My Death Flags Show No Sign of Ending - Chapter 106
“They’re sound asleep.”
Cody muttered, looking through the half-open door of the room by the living room, where Sarah and Mihai were sleeping together on one bed. Given that it was nearing midnight, it wasn’t strange for them to be in bed, but they had been sleeping for eight hours already.
As predicted, their malnourished bodies must have undergone a great strain.
【”Humph, that’s what they get for becoming so engrossed in playing right after having their meal.”】
【”You’re saying that, but didn’t you play with them?”】
【”I only did it because they wouldn’t quiet down.”】
Perhaps because of how happy they were after eating their meals, not only Mihai but also Sarah seemed to have grown fond of Harold. They had opened up to him so much that once they finally grew tired of playing, they ended up falling asleep against him.
They hadn’t woke up since then. Just in case they woke up, Harold prepared and served their dinner, but at this rate, their meals might become tomorrow’s breakfast.
【”It’s not very persuasive to say that while you’re preparing snacks, you know?”】
【”I’m just killing time.”】
The truth was that Harold and Cody had nothing to do until Finegan’s wife came back home. Therefore, when Cody complained that he was a little hungry, Harold used this free time to prepare something light for both of them to eat.
That being said, all he actually did was cut thick slices of dried meat that were cooked on the surface and seasoned with pepper. This was so simple that even Sarah would be able to do it.
Normally, he would accompany this type of snack with some Sake, but he was not crazy enough to down drinks in a stranger’s house on his own accord. Instead, he decided to make do with the vegetable soup he prepared at noon. It was lightly-seasoned, so it did not go well with the very salty flavor of the dried meat at all.
Afterward, Harold had to deal with the shenanigans of Cody who repeatedly poked fun at him, until he felt the presence of someone outside.
【”Huh? How’d you know?”】
【”I can feel the presence of a person dragging her steps towards here. I’m certain it’s her.”】
【”Say, aren’t you stepping away from the rest of us humans way too fast?”】
【”Whatever, just hurry and go meet her.”】
Pressed by Harold, Cody went to the front door of the house. Rather than wait inside for her, it was probably safer to have Cody greet her at the door. Even then, he would probably still look suspicious. Suddenly finding a stranger in her home would shock her, causing her to become vigilant no matter what. But Cody could at least keep her from making a fuss by telling her that he was her husband’s former coworker.
The problem was that Harold, not satisfied with just entering the house, had gone as far as borrowing the kitchen out of boredom. He entrusted the explanation of that part to Cody’s glib tongue. It was a more important role to assign to him than just assisting with the cooking.
While his thoughts were going all over the place, Harold sat down and waited for Cody to return with the lady of the house.
After a few minutes, Harold and Finegan’s wife finally met.
【”Very nice to meet you, my name is Cynthia.”】
【”I’m Harold Stokes.”】
【”Sorry, he’s not the sociable type. Still, he’s not a bad guy, trust me.”】
【”It’s fine… So, anyway, you wanted to talk about my husband?”】
She probably had some suspicions about this abrupt situation, but thankfully, she pushed the conversation right ahead. This testified to her desperation in finding any hint of hope to her husband’s condition.
Harold directed his gaze towards Cody with a look that said, “Explain the situation in my stead”. His own mouth was not suited for explaining things, especially not during first meetings. Catching on to Harold’s thoughts, Cody began talking.
【”I’ll be direct. We might have found a way to improve Finegan’s condition.”】
【”I-Is that true?!”】
【”Yes. But there is no guarantee.”】
Cody implied that there was a possibility of complete failure. Harold looked at him, thinking, “He can be unexpectedly serious when he wants to, huh.”
Well, as a man holding an authoritative position within the reputed organization of the saint knight order, he naturally could adapt his speech to any situation.
However, the one who was abnormal here was Harold, whose mouth could only speak harsh and arrogant words whenever he spoke to anyone in any situation, save for his parents.
