Masked Knight – Chapter 74

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The Scary Truth

At a distance, Reuenthal’s defeated army scattered like ants. Reuenthal deserved to be called the cunning wolf of the grasslands as he was extremely fast in seizing an opportunity. The moment his cavalry was defeated, he immediately ordered a retreat and did not give Rody or Reuben any chance to pursue. The truth was, Rody and Reuben had no intention of pursuing. Reuben had less than 40,000 soldiers left while the 10,000 Wolves Fang under Rody had been marching for three days and had just fought a battle. They were all exhausted and did not have the ability to pursue.

 

Reuben quickly went down the fortress walls while being supported by his bodyguards and saw Rody leading the Wolves Fang through the gates.

 

When he saw the flame-like Tulip Family’s banner, Reuben felt his body sway and his eyes turn blurry.

 

Reuben was unable to remember when was the last time he saw the banner. He watched the soldiers from the Central Cavalry walk through the city gate. Although fatigue could be seen, the excitement and determination on the faces of those soldiers could not be concealed.

 

The commanding general who was leading them was wearing an old-fashioned leather armor which was stained red with blood. His golden hair was flying in the air. His eyebrows were raised and the murderous glint in his dark blue eyes had yet to disappear. He looked like the duke from several decades ago! On top of that, Sieg who was holding his sword like an old companion was behind the duke. Reuben’s heart shivered. He felt as if he had gone back in time.

 

After a few more steps forward, Reuben shook off the support of his bodyguards and rushed down from the flight of steps. He knelt in front of Rody’s horse and burst into tears.

 

Rody was shocked when he saw a middle-aged high ranking general kneeling in front of him. He immediately dismounted from his horse.

 

“Reuben greets Your Excellency!” Reuben’s voice trembled. How many years had it been since he last said this sentence?

 

Rody panicked and quickly helped Reuben to stand. He hurriedly said, “Aren’t you the Regiment Commander Reuben? You rank is higher than mine. Why are you kneeling?”

 

Reuben’s eyes were full of tears. He carefully looked at Rody and felt nostalgic. After all, the late duke had been dead for many years!

 

Sieg realized that Reuben had lost his self-control. He moved forward and gently helped him up. After that, Reuben shook his head and ordered his soldiers to lead the Central Cavalry into the barracks. Reuben then brought Rody to the official residence used by the garrison.

 

At that moment, the whole city felt extremely happy regardless of whether they were civilians or soldiers. They felt excited when they found out that they had won the battle. Both the army and civilians rushed to the streets to watch the reinforcement army enter the city. From time to time, there were a few enthusiastic civilians who would approach them and give them fruits and vegetables. There were also some children who happily ran alongside the cavalry.

 

Reuenthal’s homicidal reputation had already spread throughout the Northwest. It was known that the Great Moon Kingdom would burn, kill and plunder the places they captured. A few days ago, the civilians in the city were all frightened. They feared that if their city was captured, they would all meet a tragic end. Naturally, they were all relieved and happy when they heard that the enemy had been chased away by the reinforcement soldiers.

 

Along the way, Rody saw the happy civilians cheering and was reminded of his encounter in the village. He sighed emotionally. At that time, Andy mocked him in his mind, “There is nothing strange about this. Between the Empire and Reuenthal, one of them is a creditor whereas the other is a robber. While the creditor comes every month to take away half of your belongings, the robber when encountered will indiscriminately take away everything. If they had to be compared, the creditor will naturally be more lovable.”

 

However, Rody was still young at heart and was immersed in the joy of his victory. As a result, he did not pay too much attention to Andy’s words.

 

The commander of the Northwest Legion established their commanding base at the original garrison building at the Watt Fortress. The minute they entered the base, two people in military uniforms walked out. They had flattering smiles and the person leading the way was fat. He looked less like a soldier and more like a wealthy landlord. The person beside him was considerably thinner and taller. The smile he had on was more like that of a crafty merchant. The two men had chosen to wear the commander’s uniform and when they were seen by others, they looked out of place.

 

The guy who looked like a landlord saluted. “Subordinate Fedol, garrison soldier at the Watt Fortress greets Your Excellency.” The man who looked like a merchant also introduced himself. “Subordinate Ferara, commander of the soldiers garrisoned at Trier Fortress greets Your Excellency.”

 

Reuben who was originally happy suddenly had his mood dampened. The two men who had been hiding in the base seemed well informed. Even though the duke had just arrived, they already knew about it.

