The unprecedented disaster of a ma.s.sive horde of monsters invading had brought significant damage to the city of Travis. People fled in panic, with neither enough time nor manpower to extinguish the raging fires that continued to spread.
As a result, hundreds of people perished, with the number of casualties easily surpa.s.sing a thousand when accounting for the missing individuals still being searched for. Half of the city’s buildings collapsed or were reduced to ashes.
There was no doubt that without the Saint Knight’s Order, the devastation would have been even greater. However, their leader, Vincent Van Westervoort, felt no relief or sense of accomplishment despite their efforts.
The realization of having saved many lives was overshadowed by the overwhelming number of lives they couldn’t save.
“But if it weren’t for Harold’s advice, the damage wouldn’t have been contained to this extent…” -Vincent
“Allocate personnel to Travis,” “That place will turn into h.e.l.l.” Harold had said those words, several months before this disaster struck.
It was only reasonable to a.s.sume that he had prior knowledge of Travis being ravaged by monsters.
(When and how did he come to know about it?) -Vincent
Vincent, as a knight, had never heard of a case where monsters from multiple races joined forces to attack a city. It was unlikely that there were any clear omens or signs, and even if there were, it would be difficult to perceive them as such.
However, if one were to a.s.sume that someone had “manipulated” the monsters through some means, one person came to Vincent’s mind. That person had a strong connection with Harold, and Harold himself had stated that he was at odds with him in front of Vincent and Cody.
Dr. Justus Freud.
He was a renowned scientist representing the kingdom, and according to Harold, an extremely dangerous man with the potential to bring about the destruction of the world in his quest to revive a loved one.
Even Vincent himself had experienced something akin to being brainwashed by Justus.
If Justus was the mastermind behind this incident, and Harold, who was close to him, saw through his intentions and provided advice, everything would line up. At the very least, it was certain that Harold possessed a considerable amount of information that the Knights were unaware of.
“I want to talk to Harold once again.” -Vincent
“Harold… Mr. Harold Stokes, right?”
Vincent’s murmurs were caught by his adjutant, Shannon. While Shannon had no direct acquaintance with Harold, they had witnessed his remarkable performance during the entrance examination and had conducted a background investigation on him under Vincent’s orders. Therefore, they were familiar with his existence and his personality.
“The problem is that we don’t know where he is now.” -Vincent
“Perhaps he is working with Dr. Freud?” -Shannon
Vincent considered the possibility to be low. The reason being that he was aware of Harold’s antagonistic actions towards Justus. Though, sharing that information with Shannon would only cause confusion.
“Even if that were the case, Dr. Freud is missing. We can’t contact him.” -Vincent
“Then let’s approach someone who might know his whereabouts.” -Shannon
“Who do you have in mind?” -Vincent
“Mr. Harold’s former fiancée… Well, I suppose she’s currently an ex. Erica Sumeragi is currently staying in this city.” -Shannon
At this moment, Harold’s ex-fiancée happened to be in Travis. Could that be a mere coincidence?
Fiona continued, her curiosity piqued as Vincent fell silent.
“Was the captain unaware that she was in this city?” -Fiona
“This is the first I’m hearing of it.” -Vincent
“During the monster invasion, it seems that Ms. Erica was sweeping away monsters on the front lines. Captain, you saw it too, right? The kind of magic that made you think the sky was tearing apart.” -Fiona
“We had postponed investigating who was responsible for that. Was it her doing?” -Vincent
Vincent had indeed confirmed several instances where unbelievably powerful magic was unleashed when the Knights were overwhelmed by the sheer number of monsters.
Thanks to that, the pressure from the monsters weakened, and Vincent took the lead in pushing them back. Although she appeared like a sheltered young lady, her skills were seemingly quite remarkable.
“Just moments ago, we received a report. It seems that immediately after the cessation of the invasion, she was busy treating many patients at the shelter, and they are still engaged in tasks like cooking for everyone.” -Shannon
“That’s truly admirable.” -Vincent
The Sumeragi family was one of the most prestigious in the kingdom. Erica, being a part of that lineage, was not expected to partic.i.p.ate in dangerous combat on the front lines, let alone engage in activities such as field medical support or cooking.
Nevertheless, her dedication to helping others in such a way was a testament to her character.
