling at a tremendous speed within the small community that was left in the already small town. According to reports, even though it had been three days since Harold’s play, numerous people were already preparing to evacuate because of it.
At this point, there were few people who were obstinate enough to stay in the town. If there was to be an emergency, it would not be impossible to evacuate them by force through the cooperation of the knight order and the Frieri members present.
Just a little more time. A little more time and the evacuation would be complete.
Just as Harold secretly clenched his fist to himself with such thoughts in his mind, some bad news came his way.
“Well, I guess this isn’t ‘news’ since this was the obvious outcome.” was his first thought as that was very much how he expected the situation to turn out.
With as calm a tone as ever, Lizst had come to the room Harold was staying in to report the information.
【”We’ve just received a report from our scouts. The monsters have begun to move. Apparently, at their current pace, they’ll reach the town’s upperground by tomorrow evening.”】
【”Execute operation “White line”. Once that’s done, use Frieri’s men to take command of the evacuation.”】
Saying so, Lizst showed his reverence and left.
After seeing off Lizst, Harold picked up his two swords.
Although things were progressing smoothly, the evacuation was not complete as of yet. There were hundreds of people still left in Barston.
There were around 30 hours left. Even with a strong-handed approach, it was not going to be easy to evacuate the whole town to a safe area before evening of the next day.
Just like that, a critical battle with hundreds of lives at stake was about to begin.
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