Chapter 326: Somewhat tricky
Frantic hoofsteps resounded, approaching swiftly from the distance. Han Shuo was atop the city wall to oversee the construction progress when he saw Commander Knight Faulke anxiously charge over on the back of a warhorse.
Flying off of his horse, Faulke ran all the way to the foot of the city wall where Han Shuo was standing. Panting heavily, he looked up at the latter, “Your Lordship, the caravan transporting the war chariots and other equipment from Seamist City has been robbed by several bandit groups. They say they will only release the merchants and goods if we pay them fifty thousand gold coins.”
The bandit groups along the road from Seamist City to Brettel City weren’t large in scale. Han Shuo had ordered this equipment from some of Phebe’s merchant guild contacts. Not only had he reminded them to be careful of the bandits on the way, he even had Faulke send people along to escort the convoy. These small bandit groups certainly shouldn’t have had the guts to make a move. Han Shuo’s face darkened when he heard the news from Faulke, “You say that several bandit groups allied up to make a move?”
Faulke’s expression was quite ugly as he answered with a nod, “That’s right. One bandit group alone definitely wouldn’t dare to do something like this. However, five bandit groups banded together this time. The guards of the caravan simply couldn’t hold up against them. Your Lordship, these damnable bandits are seeking death. I’ll immediately lead the knights in the city to exterminate them all!”
“Wait!” Han Shuo shouted to stop Faulke’s impulsive action. He thought for a bit before asking, “Our purchase of war chariots and equipment this time, how many people knew about this?”
“The soldiers who were to escort the goods all knew. Why, My Lord?” Faulke was confused, not knowing why Han Shuo had suddenly mentioned this.
Han Shuo asked with a cold snort, “How could it be a coincidence that these bandits knew which day the caravan would arrive? How come they suddenly banded together and even dared demand a ransom after robbing the caravan? Can’t you see how abnormal this is?”
Faulke was in shock after these words rang out. He shouted, “My Lord, you are saying that there may be spies among our people?!”
“Not maybe, but for certain!” Han Shuo suddenly shouted loudly, “I will not pursue your negligence of duty for now. You have half a day to find the spies and execute them! On the other hand, don’t just accept anyone in the next recruitment drive. Kick out all of those whose backgrounds aren’t clean!”
“Yes, My Lord!” Faulke replied loudly. His face was icy as he leapt on a horse and quickly rode off.
Since this matter had been his duty, he wouldn’t absolve himself of responsibility from such a big incident no matter what. Lawrence had made it clear that his life and death would be up to Han Shuo when he stepped foot in Brettel City. Having witnessed Han Shuo’s powerful strength, Faulke knew full well that this city lord was definitely not the benevolent, lenient sort. Faulke cursed that traitor while quickly thinking of a way to catch him.
An hour later, three hundred bulky knights in shining armor were neatly lined up in a wide marble square in front of the city lord’s mansion, in accordance with Faulke’s commands. If one overlooked his negligence of duty at the moment, judging from their posture and presence, Faulker’s training had indeed produced knights with the demeanor of a knight regiment. This indeed showed the capabilities of Faulke as a superior knight officer.
Han Shuo sat in the city lord’s mansion, not caring what methods Faulke would use to find the spies. He was pondering how to eradicate these bandits and clear the path from Seamist City to Brettel City as soon as possible.
Han Shuo had placed all of his attention on the possibility that the seven grand duchies would muster up a raiding force at any moment. However, he’d forgotten about the large and small bandit groups along this trip. There were more than a dozen forces, either small-scaled bandit groups with over a hundred members, or bands with only a dozen members who didn’t even warrant a mention. These groups scurried messily around Brettel City and the seven grand duchies all the time. They weren’t on the same level as the large groups with thousands of bandits.
After killing Troda last time, Han Shuo had thought that these petty bandits wouldn’t dare act rashly, so he hadn’t paid them any heed. He hadn’t expected them to stab a knife into his back at such a crucial moment, robbing a hundred thousand gold coins worth of battle equipment. This birthed a killing intent so fierce in Han Shuo, he wanted to exterminate them from the world.
The road between Brettel City and Seamist City was the most important channel that connected Brettel City to the Lancelot Empire. If Brettel City wanted to develop, then there were no words that could describe the importance of this road. If immigrants were robbed before they could even reach Brettel City, no one would dare to settle down there no matter how eloquent Han Shuo was.
“They’re asking for it. It’s not that I didn’t want to give them a chance to live!” Han Shuo had cleared up his thinking, and his fingers subconsciously tapped on the chair armrest as he spoke resolutely.
Faulke didn’t failed to live up to Han Shuo’s trust. He only took two hours to find the spies. Han Shuo didn’t actually see who they were, but he could hear mournful, hair-raising wail after wail echoing from outside the city lord’s mansion.
The scalp-tingling, tragic screams only lasted for a bit before petering out. Five minutes later, Faulke walked in, filled with trepidation. He humbly paid his respects to Han Shuo and said in a low voice, “Sir Count, I have neglected my duties.”
Straightening his somewhat lazy posture, Han Shuo indifferently swept a sharp glance at Faulke and asked, “Got something out of the interrogation?”
Nodding his head, Faulke answered, “A total of three new recruits. All of them are infiltrators from the surrounding bandit groups Because their bodies were strong and we were lacking people, I didn’t investigate them carefully and let them join our knight regiment. It was all my negligence! I ask Your Lordship for your punishment!”
It was as Faulke said, Brettel City was utilizing every person to the extreme. Talents like Faulke who could train soldiers were truly too scarce. Faulke’s temporary carelessness could be considered negligence of duty, but Han Shuo had no candidate for his replacement.
