Chapter 40 – The Inexperienced Knight (2)
Max recalled stories of the knights who would visit castle Croix—all of them geniuses in the matter of love. She couldn’t count the times she heard maids, seduced by knights for a night’s company, giggle as they reminisced about how some of the knights skillfully led them at seduction.
It was impossible. She firmly believed Riftan must have had his fair share of relationships with young maids or beautiful ladies. Didn’t Riftan also divulge to her that it was custom in the north for lords and ladies to bath together?
How would he know that information unless…
Max caught herself in time and halted her predilections for negative thoughts. No matter what he had done in the past, it didn’t matter now.
“What’s wrong? You’re frowning.”
“Oh, th-the w-wind is a little cold…”
Riftan bent over and embraced her into his arms, warming her body that had gone cold from the chill weather. The masculine aroma that invaded her senses almost stopped Max from breathing, that funny feeling settling in her once again.
“You should have worn thicker garments,” he said in a muffled tone above her head.
“It’s a-all right. If the w-wind wasn’t blowing so strongly, it would be fine… the s-sun is warm…”
“Do you like it? I mean, the dress.”
She looked down at her garb, too gorgeous to be worn by her. It would be strange to tell him that this was in fact the first time she had ever worn such pretty clothes.
“I d-do like it,” she said instead.
“I will have a seamstress come over so you can have as many dresses as you would like. I’ll buy you hundreds of them.”
Riftan grasped her chin lightly and lifted it up, intensely boring into her eyes with the solemn promise of extravagance. Max felt herself blush and turn warm—why, this wasn’t the behavior of a man unfamiliar dealing with women.
She muttered as she looked down. “Should I get u-used to this?”
“That you’ll get me w-whatever I a-ask for.”
Her blunt words caused Riftan to furrow his brow.
“I am serious. I told you before that I would go lengths to make sure you live as luxuriously as you did in your father’s castle.”
Max swallowed the dry laugh that almost bubbled from her.
How could she have lived a delectable life of lavishness—never had she been given what she desired, or even what a noblewoman needed. If he knew how erroneous his preconceptions were on her past life, would he be trying this hard?
She felt as if she was deceiving him, and it made her feel insufferable, as if she was a villain.
She mumbled slightly, avoiding his eyes. “C-can we take a break?”
“Do you feel tired?”
As she nodded, he stepped forward to lead her home. A strong wind was blowing from the north and swept through the trees covering the blueish hillside afar. Max stopped for a moment, inhaling the scent of pine, the mustiness of mushrooms.
Would she smell this every day?
Max, overlooking the majestic scenery, soon followed behind Riftan down and away from the sights.
Riftan had to leave her again to oversee the training of the potential knights. She returned to the room alone, sitting in front of the fireplace to relax as Rudis brought ginger tea and sweets with dried fruits as snacks to replenish her.
“As you are going to have dinner with the knights this evening, would you like to change your clothes, madam?” Rudis said, refilling her empty cup.
Max, after finishing a mouthful of dried fruits, looked up at the maid in confusion.
“Yes, since you’re meeting them for the first time as the lord’s wife, I suggest it would be better to dress more formally.”
She bowed her head with a tense face. “I apologize if I overstepped.”
“No, you didn’t…”
Max grimaced as she gazed at her own reflection in the mirror leaning against the wall. The hair that Rudis had neatly brushed and twisted elegantly this morning had been ruined by the wind.
She nodded, pulling out some pins and letting her wavy hair down as assent for the maid to do her magic on her locks a second time.
“A-all right… please d-do.”
Rudis went straight out of the room with the teapot and came back with a small jewelry box containing intricate combs, perfumed oils and fine ornaments.
She sat in a chair in front of the mirror as Rudis first used a comb to smooth the knots in of her hair. For a long time, she kept brushing, occasionally adding a bit of the oil and then brushing again. Soon enough, all her efforts to tame her frizzy hair could be seen in Max’s kempt and shiny hair.
“Shall we put in a hairpin? Or would you rather wear a crown?”
Rudis opened the box full of jewelry. At the expensive trinkets that seemed to blind a person, Max’s eyes opened wide as saucers.
Emblazoned brooches, pearl necklaces, gold rings, and silver hair pins were placed neatly on the red satin. And in a separate box was a stunning tiara. To her knowledge, Riftan’s mother had died when he was young, and he had no sister, or other female relative.
So where did this all come from?
Wasn’t it a little too fast to be able to prepare such for a dinner, the day after arriving? She could only infer that these jewelries are items from his past lovers…
“Madam, do you like any of these?”
She stopped, feeling as if she was prying into someone else’s domain, one she shouldn’t step inside, and instead focused on picking out something, anything.
“This h-hair p-pin, please…”
Rudis braided her hair tightly, rolling it around on one side, and fixed it with the silver hairpins decorated with colorful flowers. Then, she looped a pearl necklace on her neck and a crystal ring on her finger.
Max looked at the strange reflection of the woman with her coiffed hair and the jewelry that lit up her face. She didn’t look herself… daresay, she looked beautiful. The simplicity of her look brought out her features more.
“If you don’t like the look, I can bring you other jewelry,”
Rudis, who had been looking down at the many imperfections on her skirt, politely offered.
Max shook her head. “I-it’s lovely. I’ll go with th-this.”
Rudis looked relieved. When they were ready to leave the room, she placed a thin, almost translucent shawl over her shoulders. Suddenly, twilight was falling outside the window.
Double update for everyone! We’re getting to know Riftan more and see some slight confidence from Max. Huhuhu