Riftan's POV - Under the Oak Tree - Chapter 39
Chapter 39 – Riftan’s POV
Translator – LF
Proofreader – Nymeria
The next day, the Duke of Croix unnervingly prepared for the wedding ceremony before the dawn even broke. He seemed to be eagerly determined to execute the ceremony straight away, not giving him a chance to change his mind.
Riftan anxiously paced the room like a trapped beast. He felt guilt eating him for putting a heavy burden on his subordinates in order to save his stepfather. He would have felt better if the knights had criticized him instead for his selfish choices. However, although the knights were extremely furious at the Duke of Croix, they did not have a single complaint about Riftan’s decision.
He plopped down against a chair and clasped his throbbing head between his hands. If he would be following his duty as the commander of the Knights, it would only be right for him to turn a blind eye towards his stepfather. However, he just couldn’t bear to do that. He couldn’t bring himself to abandon him once again.
He shut his eyes tightly. On the day of his mother’s funeral, the figure of his stepfather weeping in the dark played in his memory. The man wasted twelve years sheltering them. It would be devastating for his illegitimate son to get him killed when he has barely gotten himself a real family now.
“The wedding ceremony will be held in the afternoon.”
The butler appeared at noon, accompanied with servants who brought robes to dress in and accessories to put on. Riftan gazed down with a contorted expression at the silk and velvet clothing, making the servants flinch and step back at his harsh demeanor. However, the butler endured and did not even budge.
“The High Priest will preside over the ceremony, the easter nobles will serve as witnesses. We should hurry with the preparations to meet the schedule.”
He eyed him arrogantly, as if pertaining that he shouldn’t dare make the nobles and the high priest wait. Riftan took the clothes in an angry snatch, he wanted to tear someone into pieces, but not this old man. He replied in a cold manner, gnashing his teeth.
“I can do it on my own, so get lost.”
The butler looked at him skeptically and meekly took the servants outside with him. Riftan took off his clothes and dressed up with the sickening clothing handed to him. He felt rage burn inside him as he saw himself donned unsuitably like a pretentious nobleman. He turned away from the mirror, suppressing the urge he felt to rip off the hem of the clothing.
A moment later came another knock on the door. He strapped his sword to his waist and went outside. The knights of Croix Castle lined the hallways, donned in full steel armor.
“We have come to escort you to the altar.”
Riftan clenched his jaw, it was as if they were taking a prisoner. Regardless, the Duke’s knights escorted him to the temple located in the castle. He followed them whilst hurling all sorts of curses inside his mind.
May the Duke of Croix and everyone associated with him be cursed; his vassals, his servants, all of them.
However, the moment his eyes caught the figure of Maximillian Croix standing in front of the altar, all of his thoughts melted away. He stood stiffly at the temple’s entrance, gazing distantly at her back.
She was donned in a white dress that was as pale as her complexion. His eyes trailed along her ivory neck, her narrow back, and her slender waist that seemed to fit in one grasp.
Her skirt, that glistened silver flowed like a cloud over the marble floors and ornament pearls, shone in her elegantly twirled up rose-colored hair. His heart squeezed at her breathtakingly lovely appearance.
Riftan breathed out deeply. His mind was in a mixed state of confusion, longing, and guilt. He couldn’t comprehend how he could feel this way when he was in such a humiliating situation.
When he did not move from the entrance, the knights urged him from behind to step forward. Riftan walked slowly towards the altar. The nobles who were on the sides of the aisle line with red carpet, sent him scornful and sympathetic glances. Riftan ignored them and went to stand by her side. Maximillian carefully looked up at him with her cloudy gray eyes.
Riftan felt like he was falling in an endless pit upon seeing her soft gaze that seemed like it would break in an instance. She appeared unhappy and miserable. The offerings sacrificed before the evilest of evil demons couldn’t appear more pitiful than her. Anger and sadness welled up inside him, raging with intensity. If someone other than him were in his position, she wouldn’t have such a terrified look on her face. Thinking of it that way, he has brought himself to even resent her.
I didn’t want to be in this position either. He wanted so badly to reason with her as such. I also didn’t want this to happen. However, he knew very well that it would be a lie.
“The ceremony will now begin.”
The high priest, who was standing on the podium, declared in a solemn voice. Riftan turned away from her and walked towards the front of the altar. Then, the high priest began to read the scriptures in a low voice. Riftan’s eyes fixated at the carved angel on the bottom of the altar throughout the ceremony, but all of his five senses were heightened at her presence, he felt like he was on the verge of being burned down.
Every time he breathed in, the sweet scent coming from her body filled his lungs and her loose sleeve that grazed the back of his hand almost drove him crazy.
“Riftan Calypse, do you swear before God that you will take Maximillian Croix as your wife, cherish her, and care for her as long as you both shall live?”
Riftan lifted his head as the high priest questioned with a dignified voice. Everyone held their breaths as they waited for his response. He replied in a gruff voice.
