Masked Knight – Chapter 98

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Crusade

The Tulip Family’s mansion was crowded with people. There were many luxurious carriages parked outside the residence. It was as if all the prestigious people from the Imperial Capital had gathered there. It had not been that way since the death of the late duke.

Along the way, Rody attracted a huge crowd. He had great difficulty getting through the crowd, before he could enter the Tulip Family mansion.

Rody dismounted from the horse. He walked a few steps towards Nicole. When he saw Nicole’s thin face which was full of affection, he felt like immediately rushing over to embrace her. However, Rody saw a lot of people next to her so, he took a deep breath to suppress the excitement in his heart. After all, Nicole was currently his ‘sister’, and he should not act too outrageously.

He smiled and called out, “Sister!” After that, he gently embraced her according to the etiquette of the nobles. As he hugged her, he quietly whispered into her ear, “I missed you.” Nicole’s face turned red, and she stepped back. After she had calmed down, she said, “Go quickly. There are a lot of people waiting for you.”

Once he was in the hall, he was surrounded by many important dignitaries. A lot of them congratulated him, and there were also those who tried to win him over. There were also some who actually came to match-make. Everybody in the Imperial Capital knew about him and his victory in the Northwest. In addition, he came from the glorious Tulip Family. They knew that the duke’s future was going to be very bright.

Rody reluctantly kept his spirits up to cope with all those people. However, his eyes showed his impatience as he looked to Nicole for help.

These guys are really troublesome.

Rody would have preferred to kick them all out and just have Nicole alone with him.

Nicole was an experienced noble lady. She calmly dealt with the flattery from the crowd and gave a faint smile. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are touched by your enthusiasm. However, Seth has been rushing about and has gone through great hardships. Tonight, His Majesty will also be holding a feast. Seth has just returned and will need to rest and prepare himself.”

The people all understood and immediately left. A few people took Rody’s hands and said a few touching words before they left. They even forced themselves to cry a few tears.

At long last, Rody noticed that he and Nicole were the only two who remained in the hall. He cleared his throat and said, “Sister, I have something to tell you.”

Nicole nodded and said, “Let’s go to the study.”

After dismissing the servants, the two of them entered the study room. Nicole entered first and turned around as she slowly said, “Rody, I already know about the incident at Westwood province. You were a little too impatient in the way you handled the matter… Aargh!”

Rody had been walking in large strides behind Nicole. He turned around and then he closed the doors. Ignoring the fact that Nicole was still talking, he moved forward, stretched his hands around her waist and kissed her beautiful, tender lips.

Nicole could not guard herself against Rody in time and soon found herself in his embrace. In a panic, she closed her eyes and felt the warmth from Rody’s lips. She could also feel Rody’s breath, and a strange feeling entered her heart.

After an indefinite time, Nicole felt like she was drained of energy, and her whole body fluttered. After that, Rody raised his head and stared at Nicole. Nicole gradually recovered. Her face turned red and she said in a low voice, “You, you have become even more daring!”

Rody’s face also turned red as he replied, “Just a little bit more daring.” He was about to bend down and kiss her again when Nicole gently slipped out of the way and said, “Enough. Don’t… Be careful so that no one sees.”

Rody sighed and slowly let go of Nicole. He then thought and asked, “Do you have news of Seth? It has been so long. Have your people found him?”

Nicole’s face turned dark as she slowly shook her head and sighed. “I have sent people out to sea since a few months ago, but there is still no news. Where has that bastard disappeared to?”

Rody frowned and asked, “What shall we do then? Must I still pretend to be your brother? I… I really do not want to be your brother!”

Nicole reluctantly smiled and asked, “Is being a duke not good? Gaining the attention of many is really glamorous…”

Rody sighed. “Glamour? I have seen too many things in the Northwest region. Glamour? Hehe…Do you know much blood was shed in exchange for this? I never really had much interest in these things!” He then looked at Nicole’s eyes and softly said, “I just want to be Rody. I want to abandon this identity and be together with you. What shall I do now that I am your brother? Does it mean that we…”

Seeing that Rody was agitated, Nicole gently held Rody’s hands and softly said, “Rody, please be patient! Please be patient for a little more, alright?”

Rody lightly said, “Being a duke may be glamorous but there are a lot hidden murders and filth that need to be dealt with. I am very bored. Nicole, I just want to take you away from here.”

Nicole observed Rody for a long time. She slowly shook her head and replied, “No, I really cannot do that. I am responsible for the family. Other than you, I have nobody else to rely on.” After that, Nicole burst into tears and cried. Rody’s heart ached.  He went closer and gently held her. Nicole gently clung onto Rody and said, “I also want to have an easier time. I also want to be carefree and be together with you! But, I cannot!”

