Masked Knight – Chapter 50

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Glory and Disgrace

 

The Imperial Palace was built in the center of the Empire, more than 400 years ago when the Empire was founded. It was an enormous structure built using the granite shipped from the northern part of the Empire. From the Empire’s few centuries history, Rody learned that the Empire had gone through many hardships and wars. Rody was unable to remember them all.

 

During the Empire’s 49th year, the Empire was at war with the northern Roland Continent and entered a moment of crisis. The war had reached the granite palace walls, the Empire’s last line of defense. The Empire was about to fall as both sides, with about 200,000 soldiers each, battled fiercely for a total of 17 days. Finally, the 3rd Duke of the Tulip Family brought 100,000 borde.soldiers to the rescue and finally repelled the enemy and successfully defended the palace.

 

During the Empire’s 109th year, there was an internal strife. The emperor was assassinated by a rebellious minister. The rebellious minister had then put up a puppet prince in place of the emperor.  The Tulip Family’s 6th Duke managed to escape from the Imperial Capital. Fifteen days later, he came back to the Imperial Capital with 9,000 soldiers. They took 6 days to break through the city walls and later fought 20,000 rebels for 2 days and 2 nights. The Duke personally killed the rebellious leader, Davis, and continued to attack the Palace with thousands of soldiers. In that war, the river near the walls turned red with blood for a full two weeks, before the water started to clear.

 

During the Empire’s 209th year, after another internal strife, the most outstanding emperor in the whole of the Empire’s history, Abbas the Great, ascended the throne. Abbas was the Empire’s greatest emperor in their 400 years of history. However, during his reign, he was also the emperor that killed the most people. Abbas had the support of the Tulip Family and killed more than 1,000 of the ministers and Imperial kinsmen that opposed his rule. That included his younger brother and his uncle. About 100 years later, the Empire once again experienced a bloody baptism. On that night, the whole Empire was filled with shrill screams and the smell of blood. After a heavy downpour, the whole Empire was covered in red…

 

During the 30 years reign of Abbas the Great, he created the Empire’s formidable cavalry. The cavalry was well known on the mainland as the ‘Lightning God’ Legion. Under Abbas’ great leadership and the Tulip Family’s outstanding commanders, the cavalry conquered almost the entire Continent. In the northwest of the mainland, the Northwest Grasslands, there was a strong resistance from the nomads who refused to be ruled by the Empire. Abbas the Great then implemented firm strategies. “In all parts of the mainland where the sun shines, everyone must respect the Imperial law and authority! The subservient ones will be rewarded while the rebellious ones will be mercilessly punished.” Finally, the marshal of the Empire massacred 60,000 nomadic troops and captured their leader, Halifax. Abbas the Great then ordered for this nomad leader to be publicly trampled to death by horses.

 

At last, the Continent was finally unified and as the northwest region became part of the Empire.  This resulted in a situation where the Empire in the south and Roland in the north, separated by the straits, were in a kind of confrontational setup. Also, in that era, the Great Sage Dandong appeared. He became Abbas the Great’s most powerful assistant as he single-handedly planned a series of reforms, propelling the Empire with unprecedented vigor. Also, Abbas the Great then renamed the Empire as the Radiant Empire1. Today the name of the Radiant Empire reverberates throughout the whole Continent.

 

Twenty-three years ago, the Empire once again went through another historic watershed. It was the first defeat and humiliation they had after a few hundred years. The Northwest Grassland nomads raised their banners and declared independence. They then formed the Great Moon Kingdom. On top of that, the commander of the army, Tulip Family’s head, died of illness. Eventually, the Empire’s Central Cavalry was defeated by the Kingdom’s armored cavalry. As they were defeated, the Empire had to acknowledge the Great Moon Kingdom’s independence. After that, in that hall constructed by Abbas the Great, the Empire and the Great Moon Kingdom signed an agreement, agreeing to the division of their lands.     

