Chapter 28 – Questionable Behavior
Max, who tossed and turned all night, and only managed to fall asleep at dawn, was awoken suddenly by a loud sound. In the dawning light, the knights were putting on their armor piece by piece. She washed her face and brushed her messy hair back with her hands, as she usually did in the lack of proper commodities. The knights announced their departure while ravenously eating their bread and chugging water. She also ate the simple meal as she sat in her seat, listening to them.
After a while, the wagon began to roll vigorously, and Max’s entire body once again rattled uncomfortably in the carriage. The knights, who had been bracing themselves for incoming monsters, grumbled that they hadn’t even seen a common forest goblin. But she didn’t want to see any goblins.
They traveled half the day without stopping, and then they stopped for a quick lunch by a small fountain before setting off again. Riftan held her hand tight all day, so she would not lose her balance in the swaying wagon.
Max couldn’t even say, “Can’t we just take a short break?” So as when night fell, she felt immensely relieved. She hungrily devoured the food Riftan handed her, then fell asleep as soon as she laid her head on the makeshift pillow.
Since Max got a good night’s rest, the next day was much better. They moved from early dawn until the sun sunk beyond the Judean forest. She breathed a sigh of relief when she noticed the vibration of the wagon had reduced significantly.
Unlike the uneven terrain and the very rugged Yudical forest, the plains of Anatorium were well-paved. She opened her window and looked at the green grass and white wildflowers covering the gentle hills. Perhaps because she saw nothing but thick, gloomy trees for the last few days, the view of the golden plains was breathtaking.
“Once we pass that mountain, we’ll be in Anatol.”
Riftan said, then walked to the front of the wagon to speak with the knights who were leading. Max stuck her head out of the window and looked ahead. At the end of the plains, mountain peaks were lined up like fences.
“Hang on just a little longer. We’ll be there the day after tomorrow-no! As early as tomorrow evening!”
Max almost started to moan with relief. If she could endure one more day, she could finally sleep in a comfortable bed. She imagined herself filling her stomach with soft bread, thick vegetable soup, jam-filled pie, and liquor after soaking in a hot bath, then laying down on a clean, cozy bed. She needed to hold on a little longer.
The wagon only stopped when the sun began to set. As soon as she got out of the carriage, she tried to search for Riftan. She felt as if she was a lost child among the knights who pretended not to notice her.
Max crept through the crowd of men busily preparing for camp and saw Riftan with the horses by the river. As she walked towards him, he looked back at her with a puzzled look.
“What is it? What’s going on?”
Max couldn’t say that she ran out here just because she couldn’t see him, so she bent down and pretended to wash her hands. Riftan squatted down and followed her, washing his hands, and the nape of his neck with the cold water. His long, thick nape flashed like copper, reddish in the glow of the sun. She sneaked a peek at how he cleaned his messed up hair with his wet hands, the beauty of this man buried in her heart.
“Hey, your skirt is all wet.”
He suddenly stared at her feet. Max stared at him, astonished. She couldn’t change for days, so her skirt was covered in dust and was now dripping wet. Embarrassed, she started frantically wiping the mud off her skirt. Riftan knelt in front of her.
“Let me handle it.”
“N-no! It’s all right!”
Surprised, she tried to back away, her eyes wide as saucers. Riftan merely grabbed her skirt, soaking the mussy part in the river to rinse it. After washing it as gently as he could, he squeezed the water out.
Max leaned over him, not knowing what to do. Knights valued honor more than life itself. Riftan was a knight who did not bow his head to any king without great allegiance. But here he was, kneeling in front of her.
Did he have no objection to be on his knees before her because he was born on the low class of society? Max wondered if the other knights would tease him for leaning in front of a humble woman like herself.
“You must be cold. Go to the fire and warm up.” Riftan said, washing his dirty hands.
Max dazedly climbed the hill, yet with caution, so that the hem he had cleaned wouldn’t get dirty again. A cold night breeze flew west through the fields, making her tie her hood tightly that her hair wouldn’t be messed. From a distance, she watched him water the horses and his clothes. Before she knew it, the sun had fallen behind the mountain, and they were surrounded by an ocean of darkness.
Yes the fluff is here!! All hail the fluff!