Under the Oak Tree - Chapter 148
It wasn’t just Max. Rudis and the attendant in the carriage made faces as if they were sick and Agnes burst into laughter.
“It’s only a rumor. If you’re caught, you’ll just be exiled from the Church. You would have to be crazy to attempt it, anyway.”
“Ripples in the water exist once they are made.” Seville, the attendant said. “It’s madness to consider eating monster flesh.” He covered his mouth with his sleeve as if he were about to vomit.
“Anyway, it is usually easy enough to make magical tools in Drystan, the state bordering here.” Agnes said. “The problem is getting the materials. Buying the materials requires permission from the government. Although a black market exists, the prices there are astronomically expensive. Wizards in the capitol often come down to the southern provinces to buy materials at cheaper prices, since Protestantism is more prevalent there.”
“T-then, is t-that why w-wizards are co-coming to Anatol often?” Max said.
“From what we’ve seen today, that seems to be the case, doesn’t it? There were a good amount of wizards in town bartering with the merchants. Perhaps part of the reason wizards are coming to Anatol is because the Church has less influence here.”
As Agnes had said before, wizards flocking into Anatol would be a great blessing to the province. There were just not that many wizards who lived here permanently, the province needed three times as many healers then they had now to adequately support their wounded after monster attacks.
“Even if more and more wizards come to Anatol, the traffic will stop in the wintertime.” Agnes observed, thoughtfully. “You really need wizards to settle here to make a permanent difference. Maximilian, are you a Protestant?”
“I-in the D-duchy of Croix, o-our head priest was Catholic. He p-preached about the t-testaments strictly.” Max began to add quickly, in case Agnes misunderstood. “B-but he was a p-pragmatic person and did not openly o-oppose magic. M-magic is useful l-like swordsmanship. God g-gave us magical r-resources.”
“Thank you for speaking like this.” The princess smiled gently.
Max didn’t mention that she was currently learning magic, too. It would be too embarrassing to speak about her feeble attempts of harnessing mana to Agnes, who was already an Archmage. She coughed and couldn’t stop the blood from rising to her cheeks, as the princess suddenly knocked the carriage door to get the coachman’s attention.
“Where are we going now?” Agnes said.
“We’re going to the castle.” Seville grunted. “Haven’t we been at the marketplace long enough already? I’m exhausted. Before the sun goes down, I want to wash away the dust that’s been cast on me today and rest.” He stretched his legs out.
Besides Agnes and the knights, the group was tired. And so, the carriage drove to the outskirts of the town and returned to the castle in a roundabout way. The sun was soon setting, turning the sky in a brilliant red.
When the carriage finally stopped, Max stepped out to see purple clouds among an amber-colored sky. Her shoulders and neck were stiff from being on her tiptoes around Agnes. She frowned and started heading to the main hall when someone wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled Max tightly against his chest. She looked back in surprise to see Riftan hugging her from behind.
“It must’ve been hard to be dragged along all day.”
“Omo-omo, what are you saying?” Agnes said. “You make it sound as if I were taking Max everywhere by force.”
The princess stepped down from the carriage. Uslin was helping her down out of courtesy and grunted at Riftan’s comment, but covered his mouth to hide it. Riftan ignored her and shifted his arm to hug Max around her shoulders. He kissed her head softly.
Max’s face reddened. Although he was often physically affectionate, it was still embarrassing for her to receive intimacy in public. At the same time, Max’s heart jumped with joy and she felt ticklish on the back of her neck. As Riftan caressed her neck with his thumb, she got goosebumps.
“Captain, has the patrol been completed?” Hebaron said. “I was going to join later in the night to help investigate the area. Any issues so far?” He continued to unpack Agnes’ purchases from the carriage.
Riftan sighed and released his arm from Max.
“We stopped early. There’s something we need to discuss. Gather all the knights to the meeting room.”
“Cap’n, right now?”
“Yes.” Riftan said.
Hebaron stretched his lips out like a duck, annoyed by his bluntness. Max also bit her lip, a bit disappointed that she wouldn’t be able to spend time with him that evening. Ignoring the others, Riftan gently pushed her back toward the Great Hall.
“Go back to the room and rest. You’ve been through a lot, today.”
She hesitated before signaling Rudis to come with her. Was Agnes going to retire as well? At that moment, the princess said to Riftan straightforwardly.
“Please let me join the meeting. I will help if I can, based on the history of our alliance.”
“Thank you.” Riftan nodded.
Max stood still and watched Hebaron, Uslin, Riftan and Agnes walk to the knight’s quarters across the field.
The group had left to the meeting room. Max’s heart ached for no reason, and her stomach felt upset. She headed up the stairs quickly, trying to shake off her uneasiness. She stayed in the room, ate dinner alone, and spent the evening watching the kittens playing on the floor. Riftan and the knights didn’t come out of their meeting until it was very late, the topic of their discussion was still a mystery. The maids told Max that they brought meals to the conference room for them.
