Masked Knight – Chapter 203

Strange Visitor From the Imperial Capital

 

In the afternoon, Rody left the Duke’s residence. He bade farewell to Miss Nicole and returned to the barracks.

The moment he entered the barracks, he felt the strange gazes of the soldiers. They looked at him with a smile. A few higher ranked officers had already come over and vigorously patted his shoulder. When they finally pulled him into a big tent everybody cheered.

Rody smiled wryly. The soldiers cheered as if they had won a battle. In the end, one officer shouted out indicating that he was proud of his commanding officer for successfully winning the most beautiful flower amongst the nobles.

Although wine was forbidden in the military, everybody had demanded it. Rody then took the soldiers out to the pub to have a drink. At the pub, the emotional officers broke many wine cups and drank many barrels of wine. They then shouted their victory slogan as they returned to the barracks.

The subsequent matters were relatively more simple. Rody and Nicole appeared together in public every day. Together, they attended various activities and banquets held by the nobles in West Hill. They were like lovers in front of everyone. Since he had ‘started’ his relationship with Nicole, he could not see Myka for a while. Otherwise, if it was known that the lover of the Duke’s sister had another woman, there would be a huge uproar.

As the news gradually spread, the relationship between Viscount Rody and the Duke’s sister was already known by everyone. Even people in the far away Imperial Capital had also received the news.

Some people could not help but suddenly realized that His Majesty’s earlier marriage proposal to Miss Nicole was rejected presumably because she already had a lover. However, Rody’s identity was a little strange, as if Rody had suddenly appeared out of thin air. Perhaps, he was really just an ordinary low-ranked officer.

After the Military Minister, Marquis Garoline, received that news he fell into deep thought. Rody and Nicole?

The old Marquis sighed. It seemed like His Majesty the Emperor really wanted to win over the Tulip Family. After the war, the Tulip Family’s influence had become very strong and peerless. The Empire’s first family’s power was deep rooted and they also had the undying loyalty of the Empire’s most powerful army, the Lightning God’s Whip. The Duke of the Tulip Family had also been appointed as the Marshal of the Empire.

That Rody must be His Majesty’s illegitimate child. His relationship with Miss Nicole … isn’t it obvious? It must have been inspired by His Majesty!

However, this is strange. Initially, the father’s marriage proposal was rejected. But, he then allowed his son to pursue…

Marquis Garoline did not care about how strange it was. Matters involving power struggles were naturally strange and complicated.

It is impossible to win over the Tulip Family. Looks like the only way to revitalize the Lionheart Family is through Rody.

Perhaps… Perhaps, His Majesty has the intention of making his illegitimate child the Crown Prince?

Marquis Garoline then shook his head as the various complicated thoughts crossed his mind. No matter what, he would need to create a connection and win over Rody.

Fifteen days after the Duke of the Tulip Family nursed his injuries in West Hill, a group of strange guests arrived at the barracks in the West Hill City.

Except for the middle-aged man, who wore an ordinary noble’s clothes, the rest of those people were neatly dressed in the warrior’s uniform. The middle-aged man introduced himself as Baron Gadar, from the Imperial Capital. He requested to see His Excellency Viscount Rody and he also claimed to be his good friend in the Imperial Capital.

The officer of the Imperial Guards gave a strange smile as he told him that Rody was not in the barracks. He suggested that he could look for Rody at the outskirts, north of the city. Early that morning His Excellency Rody had received orders to bring along some men to escort Miss Nicole. The nobles of West Hill were having a hunting party at the hunting grounds on the outskirts of West Hill.

The hunting grounds in the north of West Hill was the property of the Tulip Family. It was a Black Forest. The outer perimeter of the forest was surrounded by a simple and crude wooden fence. Normally, the Assistant Governor would send men to upkeep the grounds. A group of soldiers would also take turns to guard the place.

The hunting grounds were specially meant for the nobles’ hunting activities. Hunting was an activity only among the nobles and was very popular in the Empire. The Empire’s militaristic nature and the law of the nobles’ inheritance had encouraged the maintenance of these practices. Hunting was a good form of exercise that could develop their fencing and horsemanship skills.

It was the end of autumn and leaves were already starting to fall. About a dozen magnificent carriages were parked outside of the hunting grounds. It was almost noon and the drivers of the carriages lazily rest on the cushions.

The road leading to the hunting grounds were guarded by a group of armored Imperial Guards and the Lightning God’s Whip. There were also about a dozen Imperial Guards standing at the entrance of the hunting grounds.

Baron Gadar and his subordinates were obstructed by a few layers of security. Finally, after he produced something to prove his identity, the soldiers allowed him in. However, his subordinates had to stay outside. In accordance with the rules at the hunting grounds, each noble was only allowed to bring in up to two bodyguards.

That was an old tradition amongst the nobles of the Empire. Hunting expeditions help to develop their horseback archery. There would be no point in bringing a large group of people. If they did, then it would not be called a hunt. There would be no difference compared to having a picnic.

