Chapter 5 – A Loyal Knight
“This is terrible.”
Outside the castle gates, I looked at the battlefield where princess Mephia suffered utter defeat and whispered to myself. My words, however, did not include any frustration, sadness, or pity.
For me, mountains of corpses left behind as traces of conflict weren’t a novel sight at all, so I simply described the reality I saw.
“You don’t seem very surprised though, Your Highness”
“It’s just your imagination.”
Not knowing my circumstances fully, it’s natural for Feli to doubt me. The slothful, lazy prince nicknamed “Trash Prince” did not lose his composure even a little, despite looking at the charred remains of what probably used to be human limbs. It was fairly bizarre, that’s for sure.
“Human death is scattered everywhere. To get all emotional for every stranger’s corpse you see will destroy you in the process, it’s as clear as day.”
“….you speak like a knight.”
Do not become emotional even if your comrades die. Even if you are the last survivor, you must continue to slay your enemies. That’s a knight’s spirit. It’s one of the first things to be taught in the Knight Academy, an institution for training knights.
“A knight, huh…”
I looked at my hands, their pretty pink color. Even so, I saw them drenched in the blood of thousands. Even if I was born again, the deeds I committed do not disappear. I’m not something as noble as a knight. I just killed countless people for my own sake, I’m just…
“Unfortunately, that isn’t right.”
Just a murderer.
“I’m just hopeless trash. The name ‘Trash Prince’ fits me perfectly.”
“…you torment yourself too much, Your Highness”
“You’ll understand too, one day.”
I laugh emptily and proceed on the bloodied path. Several hours have already passed since I left the castle. I started from the areas with less casualties, finally reaching the one with the most.
On our way, we encountered enemy soldiers several times, but Feli cut them down with ease, so there were no real obstacles.
The total number of enemy troops is said to be 50,000, and there is even the possibility that it is an allied force. Their objective is the Afillis kingdom’s abundant natural resources. The enemy has committed the great majority of their forces and even played the ace up their sleeve, the “Hero”.
The Afillis kingdom’s current situation…it has suffered a grave defeat and lost most of its forces. I look at the next battlefield and make my conclusion.
“This is pretty much hopeless.”
The Afillis kingdom’s remaining forces count about 20,000, including the wounded. In addition, they are on the brink of exhaustion.
The more time passed, the more the situation worsened. Even if the “Hero” wasn’t there, victory would be uncertain, or so I concluded.
“No matter what they do, they can’t win this.”
“….I suppose so.”
Feli’s expression is downcast, but she shares my opinion.
Having requested for five days, I cannot possibly go back earlier, but if I remain I would just go down together with the kingdom of Afillis. A fate I wished to be spared.
“I’m sorry for uncle Leric, but…”
The only thing I could do was help him flee the country. I was about to say this, when I smelled blood. A thick smell, different from the one floating in the surroundings.
A certain time had passed for the corpses and pools of blood around us, so their characteristic smell was relatively thin. What I smelled now, however, was a strong, pungent smell. I felt my heart beat faster.
There is more emotion in my voice now. I saw a small hut, a makeshift one probably built to be used for battle. A knight stood in front of the small hut, sword drawn, as to protect it. Around the knight, there were about 40 enemy soldiers, collapsed on the ground.
The knight’s gear bore the emblem of the Afillis kingdom. Ignoring Feli, who was warily looking at the knight from a distance, I walk briskly towards him.
Feli shouts to make me stop, but I proceed nonetheless.
“….who are you?”
Being targeted with true killing intent for the first time in a long while, I felt somewhat sentimental.
“I am from the Diestburg kingdom, I suppose you know what it means?”
In this short exchange, I realized something. At first, I thought the blood on the knight belonged to the enemies he killed, but he himself was also lethally wounded. His words sounded almost lifeless.
“These enemy soldiers are?”
“Scouts who regularly come to this area. I killed anyone who showed interest in this place and came to kill us.”
“There’s someone in the hut?”
The knight could have surely fled to the castle by himself. He did not, however: it was easy to imagine that it was to protect someone.
“….a bit more than 10 wounded soldiers.”
“You were protecting them?”
“There were two other people with me before, but they entrusted the hut to me and died.”
The knight still stood only thanks to his willpower to protect the wounded soldiers behind him. He had suffered a lethal wound, but still continued to fight on. He deserved nothing but praise.
“Man from Diestburg…”
“Do you want something from me?”
“I don’t have much time left. I have a request for you.”
I could tell that he was about to die.
I could also more or less tell what his request will be about.
“The princess and the king…”
For the first time, a reply exceeding my expectations made me open my eyes wide.
“That’s surprising. I expected you to entrust the troops in the hut to me.”
“We soldiers have all sworn our loyalty to the kingdom of Afillis. They are all prepared to die too, I am sure. I continued to protect them only because of my conscience and to kill the scouts to redeem my failure in the last battle. All personal reasons.”
“That’s some impressive loyalty.”
The knight smiled at my comment. It probably sounded like praise to him.
