Many of those who had returned from the mission were injured. Some of them needed long-term care, but it could be said that they were fortunate none of them died.
And all of them said that Harold was the reason why they were still alive.
Yuno said that in order to buy time for their escape, Harold had challenged the Imperial Army’s Major General to a duel despite being wounded all over. Once I was told so, I was suddenly driven by the urge to visit Harold as soon as possible.
I wanted to see him with my own eyes, I wanted to convey to him my gratitude.
But Harold doesn’t want such things, he’d only see it as a bother.
Still, I wanted to at least convey the gratitude I had towards him for saving the people of the Household, including Yuno, himself.
However, I wasn’t allowed to follow through with those actions immediately.
Only those who were at the scene at the time knew how severely Harold had been injured. It wasn’t impossible for me to visit Harold myself, but first I had to wait for the Knights to return to the Royal Capital.
If I went and visited the expedition group myself, I’d only cause problems.
So that’s why I headed to the Capital ahead of them and decided to wait for Harold’s return.
That was the decision I made when I arrived at the Capital a month ago, but from the time that The Knight’s finished their expedition and returned, two weeks had already passed.
“…am I not allowed to see him today either?”
I could feel my face twisting into a pained expression.
Yuno was stood beside me, her soft smile was the same as always, but there seemed to be a shadow over it. Although she returned as my handmaiden due to not having been injured too badly, she wasn’t the same, our master-retainer relationship was filled with a discouraged feeling.
On the day the information of the Knight’s return from the expedition became public, I tried to set up a meeting with Harold at their headquarters, but was denied entry. I’ve been visiting them every day since to no avail. He seemed to be alive at least, or else why would they interfere for this long?
Although I’m relieved to know that, the time where I’m not allowed to see him without a good reason only stretches longer and longer.
During the expedition, Harold was said to have been donning the military uniform of the Sarian Empire. I suspected that the fact that he was found like that became a big issue within the Order, developing into a troublesome problem.
Because if Harold who was supposed to be a knight of the Kingdom was indeed wearing the military uniform of the empire, it was inevitable for them to doubt him.
Perhaps it was taking a long time to prove his innocence.
While thinking about what hardships Harold was going through, I went and visited the Order’s Headquarters again today.
“…you’re here again?”
After seeing Yuno and me, the soldiers at the gate made tired faces.
Every day for two weeks straight, I’ve been begging them to let me see Harold, and although I don’t think I’ve pestered them for that long, it’d probably still be tiring to deal with.
I’m sorry for having to put you through this again, but I have to,
“Good day Lowry-san, would it be possible for me to see Harold-sama today?”
“Haa… Just like what I said last time, he’s not allowed any visitors.”
Today is also no-good.
It would be inconvenient if I stayed here any longer. After all, Lowry is just doing his job.
But as I was turning around to leave, a man called out to me from the side.
“Oh, what’s this? Is there something wrong?”
The man who had gotten all of our attention when he walked in had a facial expression on that could only be described as giddy.
“Oh, it’s just Cody, what’re you here for?”
“Well, I thought I saw Lawry-kun bullying an innocent little girl…”
“I have done no such thing!”
The man named Cody broke out in laughter.
After seeing such an interaction, it was probably safe to say he was Harold’s superior officer. A man whose very being could be described as ‘loose’, from his expressions and clothes to his warm atmosphere.
Even if she had had her face hidden at the time, Yuno still had contact with him before, but luckily there’s no indication that he’s noticed. Despite this, Yuno decided to play it safe and not talk in front of him, just to make sure.
As I thought about such things, Cody turned towards me while ending his conversation with Lowrey.
What he said next was unexpected.
“Okay, let’s go.”
Cody said so while pointing at the Order’s Headquarters. In other words, he was saying it was okay to enter.
“Is it really okay?”
“Of course it is! I mean, you’re Harold-kun’s fiancée, right?”
“On paper, yes, that’s how our relationship is. How did you know that?”
“I know because I’m actually Harold-kun’s boss, and he always boasted about how proud he was of yo-”
“Please excuse me for interrupting, but that’s a lie, right?”
“Ah… um, yeah.”
I cut-off his explanation mid-way, but I didn’t feel bad, I knew that Harold wouldn’t say such things.
Cody, whose words had been obstructed, obediently admitted his lie.
“Well, the fact that I’m his boss is true, so is there anything you want to know? If I can answer you, I will.”
“I’ll take your word for it, Cody-sama.”
I already knew, so I didn’t have to worry if he was lying or not. Lawry seemed to decide that it’d be best if he just pretended to not be affiliated with us, “If something happens, take responsibility for it yourself.”
After this Yuno and I were taken by Cody to a reception room used for visitors. He said that we should wait here while he prepared some tea, quickly leaving us alone.
Barely after I sat down on a chair, there was a knock on the door, was he back already?
But before I could answer it, the voice of someone I wasn’t expecting came out.
The moment the owner of the voice saw me, he quickly grew stiff from shock. It seems that despite his usual calm facade, he does have times when he can be surprised and show more emotions.
“I heard that you were hurt, but it looks like you’re fine, Harold-sama.”
Sarcastic remarks came flying the moment he recovered from his rigidness. Same as usual.
Though he seems to be a lot healthier than when I exchanged words with him last time in the Sumeragi Household.
“Yeah, I am, now what do you want?”
Harold was now face-to-face with me. This wasn’t good, but I couldn’t just turn away from him!
I revised my posture and dropped the tone of my voice to make sure nobody could listen in from outside.
“You safety has now been confirmed, I thank you for your assistance on this matter.”
