Under the Oak Tree - Chapter 169
Translator – LF
Proofreader – Nymeria
Max was only able to return to her room after Ruth left for the construction site. She was exhausted. She washed her hands thoroughly at the well, but the slimy texture of toads seemed to remain.
The moment she returned to her room, she stripped off her toad-spattered dress and bathed with hot water, scrubbing with soap and sponge from head to toe. However, it still didn’t help, her entire body still felt disgusting.
How many more times do we need to do this disgusting training? The wizard did not appear to have any mercy. The following time, he would probably have her practice with poisonous lizards, tarantulas, or even snakes. Max rubbed the goose bumps on her forearms and vowed to do her best to advance on her training as soon as possible. To do that, she had to first master her understanding of basic magic theories.
After rinsing her body clean, Max put on new, comfortable and fluffy clothing, then sat down in front of her desk. She searched through the drawers and took out books, parchment, and ink to start studying. Rudis, who was by the fireplace heating a kettle, approached her with a steaming cup of tea.
“The wizard provided this tea. Please have some.”
She gave the maid a grateful look and took a sip of the hot liquid. The bitter tea had a refreshing scent that seemed to help repel her nasty experience earlier. She drank the tea carefully while reading her heavy textbooks page by page. Although she was terribly exhausted after using a considerable amount of mana and longed badly to rest, Max didn’t budge. She didn’t want to waste a single precious second. She had planned to convince Ruth to teach her defensive and offensive magic by tomorrow and somehow managed to read all her assignments by the end of the day.
“Milady, it’s Rodrigo, may I have a moment of your time?”
Max was three-quarters done with the textbook she was reading when she heard the butler’s voice and a soft knock on the door. She raised her head from the page she was reading and gave him permission.
“You may come in.”
Rodrigo opened the door carefully, stepped inside, and bowed with practiced grace. “I apologize for interrupting your rest.”
“You d-don’t have to apologize…May I know what’s the matter?”
“There are guests coming to visit the Lord. They will be staying in the castle for about two days. I thought I should inform milady in advance.”
“Guests…? From wh-where have they t-traveled?” Max asked, her face reflecting her confusion. Rodrigo’s face slightly lit up with embarrassment.
“The Lord did not disclose to me where the guests are coming from. He simply instructed to prepare rooms for three knights, baths and hot meals…”
Max’s eyebrows creased with anxiety. Could it be an order for reinforcements? A messenger from the royal family? Barely three days have passed since we received the news about the monster attacks…
“According to the Lord’s orders… he asked for the rooms to be prepared on the second floor. Also, to instruct the kitchen in taking care of the guests’ meals.”
As the butler bowed in exit, Max sat by the window and looked out intently over the gardens. Soon after, five men on horseback entered the estate. She could barely recognize their faces in the distance but the two men leading the entourage appeared to be escorts from the Remdragon Knights and the following three were the guests Rodrigo had mentioned.
Max squinted, trying to decipher the emblem printed on the orange triangular flag they were carrying. The emblem on the flag was far from the golden bird representing the royal family, yet looked familiar, so she guessed that it belonged to another noble family of Whedon.
She gave up trying to figure out which family that coat of arms belonged to and stood up. As lady of the castle, she had to welcome them, especially if one of them was a messenger from the royal family. Max called for Rudis to quickly put her hair up in a neat manner and left the room in a hurry. As she flew down the stairs, she saw Riftan enter the castle with the guests. Her eyes trailed his cold, solemn face, and then switched to observe the guests that followed behind him.
Two young men and a burly middle-aged man were looking cautiously around the hall. Seeing their wary expressions, Max gauged that their visit was not for a simple camaraderie. She approached the men with a rather tensed expression.
“Riftan… I heard that there are guests…coming…”
Riftan’s eyebrows creased and he visibly frowned as he saw her figure. He crossed the hall at once and went to her, twirling her still-damp hair.
“You should be resting, don’t let this interrupt you. These men are from Ruigen. They will be leaving in two days; you don’t have to worry about them.”
Max was bewildered at his blatant, inhospitable words despite being in front of the guests. She glanced at their direction but didn’t see any sign of them being offended. The middle-aged man approached her with a calm expression and kissed the back of her palm to show his courtesy.
“Greetings, milady. My name is Aaron Levaier. We came under the order of Count Robern.”
“P-pleasure to meet you, Sir Levaier… I sincerely hope your stay here is comfortable.”
Count Robern was one of the king’s vassals, he ruled a vast amount of land not far from Anatol. Max eyed them with curiosity as she wondered why the Count sent his knights. At that moment, Riftan’s sharp voice resounded.
“Hey, did you travel this far just to flirt with someone else’s wife?”
“I was just giving my regards.”
“Didn’t you say we have urgent matters to discuss? Don’t waste time and go up.”
Riftan turned and walked up the stairs. The knights sighed, bowing politely to Max, and followed him into his office. Max felt dejected for being pushed aside and trudged back to her room.
