Under the Oak Tree - Chapter 165
“What, what is it? Why are you so surprised?”
Max frowned when she saw that it was only Ruth, who ridiculously shrugged.
“Don’t pretend to be i-innocent… What do you expect when you sneak up on me like that!”
“Gods, who’s sneaking up on who? I walked perfectly normally, didn’t I?”
“You have to at least make a s-sound.”
“Did I have to holler and say, ‘Ruth the Great Wizard has arrived’?”
He retorted unwaveringly and pulled a chair across from her. Max couldn’t figure out whether she should laugh or get angry at Ruth’s rude attitude. Even though they hadn’t seen each other in a long time, Ruth’s attitude remained the same.
The wizard yawned wide, his face gloomy as usual, and then took the book from her hand, skimming through it.
“There are several wrong descriptions. Lizardmen are technically closer to being subspecies of dragons rather than being a sub-racial monster. Their bodies contain mana stones, and they can cast magic spells. There would be better details and explanation in Lord Calypse’s records than this book.”
“Between d-dragon subspecies and s-sub-racial monsters… is there a big d-difference?”
“Of course, there’s a big difference. Sharing a common ancestor with a dragon gives them powerful magical abilities, such as their unique dragon breath. They also have excellent anti-magic abilities, so a lot of magic spells don’t work on them. That is what makes them so difficult to defeat.” He placed the book back on the desk and scratched his head in agony. “Lizardmen are at a much higher level compared to trolls. They are intelligent, can use magic, and have outstanding physical capabilities. Thus, they are hard to kill with either sword or magic. One of them is harder to deal with than ten trolls combined.”
With a new impression, Max’s eyes traced the drawing of a beast that looked like a lizard and a human fused together. It had a reptile-like face, a muscular body covered in scales, and a long tail. The strange beast did not appear as clever as he said. As she squinted her eyes to read the description below, wondering how dangerous of a monster it was, Ruth tapped the desk with his fingertips, as if trying to call her attention.
“By the way, what made you read through the book of monsters?”
“Yesterday… I heard the news brought by the young knights. It made me wonder what kind of m-monsters he was talking about…”
Ruth tapped the tip of his chin with a thoughtful expression and spoke. “I was told that you healed an injured knight from werewolves’ venom using detoxifying magic. You must have heard the news then.”
Max nodded stiffly. “North of Livadon… I heard that t-there is an army of monsters r-ransacking villages. Will the Remdragon Knights…be involved in the e-expedition?”
“It’s still too early to be certain. However, there is a possibility they will be called for reinforcements.”
Max felt like all the blood drained from her body. Even though she was half-expecting that response, her heart still tightened at the thought of being separated from Riftan. She bit her lip, recalling the far distance of Pamela Plateau. How long would the expedition take this time around? How many months? Perhaps even years? Ruth, seeing her pale complexion, added cautiously.
“There’s a lot of work left in Anatol which the lord has to oversee. We have discussed it until the wee hours of the morning yesterday and we have come into conclusion that either Sir Hebaron or Sir Uslin will take and lead a part of the troops shall they be called for reinforcements.”
“I-Is that true?” Ruth nodded with a wry smile at Max’s eager question, she was unable to hide the relief on her face. “Unless it is inevitable, Lord Calypse will not leave Anatol for a long period of time. The road construction is a huge income generating project. Moreover, it’s been less than a year since the Red Dragon conquest, we can’t leave the territory empty for several months again.”
“I-inevitable circumstances… Are you saying Riftan will join the expedition in case that happens?”
Ruth hesitated to answer her question but eventually confessed frankly. “If the situation in Livadon takes the worse turn, Lord Calypse will have to come forward. Also, if King Ruben appoints Lord Calypse to join the expedition, it won’t be easy for him to escape his order.”
Ruth fumbled with his fingers, weighing the possibilities, and then sighed deeply. “There are so many bothersome precepts that knights have to follow. ‘Protect the weak, obey the monarch, and fulfill their duties to the way of the sword.’ Lord Calypse is not an ardent believer of chivalry, however… one cannot ignore these commandments. It would damage the reputation that he has worked so hard to build. “
Max’s face darkened as she recalled the words of Princess Agnes about the king suspecting Riftan’s loyalty. There was a chance that King Ruben would go to the extent of nominating him to join the expedition just to test him. The agreement made between the Seven Kingdoms was a treaty created for the sake of peace and safety of the continent’s whole population. It was made under the jurisdiction of court laws, even Riftan didn’t have the power to easily defy it.
