(WEB NOVEL): Under the Oak Tree - Chapter 202
Translator – LF
Proofreader – Nymeria
Max hurriedly bent her knees to bow in return. Her stomach knotted in nervousness as she realized that the young man before her was the Commander of the Holy Knights.
She clasped the letter in her pocket with her fist. No matter how much she thought about it, it felt inappropriate to ask the Holy Knight’s Commander to run her an errand such as delivering a letter. She took a step back, feeling self-conscious of his stare.
“I apologize for… i-interrupting.”
“Not at all, if the lady has anything to ask, please don’t mind telling me.”
The Archduke said with a friendly smile. After hesitating for a moment and pushing her worried thoughts down, Max finally opened her mouth to speak.
“If it’s not too m-much to ask… I was hoping to send a l-letter… to my husband…”
The Archduke looked at her with a curious face. Max squirmed in place and pulled the letter out of her pocket. The letter that she put so much effort into perfecting was now in a badly shaped crumple in just a matter of an hour. Her cheeks flushed red as she tried to straighten out the folds.
“Could you d-deliver this to my husband? It doesn’t contain anything… im-important. I just wanted to let him know how I was doing…”
“Are you asking me to deliver this letter to him?”
The paladin asked in a dry tone. She was placed under the pressure of his indifferent gaze and that made her she spoke in gibberish sentences.
“If it would not cause the s-sir much trouble… when-when you get to Louiebell… and see m-my husband… if-if you could give it to him then…”
In the face of a person masked with an unreadable expression, Max’s voice began to break. She was sweating profusely from being so brazen to even attempt asking a favor, but then the Archduke suddenly intervened with a troubled expression.
“Lady Calypse, the Holy Knights will be coming in from the eastern borders of Louiebell. The Remdragon Knights are stationed on the western borders, they will not be able to meet each other right away.”
“I-I see. I didn’t know that…”
She crumpled the letter and lowered her gaze in disappointment. Then, the paladin took the letter from her grasp, his smile was dry and he appeared calm despite his stoic expression.
“It may not be possible to deliver it at once… but I’ll hand it over to him as soon as we meet. I owe him something.”
A brief exaltation passed over her, but his strange tone worried her. Max looked at him confusedly.
“Then… p-please do.”
At Max’s desperate reply, the man’s eyes narrowed slightly. Then, he secured the letter into his robe and spoke gently.
“I’ll make sure this gets to him. Don’t worry.”
“Well then, it looks like everything is prepared, we must begin the journey.”
At the Archuke’s urging, Sir Quahel Leon bowed before her and gracefully descended the staircase. Max watched dazedly as the young man made his way through the ranks. The paladin’s flag fluttered frantically in the summer wind, as if heralding the turbulent battles ahead.
“Please excuse me too, my lady.”
“Ah… I apologize for i-interrupting your time.”
The Archduke gave her a smile that indicated it was fine and went down the stairs to follow the paladin. Max watched them as they prepared to leave, then returned to the monastery.
Her heart was beating so fast she clasped her hands together firmly and closed her eyes. Now all that she could do for them was pray for the best.
Ten days after the Holy Knights joined the battle, news of Louiebell’s reconquest spread throughout the capital. Cheers and celebrations broke out everywhere; that was, until the bodies of the soldiers and knights who died on the battlefield came through the city gates without end. A long line of carts loaded with corpses filled the courtyard of the temple and people gathered to see if their family was among them.
Max also came with the ladies of Livadon, anxious and nervous, wondering if there was anyone she knew among them. The state of the bodies was unlike anything Max could imagine. Although all were washed, dressed, and prepared for the funeral, the prosthetics could not cover the miserable deaths that those men had faced. Very few of them had their limbs still in place and some of them had black cloths covering the upper part of their torso as they have been decapitated in battle.
Pale-faced, Max watched as the priests carefully placed the bodies in their respective coffins. Some of the noble ladies fainted on the spot, and she too was on the verge of passing out, but she endured the queasy feeling. She needed to make sure that neither Riftan neither any of the Remdragon Knights was among them.
Max wandered through the rows of bodies and swallowed the urge to vomit as she struggled to see and try recognizing any of the faces. Unable to bear the dizziness that had overcome her, she quickly left and crouched under a tree at the corner of the temple’s quagmire courtyard. One of the ladies went after her, worried about her state.
“Are you alright?”
Max looked up with trembling eyes. It was the lady who introduced herself not long ago, Idcilla Calima. The young woman’s tan eyes observed her with worry.
“Your complexion doesn’t look well. Should I call for a priest?
“Oh n-no. I was just a li-little… dizzy. How about you Lady Calima, are you alright?”
“I’m fine. I’m a lady coming from a family of knights, this much doesn’t bother me.” The girl held her head up bravely, but her complexion was just as pale as hers. Idcilla turned to the coffins and looked across the rows, as if to hide her weakness. “Fortunately, my brother is not among them. I asked the soldiers who brought back the bodies and they said that most of the people who were trapped in Louiebell are safe.”
