Chapter 96: The Three Heavyweights of the Dark Mantle organization
After traversing a short distance through the manor, Han Shuo learned that the lanky man’s name was Chester, and that he was a bandit. Han Shuo also learned about some of Dark Mantle’s current situation from Chester.
Dark Mantle members were separated into the three divisions, Dark Star, Dark Moon, and Dark Sun, according to the amount of contributions they had made to the organization. The scattering of stars over the curtain of night represented that the Dark Star members could be found everywhere, in all corners of the Empire.The Dark Moon level was only higher by one step, but they still couldn’t see the light of day and could only live in the darkened corners. However, the higher level Dark Sun members could appear in the public’s eye like the sun, making a brilliant appearance in the day.
The three divisions of Sun, Moon, and Star were further divided into five levels according to their contributions to the Empire. Han Shuo currently held the rank of Dark Star, and the minute star on the back of his iron medallion represented that Han Shuo was the lowest one star member of the Dark Stars.
As a member’s contributions to the Empire rose, the medallion would slowly accumulate two stars, three stars, four stars, and eventually five stars. One would be promoted to a Dark Moon member when they surpassed five stars, and then would advance to a Fifth Star Moon member from a One Star Moon member similar to the way he advanced from Dark Star, and so on and so forth until being a Dark Star member at the top levels.
Once one advanced to a higher level, not only would their monthly stipend greatly increase, but he would also enjoy more of the Dark Mantle organization’s special authority. When one made it to the highest levels, like Candide, he would directly answer to the king. He would be below one person and above tens of thousands. All wealth and prosperity would be within reach.
“We’ve arrived!” Chester finally brought Han Shuo to a house in the center and stopped in front of it after covering a long distance.
Han Shuo had released the three original demons along the way and discovered that there was no one here in the manor apart from Chester and himself. There were no defensive measures set up around the expansive manor at all. This made Han Shuo quite confused.
This room wasn’t large, and Han Shuo still didn’t discover anything out of the ordinary after looking around. He asked Chester with a surprised expression, “Is there anything out of the ordinary here?”
“Heh heh, of course there’s something different here. The entire manor is just as you saw, with no defensive measures whatsoever. This manor is just a cover. The real ‘Dark Mantle’ isn’t here at all.” Chester explained with a faint smile, and then fumbled with something. Somehow, a crack suddenly appeared on the smooth floor and revealed a bright passageway.
“So there was another hidden mechanism. Heh heh, where does this lead to?” Han Shuo couldn’t help but ask when he saw the passageway appear in front of him.
“Come, I’ll take you to the true ‘Dark Mantle’ stronghold!” Chester smiled and jumped down into the bright passageway, calling for Han Shuo to come down as well.
Han Shuo felt that his landing spot was quite soft after he’d also jumped down. There were solid walls around him, with strong pulses of magic suddenly coming from the passageway interior.
The solid walls around them broke apart into a large door, accompanied with a soft sound. A very bright passageway revealed itself in front of the two like a maze. There were several passageways intersecting with each other up ahead, and strong magical pulses emanating from the walls on the sides. There were also many namelessly strong crossbows locked and loaded, their cold, sharp gleams pointing at all corners within the passageway.
“Why do I feel like this place is similar a cave?” Han Shuo asked involuntarily after he looked around.
Chester walked out from inside and indicated for Han Shuo to follow him, explaining as he did so, “Your feeling is correct. This is Mt. Ordas behind the Empire’s palace. This towering mountain is strictly off limits to trespassers. The stronghold of our ‘Dark Mantle’ is located within the heart of the mountain, that is where security is truly the heaviest. The Empire’s army is also stationed around it. As the king’s secret hand in the shadows, all sorts of the Empire’s talents are gathered inside and many confidential documents are also stored as well. There hasn’t been an incident for many years, and its security level is on par with the Empire’s own palace.”
Han Shuo felt that the security here was extremely high, and some of the surrounding magical pulses noticeably encompassed strong danger. He didn’t dare release the lowest level demon general, the original demon, in a place like this. He could only make use of his perceptive senses to detect the various dangers concealed in his surroundings.
He followed behind Chester and traversed a few passages. He met a few other Dark Mantle members along the way, and a few stone chambers also appeared along the way. Han Shuo could sense the breathing and heartbeats inside, and knew that there were people within this stone chambers.
“Master Candide is one of the three heavyweights of our Dark Mantle, so I don’t have the qualifications to personally lead you to see him. However, I can make a report for you. If you were really inducted by Master Candide, I think he’d be willing to see you!” Chester’s look at Han Shuo held a bit of envy, as if Han Shuo was truly lucky to be under the care of Candide.
“I’ve heard you mention the three heavyweights of the Dark Mantle a few times. Who are the other two apart from Candide?” Han Shuo asked as he walked along.