Max gazed at the drawings of the hideous beasts through the book’s pages and bit her lips ‘til it hurt. Her stomach twisted as she imagined Riftan battling enormous armies of monsters. No matter how tremendously skilled a knight was, there was no guarantee that he would be safe or unharmed in battle. Several times, she had been made aware of Riftan’s recklessness so she was certain that he wouldn’t spare himself in battles, he wouldn’t hesitate to fight like hell in the front lines.
She felt angrily emotional out of nowhere. Riftan was a hypocrite for being obsessively anxious about her safety but not caring a bit for his. What kind of absurd way of thinking did he have? Her lips were protruding due to her disgruntled mood, deeming it unfair that she was the only one who worried to her stomach. Ruth’s calm voice suddenly broke her relentless thoughts.
“I’ll be joining the expedition too.”
Max lifted her head. Ruth, who was staring at the ceiling with his arms crossed, spoke like he was lost in thought.
“A long journey going to Livadon will require a wizard. Whether it’s Lord Calypse or another knight who will take the lead, it’s no doubt that I will have to accompany them. That would mean that Calypse Castle will need more of your magic skills than it does now.”
Max’s eyes moved anxiously at his sudden remark. Ruth nodded at her with a serious expression.
“Of course, I’m not obligating you. Currently, Anatol has a considerable number of mercenaries. Surely, there are wizards among them. I can gladly hire one of them, but it’s too much of a trouble to get a mercenary wizard to settle down. In case there’s no finding a skillful wizard, Lady Calypse would be the only one who can respond when an accident comes up just like yesterday.” He continued calmly, but then walked back and forth behind Max with hesitation. “I’m aware that milady suffered a great deal during the accident. It was heavily my responsibility for not telling you what would happen if you depleted your mana. I wanted to apologize back then, but Lord Calypse had a certain glint in his warning eyes so I couldn’t go find you…”
“You don’t need to apologize. Ruth, you also had to leave in a h-hurry because of the wyvern attacks… you couldn’t have predicted what would happen.”
“No, I knew that there was a possibility of an accident happening because of those monsters. However, I didn’t expect m‘lady to go to that extent in helping the wounded.”
Max didn’t have words to say at his extreme candor. “W-well, that’s the reason why I learned magic. To h-help… in the event of an accident… you taught me m-magic, right?”
“I did teach you with that intention in mind. But…I didn’t expect you to actively do it.”
He confessed with a shrug. Max was dumbfounded, her face slowly stiffening. She felt betrayed by the fact that the man who insisted for her to learn magic, did not expect much from her. Max stared at him coldly and noticed how Ruth was unusually timid.
“I apologize for underestimating milady’s sense of justice. You don’t know how much I sincerely regretted teaching you. When I heard that you lost consciousness, I suffered from a guilty conscience all night.”
“Ruth’s conscience i-is not that great… i-it’s not.”
“You don’t have to say that. I really, sincerely blamed myself for what happened.”
Max didn’t reply and simply glared at him while Ruth scratched the back of his head in shame, perhaps seeing how she was truly offended.
“I realized again that there is nothing more dangerous than half knowledge. If you will give me a chance, I’ll teach you everything you need to be careful with when using magic and how to deal with various crises…”
“You didn’t expect much… from me…”
“That’s not true. What I meant is that Lady Calypse exceeded my expectations. Milady’s response was beyond excellent. It was a bit over the top, although it wasn’t that long since you started learning magic, you’ve helped me as much as you can.”
Max looked up at him, scrutinizing whether he was really speaking from the bottom of his heart. Ruth persuaded her calmly, confronting her with a sincere look in his eyes.
“If you’re already fully recovered from last time, I want to continue teaching you magic from where we left off. If milady’s skills improve from now on, I will be greatly relieved.”
Max swallowed dryly at the increasing pressure she was put under. She also felt the need to polish her magical skills. She had been in Anatol for less than a year, yet she had already experienced two major accidents.
During the early days of winter, she took care of large numbers of injured people who were attacked by werewolves at a logging site and recently the attack of the wyverns at the road construction site. There was nothing that could assure her that it would never happen again.
If she faced a situation where she had a lot of injuries to deal with and Ruth was not around, she wasn’t confident that she would be able to properly resolve it. Max, who tried to measure her abilities coldly, shook her head. Her mana depleted after healing four or five people, her current skill-level was not enough.
She wasn’t sure how many months it would take for her to practice so she could be able to replace Ruth. Max gathered all her confidence and managed to barely utter the words out, like sand slipping off her mouth.
“Alright. If you t-teach me… I’ll do my best. Even though Riftan is against it… I still want to k-keep learning how to use magic.”
“Then it’s settled. Come to the library whenever you have time. I’ll be here unless I have to do something in particular.”
He grinned with a satisfied expression and tapped Max on the shoulder.