Under the Oak Tree - Chapter 146
Translator – LN
Proofreader – Nymeria
Max opened the carriage window and looked outside the castle. White birch trees were lined neatly along the road with warm sunlight filtering around the tree leaves. Agnes smiled serenely while the birds were twittering.
“I’m glad the weather is good. Yesterday I was worried because the rain clouds were moving closer, it seems they drifted west instead.”
She pushed her head out of the window, breathed in deeply, and then looked at Max.
“Where are we heading first?”
“F-first we’ll go to the s-square.”
The Town Square was the busiest place in town, close to the market, with shopkeepers littering the streets with merchandise. Agnes smiled and nodded in agreement.
“When I first came to Anatol, I passed by the square. There were many interesting bars and vendors.”
“Princess, you don’t expect to be in a bar again this time?” her attendant said quietly, in a harsh tone. His clothes were ironed and neat. He coughed and touched his trimmed beard.
“The princess adores alcohol, so much that she cannot live without it.” he told Max. “Any town she goes to, she has the inclination to stop by a bar.”
“Ms. Agnes, w-would you like t-to go to the village b-bar?” Max said.
Max looked at Agnes with an alarmed expression. She had heard that knights sometimes stopped by the bars that local commoners occupied, but she had never heard of a lady going to a bar.
Agnes answered seriously.
“Omo, I don’t enjoy alcohol. I go to those kinds of place to gather information. Many visitors stop by inns and bars. It’s the best place to hear what the public is thinking.”
“That sort of information gathering can be left to your guard, the princess just likes alcohol. The last drinking game you had with your guard… When I think of the princess’s actions, I’m too ashamed to face His Majesty”.
“I didn’t do anything embarrassing” Agnes said, annoyed. “I hate missing the fun. I should be able to laugh, brag about my feats, and enjoy myself with everyone. That’s how I form bonds with my team.” She raised her pointy chin proudly. “I believe that trust between all of us will motivate us to overcome all hardships together.”
“What does drinking an excessive amount of alcohol have to do with trust?” her attendant said, before dropping the matter.
Agnes pursed her lips, as if she were about to sulk, and then waved her hand dismissively at him.
“Ugh, always nagging as usual, Seville. I wasn’t going to bother Lady Calypse anyway with asking to go to a bar.”
Max laughed nervously, unsure of how to act. The princess lived so roughly, like a knight. Surely, being a magician allowed her to live differently from the average noblewoman.
Maybe if Max could perform stronger magic, she could be able to travel like her and go to exciting places like bars. The world was so vast, and she had hardly seen any of it! It seemed exciting to venture wherever she liked, but would Riftan be okay with giving her so much freedom?
Suddenly, the carriage started to shake.
“The road is uneven. Please hold on tight”, the coachman said opening the front seat window, and everyone in the carriage held onto the door handles.
As the coachman warned, the wagon began to move dangerously. From inside, it felt like an earthquake had started. Max sat straighter, feet planted firmly on the ground to keep her from slipping off the seat.
The forest path soon ended to show a stream with a fast current and a water mill. The carriage started moving downhill over an arched bridge.
Soon, frequently used roads, wooden buildings, and tents emerged over the horizon. Max was impressed, the town was livelier than she expected. On the main road, carts and wagons were being driven by people egging on their donkeys and horses.
“I already noticed it yesterday, but the buildings here are quite tall”, Agnes said admiringly.
It was true. The buildings rose so high that that area could no longer be considered a small town on the continent’s outskirts. The construction of the three-story buildings had finished and the streets were littered with visitors and merchants.
“As the Leviathans brought more goods, the stores grew in number.” Rudis said softly. “Back then, the mercenary visits brought business not only to the restaurants and hotels here, but to the arms dealers and blacksmiths.”
“I knew that this town was growing in number, but not to this extent” Agnes muttered softly.
Max became anxious after seeing her thoughtful expression, her reaction was strange. Again, she couldn’t fathom why the princess had visited Anatol at all. She turned away to view the village scenery.
“I heard that Riftan has been at the quarry since the early morning. Are you planning to expand the estate?” Agnes asked.
“H-he plans to construct a-a road that will c-connect the p-port and the rest of t-the land. At least, that is w-what I heard.”
