From such a trifling matter, Cody had just realized he was getting old, but he didn’t have the time to dwell on it .
After seeing Erica off, he immediately started making his moves .
What came first was contacting the commanding officer of the expeditionary units, Finnegan . Unfortunately, he wasn’t well acquainted with the man who once was his company commander .
Therefore, Cody shifted through his relationships looking for a common friend between the commanding officer and himself, which made him think of Walsh, an acquaintance of Finnegan who held a position of equal standing as that of a company commander . He decided to ask for his help .
He didn’t make any grand request of him . Walsh was just asked to invite Finnegan to go to Cody’s usual bar on that evening .
Although Walsh had some doubts and specified that Cody would have to pay the whole bill as a condition, he accepted without prying too deeply . Perhaps he trusted Cody’s character .
In the mean time, Cody, who had cut a deal, immediately readied himself to make his next move before the appointed time, but he was called to a halt .
【”C, captain Cody… . ”】
The three who stopped him were Robinson, Sid and Ellen . They were wearing thoughtful expressions, unfit of their usually lively selves .
He had roughly guessed their purpose, but he still took it upon himself to ask .
【”Hmm? What do you want?”】
【”…is it true that Harold is going to be executed?”】
Said Sid nervously . And Cody confirmed his worries .
【”It seems like it . ”】
【”… . . –!”】
The three gasped together .
It might have been for a short time but they had belonged to the same unit, therefore they were likely to have some thoughts on the situation . If it was only about Harold getting executed, they would probably have voiced their opposition loud and clear .
However, they had seen him . They had seen him turn the major-general into a slab of meat while his own body was covered in wounds, and they had seen the cold-blooded eyes that he would turn at his enemies .
A pair of eyes filled with pure killing intent the likes of which even Cody had hardly ever seen . Being affected by that, and memorizing the fear it had brought was unavoidable .
Especially for Robinson and the other two, who didn’t have much experience in actual combat .
【”… I don’t want Harold to die . But I just can’t forget the scene from that day…”】
【”The one we saw at that time was not the Harold that we know… . ”】
【”Tell us Captain, which one is the true Harold?”】
The three didn’t know how to face him .
The usual Harold, and the Harold from the Vertice forest . Having faced the two versions, they couldn’t be blamed for being confused .
【”What? How would I know?”】
However, that was Cody’s reply .
His answer was so casual that it threw off the three, leaving them with their eyes wide open, unable to add another word .
Cody continued his words to instruct them .
【”As if you could guess what Harold is like after knowing him for no more than a few months . That’s quite superficial of you, isn’t it?”】
Perhaps his claim was too blunt and perfunctory .
But his eyes were serious .
【”So, you can only judge him based on what you’ve personally felt and seen . If I told you to give up on Harold’s life, would you consent to the execution? And would you stay true to that choice to the very end even when you’re asked for help as sparks of fire fall on his body?”】
Whether they resign to the judgement or they oppose it, if they make that choice under the influence of other people’s words, there will be a time when they’ll regret it .
Robinson and the others are knights, before all else . They need to carry out their own justice .
【”So, what will you do? And remember, the criteria here is whether having faith in Harold will allow you to have faith in yourselves or not, alright?”】
While the three found themselves unable to say anything, Cody saw his chance to take his leave .
There were no lies in the words he had just offered them . Sparing the ones who were not resolute enough from getting involved was his own peculiar way of being considerate .
Whether or not that was carried across to them however was not certain .
Well, it’s probably fine, Cody told himself as he switched his mood . Sometimes you just have to get involved .
Having parted ways with Robinson and the others, Cody headed to his usual bar where Walsh and Finnegan were supposed to visit . He asked the shopkeeper there if he didn’t mind cooperating with something .
It wasn’t anything especially difficult . He just wanted an opportunity to spill a drug in a drink of his own choice . Of course, he wasn’t going to make someone drink poison or some other dangerous thing .
