Under the Oak Tree - Chapter 231
Translator – LF
Proofreader – Nymeria
“Are you exhausted?”
Noticing her passive expression, the princess asked with a smile, but Max blushed in embarrassment.
“N-No. I just feel sorry for the others who are travelling with us…that I am traveling so comfortably…”
“Not at all! You are a patient, Maximillian. Besides, traveling by carriage all day puts a lot of stress on the body.”
The princess leaned her elbow on the windowsill and sighed. “I thought about stopping at the port to let you recover fully there, but it would be better to get you to the royal healer as soon as possible…”
Princess Agnes tapped the mantle with her long fingers thoughtfully, her words trailing off. Max glanced at the princess’ face that was suddenly clouded and her eyebrows furrowed. Throughout the entire journey from Ethylene to Drakium, she received the utmost care. Even on board the ship, two servants were constantly by her side with a healer. When they docked, they travelled to Drakium in a carriage furnished with a large, luxurious cushion. In Max’s eyes, it was undeserving for her to receive such royal treatments, and she felt uncomfortable being treated like a patient on her deathbed.
“It’s just a little… lack of s-stamina. I rested and took a lot of medications… for weeks without end. I’m really fine no-now.”
“But it still wouldn’t hurt to see a proper-qualified healer. In the royal palace, we have an archmage from the wizard tower, he is well-versed with medicines from the southern continent. He’ll surely be able to help recover your health.”
Max wanted to tell her again that she is fine, but seeing how stubborn the Princess was, she kept her mouth shut. She had no good reason to refuse treatment from a good healer. Although the princess’s attitude was a bit excessive, Max did not want to argue with her and simply accepted her demands silently.
“Ah, that’s Drakium Palace over there.”
Max looked to where Agnes was pointing and soon saw a magnificent grayish white castle inspired by the Roem Architecture. The sprawling palace was like a magnificent spear, towering over the other brick red buildings with its spires. The royal palace did not appear as glamorous as her father’s castle, however it seemed larger. The carriage cut through the crowds and entered the huge circular town plaza. Max could see the great bell tower of the temple and the arched entrance leading to the regal palace.
The knights leading the procession approached first and soldiers guarding the castle walls pulled the crank to lift the iron gates. Max looked out the window and saw the knights on their warhorses marching in single file toward the palace grounds. Their carriage followed right behind them and soon, a vast garden lined with bushes came into view. Her eyes widened. Despite living 2 decades of her life in Croix Castle which was considered one of the grandest castles on the western continent, she couldn’t help but be amazed by the magnificence of Drakium Castle.
“We have to go first to the central palace to announce our arrival to my father. Then, we will go to my palace.”
The princess got out of the carriage before a servant could even open the door. The princess then held out her hand to Max to help her descend.
Max asked, a little confused that the princess was taking on the role of a knight in escorting her out of the carriage.
“My palace is in a more secluded place, closer to nature than the capital as the use of magic is very restrictive here. My father built the palace for me as a gift when I was thirteen. Now hurry and come on down.”
At the insistence of the princess, Max reluctantly placed her hand on hers and stepped out of the carriage. Uslin and Elliot came over to tend to her heaved a sigh when they saw Agnes snatching their jobs.
“Your Highness, we can attend to our Lady.”
“Maximillian is my guest, so it is natural for me to take care of her in all aspects.”
The princess dismissed the knights and led Max up the stairs. She followed Agnes to the entrance of the main palace adorned with hundreds of glass windows. Beyond the stately oval doorway stood steel-armored guards in endless lines of silk-clad attendants. As the princess walked inside, the knights and wizards involved in the war followed closely behind. Max looked around curiously into the strangely silent hallway. Beautiful statues were placed between stone pillars and dazzling golden chandeliers hung from the high vaulted ceiling. Once they reached the end, Max saw the entrance to the throne room.
“Her Royal Highness, Princess Agnes Reuben has returned with the Royal Knights!”
The attendant standing by the door announced loudly, and the double arched mahogany doors swung open to reveal the Whedon monarch on his throne. Max stepped onto the red carpet that lined the great room and looked up at the king curiously. King Ruben III sat perched on his throne, in a luxurious cloak of leopard skin and silk robes with intricate embroideries. The monarch wore a face of indifference and cynicism, not at all what she imagined a benevolent ruler of a kingdom would look like.
She felt nervous in the presence of his unexpected appearance. The King of Whedon was a handsome man, with an air of mystery. His golden tan hair was like the mane of a lion under his crown. His taut, wrinkled face which is far from his true age was covered in an untidy golden beard. His appearance reminded her of a listless cat.
The king then handed the scroll he was reading to the scribe standing beside him and extended his ring-covered clunky hand to Agnes.
