Riftan's POV - Under the Oak Tree - Chapter 23
Chapter 23 – Riftan’s POV
Translator – LF
Proofreader – Nymeria
“Finally! I can eat and drink as much as I want for the coming months.”
Hebaron steered his horse behind Riftan’s and muttered in anticipation, while he took a deep breath as they entered the castle. It was his first time returning to the castle grounds after nearly 10 years. Every time he passed by a familiar scene, old memories sprang up in his head. He gazed at the neatly lined shrubs and bright blooming flowers along the castle’s orderly pathway. As they passed through its beautiful and vast garden, the Duke of Croix’s castle emerged.
“I’ve only heard famous stories about the Duke’s castle. Truly, it’s incredible.”
Even Uslin, who came from one of the most prestigious noble families in Whedon, exclaimed in admiration as he trailed his eyes over the splendid fortress. They climbed down from their horses and handed the reins to the servants and orderly went up the marble stairs leading to the entrance. As they entered through the arched doors that were at least 20 kvets (about 6 meters) high, a golden hall alit with thousands of candles appeared before their eyes.
Riftan lifted his head, his eyes wandering the surroundings. Everything in that hall seemed to be the epitome of all the luxury people could imagine. A gigantic chandelier bejeweled with white crystals sparkled and hung from the arched ceiling, hundreds of glass windows surrounded the hall, and golden armors lined the plaster white walls. He was skimming them through with a half-exhausted expression when a haughty voice echoed.
“I heard the news of your victory. You have been through a lot of hardships.” The Duke of Croix slowly sashayed down the stairs, accompanied by his guards. “The Royal Knights arrived early last night and are currently resting. I shall grant all of you a room too so you can rest comfortably.”
“Thank you for your hospitality.”
Triden marched forward and greeted politely. The Duke of Croix looked at him as if to acknowledge the man’s sincerities and nodded at his servants.
“Bring the guests to their rooms.”
As soon as the man released his orders, dozens of servants rushed down the stairs and the knights followed them. As they crossed the great hall, a group of ladies were glancing at them from the second-floor balcony, giggling among themselves.
Are they the wives of the knights who came to attend the banquet? Riftan questioned inwardly and frowned at the way they were looking at them like a spectacle. At that moment, a woman standing at the end of the hallway caught his attention.
Riftan stopped in his tracks. He couldn’t see her face clearly as she hid in the dark shadows, but he was able to recognize her hair that was the color of a deep red wine. He swallowed dryly, his throat suddenly tightening. As he unconsciously moved towards her, the woman’s expression turned into bewilderment and hid behind a pillar.
“Sir Calypse? What’s the matter?”
Gabel Laxion looked at him curiously as he stiffly stood with a puzzled expression on his face. Riftan barely came to his senses and turned around.
It could or could not be her, either way it shouldn’t matter to him. Riftan took a step forward, groaning at himself, who still clung to memories of 10 years before. However, as he went to the room to rest, he couldn’t keep his agitation and his nerves down.
He ruffled his hair angrily and pushed the windows wide open. The sun was setting in the dusk, the landscape that panned out in front of him was the vast backyard where he used to pull carts full of horse dung or firewood. At that moment, it occurred to him how his life had changed so dramatically. Back when he ran away from that place, it never passed his mind that he would someday be returning there as a knight.
“May I come in for a while?”
As he was immersed in his thoughts, the voice of the commander sounded from outside the door. Riftan slowly opened the door for him. Triden, who was now dressed for an occasion, looked at him from head to toe and sighed.
“I knew this was going to happen. What in the world are you wearing?”
Riftan looked down at his outfit and squinted. His dark blue tunic, black pants, and high boots made of cow leather were his cleanest and most proper outfit. He arched an eyebrow at the commander, wondering what seemed to be the problem.
“Were you planning to attend the banquet dressed like that?”
Riftan leaned against the doorpost and sighed.
“I’m not planning to go. Don’t you already know that I feel uncomfortable in such situations?”
“Calypse, it’s a victory banquet. Ultimately, you are the hero of this victory. You beheaded Rudgal, who is the leader of the bandits.”
“I don’t think the one hosting this banquet has the same thoughts.”
The commander had a firm expression at his cynical reply.
“I’ve told you several times that I will be handing over the command of the knighthood to you. This decision is in line with the will of the members. In order for you to succeed to my position without any propositions, we have to please the eyes of the nobles. I can’t yield for you today.”
“I am not suited to be the commander. There are others who have better status than me…”
“Now, are you trying to break the ultimate rule of the knighthood?”