I sent my line of sight towards Yuno who was at my side. Picking up on that she smiled and bowed her head in thanks.
Thankfully, Harold seems to have planned for everything.
“I apologise, although I was aware of how inconvenient this would be for you, I just wanted to see you and confirm it myself.”
Harold was silent.
All of my worries and gratitude were just to fulfil my selfishness. Harold didn’t have any obligation to receive it, and I don’t think he will.
But it’s fine. Just being able to see Harold’s healthy state was enough of a reason to visit the Royal Capital.
It’s true that I don’t want to bother Harold, but my feelings are my first priority. So as to satisfy my desires, I made him explain everything to me, even though I didn’t really care about what happened. The very fact that he was having a conversation with me put me on cloud-nine.
On the other hand, I felt depressed at how immature of a person I was since I’d never be able to support Harold like this.
“Is that everything you wanted to talk about?”
“N-no I… nevermind.”
I tried to stop Harold, who was already standing up to leave, but caught myself. I didn’t have any more words to say to him.
That’s just how it was.
I answered facing downwards, my gaze still locked onto Harold. I’ve always been chasing it, but his back constantly seemed to be out of my reach.
“In that case, let’s finish this already. I won’t be able to act freely as long as you’re here, bastard.”
“Thank you for letting us use up your valuable time.”
“Don’t bother me if you understand, and next time try not to get involved with that stupid man.”
“Of course, next time I’ll… huh?”
Next time? Does that mean he expects me to come and visit again?
Then why? Why did he keep me away this past while?
He only said two words, but I couldn’t think straight anymore, and I don’t think he’d very happy if I just started spouting out questions.
Whether he was aware of my feelings or not, what he did next blew away all of my expectations.
As if it were a passing whim, Harold put his hand on top of my head. He didn’t stroke it or anything like that, it was more like he just placed it on my head with a light pop.
His hand, which I had just felt for the first time, was very warm.
“That scolding of yours from before was somewhat helpful, so I’ll commend you this once… Erika.”
That request I made to Harold back in the mansion, asking him to rely on someone. That desire I wanted for him.
I wonder if my feelings had supported him back then, even if it was only a little.
Without minding the me who was still too stunned for words, Harold left the reception room, but I only came to my senses once I heard the door close with a bang.
“…just now, he said my name?!”
Once that realisation dawned on me, I felt like my heart was going to explode. My body temperature rose to the extent that I swore I could feel steam coming out of my ears.
Harold had touched me with his hand. He touched me of his own accord.
He called me by my name for the first time. Not ‘you’, or ‘bastard’, but Erika.
I held my mouth with my hands, crouching down on the spot to hide my face.
There was no way I could show this face of mine to Yuno, who was like an older sister to me. This face of mine that was dyed redder than the sunset, with tears of joy travelling down its cheek.
◇ ◇ ◇
“Wanting to talk more just because you haven’t seen each other in a long time. Don’t you know guys who move too quickly are hated?”
The one speaking was Cody, the mastermind who had led me to the room Erika was waiting in before running away.
Like hell I needed him to do that!
Mentally, I was the same age as Cody, but physically I was still a child. There wasn’t much I could do against such an opponent.
When I threw a kick upwards towards his crotch, he was regrettably able to prevent it before it landed.
“Bastard, that’s your idea of helping me? Don’t do unnecessary things.”
“We wouldn’t have let her in normally, you know? For the past two weeks, she’s been requesting a meeting with you at the front gate every day, we couldn’t just leave her.”
Two weeks had passed since the expedition troops had returned home. Although it was safe to say it was all over, it only truly hit home after Erika visited to say her thanks.
If more people in the world were like Erika, then the world would surely be filled with compassion.
Although the probability of my death would also spike along with it.
“Leaving sweet Erika-chan all alone like that…”
“Shut up already. In the first place I’m supposed to be under house arrest, I shouldn’t have been able to meet her.”
“Usually you are, but today’s the day your verdict is decided.”
“…I didn’t hear about any of this.”
“Of course, because I only told you right now-”
This time I threw out a high kick to his face, but this one was blocked as well.
I clicked my tongue.
“Tell me about such things sooner, idiot.”
“It’s okay, you don’t have to worry about anything. I properly explained everything at the conference room, about how you successfully defeated the Empire’s army alone, drastically reducing the number of casualties among the Order as a result.”
Instead of a punishment, won’t you be receiving a reward? Cody cheerfully added.
But in reality, I could only see that as a flag statement.
(Idiot, don’t start planting flags right after I worked so hard to avoid one.)
At that moment when I retorted in my head, I had received my flag in a record time.
A voice called out to me from behind.
…bastard, who’re you?
“I’m the representative from the conference room, and you’re Harold Stokes, correct?”
“… I was told that you were under house arrest.”
“This was only temporary, I’ll be returning immediately.”
“No, that’s no longer necessary.”
The man from the conference room told me to wait where I was.
He then took out a parchment from a cylinder container that had a string hanging from its bottom. Opening it up so that I could easily see it, he read out its contents.
A desperate situation was written there.
『Harold Stokes, the aforementioned is hereby sentenced to execution by beheading. On suspicions of being a foreign spy, and for withholding information on the Imperial Army’s raid, he shall be punished as a traitor, as the one who forfeited the lives of those who could have been saved.』
“This is our official decision. The punishment shall be carried out one week from now, and until then you shall be detained in the prison held beneath the conference room. Come.”
After overcoming the biggest crisis I had ever experienced, an oversized death flag was waiting for me.
Translated by KuroInfinity. Written by Izumi (泉).
A/N: This is the end of part two. Next chapter will be the start of part three.