―― Five years ago .
It was the 933’rd year of the Loiza calendar, in the Amagir kingdom .
A few hours after it was decided that Harold would be decapitated and he was forced to the jail in the tribunal’s basement, Cody was standing in Vincent’s office .
【”Why the hell does Harold need to be executed?!”】
Cody pressed the question on the office’s owner . His face was unusually sour .
But even the one who was being pressed, Vincent, had a sour and distorted face, as if he had just eaten a bug .
【”Except for me, everyone agreed with this judgement, including the commander, Mr . Cox . They haven’t even checked the facts yet, the sentence is just too heavy…”】
Harold certainly had some strange points to him and he was suspected of being a spy, too . But still, this time’s judgement had jumped over too many steps, and it would be hard for anyone to say that it was very just .
【”… . . What you’re saying is that someone put the squeeze on the judges?”】
【”I’m afraid that’s the case . To stop Harold’s execution, we’ll have to find that person . ”】
Although Vincent had his thoughts concerning Harold, he didn’t think he committed a crime deserving of being killed . He gave Cody a rough report on the circumstances .
His suspicions might not have been completely dispelled, but he still was against the execution .
【”So the deadline is in one week…”】(Cody)
There was too little time . Asking him to look for the one pulling the strings in such a short time period was like asking him to find a needle in a haystack . Besides, finding the puppet master wouldn’t necessarily stop him .
However, if he didn’t do it, Harold would die . Then, even if it seemed impossible, any plan was a good plan .
Though Cody and his friends enthusiastically started making their moves, the situation took a turn for the worst the very next day .
After his execution was decided, some bad rumors concerning Harold started spreading within the knight order and they reached the streets in no time . Moreover, the contents of the deliberations had been maliciously twisted, with no regard for the facts .
From this, Cody was convinced that someone was trying to kill Harold . And so, the right atmosphere for the execution had been installed .
Once it got to that point, Harold’s bad reputation had naturally reached a certain girl’s ears .
【”I deeply apologize for my repeated sudden visits . ”】
Said Erica, Harold’s fiance, with a bow . She had paid a visit to Cody once again .
Her motives were clear . It was about the veracity of Harold’s execution and the malicious rumors, the source of which was unknown .
Honest as he was, Cody hadn’t quite grasped the situation so there weren’t many things he could talk about . Harold was sentenced to decapitation, that was the truth, but Erica was his fiancee and she was still a child, so he was extremely troubled over whether he should tell her or not .
In the mean time, since she was a guest, he led Erica to the same guest room as the day before . Upon entering inside, her female attendant took position in a corner of the room without uttering a word .
Sitting face to face with Erica, Cody immediately cut to the chase .
【”How can I help you today… . you don’t want to hear that, right?”】
【”Yes . I’d like you to tell me what is Harold-sama’s situation and what has the tribunal decided”】
【”… . . Frankly speaking, his situation is very bad . Do you still want to hear?”】
【”Yes, if you please”】
Erica answered without a tinge of hesitation . She had assumed the worst .
An amazing reaction for a girl her age .
【”First of all, it’s no lie that the he was sentenced to decapitation . If nothing is done, in six days, Harold will be executed . ”】
With Cody’s words, Erica closed her eyelids to gather her senses and she let out a light breath .
Next, she calmly opened her eyes, and looked straight at Cody .
【”…… “If nothing is done”, you said, does that mean there is something we can do about it?”】
The girl facing Cody had kept her calm and read through the real meaning hidden behind his words .
As expected of Harold’s fiancee, she’s quite direct, he thought .
【”Sorry for raising your expectations but I can’t definitively say that there is . It’s a very bad gamble . ”】
【”It doesn’t matter as long as there is even just a glimmer of hope of saving Harold-sama . ”】
She didn’t understand the desperate circumstances but that didn’t mean she didn’t accept them . Even after taking on all the facts, she didn’t waver and she only thought about saving Harold .
Cody searched for presences in the surroundings to confirm that nobody was listening in .
It should be all right to tell her .
【”Normally, it would be impossible to overturn the tribunal’s decision . But this time’s deliberation is far from normal . ”】
Cody told Erica the details of the matter without concealing anything .
He told her about how the judgement was too rushed . About how Harold’s words and actions had been completely ignored while, on the contrary, the execution had been pushed forward .
Listening to that, the faces of Erica and her attendant gradually became stiff .
【”…… This is the situation Harold has been put in . There is definitely someone who’s trying to kill Harold . ”】(Cody)
【”Who is it?”】(Erica)
【”Sorry to say but…”】(Cody)
Cody shook his head left and right looking desperate .
He was ashamed to admit it, but he really had no idea who it was .
【”But we need to search for that person using the time we have left . However, even if we manage to find them, there is no guarantee that that will save Harold . ”】
If he had to be frank, they were actually in a state of checkmate . It was close to impossible to turn the tide at this point .
But perhaps because she didn’t know that, Erica did not give in to sorrow and despair .
【”In that case, we need to start moving immediately . Cody-sama, who were the ones who held the discussions?”】
【”Huh? Well, if I’m not mistaken there were six members of the tribunal, adding to that was the commander of the knight order, the vice-commander, and three commanding officers of the expeditionary units . Among them, only the vice-commander opposed the execution . ”】
The odd number of members of the deliberation were to be gathered, and to then vote after having multiple discussions . Nine people is the maximum number of members per discussion .
