A Battle Within a Castle — Part 1
Editors: Sebas Tian, Speedphoenix, Joker
“Hah hah hah! Come at me! Come at me and get your asses beat like the weak little shits you are!” I laughed in an overly exaggerated manner as I incapacitated with overwhelming force any soldier that dared face me—or at least that was what I had envisioned happening. Reality was a bit different for… reasons. The soldiers were behaving in a bit of an odd manner.
There were a lot of them. My guess had most likely been on point. Although I didn’t have any evidence to back it, the response we were faced with suggested that someone had finally found one of the many soldiers that I had used active stealth to “avoid.” The king and I had been subject to a constant onslaught ever since the moment we first stepped foot out of the dungeon. Soldiers were coming our way in an endless stream and attempting to encircle us at every given opportunity.
That part was normal. And if the soldiers had actually attempted to truly engage us, then everything that followed would also have been normal.
But most hadn’t.
“Graaaaaaahhhh! I’m dying! I’m totally dying!”
“Oh the pain! Medic! Medic! I need healing!”
Every soldier around me had been blown away each time I swung my weapon… regardless of whether or not I had actually hit them. Simply put, they were acting. They had leapt away in a “realistic” manner and feigned injury immediately afterwards in order to avoid conflict.
And each time I looked at the men, they would return my gaze with a nod, a knowing expression of acknowledgement. Because although they couldn’t disobey their orders, they too fought for the king. It was evident that many of the soldiers present did not wish to rebel, that they were not fighting for the prince’s faction of their own will. Welp. Now I feel kinda bad about “avoiding” everyone. Sorry guys. The pieces of shit I met in town made me assume you were all hostile douchebags. I’ll make it up to you later by treating you to a good chunk of meat.
“Well, you seem rather liked.”
“…It appears so.”
The king nodded, but only after doing a bit of inner reflection. The “battle” unfolding before him seemed to have prompted a thought.
It didn’t take long for me to become a willing participant in the soldiers’ farce. That was why I had started laughing the way I had. I was doing my best to hold back too. I was using the back of Zaien’s blade and only swinging it with a fifth of my usual strength, just in case. I didn’t want to actually injure any of my allies, after all.
“What are you imbeciles doing!?” Seeing his subordinates fall like pins had caused one of the men in charge to grow impatient. He began yelling at them while brandishing his sword in a manner that clearly conveyed his annoyance. “Stop fooling around and capture them already!”
Unlike his subordinates, the commander clearly had a foot in the prince’s camp. Guess I’m doing him in. I kicked off the ground. I took a single step that spanned the entire distance between the commander and I.
“And hurry it uraaaagh?!” He tried to complain some more, but it soon devolved into incoherent screaming. I used the arm not holding my blade to drill a fist into his solar plexus the moment he opened his mouth.
There was a loud crack. The strike not only completely destroyed his armour, but also sent him flying into the building to his rear. The way he stuck to the wall and then slowly peeled off of it afterwards was almost comical in nature.
“Oh no!!” One of the knights immediately took advantage of the change in the situation. “He took out the captain! Retreat, men! We’re no match for him! Get the hell out of here!”
The knight’s shout sounded so happy it almost came off as celebratory. He and his buddies immediately began to fake a desperate retreat, one that emulated what would likely only ever be seen on the most grievous of battlefields. For some odd reason, even the soldiers that should have been completely uninjured started to limp away. Some borrowed each other’s shoulders, while others dragged their “heavily wounded” by grabbing them under the armpits and slowly hauling them off the battlefield.
I couldn’t help but smile awkwardly as I watched them act. There simply wasn’t any other way I could respond. Oh wait. Details, Yuki, details. How could you forget?
“Well, hate to break it to you soldier, but it looks like you’ve been captured by the enemy.” I moved over to one of the limping men and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Clearly, this means you’ve become a good old prisoner of war.”
“Sir, yes sir. I’ve been caught by enemy forces, and therefore it’s only natural that I am classified as POW. The enemy’s been interrogating me, so it isn’t my fault if I spill any important military information.”
Fortunately, the guy I caught was quick on his feet. He immediately got where I was going and answered in a way that indicated he was totally on board.
“So first thing’s first, where exactly is that shithead of a prince holed up?”
“His Highness is probably either in his study or the audience hall. I’m not sure exactly which of the two he’s in right at this moment, but it should be one or the other.”
“Alright. What about the soldiers loyal to him? Where are they located?”
“Most of them are probably in town dealing with the riot that’s broken out just outside the castle grounds. There are a few left inside, but we’ll have them pinned down for you, so you shouldn’t need to worry about them at all.”
“Wait? There’s a riot? Mind explaining that whole situation?”
“The church seems to have riled up the citizens and caused a huge mess. We’ve always been at odds with His Highness’ faction, so they had us stay inside the castle to prevent us from joining the rebel side and putting His Highness’ soldiers in a bad spot,” he said. “But thanks to you, we’ve finally found ourselves able to take action. And for that, we thank you, every last one of us.”
“Naw, don’t worry about it. I’m just, you know, also doing mission things,” I said. “I just did what I had to. That’s all.”
I began thinking about the riot as I spoke. Did they decide to push up the schedule because of that whole orphanage thing? Yeah, that sounds about right. Carlotta probably realized that they’d lose the initiative if they waited, so she probably used that whole incident to drive the citizens into a frenzy.
Wait. Isn’t she supposed to be a paladin? I’m pretty sure causing a riot and manipulating the citizens into becoming a distraction is just about as un-knightly as you can get. And that’s ignoring the whole expectation where holy knights are supposed to be even more strict with the rules and whatnot.
Oh well, whatever. Given the circumstances, I doubted it’d be that long before I met up with the rescue squad. Soon, I’ll be able to just hand them the king and go smash the prince’s face in.
I didn’t have the time to casually escort the old man to safety and come back. There was a chance that the prince would run if we took too long. And I didn’t want him getting away.
“Sweet, that just about fills me in on everything I wanted to know,” I said. “So uh, I’ll make sure to get the ki—His Majesty somewhere safe. You guys should probably get going too. Don’t push yourselves too hard though.”
“Sir, yes sir! The same goes to you, and we wish you the best of luck!”
The “prisoner of war” saluted me, bowed to the king, and went back to retreating alongside his buddies. Once he was gone, I turned back around to face the old man. “Right, king dude. The actual rescue squad should be here soon. You should probably get ready to take your daughter and have them escort you guys to safety.”
“…There is one thing I would like to ask you.”
“Do you intend on… ending my son’s life?”
“Yeah. I do.”
The king responded to my nod by closing his eyes. He waited a few moments before finally slowly opening them again. The look on his face seemed to indicate that he had come to some sort of decision.
“I would like to be allowed to accompany you.”
“Look man, I’m sorry, but it doesn’t matter whether or not you tag along. Your son’s life is going to end. And I’ll be the one to do it. Nothing you say is going to change my mind. Not now, not ever.”
It simply couldn’t be helped. The prince’s very presence was a threat to my peace.
“My son has committed high treason. His demise is inevitable. He will be put to death even if you do not choose to slay him. The inevitability, however, is precisely why I wish to oversee his final moments.”
His words caused me to pause for a moment. I couldn’t deny his thoughts. Because I understood that that was just what it meant to be a parent.
“Just don’t get in my way, alright?”
“I swear that I will not.”
The only response I could offer the stubborn old king was a sigh.