Chapter 9: 008. Imperial Prince is Hunting a Witch -1 (Part One)
“Kidnapped by zombies?”
With a dumbfounded face, I looked through the monastery’s window. It should’ve been the middle of the day right now, but thanks to the relentless downpour, it was quite dark outside.
Since it was so poorly lit outside, one’s range of vision should be impaired because of it as well. It kind of felt off that the zombies took advantage of the weather to not kill, but kidnap a person instead.
Now normally, zombies wouldn’t try to age a person like a fine wine before devouring the poor sucker, so they must’ve been aiming for something else here.
However, just a single villager?
“Did you say it was just one person?”
Gril nodded his head. He continued on with a deeply flustered face, “Yes, just one! It’s a young lady who moved into the neighboring village around three months ago. She’s… You know… that person you tried to score with…”
“I tried to do what now?”
This was my first time hearing about this story.
Gril snuck glances at our surroundings before whispering in my ear, “Well… she’s such a looker after all. I’m not sure if you can remember what happened, but after you got rejected by her, the shame led you to–you know… hang yourself…”
I couldn’t help but squeeze my eyes shut just then.
Aaaargh… this was so damn embarrassing.
The dude killed himself not because he felt despair at his doomed fate, but because some girl rejected him?
I could now understand why the Holy Emperor abandoned this foolish grandson of his.
Since he probably treasured the family’s honour more than his life, he would’ve definitely wanted to forget all about this mangnani grandson for good.
I groaned helplessly as I massaged my temples. “Okay, so how did she get dragged away?”
“Pardon? T-that is…”
Gril looked flustered, unsure.
Actually, the person who was feeling more flustered than him was me.
Villagers were now standing guard outside the monastery. So, it’d be safest to stay indoors–anyone even thinking of stepping foot outside right now was obviously not right in the head.
“The young lady is very kind-hearted you see. Her personality won’t let her forsake any injured people around, and this was why she said that she’d go and procure some medicinal herbs and…”
What was up with this annoying development?
A bite wound wouldn’t pose any threat whatsoever with a sip of holy water. And yet, this woman personally went out to ‘procure’ medicinal herbs?
Gril continued on, “That’s why the villagers wish to form a search party.”
“Aren’t you guys scared of the zombies?”
“She was the village’s herb gatherer and many people were saved due to her hard work, you see. Many of us are indebted, and… She’s one of the most beautiful women in the village too. And also single, your highness.”
Meaning… all the love-struck men wanted to rescue her?
Actually, there was something bugging me about this as well. If the zombies really kidnapped her, then I should find out what they were really up to. I needed to find out whether this was a mere simple kidnapping or perhaps that woman and the zombies were involved in something shady.
“I get it now, but can you guys even track her down?”
“We have an experienced hunter named Hans with us. If it’s him, then it should be possible. What will you do, your highness?”
“Form the search party. I’m coming too.”
“You’re going with the search party?”
Gril formed a surprised expression. Yup, he was probably taken aback by the fact that the ‘Imperial Prince’ wanted to go rescue a maiden who rejected his advance. Especially so when he already knew what the boy’s personality was like.
“Never mind whether she rejected me or not, I can’t even remember it anyway. Besides that, a person’s life is much more important, don’t you agree?” I said, sounding quite righteous for a moment there.
Honestly though, I was thinking of something else–there must’ve been a reason for the zombies to not devour the woman right away, but instead drag her somewhere else.
I thought that just maybe, searching for the kidnapped woman could lead us to the solution to this crisis. Something just felt off to me, which was why I needed to investigate it.
A search party had been hastily formed.
“It’s this way! Over here…!”
While wearing a pair of worn-out leather shoes and a robe, I made my way across the rainy, soggy forest on foot. The location the ten members of the search party arrived at while wielding burning torches, was a cave located pretty far from the monastery.
The hunter named Hans nodded his head as he looked at the bits of flesh and blood left on the grass, as well as the muddy footsteps on the ground. “It must be here.”
“Wow, you sure have located it so quickly, haven’t you?” I retorted sarcastically.
Actually, it wasn’t so much as having ‘located it quickly’, but more like ‘lured’ to this place, or so I thought. These zombie assholes were smart as hell, so they must’ve deliberately left all these breadcrumbs for us to follow.
What was their goal though? Was this a diversionary tactic to split the villagers? If not, maybe lure away small numbers and hunt them down one group at a time?
I stared into the cave’s interior, my mind still filled with several questions.
It was a pretty deep Negative Field where the outside light couldn’t reach. No matter how deep it was, though, it failed to disguise the stench of rotting corpses busy stinging my nostrils. Although faint, I even sensed demonic energy too.
Without a doubt, we discovered the den of the zombies.
“This place is definitely it.”
The origin of the plague must be in here too.
Never mind the zombie rats, there was a pretty good chance that the zombified humans and animals could be found inside. Us stepping inside this cave was basically the same thing as presenting a veritable buffet for the zombies to enjoy.
There was no need to trigger the trap if you knew it was waiting for you.
“Should I go and get the oil for cremation from the monastery first? With that, I should be able to get rid of the zombies in one go.”
The cave even sloped downwards too. By setting a fire and letting it burn for half a day, maybe not all of them but hopefully we’d get to kill about half of the zombies inside.
However, my opinion brought about a nervous question from the villagers.
“Your highness, what would happen to Morian in that case?”
When I mouthed the unfamiliar name, Gril next to me whispered the answer, “That’s the name of the kidnapped lady.”
Was she still even alive at this point right now?
The men were clearly getting anxious as they nervously paced about.
That lady was their benefactor, and also the object of their crush. So yeah, they should be anxious alright. Too bad, I simply couldn’t endanger everyone just to rescue one person.
I lifted the torch and pointed it at the interior of the cave. “Look, you can tell that this place is a Negative Field even with just a casual glance. Which means it’ll be seriously dangerous. It’s where the undead can receive buffs, you know?”
The men tilted their heads. They were puzzled by such a strange term.
I replied. “…It’s where the undead can grow stronger.”
More importantly, it was so dark in there that you couldn’t see properly. The staggering, flailing zombies would present a greater danger than before in such an environment.
At the very least, I had no reason to risk this much uncertainty.
Gril studied the reactions of his fellow villagers before whispering back to me, “What will you do now, your highness?”
This cave was just too suspicious.
“Hmm, I hope there isn’t a zombie bear or something in there.”
It’d be a definite no-no if that’s the case. A damn zombie bear? The current me wouldn’t be able to properly defeat such a thing. I wasn’t even a warrior, so what was I supposed to do against such a monster if it really appeared?
The villagers were now looking at me. I guessed that they wanted me to make the final call. Even they judged it to be too dangerous to just blindly rush into the cave.
“Right now, it’d be for the best if we step back.”
Since we now knew where the origin of the plague was, we could afford to go and prepare ourselves adequately first. We weren’t just going to sacrifice ten lives to rescue one villager.
“We return to the monastery for now. Marching straight in there will only result in needless casualt…”
It was then–a seriously thick stench suddenly stabbed into my nose. While stunned silly, I instinctively looked behind me. A chill ran down my spine.
Just as my eyes shifted towards the forest, a black shadow pounced on me and bit into my shoulder.
Sharp fangs dug in and tore into my flesh. Soft skin ripped open and my muscles were gouged out; shoulder bones were crushed in the process, too.
I screamed out loudly.
Then, my vision rotated upside down. Something was forcibly dragging me into the cave while biting into my shoulder.