Under the Oak Tree - Chapter 172
Translator – LF
Proofreader – Nymeria
“Your hair smells good.”
He let out a satisfied moan and buried his face against her shoulder. A red tint spread across Max’s cheeks, glad she applied a few drops of rose-scented oil on it earlier. Savoring the scent, Riftan rubbed the bridge of his nose against her voluminous hair, then slipped an arm under her hips and lifted her so he could embrace her better. Max closed the shutters and leaned closer to his arms as she felt his rough palms caress her nape.
She was floating in complete ecstasy from being so intimately embraced by his large stature. His smooth hair gently tickled her forehead and nose, and his sturdy steel-like arms tightly captured her with a force that didn’t inflict her any unease. He brushed his slender fingers against the back of her ear, tucking a stray lock of hair. Max reciprocated, caressing his head, a slender moan escaped from Riftan’s lips and their bodies felt like melting at the burning sensual contact.
Max was deeply intoxicated with the scorching heat when they heard a careful, gentle knock on the door, pulling them out of the moment.
“My Lord, the water for the bath is ready.”
Riftan let out a long sigh, caressing her breasts with one hand, then planted a kiss on her exposed pale shoulder.
“… I knew this would happen. Our servants seem to always have great timing.” He grumbled and carefully placed her back on the floor. “Come in.”
The door opened at his command, and the servants went inside carrying a bathtub. Riftan approached the bath and pulled his tunic over his head, looking at Max and smiling seductively.
“It’s been a while since we bathed together. Shall we?”
“I… I already washed up…” Max murmured in a whisper as she glanced at the servants pouring cold water into the tub to adjust the water’s temperature.
“You can wash again, come here.”
He dipped his fingers into the bathtub to check the temperature himself then roughly beckoned the servants to leave. Max approached reluctantly, pretending to be hesitant as the servants rushed out of the room. Riftan gave her a satisfied laugh as Max began to loosen the ties on her dress.
The preparations for the expedition began early at dawn. Max woke up to the commotion outside and leaned out the bedroom window. Servants and knights moved busily to and from the spacious manor soaked in the bluish light of dawn. In the distance, the sound of horseshoes pounding against the stables and horses neighing could be heard.
Max rubbed her dazed eyes at the scene, then turned to find the side of Riftan’s bed empty. Needless to say, his armor was also gone. She sighed and called Rudis to help her get ready for the day.
Riftan said she didn’t need to worry about the preparations, but Max’s conscience could not allow her to send men into battle without doing something for them. She wore a blue blouse, braided her hair on the sides and twisted it up. As soon as she was done, she headed straight out of the great hall, going towards the sables where she saw dozens of horses lined up, and knights examining the horses’ physiques and horseshoes one by one.
Max found a familiar face amongst them and immediately approached the said knight. Sir Caron, who was in the middle of a conversation with Rodrigo, turned and smiled courteously.
“Good morning, Lady Calypse.”
“Good… morning. A-are you p-preparing to leave for the expedition?”
“Yes, I was gathering supplies necessary for the trip.”
He explained and pointed to the leather bags full of supplies and food stacked against the castle wall. She narrowed her eyes and tried to count how much there was, but either way, she estimated that it wouldn’t be enough food to last sixty-four men to Livadon. Seeing her puzzled expression, Sir Karon kindly added an explanation.
“We cannot bring too much food with us as it will only slow us down. We need to make room for other necessities like weapons, sleeping bags, and pots to cook. We will be able to pass through the villages on the way and buy what we need so we can conserve as much load as possible.”
Princess Agnes said the same exact thing said before leaving for a journey. Max looked around at the bustling atmosphere and looked at Sir Karon sheepishly.
“I-Is there anything… I can do to help?”
He asked, surprised as a troubled smiled spread across his lips.
“It’s fine, we can handle this ourselves. This is our duty. But thank you, for your sincere intentions to help. “
Max was not disappointed; she was half expecting for him to decline her offer anyway. She composed her expressions and asked another question.
“Riftan… The lord… w-where is he?”
“He is currently giving instructions to the knights with Sir Rikaido in the training grounds. Is there anything you need from him?”
She hurriedly waved her hands to signal no. “N-no. It’s just that I didn’t see him around yet…”
“Sir Caron! Should we now take the horses to the training grounds?”
Sir Caron looked over his shoulder to look at the knight who called him. Max, realizing that she was getting in his way, shyly backed away.
“F-for stealing your precious time… I’m sorry. D-don’t mind me… please continue with your work…”
“My apologies milady. Then, please excuse me”
He bowed apologetically and went to the where the knights had gathered. Max turned around and headed back to the gall. Although it was not necessary, the least she could do was prepare clothes and food for the knights.
