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)
The day after her meeting with Harold, Lifa was facing the border checkpoint of the Giran snow mountain that was managed by the knight order. Naturally, Harold was present as well, and so was 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 walking approximately three steps ahead of Lifa, took out a parchment from his breast pocket and pointed it at him. Upon finding out the other party was Harold, the knights, who were hostile at first, had complete changes of expression.
Though Lifa was lost as she had no way of finding out what was written on the parchment, the knights didn’t even try to conceal their hatred as they turned cold gazes towards Harold who was entering the mountain.
However, he was not one to bother with the likes of them and he rudely pursued his advance. 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 who was this Harold person 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. Thinking about it with a composed mind, his title《 Knight killer 》was extremely alarming, too.
Lifa’s purpose was to record data on an ice Hydra, but the man called Harold had picked her interest as well.
And she was not someone who had enough self control to hold her intellectual curiosity at bay.
While walking on a mountain path where a little snow still remained, she questioned him.
【”Say, Harold. Why do you go by the alias “Knight killer”?”】
【”It has nothing to do with me, it’s just people jeering on their own accord.”】
【”Didn’t it start with that one event five years ago?”】
Elu broke into the conversation and from his way of speech, he seemed to know about Harold’s past to some extent. But Harold glared at Elu as if telling him to stay silent.
The glare was powerful enough to make even Lifa shiver, regardless of the bravery that she took pride on. This might be what they call “blood thirst”.
However, Harold did not utter a word.
As howling sounds rose from behind the trees, a pack of white wolves appeared. Perhaps the group had stepped in their territory, for the pack was already ready for combat.
The white wolf is a beautiful monster, with fur as pure white as the snow it steps on.
But in contrast to its appearance, it has quite the violent behavior. And though the white wolf is not very strong by itself, caution is advised when encountering a large group of them for they share a habit of swarming their opponents.
Lifa organized the information in her head.
She had done some research on the monsters which are distributed on mount Giran beforehand, in search of countermeasures against them. She put her right hand inside her white coat and took out three white tubes, placing them between her fingers.
Then she carelessly threw them with the pack of white wolves as her target.
Having failed to hit them because of the rough aim, the glass test tubes fell to the ground and broke into pieces.
The next moment, an explosion occurred as a deafening noise resounded. The white wolves that were caught by the flames scattered into multiple pieces of meat.
In but a single move, the combat had come to its end.
【”The power is not bad, I guess”】(Lifa)
Lifa made a satisfied nod.
To begin with, the attack was developed with dealing damage to a large-scale monster like the ice Hydra in mind. For a small monster, one blow was enough.
【”It’s my first time seeing such magic. How did you do it?”】(Elu)
【”Trade secret. Well, it’s not what you’d call ordinary magic, that’s all I’ll say!”】(Lifa)
Lifa cockily put her hand on her waist.
Whether or not it could be classified as magic was up for debate, but the girl was confident. And being admired by Elu didn’t feel bad at all for her.
As for Harold, he was indifferent, and on the contrary, he criticized and advised Lifa.
【”You’ll never see the bottom of the well If toys of this level put you in high spirits.”】
【”What was that?”】
She couldn’t keep silent when her masterpiece was being mocked as a toy.
However, the moment Lifa was about to erupt, her vision was covered by a biting light. Unable to bear it, Lifa closed her eyelids as something passed right beside her.
Immediately after, a shriek-like voice resounded from behind.
Looking over her shoulder when the momentary flash of light ended, there were white wolves… scorched and dead. Apparently, they had made a pincer attack and were about to strike her from the rear.
Lifa was unable to sense their presence. She might have died there and then if it weren’t for Harold.
【”Regardless of the excellent means of attack you have, if you’re negligent in battle, you’re lower than second rate. If you want to die in vain, do it elsewhere.”】
Having said that much, Harold turned around and got back to walking once again.
His way of talking was irritating, but that didn’t make him any less right. Harold’s words had an unbelievable weight to them. For that very reason, she was honestly pleased by his evaluation towards her weapons that he deemed “excellent”.
Did that come from the heaviness of the path he took in life? Surely he didn’t get the title “knight killer” stuck to him by living peacefully and uneventfully.
【”Are you interested? About his past, I mean.”】
Elu whispered in her ear so that Harold wouldn’t hear.
If she had to answer, naturally the answer would be yes.
It wasn’t like Lifa at all to have a hard time answering.
Though she was interested, no matter how she thought about it, Harold had to be shouldering an atypical past. She felt guilty hearing about it from others instead of the person himself.
Curiosity and ethics were struggling within her.
