Chapter 5: 004. Imperial Prince is a Gravekeeper -3
[The Divine Puddle has been summoned.]
A voice delivering a ‘message’ could be heard inside my head.
The ground beneath my feet suddenly became mushy. With the shovel as the center, the water began to fill up below and eventually created a smallish puddle. And then…
Dozens of zombified rodents that stepped into the puddle all melted away.
Their bodies maintained by the thick demonic energy simply stopped existing, leaving behind only their skeletons. As they slowly sunk into the puddle, they completely vanished from the view.
“Oh, my goodness…”
The eyes of the two farmers became huge circles.
They walked closer to my side, and while staring at the melting rats, addressed me.
“I heard that some Priests can soar through the air and can even heal a dying person to their full health, but this…”
“I didn’t know that you possessed such immense power, your highness. Can you also beat up the zombies while scattering light too?”
Hey, did you guys read a xianxia novel or something?
I clicked my tongue while looking at them. It wasn’t so far-fetched to see them carry around strange notions regarding Priests though.
I hadn’t seen other Priests of this world yet, but they shouldn’t be on such a fantastical level as described by these two farmers. Yup, they probably should wield a similar level of holy magic as me.
I lifted up the shovel and rested it against my shoulder.
The [Swamp of Death] in front of me, which would originally create a ‘puddle’ filled with demonic energy and kill the victims by sapping away their lifeforce, had been altered to summon a puddle filled with holy water instead.
That’s all good and well, but…
I staggered unsteadily.
I’ve been thinking about this every single time it happened, but man, the amount of divinity spent was nothing to laugh about.
I really needed to learn how to control my own powers, but it was kinda difficult for me to figure out the methods to do that when all my ‘holy skills’ were based on Necromancy skills.
“Still, it sure is powerful alright.”
I looked down on the zombified rats melting away.
I didn’t know that holy water could even melt down an undead’s skin and flesh, actually.
I dunked my hand in the holy water beneath my feet and took a whiff of it. What a unique kind of water it was, with an invitingly sweet aroma and all that. You could drink it straight up and it wouldn’t cause you any harm.
Holy water–very effective in curing any illnesses, enhancing your health, and as well as boosting your natural recovery rate.
My version was created through a different process from the stuff found in churches or other monasteries, which was made by Priests praying their butts off while adding divinity to water. However, the effects should pretty much be the same between the two.
“It’s really annoying to baptise everyone one by one, so…” I pointed at the holy water puddle and told the two farmers, “Go and distribute this to the other villagers. Around a finger-sized portion should suffice. Have them drink it and the plague should be completely gone.”
Actually, I hadn’t experimented on living people before. But upon seeing that the two farmers were fine after being blessed by me, this holy water should also work pretty well too.
“You… want them to drink this?”
The farmers stared at the holy water puddle. Bits of flesh and bones that used to belong to the zombified rats were still floating around in it. They then shifted their troubled gazes back to me.
“I don’t think both of you are in any position to mind stuff like that right now,” said I while staring straight back at them. The farmers seemed to give up as they nodded their heads.
“…We’ll distribute them right away.”
Yup, you should’ve done that in the first place. Otherwise, I’ll be really troubled by you lot. I definitely didn’t want this dang plague to get worse than this, after all. I was already losing my sh*t from the increase in the workload you gave me.
“By the way, why were all these zombies crowding around that particular house?”
I studied the house where all those zombified rats came out from. Only the skeletal frames of it remained as if the vermin relentlessly gnawed on it or some such. I entered the structure and my gaze immediately lowered down to the floor. That’s when I saw a tiny little gap.
My shovel slammed down and enlarged the gap, and I began prying it open. I used the tool’s handle like a lever and pushed it down, causing the wooden floorboards to shatter.
It was then–something reddish-black suddenly pounced at me.
Brandishing a sharp kitchen knife, a girl covered in a scarlet color grabbed my shoulder and pushed me back. I lost my balance and tumbled on my butt. I even heard my shoulder muscles being crushed.
A pair of icy-cold eyes were now looking down on me. Without a shred of hesitation, she quickly stabbed down with her knife.
I reflexively blocked the knife with my shovel.
The blade trembled mere inches away from the tip of my nose. I managed to save myself just in time with my trusty shovel. The girl and I entered into something of a power struggle.
“I thought this village was abandoned…”
Cold sweat trickled down my face as I glared at the girl dyed in blood. She seemed to be around 15 years old.
“…Who’d have thought that there was still an insane survivor in here?”
A properly bat-sh*t insane one to boot!
