Riftan's POV - Under the Oak Tree - Chapter 3
Chapter 3 – Riftan’s POV
Translator – LF
Riftan shook the hand off his shoulder and tried to escape but the guard snatched his back.
“Didn’t you hear me, I said you can’t go in!”
He looked resentfully at the shoulders. Who is this person to say that when he’s clearly not qualified enough, letting a child wander around the woods alone with her dog, ad have the audacity to stop him?
It was Riftan who saved her. Certainly, he must have the right to see her heal. He was about to argue his thoughts but noticed that the man had a strange glint to his eyes.
And he wasn’t the only one giving him that look. Hearing the commotion, another knight rushed to hear what exactly happened and started interrogating.
“You’re saying a monster showed up? Where the hell is it?”
Only then that Riftan realized they were wary of him, and his face hardened. Just because he was a brown-skinned peasant that was seen to be carrying a dying noble-lady from a monster attack, he’s suddenly become a person of suspicion. He lifted his head rebelliously and pointed towards the forest where he ran from.
“That way. I saw it on my way to get lime for the smithy.”
“Fine. Then lead me there. “
“I’m not lying! A venomous black lizard suddenly appeared and attack the young lady! If I didn’t happen to see, the young lady…!”
“That’s why I’m asking you to lead me to the place where the monster is.”
The knight responded with annoyance. His careless face that seems to be around the age of thirty-five became stern for a couple of moments.
“If what you say is true, that a monster appeared in the castle grounds, then we need to exterminate it right away. Don’t make me tell you twice and show us where it is!”
Riftan quit trying to avoid the situation and clear his name as it would seem to only make him more suspicious. Riftan glanced at the castle’s entrance where he saw the girl disappear into and reluctantly turned his body around.
However, while retaking the path he went, the stiff body of the girl in his arms lingered in his thoughts. He forced his feet to move and rubbed his chest, pounding it anxiously.
Will she really be okay?… She’ll get healing from a priest, so you have nothing to worry about.
As Riftan ran his thoughts to clear his anxiety, the knight who was quietly following him suddenly grabbed his shoulder.
Riftan turned his head. The knight was staring through the bushes with a vigilant expression. He followed his gaze and saw that the knight was looking at the monstrous lizard and the black dog’s corpse, then removed the man’s grip from him.
“There’s no need to be cautious. It’s already dead.”
The knight’s eyes narrowed as he approached the lizard’s body, pulling out the branches impaled through its stomach.
“You’re the one who killed this?”
Riftan nodded his head. The knight smirked and drew the sword from his waist, cutting off the lizard’s head with one short blow. He then grabbed the creature by its long, thick, and muscular tail with his gloved hand and lifted it up.
Riftan took a step back, avoiding the blood dripping from the monster’s throat. The knight trailed his eyes up and down the monster’s body and shouted at the soldiers waiting behind him.
“This is a young Hume Lizard! Search around the wall. It must have dug a tunnel and hid inside the castle grounds; it’s nest is probably around somewhere nearby.”
The soldiers who trailed them as he led the direction hurriedly ran towards the walls’ direction. After draining the lizard of its blood, the man threw the lizard at his feet.
“It’s yours since you’re the one who caught it. Dragon subspecies will give you quite a bit of money. Even this low-level monster can earn you two dirhams if you take it apart and sell its leather and gemstones.”
Riftan stared distantly at the lizard’s fluid. The knight lifted the black hound a few steps away, paying him no more attention. He heard his tongue click.
“This guy needs to be buried.”
At the knight’s words, Riftan returned to his right mind. Riftan opened his lips to urgently ask the knight.
“You said this monster is still young and low-level, does that mean it’s not dangerous? Will the young lady be alright?”
The knight slightly frowned. Riftan became nervous, noticing that he might have offended the knight with hid intrusive questions. Fortunately, the knight seemed to be a relatively patient person, and responded indifferently, although his expression was umpleasant.
