Under the Oak Tree - Chapter 139
Translator – LL
Proofreader – Nymeria
After that day, Max often went down to the kitchen to cast healing spells on her servants. Sometimes, she treated the injuries of the knights too. Sitting in the kitchen every day and repeating the healing magic five or six times a day, her skills were improving steadily and she was able to treat pretty big wounds too. However, the stuttering showed no signs of getting better. Every day, she locked herself in a room alone and practiced speaking clearly or tried to talk to people she encountered sitting in front of the fireplace in the restaurant, but her tongue only felt dull.
Max continued to practice memorizing pronunciation symbols in order or reciting the words of a minstrel in the air every day, trying not to be frustrated. It was not as easy as Max thought because she had to do it in secret, when she was alone, since she didn’t want to show such a pathetic figure to Riftan or to the servants. Max couldn’t neglect studying magic and organizing the castle either. Furthermore, the garden had to be landscaped as soon as the winter season was over, so Max was already racking her brain having to deal with the planning and the budget with Rodrigo and merchant Aderon. As she approached the end of winter, there were so many things to do that she wanted to double the day.
“Your face seems to have become emaciated recently.”
Riftan said as he changed into a new outfit after taking a bath, stroking Max’s cheek. She smiled awkwardly. Trying to do unfamiliar things at once was naturally too much for her, she had been waking up at dawn the last few weeks and falling asleep when he did. After following the energetic knight’s lifestyle, there was even a dark shade under her eyes. Max frowned as he swept her eyes lightly with his thumb.
“As expected, you’re overdoing your magic, aren’t you? I think you’ve been practicing a healing spell lately, and that’s why…”
“I w-want to practice… I have to do it c-consistently f-for me to improve…everyone’s c-cooperating with me. I’m doing it for you. I- I don’t use up that much mana… I’ll treat you if got hurt”
She carefully examined his expression as she tried to speak calmly. Riftan was working three or four times harder than her, but his face showed no signs of exhaustion.
How can he not yawn even though he sleeps for three to four hours and not just for a day or two, but everyday? She looked at him, a little curious.
Riftan discussed and supervised the daily production of new weapons in the blacksmiths, trained guards and apprentices, and recently began to plan the groundbreaking of road construction that would begin in the coming water season.
Even if she split her body into two or three, Max wouldn’t be able to handle half of what he was doing. Nevertheless, Riftan’s face had a good complexion and his muscular body was full of energy. Riftan held her with warm arms, placed her on his lap, and gently caressed her ears and the back of her neck.
“Is there no one being rude to you?”
“…What’s the hard work?
“I-It’s not hard work…”
There was a slight crease between Riftan’s eyebrows and he talked with a little nervousness.
“You’ve never used to talk about anything, but lately I’ve only heard that kind of answer.”
“W-Well, really… everyone’s nice to me. There’s no one rude…”
Unable to figure out what kind of answer he wanted, Max blurted out the end of her sentence and then remained silent. Riftan sat with his back against the cushion and looked down at Max for a long time.
“I heard you started planning your garden landscaping.”
“W-when spring comes… The visitors will c-come and I think we should d-decorate it before then…”
“Isn’t that too much work? It must be hard to supervise the servants…”
Max smiled bitterly at his worried voice, who was saying that there was a lot of work?
“Compared to Ri-Riftan… It’s nothing.”
“Hey, who the hell are you comparing me to? I’ve been training all my life. My physical strength is superior to other knights. On the other hand, you’re weaker than normal women.”
“I- I’m not weak. I-I’m healthy.”
Max rarely fainted when her father whipped her back to bleed, therefore she thought she was healthier than those ladies who screamed and fainted just because they saw a little mouse. However, Riftan snorted as if he had heard something ridiculous.
“What are you saying, a lady who’s been inside the castle all her life?”
He grabbed her waist with his big tan hand and frowned anxiously.
“Look, you’re not even a handful. You’re as thin as half my body.”