Ruth and the other Remdragon Knights appeared in front of Max, and a wave of hope blossomed within her; however, it quickly faded when she recalled that Idcilla mentioned “most” of the people were safe. Max looked through the dozens of corpses again and soon tried to calm her trembling heart, standing up to approach the priests who were gathering the corpses.
Relief and sorrow mixed in the courtyard from the people who were watching as the priests named the bodies with the identification attached to them. Sighs of relief and wailing could be heard erupting from everywhere. Max couldn’t relax until the name of the last body was identified. She staggered as she went down the stairs, covered in cold sweat.
Her entire body was trembling. Relief washed over her but at the same time, she felt a chill run on her bones. She held her cold, sweaty hands together tightly. Idcilla hurriedly went to her upon seeing her weak state.
“M’lady, let’s go back to the monastery for now. I’ll accompany you.”
Max clumsily climbed the stairs, rocking left and right as she leaned against the younger girl, who was slightly taller than her. Suddenly, shame washed over her. Idcilla was only eighteen years old, it was embarrassing that a girl four years younger than her could bare much more than her. As she entered the Great Chapel on shaky legs, she did her best to straighten herself.
“I’m fine n-now. I can walk… by myself.”
“It’s no matter. I’ll feel more at ease if I’m around to catch the lady in case she passes out.”
Max frowned at her frank words. “I… I’m not going to pass out.”
The girl looked at her face carefully and nodded slowly. “I see that now. To be honest, I was surprised. I thought Lady Calypse would be the first one to faint.”
“Are you… mocking m-me?”
The girl blushed and sighed. “I didn’t mean for it to be an insult, I apologize if you were offended. My cousin Alyssa often tells me that I’ll get in trouble for my straightforwardness.”
“…I think she’s r-right.”
The girl smiled faintly at Max’s sarcastic blunt tone. “M’lady appears very soft-hearted, but in reality, I think she’s not like that?”
“Enough k-kidding around. It doesn’t… feel good.””
“I meant my words in a good way. Alyssa couldn’t handle looking at the corpses, so she returned to her room almost immediately.” Idcilla said, then suddenly her face darkened. “It’s not her fault though. Alyssa is very faint-hearted. And she loves Elba so much. She’s too afraid to watch, she doesn’t want see it in case Elba is among those defeated men.”
“Who is… Elba?”
Max asked out of curiosity. She though that talking to Idcilla would help calm her and banish the lingering faces of the dead men from her mind.
“Elba is short for Elbarto Calima, he’s my second oldest brother. Alyssa and he were engaged since the age of twelve. The moment he was ordained as a knight, he offered his geth to Alyssa.”
“It is rare to offer a geth… to the person you are b-betrothed to.”
Traditionally, knights dedicate their geth to a royal lady or the wife or daughter of the lord they serves. Idcilla nodded, indicating that Livadon’s cultural traditions of knighthood were not that different from Whedon’s.
“The case between those two is really special. Alyssa will be glad to know that my brother is still alive. Now, let’s sit down and rest for a moment, my legs are starting to hurt.”
They stopped in front of a pavilion in the gardens and Max sat on a chair, exhaling a trembling breath. Idcilla sat across from her and straightened the skirt of her dress silently. Although she wasn’t sitting very close to Max, her company brought her comfort. If she had returned to her room alone as she planned to do, the images of the mangled corpses would have haunt her.
Suddenly, Max realized why Idcilla helped her. The young woman was also reeling from the shock.
Idcilla gave her a stiff smile and put her hands in her lap. “The priests and priestesses will be busy with funerals for the next few days.”
“B-but… now that the battle is over, wouldn’t all the knights be returning?”
“Haven’t you heard?” The girl’s eyes widened at her question. “The allied forces decided to travel north. Now that they have successfully recaptured Louiebell, the monster army is retreating to Pamela Plateau and the knights will pursue them. They will also retake the other lands conquered by the monsters.”
“T-then…” Max couldn’t avoid stuttering from her trembling lips. “T-then… when will all this be over?”
It was a stupid question that no one could answer, least of all the younger girl sitting with her. Idcilla kept her lips closed and Max leaned her head weakly against the stone column. Despite the humid summer heat, chills ran in her bones. The battle at Louibell was just the beginning. Every three or four days, soldiers would bring back wagons loaded with corpses. As Idcilla said, the priests ran all day preparing and hosting funerals. Requiem songs could be heard resounding in the great temple.
Without a proper funeral procession and cleansing ritual, those who have lost their lives could become ghouls or lich. Because of this, hundreds of bodies were mass-cleansed in the Great Temple every day, and bereaved families filled the great temple. Although the monastery was quiet, sounds of wails and weeping erupted everyday in the great hall.
The gloomy atmosphere was so heavy that the Archduke Aren even came and offered to prepare a place for Max in his castle. However, Max refused, because when news about the allied forces came, the temple was the first to receive the information.