Hey, Defiring here. Here is the chapter 49 from the third volume of my death flags show no sign of ending, hope you’ll enjoy it!
(Small notice: Elu is an alias, and it’s actually just (L). We don’t know in the chapter if the character is a male or female, so I’ll just speak of him as a “he” for now until it’s all clarified)
Lifa was facing the border checkpoint of the Giran snow mountain, which was managed directly by the knight order.
A day had passed since her meeting with Harold,
He, of course, had tagged along with her, and so did the androgynous person from the day before, for some reason.
He seemed to be called Elu.
As a knight was about to block their way, Harold, who was about three steps ahead of Lifa, took out a parchment from his breast pocket and pointed it at him.
When they found out who they were dealing with, the initially hostile knights showed a drastic change in behavior.
Though Lifa had no way of finding out what was written on the parchment, the clear hostility of the knights was easy for her to see.
As Harold stepped towards the mountains, they gazed upon him with chilling eyes.
However, unsurprisingly, he rudely ignored them and kept walking forward.
He seemed to know the path to the summit of the mountain.
While looking at the man’s cold back, a question crossed Lifa’s mind: just what had this Harold person done to be the target of so much hatred from the knights?
From her talk with Elu and the reactions in the restaurant the day before, he seemed to be quite famous.
When she thought about it logically, his title《 Knight killer 》was extremely alarming, too.
Lifa’s purpose was to record data on an ice Hydra, but this man had picked her interest as well.
Moreover, self-control was not her forte. She was not one to hold her intellectual curiosity at bay.
As they walked on the mountain’s path where little snow remained, she started asking him questions.
【”Say, Harold. Why do you go by the alias “Knight killer”?”】
【”That has nothing to do with me. It’s just nonsense people came up with on their own accord.”】
【”Didn’t it first come up on that day, five years ago?”】
Judging from Elu’s manner of speaking, he seemed to know about Harold’s past to some extent.
But Harold was glaring at him as if to tell him to keep his mouth shut.
His glare was threatening enough to make even Lifa shiver, regardless of the bravery that she took pride on.
Perhaps this was what people called “Bloodthirst”.
But in contrast to his domineering attitude, Harold stayed oddly quiet.
Suddenly, howling sounds rose from behind the trees.
Soon after, a pack of white wolves appeared before the group, ready to attack.
Maybe this was their territory.
The white wolves were beautiful monsters, with fur as white as the snow they stepped upon.
But in contrast to their looks, they were a quite violent species. Alone, they were not very strong, but caution was advised when encountering a large herd, for they shared a habit of swarming their opponents.
Lifa recalled all the information she had in regards to these creatures.
Before coming here, she had done some research on the monsters that could be found on mount Giran, in search of countermeasures against them.
This was the moment to put that into practice.
She put her right hand inside her white coat and took out three white tubes, clawed between her fingers, and carelessly threw them at the pack of white wolves.
Due to her rough aim, she failed to hit her targets and the glass test tubes shattered to the ground.
However, upon impact, the test tubes gave rise to a deafening explosion. The white wolves that were caught by the flames were reduced to mere pieces of flesh.
One move was all it had taken her to put the fight to an end.
【”The power output is not bad, I guess.”】(Lifa)
Lifa nodded to herself in satisfaction.
In the first place, these test tubes were made expressly to deal damage to large creatures like the ice Hydra.
One blow from them was more than enough to deal with small monsters.
【”It’s my first time seeing this kind of magic. How did you do it?”】(Elu)
【”Trade secret. Well, all I’ll say is that it’s not what you’d call ordinary magic!”】(Lifa)
Lifa spoke with a cocky tone and posed with both hands on her hips.
Whether or not this could be classified as magic was up for debate, but she had great confidence in her craft.
Elu’s admiration were a nice bonus to her ego, as well.
As for Harold, not only was he indifferent, he even criticized Lifa and gave her advice.
【”You’ll never see the bottom of the well If toys of this level put you in high spirits.”】
【”What did you just say?”】
Lifa couldn’t stay quiet when her masterpiece was being compared to a toy.
However, the moment Lifa was about to erupt, her vision was assaulted by a biting light.
Forced to close her eyes, she couldn’t see the thing that passed right beside her.
