Chapter 3 – Reception
“Okay, I guess this much is fine.”
One day has already passed since father assigned me the task. Using a flying boat, we headed northeast from Diestburg — to the Afillis kingdom.
Father had sent a missive notice of the dispatch of reinforcements, but despite the early morning, soldiers gathered in this remote area near the border to greet us.
As soon as the flying boat landed most soldiers approached. The moment they knew that the leader of the group was this “Trash Prince”, disappointment took over their expressions.
—If only Prince Grerial had come.
—Did they send the Trash Prince because they expect this to be a losing battle?
And much more. Despite me being there, the grumbling could be heard pretty clearly. As I came bringing reinforcements, according to the pact, I was to do battle at least once for the Afillis kingdom. That is what appearances require.
In other words, after one battle, the “Trash Prince” was not going to stay. So grumbling a thing or two wouldn’t be a problem, I suppose. How sad! But I had no plans on staying long either, so I could only laugh.
“What? It’s unlike you to pity me. You know well that I’m used to people talking behind my back. At this point I don’t care anymore. I’m reaping what I sowed: there is nothing for me to say.”
I spoke to Feli, who stood next to me. Of course, I mean everything I said. I didn’t mean to say that I’ve been used to people speaking ill of me since *long ago*. But if everything ended without particular problems, then I had no complaints.
“You know too, don’t you? I’m just baggage. The knights and soldiers will be the ones actually working. Rather than a ‘Trash Prince’ ready to flee, they will try to court our knights, to make them stay as long as possible. Self-interest at its finest. If they show it clearly, I can’t even dislike them.”
“However, such disrespect to Your Highness cannot be allowed…”
They know well that they are dealing with the “Trash Prince”. I am nothing but a placeholder, so there was no need to treat me properly, and even if they did it would not mean anything either: they were well aware of everything.
In that case, just leave me alone. It appeared that everyone was thinking the same way, so I was simply left on my own.
“No need for concern. I don’t mind. Or rather, I don’t care about this country.”
“It’s just a one-time relationship, and if worse comes to worst, I plan to escape. They already know that I’m a “Trash Prince” that will split as soon as anything happens, to save his precious hide. We both understand each other. So there’s no need to pay attention to me.”
Feli looked down, as if she couldn’t understand my thinking at all, then whispered a question in a sad tone. Her expression was twisted in a grimace.
“Why do you not try to fight, Your Highness…? If you can be so composed in your self-interest, without losing yourself, you could surely be a great warrior. In this day and age, even royals take up arms. His Highness Grerial is a swordsman himself. Has it never crossed your mind to hone your skills and make them eat their words….!?”
I answer immediately.
“First of all, I see no pride or honor in wielding a sword. What I wish for is never-ending days of peacefulness. To be revered, praised, achieve great deeds, become a hero, save the kingdom…I don’t have the slightest interest in accomplishing any such acts. If I can just accept being called “Trash Prince”, then I can live my days in peace. I’m going to do just that then.”
An answer that only my mentor and I would understand. The final destination you reach after wielding the sword is the sea of corpses you cut down, a desert of infinite solitude. I have reached it and know it better than anyone, thus I will not wield a sword anymore.
At the very least, in a place like this, where there is nothing I truly wish to protect. There is no way I would take a sword in my hands. I was not a swordsman anymore.
“That kind of thinking is too naive, Your Highness…!!!”
“Naivete suits me just fine. But if you pick up a sword, it’s all over. Man can only be devoured by the sword.”
“…what do you mean by that?”
“Simply what I said. The moment a man takes a sword in their hands, they are trapped in an illusion. An illusion that they have become strong. That is the first step towards death. If they start swinging their murderous weapon as if it were normal, there is no turning back. The only way is forward, on a path of nothing but death. As long as wielding a sword is thought as honorable, this world will never realize peace.”
Feli looked down.
It’s not like I wanted to win the argument against the person who worried about me though.
“In terms of living in this world, your opinion is right. But in order to bring an end to war, my opinion is right. You are very loyal to the kingdom, so even if the person you serve is completely hopeless, you get irritated if they are insulted, right? I hope I will be able to reward you for your loyalty one day.”
I honestly think so.
She is one of the Diestburg house’s most loyal vassals, having served them for dozens of years. Any member of the Diestburg royal family would wish to reward her loyalty, in any shape or form.
