Under the Oak Tree - Chapter 166
They wanted to start training right away, but because Ruth’s schedule didn’t allow it, it was decided that they would have started studying the following morning instead.
Ruth picked up a couple of helpful books from the shelf and headed out with a bunch of parchments. Max, on the other hand, was left alone in the library and began to read a thick, faded book.
The book the wizard had handed her was intermediate geometry. Her head swirled and her eyes grew weary at the book’s complexity, its content was difficult to understand. Max, who was earnestly flipping over the pages and scanning the bookshelves, had her eyebrows creased in concentration. After a while, she reached her limit of exhaustion and laned her neck back.
Without taking notice, the day had already gone by and the sky was tinted bright orange to a pale indigo. She massaged her stiff shoulders whilst gazing at the dark orange sun through the window, then closed the pages of the book and rose from her seat. Her stomach protested as her hunger rushed in.
Thinking of it, she hadn’t had any proper meal today, aside from a simple bread and soup. Max came out of the library, rubbing her groaning belly. In the hallway, servants were busy lighting up the candles. She gave them her habitual greeting and then slowly descended from the stairs. As she was coming down a couple of staircases, her eyes caught four servants carrying something beneath the railing. Max looked inadvertently and realized that what they were carrying was a blood-soaked armor, which made her harden her face.
“W-what’s going on? Again… Who got i-injured?” As she glided down the remaining steps, the servants who were carrying the heavy armor whimpered and stopped at their tracks. Max hastily spoke before they even got the chance to answer. “Is… is the l-lord i-injured?”
Her eyebrows furrowed as her eyes inspected the breastplate, tassels, and vambraces that were all soaked in dark blood: the pieces matched Riftan’s armor. What in the world had happened that his armor ended up like this? Even if it wasn’t his blood that soaked it, there sure was a lot of blood.
“Where is the l-lord…right now? Did he go up to the room?” Her face was flooded with confusion. “Why… are you washing all these outside?”
“That’s… because… we also don’t…” As the servants stumbled upon their words, flustered, Max decided not to wait for their answers anymore and turned around. She had to see with her own eyes what was happening to properly understand and ran out to the courtyard at once.
As she scanned the large, vacant lot, she saw workers splitting firewood, merchants passing by with carts full of thread, and maids pulling buckets of water from the well. Max’s eyes narrowed as she saw Riftan standing next to the servants with his upper body completely naked as he was pouring water on his head. When two maids approached him, handing him a bucket filled with water, he took it and used the water to rinse his blood-stained hands.
A clear gush of water soaked his long, thick nape and rushed down to his sturdy shoulders, smooth back, and slender waist. Witnessing the maids stealing glances at him and exchanging meaningful looks at the view of their Lord, Max angrily ran toward them with her face bright red. Riftan, who was rubbing his neck with his palms, widened his eyes at the sight of her approaching.
“Why in a place like this… you are…”
She was going to reprimand him for washing top-naked in a place where lots of people could see, but seeing him made her lose her voice, as if someone tightened a rope around her throat. Max glanced at his torso that shined like a golden statue in the dark reddish sun, his enormous body was tightly woven with exquisite and delicate muscles, and his golden-brown skin shone dazzlingly with a vibrant hue. She licked her dry lips. Even though she had seen his body a dozen times, her neck felt burning hot.
“I tracked down the monsters who attacked my knights in training and killed them.”
Hearing his voice, Max raised her gaze that was wandering on Riftan’s chest. He swept his jet-black hair, which appeared darker as it was soaked in water, and spoke in a somewhat awkward tone.
“The encounter stained my whole body with blood so I’m washing it off.”
“But you can go wash it in the r-room. I’ll ask for a bath to be prepared r-right away…”
“But I was a mess. I’m telling you, I looked like a ghoul.”
He muttered under his breath, then a maid took the canteen he held and refilled it with water, so he poured it again on his head. Max took a step back to avoid the flowing water, while Riftan shook his head like a hound to dry himself off and took a sniff on his forearm.
“Damn, the bloody smell won’t go away.”
“Th-then why don’t you… go up to the room. Clean it with soap, I’m telling you… it will go away.”
She said, lightly wiping her face with the sleeves of her dress. Seeing that, Riftan moved away abruptly, as if burnt by fire. His sudden reaction made Max widen her eyes in response. Riftan’s expression displayed irritancy and he spoke with a cautious tone.
“Don’t get your clothes dirty for nothing. Werewolves’ blood smells revolting.”
