~ Side Story: The foolish Prince (Part 1) ~
[Prince Reynolds D. Lagrange's point of view]
The curse of a Godlike Dungeon Lord was something not even the most powerful of our priests could remove. It was bound to my flesh and the very Magic Energy that flowed within my body. No matter how much I would struggle or for how long, the end result was going to be the same... unless I satisfied its conditions, I was going to face a most horrible death.
Since that fateful day... six months had come to pass and many things changed within the Aunnar Kingdom. All political power laid in my brother's hands, while I acted as a Prime Minister. Right now, I saw it as a worthy position for me, but back then my thoughts weren't as such...
Even now as I stood at the window of my own room and gazed down upon Elora, the capital of my kingdom, I still found myself in awe at how much things have changed. How much I have gained and how far I have come thanks to Illsyore. If it wasn't for him, I might have been dead now or still passing my time as a worthless prince...
The first few days of living with this curse engraved on my flesh had been a living nightmare. I had two months to solve the issue of the orphans, child labor, and slavery within my kingdom. Two months to do the impossible.
I cursed the Dungeon Lord who did this to me, I didn't even wish to hear his name. The agony and frustration I felt, the humility were beyond those a prince should stand to bear, or so I thought. My mind was basically backed up into a corner...
Indeed... it was either change entirely or die. There was no middle choice.
I tried to falsify some documents, but it didn't work. The curse didn't even flinch at the sight of them. Going to the Temples and ordering the people there to remove this curse was useless as well.
In just a week, I was nearly driven mad, and I would have snapped if not for that moment of clarity.
What happened was that I found myself laying on my back on the floor in the middle of the library and looking up at the ceiling without thinking at anything. I was at the edge, feeling as if the last thread of hope had been snapped by some evil force, and I was left to plunge in an abyss of endless darkness.
In that moment, I remembered the Dungeon Lord's story about nobility, how in the end, what flowed through my veins was the same blood that flowed through the veins of any other peasant out there. The only difference was the fact that I was educated and they not.
“Preposterous! Lies!” I shouted at the memory only I could see and hear.
Yet, somehow, I knew there had to be a grain of truth in his words. So I got up, and wishing to prove the Dungeon Lord that he was lying, I picked up the books which told the stories of how this kingdom was formed, and I began to read.
In one night, I tirelessly digested every single story of known nobles and lords. What I found out shocked me beyond belief. All the lords, including my esteemed family had once been a peasant in the past. Rebellions, revolutions, political and military coups, enemy take overs, misuse of influence, and many other reasons were the tools and means which led to one noble family or another to a humiliating downfall or a glorious rise. In the end, our role in the governing seat was as stable as a castle made out of sand. A single blow was enough to topple us over.
Resigned to my fate, I began to see the truth behind my humiliating defeat. But my mind was still way too warped back then. I saw it merely as a possible joke, a monster who used some underhanded means to change the truth of the stories, yet when I thought about the origin of all nobles, my mind could not come up with an answer.
Only the day after did I began to try and think of a possible solution to the problems I was handed. I called over my best generals and asked them what they thought about the current state of affairs.
“I believe we need to rise the taxes. The peasants need to pay us nobles more!” one of them said.
Just hearing those words made the curse sting.
“I believe we need to add some sort of tax for those who own more than three slaves. If they can afford that many, they can afford the tax too!” he declared.
His words at that time were pleasing to my ears and if I didn't had this curse, I would have agreed to employ such a tax.
“I would suggest clearing up some lands offering more space for the farms.” another said.
It was an opinion that differed from the others, so curiously, I asked him “Why?”
“It is in order to gain more food, your highness. More food means healthier and happier people, which would mean more taxes for us.” he smiled.
Again with the taxes... I thought.
To my surprise, I realized then, that I lacked any sort of understanding regarding the way our kingdom sustained itself. Up until now, I thought it was absolutely natural for people to pay taxes and us nobles to spend them as we saw fit, but maybe the world didn't work that way?
Thus, I began my long and tumultuous research. To my surprise, I found my kingdom to be entirely dependent of slaves up to a rather ridiculous level. More than just simple tools, we treated them as our hands and feet. There was even a record of a noble who forsake all of his living needs to the slaves, meaning that he made one feed him, another to wipe his butt, another to speak for him, another to even do the work of a noble instead of him.
“This guy only needs to breath and stay alive! He doesn't do anything else! He's that useless!” I screamed outraged when I read this for the first time.
More so, that noble was a Marquise who owned a rather large territory.
I felt like if we were to be thrown in a state of war, we would lose because we would tell our slaves to fight for us.
I began to realize just how right my brother, Reginald, was when he spoke of these matters. I, like a fool, ignored him, but now I understood that he was right.
Before he returned, I had to do something, a change of some sort or else a coup from him would have been something to expect. Actually, before the Dungeon Lord cursed me, I didn't even consider such a possibility.
Could it be that monster saved my life? I thought to myself, but I forsake the thought.