“My treasure. I am happy to see you return safely. Welcome home, my pride and joy, serving to elevate the glory of our nation.”
“We have returned from the expedition, Your Majesty.”
Agnes walked over and kissed the King on his long cloak that adorned the carpeted floor. The knights and wizards bowed their heads and knelt on one knee in front of their King. Max quickly imitated them, getting to her knees and bowing her head. Then she heard a strong and authoritative voice that sounded a bit annoyed.
“Raise your heads. This King does not wish to speak while looking at the crown of your heads.”
Max looked around, and after seeing Uslin and Elliot on either side of her slowly raised their heads, she too looked up. Ruben III had an elbow on the armrest as he looked down casually at his subjects kneeling before him. He spoke again, in that low, powerful tone.
“Many did not return.”
“The war is not yet over, so I have ordered that a third party remains in Livadon.”
“… Who is left?”
“A lot from the Remdragon Knights, West, and Northern territories remain. All will return in a month at the latest.”
The King’s golden eyes studied the faces of his subjects closely, then suddenly, his gaze stopped when he met Max’s. She felt her throat constrict and gulped at the intense pressure strong enough to stop her heart from beating. The King, although he seemed detached and distant, gave off an intimidating aura.
“If my eyes are not lying to me, aren’t those men from the Remdragon Knights?”
At the call of their presence, Uslin and Elliot bowed their heads. “I am Elliot Caron of the Remdragon Knights.”
“I am Uslin Rikaido of the Remdragon Knights. We are here to accompany our Lady by the order of Lord Calypse.”
The King’s sharp eyes immediately locked onto her and Max froze on the spot. Then she quickly opened her mouth, trying to be as calm as possible.
“It is an honor to mee-meet you…Your Majesty. I am Maximillian Calypse.”
The King’s golden eyes coldly stared at Max, and at that moment, she felt like she was standing in front of a lion disguised in human skin. He stroked his thick, curly beard and his mouth twisted crookedly.
“Ah yes. Now I do remember being repeatedly rejected by that stubborn knight because of you.”
The temperature in the hall immediately plummeted, enough to freeze her bones. Max hurriedly bowed her head, her face pale and exhausted but Agnes was quick to redeem her.
“Royal Father, Lady Calypse is a wizard and one of the greatest contributors to the Battle of Ethylene. She was seriously injured during the war, so I have brought her here in a hurry to help her recover.”
“That is a very interesting story.”
Contrary to his words, Ruben III had a blatant disinterested expression plastered on his face. “Riftan Calypse is the pride of Whedon and this king’s most-favored knight. We cannot afford to neglect the care of his wife. She must receive utmost care and special treatment during her stay.”
“I am g-grateful… for His Majesty’s generosity.”
Max barely managed to mutter with a shaky voice. The monarch then looked away, like a cat tired of playing with its toys, then gestured with his hand towards the subjects who were still kneeling before him.
“I would be delighted to hear the details of your expedition, but I cannot keep you all here, who had just returned from an arduous journey and battle. I shall hear about the expedition at a separate time. Now rise from your knees. Tonight, a banquet shall be held in your honor.”
The scribe quickly wrote down the King’s order and handed it to a servant, who then rushed to carry out the order. They all bowed their heads in respects and rose to their feet then quietly walked out of the hall. Only when the doors closed behind her did Max let out the breath she was holding.
Seeing her with a pale, tired face, Agnes gave her a pained smile. “My father has a bad habit of making people feel uncomfortable. He was just trying to antagonize you, don’t think about it too much.”
Even with the princess’s words, Max didn’t feel comforted. King Ruben was the one who wanted Riftan to divorce Max and have him marry Princess Agnes. In the King’s eyes, her existence would be like a thorn stuck in his eyes. She bit her lip anxiously and, realizing her distress, Uslyn, who was watching her silently, opened his mouth to speak.
“Don’t worry, the King is merciful and just. No harm will come to the Lady.”
Max gave him a vague smile. King Ruben didn’t seem to have any compassion. And as if she knew exactly what she was thinking, Agnes laughed.
“I know he’s grumpy and can be a bit mean, but he’s just in his own way. Once he learns of your contributions, he will offer you nothing but praise. I’ll be sure to tell him in detail.”
They left the central palace and got into the carriage once more. Drakium palace was the size of a small village. They passed the great chapel, a huge training ground that could easily accommodate ten thousand men, and a lush forest of elms. Only then did the princess’ residence come into view. Max was completely drained of strength when she was ushered into a spacious and cozy guest bedroom overlooking the orchard and the reservoir.
“I’ll call the healer. Lie down in bed and rest for now.”
