Chapter 21 – Light Beyond the Haze (1)
“Damn it! What?!”
“Please, open up! See that the sun is up in the sky! How long are you going to fool around in bed!?”
From the door came a violent outburst. Riftan threw his fierce gaze towards the man standing outside, as if his vision could cut through the material.
“If you interrupt me a second time, I’ll take your guts out! And if you dare protest, I’ll kill you.”
“We need to leave! Did you forget you still have to go back to the capital after you visit your estate?!”
“It’s not like we’re going to die if we delay for a day, so don’t fuck with me!”
“Go, go! You’ve been acting up for a little bastard!”
He shook his head and furiously cried. Max froze; this was the first conversation with nasty swearing she had ever heard in her life. Then, Riftan raised himself up with a troubled face and shouted out at the door.
“Put the wagon on hold! I’ll get ready and go.”
His opponent outside the door banged away incessantly, refusing to budge. Riftan sighed loudly, looking down at the floor.
“I shouldn’t have brought those children with me..”
“Wait for minute. I’ll go out and get some clothes for you.”
With a pale, weary face, she pulled the sheet to her neck and nodded. The man who was standing, and was in the middle of picking up his clothes, looked at her tear-streaked face and frowned.
“What? Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Spit it out. If you haven’t noticed it yet, I’m in a hurry.”
She hasn’t missed it at all. Her husband, who she was reunited just yesterday, had an extremely fiery temper. She murmured timidly,
“Well, the, the people outside, the people… you know, you know…”
“You know what?”
“Wh-what, what, what we did here…”
Her face glowed as if it was set on fire. The man’s mouth suddenly twitched at the corner as he gazed down her blushing face. The next moment, beyond all incredulity, he tossed the garments and went for the sheets.
“Oh, you’re driving me crazy.”
He grinned breathlessly as he hugged her body and lifted her unto his lap. Max fluttered her legs in embarrassment. He was laughing so innocently, far from the overbearing man from before and she couldn’t believe it.
“You naïve noblewoman. Of course, my men know what we did. There’s no such thing as a couple, who were reunited after three years of separation, would sleep in one room merely holding hands.”
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of. We’re married, and it’s natural for you and me to do this and that.”
Natural? She knew it was her duty as his wife, but what he shared with her didn’t seem natural. Suddenly Max was surprised at her own thoughts. Shared? Was the deed they did last night something of a give and take scenario? She couldn’t figure out why she felt this way. After all, it was all an act one had to endure to have a child…
“You’re red again. Ha, and it’s not just them.”
“But don’t be afraid. I don’t have the confidence to finish it before they break in.”
He kissed her playfully on the tip of her nose and lowered her down from his lap. She sat around the sheets like a cocoon in a corner of the bed, rubbing the spot on her nose he had left his touch. Riftan bent down and picked up the clothes he had discarded and began to wear them one by one. She rapidly turned her eyes away from the sight of him unabashedly dressing in front of her with his naked body. He quickly donned his armor and said.
“I’ll stand right outside and wait.”
She nodded her head gently. At first, her legs trembled to the point she couldn’t budge no matter how much she tried. But as Riftan went out of the room with a sword on his waist, she finally crawled towards her bedside to open the window.
Under the pale autumn sky, a dense village unfolded before her. A wide dirt road with clear marks of the wheels of the wagon, five or six wooden cabins, a sparse meadow and a broad orchard… Max, who looked at the simple scenery one by one, suddenly felt a stinging glance and lowered her head. In front of the inn, a carriage has been parked where three of the knights who accompanied Riftan stood tall and looked up at her. She shut the window in a hurry. Although she covered herself with sheets, she was embarrassed to be seen in her unscrupulous state as if she was about to sleep.
‘Perhaps they’ve delayed their departure because of me?’
She bit her lips nervously. It was a long time that passed before she heard another sound; someone knocked on the door. She asked carefully.
“Who, who are you?”
“I brought water to wash.”
“C-come on in.”
She crouched in the corner of the bed with her sheets wrapped around her body. The two maids who came in with a large basin, a water kettle and a white towel exchanged eyes with awkward faces.
“We have been instructed by your husband to serve you, but…”
“Oh, no… my, I can, I can do this…”
“He said you’d need help…”
She turned steaming red like her hair.
“Well, really, it’s all right. I-my, my husband, say I’ll do it.”
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