Masked Knight – Chapter 97

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Scoundrels of the Political Circle

 

Rody and the others were delayed at West Hill City for several days. Five days later, at noon, they arrived in the Imperial Capital.

 

From a distance, they saw the majesty of the Imperial Capital. The Empire’s symbol, the Thorn Flower banner, fluttered against the walls. Golden armored warriors stood above the walls. The battle axes in their hands gleamed; they were a powerful and spectacular sight. The city had a 100-meters tall tower which shined brightly as the large magical crystal at the top of the tower reflected sunlight.

 

“We are home!” Sieg sighed, sitting on his horse. He turned his head and looked at the soldiers behind him. The soldiers all looked exhausted but excited.

 

The main gate of the Imperial Capital had been opened wide since morning. Countless people had learned about the triumphant return of the duke. A huge crowd had rushed outside the city to greet him. That day, fresh flowers once again ran out of stock in the Imperial Capital. The public security soldiers could only smile wryly as they looked at the enthusiastic residents of the Imperial Capital. Remembering the chaos on the day the duke left for his expedition, the public security soldiers made better preparations this time.  Even the commander specially wore his helmet in fear of over-enthusiastic women scratching his face.

 

Rody had already heard news from the Imperial Guards that His Majesty would personally go out of the city to welcome him. From afar, he could see the public security soldiers holding back the crowd on the periphery of both sides of the road. The Imperial Guards stood further down the road on both sides. The road was already blanketed in flowers. From afar, he could also see a metallic eight-wheeled carriage parked outside the city gates. Even the horses that were selected were white horses of the best quality.

 

Rody’s two commanders, Sieg and Gordon dismounted from their horses when they were about 100 paces away. They walked the rest of the way. The soldiers behind them also dismounted from their horses.

 

The Emperor of the Empire, Abbas XI wore a ceremonial dress. He raised his head and stood on the carriage.

 

The group slowly walked in unison towards the carriage until Rody waved for them to stop. After that, Rody, Gordon and Sieg knelt down and said, “Your subordinates did not fail Your Majesty and have repelled the enemy!” The three of them spoke together. Sieg and Gordon spoke as loudly as they could. However, Rody was not particularly fond of the emperor. He lowered his head and only mouthed the words.

 

Abbas XI looked satisfied and waved his hands. He slowly got down the carriage and walked towards the three of them. He personally brought the three up and embraced them in an ostentatious fashion in the etiquette of the Empire to greet their triumphant return.

 

Subsequently, the guards of the Imperial Family cheered, and the surrounding crowd also shouted.

 

“Long live the Duke of Tulip Family!”

 

“Long live the ‘Lightning God’s Whip’!”

 

“Long live the Empire!”

 

“Long live His Majesty the Emperor!”

 

Fresh flowers rained down on them as colored ribbons flew. As the people celebrated happily, the army marched slowly into the city.

 

Abbas XI deliberately pulled Rody’s hand enthusiastically as he walked to the front. He left his carriage and ordered someone to get him a horse. He then rode side by side with Rody and enjoyed the cheers of the people. Abbas XI smiled, and his slightly pale face looked more flushed than usual.

 

Rody showed a prudent and respectful expression but was disgusted in his heart.

 

First of all, the war in the Northwest region had actually ended in the defeat of the Empire.

 

A vast amount of land was occupied by the enemy, and several military fortresses also fell into their hands. In the end, it was thanks to his reinforcements that they could protect Watt Fortress instead of losing everything.

 

On top of that, according to custom, the Duke of the Tulip Family (although he was an impostor) had commanded the Northwest Legion to repel Reuenthal and should have been given the post of an army chief in the Northwest region. However, the emperor did not do that. The moment the battle was over, the emperor had ordered the duke to return. Obviously, the emperor was not willing to leave the 100,000 soldiers of the Northwest region under his command.

 

The emperor had initially sent Rody there and hoped for Reuenthal to cut him down so that he could get rid of his greatest threat, the Tulip Family. The emperor however, did not expect Rody’s surprise attack to have caused so much chaos in the Great Moon Kingdom’s territory, eventually forcing Reuenthal to withdraw and concentrate on the power struggle in the Great Moon Kingdom. Although the Northwest region was protected, the thorn still existed. Probably, the emperor was more disappointed that the duke was still alive than happy that the fortress was saved.

 

The Wolf Fang soldiers immediately went on to their base at the Central Cavalry’s military camp. Rody, Sieg and Gordon followed His Majesty back to the palace to accept their reward.

 

All the high level government and military officials had already gathered in the audience hall. Rody, who followed Abbas XI into the audience hall was the center of attention. The ministers gazed at him full of admiration and joy, although some were jealous.