Rody gently smiled. He stretched his fingers and wiped Nicole’s tears away as he softly said, “Alright. It was my mistake. I just returned and I have already made you cry. Do not worry. As long as I, Rody, am around, I will not let the Tulip Family collapse!”

He held the beautiful lady in his arms. Although he felt helpless, what else could he say?

Inadvertently, a slender figure in black robes crossed his mind along with the phrase.

If you do not forget me, I will not forget you.

He remembered that he had almost followed her out of impulse that day.

Nicole and Rody then restrained themselves and discussed about the incident at the Westwood province. Rody had slaughtered a lot of people at the Westwood province. Although he had returned to the Imperial Capital, he had left more than 2,000 Wolf Fang soldiers behind to clean up the public official administration system at the Westwood province. Those few days, many people were executed at the guillotine in the big and small towns. Although most of the populace were happy, Rody had also offended a lot of people.

Nicole was worried. The Westwood province was the Tulip Family’s territory. The military and government of the Westwood province were under the Tulip Family. It was like a small independent kingdom of the Empire. However, those officials were still officials of the Empire. After such a major incident, Rody had executed so many people without waiting for His Majesty’s orders. That was not good.

On the other hand, Rody was very calm. Abbas XI did not heavily reward him and that made the military very unsatisfied. Even in the Imperial Capital, there was already a lot of criticism. As a result, His Majesty would not purposely pursue the matter in the Westwood province. After all, the Westwood province was the Tulip Family’s territory, and it was a private matter. His Majesty would not need to pursue it just because he executed a few people. The emperor needed to pretend to treat him fervently so that he could win back the hearts of the military. It was obvious when His Majesty did not mention anything about the Westwood province that day.

That night, at the banquet in the palace hall, Abbas XI appeared to be very close with Rody. The other ministers and nobles also proposed toasts to Rody. Rody had already heard the words ‘young and promising’ a few hundred times. Eventually, Abbas XI enthusiastically pulled Rody’s hand and took him to the audience hall to receive the cheers of the soldiers.

I only fought a battle in the Northwest region, and the result was neither a victory nor defeat. However, they are celebrating as if we conquered the entire continent. This is too excessive…

In the end, a few military generals made him drink a few glasses of wine, and he finally became drunk.

The next morning, when Rody was still asleep, the Imperial Guards arrived and summoned Rody to immediately report to the Imperial Palace. They only said that His Majesty was anxious to discuss some important things with him and the other cabinet ministers.

Rody was still dizzy and cursed the emperor in his heart.

I am only a phony duke with no power and no soldiers. What’s the purpose of asking me to participate in the discussion? Anyway, you and old Garoline have already decided everything. Who are you trying to fool by pretending to discuss?

Although he criticized the emperor in his heart, Rody still dressed up neatly. The one who served him was the beautiful maid, Angel. However, Rody was no longer a silly boy and he was not flustered when he saw Angel. Rody had on a stern expression as Angel dressed him up in the noble’s gown. Rody then smiled and nodded his head at her.

Angel’s face turned red but she whispered, “Young Master… no, Master… you are no longer the same as before…”

“What?” Rody asked.

Angel looked down and replied, “You have become more serious and cold.”

Rody nodded but did not reply. He thought in his heart.

Both you and Jojo said the same thing. Is Seth really such a glib? I must be careful not to be exposed.

The carriage was prepared and Rody took a few guards with him. He noticed that the way the guards looked at him was different from before. The guards no longer had a respectful but indifferent attitude towards him. Now, the guards and his personal bodyguard Randt looked at him with true respect.

Didn’t those old military men from last night say that I was becoming more and more like the late duke? Even though it was a compliment, why do I feel so uncomfortable?

He got on the carriage and was led by the Imperial Guards to the meeting hall in the Imperial Palace. Abbas XI and several cabinet ministers were already sitting there. Seeing Rody walk in, Abbas XI gently said, “Duke Rudolph, there is no need to salute. I invited you here to ask you about the Roland continent.”

The Emperor then glanced at Garoline. The military minister then cleared his throat and said, “Your Excellency the Duke, before your return, His Majesty received your report. The report said that some of the Roland continent soldiers were found in the Great Moon Kingdom. The people of the Roland continent had assisted Reuenthal to fight us. You must be extremely clear about this, so His Majesty has invited you to elaborate.”

Rody thought for a moment, and then he spoke in detail about being intercepted by the Knights of Roland at the grasslands. Naturally, he did not say a word about the Black Veiled Saint but he mentioned that the information was obtained from a captured Roland Knight.   

