Chapter 23 015. Imperial Prince is Toiling Away -4 (Part One)
Chapter 23: 015. Imperial Prince is Toiling Away -4 (Part One)
I took a look at the rucksack the Termin*tor Paladin threw in my way.
The huge leather bag was filled with water and food, plus a sleeping bag and a shovel, rounded off with a strange-looking mask and the aforementioned medical personnel uniform.
This… was basically a soldier’s gear, minus the gun of course.
I shifted my gaze away.
What a cold wintery day it was.
The ‘Sacrificial Castle’ Ronia was slowly being submerged under the white snow and the convicts were busy shoveling away all that said snow. Next to them, I could see the real soldiers busy yelling out slogans and catchphrases while jogging in groups.
Not too far away, I saw other groups of convicts receiving their gear that included spears. At the same time, they were also getting all the rules drilled into their heads.
…This, this was without a shadow of doubt, a freaking army.
That’s right, a real, bonafide army base. Goddammit, why are you reminding me of that godforsaken Nonsan boot camp?! 
Holy sh*t! Oh, dear Gaia, why are you throwing me into this sort of trial? I’m wallowing in the pit of sorrow for having to do hard labour in my second life, and yet, you want me to join the army for the second time too? Are you that resentful of me, you cheapskate Goddess!
“F*ck me. If you’re putting me through this ordeal just because I swore at you once, then you’ll see. Imma slag you off for generations to come.”
Of course, I’d only do that sort of stuff in my head.
If the Goddess really existed and could hear me flipping her off, then an even worse misfortune might slap me in the face later.
Just like how magicians needed to chant their spells, Priests needed to worship, or even go as far as to exalt the deities they believed in. Doing that allowed them to display an even stronger level of divinity than they previously could.
When considering this simple point, you could say that gods really did exist in this world.
“It’s your overalls. Please put it on and join the other Priests in their tasks, your highness.”
I became utterly dismayed by what the Paladin said.
Sure, my status and power might have been temporarily taken away from me, but he actually dared to chuck a rucksack at an Imperial Prince?
Would you look at this crazy bastard?!
I heard that this guy was a pretty renowned vice-captain of the Theocratic Empire’s Paladin Corps.
I’m not sure how different the standards of this world and the South Korean militaries were, but this guy couldn’t be higher than, say, a measly lieutenant-colonel, or maybe even a colonel. However, seeing him focus only on me did give off the feeling of a non-commissioned officer somehow.
Hey, you! I’m the Holy Emperor’s grandson! If this was South Korea, I’d be like the son of the President entering the army. I don’t expect you to bend over backward for me, but still, how dare you…
“Your itinerary includes, from six in the morning till nine, construction of the fortress, maintenance of the graves, purification of the deceased, and…”
My dissatisfied glare was completely ignored by him as he continued to mouth off my schedule. Hearing him gave rise to this sense of anxiety in my heart.
There was always someone like this found in every field, wasn’t it?
– It doesn’t matter whose son you are. I’ll simply stick to the field manual.
…You could always find people with such a mindset everywhere.
Someone who didn’t care about looking good to those in power to advance their careers; they would stick rigorously to their set of beliefs and toil away!
Holy moly. I have such a powerful backer, and yet I won’t get to enjoy a smooth-sailing army life?
What the freaking hell. Hey, Theocratic Empire? Why aren’t you more corrupt? Please, do some of that military corruption thing already!
“Eh-whew, might as well forget about it.”
I spat out a lengthy groan and picked up the rucksack.
By the way… Hmm?
I turned my head to the side to look at a place a bit further away– the Ronia fiefdom’s city center. For some reason, I caught a disgusting whiff of a rotten stench coming from there.
“…Are there any undead within the city too?”
My silent mumble to no one caused the Paladin to tilt his head. “What do you mean, your highness?”
“Well, it’s a bit faint, but there’s this stink, and…”
It was then, a wagon emerged out from the city. And it was packed full of dead bodies.