 

Rody frowned as he looked at the two men and nodded his head. He may have been a duke but his rank was just a commander. It was not higher than the ranks of those two men. He was used to such mannerism since Sieg gave him similar treatment throughout the journey. So, he did not think that it was inappropriate when they were so polite. When Rody heard their names, he was surprised because their names reminded him of something but he could not quite figure out what.

 

Reuben was already very impatient. He immediately took Rody into the hall and forcefully pushed Rody to sit on the general’s chair. Rody was alarmed and immediately jumped out of the chair. “General Reuben, this is not right! I am just a commander! How can I sit here?”

 

Reuben replied sternly, “Your Excellency, you are the Duke of the Tulip Family! Wherever the Tulip Family banner goes, the commanding generals can only hand over their authority! On top of that…” Reuben gave a bleak smile and continued, “My career as a regimental commander is already at an end. For my failures in the Northwest, His Majesty will probably…” Reuben laughed gloomily as he spoke.

 

Rody wanted to say something when Sieg gave him a meaningful glance. After that, Rody nodded his head and spoke loudly, “General Reuben, let us put off this matter till later! Firstly, His Majesty ordered me to come here and bring reinforcements. The second was to appoint me as a special envoy for the Northwest Legion. Now that the problems at the city walls have been solved, I would like Your Excellency to explain to me the current situation of the Northwest Legion.”

 

Reuben nodded. Rody had already mentioned His Majesty, so he could no longer insist on anything. Also, since the duke had been appointed as a special envoy, it was his right to control the Northwest Legion.

 

Reuben immediately summoned all of the officers and commanders.

 

First, there was a brief introduction of the officers and generals. The original Northwest Legion had five commanders. Two of them had been killed and their deputy commanders took over. The local defenders, who were the soldiers from Blackstone Fortress had already been intercepted by Reuenthal on the way here. They were defeated. They had already been routed and they could only wait to be reorganized after the war. At that moment, Reuben was introducing the remaining commanders to Rody. Rody glanced at them from a distance and did not find anyone who attracted his attention.

 

Suddenly, he spotted an officer among the crowd who was slightly younger than 30 years old. He had a thin and resolute face along with sharp eyes. Rody then looked at Reuben.

 

Reuben laughed and said, “This is the Northwest Legion’s Right Cavalry Commander, Giesslunt. Originally, he was just a captain but two of the commanders were killed in action. He was promoted to replace the commanders. Just now…Just now, the one who led the soldiers out of the city to join Your Excellency in battle was him. However, both of the cavalries in the Northwest Legion had suffered heavy casualties. The original total was 30,000 cavaliers but now only 10,000 cavaliers remained. His post was just commander of the Right Cavalry Regiment but currently, he is also the commander of the entire Northwest Legion’s cavalry.

 

Rody nodded and looked back at the man.

 

Giesslunt saw the duke look towards him. Although he did not change his expression, his eyes showed excitement. He also stood straight and looked at the Tulip Family insignia on Rody’s chest. He was so excited that he trembled.

 

Reuben smiled wryly. “Giesslunt has been with me for many years. He is one of the most loyal soldiers under the Tulip Family’s banner!”

 

Rody nodded his head and gave a wry smile. He used to be a youngster who blindly worshipped the Tulip Family himself.

 

The introductions continued and finally reached the fat man and the businessman. Reuben did not sound happy when he introduced them. He simply told Rody their ranks. The only thing that surprised Rody was the commander of Trier Fortress, Ferara. He was actually a viscount!

 

Rody slowly nodded. When he asked about the condition of the Northwest Legion, Reuben gave him an awkward expression. He looked at everybody, gritted his teeth and slowly said, “Your Excellency, when the Northwest Legion retreated to this city, we had 91,000 soldiers. The past few days, we suffered heavy casualties and have about 70,000 soldiers remaining. Among them, there are 4,000 injured. Our remaining military strength is now, however, less than 50,000 soldiers.”

 

“What?” Rody frowned. “You just said that there are 70,000 soldiers and 4,000 of them are wounded. How come we only have 50,000 soldiers? What happened to the remaining 10,000 or more soldiers?”

 

Reuben was embarrassed. He glanced at a few of the commanders present and sighed. Before he had the chance to speak, Ferara said, “Your Excellency, that should be enough about the number of soldiers. The military secretary of register can report to you the actual number after calculation later. Your Excellency should look at the current plans. Now that Reuenthal’s army has just retreated, there are a lot of decisions that need to be made.”

 

Rody was no longer a child who did not know anything. Although he did not understand the entire problem, he faintly understood that there must have been a specific reason. He nodded his head, glanced at Reuben and stopped pursuing the matter.

