SETP Vol. 1 Chapter 16
Chapter 16 – The Last Night
It did not take much time for the war between the Beredhia-led alliance and the kingdom of Afillis to reach its conclusion. To put it simply, it’s because I killed too much.
Among the soldiers that perished because of my “Spada”, there were nobles in charge of command and officers deeply involved with the troops’ organization.
Moreover, the loss of a large number of troops and the “Hero”, who was the core of their strategy, marked their defeat: the alliance’s army crumbled like paper afterward.
For the enemy, however, the biggest issue was the corpses of the nobles killed by my “Spada”.
After my battle ended, the Diestburg reinforcement troops and half of the troops Mephia led headed towards another front. Some of the Afillis troops, however, stayed behind to examine the bodies.
Mephia knew that several powerful nobles had personally participated in the alliance’s war campaign this time. Such nobles could serve as useful tools for negotiation, even as corpses.
The alliance’s side would definitely want to give them a proper burial and would surely not like the fact that their bodies were in our possession.
The alliance’s losses were thus massive, and they had lost their “Hero” too. They thus decided they couldn’t continue the war and a ceasefire agreement was signed.
The Afillis kingdom, of course, demanded astronomical compensation, based on the fact that their land was ravaged and they couldn’t expect a decent harvest for the following year. The negotiation regarding the bodies of the nobles was involved too, where Mephia did her part admirably.
All in all, the final negotiations took about three weeks. I ended up staying there much longer than I had initially expected, but waging war is normally a lengthy process. As such, I was ready for such a development, but I ended up thinking the overall peace talks took less time than expected.
“It’s really exhausting to do things you’re not used to…”
It was almost pitch black outside. I spent the evening by myself, laying down in a garden inside the castle.
A beautiful moon hung in the sky.
The moonlight shone on the colorful flowers in the garden. A world without noise.
Now that the war was over, there was no reason for me to stay in the Afillis kingdom. We were set to leave the next morning: as it was the last night, a rich banquet had been prepared in the castle, and the soldiers had enjoyed it merrily. Feli, while laughing wryly at the soldiers’ antics, enjoyed it too.
Me, however…I hadn’t been too keen on that kind of atmosphere.
“All by yourself without even a guard, prince Fay? I can’t say I appreciate that.”
“I could say the same to you.”
Footsteps approached. Recognizing the voice, I turned my head over my shoulder and laughed.
“I’m fine. I’m strong, after all.”
“…or so I thought, but the world is really wide.”
Mephia approached me quietly and sat down next to me. I felt she had returned a bit to her old confident and straight-forward self. If I had to choose, I would say I liked this side of her best.
“Yeah, that’s right. The world is wide. There’s plenty of people even I can’t match.”
Mephia’s eyes opened wide.
“…other ‘Heroes’, you mean?”
“No, just regular swordsmen.”
Swordsmen that died without a claim to fame. The dead can’t be surpassed, after all.
I could win against them now…even if I thought so, they had *something* that prevented me from being completely confident.
“Are they so strong?”
“Yes, incredibly so. Incredibly strong, cool, and kind. I wish I could see and talk to them one more time. I wish I could show them my sword.”
My words became more heated. Something akin to passion filled me.
“So, for the sake of seeing them again, you shouldn’t put yourself at risk, right?”
“If you died, then nothing would remain. So you shouldn’t walk about on your own.”, said Mephia.
“Hey, princess Mephia. You heard about the conditions I told uncle Leric, yes?”
“…yes, of course.”
“The second condition was for no one to enter my room, but I am not doing anything dangerous there, you know.”
“Then why would you say that?”
It was a habit ingrained into my soul, something I couldn’t discard if I tried. When I have a sword in my hands, my alertness grows to incredible levels. If anyone gets too close, I cut them down, almost unconsciously. Even during my sleep.
I couldn’t die, as I also had to keep my promise with Logsaria Bornest. Thus I kept my sword at my side even when I slept. That was the reason why I said I couldn’t guarantee anyone who entered my room would return alive.
“I have this habit of being too alert, and it’s something that I can’t just get rid of. That’s why I don’t need escorts either.”
“Even so— ”
You never know what might happen.
Mephia was about to say this, when I chuckled.
“Even if that arrogance is the cause for my death…”
<<I’ll probably laugh as I pass out, thinking that I should have trained more.>>
The same words my mentor said.
“I’ll probably laugh as I die, thinking that I wasn’t strong enough.”
I felt like I was tracing my mentor’s path of life. But that was good for me. No, that was what I wanted.
“Okay, enough about me. Don’t you have to go back to the party, princess Mephia?”
“…I don’t have to hurry back or anything. You don’t have to worry about it.”
I didn’t need to ask to understand that Mephia wasn’t satisfied with my answer.
“Hey, prince Fay.”
This was the last chance. The next day, I and the rest of the Diestburg troops would leave Afillis. Mephia probably wanted to know the secret of my strength at all costs.
“…do you dislike parties?”
There was a bit of an unnatural pause, but nothing to be concerned about.
