Chapter 116 (Part 1)
Five years after Harold left the knight order, he and Sid were reunited .
Thinking back to the past, it was out of a will to save the lives of Sid and his two other companions that Harold had strayed from the original story for the very first time .
He had intervened in the battle at the Bertis forest, where they were supposed to lose their lives, and that had ultimately allowed Justus to put a collar on Harold .
This made it so Cody never left the knight order, and Harold ended up having to become the founder of Frieri in his stead .
He had changed the course of destiny itself, but Sid and the others had such massive death flags that there would have been no saving them without at least that .
So while he was happy to meet Sid again, Harold genuinely had a bad feeling about this .
【”L-long time no see, Harold...”】
Sid wasn’t in the town all by himself, Ellen had come, too .
Rudely enough, it felt to Harold like he was suddenly seeing death flags pop out of the ground . Death flags that he thought he had already broken .
Once the dispute with the members of Frieri was settled, Sid very awkwardly asked Harold if he had some time .
Not wanting to give him the cold shoulder as that would have made him feel guilty, Harold decided he would meet Sid again that very evening, at a bar near his inn .
Sid did not show up alone at the bar, Ellen came along with him . She, too, had once been Harold’s comrade .
【”The hell are you doing here? I wasn’t told about this . ”】
There was no trace left of her once unyielding personality . The same could be said about Sid .
Harold was getting worried that they were not feeling well .
Granted, they hadn’t parted with Harold under the best of circumstances, but he did not remember them being so uptight .
Something was clearly amiss .
【”Where is the tall one?”】
【”O-oh... Robinson is heading to Travis right now . ”】
While these two were in Barston, Robinson, the big guy with the scary face, was in Travis .
This meant every member of the trio was in a town close to hordes of monsters that were going to attack soon .
Harold’s bad feeling intensified even further .
Without revealing his state of mind, Harold continued talking .
【”So they just sent the two of you? Why are you even here?”】
【”It’s knight business . We can’t share the details . ”】
【”Well, it’s a bit complicated . ”】
Elu had already sent a report to the knight order .
But if Sid and Ellen had been sent in response to that letter, they surely would have mentioned the horde of monsters under the town .
Given their lack of experience, it seemed unlikely that the order would dispatch them on such a mission anyway .
Then again, it was hard to tell if the order would be able to bring any counter-measures at all in the first place .
【”No matter . So, what did you want to tell me? If it’s something stupid, you better be prepared for the consequences . ”】
【”No, about that... I just wanted to tell you... that I’m sorry...”】
【”What was that?”】
The words Sid spoke out somewhat hesitantly were utterly unexpected . Judging by Ellen’s silence, she was probably here for the same reason .
That being said, Harold sincerely had no idea why they were apologizing .
He’d still understand if they’d given him a reluctant ‘thank you’ .
Rather, their natural reaction should have been to solely ask him why he had become a traitor to the country .
【”Is that supposed to be a joke?”】
【”I-I’m not joking!”】
【”Why else in the world would you apologize to the man who betrayed the country?”】
Indeed, that was supposed to be Harold’s image in the eyes of Sid, Ellen... and most people in the Liber kingdom .
The fact that they were in the knight order meant they had probably heard plenty of rumors, and more importantly, they had seen Harold wearing a uniform of the empire on that day .
He had defeated an enemy commander, but in the end, that story had been spinned into him having a falling out with his accomplice and almost murdering him .
Although there was never any confirmation of that ridiculous explanation, it had basically become a fact in the eyes of the world after the jury ruled for Harold’s execution .
【”...Harold, they say that you betrayed the knight order, but I can’t believe that . ”】
【”No... That’s not it . The truth is I’ve always wanted to believe that you didn’t do it... but I couldn’t back then . ”】
Sid kept talking like he was confessing to a crime .
What actually surprised Harold was hearing that Sid wanted to believe in his innocence .
【”Not that I care either way, but what made you change your mind?”】
【”There was someone who was attacked by monsters during a mission and was saved right before succumbing to the monsters’ attacks . I heard the story from that person firsthand . ”】
Hearing this brought up some old memories in Harold’s mind .
If he remembered right, this was something that had happened a while into his days under Justus’ control .
He had encountered a group of about 10 knights from the knight order about to be wiped out by monsters, and though he had intervened, he had only managed to save two of them, both of whom had been severely injured to the point of having to retire .
Sid had probably heard the story from one of them .
【”That person looked after me a lot back when I was still new in the order... so when I heard of their serious injuries, I went to pay them a visit . They told me about a lot of things at the time . ”】
Sid looked up and stared at Harold like he could see through his eyes .
【”At the time, that person said ‘My life was saved by Harold Stokes’ . ”】
It wasn’t strange for that knight to have known Harold’s name and appearance . Besides, it was true that Harold had intervened out of good intentions, so that interpretation was not surprising .
However, Harold still felt like that was not a compelling enough reason to assume he had not betrayed the kingdom .
If it was possible to make people believe in him so easily, Harold wouldn’t have had to go through so much trouble in the first place .
【”After hearing that story, I became more and more confused about you...”】
Sid had never wanted to believe Harold was a traitor . But there had been no doubting it back then given what Sid had seen with his own eyes and the jury’s final decision .
And yet, after leaving the knight order, that same traitorous Harold had saved Sid’s benefactor .
Thinking about all that, it was easy to imagine the emotional turmoil Sid had been through .