Not a second after, she heard a wild shriek from behind her.
Looking over her shoulder when the momentary flash of light ended, there were multiple white wolves… scorched and dead.
Apparently, the monsters had planned a pincer attack and were about to strike her from the rear.
Lifa had been unable to sense their presence.
She could have died there and then if it weren’t for Harold.
【”Even though you have excellent weapons, you’ll still be lower than second rate in battle if you’re negligent. If you want to die in vain, suit yourself, but do it elsewhere.”】
Having said that much, Harold turned around and started walking once again.
His way of talking was irritating, but that didn’t make his observation ring any less true.
Harold’s words always had an unbelievable weight to them.
So when he said her weapons were ‘excellent’, even though it was for the sake of criticizing her, Lifa felt very pleased.
It also made her think.
Did the weight of his words come from the heaviness of the path he trod?
After all, he would not have gotten the title of “knight killer” had he had a peaceful and uneventful life.
【”Are you interested? About his past, I mean.”】
Elu whispered in Lifa’s ear so that Harold wouldn’t hear.
Her should naturally have been a definite yes.
And yet she couldn’t.
It wasn’t like Lifa at all to have a hard time answering.
But while she was interested, she knew Harold definitely had to be shouldering an atypical past.
That being the case, she felt guilty about hearing it from others instead of waiting for him to willingly share it.
She was struggling to balance the curiosity and ethics within her.
【”It’s not like I know any big, important secrets, you know? Only some information I happened to stumble upon.”】
According to Elu, the story he wanted to share was mostly on anecdotes and rumors concerning Harold. Whether those were true or not was a different matter.
The details regarding the incidents caused by Harold were apparently open to the public. Lifa was the odd one for never hearing about him.
In short, everyone knew the basic facts, and people had spread countless rumors to fill in the gaps.
【”So your story is mostly speculations? That’s unexpected. Aren’t you and Harold supposed to be acquaintances?”】
【”No way, yesterday was my first time meeting him, same as you.”】
Elu spoke like he was stating the obvious. But that raised yet another question.
【”Then, why come along with us?”】
【”I’ve been interested in him for a while now for various reasons. Plus this was a unique occasion to hear about the stories directly from him.”】
【”So that’s your motive for coming to such a dangerous zone?”】
【”Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be allowed to follow you so easily.”】
‘Ahaha’, Elu laughed dispiritedly.
He said he was a traveler so he likely had some means of fighting, but his speech coupled with his appearance made him look like a small herbivore walking into a wild beast’s territory.
It felt like he would be eaten the second he got out of sight.
【”Well, let’s leave that aside. So, what will you do?”】(Elu)
(…… I’m going to travel with Harold for several days after this, it can’t hurt to know more, right?)
Lifa eventually convinced herself and let her curiosity take over her at last.
When talking about the man named Harold Stokes, the words that would come up without fail were “He was the youngest person to enroll in the knight order in history.”
At the time, he was glorified as a genius, however, that period was very short.
Several months after joining, Harold was given his first mission.
Thereupon, he fled from the enemy, defying his superior officer’s orders. Furthermore, when he was finally found, he was wearing a uniform of the Sarian empire and was therefore charged with suspicions of being a spy.
Because of this, Harold was sentenced to death by decapitation… or rather he was supposed to be, but the authorities backed down.
That was due to the complaints of a part of the knight order, as well as the Stokes family, which was his parents’ household, and the Sumeragi family, who had engaged their daughter to him.
The Sumeragi family has played the biggest role in this. It was a prestigious family of aristocrats, and their head, a man of great virtue, had personally appealed for a reduction of sentence.
As a result of the retrial that followed, Harold was transferred to a certain laboratory.
It was a place where research and practical experiments were conducted.
This laboratory had previously found out his suitability as a test subject for experiments.
Thanks to this, he was freed from his prison sentence, not to mention his death penalty, in exchange for cooperating with their experiments free of charge.
Of course, the conditions stated that he would be sentenced to death once again in case of a breach of terms.
And so, Harold has been serving and surviving as a test subject of the research establishment up until today.
【”And well, I’d say that’s basically what the general people know about him.”】
【”What’s wrong with that guy? He’s the worst”】
The sun had already set by now.
Climbing further at this time of day would have been difficult, so the group had pitched some tents and set up a small camp.
