Chapter 112 is here!
Sorry it took so long, I explain everything in the footer, please do read it, there is some important news.
By the way, these is one chapter where I once wrote “the siblings” while referring to Ventos and Lilium, but they aren’t siblings, it was an editing mistake.
Anyway, here’s the chapter, I hope you’ll enjoy it!
When they heard that Erica had woken up, Liner and the group felt relieved.
They were finally able to smile again.
Harold’s open hostility and his victory over them all had been a heavy blow for the group.
Not only were they feeling hurt by Harold’s betrayal, they were also anxious about their own power.
After experiencing his overwhelming strength for themselves, they wondered: if he fought them again, would they be able to win?
But even the joy of knowing that Erica had woken up did not last.
This was due to Lifa’s expression; though she was supposed to be sharing good news, her face was grim.
It was so apparent that even Liner, who was quite dense when it came to the subtleties of people, had noticed.
When Liner asked if something happened, Lifa looked liked she was thinking about something for a moment before she replied to him.
―― “Erica wants to talk to you so come to the hospital tomorrow.”
She was implicitly asking them not to go see her for the day.
Normally, Liner would have asked why she did not want him to go there, arguing that he wanted to see her immediately as soon as she woke up, to confirm that she was safe with his own eyes.
The reason he had not done so this time around was that he could guess from Lifa’s mood that this matter would bring nothing positive.
Moreover, Liner was having a hard time sorting his own feelings since the other day.
In short, in his current state of mind, he was reluctant to hear any other bad news.
Liner was not the only one feeling that way.
All the other members of the party were feeling more or less disheartened; none of them really tried to look deeper into Lifa’s words.
The next day, Liner and the others went to visit the hospital, feeling almost gloomy at the idea of what was to come.
For some reason, when they arrived, Lifa did not guide them to the room where Erica had been hospitalized.
Instead, she took them to a meeting room inside the hospital.
Knock knock knock
Each of Lifa’s knocks on the wooden door sounded heavier than the last.
Though he could only see her back, Lifa had never looked so small in Liner’s eyes. The others were likely feeling the same.
【”Please come in.”】
Erica’s voice came from inside.
Her tone was the same as usual but that only made Liner and the others feel even more uneasy.
【”Hope we’re not disturbing.”】
As she said so, Lifa was about to open the door, but her hand stopped on the doorknob.
Then, she addressed the group without turning around.
【”Everyone… I’d like you to stay as calm as you can once you’re inside. Especially you, Liner.”】
【”…What do you mean by that?”】
【”You’ll understand once you’re in.”】
Without answering Liner’s doubts, Lifa opened the door.
Erica was sitting on a chair in the meeting room, wearing a kimono, as usual.
When Liner heard Erica had run out of magic, he did not expect to see her looking so healthy.
He was a bit relieved.
But that feeling only lasted for a moment.
When he saw the girl and the man standing behind Erica, the relief in Liner’s heart made way for a thunderous fury.
These were the two people who had hurt his parents and stolen his sword.
Liner immediately tried to ready his weapon, before recalling he hadn’t brought it with him.
The next instant, after confirming with a single look around the room that there were no objects he could use as weapons here, he readied himself to dash forward and attack with his bare hands.
Erica stood up silently and stepped forward like she was protecting the two people.
Of course, this did not dissuade Liner.
【”Why would I?! They’re the thieves who hurt my parents!”】
Liner’s words made the girl standing behind Erica tremble from her shoulders.
She seemed to have been scared or startled by something, but this was not Liner’s problem.
More importantly, Liner did not understand why Erica was protecting those thieves.
He even started being suspicious of her.
Maybe she was on their side, too.
There was no hint of threat in her voice, and yet, when Erica called out Liner’s name, he could not help himself from flinching.
Next, she looked at him dead in the eyes and asked him a question.
【”What do you intend to do them?”】
Liner tried to answer back but he was at a loss for words. There was one thing he knew for certain: he could not forgive them.
But if he had to say what he specifically wanted to do to them, he wouldn’t be able to.