“Not only her, but a few others believed to be her comrades also made significant contributions in the battle. It is undeniable that their efforts helped contain the extent of the damage. Shall we go and express our grat.i.tude?” -Shannon
“Yes, let’s do that. I will go alone. Are you fine with continuing to handle the situation here?” -Vincent
“Of course. Since I can’t contribute much in combat, this is my time to shine.” -Shannon
Indeed, Shannon wasn’t suited for combat, but Vincent couldn’t help but think that she was excessively modest. He bid farewell to Shannon as she returned to her duties without acknowledging his concern and then headed toward the shelter.
The current shelter was located on a hilltop, occupying the church and its gardens. Originally a popular tourist spot, the area was s.p.a.cious enough, and its elevated position protected it from monster attacks and fires.
Vincent, although not wearing armor at the moment, had a sword hanging from his waist and was dressed in his uniform, unmistakably representing the Order of Knights. Moreover, his already high profile made him naturally the center of attention in the crowded shelter. However, Vincent himself was accustomed to such attention. In fact, by appearing in public like this, he aimed to provide a sense of security to those who felt anxious, thanks to the presence of the Order of Knights. He also antic.i.p.ated being a target for those who wished to vent their dissatisfaction or anger at the Order.
The role of the Knights was not solely to repel physical threats with their swords. This was Vincent’s conviction as a knight.
Well, in this particular situation, there were already other members of the Order providing a.s.sistance within the shelter, so he wouldn’t stand out too much and could smoothly gather information.
Feeling apologetic, he approached one of the busy nuns and spoke up.
“Excuse me, may I have a moment?” -Vincent.
“O-Oh, Sir Knight! Um, do you need something?” -Nun
“I heard that there is a woman named Erica who was treating patients here. I have something to discuss with her. Where can I find her now?” -Vincent
“Erica-san? I believe I saw her entering the reception room in the church a while ago.” -Nun
“The reception room, you say. Is she expecting visitors?” -Vincent
“I’m not sure. Her companions were with her, but I don’t know the details.” -Nun
The companions she mentioned were likely the individuals he had heard about from Fiona’s report.
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They seemed to have been involved in battles with monsters, much like Erica. Vincent considered that it might be a good time to express his grat.i.tude if they were together.
This was a first-time experience for him; encountering someone with such an atmosphere, one that made Vincent realize he couldn’t afford to be careless even at his age.
It was understandable why she carried the t.i.tle of Harold’s former fiancée. Though the future remained uncertain, if someone were to marry that remarkable person, then a woman like Erica would indeed be suitable.
With such thoughts in mind, Vincent followed Erica back to the reception room.
Inside the room, there were nearly ten people, including Erica.
“I apologize for the sudden visit. I am Vincent, Captain of the Saint Knight’s Order.” -Vincent
“Ca-Captain of the Knights!?” -Liner
A red-haired boy reacted with a particularly strong surprise.
Not only him, but the others as well, were surprised and intrigued by the appearance of someone in the position of the leader of the Knights.
“When it comes to the Knights, they must be extremely busy dealing with various matters. What could be the purpose of their leader personally coming here?” -Francis
“Francis? What’s the matter with you?” -Hugo
The young man known as Francis checked Vincent with sharp, pointed words. Observing the blue-haired man’s suspicious reaction to his att.i.tude, one could surmise that Francis was not usually one to make such remarks.
“I heard that everyone here, including Erica, fought without considering their own safety during the recent attack incident, treating many injured individuals. As the leader of the Knights, and personally as well, I wanted to express my grat.i.tude.” -Vincent
His feelings were genuine.
After making eye contact with everyone, Vincent lowered his head even deeper than before.
“I truly appreciate it. Thank you.” -Vincent
“Appreciation? No, it’s nothing like that! We just did what was expected!” -Liner
“Yes, yes! Please raise your head!” -Colette
The boy with lingering youthfulness, with his red hair, and the blonde girl, both seeming to feel embarra.s.sed by being thanked directly by the leader of the Knights, bowed their heads.
On the other hand, Erica, Francis, and the youngest-looking girl, dressed in a robe, were not necessarily wary, but they appeared to be trying to discern Vincent’s true intentions.
“Was that all you wanted to talk about?” -Erica
“…No. I also have something to ask Erica.” -Vincent
Vincent adjusted his posture.
Sensing the change in the atmosphere, the two who had been feeling greatly obliged awaited his next words with serious expressions.
“What is it that you want to ask me?” -Erica.
“Erica, do you happen to know the whereabouts of Harold Stokes?” -Vincent
As soon as those words were uttered, Vincent felt a sudden heaviness in the air within the room.
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