Masked Knight - Chapter 135
Chapter 135: Tagging Along
When Sieg saw the Duke going hopping mad, he was very frightened. The Duke's expression was distorted, and the fury could be seen in his eyes. Rody stared at Sieg as if he was his arch enemy. The murderous look put a cold chill in his heart.
’’Your Excellency the Duke... You...’’
’’What about me!’’ Rody roared. ’’What happened? That bastard Emperor dared to grab my... my sister!’’ He had almost blurted out 'my woman', but fortunately, he changed his words. However, his anger did not diminish.
Those words made everyone in the room jump in surprise. Saying 'bastard Emperor' was outrageous. Even those who thought the Emperor was not a good person would just say those words in their minds and not out loud. Besides that, the Governor-General was just standing at the side, and he was an outsider.
Sieg subconsciously looked at the Governor-General. However, before he could see the Governor-General's expression, Rody's eyes had turned red. Rody grabbed Sieg by his collar and he shouted, ’’Speak clearly! Tell me everything you know!’’
Sieg started to panic. He was a soldier who would kill on the battlefield without even blinking. At the moment, however, he was filled with a sense of dread. Sieg realized that the Duke was extremely furious. If he did not answer the Duke properly, the Duke might kill him in his fury.
The people around him were also frightened. That Xier Governor-General then smiled and said, ’’Your Excellency the Duke, this... If your sister marries the Emperor, then it is glory to your family... you...’’
Before the Governor-General could finish, Rody went up to him and kicked him out of the room. He then turned to Sieg and shouted, ’’Stop daydreaming! Speak!’’
Sieg's paralyzed mind was shocked into action when he saw the powerful Governor-General being kicked out by the Duke. He quickly thought of what to say and replied, ’’Your Excellency the Duke, this is the biggest news in the Imperial Capital now. The news came from the Imperial Palace and it must be true. I traveled day and night, without stopping, so that I can quickly report this to you...’’ Sieg stopped as he looked at Rody's oppressive expression. He had stopped speaking just in time, before the words 'good news'.
After taking a deep breath, Sieg continued, ’’At the beginning of this month, His Majesty said he was going to marry another concubine. Everybody had thought that His Majesty wanted to marry Miss Jojo...’’ Sieg stopped for a moment and secretly looked at Rody's expression. Seeing that the Duke did not have any notable expression, he felt reassured and continued, ’’Many people in the Imperial Capital knew that His Majesty adored Miss Jojo. However, a few elders of the Imperial lineage objected. These elders opposed to His Majesty marrying Miss Jojo. Their reasoning was that Miss Jojo's usual attitude and conduct was not pleasing to their eyes.They felt that she is not dignified enough to be someone of the Imperial lineage.’’
’’What is the relationship between that and Nicole? How did it suddenly involve Nicole?’’ Rody glared with wide eyes.
’’That...’’ Sieg showed a strange expression and then he continued, ’’Your Excellency the Duke, this is really not a correct question. His Majesty would definitely need to marry a new concubine. His Majesty is no longer young, but Her Highness the Empress has not given him a prince. The position of Crown Prince in the Empire is still empty. That is why His Majesty needs to marry a concubine. At first, His Majesty wanted to marry Miss Jojo. Miss Jojo's family status is also worthy of the Royal Family. However, the elders of the of the Imperial lineage disliked Miss Jojo because of her conduct. Besides that, His Majesty's mother was anxious. She scolded His Majesty that they already have a 'hen that does not lay eggs and does not want another hen from the same family', in a figurative reference to the futility of the king marrying someone from the infertile queen's family. These words are not my words. Many secretly feel that Miss Nicole is the best candidate for the concubine position. Miss Nicole is young, beautiful and smart. She is also the eldest daughter of the Empire's greatest family. The Tulip Family has always been the pillars supporting the Empire and loyal. From all aspects, Miss Nicole is definitely the best candidate. The truth is, if Miss Nicole were to be born about ten years earlier, Miss Nicole would have been the Empress.’’
