Vol. 12: Chapter 03: The Familiar Place

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Translated by Tianic, edited by Grammarly

After handing out homework for my subordinates, I set off with 4 imperial guarding troops. Owing to the newly renovated commercial avenue, in as short as a few days, Winper’s shiny city wall is within eyesight.

And without a doubt, I’ve brought over more troopers than it appeared. There were several van-guarding teams of men arriving at the city ahead of me awaiting orders on the perimeter of the city.

Before entering, I have invited myself into a cozy caravan in the manner that a noble viceroy inspecting his territory.

“Sir, the mayor is requesting your audience.” Malphite’s voice sounded by the caravan window.

I lifted the curtain and found Kirk standing by the City’s main gate. As I planned, he arrived early.

“Bring him over into my van.” I replied, “And I prefer you talk in your way, don’t you think?”

“Sir, yes, sir.” Malphite’s nodded and left.

Kirk showed his courtesy to me and boarded the van with a teasing grin. The van drove straight into the city, waggled.

I could tell by the size of the crowd kept away from the main road that even in a crucial time like this, the City of Winper is flourishing, more prosperous than the time I left. The number of goods stored in shops doubled, tripled. Unlike street peddlers who had nothing but what was with them, well-dressed merchants came here mostly with the intent to do mass-purchase.

I retrieved my vision then asked, “How many days now?”

“It’s been 2 days, sir.” Kirk replied with a lowered voice.

“Have you straightened things here already?”

“I have. Winper is where I start my career after all. No major alterations on city managerial personnel.” Kirk replied carefully, “Amart is back in the city awaiting your next instruction.”

I raised a hand to make Kirk stop here.

“Have you figured out why I put you to run Winper, again?” Asked I.

“I…” Kirk pondered, “Sir, it has something to do with the ongoing war, doesn’t it?”

I nodded.

“Very astute of you, Kirk. Luhrmann the bastard came off a bookkeeper. He’s well aware of the income and cost of our both province. According to our intel, Luhrmann has an incoming operation against us. Through this attack, I assume his purpose is to deplete us, most likely.” I smiled, “Nevertheless, this bookkeeper scum left Winper out.”

“How could Luhrmann forget about Winper when it’s a city known to everyone on this world?” Kirk exclaimed.

“Sure he knows the conventional business operation here.” I hinted Kirk to sit closer, “What he doesn’t know is that we have a complete smuggling setup and the Aqua clan’s fleet here.”

“As appealing as it sounds, I’m still doubting.” Said Kirk, “Our contraband business is not able to feed the cost of 2 provinces.”

“Precisely the reason I’m here. I know it’s a dream to let that happen so I merely hope it could feed this war only.” I proved Kirk’s ideas, “On the one hand, merchants in this city needs my carrot, and carrots don’t come without a stick; on the other hand, I have a few adjustments drawn for my smuggling business.”

“Care to enlighten me now, sir?

“Before that, I need to talk to Amart. Kirk, gather the most influential businessmen in the city for me. I heard they love a good ball so I’ll throw them a few.”

“And where is Dior Merlin?” I added.

“Miss Dior Merlin, er, Mrs. Merlin has been living in the coastal villa without many outings, safety well-kept.” Kirk replied. “Mrs. Merlin was great at doing business. But she’s not big on minding the city’s business. Therefore, the rest of the businessmen are getting harder to deal with. Sir, when do you want the balls.”

“Patient, I will let you know.”

The caravan slowly decelerated and came to a full stop. I straightened my outfit and entered the mayor’s mansion.

The mansion was tightly guarded. Kirk showed me up to the floor and pushed open the door to a tiny chamber before exiting himself.

In the chamber stood a figure with a black cloth over every inch of his body.

Instantly, blade out, Malphite flashed into the rim between me and the figure, and warned, “Who are you? Back down!”

The black-robed man slowly raised a hand to undress the hood, revealing a meagrely yet firm visage. He dropped down to me on one knee.

“Lord Cohen, it’s me. I’m Amart.” He said as tears welled in the eyes.

“It’s been quite a while.” I tapped on Mal’s shoulder to indicate that this man he’s facing was not a threat. Then I let myself into the chamber.

“Indeed, young lord, I rarely had the chance to come back here.”

“Why don’t you stand up and have a seat.” I hinted Mal to close the door and seated myself. Looking carefully at Amart’s face, “You can’t grow any thinner. How are you?”

“Just surviving.” Amart passed along a scroll and remained standing aside with both of his hands drooping, “This is the underground network I have developed, for your consideration.”

I went over his good work, “Not bad, I see you’ve got your man in virtually every Swabian city.” I left the scroll, “How about the expenditure and income situation?”

“Minor surplus.” Amart replied carefully, “The men you sent me are a key part of a successful network.”

He was telling the truth: about ⅕ of men who graduated from the military academy were assigned to work under Amart or Marfa’s command.

“Like I said when I gave you the job. I don’t care about money as long as you ensure the integrity of the job I give you.”

“Yes, my lord, that’s a positive answer.”