“If it’s only an injury from this lizard’s venom, then it can be resolved quicky with purification magic. It won’t be much of a problem for the young lady.”
It was only then that Riftan’s shoulders relaxed. He lowered his head and rubbed his throbbing back. He felt like he aged three or four years when he saw the girl being attacked by a monster when it happened only thirty minutes ago.
“Do you work in the smithy?”
The knight who was observing him closely suddenly asked. Riftan nodded his head with an alert expression.
“I’ve been an apprentice for a couple of months. I used to work at the stables.”
The knight stroked his chin thoughtfully and reached at something on his waist.
“I have to go back to work, so I don’t have the time to deal with this matter. I’ll leave it to you.”
Riftan looked down at the four sparkling silver coins that the man is handing him. The knight then bluntly added, “Two coins for the price of quelling the monster and the other two is for saving the young lady. If the lady was in big trouble, the guards would not have been spared from punishment. Take it, as a reward.”
Riftan’s face hardened instantly, realizing that he was being bribed to keep his mouth shut. If it wasn’t for fate that he happened to be passing by, it would be a displeasing news that the duke’s eldest daughter has almost lost her life.
Riftan, who has been plagued and surrounded by hostility since childhood, was able to easily read the knight’s warning gaze. He’s telling him to take the money and never talk about what transpired today in the forest. He had no choice but to accept the silver coins and clench his teeth.
He had no power to oppose him in the first place. The knight might think that he is acting generously towards him, handing a large amount of money to a peasant, yet in turn preventing him from escalating the situation by keeping Riftan’s mouth sealed. Riftan tucked the silvern coins into his pocket and walked away towards the dog.
“I will bury this guy as thanks for your tremendous generosity.”
The knife smirked and nodded, not bothering to reprimand a peasant boy’s boldness for speaking in a sarcastic tone. Riftan hid the dead dog beneath his barrow, loading it with lime and ran through the woods. When he reached a quiet place where people don’t pass by, he began digging using sturdy tree branches.
He longed to get tools from the smithy but if he goes back now, he wouldn’t be able to escape chores until the day ends. When the branches broke, he dug deep in the soil with his bare hands. When it was deep enough, he carried the cold dog and laid it on the ground. Its fur was surprisingly stiff and cold as his palm gently swept across its neck.
The girl’s image fluttered before his eyes. To her, this dog may be the only friend that soothes her loneliness. He swallowed heavily and watched bitterly as he covered its body with dirt.
Upon returning to the smithy, he received a blow to his cheek and was asked where he dared to play around. His head was squeezed several times, but he made no excuses. He’s not sure what type of anger he would receive shall he go around telling the truth.
The knight who was in charge of the castle’s security didn’t seem like a violent person but there’s nothing wrong with being too careful. Riftan stealthily swore at the blacksmith and went back to shoveling charcoal and grinding bellows.
However, despite the smoldering heat in the smithy, his body grew increasingly cold by each passing moment. He stretched his fingers and clasped his hand, closing and opening it repeatedly, trying to focus his blurry vision. Beads of cold sweat formed on his forehead and his breath started getting shorter.
He suddenly recalled that he had sucked the venom out of the girl’s forearm. Although he spat it right away, he seemed to have swallowed the ones that remained inside his mouth. He sat on a rock and thumped on his chest as his lungs felt stuffy and his breathing got thinner.
A loud scream rang in his ears.
“This damn child! If you don’t want to work, then f*ck off!”
He looked up wearily, seeing the blacksmith’s reddish face then began to move his arms mechanically. He doesn’t know where he got the strength from to continue, by the time he managed to finish cleaning up, the sun was setting.
Riftan barely managed to return to their dilapidated hut whilst staggering, not bothering to wash his face or hands that were stained with black charcoal. As he opened the door, the cold silence greeted him.
