Chapter 51 – Erroneous Expectations (1)
She tore herself away from her thoughts and turned her head to see Rudis standing quietly in front of the door.
“The lord is back. He is going to have dinner with the knights at the dining hall. Would you like to go down, too?”
She hesitated for a moment, then nodded. She was uncomfortable around the knights, but she still wanted to dine with him. At the very least, she should maintain a modicum of amiableness with them as madam Calypse.
“Then, I’ll style your hair again.”
The maid brought a comb and a hairpin and neatly curled up her hair. She sat in front of the vanity, scrutinizing her dress and hairstyle, and then left the room.
In the hallway, servants flitted about, lighting up the lamps. She was passing them all as she moved down the stairs when Max heard the sound of a heated argument drift into her ears.
She paused and began to slowly move towards the clamor. Taking a look between the partially opened door of the dining hall, she saw Riftan and three other knights following him while arguing with one another.
“We must leave for the royal road by tomorrow, at the least!”
“Don’t make me repeat myself. We’re leaving in three days.”
“You have to attend the ceremony! How far do you intend to ignore the Majesty’s sincerity!”
“I have to agree with Ricardo this time. The rain has died down, so there won’t be any trouble leaving soon.”
Max, who didn’t know if she should intrude and was waiting behind the door, stiffened up.
Come to think of it, he had mentioned it during their trip. He was the top contributor in the war and should have headed to the royal road as soon as the battle ended. Max then estimated the distance between the royal highway and Anatol. It should take around 15 days if they traveled fast; if not, it would usually take about a month.
“I’ve already sent a pigeon to the capital. I finally came home after three years; King Ruben will understand.”
“I know you want to distance yourself from King Ruben. But if you go too far, your influence might disappear.”
At the words of the knight, standing at the very end, Ricardo quickly turned his head towards him.
“Elnuma Ruben III is getting impatient because he can’t summon you to the royal road. You are wary that you might get tied to the royal family due to your contribution to the battle, right?”
“It’s not just a case between you and Agnes; it seems like the king wants to keep you on a tight leash. I also understand that you are wary. But you must avoid going too far as you might end up antagonizing them. He’s already very cautious of his vassals.”
“Eliot’s right. If the Remdragon Knights are absent during the celebration, he will surely think he is being humiliated in front of his people. We never know what kind of retribution he will come back with later. You know he’s someone who holds a long grudge.”
“Hebaron Nirta! Your words go too far!”
At hearing the raised voices, Max began to turn back. The atmosphere between them wasn’t conducive to her appetite.
“Ju-just bri-bring my me-meal to my ro-room,” she told Rudis as soon as she climbed back up the stairs and went back to her room.
Max couldn’t get rid of the heaviness she was feeling as she was returning to her room, and even when she pitifully ate her dinner alone.
Will she truly be fine alone while Riftan is away from the castle? Everyone was genial towards Max now, but she worried that maybe it was because the lord of the castle was around. She felt uneasy as if she was a child who had lost sight of her guardian.
“Madam… is the meal not to your taste?” Rudis, who had been patiently waiting on the side, asked carefully.
A grimace must have been visible on her face. Max quickly shook her head.
“Oh, no. It-it’s delicious. Well, I just… it’s just I don’t have an appetite,” she weakly excused.
“Are you perhaps uncomfortable anywhere?”
“I think, I think it’s because I’m tired… I’d like to rest.”
“Should I take your plate away?” When she nodded, the maid retrieved the platter from her, a sizeable portion of the food still left uneaten on the porcelain.
Max sat at the table and absentmindedly gazed into the figure that Aderon left behind. Just a moment ago, the small sculptures that looked lovely like toys now looked insignificant.
Why am I acting like a child? Nothing is wrong with being alone.
She had always lived in isolated, what difference would it make if Riftan left? For twenty years, she suffered under a cruel father, shunned by her cold-hearted half-sister, and even disrespected by the rude servants. There was no reason to feel hopeless by Riftan’s month-long absence.
“Why in the blazed are you staring at it intently?” A confused, familiar voice brought her out from her own musings.
She looked back at the hand that suddenly came into view, surprised. Without her noticing him coming in, Riftan was holding a marble sculpture in his hand and looking at it with an expression that showed he thought it was random and strange.
“It-it’s a model… I-I was picking out the de-decorations for the banquet ha-hall.”
“The banquet hall?”
Max’s heart plummeted when she saw a frown appear on Riftan’s face upon the mention of it.
“You, you asked m-me to decorate the ca-castle, so…” her voice trailed off.
“No, I’m not saying no to it.” He hurriedly corrected himself, “I just forgot that there was such a place. I see. The banquet hall… I guess we’ll have to plan a party or a ball soon, right?”
She gulped. Her throat went dry as she saw Riftan’s eyes of anticipation directed at her. Just the thought of hosting a ball or banquet made her dizzy with apprehension.
“If-if you don’t want to…”
“It’s not like I don’t want to. I’m just not used to loud spaces with strangers.”
He then bent over, leaning towards her, and pulled the pin out of her hair. Max’s braided hair fell, tumbling slowly on the back of her neck. A smile languidly spread across Riftan’s face as he tenderly untangled her locks with his hands.
“But, I do want to see you beautifully dressed and dancing at the ball.”
Max felt the word ‘beautiful’ never suited her, and it was so that she had never stepped a foot at a banquet before. Whenever she saw the gap between Riftan’s expectations and her true nature stray far, she felt as if an invisible claw suffocate her heart from the inside.
It was too cruel.
Oh Maxi… I just wish you all the happiness in this world. :((( double chapter update!