“I am glad.” Standing up, I approached Amart, “However, has it ever come to you that you’ll always be in a hostile environment. You might never walk the street like common people and have to keep yourself under that black hood due to the nature of your job, even like today in my mansion. Will you ever regret your decision?”

“For your consideration, and carry your will, I will never regret.” Amart raised eyes to face me, a pair of eyes less of a coward and confusion.

“You’ve changed, for the better.” My hand lifted Amart’s muffler, revealing a startling scar, “How did you get this, courtesy of another rivaling gang?”

“An incident last year when the P/A War was most intense.” Amart seemed to be not proud of the scar, “During a negotiation with an Asmodian city don, we were ambushed.”

“It’s inevitable if you go down that road. I’m giving you more men for your safety.” I tapped Amart’s shoulder, “You’re not physically strong, neither is your fighting skills are good. Should I pick anyone else for this job, I won’t. What you’ve undergone your entire life is why I picked you. Anyone, as long as he or she tries hard, will eventually succeed.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“You have the motive and will power. But don’t dream to surpass others in fighting, you can’t.” I leaned closer, “Use your head, your scheme, and your nerve.”

“You could’ve told me that earlier, young lord.” Amart’s chin curled anguishedly, one hand touched the scar, “I was so almost-killed many times.”

“Sometimes experiencing it works much better than being told, don’t you think.” I sighed.

“Appreciation, young lord.”

“Good, I’ll stop our chit-chat here.” I sat back to my chair, “I have 2 jobs for you today.”

“As you wish, my lord.”

“Mission No. 1, I’m initiating an assault on Haric’s territory. I want people there panic, the air stirred, security churned. You have 5 days to get ready.” I said with a straight face, “Mission No. 2, I have a plan writing on this paper, follow the steps. Pay extra attention ‘cuz this second job is extremely vital to us.”

Therefore I handed Amart a piece of paper titled “Project Secret Garden”.

Amart quickly swept through it then retrieved the paper into his robe.

Good boy, I love that he never bargains with me.

“12 daisies, intact. Consider it done, young lord.”

Then he asked, “To what extent do you want Haric’s province sabotaged?”

“Do your best. Not only Haric’s place, bring all the turmoil to adjacent provinces as well.”

“As you wish.”

“These 2 are your primary objectives now, focus on them. You’re dismissed.”

“And you take care, young lord.”

I was rejoiced to see Amart’s growth within such a short time. He had the brain and he got a hold of a firm personality. If I could find him a mentor, he’ll probably become a badass don, which I did not need because I was satisfied with his current achievements.

“Ready my horse. I’m taking you all for a ride.” I told Malphite, “Bring all my stuff with you, plus one IGT squadron.”

“Yes, sir.”

It has been quite a while since the last time I was here.

On arrival, I noticed the pier had been renovated. From the number of the stapling pole by the water, I deducted the current berth was tens of times larger. Warehouses after warehouses, as well as workers’ dorms, were behind the dock. Even roads that connected here and the city had been reconstructed and widened, enough to drive 2 caravans.

More to it, this place was the stationing place for the Winper city garrison. 10 miles centering this pier and villa was deemed restricted area with sentries on land and clippers in the water. Any stupid men can tell it was the classic businessmen-official collusion at the sight of it.

I urged my horse to go to the dock to have a closer look at this place.

All free workers were kept away from me. But they showed no confusion or panic.

Neighboring the dock were stylish schooners being unloaded of goods by dockers who wore uniforms. Besides them were bookkeepers, skidways.

Very professional business and stunning profit!

That was my comment after a quick estimate of the quantity of the goods.

Very well done, it was no wonder Flynn knew there rose a bold smuggler in Winper. If Dior Merlin continued her dramatic expansion, I’d be blaming the City Hall’s ability to do their job if they haven’t found out.

I turned the horse around.

O, my loving wife must be observing me through one of the windows in that castle.

Too bad, she was not aware that this reckless nobleman was his husband.

Seeing that I kept my silence, workers being disciplined aside by my guards grew uneasy.

On that day, I wore a suit of Protoss Knight’s armor bestowed by the Supreme Elder Princess, visor down, black hair rested loosely on my cape. My appearance indicated my identity which all Swabian knew well and clear.

Viceroy of Dark City, Knight of Protoss, Earl Cohen Kheda.

One of the guards whom I assigned here to protect Dior Merlin galloped to the dock. His eyes lightened excitedly at the sight of my black hair.

“C… commander?” After an affirmative visual exam of me, the soldier confirmed my identity. He removed his weapon and knelt on one knee, “Commander!”

“Get up. Dior Merlin, she’s home yet?” I said with an emotionless tone.

“Commander, madam is at home!”

“Put the workers back to their jobs. You take me to the castle.”

I wished not to distract her from making money.

“Yes, sir, this way.” He then whispered aside, “Back to work! Eyes on your jobs!”

Thereafter, he took my rein and started leading, while Malphite’s vigilant eyes never left this strange man’s body until I made a safe gesture to the orc.

The IGTs I brought here have taken over the castle’s security job as per arrangement. This tiny piece of land has become a synonym for gold. God knew how many other hostilities’ spies had their eyes on here. I intended to not risk the possibility of letting any know my relationship with the girl in the castle.

