Under the Oak Tree - Chapter 229
Translator – LF
Proofreader – Nymeria
She wondered just how in the world did Riftan react that the blunt wizard with nerves of steel had behaved in such fear. Max clenched the sheets, her expression evidently anxious. Seeing her face, Ruth was quick to add to his words to
“Don’t worry about it. The lady contributed enormously to this war. If Lord Calypse loses his temper, all the people in Ethylene will run to stop him. Whatever happens, I’ll take your side. We’ve had our share of history, so the lord probably won’t kill me.” Max’s eyes widened and Ruth scratched the back of his head and spoke awkwardly. “Come to think of it, I haven’t been able to properly express my gratitude yet. I survived and I am alive right now because of the lady. Thank you.”
Surprised by the sincerity, Max hurriedly waved her hand. “N-not at all. I’m glad… that e-everyone’s is safe. “
Suddenly, a sad smile appeared on Ruth’s lips, but before she could ask anything further, the wizard went out of the tent. Although the conversation was brief, Max felt exhausted. It had to be true that she was unconscious for a whole week: all of her wounds seem to have healed, but her limbs felt tired, and her head felt heavy. She stared up at the ceiling with sunken eyes, then tried to sit up when suddenly, she heard more footsteps rushing towards the tent and two priestesses came rushing into the tent.
Max smiled heartily as she saw the faces of Idcilla and Selena. Seeing that they were both alive and well, Max let out a sigh of relief. Idcilla immediately ran over to her and tucked a thick pillow behind her to ease the pressure on her back.
“You shouldn’t be getting up all by yourself just yet. What are you going to do if you fall?”
“I was ju-just… trying to sit up.”
“If you need anything, call someone for help. You just woke up, so you shouldn’t be moving on your own for a while.”
The girl scolded her incessantly and pulled the blanket up to her chin. Selena walked over to her and set a tray by the head of the bed. “I made some light porridge with some herbs to help you regain some of your strength.”
Max took the spoon and looked at the two girls. Max was concerned that something bad had happened to them while she escaped in the middle of the chaos, but fortunately they seemed to have survived and hidden well from the monster army. Her expression was bright, thinking that everything was well, but suddenly a thought crossed her mind and her face hardened as she recalled the battle. She began to wonder what had happened to everyone else. Although Ruth informed her, she did not hear of any details. No matter what the result was, a full-scale invasion still took place. There must have been a massive number of casualties.
“What’s the situation… in the i-infirmary?”
“The number of wounded has increased by a lot, but the wizard who came to the frontlines with the Allied Forces has returned to help us and now the situation has gone stable.”
Idcilla poured porridge into the bowl and gave her a stern look. “The lady must focus on taking care of her health. We will take care of the work in the infirmary, so don’t worry about anything.”
Max took the steaming bowl and looked around. She wanted to probe for more details, if everyone was really fine, or if any of the Remdragon Knights were injured, but seeing how busy everything was, she didn’t want to snoop and be a nuisance. She blew on her porridge and slowly took a sip. She ate her food little by little and when she finished, Idcilla placed a partition to surround her bed.
She then carefully helped her clean, wiping her face, hand, feet, and back with a wet towel. Max was a little embarrassed but didn’t refuse. She had done this hundreds of times for her patients, but it felt a little strange to be on the other end of care.
“C-come to think of it… who changed my clothes…”
“I was the one who changed your clothes. The priestesses also took turns looking after you.” Selena replied as she pulled out a new change of clothes and dressed her.
Even the minute movements required to dress drained her stamina. Once they finished, Max collapsed back onto the pillows. She nervously opened her mouth to ask.
“Perhaps… d-did you see a small shekel in my clothes? It’s made of copper…there’s a shekel in my robes…”
Selena’s head tilted to one side and Max felt a dark heavy cloud form in her chest. She must have dropped it somewhere while she was frantically running away. She fell and rolled on the ground countless times. It was a cherished memory that Riftan had kept since he was a child, and her mouth went dry at the thought of losing something so precious to her husband.
