Chapter 6: 005. Imperial Prince is Busting Heads -1
This couldn’t be anything simple at all.
In just a single night, the village was decimated, leaving behind 100 or so survivors.
They all crowded into the narrow and dilapidated monastery. Kids, old folks, housewives and the likes were busy offering desperate prayers inside the building. Meanwhile, men were helping me lug around the dead in the cemetery.
Once things had calmed down sufficiently enough, the representative of the village, the village chief, came up to me. “Thank you for aiding us, your highness.”
I was flustered. The village was decimated even before the holy water could be distributed? I had a mountain of things to do now thanks to this development.
“Wasn’t there a Paladin stationed in the village?” said I, remembering that there was a Paladin residing in the biggest village here tasked with monitoring me.
“After the incident happened, we sought him out. However, his current whereabouts are a mystery,” said the village chief as his response.
“What about sending the word out to the Theocratic Empire?”
Sure, it might have been a banishment, but still, an Imperial Prince was staying here. Paladins promptly showed up just because the owner of this body rampaged around a bit, so there was no way the higher-ups would ignore the advent of a zombie wave.
At the bare minimum, they should dispatch a knight order or something.
“T-that is… we tried to send a messenger, but…”
“He must’ve been killed by the zombies during his journey.”
“There are zombies hiding along all of the roads leading to Ronia. Even the contact with the nearest sentry post has been cut off too…”
The zombies of this world were pretty amazing then.
The Paladin in the village monitoring me went missing. Thus, the zombies seized this opening and attacked, and they even managed to cut off the exit. Did that mean they could use their heads?
If this was true, then these bastards were even scarier than the ones from the movies, those that were capable of running around like marathon runners.
Also, finding the origin of this plague would be next to impossible if it turned out there was a separate entity with enough intelligence that commanded the others.
“How many zombies are there?”
“T-there were about 30 of them. That’s how many we saw when we were running away.”
The village near the monastery actually consisted of four separate satellite villages. I went to an already-decimated village yesterday, so this meant that in just one night, the remaining three had basically been wiped off the map.
If there were 30, did that mean there were around ten in each village? Or, maybe they worked together to attack the villages instead. It wasn’t as if we were dealing with a zombie den or something, so there was no real need to get scared by an undead that couldn’t run and were only capable of flailing about ungainly. Also, you wouldn’t turn into an undead just because you got bitten once too.
“Okay, so what now?”
“W-we’d like you to contact the Imperial Palace, your highness.”
“But didn’t you say that all roads have been blocked?”
“Wouldn’t offering a prayer be sufficient? Like, with some sort of magic…?”
How unfortunate, but I didn’t know any convenient skills like that one.
The villagers were looking at me with hopeful eyes, but it was my job to break the bad news for them, “Such a thing is obviously impossible. You said that a wave of zombies showed up, right? In that case, we don’t have any choice but to pull our socks up until Paladins come to rescue us. If not, we’ll all be dead meat.”
I didn’t want to get their hopes up, so I honestly told them our current position and options. Thanks to that, they all fell into panic. Some became really pale, while some wailed uncontrollably. Hell, some of them even began screaming too.
The villagers were in despair.
This was quite obvious really, since they were about to die from the plague, or become the next meal for the zombies.
Even if I enjoyed similar ‘attributes’ with the undead, the continuous appearance of zombies would still be dangerous for me in the long run. If I managed to survive alone when everyone else perished, it would look rather peculiar to other people, wouldn’t it?
This meant that the current situation remained unfavourable whether it was for the villagers or for myself.
“Please help us! Your highness! Aren’t you the grandson of the Holy Emperor?”
Even if that’s true, I was but a mere regular person now.
I stared at the village chief. These villagers seemed to be taking the banished Imperial Grandson for granted here.
A banished member of the Imperial Family was no different than a ‘commoner’ who lost all of their ‘status’. The exiled people who arrived in places like these would have to work as lowly gophers running errands for the villagers, and they wouldn’t even receive any compensation in return. There was no prior case of an exile taking revenge on the villagers either.
They probably thought that they found themselves a nice little servant here.
I wasn’t that unhappy about their request, though. The villagers seemed to be willing to help me out too.
It was just that… If these folks were shameless enough to think that I should ‘obviously’ do it for them, then I wasn’t planning to smile and bear it all out.
In that case, I should put forward a beneficial condition for me. I smirked and stared at the village chief while using my [Mind’s Eye] to confirm his Status Window.
Speciality: Snitching, farming, petty tricks.
+ Currently in a scared state.]
My smile became one filled with contentment as I studied him. “Fine. I’ll help you.”
The two farmers from the night before were smiling brightly now. On the other hand, though, the remaining men carried unmistakably bleak expressions.
