Chapter 24: 015. Imperial Prince is Toiling Away -4 (Part Two)
Men were either carrying heavy luggage or were maintaining and fixing up various equipment, while the women were handing out food.
I quickly shifted my gaze to discover the familiar silver-haired, crimson-eyed girl carrying a basket. She also spotted me and quickly trotted to where I was.
Maybe the cold weather was to blame, because the tip of her nose and her cheeks were all flushed pink. Whitish steam escaped from her lips as she stood wordlessly before me, her eyes wide open and waiting.
Hang on, how did she recognize me when I was wearing a mask and this thick robe? Could it be that “I’m the Imperial Prince” was written on my back?
Just before I could sneak a glance behind, she pulled something out from the basket and presented it to me. “Please… eat this. It’s still warm.”
It was a baked sweet potato.
Charlotte carefully wrapped a few in a piece of cloth so that their warmth could be retained for longer before giving them to me.
“Oh! Thank you. Work hard, okay?”
I received the sweet potatoes and lightly waved my hand at her. She slightly bowed her head and went away to distribute the rest.
I took a bite out of the sweet potato. So sweet… and warm too.
A smile subconsciously bloomed on my lips.
A little while later, I headed to the public cemetery located in the city center with the other Priests. They were cleaning out the snow and digging out the burial pits. Wagons carrying corpses arrived.
The convicts carefully examined every single one of them to make sure that none had been zombified, and after finishing their inspection they then carried the corpses to lower them in the pits.
The Priests extended their hands towards the graves, and while holding onto the holy scriptures, they started reciting something or rather.
What the hell? That’s the proper purification ceremony?
It was actually more cumbersome and complicated than I thought. I only silently prayed for the dead as written in the books found in the monastery, but was I doing it wrong all this time?
However, I did look through [Mind’s Eye] back then and confirmed that all the souls had been purified, so silent prayers must’ve been enough.
Alright then. Should I get cracking, too? I’ll just pretend to work a little bit before giving up halfway.
“Oii, mate. Hey, man!”
I stopped shoveling and looked behind me. That’s when I spotted a certain group among the labouring Priests that proved to be especially lazy – as in, they weren’t even bothering to do any work whatsoever and were actually using the corpses as chairs to sit around.
They had long discarded the shovels and were busy chatting amongst themselves.
I sneaked a glance at the other soldiers. For some reason, they didn’t seem to care. Well, most of these ‘soldiers’ were actually convicts and also were commoners, to begin with. These Priests might be criminals in their own right, but no soldiers would dare to order them around even in this place.
I slung my shovel over my shoulder and approached the group.
“You should take it easy, fella. It’s not like we’ll be rewarded for working our butts off in this damned place, anyway.”
A well-built boy around 16 or 17 years old said that to me.
He was right about that.
Forget about being rewarded, working my ass off would only ‘reward’ me with sore muscles come tomorrow morning.
I sneaked a glance at the Paladin. He was too busy issuing commands to other convicts, to the point that he didn’t seem to have any leeway to mind this side. This meant that he wouldn’t really care if I kicked back and took it easy.
“I guess you’re right.”
I nodded my head. The boy Priest then removed his mask and took out something to eat from the rucksack. He drank some water before spitting it out. “Urgh, man. Isn’t there booze in this place?”
He glanced at the soldiers in dissatisfaction, prompting one of them to hesitantly approach us to sneakily hand over a certain bottle.
“Oh! Ohhh! Nice. That’s right, fella! Goddess Gaia will bless you with her graces. Your crimes will soon be washed away.”
The soldiers bowed their heads. The boy Priest said some unconvincing things and chased the soldiers away with a dismissive wave of his hand.
“Goddammit, what the eff is up with this crap? I should’ve been promoted to the second year in the Academy by now. To think I’d be disciplined for something so small like that. F*ck!”
He began chugging down the alcohol. Maybe it was stronger than he thought, because his complexion reddened almost immediately and he began staggering a bit.
He spoke a bit forcefully, probably worried about how he looked to the others here. He then pushed the booze towards me. “Why don’t you have a sip too, brother? It’s pretty damn good!”