It was a medicine that had some slight traits of a truth serum, with no negative effects on the body . By nature its effects are weak, but it’s intended for making someone spill information after getting them drunk .
However, although the one asking was his good friend Cody, the storekeeper did not bend easily, which was a matter of course since the request’s contents were utterly suspicious . Cody told him it was for a top secret internal investigation that had to been done through forcible means .
In the end, the shopkeeper was coaxed by Cody’s eloquence .
Afterwards, putting on a show of patrolling the town, he paid visits to people who were well informed about the local rumors and people who had intelligence networks in the king’s capital . He asked them about any substantial information they might have had, like if anything unusual had happened in the surroundings of those who had participated in determining Harold’s punishment .
Meanwhile, the sun had made way for the moon .
Cody temporarily returned to the troops’ barracks . He threw away his inconspicuous armor, switching it with plain garments more fit of the streets, and he headed to the bar once again . He sat down on a suitable seat and awaited the arrival of Walsh and his friend .
After that, within less than 30 minutes, Cody’s expected visitors showed up . Their eyes only met for a moment but it was enough for Walsh to make an overall guess as he lead Finnegan to sit back to back with Cody .
That way, he was able hear their conversation .
Well, though he strained his ears to listen, at first they just kept on rambling .
It’s been a while since we he last had a drink together . The wife won’t stop nagging me lately . Don’t you have children yet? You should hurry and get married already . And so on .
However, the calm atmosphere was inversely proportional to Finnegan’s drinking pace . Perhaps he had some pent-up anger to release .
An hour after they started drinking, Finnegan’s articulation started turning clumsy .
Seeing his chance to act, Cody parted from his seat and invited Walsh to follow him to the counter with a hand sign . There, he whispered to him while including the shopkeeper to the conversation .
【”Alright, he should be drunk enough, let’s start the plan . ”】
【”Hold on . What plan?”】
Walsh, who was only told to invite Finnegan there for a drink, promptly interjected . He was seriously lacking explanations .
【”Well, it’s nothing difficult . I just want you to ask him a question ―― and make him drink this”】
Cody unwrapped a paper he took from his breast pocket and stealthily dropped some white powder inside an ale that the shopkeeper had put on the counter .
The powder melted without a sound .
Walsh seemed to understand what it was .
【”Hey wait, that’s… . ”】(Walsh)
【”Could you keep that to yourself and have him drink this? Oh, also, please clear out the room”】(Cody)
While sighing, the shopkeeper left the counter and went from seat to seat to inform the clients that he was closing up shop early .
Though it was going to affect the sales, he would make up for it later with the help of his colleagues and subordinates .
【”So, what is it you want to know?”】
【”There is that one subordinate of mine who is likely going to have his head sliced off because of an inexplicable judgement . I want to learn the truth of the matter from the people who were involved in the deliberations . ”】
【”Even if you do that, you can’t overrule the decision of the council . ”】
【”I’m well aware of that . It’s just some useless resistance on my part . ”】
If this didn’t go well, he would have to seriously consider joining Erica, as she had half-jokingly suggested to him .
He wanted to help Harold, no matter what it entailed, Cody’s intentions were that genuine . Having felt that, Walsh did not attempt to stop him .
【”But you could end up in some serious trouble, too . If you overlook this situation, you might get caught, you know? Don’t you mind that?”】(Cody)
【”Hah…… shut the hell up and mind your own business, will you? I just have to ask him about that deliberation, is that it?”】
【”Oh man, a friend in need is a friend indeed, am I right?”】
【”Maybe I should go home after all”】
【”Wait, I was just kidding!”】
For Cody, getting Walsh’s cooperation was the ideal scenario .
And so, Cody told Walsh which questions he wanted him to ask .
While they held that conversation, Cody and the others soon became the only four people left in the shop . But in his drunkenness, Finnegan did not seem to be aware of his surroundings as he inclined his glass little by little .
The preparations for the interrogation were complete .
Walsh, who had received the ale mixed with the medicine, placed it in front of Finnegan .