Rody gritted his teeth and his expression became more horrifying. ’’What did you say?’’
Sieg was at a loss, ’’ Your Excellency the Duke. Why are you so angry? This... This is a good thing. Isn't it good that someone from the Tulip Family becomes His Majesty's concubine?’’
Rody's glare made Sieg so frightened that he cringed and wished he could swallow his words. Rody looked furious. His face was flushed as he gnashed his teeth and asked, ’’Where is Nicole now? How is she right now?’’
’’I don't know. Before coming here, I went to say farewell to Miss Nicole but I did not get to see her. Miss Nicole is now behind closed doors and does not step outside. She also did not want to meet any visitors... The past few days, there were also a lot of people in the Imperial Capital who visited her. When they heard that Miss Nicole of the Tulip Family is selected to be His Majesty's concubine, they went to congratulate her.’’
Rody shook and let go of Sieg. He then gritted his teeth and walked up and down the room.
Both Sieg and Randt showed a strange expression. They could not understand the Duke's reaction. The Emperor only wanted to marry his sister and not his wife nor his mother. Why did the Duke have an irreconcilable face?
Sky was having fun listening to them from the side. He waited patiently for them to finish talking and then he turned to Rody and laughed, ’’Boy, so what now? It seems that the Emperor is also an interesting guy. Now that he wants to marry your sister, so I would feel embarrassed to burn down his palace... Hahaha.’’
His words 'marry your sister' was like pouring oil onto the fire. It made Rody even angrier, and Rody glared at Sky. Sky already knew that Rody was an imposter. As a result, his words were meant to deliberately provoke Rody.
After a moment of silence, Rody suppressed the anger in his heart and spoke, ’’Get ready. I am going back to the Imperial Capital.’’
Sieg and Randt were stupefied and then both of them tried advising Rody against it. It would be a crime if a dispatched general of an army returned to the Imperial Capital without the order of His Majesty. Sieg hurriedly asked, ’’Your Excellency the Duke, why are you so anxious to go back? His Majesty will summon you when it is time for the wedding... ah!’’ Before he could finish, Rody had already pulled out Sieg's sword and slashed at an empty space. He then said resolutely, ’’I have decided to go back! If you are unwilling, just stay put here! I will go alone!’’ Rody then threw the sword on the ground and strode to the back.
Sky laughed and followed behind Rody while Sieg and Randt looked at each other speechlessly.
At that time, the Xier's Governor-General furiously ran in from outside. After being kicked out by Rody earlier, the fat man felt dizzy and painful. He took a long time to stand back up. He was afraid to go back in when Rody was still fuming in the room. Now that Rody had gone out, he rushed back in and cursed, ’’Duke of the Tulip Family, I am the Governor-General appointed by His Majesty! How dare you hit me? I will definitely report you! I...’’
However, when Governor-General saw Sieg's cold eyes he subconsciously stopped his barrage. Sieg coldly said, ’’Governor-General, if you want to go against our Excellency the Duke's wishes, it is best that you first measure your own capabilities. Our Duke had casually killed two garrison commanders in the northwest and one of them was a noble. After that, he killed even more imperial officials to quell the rebellion in Westwood. Is your neck harder than the necks of these people or even the warriors of the Great Moon Kingdom? Very good. You may wish to test it... His Excellency the Duke seems to have a lot of anger to vent today.’’
Ignoring the cold sweat on the Governor-General's head, Sieg and Randt immediately chased behind Rody.
Old man Allier could be considered the most well-known person in the vicinity of about several dozen miles. That was not just because he had opened the only inn in this vicinity. That fact, however, was truly fortuitous. Here was the artery of transportation of the Empire. Merchants from the north and south gathered here. As there was only one inn here, his business was extremely good.
The real reason Allier was well known was his temper. Even though the man was old, he was as irritable as a violent horse. At that age, he would still roll up his sleeves and grab a scimitar to risk his life.