Most of the soldiers I brought were not aware I was the true owner of this place, save for a few senior officers who had no idea of my intention, therefore they can’t do anything but carried on their duties.

I was in the fidget. Dior Merlin was somewhere in front of my eyes. It was too late to back off and cancel this meeting. I need her support and my good conscience wouldn’t allow me to back out either.

I cannot imagine what she was going to do with me after the meeting. There was no denying that she had love for me but accepting my true identity which I had been hiding for so long was a completely different thing.

Ugh, this is so hard!

My horse stopped without my command in front of the castle gate as if the animal felt me.

I exhaled then kicked the horse to proceed into the castle. All who watched me enter were a little surprised.

“Command, you are to dismount here.” The guard gently held the horse’s chin to stop the anime, “Mrs. Merlin is expecting you in the lobby.”

Nodded, I straightened the cloth that overflowed the armor, dismounted and made my entry.

By the portal was familiar wall windows stroked by stunning patterns. The castle’s interior furniture could reflect anything facing it as if they were polished seconds ago. In the corridor placed pots of flowers which smelled a faint fragrance. I stopped advancing and sniffed. Almost instantly, that complete different air made me relax. I was so close to tossing my helmet aside and yell out ‘I’m back, my love’.

But I held it with extreme willpower.

Dior Merlin, with a formal dress, was standing at the center of the lobby for me. Arnold, my edumon, rested in the girl’s arms. Her fire-red hair had been carefully combed, bound and placed behind, making the woman’s disposition gentle and graceful. Her face where those cautious eyes rested wore mild makeup. Behind her stood my loyal maiden Lily, with a slightly lowered chin. My naughty Arnold has been panting his tongue out since I came here.

I stopped at 10 steps away, stared at Dior Merlin.

Unlike the time I left here, Dior had grown a mature disposition within her. Under her thin eyebrows, a pair of clear and elegant pupils were observing me. How I missed the way she looked at strangers.

I made a very dry swallow. Immediately Dior Merlin stepped back half an inch, she hugged Arnold a little tighter.

I made a wry face under the visor.

Well, I have to face her sooner or later. It might as well be now.

I removed gloves and commanded Malphite with an altered voice, “Shut the door.”

“Mrs. Dior Merlin, I assume you are. And I don’t think I need to introduce myself.” I slightly raised my chin, “As your viceroy, am I expecting your descent hospitality and courtesy or I am going to force you to do.”

“Yes, it is my great honor to meet you, Lord Viceroy Cohen Kheda, Knight of Protoss, your light glows on this continent and demeanor shines.” She remained calm and slightly lowered her body despite that I ordered to shut the door has given her much confusion.

“Impeccable, not like any uncivilized women who received me alone my way here.” I showed my hand to Malphite then continued talking, “I heard you’ve been wedded, why didn’t you take your husband’s family name?”

She did not expect me to ask a question like that so she pondered for a second and afterward, her eyes were en guarde, “Pardon me, Lord Viceroy, my husband is not nobility. But we share the same love for each other.”

“Love?” Malphite brought a chair as I requested and I seated myself recklessly, “I had an anonymous tip that your husband is a smuggler.”

“Lord Viceroy, it is just a rumor.” Dior Merlin remained calm, she replied with her chin slightly lifted, “I can assure you he is not.”

“I doubt it. Then what I saw earlier on the pier, those workers, dockers out there, you hired them just for fun, huh?”

“Certainly not, I declare each and every of my business done to the mayor himself.”

“I don’t wanna fool you. It’s a different mayor since 2 days ago. I’ve afraid your business has to stop for a while.” Said I, “As for you, Mrs. Dior Merlin, your viceroy has a piece of advice.”

“Please enlighten me, Lord Viceroy.”

“I can’t deny that you’re a very attractive woman. And madam, your business approaches I heard, are impressive. I couldn’t be more willing to advise you to… forget your husband and put ‘Kheda’ behind your name.”

“Execute me?” A spasm struck Dior Merlin’s eyebrow, she bulged her eyes. Even Maiden Lily started staring me out of astonishment.

The air suddenly intensified.

“Marry me and be a noble viceroy’s wife.” I repeated, “You will not have to smuggle. I’ll let you take charge of all business activities in Dark City.”

“SHAME! SHAME ON YOU!” Red as blood was her face, the finger that pointed at me was shivering out of anger, “GET OUT!”

It seemed that she was truly enraged.

“I suggest you give it a thought.” I grinned, “Your decision regards many lives including yours, your families’, including your father’s and even your husband’s.”

“Viceroy Cohen Kheda, you do have privilege on your territory. You can take everything away but you’ll never take my love!” Dior Merlin gazed at me fearlessly, she said word by word, “I don’t care what can you do to me, whatever! You have my contempt for saying that!”

I sighed and lost my train of thought on how to continue this subject. As for my head guard, Malphite’s hand was already onto his weapon.

“Commander, all security checkpoints complete! The protective magic barrier is finalized as well..”

“En, now clear the perimeter!” I tossed my gloves aside, “Everybody out!”

This chapter was originally published on Wuxianation, any despicable reposts or copies without proper citings are strictly prohibited.

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