【”…How much will it cost?”】
Cynthia’s words pulled Harold out of his train of thoughts. Indeed, one would not normally assume that such a treatment could be offered free of charge. That was especially true for those who led difficult lives.
However, Cody was not that cold. He was a man with a more or less proper personality; he was not going to make any absurd requests. With that conviction, Harold stuck detachedly to the role of a listener. That is until Cody started looking towards him.
【”What? If you’ve got something to say, say it clearly.”】
【”It’s not that I have something to say. It’s just that we wouldn’t be able to do this without your sword, so it’s up to you to decide.” 】
【”The hell are you on about? I’m just here to lend a weapon. “】
For Harold, finding out whether he could successfully remove Justus’ brainwashing from Finnegan would be an adequate reward. A few other questions lingered on his mind, but now was not the time to address them.
In short, Harold was telling Cody to decide on his own.
【”Well then, I guess… You don’t really have to pay anything for the treatment. It’s fine.”】
【”How could I do such a thing! If you manage to cure my husband, how could I offer nothing in return?”】
【”Well, I mean, I see your point but, you know…”】
The reason Cody was being evasive was that, even though he said it was going to be free, the treatment was going to eat away some of Finegan’s lifespan.
However, if he explained that to her, Cynthia might have the common reflex of refusing the treatment on the spot. Even if she did accept, it was not easy to put a price on a life-saving debt. Cody was having a visibly hard time coming up with an answer. Meanwhile, Harold was wondering how he himself would go about persuading her.
Harold understood Cynthia’s feelings, but he did not want to pointlessly waste time on this. He planned to promptly try the treatment on Finegan and to then bring back the results, be they good or bad, to Cody and Cynthia. He had already made his decision.
【”If I give you a price now, you think the likes of you would have the money to pay? Or perhaps you’re thinking of giving something of value that would make up for the cost?”】
But when Harold tried to chime in to help persuade Cynthia, those were the words that came out.
Not to mention Cody and Cynthia, even Harold was left speechless by what had unintentionally escaped from his mouth; a mouth that did not understand the concept of subtlety.
Despite that, he knew the atmosphere would become too heavy and sink to the point of no return, if he kept his silence. While lamenting over his carelessness, Harold rode on the momentum of his previous words and continued speaking.
【”But you don’t have any of that, do you? And if you do somehow have a few meager savings, shouldn’t you be using them to get those brats of yours a decent meal for a change?”】
【”That’s… You’re right but…”】
【”Don’t run your mouth about things that you can’t do. I have no need for the gratitude of someone like you.”】
【”Harold, you’re going a bit too far.”】
【”I’m just pointing out the facts. You understand? You can either refuse the treatment or accept it free of charge, those are your only choices. It’s useless to think about any other options.”】
Unable to bear with the verbal violence, Cynthia hung her head in shame as tears ran down her cheeks.
Seeing that, Harold heard his conscience howl at him. But stopping the conversation there would only commit him to being nothing more than a high-handed bastard who spoke nasty words without purpose.
In a hurry to find a solution, Harold momentarily resolved to put a lid on their conversation and to make up for his words with his actions, instead. He stood up and scooped some of the still steamy vegetable soup into a bowl. He then placed the bowl in front of Cynthia, whose head still hung in shame.
【”Before you start running your mouth, drink this.”】
Although Cody and Cynthia seemed to be trying to decipher this sudden action, Harold simply thought that drinking something warm would help her calm down.
It was hard to tell if she understood his intentions, but she still had a taste of the soup.
【”Of course it is. I’m the one who made it.”】
【”You made this?”】
【”Yeah, and some other dishes, too.”】
Saying so, Harold grabbed the meals left from lunch and lined them up on the table. His movements were smooth and controlled as if he was a trained waiter.
At Harold’s pressing, Cynthia started eating.
