Under the Oak Tree - Chapter 208
Translator – LF
Proofreader – Nymeria
Max mustered what little courage she had left and barely managed to open her eyes. It was difficult to see what was happening with the dust surrounding them as thick as fog. She could hear screams, the sound of steel colliding, the angry neighing of horses, and the sickening sound of ripping flesh. She stayed as close to the people around her as possible and shuddered in fear. A group of horses passed them, leaving behind a thick dust of earth, and the glow of the knights’ silver-gray armor passed before their eyes. Their silhouette charged the trolls like a storm and soon, a violent battle ensued against the dozens of trolls.
Max looked around nervously. Too much was happening, and it was hard to tell who was winning, it all felt like a living nightmare. Knights threw chains of hooks everywhere and wrapped them around the massive body of trolls like a net and the monsters fought back, roaring in anger. Their huge limbs hitting the ground rumbled and almost split the earth in two.
Max was terribly daunted by the fierce battle ensuing right in front of her. The knights mercilessly impaled the trapped trolls with spears and hooks, cutting their heads off when their struggle went down a notch. These counterattacks were repeated several times, until the battle eventually came to an end. The trolls who were still on their two feet dwindled down to half of the initial number and even those stumble helplessly under the constant attacks of the knights. Eventually, they drove the monsters to a corner in an organized tactic.
“It appears that it will all soon be over.”
As the thick dust settled, Archduke Aren beckoned to the high-ranking priest. Then, the barrier surrounding them disappeared, as it melted into thin air. Max flinched as she trembled: although it was announced that the battle was over, her stiff limbs couldn’t move an inch.
“It’s all over now. Hurry up and aid the wounded.”
A knight urged them. It was only then that they carefully went to the blood-covered battlefield and Max glanced terrified at the troll’s dead body slumped against the ground. The soldiers removed its armor, revealing its terrifying build: dark green skin like a swamp toad, muscular, heavyset body and a face of a monster like how it was described in the books. It had a large, hawked nose, yellow teeth with fangs protruding out of its mouth, sparse long black hair, and cheeks drooping like the face of an old saggy man.
She was watching the troll with such an engrossed gaze that she later realized that the head she was observing was already decapitated from its body, quickly turning her eyes away. Her stomach turned and her eyes became unfocused.
“Hurry and carry the wounded to one place! Those who are seriously injured should be brought to a high-ranking priest, while those who can still move should be gathered in one place to receive initial aid.”
One of the knights instructed firmly, and the priestesses all began to move. Max desperately pushed the gruesome image away and ran toward the fallen men. Some died right where they were, but she averted her eyes from those who were crushed, concentrating on finding those still breathing and conscious.
It couldn’t be said that they had been fortunate, since many people had perished, but two-thirds of the men left in the battlefield were still breathing. After carefully checking the extent of their injuries, Max casted healing magic. She felt a bit anxious, wondering if people would find it strange that a priestess was capable of conjuring magic, but no one paid attention to it. Soldiers and knights rushed to remove the armor from the trolls’ body, while the priestesses and the high priests were occupied with tending to the wounded.
Making sure no one was looking in her direction, Max stealthily applied more healing magic. After healing seven people in a row, her mana reached its limits. Carefully judging how much mana she had left, she decided to refrain from using healing magic to prevent the risk of magic exhaustion. Instead, she concentrated on moving the wounded to an area, as the other priestesses were already doing. Those in critical condition were brought before the high priest to be treated with divine magic, while soldiers with minor injuries, such as fractures or heavy bruises, were led into the hastily erected tents. The wounded were placed neatly on the blankets, and a knight who was supervising yelled in a stern tone.
“At the moment, we cannot cast healing magic for everyone. There’s one more day left until we get to Servyn. Once everyone has received first aid, we will take a short break and begin to move immediately. I hope everyone can endure it for a little longer.”
The wounded soldiers nodded wordlessly as the priestesses stripped off their armor and began to clean their torn flesh, and Max also helped remove their armor to clean dust and dirt from the wounds. Watching the soldiers squirm and groan in pain, she felt a strange sense of guilt creep inside her: if she only had more mana, all those wounds would heal in no time, but she couldn’t afford to try too hard. If she pushed herself and collapsed just like the last time, it wouldn’t do anything but trouble.
Max applied the cast to the wound and wrapped it in bandages made from torn sheets. Some of the wounds were so large that she had to stitch them up, just as Ruth taught her. Many soldiers paled at the thought of their skin being stitched together with thread and needle, but most of them wordlessly accepted her help. After giving them painkillers, she began to stitch up their wounds one by one.
“There are more injured here! Someone please give me a hand!”
Just as Max finished suturing and bandaging the wound, a soldier yelled in the distance. She got up quickly and walked over. The moment she stepped outside, the body of a troll lying near a large rock caught her eye and she froze in shock.
“What are you doing?! Hurry up and help me with this guy!”
She had no choice but to follow the soldier, finding two unconscious men lying next to the monster’s body. Max supported one of them and struggled to lift him up, as the soldier who called for help picked up the other one and the two returned to the tent with the unconscious soldiers in tow. Suddenly, a strange thumping sound came from behind her as they moved, sending a foreboding chill down her spine.
Slowly, she turned and saw huge red, burning eyes staring at her. Her legs shook and she froze on the spot. Her first thought was to run away, but she couldn’t move, it was as if she had turned to a stone statue. The troll, whose head was barely attached to his neck, grabbed his half-severed head and held it back into its rightful place. As soon as the flesh healed and his head was once again properly attached to the rest of his body, he came running towards her.