“Can you check my c-clothes? My hu-husband gave it to me. It’s an item he gave to me… for good fo-fortune…”
At her request, Selena’s face grew visibly muddled. “The clothes were probably already burned in the incinerator. They were so soiled…”
Selena’s words grew quieter, but seeing the expression on Max’s face, Idcilla tried to turn the conversation around.
“Ahh, I’ve been so distracted lately. I think I placed it somewhere and completely forgot about it. I’ll go get it now.”
“I-I didn’t mean to bu-burden…”
“Of course not! No problem at all…”
The girl’s voice slightly cracked, and she coughed quickly to cover up her lies, then rushed to get Selena out of the shed with the wet towels, the basin, and the empty tray in hand. Max took a few more sips of the porridge and went back to sleep. After a while, Idcilla returned, and Max awoke to the sound of her approaching footsteps. She looked at the girl with concern and anticipation, and Idcilla smiled widely as she held up the ashen copper shekel with its edges burnt.
“The soldiers found it in the ashes of the incinerator. I washed it thoroughly with water to clean it off but the soot just won’t come off.”
Max quickly accepted the coin gratefully. She felt both relief and regret to have it back. “I didn’t know… it would be that much of a t-trouble to find this. You must be occupied, busy taking care of the pa-patients… I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize! It was no problem at all. When everyone heard that Lady Calypse lost something precious, everyone fought in front of the incinerator to find it.” The girl shrugged like the task was no big deal. “Everyone is very grateful to the lady. If you had asked them to rake across the mountains to search for something, they would have done that without hesitation.”
Max ran her fingers over the rough surface of the coin with a darkened face as she heard everyone’s devotion to her. She felt a complex mix of feelings: after all she had still escaped, leaving everyone else behind, to save her own life. Max couldn’t meet Idcilla’s admiring eyes and she didn’t dare to tell the truth either. She was afraid that if she confessed what really happened, they would turn cold on her.
“C-Could you pass my thanks… to those who helped find it…?”
“I’ll make sure to pass it to them. Now lie down and rest. I’ll bring more porridge later. If you need anything else, ring this bell here.”
Idcilla explained enthusiastically, as if happy to be used as a servant, then slipped out of the tent again. Max leaned back on her bed and fiddled with the coin in her hand. The small piece of copper was very distorted now compared to when Riftan first handed it over to her. One side of the coin was completely burnt black. She tried to scrape off some of the ashes with her nails, but eventually, she succumbed to fatigue and fell back to sleep again.
As Max wandered through her hazy consciousness, she felt something touch her cheek and her eyes flew open. Riftan was at her side. His face, indecipherable, as if he were wearing a mask. Instantly, the groggy remnants of sleep fled from Max, and she tried to get up as she gazed into his eyes anxiously. Riftan’s expression was identical to that of when they met at Croix Castle. The Remdragon Knight insignia embroidered on his deep blue cloak and dark gray armor evoked a terrifyingly gloomy atmosphere. His rigid eyes, his tense face, and his cold gaze… a ruthless, cold gentleman that made her fearful was gazing down at her. The stillness around her felt chilling.
Without saying a word, and without a hint of anger or concern, he gazed at her as she pushed the tangled hair away from her forehead. Then, he looked down at her hand and Max blushed when she realized he was looking at the coin he had given her.
“I’m so-sorry. It was something precious to you… and I ru-ruined it…”
A spark of anger ignited in Riftan’s black orbs. Max withdrew when she felt his pent-up emotions on the brink of implosion, but instead of yelling with anger, he simply snatched the coin out of her hand with a ghastly blank expression, then casually tossed it to the ground. The coin rattled and rolled into a corner of the barrack with a rattle. Riftan stared at it, then muttered in a hoarse voice.
“There’s no use to that…” Max paled as she looked at him. Riftan continued to look at the ground with an eerily calm face. “In two days, Princess Agnes will lead the Royal Knights back to Drakium. You will return with them and go to the royal castle.”
“B-But… the war is still going on…”
“The tide has turned. The commander of the monster army was hit by a rock from the landslide and died.” One corner of his mouth lifted slightly into a scornful look. “A pathetic, futile death for a monster that led an invasion of this magnitude.”
