So, chapter 61, really liked it, hope you will too. I’d really like to thank Rucckus, who edited this chapter and did an excellent job 😀
Anyway, without further delay, here is chapter 61, enjoy!
【”Is that alright?”】
Asked Elu doubtfully. Perhaps he was suspicious as Justus was willing to confess after claiming it was an important secret.
Though Lifa really wanted him to talk, she was also wondering if that was really fine.
【”I’m not going to say I’m being driven by emotions or whatever. It’s just that it doesn’t matter whether I talk or not as there is no record of anything that I’m going to say in anyone else’s memory. If you’re afraid to listen, we can end it here.”】
What Justus said was sophistry but it was probably the truth. It wasn’t likely that Lifa’s feelings had reached him.
However, not listening was not an option for Lifa.
【”Please hold back on the threats… Lifa won’t give up no matter what you say. And I won’t let her deal with this by herself so it’s the same for me.”】
【”Thank you, Elu.”】
Lifa was grateful to Elu for resigning himself and consenting to this. It was obvious that Elu thought it would be a bad idea to let Lifa listen to Justus’ story in her current condition. Elu was probably worried Lifa wouldn’t be able to handle the risk of knowing highly classified information.
And yet, knowing that, he went along with Lifa’s selfishness.
【”Then, let’s talk. Harold and I crossed each other’s paths five years ago.”】
The first time Justus heard of Harold, he was working for the research center and had gone to the Royal castle to report on his study’s progress. There, he happened to overhear a group of knights who were chatting with each other.
【”I heard someone recently joined the knight order by taking some special test, instead of going through the normal procedures.”】
【”He probably has connections with some higher-ups, right?”】
【”No no, I heard he one-sidedly knocked down dozens of recruits in that special test they made for him.”】
【”That’s just because those recruit were weak.”】
【”I can’t deny it, but that newcomer is just a 13 year old kid. He’s the youngest genius to ever enter the knight order.”】
【”You mean he’s better than the vice captain?”】
【”What kind of monster is that?”】
【”If I remember right, his name was Harold Stokes…”】
They were saying various things about a boy who had become a new recruit. Because of his uncaring personality, Justus would have normally erased these trivial things from his memory after leaving the castle.
The reason Harold’s name remained in Justus’ mind at the time was because of one sentence.
“You mean he’s better than the vice captain was?”
Those words came from one of the men in the group, who was just pointing out a mere possibility. It wasn’t so easy to compare this Harold boy’s strength with the strength Vincent had when he was 13 year old.
However, there was still a chance that the boy would exceed him. The knight hadn’t brought up that possibility for argument’s sake, nor was it a figure of speech, he genuinely believed it could happen. That was unbelievable to Justus, for he was Vincent’s acquaintance and knew about his out of the norm battle power.
In the first place, for someone to even be compared to a great figure like Vincent, he or she had to be abnormal.
Vincent was strong. And that didn’t only mean physically strong, for he had a mind that wouldn’t yield to any hardships, a sense of justice that opposed all evil, and the kindness to hold out his hand to the weak. He was extremely reliable to his allies and stood like a mighty wall on the paths of his enemies.
Even in other countries, there wasn’t anyone else like him. He was what the world would qualify as a hero.
So Justus was curious about the boy who had a chance to become stronger than that Vincent.
I’d like to meet him some day. This thought crossed Justus’ mind.
At a later date, Harold’s name once again reached Justus, who was immersed in his research as always. Justus was completely cut off from his surroundings and wasn’t aware of whatever was going on in the outside world, yet even he had heard of Harold’s story as it was the hot topic in the royal capital.
Apparently, the boy had disobeyed his superior and deserted in the face of the enemy. But it turned out that it was just an act and that Harold had actually betrayed the knight order, for he was a spy from the Sarrian Empire, who had handed them information which allowed their army to launch a surprise attack that led to great damages.
