Chapter 41: 027. Imperial Prince is Going Home -1 (Part One)
Paladins were standing in a line on either side of the imperial palace’s audience chamber. And towards the rear, the high-ranking members of the clergy, the scions of the Imperial Family, and lastly, many important nobles could be found in large crowds.
They had all congregated here today to listen to the strange occurrence on the ‘Land of the Dead Spirits’. However, the things Harman said just now wasn’t exactly what they had been expecting to hear.
The nobles’ eyes showed their shock despite their lips being firmly shut.
“…His Highness the Imperial Prince hunted a vampire?”
“There was an Imperial Prince dispatched to the Land of the Dead Spirits?”
Various whispers could be heard being exchanged within the nobles’ ranks. Meanwhile, the scions of the Imperial Family were exchanging glances with each other. They began shaking their heads to indicate that it wasn’t them.
The Holy Emperor finally opened his mouth, “…When you say the Imperial Prince, could you perhaps be referring to the seventh, Allen Olfolse?”
The nobles wouldn’t dare openly smile in front of the emperor, so they chose to quietly shake their heads instead. Although, they couldn’t prevent a faint grin from leaking out as if they heard an amusing joke just now.
The Seventh Imperial Prince?
There’s no way that’s true, then. It’d be a relief if that boy didn’t wet his pants in some corner of a room somewhere.
“That is indeed so, your majesty.”
Harman’s response caused the brows of the gathered nobles to furrow deeply. Even the Imperial Family’s sons were narrowing their eyes.
Paladin Harman slowly raised his head and observed the emperor’s dignified countenance. The latter’s lips were firmly shut and his eyes wide open after being rendered completely speechless.
Harman could more or less guess what the emperor was thinking about right at this moment. For obvious reasons, the latter couldn’t believe it.
A foolish Imperial Prince who got himself banished for trying to lay his hands on a lady-in-waiting managed to hunt down a vampire? Even Harman would’ve found the notion quite ridiculous if he hadn’t witnessed it himself.
“Harman. Up until this very moment, I always saw you as a man more virtuous than any other. However, it seems that I was mistaken. Right now, you…” The Holy Emperor Kelt Olfolse frowned deeply, hints of displeasure clearly written large on his face. “Have you decided to throw in your lot with him? With that rotten basta…”
A fake cough resounded out from beside the holy emperor. An old man in his mid to late seventies wearing a white robe stood there while propping up a crosier.
He was probably trying to stop the holy emperor from blurting out a word that might lower his station.
Holy Emperor Kelt Olfolse glanced at the old man, the archbishop, in unhappiness before shifting his attention back to Harman. “Could you perhaps have decided to support the Seventh Imperial Prince’s cause?”
Although he couldn’t openly say it, the emperor was asking if the Paladin had really chosen to sponge off the seventh prince.
Harman could only smile wryly just then.
‘Indeed, blood is thicker than water, is that it?’
That boy was definitely the grandson of this emperor; he surely inherited the same fiery blood of the old man. The Holy Emperor’s current attitude was an exact copy of the amnesiac Imperial Prince.
“No, your majesty. I merely speak of the truth.”
Kelt Olfolse wordlessly stared at Harman kneeling below. The latter’s eyes which were filled with unshakeable faith, showing not a single sign of wavering.
This Paladin used to protect Yulisia in the past. Such a man shouldn’t be harbouring any ‘untoward’ thoughts.
“…Archbishop. What is your take on this matter?”
Harman shifted his gaze over to the archbishop, Raphael Astoria.
He was considered to be one of the ten most influential individuals in the whole Theocratic Empire. And unfortunately, the Seventh Imperial Prince had a prior record of attempting to rape this man’s granddaughter.
“Such a thing is simply impossible, your majesty.”
His declaration basically condemned Harman as a liar.
The Paladin gritted his teeth. This wasn’t surprising at all.
He already knew that it wouldn’t be a cakewalk to stand by a mangnani prince like that boy in the first place.
Raphael Astoria suddenly began gnashing his teeth.
He must’ve felt his rage boil over after recalling the sight of the Seventh Imperial Prince trying to assault his precious granddaughter.
Despite this, he suppressed his emotions and continued on.
“…I’ve received a report that Ronia’s citizens are now supporting the Seventh Imperial Prince. It seems that some have even taken the action by calling him the Saint as well.”
It was then, someone chortled inside the audience chamber. The origin of that noise was from where the Imperial Princes and their retainers were.
The culprit, the Third Imperial Prince, recognised his slip-up and hurriedly clamped his mouth shut. He swallowed back his dry saliva and lowered his head to acknowledge his mistake.
Raphael Astoria carried on from where he left off. “It is also an undeniable fact that your majesty did detect a bizarre aura emanating from Ronia fortress. As such, there is a need to investigate this matter thoroughly.”