“In that case, Your Highness…please take a sword in your hands. I swear I will lead you to become a swordsman worthy of the Diestburg name…!”
“I’m sorry, but that I cannot do.”
Correction. I think I want to reward her, as much as I possibly can…
“Look, we’re here chatting and she finally makes her appearance.”
I speak while looking at a young woman heading our way, clad in “war maiden”-like light armor, a gorgeous costume that looks entirely inconvenient to move in.
“Your Highness, princess Mephia Zwai Afillis…”
Feli’s tone was somewhat somber, probably out of concern for the exhaustion the princess’ expression couldn’t hide.
“It’s been quite a while, eight years, I think? Prince Fay.”
“Though, I would have preferred to just relax in my room. I came only because my brother Grerial couldn’t. I won’t mind even if you complain about Grerial not coming, so please feel free.”
“If I complained, would His Excellency Prince Grerial come?”
“….sigh. Don’t make us waste time. The situation is really severe. I’m sorry, but I need you all to join the battle right now.”
Mephia looks away from me, as if there was no more time to waste in conversation. She looks towards the troops I brought as reinforcements, 3000 in total. Then she calls them.
“The enemy forces are approaching from the west of the castle as we speak. You will depart now in that direction! I will thus have you temporarily under my direct command. No objections, yes?”
An intimidating glare is shot in my direction. So that I would not refuse even if my safety wouldn’t be assured anymore. I suppose this is what she was thinking, but unfortunately for her, I am quite used to being on the receiving end of killing intent. The arrow cleanly misses the mark.
I have no reason to refuse, however, so I simply nod in agreement.
“Feli is my personal escort though. I will keep her at my side. I trust that is fine with you?”
“Thank you very much then.”
I want to protect myself and Feli, no one else, pretty much. Even in the worst-case scenario, we should be able to get out of here even without having to pick up arms.
Feli is one of my few weaknesses, but I don’t dislike her. She’s an important vassal, someone that didn’t abandon me despite how much of a “Trash Prince” I was. If I didn’t want to lose her, I had to keep her at my side. So I was taught by my mentor.
In my previous life, not only was there no one I wanted to protect, but I could count my acquaintances on my fingers, so I could never put such words into practice.
“It doesn’t have to be just her, we can assign you at least five guards, though?”
“No, the head maid….Feli is all I need.”
“My, is that so?”
I would never choose to have people by my side that had their fill ridiculing me as “Trash Prince” as we rode there, and I rarely requested to have escorts or attendants with me anyway. Mephia probably thought that I wanted to keep Feli with me to ensure my own safety, but I chose not to correct her assumption.
“Fear” is something I threw away a long time ago. But even if I said so, the only person who would ever believe me is probably my mentor.
While the knights were being informed of the strategy, I spoke to Mephia.
“What’s the actual state of the battle? No ambiguities. It’s proper to explain that much to the person who brought you reinforcements, I’m sure.”
“The current situation is not that bad yet. But…”
Mephia stopped talking for a moment. Even I could tell what she meant to say, though.
“The Hero, right?”
“Yes, that’s the whole problem.”
One Hero alone could match tens of thousands of warriors. Two of them together were said to be enough to bring down a whole country. Their very presence bolsters their troops’ morale, while it decimated the enemies’. In other words, they were superhuman.
“I’ve seen them with my own eyes, so I know.”
Mephia spoke as if she had achieved some kind of enlightenment.
“You can’t win against heroes.”
Her statement was full of confidence.
“Now that surprised me.”
“You surely don’t look like it, but I’ll ask: what surprised you?”
“Well, you know. For Her Excellency Stampede Boar Princess Mephia to say so confidently that she can’t win…”
“You’ll understand as soon as you see him. That’s…That’s not human anymore.”
I don’t have much interest in Mephia, honestly. However, I found it puzzling for her to say that she couldn’t win against another human. I compare the Mephia in my memories with the one in front of my eyes and something felt off.
There was nothing else to talk about. So I stopped the conversation there.
Humans tended to cling to hope, to miracles. This sometimes took the form of religion. Many wished to believe that miracles could happen. The vast majority, however, believed that such miracles were not something they could cause by themselves. Only metaphysical existences such as gods could, or so they firmly concluded.
In my previous world, however, most fought with even more passion when they felt they couldn’t match their opponent. Even if their limbs were mangled or their bodies pierced through, as long as they could move they fought on, trying everything they could to take their opponent down. Thus they embodied miracles.