I wordlessly stared at the corpses, and that prompted the Paladin to speak up. “Every now and then, you’ll see people dying after failing to adapt to the environment, whether it be during the process of training, or from hard labor, your highness.”
I heard that in reality, about double the amount of people died from hard labor than from the ‘Tide of Death’ itself.
The domain of convicts with no human rights, that was Ronia in a nutshell. What a perfect way to deal with serious offenders.
“However, I can’t just blame it on the atmosphere, though. Hopefully, there ain’t any zombies hiding in the middle of the city,” I said.
The Paladin nodded his head confidently. “Something like that won’t happen, so please rest easy. There may be cases of prisoners dying from hard labour, but they’ll still be afforded the proper funeral process.”
What a relief then.
I still felt this uneasy air coming from the middle of the city, but it was simply too faint. It could’ve been really the atmosphere or something.
“Why don’t you strengthen the city’s public order just in case?” I suggested quietly.
“…The city’s public order, your highness?” The Paladin tilted his head, looking somewhat puzzled, but nodded his head in the end. “Understood. There should be times when corpses aren’t recovered promptly and left to rot unattended. If a portion of that turns into the undead, then it could spread anxiety among the fiefdom’s citizens.”
Ohh! And here I was, thinking that you were an uptight fool. I guess you were actually the type who listens to other people’s advice.
“If you don’t have any more questions, please start with your task, your highness.”
As soon as I was done praising the man, I wanted to hurl profanities right back at him.
Well, I should do what I was told, at least for the time being. I didn’t want to get smart and then get saddled with even tougher jobs instead. Since I was a Priest, as well as the Holy Emperor’s grandson, my duties should be on the lower end of the toughness scale.
After fully opening the rucksack, I pulled out the mask and the coat. Funnily enough, I recognized the mask right away. “Hey, it’s that bird beak mask.”
Alongside the white texture, it had two holes for the eyes, and a protruding beak – it was a mask that actually existed during Earth’s middle ages, and also an item that appeared often in fantasy games, too.
I heard that people during the dark ages believed they wouldn’t contract the bubonic plague by putting this mask on. Of course, most of them still kicked the bucket anyway since there wasn’t such an effect on the mask itself.
While looking at this thing, I suddenly felt that regardless of which world it was, people’s minds still operated in similar ways.
Wasn’t there any proper equipment we could use rather than this decorative toy, though? “Hey, man. Does this thing even have any special effects?”
“It contains a filter imbued with purification magic, as well as charcoal and sand plus a few others. It can purify most poisons emitted by an undead or prevent diseases it might carry from infecting you, your highness.”
Huh. So, it’s this world’s version of a gas mask then?
As expected, the treatment Priests got was a step above that of the convicts. Even our equipment was properly sorted out too.
I put on the beak mask and the fur-lined robe. After looking around, I caught the sight of other Priests within my now-narrowed field of view.
Everyone was wearing the exact same get-up.
I couldn’t help but recall the army once more. If you stood in line with your head cleanly shaved, you wouldn’t be able to tell who was who, and that was the exact same feeling I got right now.
“Please perform the same duties as your colleagues, your highness,” the Paladin said.
“Same duties, is it?”
The Paladin nodded his head. “Currently, we have quite a few who have died from the diseases as well as from overwork.”
Wha? Dead from overworking already?
I spat out a lengthy sigh under my mask.
The Paladin spoke up to here before turning around to leave, then began issuing commands to the convicts. Thankfully, it seemed that he wasn’t going to monitor me 24/7.
Was this his way of showing me some consideration? I couldn’t help but wonder.
I continued looking around and spotted the familiar villagers. There were quite a lot of people gathered here, as a matter of fact. This indicated that refugees from other villages beside the one near the monastery had also arrived in the fortress.
There must’ve been well over several thousands that were assigned to perform all sorts of manual labour. Unlike the convicts, these villagers were law-abiding citizens of the Theocratic Empire so they were provided with proper winter clothing.