But there was more to his story .
【”I kept worrying about this for days... but it’s only when I went to visit that person again that I realized it . I realized that maybe you were tangled up in something... “】
Chapter 116 (Part 2)
【”Tangled up in something? Meaning?”】
【”When I went to visit again, that person had forgotten about being saved by you . Suddenly, the story became that they were attacked by monsters, fainted, and were carried to the hospital before they came to . ”】
If that person’s memory was manipulated, it was probably through Justus’ doing .
However, Harold did not understand what would have been the meaning of doing that .
【”Ridiculous . I’m sure that person was just having hallucinations from being on the brink of death . ”】
【”No way! That’s definitely not it!”】
【”What are you, a doctor? How would you know?”】
【”Because it was weird! That person didn’t just forget about being helped by you, that person completely forgot about the existence of Harold Stokes!”】
The problem was neither that the knight had a fuzzy memory nor a simple memory loss .
The knight had lost every memory regarding one single person . It was a strange occurrence .
Granted, maybe this could happen in nature in some outlying case, but, at least for Sid and Elen, it probably felt far too specific for Harold alone to be forgotten completely .
【”In the past, soon after you were sentenced to death, chief Cody told us “It’s not about whether you can believe in Harold, but whether you can believe in yourselves” . But even though I thought you were innocent, I didn’t believe in myself...!”】
【”It was the same for me . Even though you words were always snide, I knew you weren’t a bad guy... But I didn’t act on those thoughts . ”】
Their feelings of regret were transmitted more than well . Even under the dim light of the bar, the tears building up in their eyes were clear to see .
Though Robinson wasn’t here, he too was probably blaming himself for not believing in Harold’s innocence, just like his two comrades .
Harold had not spent much time in the knight order, but he knew these three friends were very kind .
Therefore, he took it upon himself to speak and try to convey something along the lines of “Don’t worry about it” .
【”No matter what angle I look at this from... . You’re utter morons . ”】
【”W-what? We’re sincerely apologizing to you over here!”】
【”And that’s why I’m saying you’re morons . What exactly are you apologizing for?”】
【”Well, obviously it’s because we wanted to believe in you but-...”】
【”Alright, let’s imagine a world where you’d have declared my innocence loud and clear... What would that have changed? Do you seriously believe the likes of you could have done anything about that jury’s sentence?”】
Sid and Elen did not answer . They stayed quiet .
Even if they had intervened as they wished and gotten all the knights of the order to speak against Harold’s sentence, the results would have been the same .
After all, it had already been determined from the start, before any deliberation, that Harold would get the death penalty .
【”While I’m at it, I’ll let you in on something . The removal of that death sentence was always the plan . It was set up from the get go . ”】
Sid and Elen reacted the way Harold wanted .
Of course, this was a lie .
The whole series of events after the battle in the Bertis forest had been completely out of his expectations .
But even so――
【”I’m still alive . Isn’t that proof enough for the dirt you have for brains?”】
Harold laughed with a mocking tone .
He laughed because he was used to dealing with problems this way .
He laughed to hide his heart-wrenching gratitude towards the kindness of these two comrades, who had been dealing with regrets for years, wanting to apologize to a lost cause like Harold Stokes .
He could only hide those feelings .
After all, ‘Harold Stokes’ would not show gratitude in such a situation .
And so, to reward their kindness, Harold used his usual method instead .
【”Heh, how laughably arrogant of you to assume you might have been able to change something back then . ”】
【”Arrogant?! You’re the one person I don’t want to hear that from!”】
【”Being arrogant means putting on airs out of pride . Unlike you, I am not arrogant, I do not put on airs . I behave to the level of my abilities . ”】
【”I’m pretty sure that manner of thinking is arrogant enough on its own . ”】
Harold’s statement was arrogant indeed, and that meant everything was fine .
That meant there was no need to feel guilty .
Through his behavior, Harold was emphasizing on the fact that he was still the same, and that worrying about him was meaningless .
【”Damn it! Still as haughty and domineering as ever!”】
【”Haaa... Where are we going to pour all our pent up worries and regrets now...”】
【”At times like these, you gotta drink, Sid! Harold will take care of the tab!”】
【”Hey, what do you think you’re-...”】
【”I don’t care! You’re a noble, you should pay for these types of things like it’s nothing!”】
【”...That’s right! Alright, drinks are on Harold, today we’re gonna gorge ourselves all night!”】
【”...Don’t you have any shame?”】
Well, in all truth, Harold liked their current behavior better than those gloomy faces they’d been making earlier .
Given everything he had done to save their lives, the one thing he wanted in return was for them to live their lives with smiles .
The timing of this reunion worried him, but he still hoped they would somehow calmly go on with their lives without raising more death flags...
【”Oh, I forgot to tell you! Once we’re done with this mission, we’ll be getting married! Where should we send you the invitation?”】
【”I mean, we were your seniors at one point, you wouldn’t miss our wedding, would you～?”】
【”Are you kidding me? Shut your damn mouths . ”】
Harold’s hostile words were not directed towards the marriage invitation .
Rather, if he had to say, it was directed at the act of getting married itself .
(『When this battle is over, let’s get married...』is one of the deadliest death flags there is! )
Apparently, Harold’s bad feeling was on point .
In a certain sense, Ellen and Sid were just as loved by death flags as Harold himself .
Another issue had just mercilessly set itself upon Harold’s already full plate .
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