Of course, since I couldn't just announce these laws as valid for the entire country, I had to see if they worked in the capital first. As to why such a plan? It was because here I could both intervene directly in case something unforeseen happened and witness first hand the effects they produced. Thus, I gave the orders for slave owners residing in the capital to free their slaves. The guards were to behave and protect these freed slaves in the same manner they would everyone else. Also, they were given special orders to protect and defend all children from abuse and the like. I also banned child slavery and labor in the capital just like the Dungeon Lord told me.
It was easier said than done. This tumultuous reform was seen with good eyes by the public, but the number of protests and complaints from the slave merchants and nobles were stockpiling like mad on my desk. I was being flooded with them from all directions with no chance of escaping.
Back then, I honestly thought I had sentenced myself to a fate worse than death, but that was just me complaining of all the hard work I had never dared to try and do before.
Then, while I was trying to solve these matters and find a solution for the numerous other problems that came as a result of me abolishing slavery in the capital, my brother returned.
He was certainly surprised by the changes the capital went through, but in a good way. Then, one day, when I stumbled onto my brother, I greeted him with tears in my eyes and told him about my problems. It was too much for me... Although I felt how the curse weakened a bit thanks to the changes I made in the capital, it was not enough. Regrettably, I needed help, and he was the only one who could provide it.
If someone would have told me a year ago that I would end up crying and pleading my brother for help on how to abolish slavery in our kingdom, I would have thought they were making a bad joke and had them killed immediately. Alas, the truth was that I really did need his help, and surprisingly, he accepted.
Then, both of us put our heads together to find a solution, at least temporary, to all of these problems. It was insanely difficult, but not impossible. Finding reasons to abolish slavery was not as bad as I would have initially thought, but appeasing the nobles and merchants was far more difficult. Those greedy bastards didn't want to give up their comfy way of leaving no matter what.
The more I struggled to solve these problems, the more I focused on them, and the more I realized just what sort of a person I was before meeting the Dungeon Lord. Truth be told, I was oblivious to this fact until much latter on. For the first few weeks, I still retained in secret my greedy vision of the world, but then... something happened.
“Brother, why don't you go and deal with Marquise Dartolt?” Reginald asked while staring at his papers.
“Marquise Dartolt? Isn't he the last noble who refuses to free his slaves in the capital even now?” I asked.
“Yes. All the others either moved their slaves outside of the capital or they themselves moved. You were once on good terms with him, maybe he'll listen to you?” he suggested.
“Good terms... I wonder if we could call it that.” I pondered about it. “Very well, brother, I'll go.” I decided.
“Brother, be sure to take some of my personal guards with you, just in case.”
“My guards should suffice!” I declared proudly.
“Do me a favor and take them, please?” he lifted his head up and smiled at me.
At that time, I was wondering if he was looking down at me, but I couldn't say 'no' to him. After gathering around me twelve guards, six of which were my brother's, we headed for Marquise Dartolt's mansion.
There, I was welcomed inside his home, and the conversation between us proceeded nicely up to the point where I asked him to release his slaves.
“No.” was his short answer.
“I believe you don't understand. We, the princes of this country declared this.” I told him.
“You highness...” he smiled.
The way he looked at me was the same as one would at a foolish child. In his eyes, I was nothing but a fool playing with a power that wasn't his to begin with.
“This little game of yours must come to an end. You have made many people angry and as such... we decided that the two of you 'princes' were unneeded anymore.” he snapped his fingers and several armed troops entered the room, surrounding me and my guards. “If you had remained the same old fool as before, we would have ruled you as a puppet, and this kingdom would have been ours as it had always been.” he laughed.
“I-I-I did it because of the curse!” I immediately excused myself.
Wait... what? I'm afraid of this man? I thought to myself when I saw my trembling hands and felt sweat gathering on my forehead.
Indeed, I feared for my own life, but why was I, who was a prince, supposed to feel this way when my right from birth was that to be this man's ruler? The answer to this question laid in the Dungeon Lord's words... Both nobles and peasants hold the same blood, only the achievements of our ancestors and our education are what makes the difference.
Because they don't see my worth as a prince... they can easily decide to kill me? Such a thing... I thought, then I looked at the two maid slaves in the room. The difference between me and them... lays only in the collar around their necks. I thought then gulped.
“Don't worry, your Highness! We'll protect you!” my guards said.
“Very well... but don't die. At worst, one of you must return alive to my brother and tell him of this conspiracy!” I said the words I would never have thought I would towards one such as him.
The old me would have ordered them harshly to lay down their lives and save me by all means, not ask them to stay alive.
Hearing my words, the man smirked. It was as if a flame was lit inside their hearts.
“We will protect you without fail and bring you back to his Highness!” he declared.
“For Aunnar!” they all shouted.
“Worthless...” said the Marquise as he retreated to the back.
The battle started...
Note from the author: Thank you for reading this chapter, I hope you enjoyed it! Oh, and be sure to check out my other stories too!
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