“You don’t have to do that ri-right away. Her highness Agnes must be really ti-tired too…”
“I promised Riftan that I would take care of you. For my pride and honor, I will, so don’t worry about anything.”
Agnes immediately summoned two female healers and they examined her as she lay rigid on the bed. They studied her complexion and poked her around her stomach. They asked her several questions, then threw more than a dozen different types of herbs into a porcelain teapot and prepared the medicine. Max eyed the dark, foul-smelling black liquid warily and turned to speak to the healer.
“W-What is this medicine? I’ve ne-never seen some of these herbs before…”
“It is a medicine that helps your body recover much faster.”
The princess quickly interrupted and answered vaguely on behalf of the healers.
“These medicines are good for your health so don’t worry about it and take it.”
Max sniffed the bitter herbal tea, thinking of the Princess who still took care of her despite also being exhausted from the journey, she squeezed her eyes shut and swallowed it down. When she emptied the cup, the healers continued their mysterious treatments and placed a pack of hot stones on her blankets to warm her, then applied a strange-smelling oil to her hands and feet.
“Excuse my intrusion, but the princess has summoned me…”
Just when Max thought the treatments would be over, another voice came from outside the door. Agnes turned and quickly yelled for the person to come inside. He was a slim man in his mid-forties wearing a dark gray robe. He stroked his messy beard as he approached her.
“Which idiot would draw their mana to the extent of draining it? Who is this fool? What an ignorant person. That person must be prepared to hear my sermon.”
“Simon, I will not tolerate such rudeness.”
The princess gave the man a stern look, but the man named Simon didn’t flinch. He snorted derisively, then turned to look sternly at Max.
“You don’t look like a wizard from the Wizard Tower. May I ask from which idiot did you learn your magic from to do such a reckless thing?”
“Simon.” The princess warned again and the wizard pouted.
Then, he dragged a chair and sat by the bed. “Yes, yes. Alright. I will stop nagging and examine her. Now, please give me your hand.”
Hesitantly, Max reached out her hand and the man took it between his dry, slim, brittle-feeling fingers and injected some of his magical energy into hers. She shuddered as she felt cold magic seep into her body. The wizard did this for about ten minutes and released her hand with a sigh.
“Her mana exhaustion is not as severe as I had expected. But still, you must please rest well for another month or so.”
“So, will she recover fully?”
At the princess’s anxious question, the wizard blinked his big, owl-like eyes and sighed again. “Her body will recover in time. However, you shouldn’t use magic again in the meantime. Not until your magic energy is fully replenished naturally, or else it could lead to permanent damage.”
“W-what kind of… permanent damage…?”
“One that could shorten your lifespan.”
Max’s body shuddered at his ominously low voice. To show that he was not exaggerating, the wizard had a serious expression and crossed his arms across his chest.
“Mana is the energy we are all born with. Wizards take mana by force from the natural world into their bodies and use it to cast magic. The mana inherent in the body is like the magnet that holds you magical energy. The lady not only exhausted her magical energy, but also the mana that powers and gives strength to our bodies enough to live. What you did is like to purposely shorten your life.”
“T-that was not my intention. It’s just at that time… there was no other choice…”
The wizard sighed deeply at her excuse. “There are some wizards who act rashly as the Lady on the battlefield.”
He muttered bitterly and got up from his seat. “Right now, the Lady’s body is as weak and fragile as a newborn. That is why you are constantly seeking sleep. Get as much sleep and rest as possible to help your body replenish what it has lost. And don’t even think about doing anything strenuous until you are back to normal.”
Max nodded. The wizard gave her a few more warnings and precautions before his departure. The princess and the two healers also left, but she could barely rest peacefully. Ever since arriving at Drakium Palace, all Max did was eat and sleep like a newborn infant. In between, she would take the medicine that the healers prepared and occasionally receive healing magic from the priests. A banquet was held every night, but Max did not take a single step outside the princess’s palace. She was too tired and in no mood to socialize in such noisy surroundings.
Even though she had left the battlefield, and everything was fine, she couldn’t shake off her anxiety and depression. Riftan kept flashing in her mind, and it pained her, worrying that she might have completely turned indifferent towards her. Overwhelmed with so many negative thoughts, Max closed her eyes and went to sleep. She was helpless against herself, torturing her own mind with her sadist thoughts. She spent her time idly, like a goldfish swimming around inside a fishbowl.
News of the victory came from Livadon after a fortnight. The messenger announced that the allied forces scaled the Pamela plateau and completely destroyed the main base of the monsters. At the arrival of such great news, cheers erupted not only from the Drakium palace but echoed throughout the whole capital.
Note – LF: Aw, dang ☹ Max is still so clueless. Anyway, why are great wizards inherently rude xD