She was tired but tried her best not to fall asleep, so she lit a candle on her desk and started reading a book with ancient text. After a long time, the door clicked open and Riftan walked in without making a sound.
“H-have you finished?” Max said.
Riftan, who was throwing off his armor in the dark, stopped and looked over his shoulder at her.
“I thought you’d be sleeping already.”
He took off his shirt and tossed it to the floor before getting closer to her.
“You must have been tired from going out today. Why are you still awake?”
“N-no, I-I’m not t-too tired.”
Riftan’s forehead creased as he touched her cheek and lightly swept the hair from around her dark eyes with his rough, callused thumb.
“You’ve been decorating the garden and welcomed the guests. There’s no need to overdo yourself.”
“I-I’m okay. R-Riftan, you work much h-harder.”
His touch felt good on Max’s cheek. She instinctively tilted her head and rubbed her lips against the palm of his hand. He flinched and groaned, then covered her lips with his. Riftan’s mouth was a little cold to Max and his tongue tasted faintly of wine.
“It’s been difficult to hold back.” Riftan muttered darkly, obviously trying to control himself.
He wrapped her face in his hands and rubbed the strands of hair curling around Max’s ear. His face was turning a golden color from the candlelight, which gave him the appearance of a devil.
“But I don’t want to force you, if you don’t like it.”
“I-I don’t mind.” Max slowly wrapped her fingers around Riftan’s arm. She had missed him so much.
Riftan was struck dumb. As soon as he saw the assent on her face, he groaned like a beast and began to kiss her, almost violently.
Max touched his hair and reciprocated, her body feeling hot. Riftan undressed her quickly and grabbed her breasts. Without preamble, she slid her hands against his firm chest as well. He was like a hunting dog without a leash who couldn’t hold back his enthusiasm. He soon moved their position to the bed, where he began to move his hands between her legs, hungrily pouring kisses below her knees as if he wanted to swallow her whole.
When he lost reason, he began to fill her with his body. After a beat, Max began to melt from the intense pleasure. The grinding went on until she climaxed, and the worries in her heart burned away. Yet a small corner of her chest felt hollow, despite the fleshy pleasure.
Max rested her head against Riftan’s arm and gazed at the canopy above the bed. She couldn’t imagine why she didn’t feel satisfied after being with him in that way. What could she do to get rid of this anxiety, despite how nicely he treated her? She had never felt this way before she had met him.
“Has your day been difficult?” Riftan asked, worried.
He had felt Max tense and began to rub her skin that was still cold with sweat. She shook her head and buried her face in his shoulder. Riftan frowned, as if he didn’t believe her, and cupped Max’s pink, puffy breasts with one hand, rubbing them softly and resting his lips on her shoulder.
“Has Agnes started her useless games again?” he said.
“U-useless? W-what do you mean?”
Riftan raised his head and frowned a bit. “Here, come lie on top of me.”
“W-well, r-regarding what you’ve said. I d-don’t u-understand.”
“The princess is calculating. She’s a genius at opening people’s minds with a few choice words. She has the ability to make people feel as if their insides were pushed out and manipulate them at will. I’m worried that she may have treated you badly.”
Max was shocked by his words. How could he gossip so calmly about the princess like that? She squeezed her legs around his iron-hard calves and crunched her toes together.
“You two l-look g-good together.” Max said stubbornly.
“…What?” Riftan said. His eyes widened in disbelief and then laughed at the ridiculous statement. “Have you seen how I treat Agnes? Why in hell do you think we look good together?”
“R-Riftan. Y-you treat her like Uslin, Hebaron, and the o-other knights. T-that’s why it s-seems you two have a g-good relationship.”
He raised his head to look at Max’s expression. She was embarrassed to show her jealousy out in the open, Riftan instead gave her a mean smile.
“If you think about it that way, I suppose our relationship is not that bad. She’s annoying, but a great woman of skill, and not arrogant like most royals. But that’s it. We’re only comrades, and I’ve never thought of getting close to Agnes that way. She probably feels the same.”
“R-Riftan, how c-can you be sure?”
“During the dragon expedition, we were together for almost a year, but none of us had the desire to cross that line.”
Max resisted asking what he meant by “crossing that line”, feeling that the truth would hurt her more. She hated that they had spent a year together. Even though she knew she could trust Riftan, her stomach became upset again.
As if noticing that she was still uncomfortable, Riftan blushed and spat out.
“You also have a good relationship with Ruth.”
Max raised her head in shock. How had Ruth’s name suddenly cropped up?
Note – Nymeria: How cute is Riftan, so jealous about Ruth? They’re finally gonna talk a bit and I can already smell wholesomeness, it’s just around the corner!