【”How’s the taste of a decent meal?”】
【”…It’s delicious. It’s so delicious, it could make me cry…”】
(But you’re already crying…) Thought Harold, but he naturally kept that rude retort to himself.
Truthfully, Harold’s cooking was not exceptional. Setting aside professional cooks, his cooking couldn’t even compare to anything the vicinity’s housewives could make. The fact that his food was enough to bring Cynthia to tears attested to how impoverished the household was. On the other hand, Harold was unsure if her tears were for the meal or if they were the remnants of the tears she shed from shame earlier.
【”Right? Your brats were gleeful too when they ate this completely regular meal. They even cheered in joy when I bought them a mere bar of soap.”】
【”Why did you go that far for them? You said it yourself, we have nothing to repay you with…”】
If Harold could answer that he simply wanted the children to smile, he would instantly leave a good impression on Cynthia. Unfortunately, he was not such a good young man.
【”I did it on a whim. But it’s not like I have nothing to gain from this. There will be some benefits for me if the treatment succeeds.”】
Glancing at Cody’s face, he saw an expression that read “Wait, I didn’t hear about that.” Harold had withheld information of his goals from Cody because they weren’t related to him, but thinking back on that, the negotiations could have progressed much more smoothly if he just told him.
Though, it was too late for regrets.
【”That being the case, I felt like being generous this time. I am an aristocrat, I can grant you a favor just because I feel like it, and I can punish you just as easily.”】
Harold knew this was cruel to hear, but there was some truth to what he was saying.
【”We don’t have the same standings. If I want you to do something, you do it. You don’t get to choose. Get that through your thick skull.”】
Cynthia’s face turned grim.
Her expression revealed her anger towards the arrogant Harold, her misery from her own lack of power, and her resignation towards this cruel world where the weak were at the mercy of the strong.
But just when she was about to let those emotions overwhelm her and to yield to Harold’s words, a certain voice came to wake her up. It was the voice of none other than Harold, himself.
【”…However, if you’re not able to accept that, then make an oath right here. Swear that you’ll become strong enough to have your own free-will and to protect those you want to protect. If you can make that oath, I’ll lend you the money for the treatment.”】
【”Naturally, it will be expensive, much more so than you can afford. Knowing that, will you take a loan or will you leave me alone and let me do what I came here to do? Are you really ready to walk on a steep road and get what you want instead of waiting in vain to be fed like an abandoned bird hatchling?”】
In short, Harold was telling her to either accept the treatment free of charge and end things here or to take a loan and repay it later.
This was a malicious offer to make to a woman whose family was so poor that she couldn’t afford to take proper care of her household. Harold was well aware of that, but these were two choices he ultimately spun up as both he and his nasty mouth desired to quickly end things.
(Well, she’s probably going to pick the first option. It might hurt her emotionally but I’ll just let Cody take care of that.) That was what Harold was thinking as he waited for Cynthia’s answer.
【”…I understand. I accept your proposition.”】
【”Is that so? Then…”】
【”Yes, I will take the oath here. I shall become strong enough to protect my husband and my children. And no matter how long it will take me, I will repay this favor without fail.”】
Harold was dumbfounded.
(Huh? She picked the loan? Does she realize how hard that will be on her? )
While he was thinking that, Cynthia stood up from her chair, kneeled in front of him, and bowed her head.
【”I also swear my utmost loyalty to your noble self.”】
The atmosphere was no longer right for Harold to say that she need not go that far.
Faced with a development that derailed far from his aims, Harold mustered his best and coldly responded, “Humph, save those words for when your husband wakes up, if he does.” That was all he could do.
But this turn of events proved satisfactory in the end, since it would allow him to test the treatment on Finnegan without any delay.
【”Oh, I see what you did there. Take ‘A loan’ or leave you ‘Alone’. Nice pun.”】
For the time being, Harold stopped himself from screaming “I wasn’t making a pun, you moron!” at Cody who stood next to him and decided to step on his foot instead.