She must’ve stabbed and bit the zombie rats to death, as evidenced by the rodent flesh and fur that were stuck to various parts of her body. On the other hand, many gouged-out wounds could be seen on her too–it was perhaps caused by the rats biting her.
Her irises were constantly shaking about. The glow in them was murky. There was almost no light of life in them at this point.
Could she have thought that I was a zombie and attacked me?
More cold sweat trickled down. My body was already weak to begin with and I began to tremble.
“L-little miss? You’re making a mistake here. Get off me before your noggin gets a good smack.”
The kitchen knife was getting closer to my forehead now.
At this rate, nevermind getting pricked in the head, the bloody knife would go straight through my skull.
A cold-blooded murmur came my way. The girl, her expression as cold as a sheet of ice, glared at me with eyes full of murderous intent.
“Looks like you’re a bit angry about something, but…”
Defending myself anymore than this would be tough.
Strength was leaving my hands now.
The kitchen knife crept closer to my forehead.
“…Cool your head for a bit, alright?!”
I summoned up every scrap of power and twisted the shovel to deflect the knife, and then, hit the girl in the head with my ‘weapon’.
Accompanied by a rather chilling noise, the girl crumpled into the corner of the shack.
I somehow managed to get up and touch my face. Her killing intent was so thick and heavy that I thought she actually did stab me.
After confirming that there was no wound, I quickly turned my head to look at the girl. She was now lying on the floor, but her scary glare was still fixed on me. Beside her, I could see two corpses, currently covered by large sheets.
I saw that, and my lips began twitching. “Holy sh*t.”
The two corpses were horribly maimed and shredded.
It was a pair; an adult man and woman. They had bite marks that evidently came from the rats, but more importantly, smallish knife stab wounds could be seen everywhere on them.
This girl… she killed her parents that turned into zombies. Then, she must’ve hid herself below the floor and endured until now while fighting for her life.
“What happened? Imperial Prince-nim?!”
The two farmers hurriedly rushed inside. They saw the girl covered in blood and shouted out in sheer astonishment.
“Charlotte?! Oh, oh, dear Goddess Gaia! Oh, goodness me!”
I looked at the two and grumbled in pure dissatisfaction, “You said there were no survivors, didn’t you?”
“T-there was none when we were here last time.”
Rather than “there was none” it’s more likely that you failed to spot her.
I massaged my aching shoulders and spoke up, “How long has it been since you left this village?”
“It’s been about a week, your highness. However, we came here three days ago. Back then, the whole village had already…”
“I see. She must’ve at least endured three days, hm.”
Without a doubt, the girl couldn’t have gotten any sleep, nor eat and drink anything properly.
She must’ve endured against her hunger and thirst by consuming the zombified rat’s meat and blood. This happened all the while the dang zombie rats tried to devour her after sensing her lifeforce.
What a tenacious will to live.
The two farmers checked her head and cried out after spotting blood trickling out from there. It seemed that the impact from the shovel had been greater than I thought.
“Don’t get all worked up, you two. She’s still alive.”
I grabbed her collars and dragged her outside.
“I-Imperial Prince-nim?! What are you…?!”
I then tossed the girl into the puddle filled with holy water.
The cold water must’ve woken her up as her eyelids faintly cracked open.
One of the farmers hurriedly approached me and spoke up, “She’s still a young child! Her wounds are serious, if you handle her so roughly…”
“A young child my a*s. She’s about my age and also…” I pointed to the front. “Even if she was hallucinating, she tried to kill me. I don’t need to treat a would-be murderer so kindly, now do I?”
The girl’s eyes shifted towards me.
I walked closer to the girl and squatted down next to her. “Let me be brutally honest with you. Your body right now isn’t in a normal condition. You ate zombie rats to survive, and the demonic energy and the poison from them have already spread throughout your body. You’re also bleeding a lot too. At this rate, you’re going to die and then become another zombie yourself.”
She had been in a far-too-close proximity with death itself. As soon as her breathing comes to a stop, she would become an undead for sure.
I pointed at the holy water puddle. “However, by drinking this, something might happen. You might still be saved.”
Honestly, this was a gamble that had to be taken.
When divinity was forcibly inserted into a body that had absorbed demonic energy, an adverse reaction would occur. One mistake and the body itself would balloon up and explode.
“But, at the very least, you won’t become a zombie. The survival rate might be less than 10%. Now, choose. Either choose to suffer horrendous pain and become a zombie, or struggle so that you can somehow live.”
I read descriptions of the potential reaction from the interaction of these two forces, divinity and demonic energy, in an old book I found in the monastery. I wasn’t sure whether it was due to the special perk of my Profession, or because of this body already possessing a certain amount of prior knowledge, but I had no trouble studying books related to magic.