 

They waited for Abbas XI to slowly sit on his throne and look at the people present. He then said, “The Duke of the Tulip Family has gone to the Northwest region and triumphantly returned. He has defeated Reuenthal, and this will be regarded as a great contribution to the Empire. Let us cheer for the glory of the Empire and the Duke of the Tulip Family!”

 

There was a thunderous applause as all the nobles and ministers cheered. The people of the military cheered happily as they looked at their military spiritual leader and felt gratified.

 

After the applause, a skinny old man in black robes walked to the middle looking very calm as he slowly said, “Your Majesty, I have something to say!”

 

“Marquis Garoline, you are the Military Minister of the Imperial Army! Now that Duke Rudolph has returned, you, who are in charge of military affairs, will also receive merit!” Abbas XI laughed.

 

Marquis Garoline raised his head and solemnly said, “Your Majesty, the Duke of the Tulip Family has obtained a great merit. He must be rewarded!”

 

The moment Rody heard this, he trembled. He clearly knew that Military Minister Garoline was not a good person. The Lionheart Family had always wanted to suppress the Tulip Family. Previously at the banquet, Rody had crossed paths with Garoline’s nephew, the Northern Region’s Army Chief, Milo. Now, Garoline had suddenly requested for His Majesty to reward Rody. Rody knew that nothing good would come out of it.

 

Abbas XI nodded and immediately said, “Of course. However, how do you, as the military minister, suggest we reward him?”

 

Before Garoline could speak, a middle-aged general beside him who was in military uniform spoke, “Your Majesty, according to the tradition of the Empire, the Duke of the Tulip Family would serve as the army chief of the Central Cavalry! The Duke of the Tulip Family has obtained great merit! We should let him take command of the ‘Lightning God’s Whip’!”

 

The moment he finished speaking, his proposal was immediately met with agreement from many other military generals.

 

Rody sighed in his heart. He knew that these generals were trying to help him in consideration of the late duke. However, their minds were too simple. His Majesty would not even give him control over the 100,000 soldiers of the Northwest Legion, nevermind the 200,000 soldiers who were also known as the Empire’s most elite army, the ‘Lightning God’s Whip’. Besides, being in control of the ‘Lightning God’s Whip’ was equivalent to controlling the entire Imperial Army in the Imperial Capital. The total 250,000 soldiers based in the Imperial Capital comprised of 200,000 in the ‘Lightning God’s Whip’ for defending the Capital and the 50,000 Imperial Guards for defending the palace. How could the emperor, who was suspicious of the Tulip Family, be willing to place him as the leader of the Empire’s largest army?”

 

Sure enough, Abbas XI only nodded but did not say anything. Rody noticed that the emperor secretly glanced at Marquis Garoline. The Marquis then coughed gently and said, “The generals’ words are certainly reasonable! But…” Rody sneered in his heart as he thought:

I was just waiting for your ‘but’!

 

“… But the current Duke of the Tulip Family is still young! The Lightning God’s Whip is the Empire’s most elite army and is responsible for defending the Imperial Capital! The duke is still less than 20 years old. I am afraid that he would not be competent enough to handle such an important task!” Having said these words, the Marquis bowed to the emperor.

 

“Nonsense!” A hot-tempered general shouted loudly. “The duke may be young, but there have been cases in the history of the Empire where a young duke became the commander-in-chief of the army! For example, the dukes of the fourth and the seventh generation have served as the Commander-in-Chief of the Central Cavalry in their 20s!”

 

The marquis looked at the general and neither haughtily nor humbly said, “It is true that there are dukes who became commander-in-chief at 20. However, the current duke has not even reached 20 years old and has only fought once on the battlefield!”

 

“Hmph!” Another general could not help but say, “Only one battle but he could already repel Reuenthal. Is that not enough? If you don’t believe in his ability, send your nephew out to fight and see!”

 

Garoline then replied without getting angry, “The person who leads the expedition to fight against the foreign country is decided by His Majesty.”

 

“You said that the duke is young. Your nephew is also young, but isn’t he now a Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Legion?”

 

Garoline said, “Milo may be young but he is almost 30 years old. Besides, he did not immediately become the army chief of the Northern Legion. Instead, he first gained experience as a troop commander.”

 

The generals of the military continued to speak but Garoline calmly and patiently replied them. Garoline was much more eloquent than those generals.

 

“Watch carefully boy!” Andy spoke up in Rody’s mind. “This old man is not a simple person! You can’t tell what he is feeling by his face!”

 

Rody secretly nodded. He watched from the side and understood that His Majesty and the marquis had colluded to make sure that he would not hold any military power.