As he was taking charge of the night watch, Harold’s tent was pitched far form the others, at a spot that he found more suitable for him.
Using that opportunity, Elu and Lifa went in the same tent to continue their talk, while being careful to conceal their voices.
Though she didn’t know Elu’s gender yet, Lifa did not feel bothered about staying in the same tent.
【”To top it all off, Harold even brought disgrace to his benefactors, the Sumeragi family. He strongly insisted to cancel his marriage arrangement after discussing it again.”】
【”Oh come on, this guy is lower than trash.”】
Lifa’s voice was filled with scorn towards the image Elu was building.
Well, that was an understandable reaction for someone who only knew this side of the story.
However, Elu was not done talking yet.
【”Now that you’ve heard me, do you understand why the hate towards Harold has spread so far?”】
【”I understand all too well”】
【”But you see, there are too many points of this story still left in the dark.”】
【”Left in the dark?”】
【”Yeah, and that’s precisely why I took interest in him.”】
Upon hearing of the deliberation of the judges’ panel, the first thing Elu thought was: could they really give the death penalty to a son of nobility so easily?
【”Harold’s only crime was escaping from the enemy. Besides, it was a sudden combat that happened when he was patrolling during his very first mission. It’s not unusual for frightened new recruits to run away.”】
【”Then it was because he was a spy from the empire, right?”】
【”Wrong, he was “suspected” of being a spy. In fact, there is no proof of Harold being a spy from the empire and he didn’t cause any damage either.”】
【”…What do you mean?”】
【”Harold was simply wearing a service uniform of the empire, his motives for that were completely unknown.”】
【”Doesn’t that make it obvious?”】
【”Even if it does, then it should have been clearly specified, and yet in the document they only wrote that he was ‘suspected’.”】
Clearly, it was odd. The punishment he received was too heavy for the crimes he committed.
If he really was a spy, they should have specified it in the documents, and even without taking that into account, they were far too hasty.
【”Though they’re not an influential house, the Stokes family are respected nobles. Do you think it would be possible to give the death penalty to the heir of said house after only two weeks of deliberations?”】
【”Usually, for a spy, they’d prioritize drawing out information from him rather than killing him. And I’ve never heard of the court abandoning charges on a death penalty.”】
His case was unprecedented.
It seemed to Elu like the motive behind the deliberations was irrelevant and they had already decided on a sentence from the very beginning.
No, rather, it seemed even overruling of that sentence was premeditated…
【”I understand why you said it’s odd, but how do you know so many details, Elu? Is this really your first meeting with him?”】
【”It really is. But, as a traveler, my reputation and connections have spread quite far. I get to hear stories from a lot of different people.”】
To be more precise, he had methods to get people to tell him those stories.
Sometimes he acted the part of a traveler, other times he pretended to be a merchant, an aristocrat or even a reporter. He was a master of coming up with false personas.
Moreover, he had more than enough connections to get close to his targets. This time, he was able to find out Harold’s whereabouts by catching onto the information network of a colleague of his.
【”I see, I see, then have you not tried asking one of Harold’s acquaintances? That should shine some light on the truth.”】
【”I did, actually. I’ll tell you about a talk I had with the man who was Harold’s superior officer at the time the events took place.”】
Elu had met him three years ago.
He was once Harold’s superior officer, he was the first in the knight order to raise his voice in protest when the death penalty was pronounced.
His name was Cody Luzial.
Even now, after all these years, Elu still recalled his languid face.
Elu had crossed paths with Cody at a bar.
At the time, he had been heavily intoxicated, and yet when Harold’s name had come up, he had desperately tried to speak through his shaky mouth and let out everything on his heart.
『I’ve met my share of idiots o job… There was the “Reckless idiot, obsessed by his sense of justice” type and the “Selfish idiot, who only thinks about himself” type and the others I classified as, well, “Just an idiot”……』
His right hand was gripping his glass while his left hand’s fingers were counting the various types of fools he had met.
Before he finished his rant, he finished his drink in one long gulp, and let out a sigh reeking of alcohol.
『That guy was “The idiot who never cared for himself”.』
Following these words, Cody raised the curtain on what had really transpired.
This was the prelude to the still short yet relentless life of Harold Stokes.