Well, you’re only giving me this because you couldn’t handle it, aren’t you?
He was pretty quick with his bluffs, I must say.
I took the bottle since I was feeling thirsty anyway, and this would be my first time tasting alcohol ever since coming to this world too.
I took off my mask and took a swig. A strong taste stung my throat and nostrils, and this heat rushed all over my body at the same time.
Hiya~! This was actually pretty good! Did I make a mistake by throwing away the booze the manservant brought along? It could be the cold that enhanced the booze’s taste, but still.
“How about it? It’s good, right?” The boy Priest asked.
“Yeah, it’s not bad at all,” I responded while handing the bottle back to him.
“Haha, we should help each other out when we can, right? I can see that you’re an offspring of a noble household as well. Which family are you from?”
…The Holy Emperor’s grandson.
If I said that out loud here, how would everyone look at me afterwards?
Would they look at me as if I was an unsightly ‘mangnani’? Or would they start prostrating before me? I was kind of getting curious about their potential reactions.
“I’m from a small noble family out in the sticks.”
Despite being curious, I decided to go with bluffing myself.
“Haha, so you were a country bumpkin then! I knew it. There’s no way any high-ranking folks would be sent here.”
The boy Priest laughed loudly, prompting the surrounding Priests to agree with him enthusiastically as well.
The boy Priest continued, “Alright then. Even if we’re stuck in this place, getting acquainted with each other may bear fruit at a later date. Your name is?”
“My pleasure, Allen. I understand that you’re embarrassed about your last name, so you don’t have to tell me.”
I shook his extended hand.
“That’s great! If you wish to spend your days here as untroubled and as safe as possible, then you gotta listen to what I say, alright? My name is Heis, the oldest son of Count Hedron that serves His Majesty, the noble and great Holy Emperor of the Theocratic Empire.”
I was quite impressed by his declaration.
Oh, ohh!! So I’d really get to spend my time here relaxing without a care in the world, then? I guessed that there was no need for me to come up with other excuses now.
My status and power had already been stripped off from me, but it’d be a different story with the eldest son from a Count household. Even the Paladins wouldn’t dare to treat him poorly, right?
I grinned brightly and spoke, “I’ll be in your care then.”
“You made the right choice.”
I settled down on the ground. The corpses might’ve belonged to convicts, sure, but I still wasn’t so keen on sitting on them.
Heis next to me yapped on and on nonstop.
His stories made him out to be some kind of a hero from fairy tales. He kept himself busy by telling me that he used divinity magic when he was merely three years old, and was called the genius of sword when he was seven – he continued to spin several tall tales that would’ve been better-suited as munchkin web novels.
I relaxed more and more while listening to his tales, only to catch the next part of the conversation taking place between the Priests.
“Lord Heis, is it true that you’re here because the Academy is disciplining you? I heard that you decided to bestow your ‘blessings’ to a lowborn girl? But rather than feeling grateful, she instead took revenge…”
Heis flinched nastily and stared at that Priest.
The former’s expression hardened quickly. “Uh? That? Ah, uh, well… Haha! You’re right. Actually, it’s so unfair, right? Damn, why am I in the wrong for raping a maid doing lowly chores around the Academy anyway?”
I stared at him.
Heis must’ve sensed my gaze, because he suddenly exploded into a peal of loud laughter as he carried on, “I mean, maids can only continue to survive because we take good care of them, no?”
The Priest asked him. “So, like, what happened?”
“Uh? A-ah, that? Uh, so the thing was…” Heis began stuttering in a fluster. Before long, he seemed to have recalled something and spoke in a hurry, “O-of course I tried to lie with her. She got scared and began begging me then. ‘Please let me go~, spare my life~!’ Hahaha! I got so turned on after hearing her go like that, you know? I guess I’m a hopeless pervert, eh?”
I ended up slightly frowning after hearing him.
He must’ve been bluffing from the way he said those things. But then again, seeing how he was sent here as punishment, he probably tried to rape a maid exactly like what a certain ‘mangnani’ son of a noble family did.
I was in no position to criticise him, but well, I kinda found him a bit of an eyesore.
< 015. Imperial Prince is Toiling Away -4 (Part One and Two) > Fin.