 

After that, he and the other subordinates at all levels discussed the extent of damage to the city. They also ascertained the loss of equipment, weapons, horses as well as the damaged fortress wall and many others. They also discussed the compensation of bereaved families among other matters.

 

Rody, who lacked experience was at a loss. He noticed Reuben’s awkward expression and guessed that this kind of matters must also be a headache for him. For Reuben, he preferred fighting as a commander over handling military affairs.

 

Fortunately, Sieg had ample experience on such matters from his time in the Central Cavalry. He never made a mistake in his logistical management. He was the one who personally dealt with all the logistical problems in the Wolves Fang. In such matters, he was extremely experienced.

 

The messy data made Rody’s head spin. With the assistance of Sieg and the other staff officers, it was made easier. They arranged all the jobs that needed to be organized. Ferara and Fedol both looked happy when they saw that Rody was not good with military finance.

 

After all of that was finished, Reuben brought Rody and Sieg to the residence of the garrison. The residence originally belonged to Fedol. However, when Reuben retreated here, Fedol gave it to Reuben.

 

After sending off the others, Rody asked Reuben to stay back. He then gave Sieg an eye signal. Sieg immediately turned around and went out to make sure a guard was standing outside the room. He then walked back into the room and closed the door.

 

Rody hesitated and did not know how to ask. On the other hand, Sieg was really angry and shouted, “Reuben, what have you done?! There are 10,000 ghost soldiers! You have tarnished the name of the Tulip Family’s banner!”

 

Reuben who was already mentally stressed, turned red when he heard Sieg’s statement. He shouted back, “Sieg, do not talk nonsense! I, Reuben in all my life have never tarnished the name of the Tulip Family’s banner! Those things…”

 

Sieg looked gloomy and ruthlessly replied, “In that case, explain these 10,000 ghost soldiers! How are you going to explain this to the late duke in the afterlife?”

 

Reuben’s face was pale as ashes. He hesitated for a moment before he finally explained. His explanation not only shocked Rody but also the corrupted officers.

 

“The Northwest Legion claims to have 200,000 soldiers! The main army has 100,000 soldiers. There is another 100,000 performing garrison duty. The figures sound very impressive. But, do you know, the Northwest Legion does not have that many soldiers?! The Northwest Legion’s actual military strength including myself, the other officers and all the defenders, were never more than 130,000 soldiers!”

 

“My main army was still good but the conditions of the local garrisons were actually frightening! According to the report, there were 15,000 soldiers at Loulan Fortress. It was a lot of soldiers. However, when they retreated from Loulan Fortress, only then did I find out that the situation was not right.”

 

“The commander of the Loulan Fortress is dead and his family has escaped. Hmph, do you know, his family had 150 guards and servants at home? On top of that, their names were listed as the defenders of Loulan Fortress. In other words, the commander of Loulan Fortress used the Empire’s money on his own servants and family. I tortured a few escaped officers and found out that the real army in Loulan Fortress had less than 8,000 soldiers. Hmph, they reported 15,000 soldiers which mean that the commander misappropriated the funds for 7,000 soldiers! The other places are likely to be the same!”

 

“Were you never aware of this?” Sieg asked gloomily.

 

Reuben was embarrassed. He was originally a general. He could lead tens of thousands of soldiers and train them until they were proficient to go to war. That was his strength. However, he could not be a commanding officer and manage the entire army. That was not something he was able to do. When the logistics report arrived, Reuben would get a headache from going through the materials. Therefore, he would quickly approve them.

 

“What about your main army? Didn’t you say that you had 100,000 soldiers?” Sieg asked again.

 

“The main force is slightly better as they would not be so daring in front of me! However, not long ago, I also found out that my Third Infantry Regiment and my Right Flank Cavalry Regiment were also embezzling money. The combined total was only 10,000. It was not as bad as the local garrison. My main army of 100,000 was actually an army of just more than 80,000.”

 

Sieg sighed and sat down on the chair.

 

Rody looked gloomy and slowly said, “You mentioned that the 200,000 Northwest Legion only had 130,000 soldiers. That means there are 70,000 ghost soldiers? How much is the salary of 70,000 people a year? Those officers dared to commit such a crime?”

 

Sieg gave Rody a glance and slowly said, “Your Excellency, you are still young and would not understand such things in the army. The numbers are not counted like that.” Sieg thought for a moment before explaining it to Rody.

 

“A year’s salary for a soldier is 3 gold coins. After multiplying, the salaries of 70,000 soldiers will be 210,000 gold coins. However, the actual amount is much more.