Who would dare be his business competitor? Any competitor would certainly fail. Everybody knew that Allier was in the Cavalry of the Northwest Legion during his younger days. He was said to have killed numerous people on the battlefield. The rusty scimitar he carried all day was looted from one of the grassland barbarians. Competing with him the harsh way was also not possible because his son was a small captain in the town's garrison, and competitors would be afraid that he would bring his soldiers to visit their inns.
Thus, Allier could securely run his business as nobody would dare to compete with him. However, although Allier was powerful, he was honest and proper. People from the north and south seemed to like staying at his inn. They would drink wine together, and when Allier was drunk, he would talk about his glorious days in the Northwest. Now that the Empire was declining, people liked to immerse themselves in the glory of the past. Those who came from other places also liked to listen to Allier talk about the past. Although he looked scary, he was a kind person as long as he was not provoked.
That night, Allier was sitting in the courtyard drinking. He was sober and he was looking around. Recently, his business was not as good. Although his story had been told so many times that it had become boring, the guests still listened to him with pleasure. He knew that he was getting old and was forgetting a lot of details. There were not many guests that night. A few of the guests waited for him to tell his story, but he could not get into the mood. He was worried about a particular matter.
His son was doing quite well at the garrison, and recently, he had heard that his son was going to be promoted. However, the Garrison Commander was very greedy. Although he did not say it, the commander's intention was clear. Allier may have opened an inn, but he was not very rich. However, the damn Garrison Commander actually hinted to Allier's son that he expected to be bribed with more than a hundred gold coins. How could a Garrison Commander be so greedy? That plainly was daylight robbery!
During those years when the late Duke was the commander of the Northwest Legion, nobody would dare act this way. People who took bribes would be beheaded.
As he pondered, Allier gave a wry smile. The Empire was getting weaker. He had heard that there was a big battle in the Northwest, and the Northwest Legion had lost more than half its soldiers. If the Young Duke had not brought the Lightning God's Whip to save them, the Northwest would have been lost.
May the Almighty protect the Young Duke. The Tulip Family is the last pillar of the Empire!
As Allier let his imagination run wild, the sound of horses running could be heard. The sounds then stopped in front of his inn. Based on the sounds, Allier knew that the riders were highly skilled. This was because the horses had been galloping but, when they stopped in front of the inn, there was no shouting or neighing. This was a testimonial to their riding skills.
Allier walked out of the inn with a few of his servants and saw that a dozen robust men had already dismounted. They then handed over the horses to the servants of the inn and followed a young man in.
Allier looked at them and thought that it was strange.
From the way they walk, these people are soldiers! The old man would definitely not be wrong. The way an ordinary person walked and the way a soldier walked were different. Although they were in civilian clothing, they walked steadily with their heads held high like well-trained soldiers. At the very least, the murderous feeling emitted by their bodies were definitely real. Even the soldiers at the garrison did not have this kind of imposing aura.
Allier was not only sure that they were soldiers but he was also sure that they had been to the battlefields and had seen a lot of killing.
There were more than a dozen of them. They seemed exhausted as if they had traveled a long distance. However, they still looked resolute.
These people are definitely soldiers! But where did they come from to have such quality? The old man felt uncertain.
Such spirit is comparable to the elite bodyguard of the Duke during my time in the Northwest Legion! Are there still such elite soldiers in the Empire, today?
Allier laughed as he thought of the time he went to the Imperial Capital. He remembered seeing a few people from the Central Cavalry in the Imperial Capital. The soldiers known as the Empire's 'strongest elites' were so weak that he believed he could defeat a few of them alone if he were younger.
Although he felt uncertain, he still enthusiastically greeted them. As he used to be in the army, he felt a certain fellowship with these people. He hid his irritable temper and made himself busy.
However, the guests were strange. No matter where they went, they seemed to guard the young person in the middle.
That young man was quite pleasing to the eye. He looked strong like a good officer. However, he did not have much vitality and looked gloomy. He had golden hair and looked like a noble. The nobles still have such a person? Don't they usually have a fat and despicable appearance?
He was then aware that a few of the young maids were looking at the young officer. He could not help but cough twice. After that, he heard an ear-piercing laughter, ’’Boy, look! Those girls are looking at you. Haha...’’