 

Knowing that, he was clear of His Majesty’s intentions and understood that His Majesty had made up his mind. As a result, the generals who tried to help him would not get any results Instead, they would end up offending the emperor. Rody then cleared his throat and loudly said, “Everybody, you do not need to argue anymore!”

 

All the generals looked at him and kept quiet. They all looked at the young duke and waited for him to speak.

 

Rody bowed and said, “Your Majesty, I also believe that I am too young and incapable of serving as a Commander-in-Chief of the Legion! Frankly speaking, during the war in the Northwest region, I only managed to force Reuenthal to withdraw by virtue of luck! To call it a victory is out of the question! Just as Marquis Garoline has said, the ‘Lightning God’s Whip’ is the Empire’s most elite army and is responsible for guarding the Imperial Capital. I am young and I am afraid that I cannot bear such responsibility!”

 

Hearing these words, the generals in the military all frowned and sighed in their hearts. A flash of insight appeared in the eyes of Abbas XI as he said, “Duke Rudolph, you are too modest! The Empire will not ignore your contributions! Since you are unwilling to becoming the Commander-in-Chief of the Central Cavalry, what is your proposal?”

 

Hearing these words, Rody cursed in his heart.

 

What do you mean I am unwilling? You are the one who is unwilling!

 

However, he adopted a stern countenance on the surface and said, “I found out that I do not have enough experience when I led the troops in the Northwest region. It was thanks to the help of the two commanders, Gordon and Sieg that we were able to complete Your Majesty’s mission! I request Your Majesty to reward Gordon and Sieg!”

 

Abbas XI smiled and said, “That is natural! I heard that Commander Sieg has been the commander of the ‘Lightning God’s Whip’ for a long time. I am ready to grant him the title of ‘Viscount’! As for Commander Gordon, I have decided to promote him as the Imperial Guards Deputy Commander!”

 

Rody thought to himself.

 

This is a bargain. He does not want to give me military power, but it is as a gesture of good faith. He is giving me two assistants. This is reasonably fair.

 

He then spoke, “Your Majesty is wise!”

 

Since Rody mentioned that he did not want to become the Commander-in-Chief of the Central Cavalry, it was difficult to reward him. After all, Rody may be already be a duke but he still did not have a government post. At first, he was the Special Envoy of the Northwest Region but since the war at the Northwest region was over, his special envoy title was also gone. All that was left was to become a troop commander, but how could the duke become a mere troop commander?

 

Everybody’s opinion varied. Without a proper decision, Rody could only sigh. He remembered Nicole’s words, “The more merits the Tulip Family gets, the higher its status.” In the end, they would have amassed all the glory, until the emperor had nothing left to reward the Tulip Family with.

 

After that, Garoline coughed and spoke. His peculiar calm voice sounded more like a squeak. “Your Majesty, I think the duke is the pillar of the Empire and the Tulip Family’s banner is the pride of the Empire. Although the Duke is still young, with a few more years of experience…”

 

Rody’s heart was stirred and secretly thought.

 

Hehe, the truth is finally going to come out. All those words before were just nonsense. Especially when he mentioned ‘few more years of experience’.

 

He then heard Garoline say, “Now, the South is fairly stable but the barbarians often cause trouble there. They hide in the mountains and often rebel, costing a lot of the Empire’s military strength and resources! If it were not for them, we could have sent reinforcements from the South to the Northwest region during the war with the Great Moon Kingdom! Now that the war in the Northwest is over, we should solve the problem in the South! I suggest to send the Duke of the Tulip Family to the Southern region! With the reputation of the Tulip Family’s banner, we will definitely be able to frighten the mountain barbarians! First of all, His Excellency the Duke does not have a government post. Your Majesty can send him to the Southeast as a special envoy cum governor general in the Southeast region to control the military and government of the three provinces. He can first work together with the Southern Army Regiment Commander, Camus, to solve the mountain tribe problem. Secondly, Regiment Commander Camus, who is a veteran of the Empire’s military, has vast experience. The duke would be able to train with him for two to three years.”

 

The moment Garoline finished speaking, Rody heard Andy shout in his mind, “Nasty! Damn, this old man is really something! What shitty Southeast Special Envoy? It sounds impressive like the Northwest Special Envoy but it is only temporary! What do you mean control the three Southeast provinces? Each province has its own governor general! You being there is just a decoration! They will not even make you commander-in-chief but force you to follow behind the Regiment Commander to ‘learn’! How nasty! His words make it sound like you are being given power, but in fact, it is all empty! It is the same as exiling you to the mountains!”