Weakly leaning against the door frame, he looked at the bed made of wood plank, the fireless furnace, the slightly inclined dining table, and the bucket for drinking water. There was no sign of life in their house. As soon as his stepfather finished his work in the fields, he goes straight to get a drink while his mother watches the sunset on the hill as she did every day.
Riftan fell on the straw bed. He thought of going to a healer and pay with the silver coins in his pocket, but he could not move his limbs. He didn’t even have the strength to light a fire in the furnace, what more to visit a healer.
His teeth rattled as he covered his pulled the blanket over his head. Loneliness sunk to his bones, thinking that he might actually die like this.
What the hell am I doing stupid things for? The girl will receive the best treatments and will be meticulously taken care of by dozens of her maids. On the other hand, he’s someone who would never receive care from his family, let alone treatment for his illness. I don’t know who should be worried for who.
He swore at himself for doing something useless. However, the twisted judgement against himself disappeared upon remembering the girl’s little limbs hanging around his neck and her round face drenched in tears.
What if you die like this?…I was going to die doing rigorous labor all my life anyway.
To die because of saving the precious girl is a heroic act. Although nobody will know.
Riftan rubbed his sore eyes and closed them tightly.
At one point, he seems to have lost his mind as he woke up to a cool touch against his face. At first sight, a woman’s face, filled with worry, came to his hazy vision. He thought he was dreaming.
His mother, who constantly avoided looking into his eyes, gazed at him with eyes full of anxiety, muttering as she wiped his dark face with a damp towel. He didn’t understand what she was saying as his ears ringed, and the words sounded like a buzz.
He blinked his eyes that felt hot like fireballs. His body felt like a block of ice, but his head felt like it was burning. F*cking monster got me good. Damn it…
“This is medicinal herbs. Try and eat even a little.”
He could barely understand what his mother was saying. He weakly lifted his head and swallowed a few gulps of the lukewarm liquid. However, he couldn’t push the substance down his system and puked all of it back up. His mother was taken aback and wiped his mouth with a cloth. Her gentle touched felt as if he was half in fantasy.
He couldn’t remember the last time she touched him. He hated how she looked at him like she has been painfully stoked with an iron skewer whenever they made an eye contact, so he constantly tried to avoid it.
“Hang in there. I’m boiling another one.”
She laid him back down on the bed and quickly walked to the fireplace. Seeing her care for him made him feel a little better as it always seemed like he didn’t have an ounce of affection for him. Riftan held that thought in his head and closed his eyes.
After suffering two full days, his body felt lighter, and the chill went away like a lie. Seeing him getting up from the bed and washing his face, his stepfather bluntly spoke.
“We have nothing to pay the rent and tax.”
He then opened a flask of cheap ale that he carries around and took a swig. Riftan pretended to be deaf to his words and after wiping the water off his face, ate a bowl of porridge.
He seemed to have gained his appetite back, so he probably won’t die like his stepfather said. As he scoffed at his miserable life, he heard his stepfather speak again in an indifferent tone.
“If you’re feeling better, go back to working in the smithy. I talked to them, telling them you were ill. Although, they complained on how they’re going to make use of a sick boy.”
He looked helplessly at the man, who was staring at the floor.
“It will be difficult to go back to work since you rested only for a while after your illness. I know everyone will be hard on you. Still, you must endure it and learn. If you do not want to live this way your whole life, then you better do it.”
Riftan avoided the man’s eyes. His stepfather struggled all his life with heavy burdens on his shoulders, Riftan didn’t drink poison but his chest felt stuffy as if he had. He jumped from his seat and wore a shabby robe over his back, covering his naked torso.
“I was planning to go anyway.”
He then strode towards the door, his mother silently poking the firewood in the furnace until he was out of the hut. Riftan glanced over his shoulder and began to hike up the hill.
He was amazed at how his body had the strength to move despite being bedridden for two full days as he crossed two hills at once and passed through the castle gates.