Under the Oak Tree

Chapter 269
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Chapter 269

Max received it with her hands, it was a small hand warmer made with fire mana stone. Alex rubbed the bridge of his nose while speaking shyly.

“You’re not thinking of coming back here, right? That’s a farewell gift.”

“...Thank you, Alex.”

Max awkwardly expressed. It was at that moment that she realized she had to say farewell to the friends that she had made there. Looking up at her, the twins took turns tapping Max’s shoulder as she stood there in a daze.

“Be well. Take care of your health. If you ever have the chance, please send us a letter.”

“I’ll definitely keep in touch. Take care everyone... and be well. Thank you, for everything.”

“If you’re thankful, then that’s good enough.”

The twins spat arrogantly and went to nag their own sister. Meanwhile, Max bid her farewell to the other trainees who had come to see her off. After a while, the carriages began moving one after another. Max leaned out of the window and gazed at the well-maintained garden, the expanse courtyard lined with strange devices, and the huge towers standing tall in the hazy mist. Although she thought that she would feel relieved leaving, she unexpectedly felt lonely and there was an emptiness in the corner of her heart. She had imposed on herself not to get affectionate towards the island because of the guilt she felt towards Riftan, but in the end, she had undeniably grown to like her stay.

Max murmured bitterly as she looked at the towers that gradually faded as they moved farther away. “... Thank you for all this time.”

***

Their journey on sea went smoothly. Although on the first day the waves hit their ship hard, which caused her to suffer from seasickness, when the evening came, the sea calmed down. Max went out to the deck to gaze at the foggy sky and the dark sea covered in white foam, then spent time reading magic books in her cabin. It was the first time that she felt having a leisurely moment ever since coming to the World Tower, but she didn’t feel at ease nor satisfied. As their ship sailed forward, she felt the anxiety building up inside her. Yes, she would do anything she could to reunite with Riftan, but as that moment drew nearer, the urge to run away haunted her.

The conversation they had the day before she left Anatol played in her mind. It wasn’t long until she realized that Riftan had revealed a weakness he had kept so tightly hidden so he could hold onto her. However, what she did was turn her back on him and leave the room, and Riftan did not come to see her off the day she left. Whenever she thought of that day, it felt like her heart was breaking. Riftan’s expression, the light in his eyes, his voice, everything was as vivid as if she saw him the day before. Every time that it came up to her mind that he would never forgive her, fear sunk deep into her bone marrow, but on the other hand, she also resented him for not understanding that she had no choice but to leave.

“The weather’s getting cloudy.”

Max, who was lost in thought, was snapped out by Annette’s gloomy tone. The girl sat on the bed with an ashen face as she rummaged through a bowl of porridge and let out a deep sigh, then looked out at the sea through the round porthole.

“I think snow will fall soon. This season of rest is really strange. We are in the middle of the southern sea, it’s not time yet for the temperature to drop like this, yet there’s already sleet...”

“Will the waves be getting harsher?” Max asked as she looked out at the gray, cloudy sky.

Annette frowned as if the mere thought of that already made her shiver. “I sincerely hope not. If this damned ship shakes as much as it did the first day, I’d rather jump into the sea and swim.”

She laid down the half-empty bowl of porridge by her bedside and flopped down on the bed. Perhaps because of their ancestry, whose people lived mainly in tunnels dug through mountains, Annette and Armin could hardly get used to life on a ship. Unfortunately, Annete’s desperate prayer was not heard. From that evening on, the waves only grew harsher, and the ship began shaking violently. Annette laid in bed and vomited a series of groans while Max’s anxious cat went under the bed and did not come out for a very long time. The bad weather lasted several days. Even if the sea calmed down for a moment, it would become turbulent again and again. The winds also grew stronger by the day. Even Max, who was somewhat accustomed to being on a ship, felt seasickness. As her dizziness got worse, she gave up on reading books and curled up in her bed, praying that the sea would calm down. Fortunately, the turbulent sea seemed to have served luck for the sail. The next early morning, a sailor knocked on their door and exclaimed in a cheerful voice.

“We expect to arrive at the Anatolium Harbor around noon. Prepare to go alight on the ship.”

“A-already?”

Max, who was getting up from the booth bed, rubbed her eyes as she felt her whole being waking up in an instant. With her surprised expression, the sailor then spoke brightly.