Kelt Olfolse replied. “Are you implying that the aura back then was the Seventh Imperial Prince’s power?”
“No, your majesty. I merely wish to prevent the Seventh Imperial Prince from snatching up any accomplishments that belong to someone else.”
“…I see,” the Holy Emperor responded before fixing his gaze on Harman. “Whether your report is false or not has not been verified yet, but it is indeed true that you made great contributions in the defense of Ronia fortress. Therefore…”
The emperor raised his hand slightly and made a declaration.
“The current feudal lord of Ronia, Viscount Jenald Ripang, shall receive the title of Count. Paladin Harman Daian shall be bestowed with a small but adequate territory in the north-western region. And finally…”
He lowered his hand before letting a heavy silence stew the area for a while.
The emperor’s eyes were closed inside this silence. He then softly spoke as if he was talking to himself.
“…I shall reduce the term of banishment for the Seventh Imperial Prince, Allen Olfolse. The moment he recovers to full health, he is to be brought back to the imperial palace immediately. I shall converse with him in person.”
Archbishop Raphael Astoria’s brows rose up higher at that declaration. He seemed to have something to say, but the Holy Emperor raised his hand once more and stopped the clergyman.
“Any objections? Harman?”
“No, I do not, your majesty.”
Harman Daian bowed again in response to the Holy Emperor’s question.
The next location Harman sought out was an isolated room situated in a deep, dark corner of the imperial palace. He opened the door and stepped inside, only to be greeted by a familiar voice.
“…Is it you, Harman?”
“It is indeed I, your highness.”
Even though it was still the middle of the day, the windows had all been boarded up, causing the interior of the room to be dark. Harman lit up a lone candle on the candlestick standing tall on a shelf nearby.
A gentle light illuminated a young man sitting on the edge of the bed, his whole figure wrapped tightly in bloodied bandages.
Although it was not easy to guess the young man’s age, based on either his physique or voice, he could’ve been anywhere between mid to late twenties.
“Have you been well, your highness the First Imperial Prince?”
This was Yulisia’s first son, as well as the elder brother of the Seventh Imperial Prince, Luan Olfolse.
The young man glared straight at Harman and replied, “Been well, you say? Hahaha, you certainly do know how to jest, Harman. Surely, you know as well as the others what my current state is like. Indeed, technically I’m still alive. However, I’m now living a fate of suffering intense pain borne out of a horrifying curse. It wouldn’t be strange for me to die tomorrow, or even today.”
The First Imperial Prince, Luan Olfolse, had his heart struck by a curse.
The demonic energy penetrated into his actual, physical heart and had taken root there. The curse continued to shave away at his lifeforce even now.
His skin rotted as all of his senses throughout his body gradually became paralysed. He had already lost the sense of touch, smell, as well as taste. The remaining two – sight and hearing – were slowly deteriorating with time, and it wouldn’t be strange if he lost them at any moment now.
And since the demonic energy was hiding in his heart, treating him was deemed impossible. This meant that he was gradually turning into a living corpse.
“I’ve been informed that you tried to stand up for the Seventh Imperial Prince.”
“That is indeed so, your…”
Luan suddenly reached up and grabbed Harman’s collars. The young man’s glare burned fiercely. “You dared to speak up for that trash who caused our mother’s death, the trash who constantly tramples on her legacy? You fool! Are you insane?! What’s wrong? Have you finally realised that I’m not long for this world and decided to throw in your lot with that bastard? Hahaha! If so, then you’ve chosen poorly. A mangnani like that can never become the next Holy Emp…!”
The First Imperial Prince flinched in surprise and let go of the Paladin’s collars. Although he exerted his strength only for a brief moment, droplets of blood already began falling down from his hands.
Luan gritted his teeth and began massaging his forehead. “…I was out of line. Forgive me. You’re not a man to stoop so low after all.”
“The Seventh Imperial Prince is not to blame, your highness. I was responsible for Lady Yulisia’s passing. If only I remained to protect you back then…”
“Do remember that it was I who gave you that order. I ordered you to bring us extra support, didn’t I?”
“Even if it was your command, I still failed to protect you, your highness. It’s the same thing as having run away from my duties because of my cowardice.”
“If you hadn’t brought along the reinforcements needed back then, both I and the Seventh Imperial Prince wouldn’t have survived.”
The vampire targeted Yulisia and both of her children. If either the First or the Seventh showed any signs of escaping, then the undead creature would’ve hunted them down first.
Since that was the case, the correct decision was to send Harman away and seek help from more Paladins. Of course, Yulisia was already dead and the First Prince was struck by the curse of ‘leprosy’ by the time they arrived, but still…
Harman cautiously spoke up, “Your highness. Do you…”
Luan shifted his gaze back to the Paladin.
“…Do you hate the Seventh Imperial Prince that much?”