A sentence being given after only two weeks for such a serious deliberation was abnormal .
【”And what’s your standpoint, Cody-sama?”】
【”To be honest, it’s in my principles to bet on the winning horse . But this time only I’m ready to serve a losing battle . ”】
Cody smiled wryly in embarrassment . Seeing that, Erica displayed a light smile .
Has she gained some faith in me? He wondered .
【”Well then, would you please give me a list of those who agreed with the execution? It’s enough if you give me their names, their posts and their careers . ”】
【”I can prepare that but… . ”】
【”Then please do . Yuno, go prepare the boat for boarding . I’ll catch up afterwards . ”】
Erica gave her instructions without hesitation . Her attendant bowed her head and hurriedly left .
As for Cody, he told Erika to【”Please wait a moment”】and went back to his room . There, was a pile of documents among which was a list of the court’s judges .
He went back to the guest room and handed it to Erica .
【”There you go . So, what are you planning to do?”】
【”… . It’s difficult for me to admit it, but I don’t have the power to change the situation . I’ll deliver this list to my father and I’ll have him appeal for a withdrawal of the judgement and a retrial . ”】
The current head of the Sumeragi family, Task Sumeragi . Even among the people of the Royal capital, there are many who know the name . His influence is not to be compared to that of an average noble .
If the Sumeragi family raises its voice loud enough, other nobles will follow suit . And to the question of whether that would enough to overturn the judgement, the answer is no .
【”Also, in parallel to that, we’ll do a background check on the members of the discussions . We have no other choice than to investigate as much as possible about who they had contact with before the verdict was given . The time will not be enough to trace back to the source of the bad rumors…”】
【”Leave that part to me . Because some stories are only caught by the citizens’ personal information network . Even thought I might not look the part, I have quite a lot of influence among the town’s people . ”】
Usually, during his daily patrols, the times he skipped on his work during what he titled as breaks, he would stop by various shops to get some gifts .
Thanks to that, though he was never spoken well of, Cody had vast connections with the citizens of the king capital when compared to the other knights .
【”The vice-commander Vincent will investigate the Commander . It’s fine to leave it to him, he can do it . ”】
If they left it to Vincent, then he’d somehow manage to obtain some information . Cody trusted that .
Having likely perceived that, Erica also approved .
【”So, Vincent will be responsible for the commander, and I’ll investigate on the troops’ commanding officers and the source of the bad rumors . ”】
【”The Sumeragi house will put its whole into investigating and persuading the remaining members of the deliberations . ”】
At last, they had confirmed each other’s roles . They had included Vincent who was absent, but Cody deemed it wouldn’t be a problem as long as he got his ex-post-facto approval .
In any case, the Rescue Harold Alliance had just been formed . And they weren’t likely to get any sleep for a week .
【”Well then, I must get going . Thanks a lot for your cooperation, Cody-sama”】
【”Ah, hold on”】
Unable to control his impetuous mood, Cody called Erica to a halt . Perhaps he was meddling in things that were none of his business, but this alone he wanted to do .
【”It would be too much of me to tell you to not be impatient, but still, don’t be afraid . Even if things are still hopeless by the end, I’ll just have to barge into the tribunal to save him, I’ll attract the attention of those who have some leeway and sharpen their views . ”】(Tln: Not sure about the last part)
【”If you do such a thing, won’t you be removed from the knight order, Cody-sama?”】
【”If that happens, please employ me at the Sumeragi house . I am fairly confident in my sword skills so I’ll be quite useful”】
【”Hehe, is that so? If that time does come, I’ll discuss it with my father . ”】
She gave a smile that would enchant any observer regardless of age or gender . Cody might have managed to relax Erica’s tension ever so slightly .
When she was told about Harold’s situation, only her face was calm, her hands were tightened to the point of turning white . She felt desperately hopeless and anxious of losing Harold .
Her shoulders were faintly shaking, as well .
It felt like she was going to madly rush ahead while closing her eyes in order to shake off her fear of attacking .
However, she had to stay calm to save Harold .
The means of escape were too narrow and awfully unreliable . Entrusting this to brute force would not cut it .
【”Please hold on to these emotions”】(Tln: And not sure about this either)
【”Yes . Thank you”】
Erica slowly bowed and withdrew from the guest room . This time, she had left for good .
【”…She’s a strong kid . ”】
Cody spontaneously let out those words in the room where he was left by himself .
it wasn’t an external kind of strength like the ability to fight, rather, it was the internal strength of a solid heart that goes through one’s soul .
One could only wonder how much care she had for Harold, and yet she tried to keep calm even when a person that dear to her fell in such an awful predicament . Or perhaps it was precisely because he was in such a predicament .
It was hard to grasp for Cody .
For Harold’s sake and Erica’s, he would absolutely free him . Such a thought boiled up in him . And if that meant he would be banned from the knight order, then it was all the better .
There was something resounding in his heart, telling him to to confront the cruel reality without backing away .
【”Well, helping children who try their best is what adults are for”】
Could that be what being a parent felt like? Suddenly having such reflections, Cody had goosebumps .