That naturally didn’t mean he was going to forgive anything, but Erica had made him aware of that he himself did not even know what he wanted to do.
【”Do you simply want to vent your anger? Or will you only be satisfied if they receive a proper punishment?”】
【”…If you do not have a clear answer, then please hear them out. It will not be too late to make your decision afterwards.”】
In accordance with Erica’s words, the two people who had been standing behind her came forward.
‘What does she mean, hear them out?’ Liner was filled with doubts as he looked at the girl and the man.
They were slowly approaching him, but the second they arrived in front of him, they stopped and bowed as deeply as they could.
【”We are terribly sorry!”】
【”We’re really, really sorry!”】
This unexpected apology left everyone in the room, starting from Liner, completely confused.
The only people who did not react were Lifa and Erica.
For a moment, the meeting room was shrouded in silence.
Everyone present was looking at Liner, save for the two people who were still bowing down.
【”… What do you mean, you’re sorry?! You injured my dad and mom! You might even have been planning to kill them! You can apologize all you want, I’ll never forgive you!”】
What kind of person was Liner?
Anyone who knew him would answer that he was a straightforward and honest young man.
He had a strong sense of justice, he never told a lie, and he hated injustices.
His parents had done nothing wrong. How could he forgive these two people for hurting them?
【”If you were going to apologize after the fact, then you should not have done it in the first place!”】
The anger in Liner’s tone made the air tremble.
The thin body of the girl cowered from Liner’s angry voice.
She was still young.
On the other hand, the man who was with her seemed to already be an adult.
His bow remained flawless, unaffected.
But this did prompt him to talk.
His words came out slowly, like he was thinking about them as he spoke.
【”It is as you say. What we did is unforgivable, and we are not going to come up with any convenient excuses to make you forgive us.”】
【”…What are you trying to say now?”】
【”I assume full responsibility… for the crimes we’ve committed. Therefore, would you agree to let Lilium, the girl, off?”】
The girl, who was apparently called Lilium, jumped in surprise like she hadn’t been told about this beforehand. Her confusion was written all over her face.
However, Ventos continued to talk like her reaction was of no concern to him.
【”We’ll confess to everything we did, and why we did it, be it the burglary or anything else. If after that, you decide to leave some more room for discussion, then please leave Lilium out of――”】
【”N-no! You did nothing wrong mister Ventos!”】
【”…That kind of explanation will not be satisfying for him nor his parents. No matter our reasons, I need to take responsibility for our actions.”】
【”Then I’ll take responsibility with you!”】
The two people started arguing with each other.
For some reason, Liner found himself unable to do anything other than watch from the side.
The one who ended up putting a stop to that was Hugo.
He had been silent the whole time, but maybe he couldn’t bear the mood anymore.
【”Hmm, look, can we get a summary of whats happening here or something?”】
【”…It will take a little time. If you do not mind that, then for the time being, everyone please take a seat. There is no use standing around.”】
The table in the meeting room had just enough chairs for everyone.
Erica had probably made preparations beforehand.
Erica took the seat of honor, Liner and the rest of the party sat to her left, while Lifa, Ventos and Lilium sat to her right.
Once everyone was seated, Erica courteously prepared black tea for them.
By the time everyone was served, the mood had slightly lightened up.
【”Now then, could you share your story again, mister Ventos?”】
【”…Yes. First of all, Lilium and I are both from the Stellar tribe. We were born and raised in the Bertis forest.”】
【”Huh? But that’s…”】
Colette was greatly startled at the mention of the Bertis forest.
Unlike her, Liner kept silent, but he also had a bad feeling about this.
【”We used to live in a very small community. Our village was surrounded by nothing but nature, for better or worse, but we led quite peaceful lives in the woods.”】
“However, five years ago, that peace was suddenly destroyed.” Ventos started explaining what had transpired back then.
Liner had already heard about all this from Harold himself. The battle of Bertis brought upon by Justus’ hidden schemes. At the time, he had kidnapped many people of the stellar tribe for the sake of conducting human experiments.