Triden retaliated with a harsh tone. Riftan bit his lips shut. It is the unwritten rule of the Remdragon Knights to base their ranks thoroughly on skills alone. Even if he himself refused to take the position of the commander, the other members wouldn’t easily agree. Riftan sighed and eventually let Triden enter his room.
“What do you want me to do?”
“First of all, we need to get you dressed.”
He grinned and beckoned to the servant who was waiting in the hallway. Riftan let out a groan as he gazed at the pile of clothes in the boy’s arms. Triden patted his shoulder with a sturdy palm and laughed slyly.
“Although you are hopelessly unsociable, you have a handsome face that catches people’s eyes. You’re going to have to learn to use your cards to your advantage.”
“Are you saying you want me to be your face-man?” Riftan frowned fiercely.
The commander snorted and pushed colorful clothes to his face. “You have a bad habit of twisting words negatively. It’s not humiliating for one to dress up nicely and show off his charm to the ladies.”
“Just leave that job to Nirta instead! His eyes would light up gladly and act the part right away.”
Triden let out a sigh. “I can’t handle him. The other day, he proudly flirted with a lady in front of my eyes. Then, the young lady’s fiancée charged at us, going berserk. It could have been a troubling affair. If only I could, I would not let him step into the banquet hall today.”
“Calypse.” The commander said his name in a low, authoritative voice. “Don’t make me repeat it: I can’t yield for you today. You are the top contributor to guarding the eastern front, the eastern nobles are bound to pay tribute to you. I will be using this opportunity to make your name known and engraved to the minds of the conservative nobles.” The man handed him silk socks with a firm expression. “So, stop talking and just wear it.”
In the end, Riftan was unable to overcome the commander’s persistence and wore the shiny socks that pulled up to his calves and wore a robe that was decorated with colorful embroidery. As if that wasn’t enough, the commander held out a hat that had colorful feathers. Riftan frowned with a disgusted expression.
“I’d rather hang myself than wear that on my head!”
The leader placed the hat on the bed, defeated. Riftan breathed out nervously and glanced disapprovingly at his reflection on the mirror. He felt like a clown dressed up like that, but Triden nodded joyfully, satisfied with how he was dressed.
“You don’t look less than any other nobleman when you’re dressed like that. Now, all that’s left to do is to trim your rude speaking off your tongue.”
“…I’ll try to keep my mouth sealed as much as possible.”
Riftan nodded bluntly and took the cloak that the servant was holding out and draped it over his shoulders. The night had fallen from outside his windows. He then followed the commander to the banquet hall and turned his eyes away. Every corner of the castle shone brightly, he wondered how many candles were burning for that feast alone. As he thought of nonsensical things, the commander tapped him on the shoulder and issued another stern warning.
“Now, I will be introducing you to the eastern nobles one by one. I’m telling you again and again, please watch your manners and be polite.”
“I’ll do my best.”
Riftan sighed and stepped into the banquet hall. At that moment, everyone’s eyes flew to him. He barely managed to keep his face straight at how people looked at him like he was a rare spectacle. Hundreds of nobles were gathered in the hall and the commander started to introduce them one by one. He wondered if he really had to grace every eye of all those nobles.
As he desperately searched for a way to escape the exhausting introductions, the Duke of Croix who was standing in the middle of the banquet hall caught his eyes. To be precise, it was not exactly him that caught his eyes, but the woman donning a dark green dress standing next to the duke.
Riftan felt like someone hit him in the head out of nowhere. He had thought of the possibility of meeting her, but he was determined not to attach any deep meaning into it. Nevertheless, the moment his eyes laid on the red-haired girl, his head instantly went blank.
He stared and skimmed his eyes through her figure. Her height would reach around his chest, so she was still tiny, but considering how she used to reach only up to his waist, she had grown quite a bit. Riftan’s throat felt dry and he pulled the robes that felt like it was tightening against his neck.
“It would be good to formally say your greetings to the Duke Croix.” Perhaps feeling his sudden agitation, Triden warned lightly.
Riftan was barely able to nod his head. The commander proudly walked across the banquet hall, approaching the duke.
“My deepest gratitude for hosting such a sumptuous banquet, Duke Croix.”
“I was only doing what is proper to honor the heroes who defended this land, viscount.”
The duke gracefully turned towards them and raised his chin audaciously. Riftan, who forgot how to breathe, watched intently as the girl slowly turned towards their direction.
Note – LF: OHMYGOOOOOD >/////< it’s so satisfying to know how Riftan sees Maxi
Nymeria: IM SCREAMINGGGG!! Oh Riftan you fluffy ball of love, if only you knew! T^T