Riftan seemed unable to accept that the monster had met its death so easily, but he continued to speak in a blunt tone as if he was suppressing his seething emotions. “The Royal Knights of Livadon, Holy Knights of Osyria and some reinforcements from Whedon and Balto will stay and that’s more than enough to subdue the remaining monsters. We will manage to monitor the situation for the next two days, and Princess Agnes will return with the Royal Knights of Whedon to Drakium. You will return with them. The princess promised to give you the utmost protection.”
“Th-then… What about you, Riftan? The Remdragon Knight…”
“Some of the Remdragon Knights will go. Uslin and Elliot have volunteered to accompany you.”
Riftan rubbed his mouth slightly, barely turned to look at her. His eyes were emotionless as if they were covered with a black veil. “Grand Duke Aren said will grant a carriage. Therefore, the journey back will not be too difficult for you.”
“Ri-Riftan… are you staying here?”
He didn’t answer, but his silence was more than enough to be an answer. Max bit her lip anxiously then gathered all her courage and opened her mouth to speak again.
“T-Then I’ll stay too…”
At his sudden fierce shout, Max winced, and her shoulders hunched. Riftan’s large body trembled, as if he could no longer control himself. His body shook violently, and he covered his face with his hand.
“Please, go… leave this place, please…”
He spoke in a choked voice and staggered just like a strong wall on the brink of collapse. Seeing him like this, Max reached out to him and opened her mouth vaguely, but Riftan stepped back as if she had aimed a dagger at him. She looked up at his contorted face.
“No more… I can’t bear to have you here anymore. I’m begging you. Leave, please.”
It would have been a hundred times better for him to be furious and unleash his anger at her than this. Max felt her heart break into pieces, and the eyes looking at her were so shattered and beaten as it closed slowly. Seeing his head fall so downcast and helpless, Max was left speechless.
Two days passed and reports came in about all the monsters being driven north. Immediately, the troops, including Whedon’s Royal Knights, prepared to return home. Some of the Holy Knights of Osyria and Royal Knights of Livadon were called to accompany the journey of those permanently disabled due to the extent of their injuries who were to be transported back to the capital. Furthermore, two high priests and several priestesses were to accompany them. The war was not over yet, and Max had to wonder if it would be okay for so many people to return home.
“The elite knights who shall remain are more than enough to defeat the remaining monsters. While Maximillian was unconscious, the Remdragon Knight relentlessly pursued the retreating army of trolls and destroyed them. Seeing that, Balto’s army felt a burning competition and went after the trolls as well. Almost half of the troll army was annihilated just within a week.”
Princess Agnes explained as she laid her down on the prepared sheets in the large, luxurious carriage. Max looked into her azure-colored eyes with a worried expression. What was in her thoughts was that before the invasion happened, all of them believed that all of the monsters were being driven to the north and yet, suddenly, a huge army of monsters emerged out of nowhere and attacked Ethylene. Agnes cast a bitter laugh as if he read Max’s thoughts.
“The wizards did a search around the landslide. Shockingly, they discovered a secret labyrinth hidden under the walls. It seems that the monsters were hiding in there the entire time.”
“Under the rock walls?” Max asked in a stunned voice and Agnes nodded.
“The ones who were living in Ethylene seemed unaware of its existence, so the labyrinth must have been made back in the ancient times. The monsters used it as a secret base and hid in there.”
An eerie chill broke out throughout her body. That only meant that all this time, thousands of monsters were right under their noses. They were blind, their situation could not be worse than being under a lamp where it was dark. Seeing Max in rumination, Princess Agnes also frowned and spoke sternly.
“When the allied forces recaptured Ethylene, a total of 2000 monsters hid into the labyrinth, bidding for the right moment to attack.” Her mouth twisted into a disdainful smile. “The Allied Forces have completely fallen into the monsters’ trap. We have underestimated the monsters’ intelligence too much.”
Note – LF: 💔 Riftan, why ☹ If I wake up from a coma and be spoken to like that, I’d rather just fall back into a coma ☹
Nymeria: Poor baby doesn’t know how to handle all the pain and regret he’s feeling. I pity both of them, but their reconciliation moment will be so much more intense, I live for that T.T