Allier frowned. That fat person fitted the description of fat and despicable nobles.
This dozen or more men ate in the halls, and it seemed like they would be staying for the night.
As Allier watched them eat, he frowned. The young officer seemed to be a powerful person. The young officer and the fatty ate together while more than ten of the other people stood watching them and did not even dare to sit. Hmph. This officer does not seem to appreciate his subordinates. He does not seem like a good person. What a pity.
However, Allier once again noticed something strange. The dozen of people standing guard did not seem dissatisfied. Even when they looked at the young officer, their eyes were filled with respect.
The young man seemed to have thought of something. He took three quick bites of the inn's best roast lamb, and then put down his fork and knife. He then waved and asked to be escorted to his room. His subordinates seemed to be very careful and did not speak. They were afraid of provoking the young man. Sigh. Such a young noble. He gets everything he wants. What more does he want? His life is already much better compared to a normal civilian.
The tallest brawny guard accompanied the young man and the fatty upstairs to their rooms. The remaining people finally sat down to eat. They suddenly became more relaxed as they talked and laughed.
However, they were very careful. They only talked about casual stuff like how they were hurrying on their journey and that the meat tasted good. Although Allier was extremely curious and sat nearby to eavesdrop, he did not hear anything that could satisfy his curiosity.
Occasionally, he heard them saying about riding without stopping for three days and three nights. Those words almost made the old man laugh.
Riding without stopping for three days and three nights? This is impossible! Even an exceptional person would not be able to do so due to exhaustion! When I was young, the Northwest Legion were already exceptionally good. At most, we would only be able to travel non-stop, for one day and one night.
Besides that, even when we marched in the army, we needed spare horses! These people rode for three days and three nights on one horse? Even their horses couldn't do it! If their horses were exhausted, how could they fight?
Allier laughed to himself. He did not realize he had made the same mistake again. Those soldiers were not going to war. Why would they conserve the horse's energy? The horses were tired, which was why they stopped to rest.
He looked at the people eating together on the table and pursed his lips. Hmph. Youngsters these days like to brag a lot. Three days and three nights? Do you think you are the 'Lightning God's Whip' from those years?
Allier then stood up and stretched his waist and told his servants to bring him another bottle of wine. As he recalled his heroic past, he could not help but drink a few more glasses of wine.
He had already grown old and his capacity for wine was not as good as when he was younger. After drinking two bottles of wine, his face became hot, and he became confused. Those guests sitting beside him were laughing and joking. They started to gather around him and requested him to tell about his past.
The drunken old man could not help but open his shirt to reveal his muscles and scars. He spoke of those days when his team was ordered to launch a surprise attack on the grassland barbarians.
As he spoke, his saliva flew everywhere. He was so agitated that he moved his hands in a slashing action as if he was slashing the barbarian. Some people even craned their necks to catch the story, ignoring the occasional spit in their face. As they listened they applauded.
As the old man was drunk, he started to exaggerate. Towards the end, he exaggerated his heroic deeds and actions several times more than reality.
’’I cleaved the barbarian's shield into two then I cut off his head and kicked....’’ He was speaking happily when he heard someone accidentally cough out his drink and started laughing.
Allier froze for a moment and looked at the person who was laughing. It was one of that dozen of people. They were sitting and eating as they listened to him brag.
Allier became angry. He had been telling stories of his heroism for so many years, and that was the first time in a long while that someone had doubted his story. Many years ago, one of the security soldiers did not believe in his story. As a result, that man was cursed and scolded so badly that he longer dared to provoke Allier. Hmph, young men, when I was fighting in the Northwest, you were still drinking milk!
’’Hey! That boy over there! What are you laughing at? Is what I said so dubious?’’ The old man shouted.
The soldier who laughed shook his head and replied, ’’Boss. I believe what you said. However, you said that you cleaved the barbarian's shield into two. That part cannot be right... The Great Moon Kingdom's scimitar warriors do not use shields.’’
