The Lazy Prince Abandons His Homeland 〜 a Life of Decadence Begins with Captivity - Chapter 4
Chapter 4 – The Ruler
Even the loyal retainers, who should have been prepared to die, could not hide their agitation at the might of the enemy and the fate of their home country, which was to be destroyed, being forced down their throats. In the midst of all that, Lute clapped his hands loudly once.
“You nitwits, what are you getting dazed now? It’s been hopeless from the start. It’s a miracle we haven’t been swallowed up already. Rather, you should reflect on the joy of being able to even talk right now.”
By all rights, the Land Kingdom Army should have been destroyed without even having the option of retreating.
The reason that didn’t happen, was that the Empire did not consider the Land Kingdom Army to be a threat at all, and the speed of the invasion was relatively slow.
Since it was an invasion operation toward the mainland, there was no escape route for those of the Land Kingdom, and since the Empire had just cause for invading, there was no hope for reinforcements.
In such a situation, there was no need to rush and pile up unnecessary wear and tear, so the Empire was aiming for victory with a steady march and minimal loss of life.
It was a miracle that the abandoned pawns of just over 50 men still survived in such circumstances, that was why it shone so brightly in the face of inevitable doom.
A “miracle” was a ray of light that cut through the darkness of despair. It was the gospel that illuminated the darkness and brought hope. That was why Lute transformed the small “miracle” of the present situation into a sword of brilliance that broke through adversity.
“You guys did really well. Not only did you survive the clash, but you showed loyalty to this incompetent slacker and stayed here. The way you survived in a hopeless situation on the battlefield with an unbreakable heart is a true example of a soldier.”
“Your Highness?! It’s really out of character to give us that kind of honest compliment?!”
“That’s right, please stop. It’s bad luck! I don’t want to hear this kind of deathbed talk!”
“You’re the ones with the bad luck, you idiots! Don’t turn a person’s well-deserved compliment into one’s last words!”
Lute was simply expressing his appreciation for his loyal retainers in an unusually honest manner, but sadly, due to the departure from his usual behavior, the soldiers only became worried. Well, considering the situation and the speech, the soldiers’ reaction was rather appropriate.
“Seriously. That’s the situation. I can understand why you’d take my words that way. Do you guys really think I’m the sort of person who accepts the situation and dies?”
““No, not at all!””
“Am I the sort that carries out orders to die in vain and charge to our deaths, screaming about our love for our country?”
“How about being willing to fall into the hands of captives while having no idea how I’ll be treated, or even what the future holds?”
“…. Probably not.”
“Deny it more forcefully, you idiots! Even in my former life I never refused to think critically about choices that made me feel uneasy! It’s a given that I’ll at least secure the ingredients needed for a peaceful life, right!?”
The soldiers voiced their consent to the anger in Lute’s voice, which was so typical of him.
Lute did not seem averse to the idea of falling into captivity, which was why the soldiers weren’t sure how to respond, but now that they thought about it, there was no way that Lute, whose heart was set on being “lazy,” would become a “mere prisoner of war” with no future prospects. If his own qualities were taken into account, Lute would have without a doubt been able to obtain the honors and riches of royalty, but he kicked them away along with his duties, and had only done the minimum amount of work, knowing that he would be ridiculed by those around him.
And there was no way that a person with that kind of a rebellious heart, would do such an auspicious thing as praising his subordinates just because he was on the verge of annihilation.
“… In other words, what I said earlier was just a compliment to you guys from the heart. It’s not like I’m trying to make a good memory in our last moments before death, so don’t worry.”
“Yeah but, isn’t this a little too abrupt?”
“That’s right. It is true that we’ve survived under His Highness’s care, but to be honest, we haven’t done anything yet, have we?”
“No. You guys just don’t realize it, but we’ve done some solid work.”
To the soldiers’ puzzled looks, having not the slightest idea of the honest praise they just received, Lute gave only a quiet smile as an answer.
“…. In response to your resolve and loyalty, I am now temporarily giving up the name of ‘Incompetent’. This is not because of the danger of this country going into ruin. It is my gift to you for your devotion.”
That was the first time the soldiers, and even Heinrich, who had served him for so long, saw Lute as royalty.
── All the soldiers unconsciously knelt down in the face of this overwhelmingly impressive appearance.
“Be proud! By your loyalty, the Land Kingdom avoids the fate of destruction! As long as it is not completely destroyed, they will never achieve full victory! Our honor will be tarnished. But Land will not perish! Most of its people will never understand, but I will vouch for your great achievement! I say it once more. Be proud! You are the heroes of our salvaged nation!”
──The spoken words put a pleasant pressure on the soldiers and made their hearts flutter.
Everyone understood now the words Lute, who was far removed from his usual lazy appearance and now stood like a king, had spoken earlier.
All the soldiers had the same thought: “We were fools. It would be troublesome if those of the lower ranks in the line of succession weren’t competent enough.”
That’s right, surely this kind of appearance should not be shown on a regular basis. If this personality of his would be constantly on the surface, the country would seriously become divided.
He had an overwhelming charisma that would overshadow the royalty above him in the line of succession, the crown prince, or even the king himself.
His charisma was on a different level, one that would make ordinary people instinctively fall on their knees.
Lute Land was a bastard son, but he was a genuine royalty, or rather, a genuine monarch.
The soldiers understood now that his usual lazy appearance, while probably due in part to his own personality, was also a necessary act to cloud his overwhelming charisma.
