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«Under the Oak Tree (Web Novel) - Chapter 410

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Chapter 410

This chapter is updated by Novels.pl

Tents of all colors crowded the streets, and the stream was lined with hundreds of horses ravenously siphoning water.

Maxi made her way across the chaotic square to the building where a throng of soldiers were waiting to receive their rations. A line of hundreds snaked from the large stone structure, likely used as a meeting palace for merchants. Some extended courteous greetings when they recognized her.

Maxi responded with a smile and glanced about in search of her husband. Though she spotted a couple of young men dressed in Remdragon Knight uniforms, the order’s senior knights were nowhere to be seen. It was possible that they were still fighting the last of the monsters.

Deciding to get a better grasp on the situation, Maxi headed to the outskirts of the city. Leaving the cluster of tents, she approached the rampart and saw sentries standing guard on the battlement. It was clear from their surcoats that they were Dristanian soldiers.

After carefully observing the men, she continued along the wall to the east gate. Before long, she found the row of tents bearing Wedon’s flag.

She cautiously approached a group of soldiers huddled around a fire. “Do you know…where Sir Riftan might be?

The gathered soldiers simultaneously looked up from their breakfast. Maxi’s eyes widened when she saw a familiar face among them.

“S-Sir Gabel!”

“It has been a while, my lady,” the knight replied jauntily as he removed his hood.

With his dark brown eyes gleaming in the firelight, Gabel scanned Maxi from head to toe in concern. “I heard you’ve been through a lot, my lady. I hope you were not injured.”

“I’m fine, as you can see, But…what are you doing here, Sir Gabel? What of Anatol?”

“Anatol is in good hands. Sir Remus Baldo is protecting it as we speak, and both Sir Obaron and Sir Sebrique are still forces to be reckoned with.”

With a light shrug, the knight added, “I was up north all this time to settle the trade dispute with Balto. I met Rovar and Livakion there and traveled south with them.”

“I see you have…been busy.”

“Not as busy as your ladyship,” Gabel replied with a crooked smile. “All I’ve done for the past three years is manage the mine and wrangle merchants or nobles. These days, I get confused as to whether I’m a knight or an administrator.”

Maxi awkwardly shifted her eyes. Although Gabel was not as explicit as Ursuline with his discontentment, he was clearly unhappy with the burden of managing the estate in Riftan’s stead.

“Y-You must understand that Riftan had no choice,” Maxi said in her husband’s defense. “We were made to set out on this campaign as soon as we returned from the Pamela Plateau.”

“I am aware of that, my lady,” Gabel replied with a bitter smile. “I was merely complaining. It is rather vexing, you see, to be the only one excluded while my comrades are fighting battle after battle.”

Not knowing what to say, Maxi awkwardly cast her eyes down. Although the knight’s tone was nonchalant, she could tell he was in a foul mood. He might have been close with one or more among the dead.

After furtively studying his expression Maxi tried to change the subject, “Do you know where Riftan is? I haven’t seen him since I entered the city.”

“The commander is camped outside the city in case of a monster attack. Your ladyship should be able to see him from up there,” Gabel replied, pointing to a watchtower beside a tent.

Maxi promptly climbed the watchtower using the staircase next to the wall. Inside, the air was stuffy from the beacon burning in the middle.

She circled to the arched window and flung open the shutters. The gray sky was stark over the shimmering white snowfield. In the distance, thousands of soldiers were camped outside the city gate. When she failed to find Riftan among them, she peered over the hill in resignation.

The field was littered with wyvern carcasses and abandoned siege weapons. As she vacantly gazed at the traces of battle, a light tremor ran through her.

It’s truly over.

Through the opposite window, Maxi spotted the basilica’s tower, which pierced the sky like a spear in the city’s center. The clerics would have finished restoring the barrier by now. Even though the monster of the Pamela Plateau had escaped, the coalition had managed to thwart the dragon’s resurrection.

Feeling somewhat invigorated, Maxi slowly turned around. Just then, a gentle voice came from the darkness, sending chills down her spine.

“There you are.”

