Under the Oak Tree - Chapter 185
Translator – LF
Proofreader – Nymeria
“It will be a good idea to be prepared to launch a defensive magic barrier any moment.”
Max was in the midst of cherishing her sense of liberation when Gabel, who was riding his horse in front of her, suddenly exclaimed at her. Max looked at him with a puzzled expression. Not a single wild animal was around, let alone monsters. She looked around carefully, terrified that some may be lurking in the tall grass watching them, but Gabel pointed skyward. Max inadvertently followed the direction he was pointing to and almost screamed in shock. Around six giant bird-like creatures with strange shapes hovered and chased over them.
“Those are harpies. It doesn’t look like they’re going to swoop down right away, but it’s best to prepare in case of an attack.”
Max narrowed her eyes as she continued to watch them carefully. Harpies were monsters that had the body of a great eagle and the face of a human woman. She couldn’t see too clearly from the distance, but she could tell that where an eagle’s head should be, it was replaced by that of a pale-faced woman. A shiver ran down her spine and she clutched the reins tighter.
Yulysion approached her and convinced her in a gentle tone. “M’lady, don’t worry about them and just focus ahead. We’re heading down the slope soon. The road will be rocky, so you must be careful.”
She quickly returned her attention to the road and, as Yulysion said, the jagged shape of cliffs and rocks emerged, stacked on top of one another, creating a steep incline and rugged terrain. They drove along the cliffs and stopped before the steep slope. Just below the slop lies a deep valley of rocks. The knights stopped, momentarily surveying the area below the slopes. They had to descend down the slope and at the same time keep a wary eye on the harpies in case they triggered rocks to fall off the cliffs.
“Indeed, those pesky creatures should be rid of.” Hebaron screamed angrily as he grabbed the hilt of his huge Claymore strapped to his back, but Riftan raised his hand to restrain him.
“Now is not the time to worry about them.” His cold eyes remained fixed at the bottom of the cliffs. When the knights near Riftan followed his gaze, they clicked their tongues and cursed roughly.
Max couldn’t see what the commotion was about from behind the troops. She poked her head out, trying to figure out what was going on, when Riftan started yelling orders.
“There are five half-dragons below. The second row… no, second and third row, prepare for battle. The rest shall wait here and stand guard from above, watch the harpies.”
The knights drew their swords all at once, while Max watched in awe as around twenty knights charged downwards like a raging wind. They rode skillfully down the steep road where rocks were piled unevenly in varying formations.
The knights who stayed behind in the cliffs split in two groups, one had to watch over the harpies while the other drew their bows to cover the knights battling against the half-dragons. Max felt like half her soul was drifting away at the sudden rigid situation.
“W-what should I do…”
“The Lady just needs to sit calmly and wait for the fight to pass. Just in case, be ready to cast a barrier.”
Gabel responded quickly and drew his sword. At that moment, the group of harpies grew into a flock of twenty, circling their heads in a dizzying manner and cried out a high-pitched scream in unison. Max covered her ears and began to form the magic formula according to Gabel’s instructions. At that moment, a loud roar echoed around from behind.
Max looked downwards. At the bottom of the cliff there were massive monsters and the knights engaged in combat. Her entire body seemed to freeze solidly at the daunting sight. The monsters were approximately 20 kvet (6 m) in size, and their entire bodies were covered in sharp, rough scales seemingly chiseled roughly. Long, sharp horns bulged from their lizard-like heads, and pointed teeth protruded from their vicious mouths.
That’s a… half dragon…
It appeared much more terrifying than the illustrations she saw in books. The monsters’ big yellow eyes shone, and the ground shook with each step of their thick, heavy legs. However, the knights quickly scattered amongst the rocks, not showing any signs of decline and disrupted the monsters.
The knights skillfully maneuvered through the uneven terrain as if they were connected to their horses. They systematically lured the monsters ten times their size and gathered them into a corner like they were hunting wild animals.
One of the knights wrapped an iron clad chain around one of the monster’s legs and dodged the heavy tail of the half-dragon that flew toward them. As the monster pried and shook violently to escape, Riftan did not miss the opportunity to thrust his sword deep into the only soft spot hidden near its neck. Dark red blood gushed out like a fountain, splattering everywhere. As Max was completely drawn in the scene, she heard Yulysion urgently yell at her in warning.
“M’lady! Stay away from the edge of the cliff! The Harpies might swoop down and push you!”
Max flinched and withdrew quickly. The harpies flew in a distance close enough that she could see their faces clearly as they flapped their wings. Some of the knights aimed their arrows at them, but Gabel quickly stopped them.
“Don’t attack them yet. It will be more cumbersome if they join the fight as well.”
“But they’re already…”
“They are not after us.”
His calm tone was instantly drowned out by the roars of the half dragons. Max waited for the battle to come to an end, anxiously fearing that Riftan would get injured. The battle cries of the knights, the thumps of the half dragon’s heavy feet, and the swinging of swords continued for a long time before the battle was announced to be finally over.
“It appears to be safe now. Kindly head down first with the apprentice knights. “
Gabel instructed and Max descended the steep slope on horseback, careful to avoid any large rocks in the way. She did not have the same agility as the knights. When she finally reached the bottom of the cliff, one of the knights who was disposing of a half-dragon’s carcass ran towards her and took the reins to help guide her.
“Lady Calypse, are you hurt anywhere?”