 

Before the other generals could say anything, Abbas XI immediately smiled. His eyes showed satisfaction as he said, “Good! That is a good idea! The military minister is truly experienced. It certainly sounds like the best solution!”

 

Rody cursed in his heart, but the moment the emperor said these words, everything was already set and decided. He could not help but show anger in his eyes. He tried to hold back his dissatisfaction as he solemnly bowed and said, “Your Majesty, I am willing to go to the South to learn from General Camus!”

 

The military generals had much to say, but when they saw that the duke had been given the title of ‘Southeast Special Envoy cum Governor’, plus he had to govern three large provinces, they kept quiet.

 

The emperor smiled and said, “Good! Let it be so! Duke Rudolph, you have made great contributions in the Northwest region! I now appoint you as the Southeast Special Envoy cum Military Governor. You have military and government authority over three provinces in the Southeast. I hope you can assist the Regiment Commander of the Southern Legion to suppress troubles at the mountains!”

 

Rody sighed and knelt on one knee. He then thought for a moment and said, “Your Majesty, when I went to the Northwest, I was lucky to have Sieg and the Wolf Fang to help me. Now that I am going to the Southeast, I hope Your Majesty can grant me the Wolf Fang.”

 

The Emperor was in a good mood at that moment. He thought that the Wolf Fang only had 20,000 soldiers and would not make much of a difference. He had achieved his objective. Now that he had snapped Rody’s wrist, he thought that he should at least give Rody a gift of condolences and readily agreed.

 

Abbas XI thought to himself and then said, “Duke Rudolph, you must have known that the Great Moon Kingdom’s envoy have already arrived in the Imperial Capital. They will be discussing the peace talks of the Northwest region. You have returned from the Northwest and are familiar with things there. I appoint you as an assistant responsible for the peace talks! I hope you do not disgrace the dignity of the Empire! There is no need to hurry to the Southern Region. Solve this matter before you depart!”

 

Rody froze for a moment as he did not expect His Majesty to give him another assignment. For some time, he could not understand those words and looked at Garoline. Garoline was calm and looked proud of himself.

 

“Idiot, don’t you understand?” Andy sighed in his mind. “What can the Empire obtain by making you negotiate with the Great Moon Kingdom? The land has already been occupied by others and the fortresses have already been captured. The Northwest Legion only has half of its strength remaining. Is there any need to say more? The Empire has been defeated and the emperor will lose face in the peace talks. Asking you to negotiate will make you bear all the humiliation! Ah, how ruthless! This must be that old minister’s wicked idea!”

 

Rody gritted his teeth and nodded his head. He saw that the military generals nearby also looked disgusted.

 

In fact, what Andy said was half right. Abbas XI appointing Rody to negotiate was definitely Garoline’s idea. He intended to humiliate the Tulip Family. However, Garoline also had another intention…

 

The past few days, there was a war in the Northwest region. There had been a lot of discussion on whether they should continue with the war or to seek a peace talk.The military generals were all naturally part of the pro-war faction but Garoline had gathered the nobles to persuade Abbas XI to negotiate for a peace talk.

 

Garoline had his own reasons which were related to the corruption in the Northwest region. Just a small war in the Northwest had uncovered the corruption there. He was deeply connected to the corruption in the Northwest region. If the two countries had an all out war, a lot of problems would be exposed. He would then be finished. That was why the Northwest region could not be in turmoil. The only way out was to buy time and slowly cover up the problems.

 

After the conversation was over, there was a victory banquet in the evening. However, Rody wanted to go back home first.

 

When the crowd had dispersed, Rody exchanged words with the military officers. Most of them were subordinates of the late duke and were naturally on his side. The generals may have been familiar when it came to war, but when it came to fighting for position, they were no match for Marquis Garoline.

 

Rody watched Garoline leave and sighed.

 

This old man is too extraordinary. If I want to compete with him, the generals are not enough. I need a few people with brains to help me.

 

After thinking a bit more, he laughed at himself.

 

After so many days, I really think of myself as the duke! I have left the Imperial Capital for so many days. Perhaps, Nicole has found the whereabouts of that playboy. Either way, I am just a temporary duke. Finishing the battle at the Northwest sounds just about enough! When the playboy returns, I am quitting this job! According to Nicole’s argument, wouldn’t becoming an officer be much easier? The old man is extraordinary, but he is actually the playboy’s headache. It should not be my problem, right? If I already knew this, why did I ask His Majesty for the help of the Wolf Fang? What about the Southeast Special Envoy? Hehe, I’ll let the playboy go to the mountains. Let him deal with it!

 

The thought of seeing Nicole very soon made him feel excited. He immediately rushed out of the Imperial Palace toward the mansion of the Tulip Family.

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