Chapter 8: 007. Imperial Prince is Busting Heads -3
“Charlotte, how are you feeling?”
An auntie and grandma came closer to check up on Charlotte’s current condition, and asked her.
“Oh my goodness… Look at all this cold sweat. Oh? Her fever has gone down. That’s a relief. Why don’t you lie down for a little while longer?”
“You must be starving. Here, have a potato at least. We only have these right now.”
The auntie gave her a plate with a potato and a kitchen knife on top of it. Charlotte felt confused and flustered by these ladies and their nursing attempts.
What happened? Where was she? Why was she here? What about her mom? Her dad…?
As her unbridled confusion intensified, she shielded her forehead from the pounding headache. Just as she grew more flustered…
Someone suddenly screamed out.
Charlotte was startled awake and she reflexively shot up from her spot.
A woman was pointing outside the window while backing away in fear.
“They… they’re coming! No! They’re already here!”
All the women inside the monastery looked outside their closest windows. Charlotte too had quickly shifted her gaze outside and observed the current situation.
She saw numerous zombies lumbering towards the monastery. There were so many of them too.
The complexions of everyone inside the building grew as pale as a white sheet. Some screamed while a few others hurriedly looked around the area, perhaps searching for a place to hide.
However, Charlotte reacted differently from them.
She reflexively reached out and grasped the kitchen knife next to the potato, just before she started dashing towards the monastery’s exit. The womenfolk were stunned by her actions and quickly stopped her by hugging her from behind.
“Charlotte, it’s dangerous outside!”
Even though they were trying to stop her, they ended up getting dragged forward instead. Charlotte seemed to be gradually getting stronger with each passing step.
This was a display of sheer physical strength that no 16-year-old girl could produce. The boys watching this scene play out also intervened and they finally managed to stop her.
Charlotte flinched in surprise and ungainly flailed about. A part of this was because she finally lost out in strength, but at the same time, she didn’t want to accidentally harm the others with the knife.
This was why she stopped struggling. Even then, her gaze remained fixed outside the window. Her wide-open eyes were locked on a certain ‘boy’ standing outside the building.
She saw him jump high up while raising his shovel.
And then, he slammed it down.
The head of a zombie split open as it collapsed to the ground.
“What are you all doing?! Aim for their heads! This ain’t the time to worry about preserving the corpses or whatever!”
The boy’s yell prompted the terrified villagers to grit their teeth and start swinging with their farming tools.
Soon, all sorts of tools began to land on the zombies.
Eventually, though, someone lost in the contest of strength against the zombies and got bitten. The boy gritted his teeth and grabbed the back of the man’s neck to forcibly pull him away.
He then swung the shovel. It landed splendidly against a zombie’s head, making it stagger before collapsing on the ground. The boy raised his shovel high up and smashed apart the downed creature’s skull.
This sight deeply stunned Charlotte.
A boy about the same age as her, no, maybe one or two years younger even, was stepping up to hunt down the zombies before the older and stronger men could.
“Don’t let up! If you’ve got time to complain about the pain, then kill one more zombie instead!”
His manner of speech was also quite unrefined too. The grown-ups glared at the boy, but still, they attacked the zombies nevertheless.
One by one, they took down the pack of undead.
These slow-footed, staggering zombies were subjugated unbelievably easily.
The boy must’ve been feeling quite fatigued as he barely managed to stand by leaning against his shovel, his breathing heavy and rough.
It was around then, the ladies that stopped Charlotte earlier clicked their tongues.
“What’s this? That Imperial Prince-nim, he knew how to hunt zombies?”
“Well, he’s a prince from the Imperial Family, so of course he should know how to hunt down zombies.”
The still-scared ladies continued to chat among themselves. Their words stunned Charlotte again, though.
He was an Imperial Prince?
Now that she thought about it, she did hear about a rumor that a mangnani Imperial Prince-nim had come to visit the monastery in the hills some time ago.
She locked her gaze at the boy’s back once more.
(TL: In 1st person POV.)
The villagers bellowed out scream-like howls. They swung the farming tools held in their hands to stab and smash down. Every time this happened, the zombies’ skulls were crushed and shattered.
As rotting flesh splattered everywhere, the villagers backed away with expressions uncomfortably close to despair.
Their breathing were extremely heavy and disarranged, but their eyes were still diligently scanning the 100 or so zombie corpses strewn about everywhere. Some plopped down on their butts, perhaps no longer having any spare energy left to even remain standing up.