【”Lilium and I were part of those people. There were many of our companions there, too, but…”】
Though he was being evasive, everyone understood what Ventos implied without him having to say it.
It was safe to assume that none of his companions had made it.
If not for Harold, perhaps these two would have met the same fate as those other people.
【”I’ve already heard a bit about Dr.Freun’s deeds. If you don’t mind, could you go into more specifics?”】
【”He would administrate us with strange liquids, and put machines on our heads that made us feel sick and in pain, all the while giving us electric shocks until we’d faint… I can’t quite remember what he’d do after that, but I think he was doing surgical operations on our brains.”】
All Ventos was doing was answer Francis’ question in full, but every bit of description he gave was inhumane.
Colette’s face turned blue just from imagining it.
【”As the experiments kept going, I became unable to feel anything. Neither pain, nor despair, not even fear.”】
【”You mean to say your brain became numb to escape the pain?”】
【”No… The very point of the experiments was to suppress our emotions, and rid us of all thoughts.”】
Ventos’ answer was difficult to believe on the spot.
How could anyone possibly deprive a living human of his emotions and even his ability to think?
However, Liner recalled something.
That night, when he first traded blows with Ventos and Lilium, he had seen the cold, robotic look in their eyes, and the lifeless expressions hidden by their hoods.
To him, they indeed seemed nothing like humans back then.
【”Once Llilium and I lost our wills, we became easy-to-use chess pieces for Justus.”】
They had become puppets that could only answer to Justus’ orders.
By the time they reached that state, they were no longer able to think about anything, let alone feel any guilt or revulsion.
In contrast to Ventos, who was speaking of the matter so indifferently, Lilium was looking downward with tears in her eyes.
If all of this was true, then it had to have been a particularly harsh experience for a teenage girl like Lilium.
Liner could empathize with this, even for an unforgivable enemy.
【”I have one question. Based on what you said, is it safe to assume you kept the memories of the days when you couldn’t feel or think anything?”】
【”Rather than keeping the memories, it would be more correct to say I got them back. It’s only now that I remember them.”】
【”How did you come to remember them, then?”】
【”I have sir Harold to thank for that.”】
The second Harold’s name came up, Liner’s body became frozen stiff.
His mind was overcome by a mix of anger, chagrin and sorrow.
However, he endured it and listened to the rest of Ventos’ story.
【”I think you saw it happen. Remember the fight in Harrison’s mansion? Back then, Harold hit both me and Lilium with the handle of his sword. The moment he did that, I had a flashback of everything that happened up to that point, and remembered it all.”】
【”In short, you’re saying Harold saved you.”】
【”That’s right. Even though we couldn’t communicate at all, he treated us as human beings from the very beginning and tried to help us. More importantly, it’s thanks to him that Lilium and I never crossed the last line.”】
【”Hmm, by last line, you mean…”】
【”…You probably guessed it. Justus gave us many orders, with no regard for the survival of our targets.”】
In other words, they could have murdered people in cold blood to fulfill their orders.
【”Liner, your parents were really strong. Even though our bodies have been tempered with to improve our efficiency in combat, they still fought with us on equal grounds. If we had obeyed Justus’ orders, I don’t think either of us would have gotten out of this unscathed.”】
【”…Hold on. Harold was with you at the time?”】
【”Ah, yes, he was. That night, the three of us were working together.”】
Something felt wrong about this in Liner’s mind.
If Harold really had been there, would he have patiently looked on without intervening at all?
For Liner, the answer to that was a definite “No.”, Harold was not that kind of man.
If Harold had fought Liner’s parents, he would have been perfectly in control of the situation. He wouldn’t have gotten so much as a scratch.
Harold hated wastes of times and useless endeavors. Why would he have watched over a fight he could easily finish himself?
【”Then, what was Harold doing at the time?”】
【”…I don’t know. He left your parents to us, but he instructed us not to go anywhere beyond wounding them.”】
These types of instructions were probably what Ventos was referring to when he said Harold had saved him from crossing the line.
However, this only brought yet another worrying point to the table.
Ventos and Lilium had been acting under Harold’s instructions.
