Chapter 22: 014. Imperial Prince is Toiling Away -3 (Part Two)
Early next morning, Paladin Harman, who was tasked with escorting the Imperial Prince to the Ronia fiefdom, got right down to preparatory work.
He stared at the ‘Priests’ standing before his eyes and deeply furrowed his brows.
There were a total of eighty of them. And every single one of them was a ‘sly-as-fox’ type. The entire group consisted of either those currently being punished by the Humite Academy located in the central part of the Continent, or were Priests who got caught ‘cheating’ on the job.
Harman shifted his gaze.
Among these miscreants was the Imperial Prince, ‘Allen Olfolse’, currently shivering away from the cold. He’s the seventh grandson of the Holy Emperor, and the ‘mangnani’ who tried to rape the granddaughter of an Archbishop.
He was the worst out of this ragtag bunch of miscreants.
His infamy being widely acknowledged throughout the Continent was no exaggeration, either. Thanks to this boy, even the great Holy Emperor had to suffer from severe bouts of migraine.
‘He doesn’t seem to have changed at all.’
Back in the monastery, Harman saw a girl near the Imperial Prince who was there with an excuse of training to become a nun. The boy also began drooling over the feudal lord’s maidservant as soon as arriving in the fortress, too.
Harman swore inwardly that, once this crisis was over, he’d send his full report back to His Majesty the Holy Emperor, and grill that silver-haired ‘nun’ for the whole truth.
He’d ask her, “Were you forced into this position by the Imperial Prince?”
– Well, he’s… He’s changed a lot, actually.
This was what Paladin Harman had heard from the villagers while investigating the ‘Witch Morgana’ incident.
During this simple follow-up inquiry, he got to hear more about the young prince rather than the subject of his investigation, the dead witch.
– Haven’t you also noticed it, sir Paladin? He changed a lot ever since that suicide attempt three months ago. I’m not sure if it’s due to the mental shock, or maybe because he lost his memories. But regardless of what, it’s as if he turned over a new leaf.
Sure, the boy had really changed.
When Harman paid him a visit back in the beginning of the banishment, the Imperial Prince tried to kick him in the nuts. And then, while complaining about the pain in his leg, the boy picked up a farming tool and tried to stab the Paladin with that.
It was none other than Harman himself who subdued the irate boy and then locked him up in his room, telling him to repent by praying, while drinking only water as his punishment.
Well, His Majesty the Holy Emperor gave his express permission to Harman, telling the knight to do whatever he saw fit, so what he did was fine. Hell, he was even told that, as long as the boy remained breathing, it’d be alright to break his arms and legs, too.
– He’s been doing a wonderful job as the gravekeeper here. And when the zombie horde appeared, he was the first one to step up and hunt them down, too. And then…
The villagers all told him similar stories with warm smiles on their faces.
– He protected us. Most importantly, he didn’t take a break or even rest once as he sincerely performed the funeral rites of our loved ones. If you can’t feel gratitude and only feel hatred for a person like him, then you’re not a human being but a trash who doesn’t know what kindness really is.
Paladin Harman couldn’t help but deeply frown again after recalling those words.
That testimony made no bloody sense. The Imperial Prince actually hunted zombies down? He personally stepped forward to take down zombies when he used to get so scared by the sight of a single mouse…?
And also, he turned over a new leaf? You’d only say that when the person at fault finally realized his past mistakes and repented for them.
Just because the Prince was suffering from amnesia didn’t mean his record was wiped clean. It wasn’t as if he was absolved of all of his past transgressions.
‘He’s probably using the excuse of amnesia as a pretext to return to the Imperial Palace.’
There was a good possibility that he requested the villagers to tell a matching tale based around the opportune happenstance of the Witch Morgana incident. The odds were high. He could be trying to create a way to return to the Imperial Palace by using the achievement of capturing a witch.
However, there was something off about that explanation.
Morgana the Witch had already decimated several other villages in the past. Even if she was a Necromancer known to be weak against close-quarter battles, she couldn’t have been so weak that the mere villagers were able to overpower and beat her half to death.
The Black Order was an organization that fostered assassins. An agent of such an Order wouldn’t get caught by measly villagers just because she got careless.