“Ri-Riftan… you’re just too big… Well, I’m normal.”
Riftan crinkled his nose.
“There is no woman I know who is as thin as you. I get nervous when I watch you.”
Hearing his words, Max looked a little puzzled. She wasn’t very tall and she was skinny, but she wasn’t as thin as he was painting her. Yet, he looked genuinely worried. Was there a woman who was tall and well-built enough to be around Riftan? Surely, Princess Agnes was strong and energetic enough to participate in the expedition. Max imagined an imposing and beautiful woman standing next to him and just by drawing in her head such a pair that looked as good as a picture, her heart ached as if she was being stabbed.
At that point, Max couldn’t understand why she was comparing herself to a woman she had never seen before.
“You’re exaggerating. Like that… you know, to the point of worrying…”
When she spoke in a slightly stronger tone with a tearful feeling, Riftan’s hand, which was caressing her back, flinched a bit. He distorted his mouth and spoke in a concerned voice.
“But I’m worried about you standing in front of the wind.”
Then Riftan hugged her body a little and pressed his chin firmly against the top of her head. Max leaned her head against his thick chest and listened quietly to his beating heart. Outside the window, sleet was flying like a ghost.
Max was aware of the strange tension that flowed in the silence: at some point there began to be subtle cracks in between them. Riftan struggled to be affectionate to her and cared excessively, but he just couldn’t tell her. Sometimes he felt like he didn’t want to share more than a bedroom with Max, but it wasn’t right to blame his attitude alone. She was the same, in fact she could not easily open herself to him either, could not stay natural in front of him and never wanted to show him a lowly appearance. Max was more nervous when she spoke in front of Riftan than in front of anyone else and was afraid that he would be discouraged with her. Ironically, the bigger Max thought of him, the thicker the wall she faced him with. Because of that wall, their relationship was at a certain point failing to deepen.
Max wanted to believe that her idea was just an excessive delusion. There was no such thing as a deeper relationship in the world, they already shared the same bed, and he kept her safe and supported her without lacking. She was overseeing the household of Calypse Castle for him, and one day she would give a successor to him. As far as she knew, it was enough for any couple. Furthermore, they were forced into a relationship by her father’s selfishness, it may even be impudent to hope for more than that. With those thoughts, Max drove out a sense of incompatibility in her heart.
“I won’t do anything today, I know you’re tired, so relax.”
Riftan said as he suddenly touched her stiff shoulders. He seemed to have guessed that she was nervous because she didn’t want to work in the bedroom. Max tried to say something, but she just closed her mouth. She wanted to be in his arms, but she was actually very tired and she was embarrassed to reach out first. Riftan rubbed his lips on her forehead and whispered in a serious voice.
“You need a break.”
He laid her on the bed and turned off the bedside lamp. Then naturally lying next to her, Riftan pushed one arm under her head. Max dug into his side and wiggled. His body smelled sweet and masculine and as she inhaled it deeply into her heart, Riftan tossed and turned a little uncomfortable, sighing softly and patting her shoulder. Max savored his touch with satisfaction. She felt his body firm against her thighs, but no further contact was made with Riftan. In the comfort and tranquility of his wide arms, she slowly fell asleep.
The next day, winter rain began to fall. As a result, the training seemed to have ended early and, as Max was reading the magic book while eating a late lunch, soaked knights rushed into the kitchen.
Max greeted them cautiously. Recently, the knights that had been bluntly ignoring her, gladly began to speak to her thanks to her frequent talking and healing magic. She was so happy about the change. The knights grabbed the food she had given them and started to talk about stories as the bread that was just baked melted in their mouth. While exchanging such lame stories, Max was smiling. Suddenly she saw Yulysion approaching the kitchen and she ran to him in surprise. The boy’s face was covered in blood.
“W-What’s going on? W-What happened…?”
TL – My heart sank when Maxi mentioned his father whipping her… poor baby! Also Riftan was struggling here, poor baby to him too, but in a different way lmao