“Maximillian Croix, do you swear before God that you will take Riftan Calypse as your husband, and obey him as long as you both shall live?”
Riftan could feel her body tense up as if she were about to break. Maximillian replied in a quiet trembling voice.
He desperately tried not to turn his head to look at her. Finally, the priest declared the union between the two of them and the witnesses stood up, clapping their hands. Everything seemed so unreal. Riftan wiped his palms that were wet with cold sweat against his trousers and watched as the people headed for the banquet hall. He didn’t know what he should say to her.
“What are you doing there standing around? There is a wedding reception waiting.”
The Duke of Croix said as he approached him with a cruel smile. Riftan glared at him with intense hostility but the Duke only calmly took his stare.
“The wedding is yet from being complete. I trust that you will fulfill your promise to the end.”
Riftan’s jaw clenched, and he gnashed his teeth. However, he knew as well that the wedding wouldn’t be complete until after the reception and after they entered their marital room, so he just reluctantly followed the duke into the banquet fall. He could feel Maximillian quietly following him, but he didn’t dare look back and see her. He didn’t want to see the grief plastered on her face.
Riftan was dragged into the lavish banquet hall that was filled with a crowd and he mechanically drank the wine poured for him by the duke. The happenings went on so fleetingly that it got dark, and his subordinates entered the hall. When Riftan saw Uslin signal at him with a nod, he asked to be excused from the presence of the nobles and moved towards where he stood. Uslin led him to a corner of the banquet hall, looking for a quiet place to talk. When they reached a place quiet enough, the knight opened his mouth to speak cautiously.
“The squires have found your stepfather’s wife.”
Riftan’s face hardened. “How are they?”
“They were extremely terrified, but I don’t think that they were gravely injured. The little girl is also alright.”
Riftan breathed a sigh of relief. If anything had happened to them, he would have never been able to forgive himself.
“Where are they now?”
“The squires are watching over them.”
Uslin paused for a moment then asked him. “Are you really sure of having it settled this way?”
Riftan’s shoulders stiffened at the probing of the torturous issue. Uslin nervously continued to probe when Riftan didn’t reply.
“There must be another way. If we ask for His Majesty’s help…”
“My stepfather will be executed before the message even reaches Drakium.” Riftan looked at him under heavy-lidded eyes. “Don’t worry. I have no intentions of dragging you guys into this. Once the wedding is done, I will resign from my position as the commander.”
Uslin’s face became angrily distorted. “Don’t be ridiculous! Are you planning to go to the Lexos Mountains all by yourself?”
“I could just ask the duke to provide me with an army.”
“Even so, he will only give you hundreds of useless idiots!” Uslin retorted sternly in a growl. “Even if he does give you a proper army, the duke’s knights will not obey the commander’s orders. The commander will be all by himself in the Lexos Mountains.”
“That’s my problem to deal with!”
“The commander’s problem is our problem too!” Uslin replied sharply. “If the commander leaves the knighthood, the knights will either return to being mercenaries or be incorporated into the Royal Knights. Either way, the Remdragon Knights will end up being destroyed. Are you intending to put us through that?”
Riftan tightened his grip around the wine glass so much that it almost broke. He also knew well what would happen to the Remdragon Knights, but he thought that it would be better than being dragged to having them risk their lives. Uslin continued to speak like he was able to hear his thoughts.
“We are knights. I gave up dying peacefully on my bed the moment I was knighted. If the commander says that he will embark on subjugating the dragon, then we will follow.”
“But those are your thoughts, the thoughts of others may be different.” Riftan threw down his wine glass. “If it will become difficult once I resign as the commander, I shall send a message to Viscount Triden. I plan to ask everyone what their thoughts are, and if anyone desires to, I’ll take the measures to help them be incorporated into the Royal Knights. Subjugating the Dragon is a dangerous journey. I can’t have you risk your lives for my sake.”
Uslin opened his mouth as if he was about to attempt refuting. but at that moment the Duke’s voice sounded from behind them.
“Why are your voices raised so high on a good day like this?”
Uslin’s face turned red in anger at the man’s brazen remark. Riftan spoke before his subordinate bursted from containing his blazing temper and began lashing out.
“It’s a problem within the knighthood.”
A crooked smile spread on the duke’s lips as he sat his words out coldly, indicating that whatever it is, he couldn’t care less about it.
“You’re telling me such a dreary story when you’re not my son-in-law just yet.”
Riftan answered his words with a scornful glare. The duke frowned as if he was upset by it, but soon shrugged his shoulders and spoke.
“Well, it’s fine. It’s now time to enter the marital room. Until when will you make the bride wait?”
Then, he stretched out his arm, ushering him towards the stairs lined with candles. Riftan swallowed dryly. His back sweated from the strange tension he felt.
Note – LF: Breathe in. Then breathe out. That’s it.
Nymeria: Alexa play I think I’m losing my mind by Bazzi