The princess opened her eyes wide at her response and became interested in the business.
“If you reconstruct the road for larger traffic and reorganize the route to the port, this will become the shortest route to bridge the southern and western continents. Then Anatol will become a metropolitan, commercial city.” She didn’t seem completely pleased with these prospects.
Max’s heart sunk. Maybe Riftan had been acting outside of the Royal Family’s interests, she didn’t know if he was under surveillance. Although their journey had just started, she could feel a drop of cold sweat flowing down her back.
As if Agnes noticed that Max was getting uncomfortable, she quickly changed attitude and talked more good-naturedly.
“Of course, the monsters are still an issue. If you don’t get rid of the monster habitats surrounding Anatol, it will not be easy to convince the South Continent to trade along this route.”
“Lord Calypse’s reputation may be the turning point to convince the Southern Continent”, the attendant said.
Max looked quietly at him and the princess, who were both occupied viewing the crowded buildings and intricate streets filled with horse-driven carriages.
Was Agnes right in assuming that Anatol would become a new metropolitan? Although there were many people in the streets, Anatol was still a small estate that laid near the countryside. Between the castle gate and main town, old houses were still being used, with people who kept small orchards or raised sheep, goats, chickens, and geese in fenced areas. Max felt a little disappointed that the peaceful countryside might disappear because of the industrialization.
“I want to see the market. Why don’t we start walking around here?” Agnes said. Max nodded, opened the front window, and asked to stop the carriage. After a while, the carriage stopped on a secluded road, and the coachman opened the door.
“Would you still like to stop here to see the market?” the footman asked.
Max nodded and stepped out of the carriage, followed by Hebaron and Uslin.
“Leave the horses by the carriage. I will escort the ladies”, Hebaron said.
“Why me?” Uslin started, but closed his mouth when he saw Max, then took the horses to the side where they could rest without saying anything else.
Hebaron threw a coin to the coachman for a repast, organized the guards and led Max and Agnes to the crowded marketplace.
It was busier than the last time Max had come with Ruth. On both sides of the road, merchants were huddled in thick tents, while mercenaries were trading demon bones and gemstones. Agnes, who viewed the scene comfortably, suddenly pointed to a stall at the end of the road.
“Should we eat lunch there?” she said.
The place had several crudely-made wooden tables, with some worn, old travelers sitting around a keg, eating food and playing card games. To sit and eat there…
Max looked at the place that was too poor to be called a restaurant. A woman who was grilling meat on a fire pit pulled a whole, live chicken on the cutting board, planning to roast it on a spit, and raised her knife high above the rooster’s neck. Max panicked and looked away quickly, but the rooster’s scream continued echoing. Soon enough, the headless rooster was hung upside down on a rope. Max looked back and flinched when she saw it revolving, the woman instead was calm as she put a bowl under the rooster’s neck to collect the blood, and then wiped her hands on her apron. Max covered her mouth in shock and turned back to Agnes.
“M-maybe it is too e-early for lunch.”
“Don’t say that” Agnes said. “At least eat a little. Look how fresh and delicious the grilled chicken is here.”
She did not seem offended by the chef’s bloody skills. Max broke out in a sweat, but luckily the attendant interjected.
“How do you expect a princess to eat off the market streets?”
He shook his head, striding past the mock kitchen.
“Princess, we did not come here to play, but to inspect Anatol under the name of the King. Let’s finish our tour and return to the castle quickly.”
“Ugh, killjoy” Agnes booed, but relented, and passed by the stall. Max sighed in relief before walking after them.
The princess took great attention on the market, she investigated the quality and price of goods carefully, and checked the competency of the shopkeepers. Sometimes, she asked questions about the town to Max.
“How do you manage your security here?”
“The g-guards come about three or f-four times a day to p-patrol the village. S-sentries stay along the wall. Th-there are also control points t-to enter the area. No one can enter t-the premises without an i-identification card from the t-temple.”
“What happens when someone disobeys?” Agnes said.
When Max didn’t know the answer to the princess’ question, she grew silent and confused.
Note: Nymeria: Agnes’ servant exposing her… I’m stanning, ngl.