【”There you go”】
Finnegan sluggishly turned his eyes to the drink and tasted it without an ounce of suspicion . He drank a third in a single gulp .
Then, after waiting long enough for the medicine to start taking effect, Walsh asked him .
【”That thing the other day was really terrible . ”】
【”… . . terrible?”】
【”You were commander of the expedition, right? Who could have seen that coming”】
【”That thing… . ”】
He muttered, feeling terribly dispirited . He did not want to recall the events of the Vertice forest which had brought so many casualties .
But even though Finnegan was slow of speech, Walsh had to strike while the iron was hot as the liquor and medicine were taking effect . It was too good of an opportunity to pass on .
【”It seems like one of those recruits is going to receive the capital punishment for treason, but, what did the guy do?”】(Walsh)
【”I haven’t actually seen it, but in the report it’s said that he ignored his superior’s orders and escaped in front of the enemy . He’s also suspected of being a spy for wearing a military uniform from the empire . ”】(Walsh)
【”Hmm . Well, disobeying the superior’s orders and running from the enemy is not unusual for new recruits, so it must be the spy charges . I’m pretty sure that’s what lead to the decision of giving him the capital punishment”】(Walsh)
【”No… . . ”】(Finnegan)
While Finnegan was completely lost about what to answer, his eyes gradually turned blank under the effect of the medicine .
【”No we didn’t decide that… But that person said Harold was dangerous . Therefore, so that he wouldn’t kill my wife, for Cynthia’s life… . ”】
It wasn’t just the alcohol speaking .
Finnegan’s tone became uncertain .
【”Who said it? Dangerous in what way? That has nothing to do with you wife, right?”】(Walsh)
【”…ah yes, it’s not related to her… But still, it’s no good . Harold being alive is no good . I could have opposed the judgement, but my child will soon be born… . . So, I had to… . ”】
Finnegan’s state rapidly turned odd . His words were incoherent, and his atmosphere was strange overall .
Had the medicine worked too well? As Walsh wondered that, Finnegan suddenly stood up . The chair he was sitting on fell backwards from the power of his brusque move .
【”… . . ah, aaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAH! AAAAAH!”】
Bizarre . As he let out a voice that could only be described as such, Finnegan started running . He ran up to one of the shop’s supporting pillars, grabbed the massive log with both of his hands and began striking his head on it .
As he raised his strange voice as loud as he could, he kept striking again and again until blood started streaming down from his forehead .
Thereupon, Cody and Walsh finally came back to their senses and went to stop the sudden act of violence .
【”What are you doing?!”】
The duo pulled him from both sides to stop him from inuring himself . Even so, Finnegan was violently swinging his head left and right as he continued letting out that bizarre voice .
Despite being restrained by two strong men like Cody and Walsh, he kept resisting for more than five minutes .
However, that resistance suddenly ended . And Finnegan abruptly lost consciousness .
Cody put the exhausted body face up and hurriedly checked his pulse and breathing .
The three let out deep sighs of relief .
For the time being, they had to treat his wounds, so Cody instructed the shopkeeper to fetch some cloths and bandages in the shop . Nobody there could use healing magic .
In any case, he wouldn’t be able to hear him out today . Though his injury itself seemed pretty light, they didn’t know about the insides of his head, so he had to be hospitalized for several days .
The shopkeeper had gone out, and for a short while, no sound could be heard in the room . As if he couldn’t bear this anymore, Walsh broke the silence .
【”What just happened?”】
【”…… I don’t know . All I can tell is that it can’t really be justified by the medicine’s effects . ”】
There was no illusion or confusion factor in the medicine he made Finnegan drink . And drinking it with sake was fine as well .
【”The Finnegan from earlier was nothing like his usual self…”】
【”I know right? It’s as if he was “possessed by a demon” . ”】
A demon . It was his frank opinion regarding Finnegan’s actions .
However, those words he so casually spoke, gave Cody a very bad feeling .