“Thanks to the harsh winds, the ship arrived a week earlier than expected. It’s a record for a really fast voyage. It seems like God has blessed the wizards.”

Annette, who was lying on the bed looking weak and haggard, let out a grunt as if she was protesting against the sailor’s words. Max smiled bitterly and handed a small coin to the sailor.

“I’m sorry to ask, but could you help move our luggage to the deck?”

“Of course.”

The boy brightly replied and went out with their luggage that was piled in the corner of the room. Max then soaked a clean towel with the water from a kettle and wiped her face. Then, she changed into her cleanest dress, took out some bottle of fragrant oil from her bag, applied a thin layer of it to her dry hair, then brushed it until it was glossy.

Annnette, who was changing her clothes after hardly getting out of her bed, clicked her tongue when she saw Max.

“Are you going somewhere fancy? Why are you all dressed up?”

“...It’s because it’s been a long time since I’ve been in a good mood.”

Max blushed as she spat her words out coyly and braided her hair neatly. Annette wore a belt around her waist with all kinds of magic tools dangling around her waist, then wore two layers of cloak. As if that was not enough, she wore a wool hat, fur boots, and gloves. Max wore less than her, but pulled out her thickest stockings and put on a fleece coat. The temperature had plummeted from the past few days and her breath fogged up every time they talked even indoors; at night, she had to curl up with her cat under a thick blanket when she slept. Max hung a small leather pouch inside her coat and tucked Roy into it, so he could cling tightly to her side. Annette, who was hanging pockets of belongings around her belt, frowned at the sight.

“I don’t mean to meddle... but you know that it’s not practical to take him with you on a journey, right?”

“O-of course! I have no intentions of bringing Roy that far along with me. Don’t worry, I’ll find someone here to take care of him.”

Annette, who was aware of how much she cared for Roy, raised an eyebrow, but didn’t prod further on who she planned to entrust the cat with. Soon, they climbed on to the deck. Although the winds were blowing harshly from all directions, the sky had no single cloud. She stood in front of the railing, weaving through the busy crew who were moving cargo. Beyond the silvery horizons was a magnificent harbor with dozens of shipped moored.

Max blinked her eyes as the scenery became clearer. When she left, there were only a few large buildings, warehouses, and large docks in the Anatolium Harbor. There were many ships, but the roads were not well-paved except for the wharf and not enough dwellings for citizens. However, the Anatolium port that now stretched out in front of them boasted a size that was comparable to that of Levan port. Max doubted what she was seeing beyond the horizon and grabbed hold of one of the sailors passing by.

“Wasn’t this ship... supposed to be docking at the Anatolium Harbor.”

“That’s right, Ms. Wizard. That’s the Anatolium Harbor.”

The sailor replied with a smile. Max looked back at the harbor with a confused expression. As the boat reached the dock, the crew anchored the ship firmly and lowered long planks under it to make a path. She looked all around the place as she alighted the ship along with the other wizards. She never doubted that Anatol would one day become one of the prime trading cities of Whedon: it was a place full of potential and Riftan worked harder than anyone else to revive the territory. But still, only two years and three seasons have passed.

“This is amazing. I have heard about Anatol’s revival but I didn’t expect it to be this great.”

Annette, who was walking next to her, blew a whistle. Max looked at the orderly line of stone buildings along the pier with a bewildered expression on her face. The streets were lined with people in exotic outfits and carts waiting to be loaded lined the streets. Just how many merchants came last winter season? Max looked at the ships lined up the port, she was completely overwhelmed. Most of them seemed to be ships coming from the southern continent, but rare ships were bearing flags from Rivadon, Dristan, and Alex. Their cargo was being loaded in a ship bearing the flag of Rakasim, and cargo from southern merchants and all over the seven kingdoms entered the port.

Merchants sat around a fire in a spacious area, fiercely haggling and bargaining. After dealings were made, the tax collector accordingly collected taxes from them. The wizards’ eyes widened at the sight of enormous gold being exchanged. Calto, who was watching the scene, approached the merchants and asked if he could purchase a carriage. A man who appeared to be a merchant of Anatol willingly gave them a few workers and a wagon, then they loaded everything they had brought with them onto the wagon. After showing a small medal proving that they were wizards of the World Tower to the city supervisor, they left the pier.

Note – LF: Aw, the twins are so cuuute. And dang, Riftan really did THAT.

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