Their reactions were rather lukewarm at best. Even if I pounded on my chest and declared, “Who am I? I’m none other than Holy Emperor’s grandson!”, I wouldn’t be able to convince anybody.
Because, I was the mangnani Imperial Prince after all.
I used my royal background to beat up servants and sexually assault maids. Hell, I even tried to rape a lady-in-waiting too, who in their right minds would trust me?
The village chief hesitated greatly before opening his mouth, evidently having decided to grasp at straws with no other options available. “T-then, we shall be in your care.”
He probably figured that it was better than nothing and they might as well believe the ‘Priest’ and follow his lead.
It sure was a rather arrogant attitude.
I guess one could attribute his shamelessness to all those times he ordered around exiled formerly high-ranking ‘gophers’ as he pleased. Such a habit must’ve been deeply ingrained in his bones by now.
Well, it didn’t really matter.
Helping them out was the only way I’d be able to spend some peace and quiet myself. Besides, I wasn’t going to ‘personally’ deal with the zombies, anyway.
“However, I have a condition.”
The village chief flinched before tilting his head. With a confused expression on his face, he asked me a question, “When you say a condition…”
“I want you to start handing over some necessary funds. It’s rather unfair that I’ve been performing free services until now, right? Don’t you agree with me?”
“A-are you asking me to pay you wages? B-but, everyone who was exiled here so far were…”
I quietly stared at the village chief.
The silent pressure I gave off forced him to shrink back and nod his head. “I-I understand.”
“Don’t rat on the Paladins later, got it?”
As long as I stayed in the monastery, I’d get a bit of food and water for free. However, that was pretty much it. I had no funds to spend for myself right now.
Once every month, a traveling merchant would show up in the village, so it’d be a good idea to fix up the monastery with the funds I’m going to receive later. The Theocratic Empire had already given up on me anyways. I might end up spending the rest of my life here, so shouldn’t I try to spruce up the place with a few decent pieces of furniture?
“Oh, and one more thing.” I pointed at the dilapidated monastery. “I want you to fix that while you’re at it too.”
The village chief looked at the building. Although it was quite old and worn-down, the building was still large enough to house 100 or so of his fellow villagers. This meant that repairing it would require a considerable sum.
After a lengthy deliberation, the village chief finally spat out a groan and nodded his head. “I understand. Within my limits I’ll…”
“And, you need to periodically provide supplies for free.”
“…I’ll see what I can do within our means.”
Nice! With that, all my problems had been sorted out.
You see, rain water that leaked into the monastery had been causing me a lot of grief for a long while.
Not only that, the provisions I received as compensation for maintaining the cemetery were only potatoes and vegetables. I should be able to get myself some meat now, and since winter was coming, I might as well get the villagers to diligently bring me my deserved rewards so that I wouldn’t have to go get firewood personally.
“Your highness! Imperial Prince-nim!”
While I was in the middle of my ‘chat’ with the village chief, a man hurriedly ran over towards us. He shouted out with a pale expression, “The zombie horde is here!”
I was stunned to hear this.
Zombies were actually coming here?
This meant there was no need to go over where they were personally, judging from how they were gathering here in order to prey on the living. They’re pretty loyal to their base instincts, then.
This was a relief, actually–I didn’t have to search around and purify them one by one this way now. The amount of work I had to do decreased because of this.
“Nice! All of you, get your tools ready!”
The villagers, including the village chief, all began to tilt their heads. Their confused, dazed gazes were focused on me.
“What are you, uhm, talking about, your highness…?”
I shrugged my shoulders after hearing the chief. “What’s up with your expressions? Didn’t you ask me to sort this crisis out for you?”
“Y-yes. But, why…?”
His voice trailed off with the words, “…Why are you throwing around such an ugly word like ‘tools’ at us…?”
The corners of my lips arched up. “It should be obvious, right?”
Yup, so bloody obvious.
I had four ‘jobs’ as it were.
One, the Imperial Prince of the Theocratic Empire.
Two, a gravekeeper.
Three, a Priest, at least nominally.
And finally, a Necromancer.
None of these were the kind of professions where you’d march to the frontlines and perform a sword dance or something.
“From now on, you lot are going to do some zombie hunting, that’s why.”
The village chief and his fellow villagers stiffened up in an instant.
“Don’t you worry. It’s not like you’ll become a zombie just because you get bitten by one. It’ll just sting a bit and you’ll run some high fever for a few days, that’s all that will happen. You can rest easy because my heart shall ache alongside your pain too.”
The village chief forced out a smile as cold sweat trickled down his forehead. “Y-your highness. This is no time for jokes. You said you’d help us earlier, so…”
I shifted my gaze over to him and grinned refreshingly. “Did it sound like a joke to you just because I smiled?”
He openly formed an expression that cried out, ‘What kind of a dogsh*t is this…?!’