As for Mouse, although he had brought her back to Watt Fortress, she was only there for a day before leaving. No one knew her identity. Although there were many other problems, Seth fortunately did many strange things in the past. Therefore, no explanation was required. Courting women on the battlefield was against the military law, but now that he was in the limelight, nobody dared to find fault with him.

After Rody had finished his explanation, Abbas XI showed a disgusted expression and coldly said, “The people of the Roland continent are truly bold! I ignored them, but they dare provoke me! What shall we do about this?”

Marquis Garoline was the first to stand up and proclaim, “Your Majesty! The people of the Roland continent dared to offend the Empire and naturally, must be taught a lesson! I think Your Majesty can allow the Commander of the Northern Region, Milo, to mobilize the army to give the other party a little warning. The Northwest is currently unstable, and it is not wise to cause more trouble!”

Abbax XI frowned and coldly replied, “Is that all we are doing? The Roland continent is across the ocean. If we mobilize our army, will it really serve as a warning? Hehe, they consider us heathens, but in our eyes, they are the heathens!”

Garoline smiled and said, “In that case, let us call the pope over to discuss. If we declare war against the Roland continent, it will not only involve the Empire. It is a war against heathens, so the pope will definitely strongly support us. Since a war against heathens is a holy crusade, the pope’s Blazing Warriors will surely come forward to help…”  

The moment they heard ‘holy crusade’, everybody frowned. All of them had a conscientious expression while Abbas XI was in profound thought.

“Holy crusade!”

The Radiant Empire and the Roland continent had declared war on each other for several hundred years using the ‘holy crusade’ and the crushing of heathens as excuses. However, they did not know how many people had died because of them. Holy crusades were massive and the rivers would be filled with blood. Millions of people perished and countless people lost their homes. Both continents were exhausted, but there was no winner.

The Radiant Empire’s Blazing Warriors were very powerful, but the Holy Knights of the Roland continent were just as good.

To begin another crusade would require them to mobilize the whole of the Empire’s forces. The Empire’s current situation might not be able to withstand such a devastating war. Moreover, in the Northwest, Reuenthal, the grassland wolf, was waiting to pounce.

Abbas XI thought for a moment before sighing. “A single war will take up too much national strength. Now is not the time for a crusade.”

Garoline smiled and replied, “Since Your Majesty has said so, let us then send a special envoy and ask the pope to also send a counterpart to the Kingdom of Sauron to seek justice from them! Blame them as we mobilize the Northern Legion under the command of Milo to threaten them. The Kingdom of Sauron will not dare to do anything. As long as they are willing to bow down to us, the dignity of the Empire will be protected!”

Abbas XI looked down and frowned.

Seeing the emperor’s expression, Rody started to sympathize with him.

In the past, when Abbas the Great founded the Radiant Empire Dynasty, the Empire controlled the entire continent. The army was powerful and prestigious. However, during his rule, the Northwest region had suffered crushing defeats, and there were a lot of internal struggles. Their enemies were also causing problems in the Northern region, resulting in the emperor to feel extremely annoyed.

In the end, for fear of losing his pride, Abbas XI did not decide on what to do with the Roland continent. He said that he needed to further discuss the matter with the cabinet ministers in the future. The topic then shifted to the peace talks with the Great Moon Kingdom.

The main person in charge of the peace talks was the Empire’s Finance Minister, Earl Merlow. He was a slender and good looking middle-aged man. The man always had a smile on his face, but his cunning eyes made people feel uncomfortable.

Abbas XI only said a few words and warned Rody again, before telling the crowd to disperse.

The moment they left the Imperial Palace, Rody increased his pace to keep up with Earl Merlow. Then he said, “Your Excellency Merlow, His Majesty requested me to help you with the peace talks with the Great Moon Kingdom… You must understand that I am still young and am not experienced with negotiation. Do you have any idea?”

Earl Merlow smiled and said, “Duke Rudolph, you are too modest. His Majesty may have assigned me as the main negotiator but there is nobody who does not know of your contributions in the Northwest. He said that you were going to be my assistant but actually, you are the main negotiator and I am your assistant. Without your words of wisdom, I will not be able to subdue those grassland barbarians.”

Rody laughed and secretly cursed.

Crafty old man!

Earl Merlow then gave a witty smile and said, “Your Excellency the Duke, I believe you are close friends with my son, Didi. I will take advantage of my old age to be lazy, so you must work harder! Since we are not busy right now, let us find a place to sit down and talk. Then tonight, we will visit the prince of the Great Moon Kingdom. Is this agreeable?”

Rody thought for a moment and then agreed. They left the palace together in the Earl’s carriage, while the Tulip Family’s carriage was sent back. His other guards followed behind him on their horses.

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