Others embraced the headless corpses while sobbing, too. The respective corpses must’ve been their family members or acquaintances. Even though everyone suffered from the pain of grief, we somehow managed to defend against the zombie attack.
I confirmed the conditions of the villagers. Some were injured, but no one died.
“Now that’s a relief.”
I stabbed the shovel on the ground, leaned my back against it, and spat out a long sigh.
This was tough. Seriously tough.
If I knew what was in store for my future, I would’ve chosen the ‘Warrior’ profession during that game testing part-time job instead. It’d been infinitely more preferable than this ‘Necromancer’ one where I had to mind everyone else’s glares just to use a skill or two.
Alternatively, how wonderful would it have been if I arrived in this place as a superman? One that boasted sky-high skill proficiency too.
“You worked hard, your highness.”
One of the farmers came closer to me to pass along a leather waterskin filled with water.
I gladly received it and washed my hands and face before quenching my itching thirst. During all of this, I kept glancing at the farmer. And through [Mind’s Eye], I confirmed his name.
“You said your name was Gril?”
The farmer Gril flinched and asked back with a puzzled expression. “Did I tell you my name before, your highness?”
“Yeah, you have.”
Nope, you haven’t.
Maybe he was happy about me remembering his name, because Gril suddenly formed a grateful expression on his face. “Thank you, your highness.”
“There’s no need to thank me.”
“However, an Imperial Family member remembered the name of a measly farmer like me, so I….”
“Hey man. You should hold your own profession in a higher regard. Let me tell you, being a farmer is an important job.”
Gril seemed to be a bit stunned. After a few seconds, he nodded his head energetically, looking as if he was flustered.
Now that I think about it, didn’t this guy take away that girl who got infected earlier?
“What happened to that girl? Did she survive?”
“That girl? Ah, you mean Charlotte, your highness? She’s safe and sound, and I think the ladies inside the monastery should be taking good care of her.”
That’s a relief then.
I glanced at the monastery. For a moment there, I felt someone’s gaze lock on me from one of the windows but I couldn’t see any faces.
Should I blame my current state of mind for that feeling?
I glanced back at the extremely-dead zombies again. The stench was so bad that I ended up deeply frowning. The level of demonic energy they had was simply too much for mere corpses that became the walking dead literally overnight.
“What is, your highness?”
“This plague, I mean.”
Even if a plague was spreading around recently, a zombie wave of this scale suddenly showing up couldn’t have been normal at all. Hell, I’d wager that a plague on the level of Biblical proportions wouldn’t be this severe.
“Even if we’re near the Land of the Dead Spirits, it’s too bizarre to see these many zombies to pop up like this. It was a really close call this time. If this keeps up, though, we’ll be completely annihilated.”
“When… when you say ‘completely annihilated’, you mean…?”
“Everyone except me will die.”
Gril’s complexion greatly paled.
“If we don’t find the cause quickly, that’ll happen for real.”
I’d say around two weeks minimum for the fiefdom of Ronia to detect something was off and dispatch people over here. I wasn’t sure whether we could last that long or not.
Gril hurriedly asked me in a petrified voice, “W-what should we do next?”
“Well, we’ll have to endure somehow. Or find the cause. But that’s for later. Let’s give them a proper burial first, starting with cremation.”
“You mean right now?”
I looked at the villagers before glancing back at Gril. Everyone was dead tired right now. Even this guy was making the face of a man asking for a lengthy break. However, if they rested now, it’ll get only harder to perform a proper purification ceremony later.
“We better finish up quickly when we still have many willing hands available. Also…” I stared at the unmoving corpses and slightly frowned. “They’re suffering even now, you know? We should ease their pain as soon as possible.”
I directed the villagers to dig out a burial pit next to the cemetery. The mass funeral was simple and concise. After gathering the corpses, they were cremated, and then the remains were poured into the pit and buried. A lone wooden signboard acted as their tombstone.
Now normally, a high-quality headstone would’ve been used instead, but unfortunately, we lacked enough energy to make one.
While everyone was watching, I stared at the new grave and offered a silent prayer, my hands still holding onto the shovel.
This was the purification ceremony–remembering the departed, and praying for their comfortable, eternal rest.
I worked until the following morning to finish up. After offering the last prayer to the grave, I turned around to address the villagers, “Let’s take a break for a little while before hunting down the rest of them. It’ll be better to trim their numbers as much as possible.”
