(WEB NOVEL): Under the Oak Tree - Chapter 150
Max stepped back in surprise as Agnes face popped up and immediately regretted moving her foot, her action could be seen as terribly rude to the princess.
“I-I have not seen a f-fighting competition.”
“Have you ever visited the Palace? My brother comes almost every year. Do you not like the Capital, Maximilian?” Agnes said.
Max broke out in a sweat, she did not like this topic.
“To tr-travel. I do n-not enjoy it m-much.”
“Still, please visit us with Lord Calypse once. This time, I will guide you around Drakium.”
“Thank you for the offer, but my wife is not strong enough to travel so far” Riftan answered, cutting off Max’s reply. He led her toward the exit and she looked back over her shoulder, bewildered. Agnes shrugged her shoulders, as saying she was used to Riftan’s rudeness, and gave her a strange smile.
“D-don’t do that. Y-you must not be so r-rude to the princess. As a l-lord, you m-must set an example”, Max said anxiously.
“Even if she is royalty, we don’t have to go that far. She’s just toying with us and enjoys getting on my nerves. I’ll take care of escorting Agnes, so don’t meet her anymore”, Riftan spat. “Like I said yesterday, that woman has a way of manipulating people to do her bidding. There’s no reason for you to mess with her.”
“B-but Riftan. Y-you’re already b-busy with the r-road construction.”
At her words, Riftan sighed as if he didn’t want to admit something.
“Actually, Agnes will help us regarding that matter.”
“In order to build a road that connects Anatol to the port, we need to get rid of the monsters along the southern border. If a high-ranking wizard like Agnes assists, it will save us effort. There’s no need for you to guide her around Anatol any longer.”
Max was lost in her thought for a while.
“The princess is s-still a g-guest. To ask for s-such a r-request… w-what if the r-royal family t-takes it a-as an offense?”
“One of Agnes’ attendants said something similar” said Riftan, clicking his tongue in annoyance. “It wasn’t me who had the idea though, it was the princess who offered to help. Don’t worry, I haven’t broken any rules.”
In the end, he was involving Agnes and the other guests in dangerous expeditions. Riftan saw Max’s worried eyes, grinned and stroked her head with his metal-clad hand.
“Don’t worry so much. I wasn’t extremely rude to her, it’s how we usually talk to each other. As for the expeditions, Agnes’ skills aren’t completely necessary for the more dangerous raids. I’m not crazy enough to endanger a royal guest who only came as an ambassador.”
Max closed her mouth because she felt a loss of words. She did not like this situation but could not find an alternative solution.
“Don’t worry,” Riftan said again. “Rest in the room. It was unreasonable for you to support the guests for so long.”
“I-I can also he-help outside, c-can’t I?”
“Can you?” his eyes transformed into thin slits, as if he disapproved.
Max was intimidated and stuttered, “I c-can do h-healing spells a-and other t-tasks.”
“Thank you for your concern”, Riftan said with a firm tone. “But Anatol has a lot of wizards and I will pay for their services. There’s no reason for you to get involved.”
Max closed her mouth. It was clear that he only wanted her to play two roles, the role as the Lady of Calypse Castle, and as his wife.
Riftan had said that she was his only family in the entire world, but she was not his equal that could solve his problems with him. Hiding her disappointment, Max walked one step ahead of him to hide her face.
Since that day in the training grounds, Max didn’t see Agnes at all. The princess was with Riftan almost every day. The two went out from early morning to head to the southern border often, and when they did not leave the castle grounds, they often had long discussions in the field or inspected the land.
Of course, the two of them were never truly alone, there were always a few Remdragon Knights and Agnes’ bodyguards, so there was no reason for Max to feel anxious or worried about the situation. Nonetheless, her heart was not at ease. Just seeing the princess’ brilliant blonde head standing by Riftan’s side jolted a pain in her heart. Max sighed sadly as she looked outside her window. Spring was showing in the gardens.
Agnes was the exact opposite of Max. Unlike her, she was confident, strong, beautiful, and worldly. Surely, after spending so much time together, he would realize how poorly he had chosen his wife, who was often melancholy and ungraceful. Her thoughts became gloomier. Max had been comparing herself to her sister Rosetta for almost her entire life, what if Riftan also started comparing her to other women? She bit her lip. Her inferiority complex was etched deep into her bones.
