The road to the South took them through the beautiful scenery of the mountains. Rody had never been to the South and greedily took in the scenery. As a result, they slowed down imperceptibly.
Rody and the others went from province to province using the highway as they headed towards the Southeast. He had started to relax as he traveled from one scenic spot to another.
Rody was not anxious to hurry to the Southeast Region as there was nothing urgent over there. The last time, there had been a war in the Northwest Region, and the war was something that could not be avoided. Naturally, he had to work day and night to resolve the crisis. However, this time, he was just sent to be a phony commanding officer, and the job was going to be extremely boring.
In the evening, Rody did not manage to reach a small town because they had traveled too slowly. As a result, they had to spend the night outdoors. Rody looked at the sky and gave a faint smile. “I think it is better to spend the night on the fields. With so many people, we should not be afraid of getting attacked by wolves.”
A guard that initially came from the South laughed and replied, “Duke, you must be joking. There aren’t many wolves in the South. However, the climate here is damp, so we will need to be careful of snakes and insects.”
The guards were all originally soldiers in the army and were naturally proficient in setting up camps while on a march. Very quickly, they had already started a fire and had also set up a few tents.
After Rody had eaten, he chatted with his subordinates until it was night and then entered the tent to sleep.
Everyone was asleep except for four guards. The four guards chatted and drank over the campfire as the night started to pass.
Rody slept in his tent, and from time to time, he could hear the sounds of the insects. The damp climate of the South was not suitable for him especially when it was almost winter. The damp cold was like a sharp knife piercing into his bones. Sleeping inside a tent in an open field was a problem since the tent felt humid and stuffy. It took quite a while before he could fall asleep.
The night soon ended and the eastern sky started to turn bright. Rody was still sound asleep when he suddenly heard a cry of alarm. Soon after that, there were angry yelling and hurried footsteps. There was also the sound of swords being unsheathed.
Rody immediately got up and ran out of the tent. He saw that the campfire had been extinguished, and a guard was lying down on the floor. Stuck in his shoulder was a wolf-fang arrow. The guard’s eyes were closed, and he seemed to have fainted.
The guards that were sitting at the campfire were suddenly shot at with an arrow. The other guards had quickly identified that the arrow was shot from above one of the trees. They were well trained and had already drawn their weapons. They then rushed into the woods, under cover of the dense foliage, towards that tree.
Randt saw Rody come out from the tent. He immediately notified several guards to surround and protect Rody.
After a short moment, a few of the guards returned from the woods looking depressed. Apparently, they did not manage to catch the assailant. A guard handed him a white cloth containing a message. The words were written in the language of the Empire.
“I will follow you. Once I have the chance, I will slit your throat with a knife. I will pierce your heart with an arrow!”
Rody’s face sank as he read the words. He gritted his teeth and tore the cloth apart. The other guards were also furious. They were all warriors who valued honor. That was why they felt angry when the assassin played tricks on them.
His subordinates carefully examined the guard who was injured. They found that the guard could not wake up. Feeling helpless, they waited until it was dawn. After that, they traveled to a small town and looked for a doctor. They found that the arrow head was laced with an anesthetic from the Northwest Region. This anesthetic was extremely powerful. The guard was not injured but he would not be able to wake up in two days. Even after he woke up, he would still be unable to walk for a few more days.
Rody sighed and could only leave the guard behind in that town. He also paid the doctor a lot of gold coins.
Everybody stayed in the town for the night. This time, Randt had ordered for the guards to be on alert. Two more people were committed to the night watch and even a secret sentry was set up.
However, that night, nothing strange happened. After dawn, Rody ordered to continue the journey.
They did not dare to sleep in the wild and rushed throughout the day so that they could reach the next town before nightfall. Rody did not want to risk revealing his identity. So, he went to an inn and booked the whole inn for the night.
That night, the inn was also heavily guarded. However, around the middle of the night, another guard was shot by an arrow. He was pushing a door open when he heard a piercing sound and found an arrow sticking out of his thigh.
Hearing the miserable cry of the guard, a few of the other guards immediately pulled out their swords and quickly identified the direction of the arrows with their sharp eyes. Randt took a few people and immediately gave chase but the assailant had already escaped.
When Randt came back, there was another cloth with a message. It was written in a bold handwriting. “The next one could be you!”
Rody gritted his teeth hatefully. Fortunately, Dark was reluctant to hurt the innocent. In those two days, his two arrows had not caused any fatal injury but only caused the guards to lose their mobility temporarily.
Rody felt helpless. Once again, he left the injured guard in the town and continued to hurry on ahead.
Although the group had taken extra precautions, Dark continued to remain elusive and his skill in archery was matchless. The arrows he shot could fly further compared to arrows shot by an ordinary person. Even if Rody could block the arrows, it would be difficult for them to detect it. Every time someone was shot by an arrow, the guards would give chase, but Dark would have disappeared without a trace.
Dark was a hunter of the grasslands. Hunting cunning wolves every day had sharpened his skills incredibly. He was invincible when he used that same skill for surprise attacks.
Rody’s group traveled for another two days, and another two guards were injured during those two days.
He saw that only eleven of the original fifteen subordinates remained. Rody secretly gritted his teeth. He understood that Dark wanted to slowly eliminate his subordinates. At that rate, nobody would be left by his side even before he could reach the Southeast.
Rody was furious as he had never been outmaneuvered so badly since his journey to the Northwest.
Randt also looked pale. He wanted to find the assassin and immediately kill him.
