Chapter 280 “Maximos” (Part one)
The Archbishop of the central northern diocese did not let Du Wei wait long for he arrived the very next morning.
The arrival of an archbishop who masters over several provinces would naturally cause an earthquake among the local officials. Compared to Du Wei’s Duke status, the identity of an Archbishop can only be higher and not lower. Moreover, this person was in charge of overseeing large sums of yearly fiscal revenue, in command of a large battalion of Holy Knights, have millions of faithful believers within their diocese’s, and may become the future Pope!
Unexpectedly, such a person was vastly different from Du Wei’s imagination based upon the image created by the mayor’s wording from yesterday. The Archbishop’s entourage wasn’t big when he arrived, in fact, contrary to Du Wei’s expectation of receiving a full convoy, only a carriage arrived at the pier the next morning.
Surrounded by local officials, the archbishop and a few of his entourage boarded the ship together and met with Du Wei.
It can be said their first meeting was friendly enough. Archbishop Maximos, a gracious old man that wore a black clergy robe of the plainest order. One can easily notice the traces of wear on the corners if observed closely. With well-kept silver hair, matched with his warm smile and gentle face, he resembled nothing like an influential Archbishop of multiple provinces. Rather, he looked more like a priest in some small local village, plain and simple with a kindred heart. That’s until you looked him in the “eyes”.
His eyes were clear and deep, flashing the wisdom and shrewdness peculiar to someone of his age.
“Oh respected Duke.” Archbishop Maximos was the first to begin the greeting with a slight bow: “First of all, I would like to thank you for allowing me to ride your ship back to the capital, and I have to thank you for waiting a full night.”
Du Wei returned the greeting with a smile: “You are too kind. It is my honor to have such an esteemed guest like yourself on my ship, and staying here another night isn’t bad at all, the night scenery of the river bank here is very good.”
After a few pleasantries, the Archbishop began introducing his entourage.
In truth, Du Wei found it very strange for someone of his status – an archbishop of an entire diocese – to bring along such a small number of followers. When he came aboard, there were only three of them. Excluding the Archbishop himself, there’s the coachman, an old clergyman, and a knight in armor that went away to help carry the luggage.
Then sending away the local officials, Du Wei personally invited Maximos into his cabin.
“Please sit, sir archbishop.” Du Wei smiled and sent his men to bring over the tea: “To be honest, you are the highest ranking cleric I have ever seen.”
“Oh?” Maximos’s face moved: “Your dukeship, you are born in the capital. With your status and identity, I’m perplexed that you’ve never seen his majesty the Pope. Though in recent years his majesty rarely appears before the public, he will still personally preside over the Temple’s annual shrine celebration.”
Du Wei shook his head: “I have not. Oh, I’m sorry I forgot to mention I’m not a believer, so I never attended the Temple’s annual shrine ceremony. ”
This Maximos was indeed very charismatic. After listening to his bluntness, there were no signs of any awkwardness in his expression. Instead, he only made a casual smile: “I will pray for the day when your lordship enters the Goddess’s embracing arm. If you ever change your mind in the future, I will gladly baptize you myself.”
Then Maximos followed up with the introduction of the old man next to him: “This here is my close assistant and most faithful friend, Father Lamu, he’s also one of our Vice-Bishops in the central northern diocese.” Pausing to let his words sink in, he continues with a smile: “We are heading back to the capital in order to attend the Temple’s annual shrine ceremony. At the same time in accordance with tradition, we must meet with his majesty the Pope to report in on our work done in the last year. Unfortunately, our ship broke down and was stranded ashore with our entourage. I would’ve preferred to bring them along, but the travel speed of a large crowd was far too slow. In order to rush over here to meet you, I can only ride ahead alone with a select few.”
Du Wei nodded and thought: no wonder you’re so anxious to return. In order to gain some more merits during the competition for the throne, you want to be in the best light before the Pope.
Contrary to what he thought, Du Wei gave the most sincere smile: “Sir, you don’t have to worry, I have a lot of servants on board. In my place, you will get the best treatment given only to a distinguished guest. I’ve already had someone clean out a cabin for you. Well then, I’m sure you haven’t had a breakfast yet, let me order the servants to ready the food.”
While the two exchanged some more pleasantries, Father Lamu was constantly making a disturbed face on the side. Compared to Maximos’s demeanor, this Vice-bishop was more vulgar. Like an ordinary old man with a skinny build and an unpleasant face, those pupils of his definitely had more white than black.
As Lamu watched on, there were several occasions where he wanted to cut in but stopped due to his own hesitation
It was then a forceful and mighty voice came from the outside. Even with a wooden door placed in-between them, the voice was like a muffled thunder, difficult to ignore.
“Your holiness, the luggage is organized.”
Upon listening to that voice, Maximos’s face revealed a sincere smile: “Oh, this is my escorting guard, Rhine. Duke, please let him in.”
With Du Wei’s permission, the cabin door was pushed open and from the outside came a big fella of magnificent size.
Even if Du Wei’s accustomed to seeing a variety of fierce warriors, including his own Longbottom and Guptad, there’s also Rugaard’s men when he visited the Northwest Army’s base, but even so, in the face of Maximos’s guard, Du Wei couldn’t resist making a very deep gasp!
