Under the Oak Tree - Chapter 156
Translator – LF
Proofreader – Nymeria
Max had to stay locked up in the bedroom until her body had recovered completely. Because of how great Riftan’s restlessness was, even when she left the room to see her business she had a row of nervous servants to attend her. Even after her mana had completely recovered and her dizziness subsided, Riftan couldn’t ease up. Thanks to that, Max had the time to postpone her duties of hospitality to the guests and train the cats in her room instead.
“Ron is the b-best skilled.”
She murmured dryly, waving a mouse-shaped doll that Rudis made for the cats. Just over the course of a few weeks the gray cat, which swung its front legs vigorously to snatch the doll, grew unnoticedly. Roy was being un-cat like, acting cute on top of Max’s knees while Laura, the white cat, which as unbothered as a queen seemed disinterested with such a childish toy, licking the soles of her feet from a distance. So far, Max had observed that Laura was a grim and savvy cat, and she showed no interest to anyone aside from Riftan. While Max was stuck in her bedroom, she tried tirelessly to get Laura’s attention but to no avail, the cat didn’t even pay any attention to her.
“Ron will be a great mouse-hunter. He is the largest, most curious, and belligerent cat. Roy is too meek, while Laura doesn’t do anything to avoid staining, getting her white fur dirty. The chef told me that these two guys are gluttons and have to fix their eating habits.”
“Y-you mustn’t. They’re still young… w-when they grow up, they will b-become useful too.”
She hugged the cats to her chest as if to protect them. Max knew that it was natural for animals to be thrown out if they couldn’t pay back the food their consuming, but she hated it when animals were treated harshly during her childhood. She felt that she had no power to do anything about it and that she was no different from the useless livestock.
Seeing Max’s determined expression, Rudis talked with a gentle smile.
“Even if you wanted to do as the chef said, it’s impossible for them to get hungry. The maids secretly take turns feeding them snacks and even the drivers throw them food when the cats sneak under the table. Just look at how chubby they are.”
Rudis grabbed Ron’s forearms and lifted him up. Max sighed lightly as the cat’s small, supple, and soft body stretched out like a flour dough.
“Is it a-already okay for them to leave the castle and w-walk around? They’re still so small…”
“That shouldn’t be a problem, we’ll just let them in the kitchen or the bedrooms. Everyone will watch over them.”
Max waved the mouse doll at the cats, looking down at their cute little faces that showed how they were satisfied and relaxed. While caressing their soft fur, she felt a slight comfort for her boredom and gloomy heart.
“Shall I prepare you a meal soon?”
“It’s a-already time to eat?” Max looked at the window, the sun was floating in the middle of the sky. “I’m not hungry y-yet.”
“The lord instructed me to make sure that you eat all meals of the day.” Rudis firmly stated, placing the rebellious, grunting cats into a deep basket.
Max sighed. To Riftan, she was perfectly stigmatized as a woman as weak as a chick. He was a man unusually overprotective, but recently he had grown almost paranoid about taking care of her. Even when she was sitting on the bed while reading a book, Riftan would worry about her getting a papercut or her arms getting a cramp from holding the book for too long. Max had already grown a little tired from the frustration that came from his pesky worries.
It’s not that I don’t like it, but…
Perhaps because Max grew up in an environment where she was treated harshly for over 20 years, she was not comfortable with Riftan’s excessive attention. She was happy to be pampered lightly but being treated like an infant who couldn’t even put food inside her mouth, it was sickening.
“Kindly wait for a while, I will bring your meal from the kitchen.”
Max got up and sat down on the table when Rudis left, hoisting the basket with the cats to prevent them from destroying expensive rugs or furniture. On the table there were half-burned candles, fruit bowls, and magic books piled haphazardly. While waiting for her meal, she scanned a few pages of a book hoping to read something, but she grew tired of it and closed the pages.
After realizing that Riftan had no intention of letting her do anything but be the hostess of the castle, she had lost all the motivation to study healing magic. She propped her chin against her palm and sighed. Outside the castle, the road construction was in full swing, the guests were busy exploring the estate, and yet there she was, stuck in a room and lounging, thinking about her old days.
Back in Croix Castle she used to be locked in a room too, out of everyone’s sight. On the days she got to wander around and some guests happened to see her, her father…
“Maximillian, it’s me. Can you talk for a moment?”
A voice interrupted her thoughts and Max rose from her seat in surprise. A woman hurriedly opened the door and entered the room. Princess Agnes stood in a white dress, alone, without any attendants. She smiled at Max apologetically.