Such activity was popular amongst the nobles because it was exciting and risky. If they brought a large group of people to protect themselves, then there would be no meaning to it.

Baron Gadar took two of his subordinates along. They then took three bows and several arrow pouches before they rode their horses into the hunting grounds. The hunting grounds of the Tulip Family covered an area of at least ten square kilometers. There was a dense black forest in the hunting grounds and a small lake at the center of the forest.

As autumn was almost over, there were many animals that came out to forage for food for the winter. That was the best time to go hunting.

The one responsible for leading Baron Gadar was a cavalryman from the Imperial Guard. The news they received about an hour ago was that Miss Nicole and a group of nobles were at the center of the forest near the lake. The nobles would signal the guards outside once every two hours. They communicated using special fireworks. The firework would be tied to an arrow and then it would be shot towards the sky. The exploding fireworks in the sky would show their location.

After all, hunting was a dangerous activity. Although there were people guarding the hunting grounds, for an area of about ten square kilometers, it was inevitable that occasionally there would be some trespassers or emergence of some large beast.

They galloped on the road in the forest for a while until they finally came close to the lake at the center.

From afar, a sharp whistle could be heard from the direction of the lake. It was a whistle used during hunting to drive out the prey. Using that method, the frightened prey would be driven to a pre-set ambush. After that, the prey would be surrounded and shot. That was the method used to deal with some of the larger prey.

In the dense forest, there was a short stretch sloping upwards. About a dozen horsemen were gathered together up there. Gadar and the others immediately went up the slope. Before they could approach, two cavalrymen rode forward and blocked their way.

Gadar looked at the two cavalrymen blocking his way and became alerted. The two cavalrymen wore the armor and uniform of the Lightning God’s Whip. As the Lightning God’s Whip was responsible for guarding Miss Nicole, it meant that Rody was in front.

The two cavalrymen from the Lightning God’s Whip were obviously elites. Although they were just sitting on their horses, Gadar could feel a murderous aura. That kind of aura could only come from people that had fought in life and death battles.

The Imperial Guard who led them in, went up to the two Lightning God’s Whip cavalrymen, to relate the message. The two cavalrymen then looked at Gadar vigilantly before they opened the way and let Gadar through. However, Gadar noticed that their hands were constantly on the hilts of their swords. Gadar was certain that if anything went a little bit wrong, the world renowned Lightning God’s Whip would immediately draw their scimitars.

The two Lightning God’s Whip had made way for Baron Gadar to pass through but they still followed him closely. Gadar was calm but his two subordinates could not help but feel a bit angry. One of them could not help but whisper, “They are so arrogant. What is so great about the Lightning God’s Whip?”

Gadar immediately turned around and fiercely stared at his subordinate. He also could not help but glance at the two cavalrymen following them. The two cavalrymen had heard the man’s words but they did not show any sign of being irritated. Their facial expressions were still cold and filled with pride and confidence. However, they just looked over in disdain.

Gadar could feel that their self-confidence and pride was no pretense. It was the pride and dignity that came after going through truly tough experiences. He could also feel the way they looked at his subordinates. It was a disdainful gaze like a valiant wolf watching a dog baring its fangs and brandishing its claws.

Suddenly there was a loud bang and a few people cheered, “Your Excellency Rody, Good shot!”

Finally, Gadar arrived at that circle. In the middle of the circle of about ten meters, there were three wild boars. A group of nobles and their guards surrounded the three wild boars in the middle. They had already readied their bows and arrows. Some of them whistled loudly to frighten the prey.

One of the wild boars was shot by an arrow and it fell to the ground, struggling weakly. Based on the earlier cheers, it was obviously shot by Rody.

Although the guards were just sitting on their horses, they had already prepared the spears. They aimed at the wild animals in the center of the circle, for fear that the wild animals might, in a wild dash, hurt the person they were supposed to protect.

The wild boars squealed in terror, their hackles raised, and sharp fangs bared. They stayed low to the ground vigilantly watching the hunters who had already surrounded them, seemingly preparing for an attack at any time.

Gadar slowly rode towards the encirclement and from a distance, he saw two people sitting on a lofty white horse.

Sitting at the front of the horse was a woman wearing a thick fur coat. She had long golden curly hair. The high collars of her coat hid half of her beautiful face. She had a nervous and fearful expression as she looked at the fangs of the wild boar. Her body even shrank back tightly into the man sitting behind her.

Rody tightly wrapped one hand around Nicole’s waist and also clutched the reins, while he held a spear in the other hand. He had already put down his bow and arrows. At that moment, he was speaking softly with Nicole. He was no longer paying any attention to the wild boars, his gentle eyes looking at his lover in his arms.

Gadar only needed a glance to confirm that the blue haired, craggy-faced man was the person he was looking for.

At that moment, there was an uproar in the place as the trapped preys tried to breakout.

