Chapter 34: 022. Merry Christmas! -1
I frowned deeply after alternating my gaze between the musket rifle and the Vampire Count currently being dragged away in the distance.
I was definitely aiming for the bastard’s head. Unfortunately, the obstacles and the distance ensured that the trajectory of the bullet would be altered midway.
Thanks to that, the joke of a blessing I said earlier became a reality instead.
“In the end, I failed to kill it, huh.”
The Vampire Count was now out of the rifle’s range.
However, seeing as it was in that condition, that thing should have some trouble controlling the undead army. Also, I didn’t have any energy left whatsoever to gather more divinity anyway. Even now, my legs were shaking hard and I felt really dizzy.
“I guess I bought us some time, then.”
At the very least, we had some time to regroup and think about our options.
I also needed time to gather divinity and create more holy water as my energy drinks.
“By the way…”
When I turned my head around, I realised that everyone’s eyes were focused on me.
“…Why is everything so quiet?”
I could only frown while feeling their gazes landed on me.
The soldiers and convicts, the feudal lord Jenald who arrived on the scene a minute ago, Charlotte and Harman in the distance, etc, etc, were all looking at me with lips tightly shut.
(TL: Back to 3rd person POV.)
The sun had set and it was now nighttime.
Harman stood alone on top of the outer walls. He was intently staring at the enemy’s camp in the distance, at where the Vampire Count and the hordes of undead were biding their time. He was supposed to think about how they would attack the fortress again and what he should do to counter it. However, his mind was entirely preoccupied by something else.
A day had already passed since the battle, and all the wounded soldiers were fully healed by the Priests and holy water. Harman was stunned to learn that, with the exception of serious injuries, everyone had recovered to ‘full health’.
‘This isn’t any ordinary holy water.’
He looked at the bottle of holy water in his hand. This small glass bottle contained the highest-quality holy water that could only be created when a high-ranking Priest gathered divinity for a day and night nonstop.
Just one bottle would be enough to cure dozens upon dozens. And he was told that the Imperial Prince gave it to the priests.
‘Not only that, it’s quite high in concentration too.’
The holy water was diluted with regular water before being distributed, saving a hundred-plus lives in the process. This was all thanks to the Imperial Prince.
“What is the Prince hiding?”
Harman had a lot of questions for the prince.
Even if the Spirit Speech incident could be chalked up as coincidence, he definitely had to inquire about where this highest-grade holy water came from.
Could it be that… the prince himself made it?
‘It’s simply not possible that his highness possesses such abilities. But…’
The Imperial Prince did snipe the Vampire Count, didn’t he? Not only that, along with Goddess Gaia’s divine protection to boot.
It seemed that the other Priests didn’t know the truth yet. Well, he did try to conceal his identity with a mask, so that couldn’t be helped.
In all honesty, even Harman was still unsure of who it really was. He thought that maybe, the man who sniped the Vampire wasn’t the Imperial Prince but someone else, possibly another high-ranking Priest.
‘No… that isn’t it.’
That girl named Charlotte definitely called the sniper ‘Imperial Prince-nim’. A child who served the prince wouldn’t be mistaken about the one she looked after in that situation.
‘Besides, it also seems that Charlotte isn’t an ordinary child either.’
She knew of the imperial swordsmanship. When he asked her where she learned it from…
– “I learned it from a book.”
…Was her reply. She obviously didn’t tell him the truth.
Harman could only chuckle bitterly.
She learned it by reading a book?
Such movements couldn’t be imitated by simply copying from a measly book for crying out loud.
Here was the swordsmanship featuring all sorts of brilliant techniques. One needed to possess a requisite sense of balance, physical strength, as well as quick reactions in order to move like that.
A person would need to at least train for many years to reach where she was.
Harman was certain that the girl had been training in this swordsmanship style for quite some time now. And it couldn’t have been a simple coincidence that such a child was serving the Imperial Prince from his side.
‘Have they known each other for a while?’
He wondered if a loyal retainer of the seventh Imperial Prince secretly inserted her here for the boy’s sake.
‘If that’s true… then the girl’s father, Gril, can’t be an ordinary man either.’
Could it be that Gril was a knight currently on an undercover mission?
However, when he conducted his investigation earlier, Harman learned that the ‘farmer’ had already been living in the Land of the Dead Spirits for many decades. Charlotte too had lost her parents from the plague, which resulted in Gril adopting her as his daughter afterwards.
It would be tough to match the story so precisely with other villagers like that.
Harman’s head was a complicated mess. Everything seemed to be a mystery.
‘And also… the way the Prince changed is strange as well.’