“If you came because of the pact, you must have reinforcements. If so, I want you to keep your troops here as long as possible. Even if we are at a disadvantage, if we endure long enough the enemy will run out of resources. If the Afillis kingdom has a chance to win, this is it.”
“But I have no duty of complying.”
Not even if I am accused of being heartless. I will probably leave this country.
The knight, however, probably expected me to reply that way, as he only showed a wry smile.
“…indeed, you have no duty to listen to my requests.”
“If you knew that, then why did you ask?”
The knight spoke even slower.
“To be loyal until the end.”
Slowly, the knight takes the sword at his waist, sheath and all, and bends a knee as if to offer it to me.
“This is all I can offer right now…but please, won’t you listen to the plea of a dying man?”
“….that is probably something very important for you. It seems to bear the royal family’s emblem too. A sword is the swordsman’s life…why do you relinquish it?”
“This is all the good faith I can show right now…”
“To offer something bestowed upon you so readily…first, raise your head, knight of Afillis.”
I have not nodded once. The knight’s expression is thus somber, his body’s limits exceeded by a lot. His countenance suggests that he might collapse at any moment.
“Why did you wield your sword?”
“To protect the kingdom. To prove my loyalty to the royal family.”
“Even so, in the end you are lowering your head to ‘trash’ like me.”
“If it can lead to the faintest hope of survival for Afillis, I would lower my head as many times as needed. If lowering my head can increase our chances of survival by the tiniest percentage, I will boast to those who departed before me. I can go while laughing. If this fading life can offer even the smallest contribution to the kingdom’s survival, it was worth persistently surviving until now. I can feel my life had value.”
Next to me, Feli looks down, barely keeping herself from crying. She’s kind. If she could speak her honest mind, she would probably plead for me to stay as long as possible. Feli, however, does not serve the kingdom of Afillis. What she must prioritize above all else are the members of the Diestburg royal house. That is what keeps her from speaking.
I look to the sky and sigh.
The knight in front of me looks exactly like someone else. Like one of my past acquaintances.
A person I owe my life to.
<<I managed to save someone’s life right at the end, guess it means I was worth something, huh? Gotta say thanks to you, ***. I’m giving you a cross you don’t need, but thanks to that I can go feeling proud that my life had some value…sorry, guess I’ll be selfish till the very end…>>
Why do these people try to find value in their lives? I had nothing but envy for these people, trying to go with a smile.
“….tell me one last thing.”
“How can I die while smiling?”
Feli looked at me, shocked.
I finally realized where my true heart lies. I just want to die while smiling. I don’t want to die like that anymore. I probably thought that if I lived in peace, without even touching a sword, I would be able to die with a smile.
Looking at the knight, however, I realized that it probably wasn’t like that. I felt compelled to ask.
“Live for…the sake of others.”
The knight speaks.
“Live not for yourself, but for the sake of others, to serve others. I believe that it leads to dying while smiling.”
“…so I must listen to your request, right?”
“…haha, you got me.”
All the people I know that died with a smile, died for someone else. I can’t forget their satisfied expressions.
“I changed my mind.”
I face the knight again.
“Very well. Fay Hanse Diestburg will undertake your request.”
“…now I’m surprised. I figured you were a noble from your attire, but to think you are His Highness the prince…”
“Known far and wide as ‘Trash Prince’. Do not expect much, but be proud.”
Proud to have shaken, at least a little, my resolution not to wield a sword again. You have caused a murderer, who cut down thousands to survive, to take a sword in his hands again, after all.
“You have sparked some enthusiasm in the ‘Trash Prince’. That’s a grand accomplishment.”
“Name yourself, proud knight. Thanks to your loyalty to the kingdom of Afillis, Fay Hanse Diestburg and the army he leads will fight with every ounce of their strength.”
“Haha, now I feel lucky.”
“Even though you’re about to die?”
“I could prove my loyalty till the last moment. There is no greater joy.”
The knight, who had stayed standing upright until now, finally leaned against the hut and slowly slid until he was sitting on the ground.
“Logsaria…Logsaria Bornest. That’s my name.”
“I will remember that name till the moment I die. Now rest…you have carried out your duties admirably.”
“…the princess and the king…please…”
The knight slowly closed his eyes. This is the place where he died: no one could take it away from him. So I silently watched over his final moments. And believed that I made the right choice.
After all, you see?
Logsaria died with a smile.
“He was a knight of pure, immaculate loyalty.”
I then lift him over my shoulders, without a care even that my clothes are smeared with blood. Being out of shape, I struggle a bit to carry him, but I can’t let that stop me.
“Hey!! I know you’re watching me!! Come out and take wounded soldiers to the castle!!”
As soon as I spoke, about 10 soldiers, surely belonging to the Afillis kingdom, headed my way.
“Your Highness, you noticed them?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Feli. I’m good at detecting presences, it’s something I was born with. Of course I could.”
“…Your Highness. Your words to sir Logsaria…did you truly mean them?”
The lazy and slothful “Trash Prince”. She couldn’t imagine that such a person was, in fact, someone like that. I was serious, however.
“Yes, I did. This time I even think it might be nice to take the sword to fight for someone else.”