Although the knight troops had been cornered and were on the verge of annihilation, they had managed to exterminate the imperial forces thanks to the last minute intervention from the headquarters of the royal troops led by the supervision head, Harisson. At the same time, they had managed to capture the traitor Harold alive, even though he had been on the brink of death.
Nevertheless, more than half of the patrolling troops of the knight order had either been killed or injured, and if the royal army hadn’t been able to make it in time, the situation would have likely developed into a severe dispute between the Star Reader Stellar tribe and the knight order. There was no forgiving Harold, who had planned such a massive disaster, and he was eligible for the death penalty.
This was what was being said among the masses. Upon hearing of this, anyone would agree that it was natural for the situation to develop into Harold’s execution. However, that was only if the story was true.
When he heard of this, the first thing Justus felt wasn’t anger or even disappointment over Harold’s betrayal towards the knight order. What he thought was that the situation was too unnatural and felt too orchestrated.
From what little he had heard, there were several points that caught his attention. He wondered how a 13-year-old son of an aristocrat could possibly become a spy for the empire, and he felt that the royal army’s timing was too good. But what felt the most peculiar to him was how detailed the rumors were and how abnormally fast they had spread only a few days after the return of the expedition’s troops.
Normally, the information would have been kept under control until the situation could be sorted out and confirmed. Sorting out the situation didn’t sound like much, but it took time, and many efforts from many people.
It was strange for that process to end as soon as the troops came back. When he was arrested, Harold had been unconscious and in a critical state, his consciousness should have returned only a few days before the troops arrived at the royal capital. It was doubtful that he had been interrogated and had given all the information he had in that short time span.
The information could have been taken from the imperial troops prisoners, but it was hard to believe that all the prisoners had given the same testimony. Moreover, examining the information they gave would have taken time and effort, but the expedition forces’ hands were already full on their way home, as they had many dead and injured people to take care of.
Justus’ conclusion was that the rumors had been spread intentionally and were very unlikely to be true. Maybe Harold served as someone’s scapegoat? He thought.
But so what? Whether the rumors were true or not, it had nothing to do with Justus, and he didn’t have an ounce of concern for the life or death of other people.
Usually, he’d have cast that story aside without a second thought. If he hadn’t been concerned about Harold’s potential going to waste, he would have definitely abandoned him. He likely wouldn’t even have been aware that he was abandoning him.
It was luck that led Justus to get interested in Harold, it was luck that led him to hear the bad rumors concerning Harold, and it was due to luck that he happened to have a few connections among the knight order and the tribunal. Thanks to many coincidences overlapping with each other, Justus had the opportunity to visit and meet Harold. Well, they didn’t really meet him, not face to face at least. He merely observed him from a distance.
It was at the dungeon of the royal capital’s tribunal that Justus first saw him; a boy with black hair and red eyes, whose arms were chained to a wall.
He was Harold Stokes.
The first impression Harold gave off was that of a wolf.
Proud, sharp, aloof, and trusting no one but himself. That was the general atmosphere around him. He was imprisoned in jail, tied by chains, and waiting for his execution, but despite his hopeless circumstances, the fire in his eyes was burning without a glimpse of a shadow. His red eyes were like two crimson flames.
Before exchanging even one word with Harold, Justus was convinced: “Yeah, this guy’s definitely not a spy.” Harold looked as if, no matter the options presented to him, he’d always choose to stand true to his way of life. He seemed like he didn’t even mind dying to preserve his beliefs. That was how powerful his eyes were.
Justus wondered if calling this【”The aesthetics of the devil”】would do justice to the boy. And he intuitively realized that it would be too regrettable to let such a gem die.
From there, he made his move very quickly. It had been a while since he had taken the initiative to take action for something other than his research.
Through his work acquaintances, he tried to appeal to the country’s big shots and influential people, one after the other, so that they would reconsider or delay Harold’s death sentence.
However, Justus was just a scientist. Nobody was willing to carry the burden that came with accepting his demands.