Indeed, the prince himself had gone through a 180 degree turn-about after he got exiled and experienced an assassination attempt disguised as a suicide.
He changed after ‘losing’ his memories.
‘Maybe it’s possible that he forgot about his trauma that occurred five years ago.’
The mother of the First and the Seventh Imperial Princes, Yulisia. She was a commoner from a rural village, and not only that, a mixed-blood from the Aslan Kingdom down south too.
Aslan was at odds with the Theocratic Empire and the two nations had fought each other during many wars in the past several hundred years.
Since she carried the bloodline from such a kingdom, unsurprisingly the gazes from the rest of the Imperial Family directed in her way couldn’t be described as warm in any shape or form.
Such a woman fell in love with the son of the Holy Emperor and before long, she gave birth to the First Imperial Prince.
Naturally, the opposition from the nobles and the clergy were fierce – the main sticking point being, the Crown Prince had chosen a commoner rather than someone from the other noble families. There was also the fact that the blood of the Aslan kingdom flowed in her body, albeit it being only half.
Most importantly, the current Holy Emperor agreed with their sentiments.
In the end, the Crown Prince, the son of the Holy Emperor, had no choice but to accept two other ladies from noble families that boasted distinguished bloodlines as his concubines. He did this all in order to appease the voracious opposition from his father, the nobles, and the clergymen.
Later, these two ‘wives’ gave birth to many more Imperial Princes and Princesses. The first wife, Yulisia, eventually gave life to the Seventh Imperial Prince.
In the year that the boy turned ten years old.
On a certain snowy night, the mother of both the First and Seventh Imperial Princes, Yulisia, was the victim of a ‘Vampire’s surprise attack’ inside the Imperial Palace’s garden.
The First Prince managed to narrowly escape death, but still suffered a curse of demonic energy invading his heart. Meanwhile, Yulisia tried to protect the Seventh Prince, only to be torn limb from limb before the boy’s very eyes.
His beloved mother died in his arms, and even his older brother grew deathly ill. The young Seventh Prince suffered a huge mental trauma on that day and basically lost his mind.
The ten-year-old child known for his gentle personality grew up into an easily-scared and distrusting boy, one who also enjoyed belittling others around him.
‘Could it be that the Witch Morgana incident reverted him back to his original personality?’
No… even then, there were several strange points to consider.
From the get-go, the boy losing his memories and possessing powerful divinity were completely unrelated to each other.
‘I definitely heard that the noble named Heis insulted Charlotte, and the Imperial Prince attacked him after failing to rein in his anger.’
The prince wouldn’t have made his move merely because the girl serving him was insulted.
However, the keywords of ‘lowly commoner’ and ‘dying on the cold floor’ – both of them applied to the Seventh Imperial Prince’s mother, Yulisia.
Could it be that the prince became enraged by those words and ended up beating Heis to a pulp?
When Harman asked him, the boy simply smiled and replied, ‘Just because’, but…
‘Could it be that he didn’t lose his memories? Or did he move according to his instincts?’
Alternatively, it was also possible that the boy was using the pretext of amnesia to divert the Imperial Family’s attention away from him.
If this was true, then why would he do something like that?
Harman slowly stroked his chin.
‘Well, that’s a simple answer, isn’t it?’
He could more or less guess the reason.
To kill the vampire who drove his mother to death, and to avenge all the humiliation she suffered at the hands of the nobles, the Seventh Prince deliberately got himself exiled.
‘It’s a plausible theory.’
There were plenty of eyes and ears within the Imperial Palace. Rather than staying there, it might be better to get exiled to a distant and remote monastery to grow one’s powers in secret.
The Imperial Prince kept saying that Morgana the witch was hunted down by the villagers, but in turn, they said something completely contradictory.
‘If I think about matters this way, then everything fits. The reason why he behaves so crudely before me was also because of that!’
Harman wasn’t sure how the prince managed to earn the love of Goddess Gaia and come to possess such an incredible level of divinity. However, he was certain of the boy wishing for more ‘power’ and dreaming of the day he’d have his revenge.
An unknown noble family must’ve been supporting the boy prince from the shadows. Charlotte was the proof of this.
All the mysteries seemed to be unravelling now.
Five years ago, Harman was also present at the garden. He was tasked with guarding them alongside other Holy Cross Knight Order members. Back then, he failed to protect Lady Yulisia and the Princes when they went out for a simple stroll.
Even if the First Prince ordered him to go and summon help, it was inconceivable that he abandoned his duty as their guard.
Harman gritted his teeth.
He recalled his pathetic self back then and quickly sunk into the pit of shame.
‘I’ve forgotten all about it already. Yet…’
The Imperial Prince was trying to become stronger ever since the age of ten for the sake of vengeance?