She went straight to the kitchen and handed the keys to the spice cabinet to the chef and instructed him to be generous on the ingredients and prepare a ton of luxurious meals. Afterward, she ordered the maids to provide the knights with clothes and sleeping bags.
She made sure to have them checked carefully and repair the damaged ones. She also asked them to pack the newly purchased pots and bowls for use on the trip. As she busily ran through the castle, a familiar voice called out to her. Max turned to see Ruth running down the hall toward her with his long, slender legs.
“There you are. I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”
“W-what’s…the matter? I thought you w-were busy preparing for the expedition…”
“I have completed all the necessary preparations. Rather, there’s something I need to show the lady before I leave.
“What is it?”
“You will know if you follow me.”
He gestured for her to follow and turned to walk away without further explanation. Max followed him at a whim, no knowing what was going on. Ruth strode down the stairs and went out of the castle at once.
“Just w-where are we going?”
“To my tower”.
Max looked at him with surprise and quickly looked around. Max remembered that Riftan warned her not to dare approach that place. According to him, Ruth had created all sorts of strange magic spells around the tower. She stood as close to Ruth as possible, wary of any mana disruptions from the surroundings.
“What’s in the t-tower…?”
“We’re almost there, please wait a bit longer.”
He answered halfheartedly, as he was too tired to explain things one by one, and quickly walked along the winding path. After a while, they reached the entrance to the tower, hidden behind giant green elm trees.
Max looked around curiously at the gray tower embraced by vines of red ivy. Perhaps due to the lack of human interference, the walls were covered in weeds and moss. Ruth roughly scraped the moss off then took keys from his pocket and unlocked the tower doors.
“Come on in.”
She stood by the doorway, poking her head to see what was inside: it was a fortress shrouded in darkness. Water dripped from a hole in the ceiling, dampening the floor below. There was a stone staircase that spiraled up like a conch shell. Ruth entered without hesitation.
“What are you doing, aren’t you coming?”
She gave up waiting for a proper explanation from him and followed him in resignation. They climbed almost three-quarters of the tower before Ruth finally spoke again.
“Here we are.”
He said, pulling the old doorknob against the wall. Max looked warily inside and frowned. A strong burnt smell, the smell of bitter medicines, and musty old parchments pricked her nose.
“I-it smells bad in there.”
“What do you have against someone else’s sanctuary, are you disrespecting it? I just wasn’t able to air it out in a while so it’s a bit dusty.”
Ruth grumbled and walked over to open a window to let the sunlight pour into the dim interior. Max blinked at the sudden change of lighting. It was just how she imagined what a wizard’s lab would look like. Strange tools and models cluttered the floor, and old books were tucked into the book shelves against the wall. Cabinets were stacked with jars and jars of medicine.
Ruth beckoned to her and pushed the mess on the floor aside.
“I have compiled some magic formulas for the lady to study while I’m away. I tried to organize them in a way that is easy to understand… but I’m not sure if you will be fine with it…”
Max walked carefully towards him, doing her best to avoid stepping on anything. Ruth took a pile of parchment and handed them over.
“Take a look at it and tell me right away if there is something you don’t understand.”
“Did you drag me all the way here… to give me t-these?”
Ruth nodded. “You are also free to read all the books in this room while I am away. But as much as possible, please don’t bring them out of the tower. All these books are too valuable compared to those in the library, you’ll be in trouble if any of them gets lost.”
Max squinted at the white dust gathering on the sprawling pile of books. For something so valuable, it sure was treated like garbage.
“If those books are so precious… you should treat them with m-more care.”
“They are good as long as they’re readable.” He answered sarcastically and picked up a few books, placing them on his desk. “This one will help the lady with learning magic. Read it when you have time. This one is about herbal medicines. There are also anatomy books from the south. It is not translated, but if you study the illustrations and become familiar with the structure of the human body, it will help you cast your healing magic better. Medicine in the south is much more advanced than here, so these would be very helpful.
Once he was done frantically arranging the books, he went on to explain each and every bottle lined up in the cabinets.
“This red jar contains wound ointment. If you apply it after thoroughly cleaning the wound, it will heal much faster. The syrup in this bottle helps relieve swelling, and the leaves in the bag over there are for bringing down fever and detoxifies poison and venom. These dried roots help replenish mana. Oh, and it also helps restore energy. Now this…”
“W-wait a minute! Please explain it slowly…” Max quickly interrupted and searched for a feather pen and parchment from Ruth’s desk to jot down his explanations.
Note – Nymeria: Don’t lose the books, they’re so precious! What, I’m treating them like crap? Well, as long as they’re readable… lmaoooo Ruth I’ll miss you so muchh come back soon!