This guy… Is he really a warrior?
From a visual point of view, this so called Rhine guy was at least two meters tall! And could even be called a little giant for his head’s about to hit the ceiling by simply standing there!
He was wearing the biggest knight armor Du Wei’s ever seen, also the type found in the Holy Knight’s order. With a prospecting stout body comparable to a full grown bear, every fiber of those muscles radiated explosive force! Compared to the “bodybuilders” from Du Wei’s past life, this man will put any man to shame with those bulging mountains. Du Wei can’t be certain how strong the big man was… But he’s certain of one thing from his visual inspection: the guy’s arm was definitely thicker than his own thighs, twice over at that!
Such a monster… Is he still human?
His appearance was also very strange, a square shaped face. The contours are still normal, but that face definitely didn’t match a human’s. The lion’s snout, combined with the eyes that looked like a bronze bell, gave him the image of a lion’s incarnation. Then there’s the long brown hair of his, that’s definitely a lion’s mane!
Such a person, if encountered during the night instead of the day, he will definitely cause the other person’s leg to go soft from shock and fear – they will mistake him as a monster with a lion’s head and a human’s body.
Currently, beside Rhine was two of Du Wei’s guard. In comparison when standing side by side, these ruggedly built soldiers somehow became dwarfs once stationed next to him. Also, for some reason, Du Wei got the strange impression of a strong sense of wildness in those eyes of his.
Watching Du Wei inspecting his escort, Maximos smiled and began the introduction: “Lord Duke, this here is my escort and my most loyal subordinate. It was I who gave him the name Rhine. Because of his strange appearance since birth, his life’s been a pitiful one. Years ago, I found him in the wild following a group of wild animals. It was as if he’s raised by the animals after being abandoned by his parents. Out of pity, I took him in and raised him from a young age. Thinking about it, it’s been well over ten years now. Don’t judge him by his appearance; he’s actually a really kind child.”
After that, he waives his hand at the big fella to come forward, his face full of love: “Rhine, come pay your respects to the Duke of Tulip.”
“Yes” Again with the voice like a muffled thunder. Kneeling on one knee, this giant performed the grandest salute a knight can do. But in Du Wei’s eye, he’s only worried about the floorboard giving way from the big guy’s weight. He can clearly hear some strong creaking sound going on!
“My respects to the Duke of Tulip.” The muffled thundering voice almost shocked Du Wei’s eardrum to the point of causing pain. Seeing this mighty and fierce figure, Du Wei couldn’t help but give a liking to this fella. Hurrying him to get up, Du Wei immediately called for someone to move a chair over for him to sit. Problem was, every time this giant sat down, the chair would give way under his butt’s pressure and crack after a “click”.
Looking at the puzzled expression on Rhine’s face, Maximos broke out into a laugh: “This knight of mine is far heavier than an ordinary person, at least five to six times so no chair will fit him. Duke, please let him stand instead.”
Following his lead, Du Wei also bellowed out a laugh: “It’s no secret the prairie natives and I have issues in the northwest, so my favorite people are knights like Rhine here. Its fine if there’s no chair that can fit him!” Then he made a loud shout to have his people bring over a small table for Rhine to sit, and he also had the kitchen begin serving the prepared meals.
In addition, he made special arrangements for Rhine to be served a big barrel of wine and a pot of beef befitting a big man of his stature.
Among everyone here, Du Wei had the most interest in this Rhine because of the big gulping gestures he made when devouring that wine. With a few gurgle and a big burp, about half the barrel was gone!
“Thank you, it’s been a long time since I’ve drank so much.” The big guy smiled honestly at Du Wei when he made this statement
Du Wei literally lapsed out for a second: “What, do you usually not drink? Although I remember the Holy Knights require penance during their training, but I don’t recall being banned from alcohol.”
From the side, Maximos’s face sank: “Rhine, you forgot my words again? Why are you not praying before eating?”
Rhine immediately places the wine barrel down, his face full of shame: “Yes.”
Then Maximos, along with the Bishop Lamu, shared hands to begin their prayer: “Thank the goddess for allowing us to have food to eat and to have clothes to wear….” Their murmuring voices were true and sincere.
Although Du Wei didn’t hold much care for this kind of prayer, but looking at Maximos’s pious face and sincere heart, he decided it be best not to say anything to suit the mood. Out of politeness, he places his utensils down and waited for them to finish their prayers.
Finally, when the three opens their eyes again, Du Wei smiled and asked: “Good Bishop, aren’t you a little too harsh on this knight by not even giving him wine to drink?”
Slightly embarrassed, Maximos smiled wryly and whispered: “You don’t know this lord Duke. Rhine is much larger than the average man, same goes for his appetite. On a daily basis, the amount of food he consumes is five to six times the average person, and liquor is easily ten times that amount. I may be an Archbishop, but my salary is limited, usually not enough to buy him wine to drink.”
Du Wei was amazed at his words.
Don’t kid around! A dignified archbishop was living off a salary?
Although Du Wei also knew that any official clergy would be paid by the temple….. But, he’s an Archbishop, equivalent of a prince! How can someone overseeing the finances of several provinces and armed with military forces be living off a salary?!
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