At that moment, a huge hook caught the troll’s neck and Max’s leg gave out. The giant monster, who was 7 kvet (210 cm) high, recoiled like a fish caught on a hook. The troll swung its limbs in retaliation, but the knight on top of the rock didn’t even budge. As he violently yanked on the chains, its body scraped against the ground, sending dust everywhere. It was truly a sight to behold that of a knight who managed to coil a monster three times his size. At that point, he drew his sword and quickly lowered it on its rock-boulder sized head, which snapped in two like a pumpkin. The scene was so unrealistic that Max couldn’t even feel nauseous.
“Can’t you even properly confirm if it’s dead?”
The knight’s cold voice resounded like a whip. The soldier next to Max was quickly shaken from his stupor and launched a round of apologies for his incompetence.
The gentleman clicked his tongue disapprovingly, then gestured his chin towards the tent. “Hurry and bring him in.”
The soldier with the wounded man on his back obeyed immediately. Max wanted to follow him, but her legs refused to move, she could only look up at the knight who had saved her. The knight had such ruthless expression that she could hardly believe that it was him who had struck such a strong blow. He leapt away from the dead monster’s body like a graceful cat and wiped the blood from his sword. His hood flapped, and his tan hair shimmered like gold under the sunlight.
Max groaned internally when she realized who it was. The knight who had just saved her life was Sir Leon Quahel, the Commander of the Holy Knights.
“What is it? Are you hurt?”
Max immediately lowered her head and grabbed her hood as the knight turned to her. “I-I-I’m f-f..fine.”
She tried to lower her voice to avoid being recognized and struggled to stand up. Her legs had lost their strength and as she tried to carry the weight of the unconscious soldier over her back, they shook like she was a newborn foal. Sir Quahel, who was watching her pathetic struggle, went over and snatched the soldier from her.
“I’ll carry him.”
Max looked at her feet, conflicted on what she had to do. She pulled her hood over to cover as much of her face as possible, but it seemed like he wasn’t close to recognize her. If he did, Max had no idea what kind of explanation she was going to offer him.
“What are you doing standing there? Go and lead the way.”
Hearing his urging cold voice, she hurriedly went towards where the camp was. The knight gently supported the unconscious knight and walked beside her. She could feel his gaze stinging the top of her head, but she dared not lift her eyes to check.
She swallowed hard. Did he perhaps recognize me?
However, he simply dropped the unconscious man on an empty bed space without saying a word. When he finally disappeared from her sight, the accumulated tension disappeared from her shoulders.
There’s no way he can remember a person he only saw once. Max convinced herself and went to where the wagons were. For once, she was thankful that she wasn’t so memorable.
“I heard that one of the fallen trolls was actually alive and suddenly attacked. Are you alright?” Idcilla asked anxiously when she saw Max, and Max nodded her head in response.
“I’m-I’m fine. A knight…saved me.”
“We were fortunate. The reinforcements who came are led by the Commander of the Holy Knights.”
“Yes… they arrived just in time.”
“They must have been patrolling over this area in case the trolls attacked to steal our food.”
Selena replied as she got out of the wagon, carrying a cauldron. Max hardened into the prospect that it was a premeditated attack. Contrary to their dull appearance, trolls were considered highly intelligent monsters. If such terrifying monsters had the ability to form armies, craft weapons and armor, a tremendous disaster would surely befall on the human race.
She pulled a packet of herbs from the wagon as she tried to deter her negative thoughts. At that moment, she had to focus on helping the injured, rather than wasting time worrying about such useless things. She passed down herbs to the priestesses and told them how to create a mix that would help replenish their energy. They also made medicinal tea and made the wounded take it. Then, Max went to help retrieve the bodies of the fallen warriors.
Being exposed to the sight of blood made her senses numb. As the belongings of the fallen ones were being collected, the gruesome crushed corpses were wrapped in large cloths and taken to the high priests, who prayed and drizzled holy water over their mangled bodies. After the simple ceremony was over, the soldiers began digging graves and constructing headstones for the dead, and Max was quite surprised by the informality of it all.
“Aren’t all the bodies…sent back to the capital?”
“It is too difficult to send them all back to the capital. Since there are priests here, the funeral rites could be executed and have the bodies buried immediately. Only their belongings will be later sent to their bereaved families.”
Selena whispered in a grim voice and Max felt her stomach twist at the possibility that a Remdragon Knight was also buried that way. She did her best to shake off those ominous thoughts, but they clouded her mind like a thick fog. Perhaps, it was because she had witnessed too many horrors in one day.
She assisted with the funerals by helping retrieve the mangled corpses with her mind and body in separate states. After the corpses were all buried, another ritual was done to purify the dead monsters. When everything was sorted out, their journey continued straight away. Max sat on the corner of the wagon and rubbed her stiff, tired eyes. She stank of blood and her mental state was in shambles, but strangely she did not shed a single teardrop. She hugged her knees and watched the sun set in the horizon inside the rocking wagon.The Holy Knights, embraced by the glow of the setting sun, seemed more somber and intimidating than ever.
Were you able to deliver my letter…? Max wanted to ask how Riftan was doing, or if he was hurt, but she knew she wasn’t in the position to do so.
Once we get to Servyn Castle, I’ll be able to know. Max reassured herself.
She was drowning in terror and dread, but the thought of potentially seeing Riftan gave her strength. As long as she could verify that he was safe, she could endure anything.
Just a glance, from a distance, that’s all I need. She told herself as she buried her face in her lap, driving away the nightmarish horrors from her mind.
Note – LF: I’d collapse on the spot if I see anyone get squashed to death. Anyway, damn- Quahel is strong as hell (and Riftan defeated him? I can now understand why Ruth doubted that Riftan is pure human lol).