Han Shuo was silent for a bit before saying with a cold harrumph, “I will take note of this for now. If you can contribute achievements to redeem your mistake when we exterminate the bandits, I will overlook your negligence this time.”
Faulke nodded heavily. He solemnly struck a ceremonial posture and said in a loud voice, “Rest assured Sir Count! This kind of thing shall never happen again. None of the bandits involved in this robbery will escape! I give you my word as a knight.”
“Very well. Assemble a hundred knights. We are going visit their lair and see if they have the qualifications to take fifty thousand gold coins from my hands.” Han Shuo narrowed his eyes and stood up. Faulke could clearly sense the thick killing intent radiating from his body. He understood that the bandits who had acted in such a wanton manner would be paying a painful price soon enough.
Night fell. A moonless night, the pitch black sky was like a canvas smeared with a dense, thick layer of ink, reducing line of sight to a bare minimum. Torches burned brightly as they headed in a direction where the air was humid and wild weeds grew.
A dozen huge rafts were lining up on a long river shaped like a willow leaf. Many strong sturdy men stood on these rafts, their hands also holding torches. The noisy sound of an argument echoed out from these people.
Faulke rode a warhorse, a torch in his hand. He frowned at the bandits on the rafts on the distant small river and scolded in a low voice, “Cunning bandits, they unexpectedly chose this place for the transaction. This makes things a bit difficult.”
This place was very far from Brettel City and simply wasn’t anywhere between Seamist City and Brettel City. Instead, it was in the area connecting Brettel City to the seven grand duchies.
Last time Han Shuo had caught Helen Tina, it had been precisely at this river where he’d transported the six magic crystal cannons back to Brettel City. However, because the six cannons were so heavy, it had taken him two days to return from this place. This time, Han Shuo’s group that solely consisted of knights, took only half a day to arrive here at night to meet the deadline.
It was undeniable that these bandits had picked a good place this time. Once they took the fifty thousand gold coins, they would be able to quickly get away using the rafts. Han Shuo’s group were all knights, simply unable to pursue them on this small river. When they notified Han Shuo of the place the transaction was to take place, it was already too late for the latter to make preparations. They had involuntarily fallen into a passive state.
“This group of bandits really isn’t simple. They’ve arranged everything properly and even took the advantage from us. They can easily escape on the rafts after taking the gold coins. The knights can’t pursue them. It seems we have encountered some difficult to handle bandits.” Han Shuo looked at the flashing lights of the bandits before him and spoke to Faulke.
“Sir Count, how should we handle this? Even if you’re a necromancer, the dark creatures can’t make a move in the water.” Faulke spoke worriedly to Han Shuo. He was ready to redeem his mistake with all of his enthusiasm, intending to make a big move this time.
“There are some light mages on their side. It seems these bandits have been planning this for a long time. These light mages must have been arranged specially for me. Could it be that this matter isn’t so simple? That there are people secretly plotting against us?” Han Shuo’s voice was soft, but surprised. The yin demon he’d secretly released had caught sight of two low ranked light mages.
There was a light journeyman mage and a light adept mage. These ranks of light mages had limited influence against high rank creatures like evil knights. However, even a middle level holy light spell could cause considerable damage to the gargoyles.
Therefore, Han Shuo immediately became cautious upon seeing the two light mages. He waved his arm at Faulke, “Halt for now. Let’s me ascertain the situation first. If this is a trap, we’ll immediately retreat.”
Han Shuo was left with only one yin demon now. His observation was no longer as speedy as before, and he had no way of covering everything at the scene. He’d started to consider whether he should spend a while in closed door training to refine the higher rank mystical demon.
Circling around the rafts on the river, the yin demon indeed discovered the war equipment that Han Shuo had procured, and even Fabian and Jack of Boozt Merchant Guild among them. The bandits had tied them up tightly and placed two glinting steel knives against their necks. Their faces looked wan and forlorn, obviously having been immensely frightened.
There were a dozen merchants as well as thirty or so guards from other merchant guilds tightly tied up beside Fabian and Jack. The bandits surrounded and watched them closely.
After winning the gamble against Cameron, the Boozt Merchant Guild had naturally become the richest merchant guild in the empire. Cameron had fallen into a slump and lost the trust of his merchant guild. The Boozt Merchant Guild had taken advantage of the situation to develop, gradually becoming the most active amongst the major merchant guilds.
The war equipment Han Shuo had purchased was being transported by Boozt along with several other merchant guilds. If they didn’t have a good first experience, it would negatively affect their impressions of Brettel City. Cooperation would be difficult to continue from then on.
Therefore, it was not just Fabian and Jack, the safety of these merchants and guards were equally important. If their safety wasn’t guaranteed, the subsequent fall out would be hard to make up for, even if the bandits were all killed. Han Shuo had a major headache just looking at the strict security of the bandits.
“Dorcas, what should we do next?” A crude looking burly man over two meters tall, obviously the leader of these bandits, was currently asking a young man sitting on the raft. This young man had a resolute face, his eyes burning with wild ambition.
This young man was dressed in the clothes of a minor bandit lackey, with a height of nearly one meter ninety centimeters. He stood tall, like a straight pole that never bend nor break, and the vividly colored bandit outfit couldn’t hide the wild light of ambition in his eyes. This young man was named Dorcas. He glanced at the bandit leader and said confidently, “Rest assured. I’ve made careful preparations beforehand. That I didn’t let you kill these captives will make them apprehensive, not to mention we also hold the advantage with the rafts on this small river. We even used a large amount of money to recruit two light mages who can stop the assault of gargoyles. This plan is absolutely safe, they have no other choice but to bring the money.”
“Dorcas, the civilian genius of the Imperial Academy of Strategy. So it’s him. No wonder!” Han Shuo murmured upon hearing the two’s conversation through the yin demon, who was circling around the young man.