Therefore, he pulled out his trump card. Justus’ purpose was to save Harold, but that trump card was basically a curse, a taboo experiment, developed by himself.
Then came his second meeting with Harold in the dungeon. Looking at Justus who appeared before him, the first thing Harold said was Justus’ full name.
【”Oh, do you know me?”】
【”Why would a man like you come here?”】
【”…… Right, I’ll cut to the chase. If you don’t want to just sit here and wait for your death, join me, Harold.”】
Justus didn’t beat around the bush and went straight to the point.
Harold glared right at him, as if trying to see through his words. Justus knew this wouldn’t be easy. While letting Harold scrutinize him with his eyes, he waited for him to speak.
【”Bullshit. You’re saying you can overturn my execution?”】
【”Yeah, that’s right. I’ll definitely overturn it.”】
Justus affirmed confidently. He wasn’t bluffing, he was just that confident that the weapon he developed and his negotiation skills would be enough to free Harold.
If that weapon could be put to use, the kingdom would be able to get an invincible army. Nobody would hesitate to sacrifice one death-row prisoner for that. In addition, instead of killing him, Justus was going to use him, toy with him, torment him and then kill him, which would serve to relieve those who wanted Harold dead, too.
There would be very few people opposing this, so Justus wouldn’t be put under any real pressure.
【”However, I have to tell you. If you work under me, you’ll fall further down in hell.”】
【”…. What do you mean?”】
【”I’ve developed a certain sword that I had to seal away because of one big defect that goes with it. It’s a sword that rapidly raises the user’s fighting power by absorbing his magical power. But it has a side-effect that cuts-down the user’s life, eventually leading him to his death. If you’re willing to wield that sword, I’ll release you from here.”】
Justus was completely frank and didn’t hide anything. Harold was given two choices.
Was he going to accept his death without resisting? Or was he going to die a short while later, in exchange of many more hardships? It was a ruthless choice to give. And either way, the end result was the same, death.
Justus wasn’t going to claim that his conscience was hurting. If that had been the truth, he wouldn’t have given those choices to Harold. Justus never had a virtuous mind, his principle had always been to act for his own interests.
Harold started laughing.
His voice sounded like it was coming from deep in the abyss. It was wicked, and would make any listener shiver. This much too out-of-place laughter continued to reverberate throughout the dim dungeon, showing no signs of stopping. It felt like Harold had gone completely mad.
【”…… What’s so funny?”】
Justus finally had the resolution to ask Harold, who was starting to look more like a devil to him. Thereupon, Harold suddenly stopped laughing, and the echo that resounded in the dungeon followed suit.
The silence was a radical change. Justus’ palms were sweaty. Only when he noticed it was actually cold sweat did Justus realize the boy in front of him had mentally overpowered him.
【”What’s so funny, you ask? How could I not laugh?”】
Harold answered while standing up. His arms were being pulled behind by the chains so he wasn’t able straighten up his back. Although he was on the verge of falling forward, his eyes did not separate from Justus.
The chains rang out in the dungeon’s silence. Without a care for the fact that he was chained to the wall, Harold struggled to walk forward, as the chains’ clash resounded even more.
【”Further down in hell? Cut down my life? The resolution to die?”】
The sound became louder and louder.
Blood started dripping from Harold’s wrists, where the metal cuffs were attached. But still, Harold did not stop advancing.
【”What the hell are you implying? Don’t you fucking look down on me, Justus!!”】
With one last loud sound, the chains were torn off at last. Harold took several steps and griped the jail’s fence with his hands.
The fresh blood from Harold’s wrists splashed on Justus, staining his white gown.
【”Hand over that sword, that power. I’ll teach you what true resolution and true hell are, bastard.”】
【”……Magnificent, what a perfect answer.”】
Harold and Justus smiled at each other. However, by no means were they friendly with each other. Those treacherous smiles were akin to a mutual declaration of war.
Translator’s note: Please do ask in the comments if you didn’t understand something >< Also, if you liked the chapter, please consider donating on Patreon 😀