Riftan's POV - Under the Oak Tree - Chapter 37
Translator – LF
Proofreader – Nymeria
“Trying to pass his duties onto others… it seems he doesn’t have any shame!” Uslin, who was basking in the warmth of the bonfire, exclaimed in contempt. “Making a big deal out of the honor of marrying his daughter and offering such an arrogant proposal. Arrogant son of a…”
“The Duke is old, so he must have been intending to have a son-in-law take over his duties.” Gabel Laxion, who was sitting next to him while sipping wine, let out a sigh. “But why would he not have his vassals be his option and make such a proposal to Sir Calypse?”
“He wanted to avoid being despised by his vassals.” Ruth, who was gazing at the bonfire silently with a thoughtful face, spoke. “The absolute loyalty of vassal knights is vital to protect the vast territories of the east. There will be no good in drawing out their backlash. Moreover, there are still several lords in western Dristan who are eyeing the territory of the Duke. It would bring a disadvantage for the Duke’s military forces to weaken.”
“So… he’ll make the Remdragon Knights solve it for him?” Hebaron growled like an angry bear. “There’s a limit to making fun of people.”
“What do you think he will do now?” Elliot asked, looking at Riftan who sat frighteningly quiet. “Now that the commander has rejected the offer, do you think he’ll try and offer the proposal to another lord?”
“Tell him to scour all the lands in Whedon and see! What kind of fool would gladly go and lose a limb for him?” Hebaron snorted audibly.
Riftan’s lips hardened. That fool will be Maximillian Croix’s husband. The mere thought of having another man stand beside her made his heart ache like it had been stabbed with a knife. Riftan muttered out his words coldly.
“He has no other option so he will probably pass his duties onto one of his vassal knights.” No one thought that any man would embark himself in fighting the dragon and Riftan thought the same. He continued to speak as he poked the bonfire with a long branch. “Then, the Duke of Croix will have no other choice but to depend on the royal military more than ever, this will cause the Duke’s power in the east to weaken just as the king wishes to happen.”
King Ruben had already been pressuring the nobles of the west and north. No lord would desire to go on an expedition on behalf of Duke Croix, even if they did not favor the king. Riftan smiled wryly. The Duke of Croix was clearly aware of that fact, that was the reason why he opted to make such an offer to Riftan, but he flat out rejected it. The man must have thought that a knight from a humble background would have been enticed by his generous offer and risked his life.
I almost took his offer… Riftan scoffed at himself and stood from his seat.
“Enough of this talk. Whatever the Duke is planning for, we must just continue to do what we were tasked to do.”
“You want us to shut our mouths after all that humiliation?” Hebaron asked in a burst of rage. “He made such a ridiculous proposal and threatened you as if he was the one insulted! You want us to just put up with it?”
“So, what if I just put up with it?” Riftan glared fiercely at him. “What am I to do, gather an army and launch an attack against the Duke?”
Everyone became silent at his reaction. Only then that he realized that it was him who held the most anger out of them. Riftan got up and went away before any of them spoke further. The dark night sky scattered a faint light from the stars over him.
Looking up at the pale full moon, Riftan trudged towards the barracks. An ominous premonition ran through his thoughts, thinking that he would not be able to sleep soundly for a while. However, one day, the feelings he was currently feeling would probably fade away. Anyway, he had no other choice but to believe that they would.
The visit of the Duke’s messenger soon disappeared from the knights’ minds, they were faced with a bigger problem than that. The magic of the dragon became more powerful as days passed by and the number of monsters descending from the mountain increased daily.
It was difficult to dwell on the Duke’s brazenness in a situation where they had to camp in front of the misty forest day through night and battle against monsters. On top of that, they also had to solve the shortage of supplies and manpower, while gathering information from the Lexos Mountains.
Riftan massaged his throbbing temples as he wrote reports to send to the king. If an expedition wasn’t sent as soon as possible, defeating the dragon would only become increasingly difficult. The priests who were dispatched to investigate the barriers surrounding the Lexos Mountains all confirmed that the dragon’s magical powers were recovering at a much faster rate than expected. If they didn’t act immediately, a great disaster would surely fall upon them. Riftan wrote as such in the report and asked for additional reinforcements and supplies, before marking it with the stamp of the knights.
Truthfully, he wanted to convince him that it was not the time to engage in a frivolous war of wits with the Duke Croix, but he was putting up in fear of causing an uproar within the king’s aides. Riftan sighed heavily and rolled up the report, tying it securely with a string. As he stood from his seat to give his report to the messenger, he heard Elliot Caron’s voice suddenly call out from outside the barracks.
“Sir Calypse, we found a tramp hiding in the barracks… what should we do with him?”
Riftan arched an eyebrow. It wasn’t unusual for tramps to hide in the barracks in hopes of stealing food, he should be able to deal with the person according to military instructions without needing to inform him.
Riftan exclaimed annoyingly. “Are you now asking me for a decision because you can’t handle a thief yourself?”