Maxi jumped, her shoulders hunching instinctively.

Riftan stood by the dark entrance. He trudged toward her, murmuring gently, “Shall we start our private interview, Miss Mage?”

“P-Private interview?”

Maxi instinctively stepped back, wearing a stiff smile.

After calmly regarding her, Riftan pulled a chair next to the brazier. “You look tired. Come, sit.”

“I-I’m all-“

“Sit.”

Maxi sat down. Placing another chair across from her, Riftan took the silver flask from his belt and poured her a cup of wine. After vacantly staring down at the cup, Maxi gulped down the contents at his silent urging.

There was a stretch of suffocating silence before Riftan finally spoke again. “Maximilian Calypse, who is your direct superior?”

“W-Wouldn’t that be Ruth Serbel? He is above me in rank among the mages after-“

Riftan pinched her face, cutting her off mid-sentence. He repeatedly squashed and tugged her cheeks so that she looked like a puffer fish. Then, in a chillingly soft voice, he said, “Engrave this in your mind: I am your direct superior.”

Not wanting to fan his anger, Maxi meekly bobbed her head, but Riftan apparently had no intention of ending their private interview there.

Bringing his face close to hers, he said slowly, “Now, explain to me why my mage disobeyed direct orders to protect the rear unit and instead went to infiltrate the city?”

“I-I had no choice! S-Sir Kuahel asked me to locate the necromancer. Eliminating it would be the fastest way to stop the dullahans from coming back to life.”

“So you recklessly snuck into a city overrun with monsters?” Riftan asked, his voice dropping.

Maxi saw his chest rise and fall as if readying to yell at her, but he merely threw his head back and squeezed his eyes shut.

I wish he would just yell.

After taking a long moment to quell his surging anger, Riftan said in a subdued voice, “Do you even mean to keep your promise to me?”

“I-I do! I only agreed to help Sir Kuahel…because he swore on his honor to protect me.”

Maxi purposefully put on an aggrieved expression, but Riftan’s face only grew stonier.

“You seem to have great faith in the man,” he muttered ominously.

“Sir Kuahel is among the greatest knights in the Seven Kingdoms. Where else could we put our trust if the vow of such a man is not to be trusted? I only did what I could to defeat the enemy after I was assured of my safety.”

Maxi held her head up with conviction, and a heavy silence fell over them. For a while, the only sound was the crackling fire.

After glaring down at her, Riftan said through clenched teeth, “That man used the mages of the Tower while deliberately hiding the loss of the dragon stone. Yet, you entrust him with your life?”

“Th-That’s…” Maxi stammered before closing her mouth.

Riftan shot up from his chair. “Fine. I shall speak with the Holy Sword himself.”

With that, he turned toward the staircase. Maxi frantically stopped him.

“W-What are you going to say to him?”

“That I will break his neck if he ever approaches my wife again. Is there a problem with that?”

Her face flushing, Maxi raised her voice. “I-I will not stand by while you do that! Sir Kuahel merely acknowledged my capabilities as a mage! The man has no interest in me whatsoever beyond that!”

When Riftan let out a loud snort, Maxi felt her temper rise like heat in her head. She began pounding her fists on his back.

“W-What’s so funny? Are you belittling my abilities?”

“I am not,” he replied, grabbing her wrists, “but I fail to see why he insisted on dragging you into danger when Ruth was also there.”

“Y-You are belittling me! Ruth may be a better mage than me…but I am better at certain spells-” Maxi abruptly stopped her outburst.

She sensed a sudden change in the air, followed by a frigid current that chilled her bones. Even the blazing beacon sputtered out. It was as if all the warmth were being sapped from the world.

Riftan’s face turned grim as he walked over to the window. Just then, there was a sharp, high-pitched cry. It was like a resounding echo coming from a great distance.

The color drained from Maxi’s face as she started out the window. White, frost-like snow poured from the overcast sky. She covered her mouth as she gazed at the faint silhouette of the Lexos Mountains past the haze. The eerie voice of the monster from the basilica echoed in her ears.

You are too late.

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