“There’s also Lord Amyes and Lady Cecilia. Lady Cecilia is in charge of all Dark Mantle affairs outside of the Empire. It’s also said that she’s a charming lady. Heh heh, it’s a pity that a small character like me will never see her in my life. Lord Amyes and Lord Candide deal with all the matters within the Empire, but Lord Amyes is primarily in charge of surveillance and investigation of all the nobles and high ranked officials within the Empire, and is a man who absolutely lives in the public eye from our organization.”
“If the results of his investigation show that these officials have done something contrary to the Empire’s gains, he can arrest them directly and report to the king after. He can even directly execute some of the lower ranking nobles without asking His Majesty for approval. Therefore, to most of the Empire’s nobles, Lord Amyes is their nightmare. Lord Candide is in charge of the Empire’s internal affairs, including smoking out all the various hostile kingdom’s spies and putting them to death, obtaining intelligence that is useful to the Empire, and exterminating all hidden threats to the Empire.” Chester explained in detail the specifics of the three Dark Mantle heavyweights as they walked.
The two stopped in front of a metal door as Chester continuously explained. After arriving, Chester indicated for Han Shuo to halt and spoke into a small hole in the metal door. “There’s a Dark Star ranked member who identified himself as Bryan here to see Lord Candide. He says that he’s under Lord Candide’s direct supervision!”
“Wait a moment, I’ll go seek Lord Candide’s opinion.” A completely emotionless, cold voice sounded from the small hole. The metal door opened abruptly after roughly two minutes to reveal several round dials. One of the round dials had magic pulsing from it. The voice sounded again, “Bryan can come in. Stand on the round dial. Chester, you wait outside. When Bryan comes back out later, you lead him out along the original path.”
“Yes.” Chester responded and explained in a low voice, “When we came in just now, we took a short distance magic transportation matrix. There’s a similar transportation matrix within the heart of the mountain, he will take you to where you should go.”
Nodding, Han Shuo indicated that he understood and rose to walk towards the dial carved with wondrous magical images. A short distance transportation matrix wasn’t difficult to set up, any space mage above the adept class would be able to set one up as long as they had sufficient materials.
But a long distance transportation matrix, like the one that Han Shuo had taken to the cemetery of death in the Dark Forest, one that spanned thousands of miles, wasn’t one that ordinary mages could set up. This not only needed someone of archmage level or above, it also needed a large quantity of magical ingredients. Without the support of a great power, this level of transportation matrix would be impossible the materialize.
Once more internally sighing in appreciation of the wonders of the cemetery of death, Han Shuo stood directly on the magical dial and then reappeared in a spacious stone chamber under the operation of the matrix. This stone chamber was furnished in a very bright and comfortable manner, and was even more luxurious than the Boozt Merchant Guild. Exquisite magical drawings were carved on the surrounding walls, with a few landscape paintings hanging on them as well. The chandelier above his head sparkled with a soft and brilliant light, radiantly illuminating the entire stone chamber.
Candide was sitting at the table near the front of stone chamber, flipping through a scroll with a furrowed brow. As Han Shuo took in his surroundings and once again rested his gaze on Candide, the latter finally put the scroll in his hand down. His hooked face turned towards Han Shuo and opened his mouth to ask darkly, “What’s the matter, have you discovered something?”
Nodding, Han Shuo summarized the events of the past couple of days for Candide, including Duke meeting with Camilla, the conversations about the “Eye of Darkness”, and the son of the chief of the Gryphon Legion, Clark’s meeting with Duke. He relayed all these matters in their entirety.
As Han Shuo’s explanation went on, Candide’s originally grim-looking face became even uglier and twisted. Candide remained silent without a word after Han Shuo had finished speaking, his brow tightly knit together as if considering something.
After a while, just when Han Shuo was growing impatient from waiting, Candide broke out into a smile and said to Han Shuo, “Bryan, you’ve done very well, well to the point where I am astonished. It looks like you were born for this type of profession. With your strength, I’m truly surprised that you’ve managed to obtain so much valuable intelligence in such a short amount of time. Duke is a wind archmage, and even Camilla is a dark adept mage. Clark is a great earth rider. You’ve obtained so much valuable information under unsuspecting circumstances, I can only use magical as the only qualifier to describe your performance.”
“You praise me too highly.” Han Shuo said humbly.
“You don’t need to be humble. You’ve handled this matter perfectly. Although I’m very curious how you did it, you’re one of mine and I wouldn’t interfere and question you. Heh heh, you don’t have to think about what comes after this, I’ll send someone to handle this matter.” Candide used the eyes of one looking at a monster as he looked at Han Shuo and complimented him.
Han Shuo breathed a sigh of relief. The thing he’d been most worried about previously was that Candide would suspect the veracity of his words. After all, to conceal himself from so many people yet obtain so much intelligence with the level of his strength, it should’ve been impossible, logically speaking. What made Han Shuo feel gratified was that Candide didn’t doubt the truthfulness of this matter at all. He didn’t even ask how Han Shuo had obtained this information, this made Han Shuo feel very surprised.