“It’s just c-clothes… It’ll be alright once I change.”
With her loose sleeves, Max approached him to wipe the dripping water off his cheeks and nape. Riftan flinched, as if he was about to push her off, but then gently lowered his head. She smiled faintly at the way he was acting, like a pet pressing his head against his owner’s hand, and swept the dripping hair away from his forehead. Riftan’s earlobe seemed to be burning red and she thought it could be because of the sunlight, or perhaps, because he was developing a fever, so Max anxiously touched his forearm and frowned at how cold he was.
“Your body… is cold. It’s still cold… in this weather…”
“This doesn’t bother me. There was a time in the middle of winter when I broke the ice on a lake to wash my body…”
“Don’t be s-stupid. If you get a c-cold what are you going to d-do about it?”
Riftan’s eyes widened at Max’s aggressive persistence. She timidly looked down, wondering if she had been presumptuous, but he simply picked up a drenched tunic. After wiping the blood off his body several times, he tossed the dingy cloth to the maids.
“Wash and soak it in lye. If the smell still lingers, then just go ahead and burn it.”
“Yes, my lord.” Riftan glanced at Max as the maids scurried to do the laundry. “Right, let’s go inside.”
She went to his side and followed him with relief written on her face. Riftan was soaked in so much water that in every step he took, he left a dark puddle on the ground. Looking down at them, Max spoke in a firm voice.
“From now on… come at once to the r-room. Don’t do such t-thing outside.”
“And what, show up drenched in seven bags of blood and frighten you again?”
Max frowned at his blunt response, but couldn’t help feeling embarrassed when she realized he was talking about the time they were attacked by a horde of ogres.
“T-that was my first time… seeing monsters… I was overwhelmed.”
“If you say so…” He muttered skeptically. It seemed like he knew what he was talking about and that Max was lying about what she really feared. She anxiously looked from side to side.
“Now… I’m not afraid of seeing blood anymore like before… you don’t have to worry about it.”
Riftan’s expression grew darker at her words, particularly when she said that she wasn’t afraid of blood anymore. He looked down at her with a piercing stare.
“I have no intention of making you get used to that kind of sight.”
Max couldn’t retaliate and kept her mouth shut. She felt a strange tension between them, it seemed like Riftan wanted to say something more, but she avoided his gaze and followed him into the castle.
She trailed hesitantly as he crossed the hall and called a servant on standby.
“Listen, prepare water for a bath and bring it up to the room. Bring new clothes to change into too.”
“Yes, my lord.”
“After bathing, I intend to have my meal in the room. Prepare and bring it on time.”
He bluntly commanded like a military and walked up the stairs quickly. Max grabbed the hem of her dress and hurriedly followed him. Riftan climbed two floors of stairs with wide, marching strides, and opened the door of the room, which was very warm since Rudis had already set fire in the furnace in advance. He carefully stepped inside avoiding the carpet and took off his boots.
“F*cking wolf cubs… making a mess out of my good pair of boots.”
She closed the door behind her and watched as Riftan cursed. There was a faint reek coming off the dripping wet leather boots, which made him wrinkle his nose, and he threw them to a corner. Max picked up a towel and handed it to him.
“I don’t need it. I’m going to take a bath anyway.”
“You shouldn’t stay wet w-while you wait for the bath water.”
He glanced at the pool of water beneath his feet, sighed, and took the towels from her.
Max walked over to the fireplace and poked the firewood burning in the hearth with a steel rod to raise the temperature, then carefully threw in some more wood.
When she heard some rustling sound behind her, she turned around to look over her shoulder and held her breath as she watched Riftan take off his wet pants. His perfectly shaped buttocks tightened as he bent his slender waist and his long, muscular legs were revealed. She thought of turning her back to be polite, but she couldn’t budge, she felt like she had become a statue. Max stared blankly at him, as if her brain had been short-circuited.
For the past few weeks, she barely managed to see her husband’s face once a day, she couldn’t even remember the last time she had felt his body grind on top of her to fulfill her pleasures. Having thoughts filled with desire, Max’s chest pounded, and her cheeks turned hot. At that moment, Riftan turned to look at her, as if feeling her lustful gaze.
Max quickly turned around and picked on the firewood, like there was suddenly something interesting in the fireplace. She felt embarrassed being caught drooling over her husband’s nakedness, her ears tinting red.
Please, get it together and don’t act like a pervert starved for pleasure! I mean, behave quietly and gracefully, like a woman from a noble family…
As Max scolded herself internally, she heard a tight voice over shoulder.