After Garen waited for a while with Grace and Cynthia in the small restaurant, a motorcade of black cars slowly drove toward them. These cars came from a distance away from town and traveled along the roadway.
There were a total of four cars that gradually stopped by the roadside. Policemen in black uniforms stepped out, each wearing a white-rimmed helmet and black leather gloves. The man in charge wore a scarf around his neck. He had a slender physique and his height was accentuated by his black overcoat.
The man talked in an undertone with Dale Quicksilver and the others who greeted him, then looked toward Garen from afar. After a few glances, he nodded, went back to his car, and slowly headed toward the Silversilk Castle.
It was then that Garen noticed the White Eagle, clad in all black, from among the people who came from the cars. He stood near a dark-skinned, muscular man. Turning around, he and Dale Quicksilver walked toward Garen.
"Their men are here, so let's go together," Garen whispered. Cynthia and Grace didn't say anything, but both agreed.
The three of them headed toward Dale Quicksilver's crowd.
"The people from the police department have arrived. Let's follow them and head over together," Dale Quicksilver said in a deep voice as a brown pipe dangled from his mouth. "This is the Black Panther, the White Eagle's sworn brother," he said as he started introducing the dark-skinned man, who was dressed like a soldier.
"Nice to meet you." Garen extended his hand to the man and gave him a friendly smile.
"Likewise." Black Panther grinned, revealing two rows of pristine white teeth. "Your woman, she's very good."
"Umm, I think you've got it wrong. They are my assistant and my bodyguard," Garen explained, bemused. The two women behind him let out faint chuckles. "This is Cynthia. This is Grace. Cynthia is the head of my security team," he said, acquainting them one by one to the crowd.
Detective Dale's assistant, Miss Si Lan, suddenly appeared after they exchanged a few courtesies. She drove to a stop by the side of the road with a horse carriage that had four rows of seats with two seats per row and waited with a smile for everyone to get on.
"Come on or we won't be able to catch up to Sergeant Rio in the front," Miss Si Lan shouted.
Garen's group of three and the detective's group of four filled up the rest of the seats. A black car started following them when no one was paying attention. It was filled with youths wearing black overcoats and round black helmets that covered their lowered faces.
"Are those your men?" Garen looked to Cynthia on his right. The latter nodded with a smile.
Detective Dale, by merely glancing behind him, managed to figure out their origin based on the way they dressed.
"They're from Manleyton. Your company really values you."
"Naturally, Mr Kelly is an important figure within the company," Cynthia rushed to answer. To one side, Grace frowned slightly.
"Cynthia, aren't you the bodyguard? Don't you have to be aware of the surroundings?" Grace sneered.
"Okay enough of this, let's travel quietly." Garen shook his head, speechless. Whenever there were signs of sparks like these, he would halt them.
"I am absolutely diligent as a bodyguard!" Cynthia gave a lovely smile, revealing two white canines. "You just wait and watch later."
While the three of them were chatting in the back, Dale Quicksilver, the White Eagle, and the other two in front frowned.
"Does this mean the Golden Hoop's men are in the vicinity?"
"Yes. According to master, it should be the Golden Hoop Number 10 that has come over. That woman is exceptionally powerful. Her tank-like Body Hardening Technique has almost reached the level of bullet resistance and her movements are like the wind. These skills, coupled with accurate marksmanship, make her a very tough assassin. The average person is just like an ant if they fall into her hands. She's obviously targeting the master this time."
"Master Lily should be fine, right?" Black Panther worried.
"It's alright, don't worry. Master was prepared to hide out temporarily, but that crazy woman was seriously injured by a maverick martial arts expert. She's currently still recuperating and won't be active for a few months, so we're safe for now." The White Eagle relaxed and smiled, but his face instantly sank a little. "But we can't let our guard down, the Golden Hoop Number 10 has two powerful lieutenants, Number 11 and Number 13. Both of them are extraordinarily strong and either one is significantly stronger than I am. If it weren't for the Black Panther intervening the other time, I wouldn't have been able to escape safely with the two children."
"It will be good as long as everyone is safe. Regardless of how skilled they are in martial arts, they can't withstand this many guns firing at them. We have more men this time, so safety shouldn't be too big of a concern," the detective consoled everyone. "Fortunately, I let my wife bring the two children to their granddad's, so I have nothing else to worry about."
"Sir, isn’t it risky that we're bringing Mr Kelly along this time? Our investigation probably involves an ancient cult and no one knows what trouble is in store," Si Lan asked in a hushed tone.
"It was him, the White Eagle, and I who discovered the entrance together. I'll ask him about it again later. It's true that there could be unpredictable danger within," the detective nodded.
At this moment, a cool breeze blew over as the morning sun gradually rose with its light shining on the carriage, a few rays fell on everyone's clothes and brought some warmth.
The horse carriage trundled onto a white stone bridge. Ripples constantly formed in the clear green stream under the bridge. Every now and then, red maple leaves from the maple forest by the shore would fall in the water.
Sitting in the carriage, Garen turned to his side and looked out. The grass hills by the road were covered in trees creating a bright mix of red, yellow, and dark green. There were even a few does with their fawns drinking from the stream on the shore near the bridge.