“… Anyway. Well, that’s why I praised you. You may stand up now.”
As if to prove it, the pressure in Lute’s tone of voice from earlier disappeared.
It was as if he knew his speech from earlier would make them kneel, further confirming the soldiers’ speculation.
Nevertheless. Although they now understood the difference in character, even those who knew Lute’s personality had a hard time swallowing it.
Heinrich, who had known Lute for the longest period of time, was the first to express his doubts.
“Um…., Your Highness. Was that….?”
“Hmm? Oh, that. That was a secret of mine, or rather a glimpse of one of my trump cards that I’ve been hiding. I will tell you as a reward for your loyalty, but I actually have two secrets. I’m going to show one of them now.”
“… Is it something that will help us in this war?”
“Oh yeah. If used well, it’ll be a powerful move that could end the war without any further casualties.”
Lute’s unhesitating affirmation. As a result, Heinrich and the other soldiers present recognized it as a “fact”.
At the same time, a question arose in their minds.
“…. Your Highness. We have pledged our allegiance to Your Highness. Therefore, we will not be swayed by any response. Thus, I would like to ask you a question. Why are you only using your “trump card” now? No, why did you keep it a secret in the first place?”
Why did he not use his powerful trump card, which would have averted his doom and even caused the Empire to retreat, until now?
This was a natural question for a man who served his country.
Lute understood this, which is why he answered Heinrich’s question without any pretense at all.
“There are four reasons.
“First, my two trump cards are too powerful. To be frank, I wouldn’t have told anyone for the rest of my life if it wasn’t for this emergency. If it weren’t for your loyalty, I would still be hiding them, and I would have quietly disappeared on my own. They are so dangerous that they should never be used in our country. Too much power will always destroy oneself. That is why I’ve kept it a secret until now.
“Then there’s the question of opportunity. The war had progressed too far for me to use my trump card. The first battle in the Margraviate was physically too far away, and in the earlier clash, the outcome was almost decided by the time I arrived at the battlefield. Therefore, there was no point in me using it.
“And next is the difference in national power. My trump card passes for the Empire’s, but the fundamental difference in national power is insurmountable. If the situation reaches a stalemate from confronting the enemy poorly, I might get crushed from an economic standpoint, rather than a physical one. That is why I was waiting for the right moment to use it.
“Finally, there is the issue of command. Currently, as we have been cast aside, we are fighting independently. That means I am the supreme commander. That is why I can play my trump card. As I said before, too much power will always come back to you. And as far as I know, there is no one in the upper ranks who can handle my trump card. If I reveal its existence in such a situation, it could be fatal to the relationship with the Empire and ultimately destroy it.
“That is why now is the time to finally play my trump card. Have I convinced you?”
Lute’s explanation seemed to make sense, at least to Heinrich.
Of course, others would be furious if they heard it, but Lute was not that concerned about the Land Kingdom, and the people here had sworn their allegiance to him.
It would be one thing if the leader was clearly going down the wrong path, but otherwise it was best not to interfer with Lute’s decision.
“But does that mean that His Highness will remove himself from command of the army?”
“That’s right. From this point onward, actions are beyond my original discretion. Well, of course, if we do nothing, we will perish. We don’t need to worry about that. … And even if we’re discovered, there’s nothing our country can do about it anyway. At most, we’ll be called traitors or something.”
“Your Highness is as unwavering as ever…”
Heinrich couldn’t help but let out a word of dismay at Lute, who said it like it was nothing.
No matter how one looked at Lute’s speech, who was acting on his own initiative and had his private, albeit a small one, military force, it was a clear insurrection.
It was a serious crime that would surely result in the maximum penalty if discovered, but Lute didn’t even show any emotion.
“…Ahh but those of you who don’t want to be branded as traitors, tell me. You have families and loved ones, and don’t want such a bad reputation I guess. The situation is what it is, so we’ll act with resolve. That’s why only those who don’t care about their honor in our country should stay. Those who choose not to will be sent back as messengers without hearing about the details. We can avoid destruction even if our numbers are reduced, so don’t be afraid to come forward.”
Lute showed his consideration. However, no one raised their voice in response.
“Your Highness. When we volunteered for this unit, we entrusted our lives to Your Highness. Why the hesitation now?”
“That’s right. In the first place, we’re the heroes of our country’s salvation, right? If so, it’s only logical to serve Your Highness to the end. We cannot boast of being heroes if we are not there when it counts.”
“Above all, here we are only lonely, single men. We have nothing to lose!”
““Without a doubt!!””
It was a powerful reply. One that made Lute laugh in spite of himself.
“Haha, you guys are pretty unwavering yourselves. By the way, it’s time for you to return to your normal way of speech. It’s creepy.”
““That would be pretty difficult.””
“I guess there’s nothing to do about that…”
Lute immediately gave up on trying to make the soldiers fix their ways, realizing it was useless.
The fact that they had answered immediately without showing any confusion made him realize that the sense of distance between them had not changed.
“Well then. Let’s get to work. All of you, line up in front of the fort! Heinrich, raise the banner of negotiation!”
“Negotiation, sir? Not surrender?”
“Yes, negotiation. Normally, it wouldn’t happen with this gap in strength, but… The war is not a normal one to begin with. So, the way to deal with it doesn’t have to be normal either.”
Lute’s smiling face looked as if he was a child about to play a terrible prank.
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