The two boars that could still move dashed towards the north, one in front of the other…

The cunning boars realized that there were fewer people at the north!

Rody and Nicole, astride a horse, just so happened to be in the north!

When Nicole saw the prey rush towards them, she could not help but cry out. It was a woman’s nature and it made her forget that she was a superb sorcerer. It was her innate woman’s instincts to react by tightly holding on to her lover.

The surrounding hunters were already prepared and they fired their arrows. The difference was clear. Many of nobles obviously did not practice much on normal days. The successive shots all missed their targets. However, the guards had been instructed earlier and they were not allowed to shoot their arrows.

As a result, after a round of shooting, only two or three arrows had obliquely hit one of the wild boars. However, the force was only strong enough for the arrows to pierce the thick skin of the boars and were not fatal. In desperation, the boars had already turned violent.

Rody held Nicole with one hand and laughed softly. The other hand then swung the spear. There were only a flash and an explosive sound. One of the wild boars was hit and it was sent crashing to the ground a few meters away. It could no longer get up. Its whole body was trembling and its mouth was full of blood. Rody’s strike had even caused the wild boar’s internal organs to spill out of its body. If he had used fighting energy, the wild boar would have become a mangled mass of flesh and blood.

Rody then heard the other wild boar squeal. Not knowing when but Rody had already swung out his spear. The spear precisely pierced through the charging wild boar and firmly nailed that big animal to the ground.

There was another cheer but Rody did not even look back at the place. He turned his horse around and slowly rode towards the back. He was certain that Nicole would feel disgusted looking at such a gory sight.

He gradually rode away from the cheers with two of the Lightning God’s Whip cavalrymen following behind him. Rody looked at Nicole’s uneasy expression and could not help but give a wry smile.

Nicole obviously did not like such bloody scenes but she still wanted to follow them for the hunt. Along the way, they had encountered a few antelopes and hares. However, she did not have the heart to harm them and let them go. She also refused to wait with the other noble women at the camp near the lake because she wanted to be with him.

Their actions were extremely intimate. They looked like they were glued to each other, in front of everyone. Initially, it was an act and its purpose was to make everyone accept that fact as soon as possible. However, in the end, there was less and less pretense, as their words and actions were genuine and sincere. It was the actions of two people in love.

Both of them rode on one horse and gradually approached the lake.

The lake in the forest was exceptionally clean and clear. The locals claimed that the water in that lake was not stagnant water. They claimed that the depth of the lake was unfathomable. There was a never ending flow of undercurrent throughout the year, leading to the distant mountains.

There were some noble women already waiting at the camp on the edge of the lake. They had put up a few barbecue stands at the simple, constructed camp. Several guards were using their knives to cut and clean the prey, while those noble women in fur clothes were resting near the lake. There were also two to three young men who did not join in the hunt. Those men approached the women and it was obvious that they took advantage of the hunting activities to pick up women.

The sound of the galloping horses could be heard as the soldiers from behind caught up. They brought over the three wild boars. A few cavalrymen had propped up the wild boars with their spears. Those cavalrymen then rushed on ahead with the wild boars.

When Nicole saw the bloody carcasses, she frowned and closed her eyes.

The barbecue stands had some game1 that were already roasted earlier, a slight aroma rising from it. Rody dismounted from the horse and then carried Nicole down. He gently brushed off the leaves from her hair. The people around looked at Rody enviously but he had already grown accustomed to such stares.

Rody then heard a cough behind him. He turned around and saw a middle-aged man smile and walked towards him.

That man was between thirty to forty years old. He wore a simple noble’s outfit which was different from the hunting clothes worn by the other nobles. It was just a simple robe. Below his nose was a handsome mustache. He also had an affable smile. However, he did not look familiar and it seemed like he was not from West Hill.

“Your Excellency Rody, how do you do?” The man extended his hand and smiled. “My name is Gadar, Baron Gadar.” He smiled modestly and respectfully. He continued, “I am from the Imperial Capital.”

Rody was at a loss but he still stretched out his hand to shake the other man’s hand.

Nicole opened her mouth and asked, “Baron Gadar… Are you that Baron Gadar of the ‘Sharp Metal Lane2’?”

Rody did not know that man but when he heard the name ‘Sharp Metal Lane’, he immediately remembered.

The Sharp Metal Lane was the Empire’s largest weapons manufacturer. Most of the weapons in the Empire was procured at the Sharp Metal Lane. In other words, he was from a very powerful family because they provided weapons and military equipment to the Empire. That family had a close relationship with the military forces of the Empire.

Baron Gadar bowed gracefully to Nicole. He then looked at Rody and whispered, “Your Excellency Rody, may I talk to you?”

 

Translator ‘s Note:

1. Game can refer to animals hunted for sport or food.

2. Sharp Metal Lane, 锐金坊 Can also mean Sharp Metal Workshop. I just thought Lane sounds nicer as a name

 

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