“I s-should… be the one asking that. Was there someone who got injured?”
“Sir Evan Crude was struck by the acid a half-dragon spewed from its stomach. Can you heal his injury?”
Max nodded and ran straight for him. The knight, Even Crude, was in the process of removing his breastplate and tunic with the help of other knights when she arrived. She stifled a groan when she saw his gruesome wounds. His skin, from his left shoulder, to his chest, was a dark red color, as if it had been doused with boiling oil. Hebaron clicked his tongue in disapproval upon seeing the tragic injury.
“This is only the first battle, yet like an idiot, you weren’t able to avoid it.”
“Don’t be so hard on me. Even Lord Nirta didn’t know there was one more hiding in the cave.” Evan grumbled through his teeth and grunted in pain. Apparently, there were six dragons in total, not five.
Max glanced at the scattered corpses of the half-dragons drooping amongst the rocks, then bent down to meticulously examine his wounds. Most of his skin on the shoulder had been scorched, revealing a layer of red muscle. Out of habit, she reached out to rest her hand on the wound, but it was held back by Hebaron.
“Don’t touch it. The Lady’s hand will burn too.”
“T-then.. it will have to be washed right away.”
Max instructed apprentice knights to bring some water and quickly washed the acid from his body. Even though the water touching the wound must feel terribly painful, the knight clenched his jaw and endured the suffering.
“It would have been a huge trouble if the lady did not come along.”
The knight even managed to smile breathlessly at her. Max looked at him through her comped eyes and cast healing magic on the knight, who still acted so relaxed even after suffering from a severe injury. As the burn healed cleanly, the tensed muscles on his shoulders visibly relaxed.
“Thank you. Looks like I’ll still get to live for a while.”
“If you’re feeling fine already, hurry up and rearm yourself. We’ll start moving again once all the mana stones are retrieved from the bodies of the half-dragons. There’s no knowing when those things decide to be a nuisance.”
Hebaron pointed at the harpies perched on the cliffs. The day’s light shone against the backs of the harpies; their faces appearing chillingly eerie that it seemed to turn their blood cold. Max desperately averted her eyes from the women’s pale faces that were creepily smiling and looked through the remaining knights to see if anyone else needed treatment.
Fortunately, the others were fine and did not sustain any injuries. Riftan was washing off the blood splattered on his armor in a nearby puddle while the other knights were slicing the half dragons’ chests, collecting their mana stones.
Max watched with a puzzled look. She knew that the dragon subspecies sold for a high value, but she didn’t understand why they took the time to collect monster parts when they were in a hurry to rescue the expedition team who preceded them.
“Do…we really have to take the ma-mana stones? Although it is a waste to leave it…we are in a h-hurry…”
“We’re not collecting it because it will be a waste to leave it. If the corpse was left alone as it is, the remaining mana stone will draw in the surrounding magical energy and turn it into an undead. According to the old doctrine, the corpses of monsters must be purified by fire. However, realistically, it is impossible to incinerate monsters of this size to ashes without using magic, so the mana stones shall at least be removed.”
“They will take care of the bodies.”
Riftan approached, dripping with water. Max scanned him from head to toe. Apart from being soaked from water as a result of washing off blood, he looked completely fine. He swept his wet hair back and stared at Max without saying a word for a moment, then shifted his gaze to the cliff.
“The harpies followed us waiting to scavenge the corpses of the half-dragons. Once we leave, they will be busy devouring them.”
“So, they won’t come after us anymore?”
“There is a high possibility that they will cling to us and wait for us to provide their next meal.” He glared at the creepy monsters sitting on the cliff as if they were annoying flies. “However, we’ll have to go far enough that they won’t be able to follow. I don’t intend to be bothered by those pesky hyena-like creatures.”
He spoke coldly and pulled Talon’s reins.
“Ri-Riftan… are you hurt anywhere?”
He answered dryly and put on his gauntlets that he had taken off. Max sprinted past him, trying to force him to look at her.
“Riftan… are you s-still mad at me?”
Riftan’s lips tightened to a line. She could feel his sharp eyes sweeping her dirty face, messy hair, dusted, and wrinkle clothes she had worn two days in a row. Max blushed and folded her arms before her body defensively.
“It’s a g-good thing… that I came along. It has only been two days… since we departed… and someone was injured…”
“We will move immediately.” He cut her off harshly. “I don’t have time for idle chat, go join the ranks right away.”
“Let’s talk for at least a m-moment…”
“Didn’t you want me to treat you like a wizard, instead of my wife?” He spoke bluntly as he mounted on top of Talon. “It was you who insisted on joining the expedition, even though it was against my will. Then you must follow the commander’s orders without any objections.”
Max glared at his sharp face that was wrapped in shadows, then turned around to take Rem’s reins from a knight. Gabel, who was watching their interaction, chuckled awkwardly and reasoned out for Riftan.
“It’s because the day started with a massive battle. The commander becomes a hundred times more frightening when there are monsters around. Even the slightest bit of carelessness can lead to death, so we all have to be vigilant like wild animals.”
“I…d-don’t mind. Riftan… I mean Lord Calypse is right. That person is my commander right now, and I am his w-wizard, so I must obey his orders.”
Max proclaimed as loudly as possible, making sure Riftan heard her, but he simply looked over his shoulders once with the same indifferent face. Max was dejected and stood in her place in the ranks.
Note – Nymeria: Maxi being petty is the best thing ever, you go girl!