“What’s with that look?” Ruth said.
Max looked up from her philosophy book only to see Ruth standing at the entrance of the library, who was casually eating an apple.
“W-where have you b-been? I w-was worried a-about you since you h-haven’t been in t-the library!”
“I’ve been working in the tower for a while and making medicines here and there.”
Ruth walked to his favorite seat with a hearty stride.
“Y-you used to work m-more in the library.”
“I had evacuated in fear of encountering a dirty adversary.”
“W-who do y-you mean?”
“Agnes. I’d like to avoid her if I can.”
At the unexpected comment, Max opened her eyes widely. Most of the Remdragon Knights and the rest of Riftan’s men saw Agnes in a good light. She had assumed Ruth viewed Agnes the same.
“D-do you two h-have a bad r-relationship?”
“It’s just one-sided on her end. Agnes is a wizard of Nornui, so she treats me as a traitor who has broken the rules of the Wizard Tower.” He wrapped his arms behind his head and leaned back. “To be honest, I just don’t want the attention. I had a dismal time over there. By the way she treats me, I’m probably being treated more horribly from her and the other wizards than how the Church treats the pagans.”
“I h-had no idea. The o-other day w-when I heard t-that the p-princess was coming, I d-didn’t know it w-would affect you.”
“Why tell a story about bad blood if it can be avoided?” Ruth spoke grandly, as he opened a book that was close to him.
Max looked at him oddly and felt a kinship between them. She was relieved that there was at least one other person who didn’t favor Agnes. It was embarrassing how much Agnes upset her, but Max couldn’t get rid of her restlessness.
“I d-don’t think she is a b-bad person”, Max muttered.
“The princess is not a bad guy”, Ruth agreed. “Objectively speaking, her knowledge and skills are quite capable and she gets along well with the Remdragon Knights. How I feel about her is a separate matter.”
Max hesitated before saying honestly, “I-I am u-uncomfortable with t-the pr-princess.”
“I’d be surprised if you weren’t”, said Ruth turning a page. “It would be rather strange to be happy about seeing a woman who almost married your husband.”
His words made Max feel better. It was exactly as Ruth said, her feelings were reasonable! Before, she had often compared her jealousy of Agnes to a grumpy witch who harbored ill feelings, like those in fairy tales.
“Still, t-the princess is h-helping Anatol. I s-should see her in a b-better light”.
“She’s not helping us to be friendly”, Ruth closed his book and smiled lightly. “When I heard she was getting involved, I knew it was because helping us would eventually supply more materials for the Capital. That alone is a business the Princess Agnes would have self-interest in. I’m sure His Majesty also pressured her to convince Lord Calypse to come to the High Court. King Reuben wants the Lord by his side.”
Max’s shoulders stiffened. “The King w-wants Riftan to go to Drakium?”
“Didn’t you know why she came?” Ruth said. When he saw Max’s face, he quickly added. “But it’s not going to happen. Of course, Lord Calypse won’t be going anywhere. He doesn’t like the life in the Capital, the same goes for the Palace.”
“Obviously, since he’s been knighted, Lord Calypse has despised the nobility he’s seen going in and out of the palace. Even if nobles are respectful to him, it doesn’t make him feel better. He despises pretense.” Ruth shrugged, as if this was a universal fact. “Besides, Lord Calypse likes Anatol. Why would he want to be in Drakium, when he can act like a king and be in charge here?”
“A-a king, y-you say”.
“To the young people in Anatol, Lord Calypse’s reputation greatly exceeds King Reuben’s. Lord Calypse raised Anatol, like a man who revived reeds from the point of death. The citizens here sincerely adore their Lord since Lord Riftan has supported them.”
Max looked out the window, feeling overwhelmed. The landscape was picturesque as if a master painter had boldly drawn the scenery with a brush. Did Riftan truly care for this land? She was relieved he felt that way, and yet she also felt lonely. She was envious that he was so tied to a land.
“Anyway, Agnes won’t be here forever”, Ruth said cheerfully. “She will soon realize that persuading Lord Calypse to go back to the Capital is impossible and will leave. I won’t have to avoid her for much longer, I’ll just have to put up with the inconvenience until then.”
His absurd cheeriness made Max give a faint smile. As Ruth had said, she just had to wait for the princess to give up and leave. Once she left, surely her anxiety about losing her husband would cease.