“I’m sorry to come here so suddenly, but I seldom have a chance to see your face.”
Max blushed in embarrassment. Hosting dinners for guests coming from faraway lands and ensuring their comfort were the hostess’s critical tasks. Not showing your face to dinner for a few days was considered poor hosting and neglecting the guests,
“I-I apologize for neglecting my duty. F-for my body to recover…”
“Oh, you still haven’t restored your depleted mana?”
“It’s not like that. I’m fine n-now. Riftan’s just very worried…”
As the words spilled out of her mouth, the princess’ forehead creased and sighed.
“Just as I thought. When it comes to Maximillian, Riftan acts impossibly uptight. Staying in the room too much is not good for your health either. You have to move around to revitalize your body, am I right?” She sneaked closer to her with a playful smile. “In that sense, why don’t you go out with me today?”
“It looks like the spring festival in the village is going to start today. I heard about it when I went to the market the other day.” The princess took a couple steps back and spun around gracefully. Max’s eyes widened as her hem and twisted blue belt fluttered. Only then that she remembered about the festival. “Do you still have the belt that I bought for you?”
“I-I have it. But…” Max murmurs shyly. “Riftan w-won’t let me… go outside of the castle.”
“If you have the proper escort, there will be no problem on that.” The princess spoke confidently, but Max, who had been plagued by Riftan’s peculiar anxieties, was skeptical.
“Thank you for your i-invitation. However, without my husband’s permission…”
Max trailed off, unsure if the princess who had travelled across continents would understand her situation. Princess Agnes wore a serious expression.
“Fine. I will be the one to ask permission for you. Unless you hate the idea of going to the festival?”
Max hesitated for a moment and then shook her head slowly. Honestly, she was curious about the spring festival. As if the princess could see right through her feelings, her blue eyes shone vividly and she grabbed Max by the arm.
“Then get ready, I’ll take care of the talking so you won’t have to worry about anything.”
It was embarrassing that the princess’ attitude towards her was like how one would treat a younger sibling, but Max didn’t say anything and changed into a white dress, tying the red belt made of twisted cloth around her waist. Finally, as she stepped out of the room, the princess held her hand and strode alongside her through the hallway.
“Riftan will surely be at the training ground since I heard that he wasn’t supposed to visit the construction site today.”
“W-will it be okay?”
“After cleanly slaughtering the wyvern herd, no monsters have approached the site. There’s a possibility that monsters will approach the area to plunder the workers but Ruth has installed a monster detection magic on the field so any attack will be foreseen.” As if it was hard for her to admit, the princess spoke with twisted lips. “He is sloppy, but he’s excellent with crafting magic tools. If he says it works, it really does. Because of that, Riftan doesn’t need to guard the site all day.”
“T-that’s good news.” Max finally smiled brightly after a long time. She was relieved that she didn’t have to worry about Riftan going out of the territory.
The princess lead them straight to the training grounds. Contrary to what she was expecting, it was empty; no intense drills were going on like the usual. As Max looked around with curiosity, the princess explained that she forgot that the training hours had changed since the knights had to rotate in order to supervise the site. Max smiled bitterly at the fact that she, who was the wife of the Lord, knew less than a guest, the princess knew better about the schedule of the Remdragon knights than her.
“Everyone is probably in the conference room now.”
The princess greeted the guards lightly and stepped into the knight’s quarters which was next to the training ground. Max caught up to her closely, she had never stepped foot in this area, despite living in Anatol for several months. Her heart pounded, feeling as if she was entering a forbidden place.
“You’ll excuse me.”
Without any hesitation, the princess opened the doors to the conference room and entered. Max held out her head and peeked inside. In a gloomy room lined with wooden chairs, tables, spears, helmets, and armor, Riftan and five other knights were gathered, discussing some matter. Their gazes shifted instantly to Max and Agnes.
“What brings you here? You said you wanted to take a relaxing break today.” Riftan talked in a way that clearly showed that the princess was being a nuisance. Not yielding to Riftan’s heartless attitude, she simply shrugged her shoulders and stepped forward to face him.
“I came because I have a matter to discuss. I want to take Maximillian with me to go out and see the spring festival, would that be okay?”
Riftan’s dark face quickly hardened and showed a cold expression. He looked back and forth at Agnes, then at Max, who was standing behind her and looked away sharply, like there was no room for a chance.
“My wife has only recently recovered. I’ll ask someone to escort you, so go by yourself.”
“Your wife looks very healthy to me. Isn’t she?”
The princess squinted her eyes at Riftan and then looked at Max, the eyes of all the people who were in the conference room flew towards her in unison.