Under the Oak Tree - Chapter 212
Translator – LF
Proofreader – Nymeria
Upon learning of Hebaron’s injury, Max’s eyes widened in shock. Just hearing about the monster’s curse was terrible in itself.
“Th-then…is there no way to heal the wound?”
“Divine magic might work.” Ruth responded by frowning as he scratched his disheveled hair. “Don’t worry too much about it. The Remdragon Knights will have reached Ethylene by now, and the high priest there will take care of Sir Nirta.”
“W-what about everyone else? Are they alright? Riftan…”
“Sir Calypse is so robust that I’m considering having him leashed. The others are fine.”
He cut her off and replied in a dry tone, but Max was eager to know the details. “W-When I found out that you and everyone else were trapped in Louiebell… I was really worried. How was everyone doing there, being trapped for h-how many months…”
“I’d like to explain it in more detail, but there isn’t much time.” Ruth turned her toward the barracks with a difficult expression. “The knights will soon leave with the assembled troops and there are still many things to discuss before they leave.”
“Ca- Sir Caron… will he stay here too?”
“No, we will only be left with a royal wizard from Whedon and me”.
Ruth massaged his temples to soothe his growing headache. “If Sir Karon finds out about this, he will definitely insist on taking the lady back to Levan, whatever it takes. Then, until they leave, try to stay out of sight.”
Max nodded determinedly. “I-I get it. Until Whedon’s troops leave… I won’t be leaving my s-station.”
Suddenly Ruth turned to look at her piercingly. “Can you really live in such poor conditions?”
“It’s not a problem at all. A-all the other priestesses can do it… so can I too.”
Ruth looked complicated as he swept his eyes through her messy, ragged clothes. “But, m’lady is…”
He wanted to comment further but fell silent. He studied her appearance again from head to toe with a slight complexity on his face before speaking again.
“I guess so, no one would notice that you are the daughter of a duke when you look like that.”
Max contemplated Ruth’s words for a moment, trying to figure out if he was insulting or complimenting her, but the wizard turned to leave before she could say anything.
“Then, I’ll come see you again after the knights leave. Until then, don’t go outside your tent if possible.”
He warned her sternly as he walked away through the trees, leaving Max sulking on her way back to her tent.
The Knights of Whedon left with a handful of soldiers and wagons laden with food and supplies. As soon as they left, Ruth immediately set out to treat the wounded and a handsome wizard named Veylron also lent his help. They first targeted those with serious injuries and applied healing magic, then they gave mandrago potion to those who were in better condition. The priests also used their divine magic to heal the soldiers’ wounds.
Seeing this, Max felt incredibly inept. She had broken her back working, boiling herbs, making plasters, applying poultices, and squeezing out the yellow pus every day in an attempt to heal the fallen men. However, in just half a day after Ruth joined, a third of the patients had fully recovered. RutThe wizard couldn’t help but laugh at her expense, seeing the dejection plastered all over her face.
“I am one of the ten best wizards in the West. It is an insult to compare myself to a hatchling who has only recently started learning magic.” He said in a cheeky tone. “Stop making yourself miserable with these pointless comparisons. The lady did her best. If it weren’t for you and the other priestesses, half of them would have already died. They are all stable and alive thanks to you.”
Despite his attempt to comfort her, Max didn’t feel better. She wished that even if she couldn’t be as skilled as Ruth, she could at least have a larger mana pool that didn’t drain so easily. Meanwhile, she had to help with the burial of six soldiers whose conditions seemed to be improving, only to be found dead the next morning. There was nothing she could have done: by the time she got to them, they had already stopped breathing at some point in the night. However, she couldn’t help but feel racked with guilt, if only she used her magic the day before, then maybe everyone would have lived.
Seething with frustration at her own incompetence, Max buried an eighteen-year-old soldier in a secluded corner of the ruined fortress with a solemn heavy heart. As she shoveled the dirt over the boy’s body, she remembered Medrick’s words, that a healer’s life will be filled with frustrations and sufferings.
“Is there… a way to increase m-mana… in a short time?”
Over a large pot of boiling water, Max and Ruth mashed mandrago roots, herbs, and honey. The man, who had just caught a handful of purple lizards, looked at her when she popped the question and she added in a slightly softer tone, trying not to reveal her desperation.
“If my m-mana pool increases… I will be able to help more.”