Such a young child, he endured against all that humiliation and got himself exiled in the process…!
Harman rubbed his face.
Yulisia was truly a beautiful woman, inside and out.
She treated everyone equally, and her heart was always caring; she seemed to be ordinary at a glance, yet at the same time, extraordinary.
“Maybe that’s why.”
…The reason why both him and the First Prince treated the Seventh Prince, Allen Olfolse, so coldly until now.
No matter how deeply suppressed his emotions were, Harman would never tolerate any behaviour that insulted Lady Yulisia’s memories. But reality was different.
If the Seventh Imperial Prince truly wished to take revenge for Lady Yulisia, then…
‘Then, I shall aid him in his quest!’
Harman clenched his fist tightly. He took a deep breath and calmed his heart down.
If that goal were to be realised, their current situation had to be resolved first.
“Indeed, I need to focus on our current situation before all else.”
He spat out a long sigh before shifting his focus back to the matter of the fortress’s security.
In the far-off distance, the undead horde had set up a camp. There were hundreds, thousands of ghostly eyes glaring at Ronia.
Thanks to that, the combat-readiness tension couldn’t be undone. It resulted in the fatigue level of the soldiers to soar higher and brought down the morale of the troops.
And later tonight, the approaching midnight would herald the advent of the 25th of December. The Vampire Count should start moving again when that time comes.
Harman stopped looking at the enemy camp and headed back towards the fortress’ interior.
He could see soldiers going on a patrol while carrying bright torches. Several holes on the ground had been discovered within the city. Since the undead infiltrated through there, it was possible that the same tactic could be used again. To prevent that, the number of patrols had been increased and every house was searched for the presence of these holes.
Thirty search parties made up of ten soldiers each were created. The total number of people who were tasked with this job was 300, in other words. However, when Harman surveyed the proceedings from the top of the outer wall, there seemed to be a few more patrolling around at the moment.
The fortress should’ve been suffering from the shortage of manpower, so how come…?
He could see that most of the soldiers were moving around with torches, but a small portion of them didn’t have any sources of light at all.
Why were they patrolling inside such darkness without any sources of light, especially when the moonlight had been swallowed up by the murky clouds above?
Now that was incredibly suspicious.
Harman climbed down from the outer wall. He picked up a torch and told the nearby knight that he was going out on a patrol before heading off to where those unidentified soldiers were.
The soldiers without torches were deliberately picking only the dark areas with no people around. Harman frowned while watching these soldiers enter a darkened alleyway and followed after them.
“Oii, you there! Soldier!”
Harman’s call was ignored.
His frown grew deeper as he quickened his steps to catch up to them. He hastily grabbed the shoulder of one of them, pulling the guy around towards him.
“Oii, soldier! What are you doin…”
It was then, Harman’s expression hardened.
This soldier was wearing a helmet and a face mask. When hunting down the undead that spread around venom and diseases, it was common practice to wear masks. However, this guy wasn’t wearing one to cover his nose, but to hide the entire face instead.
Because it was…
It was an undead soldier with no light of life found within its eyes.
Harman unsheathed his sword and quickly stepped back. Even then, he doubted his own eyes and senses.
“B-but, how come… divinity…?”
Although faint, he could sense divinity oozing out from the undead.
‘Just what on earth is going on here? How did these monsters…!’
Harman momentarily wondered if he was under the spell of a demon right now. Some Vampires were known to be able to cast ‘Illusion’ magic, after all.
‘However, it should still be impossible to fool my senses…’
The undead soldier that possessed divinity simply ignored Harman and began walking away again. He gritted his teeth and pounced on the monsters.
This was no time to hesitate.
He wasn’t sure why these creatures showed no interest towards him, but leaving them alone like this carried a great risk.
Harman swung his sword as divinity permeated within his blade.
A regular undead would turn to ashes the moment it got sliced by this blade!
…His attack was blocked.
Harman’s brows shot up higher.
A mere walking dead was actually using a sword draped in divinity just like he was. The undead’s eyes moved. Its eyes which resembled a pair of souls burning from deep within the darkness were now locked on Harman.
Then, the Dead Spirit Soldier deflected his sword away.
It stepped back before lowering its torso.
Almost at the same time, spear blades shot out from the darkness behind.
Other undead soldiers were stepping on the walls of this narrow alleyway to surround Harman from both sides, all the while deftly wielding their swords.
Unhesitant, vicious attacks poured in from his front, left, and right.
Harman’s expression hardened as he witnessed this.
…Because these undead were coming at him with a coordinated attack, almost as if they were trained knights.
< 022. Merry Christmas! -1 > Fin.