 

Rody sat in the carriage and occasionally gazed out of the window, looking towards the palace in the distance. He recalled seeing the picture of the palace in history books. He did not know what his fate would be when he arrived there.

 

Rody stared at the palace which was getting closer. As night drew nearer, he had a peculiar feeling.

 

This is the heart of the Empire!

 

The palace was surrounded by about sixty miles of walls, completely constructed with huge rocks. It’s height and thickness were about the same as the walls of the Imperial Capital but much more robust. Imperial Guards were on duty on the walls, donned in golden armors and armed with spears, A brightly colored banner, with a thorny flower, fluttered in the wind. This wall was built in haste, during the war hundreds of years ago. These past few hundred years, the reigning emperors had all continually upgraded the wall. The original castle-like wall now had a magnificent external coat to make it similar to the Imperial Capital’s wall. The original iron gate had been replaced with a golden gate, the symbol of the Imperial family’s dignity.

 

As the carriage passed through the gate, Rody mentally tried to calculate as to how many years of a commoner’s expenses could be covered by the cost of the golden coating of the gate.

 

Under the guidance of the Imperial Guards, the carriage stopped at the entrance of the inner city of the Imperial Palace. At this point, Rody must get off the carriage. Nobody except His Majesty, the Emperor was allowed to ride a carriage into the inner city.

 

Twelve fully armed guards led the way. Rody eventually reached the audience hall. The thick and heavy door made of wood and iron was already open. Following Gordon’s instructions, Rody slowly walked into the audience hall alone.

 

The sixteen huge pillars in the audience hall looked majestic. Large candles, made from cattle fat, around the hall illuminated the hall. It was as bright as daylight. When Rody stepped onto the floor, it gave off a crisp sound. He looked and realized that the floor of the audience hall was made of gold. On both sides of the audience hall, stood rows of guards in armor. Armed with axes, and also because only their eyes were visible, they looked formidable. The guards stood motionless, staring straight ahead.

 

Hmph … gold. The Imperial Palace is really like what the legend said … Like a cage.

 

Gordon pointed to the door at the end of the hall and whispered, “His Majesty is in there waiting for you.” He hesitated for a moment before saying again, “Young Master Seth, please give me your sword.”

 

Rody knew he could not refuse. He surrendered the lightsaber to Gordon. Gordon nodded his head and passed the sword to one of the guards at the door before walking with Rody towards the door at the end of the hall.

 

The two guards, at the sides of the entrance, carefully interrogated Gordon. After Gordon produced the command plate, they allowed Rody to enter.

 

The door slowly opened and Rody immediately felt a chill.

 

It was a side hall, which was actually the real center of the Empire. It was noted in the Empire’s history books, that all the important policies and strategies were agreed to and fixed here by the Emperor and his ministers.

 

The inside of the side hall was mostly empty. He felt a strange sense of relief from the ceiling that gave off a gentle and chilling light. Rody knew that this was an illuminating spell. There were no decorations or furnishings in the middle of the room. There was only a huge and long table in the wide, open hall. At the end of the table, there was a long and thin silhouette.

 

He wore a long white robe and had long black hair tied up behind his head. His face looked abnormally fair as if it was devoid of color. His pair of eyes, which looked like two bright gems, carefully looked at Rody. Although the person was just quietly standing there, Rody could feel a tremendous invisible pressure.

 

Rody immediately bowed his head and knelt down. He loudly spoke, “Tulip Family’s Seth Rudolph. Presenting myself to His Majesty the Emperor!”

 

The white-robed person at the end of the table seemed motionless. He gently nodded but he did not seem to have any intention of allowing Rody to stand up.

 

The current Radiant Empire’s Emperor quietly looked at Rody. His steady gaze seemed to pierce through Rody. Rody did not know how long he knelt. He started getting cold sweats.

 

After a while, he heard a clear resounding voice, saying, “Seth! I have a difficult problem. I hope you can solve it for me!”

 

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1 The original name, guangming diguo meant Light Empire or Bright Empire but both sound awkward as the name of a kingdom so I picked Radiant instead.
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