I was one of those people too.
Woman or man, gender mattered little on the battlefield. Only those who never gave up, no matter the hopelessness of the situation, could perform miracles. I knew this well, so I wondered if it was right to decide already that victory was impossible.
Your body could still move, right? That was the kind of crude thought that popped up in my head.
“By the way, Prince Fay. Can you fight?”
“Do you think I can?”
“…don’t make me waste time with pointless questions.”
“No way I can. Or rather, I have no intention to.”
“I guess that’s another way to put it.”
“Whoa whoa, if some guy was all gung-ho and ready to scrap in a losing battle like this, they’d be either insane or full of confidence.”
“….what did you just say?”
The atmosphere turned tense. I could tell she was angry. I just described the facts, however. Without a shred of guilt, I didn’t hesitate to repeat myself.
“I said it’s a losing battle.”
She grabbed my lapel powerfully. The surrounding people kept an eye on us, but I continued speaking normally.
“If the commander is overwhelmed, then there’s no way you’re going to win. I can tell by how exhausted you are that you haven’t been at an advantage. I didn’t come here to commit suicide with you anyway. Sorry, but one skirmish and we’re out.”
“Even if we can’t win, you would abandon a country you are allied with!? Even if the troops you brought haven’t been defeated!? Enough nonsense!!!”
I’m still a prince of my country, after all. Even if I’m usually referred to as “Trash Prince”, she probably thought that in time of emergency I would honor the bonds with our allied kingdom. Quite a peculiar personality I would have.
“So…what you’re saying is, you want me to be buried in the Afillis kingdom?”
“I didn’t say anything like that….!!!”
“Just say it clearly. Leave your troops here and go. If any of my troops are strangely inclined to fight to the death in this country, I won’t stop them, but…”
I then glanced at the troops I brought, but everyone clearly looked away from me.
“This is it, then. I’ll go say the same to king Afillis, by the way.”
“Don’t blame me if they lock you up.”
“I’ll use the right words, of course. But if I was locked up, concern for the troops’ possible betrayal would arise. I do not see the Afillis kingdom as having the luxury for that right now.”
“What if we said that any betrayal would mean the prince’s death?”
“Like the “Trash Prince” has any value! Unfortunately no, he doesn’t.”
The troops would soon head west, as reinforcements. After that, I would have an audience with the king. The next morning at dawn, we’d be on our way back to the Diestburg kingdom.
Normally, reinforcement troops would stay on the battlefield for months on end, but even if we stayed only one day, the reality that we sent reinforcements would not change. The pact would be respected.
“Tell me more about the current situation.”
“…we have been besieged for more than one month. Considering the supplies and the troops’ exhaustion, we have little time left.”
“Why did you let the situation turn like this?”
“Because of a certain frontline, we couldn’t move at all…”
As Mephia spoke, her brows furrowed, her expression soured. It was easy to tell that the results here hadn’t been positive at all. I, however, continue my questions.
“What happened here, anyway?”
“We lost most of our troops because of the “Hero”’s raids. It was a complete defeat. Because of that I haven’t had a moment of rest.”
“I see. If you have been holding the fort for one month, the enemy must be severely exhausted too. How many troops do they have?”
“About 2000. They’re a rather large force…”
No, they’re just 2000 tired soldiers. They didn’t eat or sleep properly for one month, so they must be tired both physically and mentally. On our side, however, we have 3000 fresh troops from Diestburg.
We shouldn’t lose, in the end. I reach this conclusion and head in a different direction from the one Mephia was heading toward.
“Princess Mephia, I am going to greet the king now.”
“….what do you have in mind?”
“I will leave the troops here, of course. They’ll be under your command for the time being. In exchange, I want someone to guide us to the castle.”
“Are you so worried about your safety?”
“I don’t know what misunderstanding makes you think that, but in a battle you are most likely to win, there’s no need for baggage like me. I don’t have any intention to fight either. The troops will be under princess Mephia’s command. Even so, do you need me?”
“I too have a task to perform. Can you give me a guide?”
They are part of the soldiers who talked about me behind my back, but out of respect for prince Grerial, who was worried about me, some knights joined the troops too. The knights are elite troops: they will never fail against some 2000 exhausted soldiers.
“A wise decision. There’s no time to waste.”
Thus I head to the king’s castle, with Feli and one guide in tow.