“You are already helping a lot.”
Max frowned at his dry answer. “Please l-listen to my words sincerely. If I improve with magic… it will also help reduce your burden, Ruth.”
“M’lady.” Ruth responded with a bored look as he extracted off the goo on the lizards’ skin in a small glass bottle. “You are already showing amazing progress. Don’t rush too much. It takes time for a mana pool to grow and rushing it will only strain your body.”
But Max wasn’t going to give up there. She doggedly pushed her questions into him. “S-still… is there a special technique or training… that the wizards in the Wizard Tower use?”
Just as Ruth frowned and was about to lecture her again, the priestess named Nora, whom Max had become acquainted with, came inside the tent and rushed towards Max.
“Sister Max, I think Sir Lloyd’s wound has reopened. Could you take a look?”
Max quickly set the vial in her hand aside and followed the priestess. The tent housing the sick and injured smells of pus and blood, brined in the humid summer heat. Even with diligent daily cleaning and bathing of the patients, the smell of the sick would not disappear. As they walked to the corner of the large tent, she saw a large stain of blood pooling on the soldier’s back. Max leaned over and examined the wound and frowned at what she saw: the stitches were opened due to the soldier forcing to move his body. She glared at the soldier with scolding eyes.
“I told you… you shouldn’t move just y-yet.”
“I thought it would be fine, since I have felt so much better.”
The man muttered with a grievous face. With a clean cloth, Max carefully wiped away the blood from the wound. Ruth, who followed her, peered at her over her shoulders, then took a seat next to her, gently pushing her away.
“Please pass me the tweezers. It would be better to remove the rest of the stitches and cure it with magic than stitch it back up.”
“You-you’ve already healed… sixteen people with magic today.”
“Don’t worry. I still have enough mana left. Could you please bring some more clean cloths and a small pair of tweezers?”
Following his instructions, the priestess immediately went and brought cloths, scissors, and tweezers. Ruth meticulously removed the bloody threads baked on the wound, then skillfully casted a healing spell. The wound disappeared without a trace and the soldier, who had been bedridden on his stomach for weeks, jumped up and grabbed Ruth’s hands.
“Thank you very much, wizard! I will never forget this grace!”
Ruth got up from his seat and waved the soldier away like he was annoyed. Even though he said he was fine, Max could see how tired he was as she followed him outside. She knew from experience what a burden it was to deplete one’s magical energy. Fearing that he would collapse at any moment, Max approached the wizard.
“Is-is it too much?”
“I’m fine. Just one day of rest and I’ll be fully recovered.”
Ruth rubbed his sweaty face with cold water, and Max handed him a clean towel. He wiped his face, then let out a long breath.
“How many more men who could not move properly are left?
“Twenty… no, there are about e-eighteen left.”
“Then we can prepare to leave tomorrow.”
Staring at the tent full of wounded men, Max couldn’t help feeling dark and heavy at the prospect. Although most have recovered, they had weakened due to prolonged bed rest in deplorable conditions. She was extremely concerned that they would have to endure another difficult journey so soon after recovery.
“H-how long will it take… to get to Ethylene from here?”
“On horseback, without rest, about a day. But to move a great number of people like this, it will take much longer.”
Max swallowed nervously. In about three days, she would be able to see Riftan. Her heart was beating so frantically with anticipation, she couldn’t help but reveal it on her face. They had only been apart for a few months, but it felt like years to her.
“It won’t be that simple.” Seeing the blush spread across her cheeks, Ruth ruthlessly snapped her out of her reverie. “There is a high probability that we will be attacked by persistent kobolds or rom goblins along the way. The monsters will surely be targeting our supply of food and weapons. It will not be like a journey walking on thin ice.”
“B-But… the Holy Knights… and Grand Duke Aren’s knights… are all highly s-skilled… so, it should be fine, right?”
“Even with them, it’s hard to tell. Keeping track and protecting a huge group of people and vast amounts of supplies… I doubt we can make it through unscathed…”
Ruth muttered bitterly under his breath, but quickly closed his mouth seeing Max’s face turning rapidly pale. He sighed and scratched the back of his head.
“I seem to have worried you with my words. What I meant is, it never hurts to be vigilant. Always have your defensive magic ready and stay as close to me as possible.”