Well, if you don’t like it, you can forget about it, then.
I stared at him and cackled loudly in a rather evil manner.
Well-built men gathered in front of the monastery; there were about 50 of them in total. Each one was armed with farming tools, logging axes, saws, or hunting bows and arrows.
They were all built rather sturdily, perhaps owing to the fact that they were farmers, woodsmen, or hunters during their daily lives.
Nice! They didn’t forget to pack their weapons before running away despite the urgency of the situation. The survival instincts of this world’s denizens were pretty outstanding, indeed.
“Oh. About the equipment you took out from the monastery, make sure you don’t damage them, alright? I’ll be charging you money if you break even one.”
The villagers were now carrying fed-up expressions.
I cleanly ignored them and simply nodded my head in satisfaction. “Nice. This should suffice. They might be zombies, but as long as we aren’t dealing with animal types, we should have no problems as they are all very slow.”
Also, even if there were animal types mixed in, their attack power should still be limited overall, so it didn’t really matter either.
“Alright, everyone. Let’s take our time with this. Your safety should be your top priority. So don’t be too tense about hunting zombies. If it gets too tough, just help each other out. As long as we pace ourselves, no one will get hurt, and…”
It was then–I reflexively blocked my nose in a hurry. A truly horrendous stench was wafting out from the distance. Demonic energy was reverberating within the air like the disgusting stench of death.
I cautiously shifted my gaze towards the forest. Eyes glowing in crimson hue were slowly surrounding the perimeter of the monastery. Soon, the staggering zombies marched out of the dense fog. Their numbers were in the several hundreds.
“Why the hell…”
…Are there so many?!
I called out to the village chief, who happened to be backing away from sheer terror at the moment, “Oiiii, Mister Village Chief.”
He looked back at me with a pale face.
“Didn’t you say that there were only around 30 or so back in the village?”
“T-that is… That’s what we saw…”
Even the chief himself looked confused, evidently not understanding what was happening here.
I began massaging my forehead. “Four… No, one of the villages was completely decimated, so… What’s the total populace of the three villages combined?”
The village chief hurriedly counted by raising and folding his fingers. “W-well, that is… the biggest village has over 200 folks, while the other ones have between 50 to 100. It should be at least over 300.”
“Okay, so… since there are 100 survivors here with us, and you saw about 30 zombies. In that case, where are the rest of them?”
The chief flinched and stiffened up as he dazedly stared back at me, then muttered out helplessly, “I don’t know for sure. We were too busy running away, so…”
“…With this, it’s pretty clear to me now.”
A portion of the escaped villagers must’ve been hunted down, it seemed. Or maybe, these creatures simply wandered into the ‘Land of the Dead Spirits’. Well, the very distant northern tip of the frontier wasn’t called the haven for the undead for nothing, after all.
My eyes twitched as I observed the slow, lumbering march of the zombie horde heading towards us. The villagers were crying out to me in sheer panic now.
“Y-your highness, what should we do?!”
“Should we run away?”
The village chief butted in at the end and asked me.
I couldn’t help but massage my temples even harder. “Is there any other way to deal with zombies?”
“No, there isn’t.”
“Even when a horde like this is coming?”
The chief wiped away his cold sweat as he replied, “An event like this one rarely occurs, you see. If we’re faced with such a crisis, we simply inform the feudal lord and wait until he dispatches his troops.”
I couldn’t help but form a miserable expression upon hearing that. “Why did my workload have to increase like this?! Hang on a minute, could it be that I’m paying for all the blasphemous crap the previous owner of this body committed in the past?”
Although I was just kidding now, I couldn’t help but feel a bit bitter after thinking about it. It was possible that my situation was exactly the result of that.
Since magic existed for real in this world, I couldn’t discount the possibilities of gods really existing too. Not that I was religious or anything, but if gods really did exist, then there was no way they’d do nothing when a supposed believer cussed them out, right?
‘You dumba*s grandson!’
I facepalmed grandly.
The crime of blasphemy this body’s former master committed was pretty damn hefty, to say the least. If I was really paying for his transgressions, then hell, I was neck-deep in trouble here.
“Ahh! The Goddess of love and mercy, Gaia!”
When I shouted this out, the village chief and the men all looked at me. Was it because I offered a ‘prayer’ just now? Their eyes seemed to have a renewed light in them.
They probably found Priests using divine powers in front of the undead rather reassuring. Indeed, the holy men and women of this world did pray before gathering their divinity to cast their magic, didn’t they?
However, I was different.
I refreshingly trampled on the expectations the villagers held of a Priest like me.
“Love and mercy, my ass! If you’re putting me through a wringer just because I cussed you out once, then Imma cuss you out even more! You cheapskate stinker of a Goddess!!”
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