“I don’t dislike them, but I don’t like them either. I’m just not good with them. I’ve been alone for a long time, so I feel more relaxed when I’m by myself.”
“…did I bother you?”
I just said what I thought. I didn’t mean to send Mephia away.
“I don’t care, really. You came because you wanted to say something, right? The night is still long. I’ll listen.”
I didn’t tell anyone that I was going to the garden. Since she came here, Mephia was probably looking for me. Based on her words, the possibility that we met by coincidence could be safely discarded.
“Yes, the night is truly long.”
The inside of the castle was still bright. We were set to leave in the morning, but judging from the current state of the festivities, many would surely get drunk and would suffer hangovers the next day. Still, it was a scene only possible in times of peace. I could smile while looking at it because the war ended.
“At first, I wondered why they sent you as leader of the reinforcements…but now, I can say I’m glad they did.”
“That’s not something to say in front of the person in question, though, is it?”
She said it frankly and honestly, so I could laugh in response. I didn’t dislike my “Trash Prince” nickname anyway. So even if I was called that, I didn’t feel bad in any way.
“Yes, that’s right. It’s not proper to talk like this to someone you have a debt of gratitude to. But *this* is what you want, right?”
“Yes, you’re right. I’m the ‘Trash Prince’, through and through. If you feel gratitude towards me, then treat me as the ‘Trash Prince’ I am.”
This sort of behavior from Mephia is something I wished for too. In terms of position, I am Diestburg’s third prince. My rights to the throne are pretty much non-existent, of course.
If it became known that someone like me possessed fighting abilities on par with a “Hero”…there might be countries that turned their opinions around and started plotting to make me marry one of their noble daughters.
If that happened, my value would become my “Sword”. My only way to live would be to wield the sword. I didn’t want anything like that to happen.
One of the reasons why I was fascinated by the words of knight Logsaria Bornest was that his words were spoken as a human. He never said that his loyalty was for the kingdom: it was always aimed at the royal family, his masters, other human beings.
I also had no intention of swinging my sword for any country.
Thus I chose the option to continue being a “Trash Prince”.
“You really are strange. Proposed marriages, whatever other people say, just ignore all that. I couldn’t stand it, honestly. People inferior to you, that don’t know anything about you, believe the rumors and call you ‘trash’, right?”
“Though, I am trash inside. That’s why I don’t care much.”
Mephia continued talking. There was no one there except us, so her words continued incessantly.
“You’re really kind, aren’t you? And terribly serious too. Do you know how many times you made me realize how stupid I was for thinking you were trash?”
I took care of Logsaria Bornest’s burial. I was used to handling dead bodies after all. I erected his grave under a beautiful view.
He had family, and despite the fact that I had ordered that my involvement to be kept secret, evidently, there was a chatty knight somewhere; his family came up to me and thanked me for clearing his regrets.
I knew very well how it felt to lose someone. So I just told them that he was a proud knight.
In these three weeks, the soldiers who witnessed the battle that day came to talk to me often, so we ended up getting on good terms. I rarely spoke to them on my own initiative, but if they approached me I always replied. That was probably the reason we became closer than I had originally desired.
That was all there was to it.
Other than producing that scene of carnage, that was all I did. Since I came as the representative of Diestburg, however, I thought that if I didn’t act sufficiently prince-like I might cause trouble for my brother Grerial, so I paid attention to my behavior.
Mephia, however, called that “kindness”.
“I can’t stand that someone like you, prince Fay, is looked down upon as ‘Trash Prince’.”
“….you’re overestimating me.”
“The reason why you said not to praise your achievements is to not invite interference from other countries, right? It would target your father and the next king, prince Grerial, right? Your actions are based on such considerations too, and that’s what makes you a kind person.”
“I told you, you’re giving me too much credit.”
Mephia grinned, implying she didn’t think that was the case.
“Hey, prince Fay. Do you remember the promise?”
“I only remember a promise with uncle Leric.”
I was positive I didn’t make anything remotely similar to a promise to her. The promise she referred to was indeed the one I made to uncle Leric.
“Yes, that promise. Any political interference involving Fay Hanse Diestburg is prohibited, and at the same time after the war is over he is to be treated the same way as when he first arrived with the reinforcements.”
In other words, as a “Trash Prince”: these were the conditions that uncle Leric accepted. No one had the right to violate them, Mephia included. And yet…
“In other words, at this very moment I can approach you not as the ‘Trash Prince’, but as Fay Hanse Diestburg, am I correct?”
“…what are you getting at?”
I couldn’t understand what she meant. What would that change?
I was still puzzled when Mephia stood up. She looked at me with a small smile and a confident look on her face.
With a hand on the sword she carried for self-defense, Mephia spoke.
“I have come to invite you to dance.”
She looked completely thrilled, like she was waiting for that moment forever.
“A dance that’s more suitable for us though.”
Mephia made sure that my “Spada” was hanging at my waist, then unsheathed her blade. Her sword shone under the moonlight with a silver gleam.
“Shall we speak through our swords, at least on this final night? You will accept, yes? Your Highness, prince Fay Hanse Diestburg?”