Chapter 55 – His Departure to the Capital (1)
“Uhm… madam, if you don’t mind me asking…”
The servant let out a couple of dry coughs before continuing awkwardly.
“Would you please tell the lord that the meal is ready? I thought he should eat before he leaves for the trip, so I’ve been preparing in the kitchen since early morning.”
“I-I’ll t-tell him!”
She replied in a loud, exhilarated voice. The old man’s face, which was full of anxiety for asking a possibly presumptuous question, now showed relief. He swiftly expressed his gratitude.
“Tha-thank you madam, so…uhm, I’ll leave it to you.”
She was just glad to have an excuse to go to him and rushed out the door without a proper response. The dainty autumn breeze gently swept down on her dreary body. She took a moment to look up towards the sky, the pale autumn sun was gradually brightening the day and reflecting over the shiny puddles of water formed throughout the garden. With tiny skips and hops, she waded across the puddles and made it towards the stairs.
As she crossed the vast garden, she neared the inner gate. Carefully holding up her skirt to avoid getting it wet, she nimbly went down eight steps of stairs. She passed a guard who bowed his head in haste at their madam’s unexpected arrival.
She drew closer and closer to the doors to the hall. Surrounded by a high, thick outer wall and held by the sturdy pillar, this full hall presented a lofty image amidst the faint glimmer of the morning sun. And the knights donning silver armor lined up in an orderly fashion before the ever imposing Riftan, made for a breathtaking view.
As she entered the hall, Max halted in her steps. Without a sound, she slowly took in her surroundings. He seemed to be talking about something serious, so Max felt it was not appropriate to approach him right now. She decided to wait for the opportune moment while the voices in the hall steadily rose.
“Leader, if you are worried about Anatol that much, I’ll stay.”
Gabel, a young knight who’d shown off his brilliant rhetoric at the dinner party, took a step forward and said, “You wouldn’t have to worry if just a single Remdragon Knight stays put, right?”
“That’s not possible. Every single knight who participated in the battle must attend the celebration. Recognition for service should be divided fairly among us all.”
“I’m not interested in the titles or rewards from the king. My reputation as a knight is good enough, and I’ve already received more than enough praise. It’s better to stay in the castle and train with my sword than waste my time attending a boring celebration.”
“Are you serious?”
With his arms crossed across his chest, Hebaron shook his head in disbelief. He seemed to think his companion, Gabel, didn’t mean what he said and decided to call him out.
“It’s not like you’re a monk. If all the ladies in the Imperial City piled up at your feet, are you going to refuse? With your flamboyant flair for words, you could swoon around any lady no matter how haughty!”
“You superficial man! Is that all you can think of with that big head of yours?”
“What did you say?!”
Looking at Hebaron and Gabel glaring daggers at each other, Ruth, who was standing by Riftan’s side, let out a deep sigh.
“You two must be under a curse where if you don’t growl at each other for a day, you will catch a deadly infection.”
He clicked his tongue as if he was tired of all the arguing, and went on with his words.
“As Sir Calypse said, all the knights who participated in the battle must go to the royal castle. Sir Ovaron, Sir Sebrick, and the guards are enough to protect Anatol. Besides, I’m also thinking of staying back.”
“What are you talking about? You have to go! You played a huge role in the battle.”
“I am not someone who cares for fame or honor. Furthermore, if I go, there is bound to be friction with the palace wizards. I’m basically being treated as a traitor by the wizards because I left the World Tower without permission.”
As the wizard shrugged as if it were no big deal, the knights rolled their eyes. Riftan, who had been silent for a long time, decided to open his mouth.
“… I will also feel relieved if you were to stay.”
“I was planning on doing that from the beginning.” Ruth shrugged as if it were no big deal.
With that, Riftan took a step forward, pushing the hall into pin-drop silence. He ran an authoritative gaze along the line-up before him and spoke solemnly.
“Then it’s decided. We leave as soon as we’re ready. The route will be the same one I explained before.”
The knights clenched their fists on their chests and briskly put them down. It seemed to be their own way of courtesy.
Max, who had been hanging around for a long time in the back, sneaked up on Riftan as the briefing drew to a close. He turned back and looked puzzled at her visit.
“I told you, you could take a little more rest. Is there a problem?”
“Oh, no… Well, I fe-felt like I had to get u-up, t-too.”
She ignored the gazes of the knights as she was approaching him. Riftan looked down at her with worried eyes. Feeling her heart tightening at his gaze, she continued shyly.
“They to-told m-me that the me-meals are re-ready, so… I-I’m here to te-tell you…”
He looked up at the sky, measured the slope of the sun, and said to the knights.
“Let’s fill our stomachs first.”
The knights quickly dispersed. Riftan walked with an arm around Max’s shoulders, holding it as if he were protecting her. Max peeked at his dashing figure under the bright sunlight. Dressed in silver armor atop a thick blue tunic, he was as resplendent as if he had just walked out of a temple mural. She could feel why the commoners would look at him and shout,
‘The wise man of Uigru!’ … the legendary knight who ascended to the heavens.