Even though I was in the middle of my speech, I didn’t forget to study the villagers’ reactions.
A gaze that I didn’t enjoy receiving landed on me first. Some looked rather dazed while the others looked quite surprised.
I tilted my head, and this caused the villagers to either cough awkwardly or avoid my gaze.
I frowned a bit and summoned the village chief. “Hey, Mister Village Chief.”
“Yes, your highness. Is there something bothering you?”
The chief sauntered over and formed an awkward but still considerably smooth smile.
Something about this atmosphere felt weird to me.
I formed a slightly pouting expression as my reply. The chief simply waited for me to finish what I wanted to say, completely disregarding whether I made such an expression or not.
“Did any strange events happen around here in the last few days?”
“When you say strange events…?”
“Like, for example, a strange object showed up or maybe a stranger came to visit the village.”
“Hmm, I wonder. I don’t remember anything like that. The plague started doing its rounds about a month ago, but there wasn’t anything suspicious back then.”
In that case, did this contagion really spread through the already-infected vermin or the wild birds? However, I had this strong suspicion that rather than mother nature, someone had artificially set this crisis in motion instead.
“Is there a Necromancer nearby or something?”
I muttered to myself, but my words caused serious panic and fear to spread among not just Gril and the village chief, but to the rest of the villagers.
In this place, Necromancers were literally calamity personified.
The ‘Grim Reaper of the Plague’, the ‘Soul-stealing Devil’, etc., etc.–with the exception of a particular kingdom, everyone else in this continent branded them as criminals.
One of the laws of this land even stipulated that you wouldn’t be tried for murder if you killed a Necromancer without a good enough reason. To put simply, I’d be as good as dead if my profession as a Necromancer was to be revealed here.
“Oh my god! You think that such a disgusting thing has been hiding in our village?”
Oh, I’m sorry for being so disgusting. It wouldn’t be strange for your head to go flying for lese majeste against the Imperial Prince though.
“It’s just my conjecture,” I calmly responded.
But if there really was one, that would certainly be troublesome. Because if he decided to lay low for a while, then everything would go down the crapper for sure.
However, there was a pretty good chance that he was nearby. You’d have to be close by in order to control zombies after all.
Too bad, I had no idea how to search for him. Unless we were talking about a dedicated search team composed of Priests and Paladins, sending these clueless villagers out there to search was basically the same as feeding the man tasty new treats.
Well… I could be wrong with everything and this whole situation could be a naturally-occurring plague that simply spiraled out of control.
Either way, the problem remained the same–how do we find the origin of it all?
“Let’s stay put for one night and observe. Tell everyone to take a break. Ah, and we’ll need rotating sentries just in case.”
We were all as tired as anyone could be.
We fought off the horde of zombies, then dug the ground the whole day and moved the corpses, and finally, we even went and performed a mass funeral too, so our physical and mental limits had been reached already.
At the moment, none of us could really do anything.
“I’m going to catch some Zs. If something happens, come and wake me up.”
I told both the village chief and Gril before turning around to head towards the monastery.
A scream resounded alongside a thunderclap.
I was startled awake from my sweet slumber inside the monastery. The pitter-patter of raindrops rang around in my ears.
My vision remained dark and dim, but the momentary brightness brought on by the lightning strike illuminated a person’s face right before my eyes.
Pale-white hair and crimson eyes alongside an expressionless face like a sheet of ice–all of these belonged to a certain girl.
As if she was taken by surprise, her brows rose up higher as she stared at me.
“What is it now?” I asked her.
The girl showed some signs of fluster as she quickly left my side. It was then, the monastery’s doors burst open and Gril rushed in.
“Are you trying to make me deaf?”
Perhaps due to all the fatigue, my whole body felt as heavy as a wet sponge. Even my mind was drowsy right now. The farmer’s loud shouting-like voice rang inside my head and I was getting dizzy from it.
“What happened?” I asked Gril, but at the same time, took a glance at the girl.
She was openly looking at me with a pair of sunken eyes while squatting by a corner. The glare she had was cold and sharp.
Wait a second, that girl… wasn’t she the one who ate all those zombie rats and survived?
Her eyes were filled to the brim with venom. She’s not blaming me for something, right?
“I’m listening, okay? What’s going on here? What’s with all this ruckus?”
The farmer Gril then urgently updated me on the situation.
“Someone’s been kidnapped by zombies!”
< 007. Imperial Prince is Busting Heads -3 > Fin.