With a tight face, Max nodded with fierce determination mixed with fear. Ruth soon left her to tend to the other soldiers, and she spent her time preparing emergency relief supplies to distract her racing heart fueled by fear.
Finally, the day they would depart for Ethylene came. The priestesses got up at dawn to start packing and help the patients climb onto the wagons. After loading all of the herbs and necessities, they helped the soldiers dismantle the barracks. Max was sweating profusely as she made several trips back and forth between the barracks and the wagons, carrying heavy loads on each trip. After three or four hours of hard work, they were finally ready to go, and the priestesses barely managed to get into their assigned carriages. Ruth wanted to ride in the same carriage as hers, but all the priestesses opposed his presence in a women’s carriage, so he had no choice but to travel with the priests.
Not feeling comfortable leaving Max alone, he scolded her relentlessly. “Now that the Lady is a priestess, no knights or soldiers will risk their lives to protect you. You must not do anything reckless. If something goes wrong, come to me immediately.”
After pouring out endless amounts of promises and guarantees, Max finally got him to give in and leave her alone. She sat next to Idcilla and secretly reached for the dagger hidden under her robe. She still wasn’t sure if she could use it or not but having it close offered her comfort. Max could only hope nothing happened to force her to use that. Looking out the window, she saw that the knights were lined up on both sides of the carts and wagons. After the rear of the long procession passed through the gates of the ruined Servyn fortress, they began to pick up their pace. Once again, she had to hold on for life so as not to fall into the violent rocking of the wagon. It was hard to sit still when they were all so exhausted.
“I’m sorry… but can I lean on you a bit? My back hurts a lot…” Idcilla asked with an apologetic expression.
“Of course. You can lean on me comfortably.”
The girl leaned closer and laid her head on Max’s shoulder gratefully. In recent days, Idcilla had noticeably lost weight, but that was to be expected: all they ate was the crumbs of food left behind by knights, priests, and soldiers, as they worked like mules from dawn to dusk. Looking down at her own figure, Max noticed that her arms and legs seemed a bit more muscular from the hard work, but her body had become thinner. She pictured in her mind loaves of buttery pastries, stew made of goose, and pies filled with mutton or sweet jam.
At the end of this war, she wanted to go home with Riftan and have a month-long feast where she would eat from morning to night. She was sure that now she could eat a whole chicken by herself. Max was completely immersed in the wonderful dream as she staggered in the aggressive rocking car. Contrary to their expectations, the expedition advanced towards Ethylene without any difficulty. They managed to travel half a day without a break. When they reached a forest area, they took a quick rest, ate, and then immediately set off again.
They did not stop to set up camp in an open field until they were all nearly deaf from the rattle of the wagons. After the priestesses checked on the wounded along with the priests, Max had dinner and slept on the grass. The next day, even before dawn, they started moving again. It was on the third day that the procession suddenly stopped. Max, who had been dozing off while she and Idcilla leaned on each other, woke up to the violent racking of the carriage. She wondered if perhaps they had arrived, but as she looked out the window, their surroundings were an empty field without a single tree.
Looking confused, Max poked her head out the window and barely managed to stifle her screams. At the front, soldiers and knights were locked in battle with red monsters.
“We are being attacked by rom goblins! Don’t come out until the battle is over!”
A knight, who saw her, angrily yelled at her to go back inside. She hurriedly tucked her head back into the carriage. All the priestesses clung to each other, their faces full of fear. Idcilla also latched onto Max who unconsciously hugged her back as her eyes darted back and forth anxiously. She wondered if it was really alright to not do anything and sit still.
She was getting restless when suddenly, the loud thunderous thumping of horse hooves echoed around her before everything became deadly silent. Max was waiting for news or a cry from outside; anything to let them know what happened, but the car shook and started to roll again, as if there was no battle that had happened.
“Is the raid over?”
“I-it seems like it…”
Before Max could intervene, Idcilla opened the window and asked the soldier riding his horse next to them. “What happened? Is the battle over?”
“It was over in a blink of an eye.” The soldier puffed out his chest with pride. “Thanks to the Remdragon Knights, who were standing guard nearby, they managed to finish off all the monsters without much damage taken. With two Wigrew incarnations accompanying us here, there is nothing to worry about.”
Translation Note: Rem is “white” and Rom is “red” in Under the Oak Tree Universe)
Note – LF: OH MY OH MY OH MY….. AT LAST, RIFTANNNN!!!