Hey, Defiring here. Here is chapter 49 of 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, if it ever is.)
Lifa was facing the border checkpoint of the Giran snow mountain. It was was currently under the knight order’s personal management.
This was a day after her meeting with Harold.
He, of course, was coming with her to the mountain.
For some reason, the androgynous person from the day before was also tagging along.
Apparently, his name was Elu.
One of the knights guarding the border immediately prepared to block the group’s way.
But before he could say anything, Harold, walking three steps ahead of Lifa, took out a parchment from his breast pocket and pointed it forward.
Once they understood 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 increasing hostility of the knights was clear to see.
Though they let Harold step towards the mountains, they gazed upon him with chilling eyes all the way through.
Unsurprisingly, Harold rudely ignored them and kept walking forward.
He seemed to already know the path to the summit of the mountain.
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 back in the restaurant, he seemed to be quite famous.
Moreover, thinking about it logically, his title of “Knight killer” was extremely alarming.
Lifa’s goal was to gather data on an ice Hydra, but this man picked her interest as well.
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 not much 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.”】
【”If I remember right, if first came up on that day, five years ago, didn’t it?”】
Judging from Elu’s manner of speaking, he seemed to know about Harold’s past to some extent.
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 “Killing intent”.
That being said, in contrast to his domineering attitude, Harold stayed oddly quiet.
Suddenly, howling sounds rose from behind the trees.
Very soon, a pack of white wolves appeared before the group, ready to attack.
Perhaps 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 quite a 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 was recalling 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, looking for countermeasures against them.
This was the moment to put that into practice.
After digging inside her white coat with her right, she pulled out three white tubes, clawed between her fingers.
Without a care, she threw them all at the pack of white wolves in front of her.
Her aim was sloppy; she failed to hit the targets directly.
All three of the test tubes simply shattered to the ground.
However, upon impact, the test tubes gave rise to a deafening explosion.
Powerful flames arose, reducing the white wolves mere pieces of flesh.
The fight to be had come to an end in a single move from her.
【”The power output is not bad, I guess.”】(Lifa)
Lifa nodded to herself in satisfaction.
In the first place, these test tubes were made with the sole intent of dealing damage to large creatures akin to the ice Hydra.
One blow from these tubes 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. All I’ll say is that it’s not what you’d call ordinary magic!”】(Lifa)
Lifa spoke arrogantly, posing with both hands on her hips.
Though the question of whether this could be classified as magic was up for debate, she had great confidence in her craft.
Elu’s admiration was also a nice bonus for her ego.
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 are enough to put you in such high spirits.”】
【”What did you just say?”】
Lifa was not going to stay quiet when her masterpiece was being compared to a toy.
But before she could erupt, her vision was assaulted by a biting light.
She was forced to close her eyes, unable to see whatever it was that had just passed right beside her.
Not a second after, she heard a wild shriek from behind.
Looking over her shoulder as the momentary flash of light faded, there were multiple white wolves… scorched dead.
Apparently, they’d planned a pincer attack and been about to strike her from the rear.
She had failed to sense their presence.
She could have died there and then if it weren’t for Harold.
【”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 on your own.”】
Having said that, Harold turned around and started walking once again.
His tone 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 implied 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 answer should naturally have been a definite yes.
And yet she couldn’t bring herself to say it.
It wasn’t like Lifa at all to show such hesitation.
But while she was interested, she knew Harold definitely had to be shouldering an atypical past.
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? It’s just some information I happened to stumble upon.”】
According to Elu, the story he wanted to share was mostly some 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. I didn’t plan for this to work.”】
‘Ahaha…’, Elu laughed dejectedly.
He likely had some means of fighting seeing as he said he was traveler, but his words coupled with his appearance made him look like a small herbivore walking into a wild beast’s territory.
It felt like he’d be eaten the second he got out of sight.
【”Well, that aside, 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 finally convinced herself and let her curiosity take over.
When discussing Harold Stokes, the words that would come up without fail were “He was the youngest person to enroll in the knight order in all of history.”
He was once glorified as a genius, but that period did not last long.
Several months after joining the order, Harold was given his first mission.
Thereupon, he fled from the enemy, defying his superior officer’s orders.
Furthermore, when they finally located him, he was found 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, 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 his 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 experiments for free.
Of course, the conditions stated that he would be sentenced to death once again in case of a breach of terms.
And so, to this day, Harold was serving and surviving as a test subject of the research establishment.
【”I’d say that’s basically everything the average joe knows about him.”】
【”What’s wrong with him? 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 pitched some tents and set up a small camp.
As he was to take charge of the night watch, Harold’s tent was pitched far from the others, at a spot that he found more suitable for himself.
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 on cancelling their 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 up.
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 this, 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 deliberations 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 official documents, 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 had been 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 their heir 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 had been premeditated all along…
【”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 his methods to get people to share those stories.
Sometimes he’d act the part of a traveler, other times he’d pretend 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’d found out about 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. Let me tell you about a talk I had with the man who was Harold’s superior officer at the time of the events.”】
That man was once Harold’s superior officer, as well as the first person 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, three years ago.
At the time, he had been heavily intoxicated, and yet when Harold’s name came up, he desperately tried to speak through his shaky mouth and let out everything in his heart.
『I’ve met my share of idiots on the 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 idiots……』
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 downed 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.