It also didn’t mean that the Imperial Prince was responsible for capturing the witch, though. Perhaps that farmer named Gril wasn’t exaggerating, but actually quite strong.
Even though his older age posed an issue, but well, Harman figured that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to write a letter of recommendation, so that Gril could take the apprentice Paladin selection test later.
Harman shifted his gaze back to Imperial Prince Allen once more.
The boy pulled his cheap blanket around him even tighter, his dissatisfaction towards the cold weather clearly written on his face. He then shot a glare back at Harman that seemed to say, “What are you looking at?!”
‘Yes, he doesn’t appear to have changed at all.’
The Imperial Prince, who loved fooling around with a woman even before the eyes of his monitor, resembled a local hoodlum. This was how the boy acted before Harman, so what kind of even more sacrilegious acts would he be involved in when no one was looking?
‘However… just what happened yesterday?’
During the previous evening, Imperial Prince Allen had a short meeting with the local feudal lord and got himself a room. Not too long after he entered it, something inside exploded.
Even if the boy was a ‘mangnani’, he was still the grandson of His Majesty, the one Harman swore his undying loyalty to.
The Prince might have been exiled, but he was also under Harman’s protection, so if something untoward happened to the boy during his watch then it’d be akin to deeply disappointing that one person he swore his allegiance to.
This was why he tried to break the door down and enter the room, but to his surprise, Prince Allen was fine, and even more surprisingly, the boy actually pushed Harman out of the room.
But in that very brief moment, he saw it. He saw a large hole in the wall. It was a hole that featured the unique signs of a magical attack that no swords, spears, or arrows could make.
‘Just what was that?’
Was the Prince responsible for creating that head-sized hole?
If so, how?
There was no way that the Imperial Prince was in possession of such a powerful magical skill or even a dangerous artifact.
And, with a monitor like himself around, he couldn’t have secretly mastered new magic too. There were magic grimoires and sword training manuals left behind in the monastery’s library, but not only did that fool of a prince not peruse them once, none of those books were low-classed enough for an amateur to master them in the span of only a few months, either.
‘Could it be that he found a suspicious item inside the Necromancer’s cave?’
If that was the case, then things could become rather dangerous. He should go through the Prince’s belongings later.
Paladin Harman shifted his gaze away toward the soldiers next.
They were wearing rags as their attire, but were also fitted with quite thick cloth armors too. Indeed, they weren’t just regular soldiers, but convicts dispatched to the Ronia fiefdom. Next to each of these people was a large rucksack, a shovel, and a water canteen.
If they managed to survive the winter here, then their sentences would be either reduced, or they could even become free men. This method was necessary to maintain a steady stream of combat personnel for this cruel and unforgiving Sacrificial Castle, as well as to suppress the convicts themselves.
Of course, if someone wished to rebel, then…
“Uht?! Hey, that guy’s running away!”
One of the convicts that arrived recently in the fiefdom tried to escape in a hurry. The ‘real’ soldiers fired their arrows and killed the escapee without a shred of hesitation. The remaining convicts witnessed this sight and shrunk back from the shock.
What happened just now was the fate awaiting those who dared to resist.
If you obediently endured the winter year after year, then your crimes would slowly be washed away. On the flip side, you’d be executed on the spot if you rebelled regardless of how big or small your original crime was.
Because their role was to serve as sacrifices and decrease the rage of the undead so it didn’t matter whether you were alive or not. The convicts were nothing more than expendable pawns.
The convicts stared at the dead escapee with tense expressions on their faces.
Paladin Harman then spoke up, “What are you all doing? Get rid of the corpse and distribute the uniforms!”
This was merely the beginning.
Between the beginning of the winter and 25th of December, the date when the Necromancer King died, countless undead would descend upon this fortress.
The living had to build a stronghold here in preparation for that, and then, eliminate the waves of the undead, thereby stopping them from spreading to the rest of the Continent.
Harman lifted up a rucksack and tossed it to Imperial Prince Allen Olfolse.
“This contains a special medical uniform designed to ward off the plague, your highness. Please put it on and join the other Priests in their tasks.”
The young Prince frowned heavily, perhaps not liking what Harman had just told him. However, this sight only reaffirmed the Paladin’s beliefs.
Just as he thought… the prince’s dissatisfied glare hadn’t changed at all.
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