Giving it some thought, anyone would think Harold was busy stealing the sword while the other two had been fighting.
However, Liner knew for a fact that that wasn’t it. Because he had personally seen Ventos holding the box of the sword.
【”Why even fight in the first place? Couldn’t you and Harold just stealthily steal the sword?”】
【”He didn’t tell us the reason, but he did say he was accidentally found out.”】
This sounded like a bad joke to Liner. Was he supposed to believe that someone of Harold’s caliber had been found out by two retired adventurers?
But what if making Ventos and Lilium fight Liner’s parents had been Harold’s actual goal? What if he had let himself be found out for that purpose?
If so, then Liner had to ponder on the consequences of that fight, and how those had led to him ultimately meeting with Harold again.
Liner could hear his own heartbeat from inside his ear. He was starting to sweat.
Even so, he had to ask the question he had on his mind.
【”After you stole the sword, how was I able to catch up with you?”】
If Liner remembered right, after running without rest, he had arrived at the fog valley around midnight.
The view there was quite bad, making it even harder for the already tired Liner to progress forward.
Having assumed the people he was pursuing would get tired just like him, Liner had tried getting a bit of rest, only to end up oversleeping until dawn.
Until this instant, he had assumed that he had gotten lucky and managed to catch up because the other two had gotten as much rest as him.
But based on what he had heard today, Lilium and Ventos had basically been puppets at the time. Would they have taken time to rest in the middle of their escape? No, they would not have stopped unless someone had told them to do so.
【”That was because Harold told us to stay on standby at the fog valley until he’d join us.”】
This one sentence was all Liner needed to connect all the dots.
Because Harold didn’t participate in the fight, Liner’s parents’ ended up getting injured, which pushed Liner to pursue the robbers.
Moreover, the only reason Liner caught up to the robbers was that Harold instructed them to stay where they were. Otherwise, they could have escaped without having to rest at all.
Then, Colette came running from her village to help, but that was apparently because Harold had pushed her to do it.
Afterwards, Harold himself also came to help, but his timing was too perfect.
Right before he came, Liner and Colette happened to be facing an overwhelmingly strong opponent. They were able to hold their own against Ventos and Lilium, but against this other party, they had no hope of winning.
Even though the man had been concealing himself with the same type of robe as Ventos and Lilium, at the time, Liner had definitely thought about it for an instant… About how that person’s strength and speed were similar to what he had experienced when fighting Harold back at the competition.
What if that was not a misunderstanding? What if that person really was Harold?
With how bad the view was in the fog valley, wouldn’t it have been easy for him to instantly change from his robe and appear again under his real identity?
It wasn’t clear why there had been a need to do this or what was Harold’s end goal.
However, by emphasizing on Harold’s actions and how they had led to Liner’s own actions, Liner couldn’t help but feel like he had been manipulated by Harold.
It was as if Harold had been pulling the strings from the start to push Liner into his current circumstances.
If that was true, then…
(―― Then I really am the only one who thought of us as friends and companions.)
Liner swallowed back that bitter thought.
Somewhere in his heart, he still believed in Harold. He wanted to believe in him.
He still held the hope that this was all a misunderstanding, and that the next time they met they would be able to stand together as companions again.
Was he currently feeling sadness or regrets? Even he could not tell.
All he was able to do was to quietly whisper to himself.
【”Damn it all…”】
Translator’s note: Sorry that this took so long, but since the author said he wouldn’t be able to post ’till April, we had to stall.
Why until April, asks the curious reader.
Well, curious reader, it’s because that’s when the Death Flags Manga will come out on Manga Box!
And here’s an example of what the art will look like.
If you haven’t been following what led to this, know that this is all thanks to everyone’s very active support!
We did it guys!
This novel wasn’t popular enough in Japan to get its own manga, but you guys showed so much love and support that it overturned everything!
Damn I’m proud.
Well, anyway, next post will hopefully come soon, but in the meantime, have a wonderful month!
(By the by, please consider checking out PopCon, wonderful author on that one too, one of the rare few Jp authors that speak English, plus I love the novel.)