Allier's face turned red, and he was unable to utter a single word in reply. How could he make a fool of himself in front of so many people? He decided to carry on the lie and asked, ’’What do you know? The grassland barbarians who didn't use shields were just the ordinary ones. The ones that used shields were all skilled cavalrymen and high ranked warriors!’’
The soldier shook his head again and replied, ’’This is even more wrong. All the high ranked warriors of the Great Moon Kingdom are all leaders of the cavalry. They are born fierce and brave. As a result, they do not like to use shields. They also do not like to use strong armor to show off their valor. They often charge forward with only a leather armor. Those that wore serious armor or shields will be ridiculed as cowards.’’
Allier angrily said, ’’Are you saying I only killed cowards? What does a boy like you know? Have you been to the Northwest? Have you even seen those barbarians? I was in the Northwest Legion, and I had killed more than seventeen people!’’
’’More than seventeen!’’ The person's face showed a strange expression, and then he exclaimed, ’’In that case, your military merit was not low! In accordance with the rules of the Northwest Legion, those that killed five enemies would be rewarded with fifty gold coins. Those that killed ten people would be rewarded with one hundred gold coins and would be promoted as a small captain. During those days, killing about seventeen people was enough to become the bodyguard of the Regiment Commander!’’
The person's voice was full of respect, but it was like a thorn to Allier's ears, and it felt as if the man was mocking him. He knew that his military record showed that he only killed two barbarians. In fact, one of them was already dead on the battlefield, and what he did was to personally behead that dead man.
The old man spoke angrily, ’’A young person like you knows nothing! Do you think anyone could become a Regiment Commander's bodyguard?’’
’’Then you must be a small captain!’’ The man asked not knowing that he was treading on thin ice.
Allier could no longer hold his story. The people around him knew that he was just a cavalryman and not even a small captain. Now he could not even brag.
Allier stood up and shouted, ’’Little bastard, you know nothing! Your grandfather was talking about things years ago! When I was riding in the Northwest, you were not even born!’’ After that, he pulled out his rusty scimitar and said, ’’Have you seen this before? Let me tell you! This is the barbarian's weapon! It is the grassland's best scimitar!’’
The other guests had been giving curious glances at the dozen people when they first came in. They had already considered those people suspicious. These guests started whispering among themselves when they saw those people and the old man having a debate. They happily watched the new incident like travelers who were always seeking for novelty psychologically.
What that old man said had hurt the feelings of the young man. The young man then became angry and wanted to refute his story. A man beside him, who seemed to be the leader of the dozen men, then shouted, ’’Shut up! Have you forgotten His Excellency's order? Do not say anymore!’’ The leader was just a few years older than the others. At that moment, he had a serious expression. The man, who spoke earlier, then lowered his head and kept quiet.
The leader then stood up and loudly said, ’’Boss, my companion is drunk and talked nonsense. Please do not be bothered by him.’’ After that, he softly but firmly said, ’’Once you finish eating, go upstairs!’’
At the same time, his men immediately put down their forks and knives and stood up. They then turned and walked towards the stairs.
However, that young man was still a bit resentful. When he walked by the old man, he deliberately made a large movement and inadvertently pushed aside his coat. The old man was stunned at what he saw. Hanging below the coat was a scimitar. He could clearly see the pattern on the sheath of the scimitar, and there was a wolf head on the handle of the scimitar.
The moment those men left to go upstairs, Allier felt relieved.
As he had been in the Northwest for many years, he understood the meaning of the wolf head on the scimitar.
When the late Duke had learned how powerful the scimitars of the barbarians were, he deliberately established a new army that used scimitars. Their scimitars had a wolf head carved on the handle, and they were known as the Wolf Fang Army.
At that time, the Wolf Fang were warriors selected out from the Northwest Legion. As a result, it could be said that the entire Wolf Fang Army of twenty thousand soldiers were elite cavalrymen of the Northwest Legion. The soldiers of the Northwest Legion regarded entering the Wolf Fang as the highest glory.