【”Like I said, I’ll tell you, but what I do happen to know about him isn’t some important secret or whatever, you know?”】
Elu’s story was based on many anecdotes and rumors concerning Harold, whether those were true or not was a different matter. The details regarding the events created by Harold were public knowledge it seemed, save for Lifa who didn’t know anything about him.
In other words, everyone knows the facts, and people have spread countless rumors to complement the details.
【”The ratio of speculations to facts is higher than I thought, weren’t you and Harold acquaintances?”】
【”No way, yesterday was my first time meeting him, same as you.”】
Said Elu as if stating the obvious. However, that raised another question.
【”Then, why come with us?”】(Lifa)
【”I’ve been interested in him for a while now for various reasons. And it was a unique occasion to hear the stories directly from him”】(Elu)
【”So you came to such a dangerous zone with that as a motive, huh?”】(Lifa)
【”Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be allowed to follow you so easily”】(Elu)
Ahaha, he laughed, having lost his spirit.
He said he was a traveler so he likely had some means of fighting up his sleeve, but his speech coupled with his appearance made him look like a small herbivore that walked 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, and I won’t lose anything if I ask, right?)
Lifa eventually convinced herself and finally let her curiosity take over her.
When talking about the one named Harold Stokes, the words that would come up without fail were “The youngest 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, he did his first mission. And thereupon, he fled from the enemy despite his superior officer ordering him to cease and desist. Furthermore, he was wearing a uniform of the Sarian empire when he was found and was therefore charged with suspicions of being a spy.
From this, Harold was sentenced to decapitation….. or rather he was supposed to be, but they backed down.
That was due to the raising voices of the Stokes family, the house of Harold’s parents, and the Sumeragi family, who had engaged their daughter to him, and part of the knight order, too.
It was especially thanks to the Sumeragi house, it was a prestigious family of aristocrats, and their head, a man of great virtue, appealed to a reduction of penalty.
Afterwards, as a result of the retrial, Harold was transferred to a certain laboratory. It was a place of research and practical experiments. They found out his suitability as a test subject and he was freed from his prison sentence, not to mention his death penalty, in exchange of cooperating free of charge.
Of course, in case of a breach of the terms, he would be sentenced to the capital punishment once again. And so, Harold has been surviving as a test subject of the research establishment up until today.
【”And well, that’s basically the way Harold is generally known, I guess?”】
【”What’s wrong with that guy? He’s the worst”】
The sun had set, and since climbing anymore would have been difficult, they pitched some tents to set up camp.
Harold pitched his tent at a distant position where he took charge of the night watch. Using that chance, Elu and Lifa continued their talk, concealing their voices in a single tent.
Incidentally, Lifa didn’t seem to mind being in the same tent as Elu. Though she didn’t know his/her gender yet.
【”Moreover, to top it off, Harold brought disgrace to his benefactors, the Sumeragi family. He strongly appealed to the cancelling of his marriage arrangement after discussing it again.”】
【”Oh come on, that guy is lowest than the worst garbage at this point”】
Regarding Harold’s human nature that Elu described, Lifa let out a voice filled with scorn. Well, that’s an understandable reaction when having heard only this much.
However, Elu’s mouth did not stop moving.
【”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 capital punishment to a son of nobility so easily?
【”Harold’s only crime was escaping from the enemy. In addition, it was a sudden combat that occurred as he was patrolling during his very first mission. It’s not unusual for frightened 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 “suspicion”.”】
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 decision document, and even then, they were 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 deliberation was irrelevant and they had already decided on their judgement from the very beginning.
No, rather, it was a premise to the overruling of said judgement…
【”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. However, as a traveler, my reputation and connections have spread quit far. I get to hear stories from various people.”】
More exactly, he has his ways to hear those stories.
Sometimes acting the part of a traveler, other times a merchant, an aristocrat or even a reporter. He’s a master of impersonating false identities.
And he has 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 shed some light on the truth.”】
【”I did. Then, how about I share a talk I had with the one who was Harold’s superior officer at the time?”】
Elu had met him three years prior. He was Harold’s superior officer, the man who raised his voice in protest earlier than anyone in the knight order when the death penalty was pronounced.
Cody Luzial. He recalled the languid face of the man.
Elu had crossed paths with Cody at a bar where he was heavily drunk, yet when Harold’s name came up, Cody desperately moved his shaky mouth and let out everything he had on his heart.
『In my work, I’ve met my share of idiots… “The reckless idiot, obsessed by his sense of justice” and “The selfish idiot, who only thinks about himself” and the others were 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. And then, he gulped down the glass’ content in one go and leaked out a breath reeking of alcohol.
Finally, he added.
『That guy was “The idiot who never cared for himself”』
With his words, he raised the curtain on the real story.
This is the prelude to the relentless half-life of Harold Stokes.