 

“A sword for the infantry was about 5 silver coins. Equipping them with armor would cost another 3 gold coins each. For archers, the bows and arrows also required money. In addition, the horses for cavalries cost 5 gold coins each and that was not including the cost of food required to feed the horses. Cavalry armor and weapons were also more expensive compared to the ones for infantries.

 

“The money embezzled for the ghost soldiers would also have to include money for their maintenance. The Empire would need to spend about 7 gold coins for each infantry and 15 gold coins for each cavalryman every year. On top of that, there were also costs for maintaining the equipment. When all the costs were added up, the total amount was huge.

 

“After calculation, the 70,000 ghost soldiers would cost the Empire almost 1,000,000 gold coins a year. This large amount of money was constantly flowing into the hands of corrupt officials!”

 

Rody turned pale the moment he heard that. He stood up and slammed the table. The wooden table broke instantly.

 

“Is this the Empire’s third largest army, the Northwest Legion? Is this the elite army that is guarding the borders?” Rody was furious. He loudly asked, “General Reuben, what about that commander of Trier Fortress?! What about Ferara?”

 

Reuben felt ashamed and said, “Him? His Trier Fortress was almost an empty city! The report said that there were 15,000 soldiers when in actual fact, there were less than 5,000 soldiers…”

 

“Bastard!” Rody shouted. “No wonder when I passed by the village near Trier Fortress, I heard that the Imperial Army forcefully conscripted soldiers! This must be the reason. Due to the war, Ferara knew he could no longer hide this issue and forcefully conscripted the farmers to cover it up!”

 

“Reuben, since you already knew about this, why have you not punished them?!” Sieg was holding the hilt of his sword and was extremely angry. “Are you involved as well?”

 

Reuben was agitated and shouted back, “Punish? How was I supposed to punish them? Reuenthal was right outside the city! How could I punish them at that time? There are 7 commanders here now, that is including Ferara and Fedol. Among these 7 commanders, 4 of them are involved in embezzling! What could I have done? Catch them and execute them? The morale of the military was unstable. If suddenly, half of the available commanders were executed, how was I supposed to defend the city and fight the war after that?”

 

“Then… what about Louch1?” Sieg suddenly whispered. “I heard that Louch was a commander at the Blackstone Fortress. They were on the way to support you when they were intercepted by Reuenthal.”

 

Reuben showed a solemn expression. “Louch was once His Excellency’s bodyguard. Naturally, he would not do this kind of things! I have already checked. All of the 15,000 soldiers from the Blackstone Fortress were genuine. When Louch was killed, his men who managed to escape reported to me. When Louch was in the Blackstone Fortress, his family did not have much wealth. They only had a small residence and two horses.”

 

Sieg sat back down on the chair. His face revealed both sadness and anger.

 

Rody also felt abnormally worried. He never expected the situation of the Northwest Legion to be that terrible. In fact, he never expected more than half of the Northwest Legion to be rotten.

 

What about the other armies of the Empire then? Northwest Legion was supposed to be one of the three largest armies in the Empire and yet they are like this…

 

Rody then suddenly remembered what he saw at the Empire’s most famous Central Cavalry in the Imperial City that day. His heart turned cold.

 

He was no longer happy about the earlier victory.

 

After some time, Rody slowly said, “ General Reuben, the war has just ended. Go and attend to the army and military affairs… Let Commander Sieg accompany you… I… I want to be alone for a while.”

 

Sieg and Reuben looked at each other. After that, Sieg walked out of the room without sparing Reuben another glance. Reuben felt ashamed and sighed as he quietly followed Sieg out.

 

Rody was sitting alone in the room and thought to himself. He felt like he wanted to run out and immediately slaughter Ferara and Fedol.

 

At that moment, there was a knock on the door and the captain of the bodyguards walked in. After saluting, he whispered to Rody, “Your Excellency, the commander of the garrison at Watt Fortress, Fedol invites you for dinner.”

 

“What dinner?!” Rody suddenly shouted.

 

The captain was shocked. Ever since he followed the young duke, he noticed that the duke had never treated his subordinates in a haughty manner. He did not know why he was angry.

 

“The dinner is to celebrate today’s victory,” the captain whispered again.

 

Rody sneered and was about to say no when he suddenly had an idea. He then spoke in a cold voice, “Tell them that I will be there!”

 

At that moment, there was a peculiar and sharp flash in Rody’s eyes

 

Translator’s Footnote:

1Louch. The chinese characters, 老七 (Lǎo qī ), actually mean ‘seventh bro’. Such names, or nicknames, are usually reserved for close friends. I have decided to use Louch because it is more in keeping with the naming sense in this novel.

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