“You don’t need to find it odd, for our Dark Mantle organization, we only need to know the finals results of the mission. We won’t ask about the process. Every member has their own way, and we don’t care what methods members use when we set a mission, just that it’s completed properly. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about anything. We won’t affect your life when there’s no mission, you can go about your daily routine and enjoy yourself.” Candide seemed to see through Han Shuo’s thoughts and explained patiently to him.
“Alright, then there’s nothing to do with me for the time being?” Han Shuo quite approved of the Dark Mantle’s principles and responded with a smile.
“Give me the medallion that represents your identity. I’ll record this very important intelligence in your medallion and the organization’s files. I have the obligation to add two stars for you. Some members are unable to obtain even one star with ten pieces of information, but the worth of your information is enough to qualify you to gain two stars.” Candide looked at Han Shuo and smiled at him.
Candide then took Han Shuo’s medallion and did something to it so that when it landed in Han Shuo’s hand again, two little stars had magically appeared on its back. This meant that Han Shuo had directly skipped two levels and entered the ranks of Third Dark Star.
“I’ll be taking my leave now if there’s nothing else.” Han Shuo was also a bit delighted to see that one mission was enough to make him a Third Dark Star like Chester and smiled as he spoke.
Nodding, Candide said, “Alright, you may go now, but you need to report to the organization every month. If you learn of any new intelligence that benefits or harms the Empire during this time, you can come directly and make a report. Your contributions will be calculated according to the accuracy of the intelligence and recorded in your organization files.”
“Heh heh, many Dark Star members advance through the ranks in this fashion. You need to report in every month, even if you have no intelligence. This allows the organization to know your status for one, and the organization will also see if there are any missions suitable for you for another. Of course, you have the right to choose some missions and the right to reject some.” Candide added.
Han Shuo nodded, indicating his understanding without saying much more and prepared to leave. But when he reached the door, Candide seemed to have an awkward subject to disclose and called out, “Wait one moment, Bryan.”
Halting, Han Shuo turned back to look at Candide and asked in bafflement, “Is there anything else, Lord Candide?”
“You must appropriately handle your relationship with Lawrence, this may have a great impact on you in the future. Lawrence’s identity is much more complex that you can imagine, and I can only tell you this much. You should keep your wits about you.” Candide also seemed to be in a difficult position and stopped after saying these words.
“I’ve heard that he’s the son of a finance minister, is this what you wanted to tell me?” Han Shuo had heard Lisa mention a few things about Lawrence before and thus opened his mouth to ask Candide again.
Nodding first but then shaking his head after, Candide opened his mouth once again under Han Shuo’s perplexed gaze, “Lawrence is the son of a preeminent finance minister, many are aware of this, but apart from this, Lawrence has another identity. This implications of his identity are too great, and your current level doesn’t have the right to know this information. I’m not at liberty to disclose too much and only wanted to remind you to take care so that you’re not embroiled in something you shouldn’t be in.”
Candide waved his hand and indicated for Han Shuo to leave. Han Shuo felt uncertain, but now that he knew a few of the Dark Mantle rules, he didn’t ask much. He nodded to indicate that he’d pay attention and left Candide’s room.
“Well, did you gain anything?” Chester asked Han Shuo excitedly as the two retraced their steps after the latter had met up with Chester again.
“Nothing much, just that Candide added two stars for me. I’m a Third Dark Star like you now, heh heh!” Han Shuo didn’t feel like there was anything that needed to be concealed from Chester’s interest, and smiled as he spoke to Chester.
Chester was astonished and incredibly envious to hear Han Shuo’s words. He sighed and shook his head at Han Shuo after his surprise, saying, “Your speed of advancement is indeed incredible with Lord Candide. I joined the Dark Mantle three years ago and reported twenty some pieces of information before becoming a Third Dark star. You’ve been in the organization for not even a week and have already risen to the rank of a Third Dark Star as well. Ai, comparisons are odious, treatment is indeed different when someone is taking care of you from above.”
Han Shuo shrugged and didn’t say much with regards to Chester’s reflection. Although he’d gotten the intelligence by virtue of his own strength, these types of matters were unexplainable and he simply decided not to say anything.
“If there’s any mission that needs to be completed by two people in the future, can you bring me along? Just treat it as giving me a hand as well?” Chester first sighed with emotion and then scratched his head, broaching this awkward subject with a bit of embarrassment.
“Sure.” Han Shuo agreed readily.
“Thanks so much! I’ll remember you and do my best to follow your instructions.” Chester was overjoyed and his attitude became even more enthusiastic than before. He kept describing all sorts of Dark Mantle matters to Han Shuo and sent him back to the quiet manor in the northern district again.