The next day, Rody ordered for the group to travel slowly. They had deliberately slowed down and traveled until it was dark. After that, Rody ordered for them to camp in the wilds. He saw that the sky had started to turn dark and whispered to Randt, “Randt. Take a look at the surrounding terrain. Do you see that hillslope?”
Randt nodded as he glanced at the slope. He then frowned and asked, “Your Excellency. Is there a problem?”
Rody raised his eyebrows as he replied, “The surrounding terrain are all on low ground except that hill. If I were to hide in that hill, I would have a good panoramic view of this place. Hehe… If I were an assassin and I wanted to find a place to snipe with arrows, that hill would be the best place!”
Randt’s eyes lit up as he said, “Your Excellency. Do you mean…”
Rody nodded and said, “Tonight, that assassin will definitely come and attack again. I believe that he will choose that location to shoot his arrows. Take two people with you and quickly hide in the hills! If you see him, act immediately! If we wait until he shoots before we chase him, we will absolutely not be able to catch him!”
Randt was pleasantly surprised and showed admiration as he repeatedly nodded his head. He quickly gave an order, and the three guards left in large strides.
Rody had made ample preparations. That night, nobody slept. However, they entered their tent and pretended to sleep so that they could lure the assailant. They did not even leave a guard outside.
Early the next morning, they heard a sharp whistle at the hill in the distance. A group of guards immediately sprang up and rushed towards the hill.
Rody ran the fastest and reached the hillside in a short moment. He then saw Randt with one foot stepping on a person. His broadsword was placed at his back. The man was trembling at Randt’s feet and begging for mercy. Next to the ground was a set of bow and arrows.
Rody saw that the man was not Dark and thought to himself. Was I wrong? The assailant is not Dark?
He then listened to Randt’s report and found out that when the man went up the mountains, Randt and the two other guards ambushed him. However, before any action could be taken, the man saw their swords and immediately threw himself on the ground in fear. He was captured easily. When Randt placed his broadsword on the man’s back, the man became even more frightened and begged for his life.
The guards frowned but Rody felt puzzled. He coldly asked for the man’s head to be lifted up and carefully questioned him.
The man knelt on the ground. His tears streamed down as he stammered, “I am just a person from the village. Earlier today, a stranger gave me a gold coin and asked me to climb up this mountain in the evening with a bow and arrow. I thought that he was suspicious and did not dare to agree but he said that… if I did this, he would give me another gold coin the next day.”
Rody stamped his feet in frustration. He saw the pale man and noticed that he was wearing a simple farmer’s shirt. Rody then waved his hand so that Randt would release him.
Suddenly, there were two ‘woosh’ sounds. Before the sound disappeared, a breeze of wind could be felt. Rody reacted quickly and raised his sword. After that, a ‘ting’ sound could be heard as the wolf-fang arrow slammed into the wall of the hill.
There was a cry as one of the other guards was also hit by an arrow.
Everyone immediately surrounded Rody and protected him. They clenched the swords in their hands as they looked around vigilantly.
In the distance, below the hill, stood a silhouette. The man was holding a peculiar longbow as he looked at Rody and the others on the slope. Suddenly he exclaimed, “Duke of Tulip! Do you think you can deceive me with your trap?”
Rody’s mind stirred as he recognized Dark’s voice. He gently pushed Randt who was standing in front of him and walked out as he shouted, “Dark! You are being too sneaky. Didn’t you say you want to kill me? Why are you hiding? Come and fight me in the open! If you can beat me, my life is yours!”
Dark gave a long laugh and then he replied coldly, “I am not stupid. Duke of Tulip! I may hate you but I know that I am no match for you! Anyway, I am here for vengeance, not to compete with you! I will sneak around, or whatever, as long as I get to kill you! Hehe, wait for me to take your life!”
Rody was extremely angry. He suddenly picked up the bow and arrow on the floor, nocked an arrow and shot at Dark.
However, the two of them were very far away and the bow in Rody’s hands was just an ordinary wooden hunting bow. The arrow only flew for a short distance before it lost its momentum and dropped to the ground.
Dark laughed loudly. His voice was full of pride and mockery. Rody was furious and pulled the bow again only to hear a snap. He had used too much force in his rage and the bow had broken.
Dark’s laughter gradually stopped and he coldly shouted, “Duke! I do not want to kill needlessly! Otherwise, your subordinates would have died long ago! Even tonight when your men are standing on top of the hill! They are just live targets!”
Having said that, Dark sped away as he laughed. His figure soon vanished in the distance.
Rody was furious. When he was in the Northwest, he had no problem dealing with thousands and thousands of enemies, with their innumerable swords and weapons. But he was helpless with just this one single assailant. He felt both angry and ashamed.
The guards felt depressed. They waited until it was daybreak before they journeyed on. Their faces were glum. They, the glorious warriors under the Tulip Family banner, had been outmaneuvered by that lone assailant. They could not speak along the whole journey.
That afternoon, they arrived at a small town. Rody sent the injured guard for treatment. He stayed back in his room to think of a way out of his dilemma.
Andy had been silent all this while. For this journey, Rody had not brought along Andy’s skeleton. Otherwise, with Andy’s superior magic skill, solving this problem would have been an easy matter. However, Rody and Andy once had a detailed discussion. Andy’s energy was limited. The more it was used the less Andy had left. When all his energy was used up, his soul would just vanish. That was why, in these 200 years, he was mostly asleep. Even after he got to know Rody, he normally limited his skeletal movements. Using the God’s Smile connection enabled Andy to minimize the depletion of his energy.
Rody was still depressed when Andy suddenly cried, “There’s a way! Maybe it will work…”