However, the late Duke was later transferred from the Northwest Legion to become the Commander of the 'Lightning God's Whip'. The Wolf Fang also followed the late Duke and was transferred to the Central Cavalry.
In other words, those young people were soldiers of the Wolf Fang Army. They were the real 'Lightning God's Whip'.
Allier immediately felt dejected. He had just bragged about his military exploits in front of the most elite soldiers of the Empire. The young officer he had met earlier was probably a high-ranked noble. Perhaps, he was one of the commanders serving under the current young Duke.
That was not someone he got to see in normal days.
Feeling angry, Allier stopped talking about his story and stopped drinking. He dispersed everyone and went out for some fresh air.
Allier unknowingly walked to the stables and looked at the dozen of sturdy horses. As he used to be a cavalryman, he understood horses. With one look, he could see that the horses were really good horses. Not only the cavalry of his son's local garrison, even the Northwest Legion during his time did not have such good horses.
In addition, the officers of the Empire had been embezzling money. That was something that everybody knew. As a result, the horses used by the cavalries were mostly inferior. That was because there was a huge difference in prices between a good horse and a bad horse. The price difference naturally entered the pockets of those greedy officers.
Allier could not help but walk up and gently stroke the horses'heads. It had been a long time since he last saw such good horses.
While he was deep in his thoughts he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his back. There was a sharp object pointed at his back. As he was about to turn his head, he heard a voice, ’’Do not move!’’
Allier immediately tightened up the muscles in his body. By virtue of experience, he could feel that it was a sword behind his back.
That voice sounded a little vague. Despite the other party's effort to cover up, the experienced Allier could tell that the person was a woman.
’’Are you the owner of this inn? Why do you come out here to look at these horses? What are you plotting?’’
Allier suddenly twisted his body and moved one step away from the sword. He then turned around and tried to grab the other party.
A man behind Allier gave a wry smile. As Allier turned around, he felt pain in his ribs. After that, he felt like he was paralyzed and could not move.
As a result, not only he could not grab the other party, he also could not even see the man's clothes.
The man who was still behind Allier laughed bitterly and spoke, ’’Speak honestly. What are you trying to do?’’ Although his back was facing the other person, Allier suddenly felt a cold pain throughout his body. The cold killing intent made Allier tremble.
Allier gritted his teeth and answered, ’’I am not trying to do anything! I just wanted to see these horses! I used to be a soldier! When I saw these people, and they looked like soldiers, I felt curious and came out to look at their horses! This is an inn! It is not a scamming business!’’
There was a moment of silence and then the voice spoke, ’’Well, I believe you.’’ Suddenly, two gold coins flew out from behind him and dropped on the ground in front of Allier.
’’Take these two gold coins. Use the best fodder for these horses. They will need to hurry through the journey tomorrow.’’ After that, the man behind Allier no longer made any sound.
Allier suddenly felt relieved. The murderous aura that made him grow tensed had disappeared. When he looked back, he did not see anybody, neither man nor woman.
He felt himself grow soft in his knees when the cold wind blew against his cold sweat. He then looked at the shiny gold coins on the floor and bent down to pick them up. He felt confused as he looked at the heavy gold coins in his hands.
Suddenly, he saw a shadow on the ground casted by the moonlight. Allier was so shocked that he could not help but look up. He saw a man standing on the roof of the horse shed.
That man stood under the moon and his face was hidden in the dark. He wore gray clothing and carried a strange longbow.
Allier was so shocked that he wanted to scream.
The man suddenly stretched out a finger and placed it in front of his mouth. He then shook his head.
Allier, after all, was someone who had been to the battlefield, so he immediately calmed down. He looked at the man standing on the horse shed. In the night, his clothes were fluttering, making him look like a ghost.
The man pointed at the stables, and then he pointed at the gold coins. After that, he made a gesture.
Allier's eyes lit up as he recognized the signal used in the army. It meant, 'feed the horses', 'tomorrow morning' and 'travel quickly'.
He was stunned for just a moment, and with a flash, the figure vanished...
This is one hell of a night. Allier thought to himself.