Upon hearing the clattering of the carriage, the animals merely looked up, and then continued drinking as if accustomed to the situation.
Golden ripples formed where the morning sun shined down on the water surface.
"A little past this stone bridge and we're within the sparsely populated boundaries of the Silversilk Castle. In the past, this bridge marked the border between the Silversilk Castle estate and Canoe Town," Detective Dale explained. "Brace yourselves, the Golden Hoop won't give up on the castle's secrets so easily. They've lost a lot of men for this."
The White Eagle frowned, then hesitantly said, "Sir, I don't know if I should tell you this."
"Just say it."
The White Eagle hesitated for a while. "It's not really a big deal, but when I saved the two children, I met someone who was an expert in Body Hardening Techniques. He killed a Golden Hoop leader trained in the Red Hand Fist. Most importantly, I saw from his skills that he was probably trained in the arts of the Behemoth Gate."
"The Behemoth Gate?" The detective frowned. "Even they're involved in this? Other people might have been mistaken, but you, the White Eagle, wouldn't be. You escaped the clutches of death during a duel with a Behemoth Gate master, so you must have a deep impression of it."
"I, on the other hand, think the meeting was pure chance," the Black Panther said in a low voice. "And after all, it didn't seem like he was malicious. He helped you get rid of your opponent."
"That's true," the White Eagle nodded, "but I still don't know why he would do that."
"Don't think too much about it, it was just a coincidence," the Black Panther consoled.
The carriage kept rolling at a moderate pace. Soon, they reached a hill trail which could only be traveled on foot.
Everyone stepped off of the carriage and started walking. They passed the forested hill and arrived at the gates of the Silversilk Castle.
There were policemen scattered all around the castle. By the window of a room on the first floor, the slender sergeant looked out. Beside him was a policewoman andthey seemed to be discussing something.
A police officer stood guard at the main gates. He walked over when he saw the group approaching.
"Sergeant Rio is waiting for you inside. We've secured the perimeter, but we didn't discover the body that the detective mentioned."
"Oh?" Dale Quicksilver frowned. "Looks like someone beat us to it… Come, let's check it out."
He took the lead walking toward the castle gates. Behind him were the White Eagle, the Black Panther, and also Miss Si Lan. Garen was last, surrounded by the black suits of all the bodyguards that Cynthia brought along.
Cynthia received a black shotgun and was checking its sights. Creaks could be heard while she did a firearms check.
"Have you prepared the handguns and brought the grenades? What about the explosives that I asked for?"
Her subordinate hurriedly handed her a piece of white paper which detailed the weapons and equipment they had brought.
Hearing all this, Garen and Grace felt their scalps go numb.
"Grenades… Explosives… Cynthia, are you here to be a bodyguard or go to war?" Grace murmured speechlessly.
"Given that none of us here are martial arts experts, what choice do I have? After all, this is the era of firearms. Martial arts expert? Nothing a few more guns can't solve." Cynthia casually scanned the paper in her hand, nodded in satisfaction, then pointed at a few shorter subordinates.
"Number 8, Number 11, you guys bring some men to set up an ambush around the slopes. Pay attention to the accuracy range and kill the enemy on sight. The assembled sniper rifles are still out back in the cars. Number 6, you get the equipment ready. Prepare to execute special measures at any time. And you, Number 3, how is the preparation for the explosive packets coming along?"
"Enough to blow up the whole site," the man called Number 3 joked indifferently.
"Get everything ready, pay attention to positioning, be more discreet, and avoid being discovered by the police. Even though we have legal gun permits, some troubles are best avoided."
"Yes, boss." With smiles on their faces, a few black suits dispersed while carrying the large and small crates.
Garen stood to the side feeling frustrated.
"If the Golden Hoop Number 10 reappears… Even if someone has the same level of Body Hardening Technique as me and could resist bullets, they would probably be defenseless against explosives and grenades."
He admitted to himself that he would be helpless if he was faced with more than ten guns. If a critical body part was hit — weak spots like the ears or eyes — there would be no escape from death. He also wouldn't be able to dodge bullets at close range.
He shook his head. at that moment, as a martial arts practitioner, he felt a sense of loss from being obsolete.
He kept up with Detective Dale and the group in front.
They entered the gates, and familiarly made their way to the small room that seemed like a study on the ground floor.
Dale Quicksilver and the rest, together with Sergeant Rio, were already gathered around the underground entrance, discussing something.
When they saw Garen come in, Dale and the White Eagle nodded at him and continued the discussion. Dale was talking to a heavily bearded man standing beside the sergeant.
Garen stood by, listening to Dale and the bearded man conversing in a weird dialect. One asked and the other answered, but Garen could not understand any of it. Only the sergeant would occasionally add a couple of sentences to their conversation and all three of them looked tense.
Garen walked to the White Eagle's side and whispered, "What's the situation?"
The White Eagle shook his head. "There's a problem. The expert in ancient traps said that there might be booby traps all over the underground lair. He thinks we should blast the traps with explosives first, rather than sending anyone down. He can't deactivate all of the traps and…"