“But…the little guy is causing a ruckus about meeting Sir Calypse…”
Riftan’s eyes narrowed. “He’s looking for me?”
“He said to tell Sir Calypse that he is Novan’s son and you would know.”
Riftan strode out of the barracks, his spine immediately turning cold. “Where is this boy?”
“…he’s over that way.”
Caron immediately took the lead and started walking. Riftan frowned when he found the boy kneeling near a wall made of logs. Even though he only had seen the boy once a few years ago, he immediately recognized that he was the son of his stepfather. The boy glared rebelliously at the soldiers with defiance, as if trying to hide his fear. Then, when he saw him coming, he jumped up from the ground.
“That’s him! I came here to find him!”
“How dare you point a finger!”
The soldier shouted and pressed him against the ground with one hand. Riftan immediately restrained the soldier.
“I know this boy. Let go of him.”
As the soldier took a step back, the boy dusted off his clothes and stood up, raising his chin to look at him. Riftan gazed at his pale, bruised face bitterly.
“What the hell are you doing in a place like this? Did you come here knowing you would end up this way if you were caught hiding in the barracks?”
“I, I was just trying to meet you…” The boy immediately hunched his shoulders as if he was intimidated by his menacing attitude and then soon shouted in defiance. “I couldn’t help it! Y-You are the reason why my father was put in jail!”
“This brat, how dare you raise your voice!”
The soldier hit the boy’s head mercilessly and pushed him to kneel against the ground. Riftan glared at the soldier angrily. The soldier flinched and hurriedly stepped back. Riftan helped the boy stand and urged him with questions.
“What do you mean? Explain it in detail.”
“Because of the gold coins y-you gave me… my father was falsely accused of stealing…”
The boy couldn’t speak clearly as he was overwhelmed with sorrow and burst into tears. Riftan uttered curses inwardly. Even if he didn’t hear the whole story, he already had an idea of what had happened.
“Who was the one who accused your father?”
“I d-don’t know. All of a sudden, men dressed in armor came into our house and dragged my father to Croix Castle. He will be hanged within a month.” The boy continued to speak desperately, swallowing down his tears. “If you don’t testify, my father is going to die.”
Riftan’s back stiffened at the foreboding terror that instantly dawned on him.
“…how were you able to get here?”
“What does that matter! My father….” The boy, who was weeping loudly, flinched at his harsh gaze. “A man in an a-armor brought me here.”
Riftan turned to look at the soldiers, but they all shook their heads. “We didn’t see anyone else aside from this boy.”
“I’m telling the t-truth! He told me that I’ll find you if I come here… he took me to the forest and then left.” The boy gazed up at him pleadingly. “You’re going to save my father, right? My father didn’t steal anything, you know that too.”
Riftan’s hands tightened into a fist, it felt like his stomach was turning upside down in anger. The warning that the Duke’s messenger left him echoed in his head. Riftan stood him upright and nodded to the soldier that was standing behind him.
“Take this child right away and heal his wounds.”
“I’m fine! First, my father…!”
“Nothing will happen to your father. I’ll act on it immediately so you should go and get treatment.”
“R-really? Can I really trust you?”
The boy wiped his bloodshot eyes with his fists, asking again and again. Riftan couldn’t bring himself to look directly into his eyes and nodded bluntly, then strode towards where he had tied his horse. Elliot Caron quickly trailed after him.
“Who is that child? What the hell is going on?”
Riftan glanced back at him and mounted himself on the saddle placed on the back of his horse. He could not leave the camp without giving any explanation. He confessed in a heavy voice.
“That boy is the son of my stepfather.”
“Stepfather?” Elliot asked in a trance.
Riftan nodded his head bluntly. “Yes, I think my stepfather was framed and then put to jail. I will be heading to Croix Castle for the meantime, so please explain the situation to the others.”
It was then that Caron’s face hardened to a serious expression as if he had just understood the situation. “Was it the duke’s scheme?”
“…perhaps.” Riftan clenched his teeth and sat upright on the saddle.
Caron stood in his way. “You should not go alone. We shall accompany you.”
“…this is a personal matter.”
“Sir Calypse is the commander of the Remdragon Knights. Your problem is also our problem.” Elliot refuted with an unusual angry expression.
Riftan grabbed the reins and glared at him fiercely. “Move out of the way, now.”
Elliot folded his arms in front of his chest, determined not to step away. “If other members of the knighthood face a problem, will Sir Calypse also sit still?”
Riftan gripped the reins tightly and grinded his teeth. He didn’t like the idea of it, but it would be better to take his men in order to protect his stepfather and his family. Eventually, he placed his stubbornness aside.
Caron breathed a sigh of relief. “I’ll go inform the others.”
Note – LF: I think Nymeria and I are going to be busy gathering an army to bludgeon the duke >:(
Nymeria: We will really be! God I’m so pisssseddddd