Riftan did not return to their room until late at night. Max pinched her thighs to keep herself from falling asleep and ran to him the moment he entered the room. Riftan’s face appeared weary as he opened the door, his eyes widening as he saw his wife still awake.
“What are you doing, why are you still awake and not sleeping?”
“I was waiting for you to come…b-back. I wanted to know what was going on…”
He frowned as he pulled out a chair to sit on and began to take off his armor. Max hung a kettle over the fireplace and set up a basin for him to wash in. Then, she walked over behind him and placed her hands on his waist to help him undress. Riftan, who was in the middle of unraveling his vambraces, awkwardly pushed her hands away.
“I can do it myself, don’t worry about it.”
“… To serve her husband…It is the w-wife’s duty…” Max’s face heated, wondering if her words were too blatant. There had been countless times he took care of her, yet she had only reciprocated it a couple of times. She spoke again, hurriedly adding to her statement, as if to make excuses. “You’re too busy… you leave early at dawn and come back late after midnight… O-on the other hand, I don’t have much to do… Wives have to make sure their h-husbands rest comfortably, I want to take care of Riftan too.”
Max didn’t wait for his response and stubbornly took the heavy pieces of armor with her hands. She staggered at the heavy weight and barely managed to maintain her posture as she waddled over to the wall where she hung the chainmail, and propped his breastplate against the wall, placing his greaves neatly on top of it. Although she had traveled only 10 steps, her forehead was drenched in sweat. She wondered how in the world Riftan walked around so quietly wearing heavy pieces of metal in his body.
“Leave it alone.” Riftan quickly dissuaded her when she tried to pick up the scabbard containing his sword. “You won’t be able to lift that.”
Max looked up and down at the sword that was practically stuck to his waist. Compared to those huge claymores that other knights carry on their back, Riftan’s sword appeared to be average in size. His sword stretched to approximately 4 kvets (about 120 cm) and neither the handle nor the scabbard held any ornate leather decoration. It didn’t look heavy at all and Max confidently refuted it.
“W-well… I may not be able to swing it… but I can at least lift it…”
Riftan pulled the sweat-soaked tunic over his head. He eyed her slender wrists skeptically and arched an eyebrow.
“You can’t lift it.” He said again, his tone filled with certainty.
Max ignored his uncompromising comments and placed her hand around the sword’s hilt with a stern expression on her face. However, just as Riftan predicted, with precision, she could barely lift the sword from the ground, let alone carry it somewhere. Surprised by the unexpected heaviness, she desperately gripped the hilt with all her might. Her wrists trembled as if they were going to break and almost dropped the sword to the ground. Her face reddened as she exerted effort, the sword lifting barely a finger off the ground.
“S-see, I can lift it.”
“You call that a lift?” Riftan clicked his tongue and then took the blade from her hands. “Hand it over to me, you might get injured.”
He handled the source with light movements and leaned it against his side of the bed like it was light as a feather. Max was stunned as he looked at him with amazement. She wondered how he could easily do that.
“Are… all swords usually that heavy?”
“My sword is much heavier compared to average bastard swords. The blade was made wider and heavier using a special casting method to enhance its power. At first, I also had a hard time wielding it.”
He explained with a subtle smile as he washed his face in the basin with the water Max prepared and wiped his body with a towel. Max took a change of clothes from the trunk and placed it next to him, carefully choosing her words as she spoke.
“May I ask why… the Count sent his knights…?
Riftan nodded calmly and rubbed his nape with a towel. “He sent them to form an alliance. He’s becoming anxious of the increasing monster attacks in his lands.”
“He seeks for the help of the Remdragon Knights in subduing the monsters running rampant in his territory. In return, he would pay us generously and actively support the road construction in Anatol.”
Max breathed a sigh of relief, grateful that it wasn’t an order for reinforcements from the royals.
“So… are you planning to accept… the a-alliance with Count Robern?”
“I said that I will think about it. It’s not a bad proposition, but I don’t think it will be worth it to disperse Anatol’s military power…”
“Is it because soon… you will leave for an expedition?”
Riftan, who was washing his hands with soap, paused and turned his head to look at Max.
She added hastily. “I… I heard that the monsters from the n-north are attacking… and the Remdragon knights… might have to be r-recruited…”
“Who told you about those useless stories?”, Riftan asked sharply.
Max flinched and hesitantly muttered. “I… happened to overhear the knights… when I was treating them…”.
She didn’t dare to add that Ruth had explained in detail what his plans were, it was obvious that it would spark an argument. Riftan sighed, clicked his tongue, and lightly threw his towel on a chair.
“We still have to gauge how the situation progresses before I can decide whether to go or not.”
“If… once the order for reinforcements is issued…” Max swallowed dryly. Even though she already knew from Ruth that they were planning to send another knight to lead, she still wanted to confirm it herself. “Ri-Riftan… will you be leading the knights…in case that happens?”
Riftan stared at her intently, as if trying to read the intentions behind her question. Then, he shook his head slowly.
“No. I’m thinking of sending and handing its command to either Uslin or Hebaron.”
Note – Nymeria: lol Maxi was sooo cute this chapter!