I yapped on about the standard knowledge found in the books and looked down at the girl.
She was getting tearful as she tried to speak, “Mom… Mom is…”
“Dad… My… dad…”
“He’s not here too.”
Teardrops formed at the edges of her eyes. She showed no indication of drinking the holy water.
Was she going to give up after everything she went through?
“You struggled until now to survive, didn’t you? Weren’t you fighting in order to live?”
“You want to live, right? It’s simple. Drink this.”
“Of course, your chances of survival are slim. However, you won’t become a zombie. There’s no point in dying twice, right? And also…” I quietly looked down at the girl and continued on, “At the very least… two people who’re no longer here would’ve wished for you to live on.”
Those were the keywords that made her move.
She finally made her choice.
After moving her head with some difficulty, she buried her face in the puddle of holy water. She opened her lips and poked her trembling tongue out to lick it.
The moment the liquid entered her throat, her entire body began convulsing.
Her bones broke, and the sounds of her muscles being crushed accompanied her tearing skin. Her horrifying scream filled my hearing. It was so sickening that I ended up frowning deeply.
At this rate, she’d go full-on insane even if she managed to survive.
“W-what is going on…?!”
I stopped the farmers from getting any closer.
The girl would end up as one of the two–either a living and breathing survivor, or a corpse that got blown apart.
Her skin continuously ripped apart as blood trickled down. While she thrashed about in pain, the holy water on the ground healed her. Her old flesh burned up as it was replaced by new flesh. Her bones repeatedly shattered and realigned themselves.
Wouldn’t the ‘metamorphosis’ described in the martial art novels be similar to this, I wonder?
Even as these sorts of useless thoughts circled around in my mind, I continued to silently observe her changes with my shovel stabbed into the ground.
Five minutes passed by. Ten minutes, then thirty, and one hour later…
Her horrifying screams gradually died down. Her convulsion finally stopped and she completely passed out, submerged in the puddle of holy water. Although faint, she was still breathing.
“Hiiiya! She survived it!”
You could say this was a bit of relief. There was nothing more sour-tasting than watching someone die in front of you. I sighed inwardly and addressed the two farmers, “Take her with you.”
The duo tilted their heads.
“She’s your fellow villager, isn’t she?”
“Y-yes, that’s true. However, a child struck by the plague is a bit…”
What the hell, seriously? Were they all putting up an act with their concerned expressions earlier? Or were they just being hypocrites?
My straightforward glare caused them to shed buckets of cold sweat. Their gazes lowered while they spoke their piece.
“We’ll try our best to talk to the folks from the neighbouring village.”
“Good. Oh, and like I said, distribute the holy water too.”
“You mean this?”
As the farmers looked at the puddle of holy water responsible for causing that bout of convulsion in the girl, their complexions paled. They probably ended up recalling her rather violent reaction just then.
“That only happened because she swallowed up demonic energy. Oh, wait. Could it be that your new village has people who eat zombies? Wowsers, talk about stomachs of steel.”
“N-no, your highness. That’s not it.”
The farmers shook their heads side to side.
“In that case, you don’t have to worry about it causing any side effects. So, let’s prioritise in stopping the plague first,” said I before getting up while dusting myself. I pulled the shovel out from the ground and perched it on my shoulder. “Oh, right! Install lots of rat traps too. It looks to me that the cause of this plague is the zombie rat’s bites. One or two might not be an issue, but when there are hundreds of those things… just imagining it gives me the heebie-jeebies!”
Right? Just imagine hundreds of those swift-footed critters rushing in at you. No one would be able to deal with that sh*t.
“You gotta decrease their numbers, even if it’s only by a little. Also, send the word out to Ronia as that’s the nearest domain run by a lord. The feudal lord there will send out a Priest to investigate the origin of the plague, at the very least. I mean, he surely won’t sit still when a deadly plague is spreading in an area around the Holy Emperor’s grandson, right?”
“We understand, your highness.”
And with that, this saga should be over.
The need to shovel away, lug around dead bodies, or to perform burial rites – the need to perform all the extra physical hard labour should be gone soon. Now that I created holy water, this year’s plague should be stopped pretty easily too. My peaceful daily life should get going once more.
That’s what I thought.
Until the following day when hundreds of villagers arrived in front of the monastery, that was.
Did they want to express their gratitude regarding the distribution of holy water? Nope.
The villagers, all of them carrying expressions of despair, cried out.
“I-Imperial Prince-nim!! Please save us!!”
“Zombies are in our village…!!”
…It seemed that the once-serene rural villages had become a zombie’s den overnight.
< 004. Imperial Prince is a Gravekeeper -3 > Fin.