370 Chapter 131
It was a sleek shortsword, the blade of which looked around two kevettes(Approximately 60 centimeters.) long. Riftan unsheathed it partly from its leather scabbard and, after giving it a thorough inspection, extended the hilt to her.
“Here, see if you can carry it.”
Maxi stared up at him in surprise before cautiously taking it. Though its blade was much shorter than Riftan’s, it was still too heavy for her to wield with one hand. She had to tighten both fists around the hilt to balance the weight.
Seeing her struggle, Riftan sighed and took the weapon back. “I’ll have the blacksmith lengthen the hilt so you can wield it with two hands.”
“I-Is it for me?”
“Isn’t that obvious?” Riftan replied brusquely, sliding the gleaming blade back into its scabbard. He then took a pair of leather gloves from a small chest. “I had these made for you. Try them on.”
Maxi, who had been vacantly blinking, accepted the gloves and pulled them on. The soft, tanned leather encased her hands perfectly. She marveled at the flexibility and sturdiness of the material as she clenched and unfurled her fist.
As she did so, Riftan picked up a black breastplate and placed it on her chest. “Turn around.”
Maxi obeyed. Riftan deftly strapped the plate over the gambeson so that it sat flush against her chest.
Turning her to face him again, he asked, “Is it too tight?”
“N-No, not at all.”
Not only did the breastplate feel perfectly tailored to her, it was unbelievably light. Maxi looked up at Riftan, her eyes shining with emotion. She could not believe he had prepared all this for her.
Happiness bubbling in her chest, she said, “It’s very comfortable. What is it made of to make it so light?”
“Cockatrice leather. It may be light, but it is capable of withstanding most attacks.”
Maxi eyed the breastplate in surprise. A cockatrice was a high- grade monster that was as rare as a basilisk. Sellers were free to name whatever price they wanted for its skins, and as only a few craftsmen had the skill to work with such material, a breastplate of this quality would have cost an exorbitant sum.
Maxi gulped. “W-Would a mage… require such costly armor?”
“You do,” Riftan said coldly, looking stern. “From now on, the knights and I will teach you how to use a sword whenever possible. Though mages are rarely required to fight in battle, you should learn how to protect yourself just in case.”
Though Maxi wanted to retort that she had never intentionally thrown herself in danger, she held her tongue. She did not wish to argue over trivial things when he was allowing her to go on this campaign with him.
“I understand,” she replied with the enthusiasm of an eager squire. “I shall do my best.”
Riftan observed her reaction, his gaze full of some unfathomable, complicated emotion, and let out a sigh. He turned around and pulled out a deep blue cloak from the chest.
“Be sure to stay close to Ruth at all times,” he said as he inspected the cloak’s condition, “be it on the road or during battle. He will inform you of the rules you must adhere to as a mage of our order.”
“A-As a mage of the order?”
“That’s right.” Draping the cloak over her shoulders, he declared, “You are now a mage of the Remdragon Knights. Hence, you must obey your commander’s orders before any instruction by that Nornui riffraff.”
Maxi became wide-eyed. After pulling her cloak’s hood over her head, Riftan strode out of the cabin.
Stunned speechless, Maxi trailed him in a daze before jolting back to her senses. Since the mages had their own rules, there were procedures that needed to be followed before she could officially become a Remdragon Knight mage. She pointed this out to him, her voice quivering.
“Y-You must know that this is not something we can decide ourselves. You must first make a formal request to the Tower for a mage before I can officially join the Remdragon Knights. Not only that, there will also be evaluations-”
“All necessary procedures have been fulfilled,” Riftan retorted, cutting her off rather coldly. “Why do you think Ruth Serbel has been acting as errand boy for that fastidious elder? Do you think he was at Calto Serbel’s beck and call simply because of their blood ties?”
His lips twitched, a cynical expression rising on his face. “Ruth Serbel is a mage of the Remdragon Knights, not some attendant to be ordered around.”
“A-Are you saying… he cooperated with Master Calto on the condition that I will be deployed to Anatol?” Maxi asked, astonished.
Since the mages of Urd were well aware of the circumstances that had brought her to Nornui, she had fully expected to be sent back home once she had taken all the necessary steps. Hence, the revelation that the Tower had used her return as a bargaining chip behind her back felt like a huge betrayal.
“I would have returned to Anatol even without Ruth’s help,” she said stonily. “As the Mage Tower does not restrict the freedom of its mages, Master Calto had no right to be bargaining-”
“That is true in most cases, but Anatol has Ruth Serbel. Have you forgotten that he is a black sheep among your peers?” Riftan replied objectively. “Though I hate to admit it, you are a mage of the Tower, and Nornui can keep you there if they so wish. I wasn’t willing to take that risk.”
Unable to come up with a retort, Maxi closed her mouth.
As they entered a vacant lot that was newly swept of snow, Riftan added with a sigh, “However, that is not the only reason Ruth has been acting like the Tower’s servant. He secured a pardon for his unsanctioned departure in exchange for covertly investigating the dark mages’ records and negotiating with the pope on Nornui’s behalf. He would have cooperated with Calto Serbel whether or not your deployment was part of the bargain.”
Maxi looked up at her husband quizzically. “Do you know what he negotiated with the pope?”
“He told me he could not go into detail, but it was likely for the revision of the list of heresy. I don’t think the Mage Tower has anything else to demand from the church.”
Maxi became mired in thought. If the new pope were to issue an edict favorable to magic users, it would certainly open more doors for mages. Not to mention, she just may be able to learn a few advanced spells. She resolved to pester Ruth or Calto for the full details of the negotiation.
Growing flushed from excitement, she looked up at Riftan once more. Swirling snowflakes settled on his black velvet hair. Gently brushing them off, she cautiously asked, “Do you truly… want me to join the order?”
“Do you want an honest answer?” he asked, looking down at her with somber eyes.
As Maxi took in his darkly shadowed face, her excitement drained away like sand. She hesitated for a long moment before finally nodding.
Riftan tore his gaze away to stare out over the snowy lot. “I’ve only ever wanted the best for you,” he said bitterly. “I want to lavish you with beautiful gowns and jewels, not armor and weapons. I want to provide you with a life free from worry and fear, one where dark mages are the furthest things from your mind. My wishes have not changed.”
“But you chose to become a mage.” A bitter smile rose on his lips. “And you have the right to decide how to live your life.”
A lump formed in Maxi’s throat. Sadness and affection mingled in the pair of warm, dark eyes gazing down at her.
Unable to hold back the wave of emotions, she threw herself into his arms. When she spoke, her voice was thick with emotion.
“W-What I want… is to be with you, Riftan Calypse. To remain by your side at all times.”
Wrapping his arms around her, Riftan buried his face in the red locks cascading over her shoulder. She felt his warm breath against her icy neck as he whispered, “Then let’s do that.”
Riftan took Maxi to the Remdragon Knights. He assembled the men scattered around the lot and announced Maximilian Calypse’s new position as a mage of Anatol. Thunderous cheers followed, and the overwhelming joy made Maxi dizzy. Even the fact that they would have to depart in a few days to fight another terrible war could not dampen the pride and fulfillment she felt in that moment.
Maximilian Calypse was now a member of the Remdragon Knights. She felt as if she had grown a kevette taller in the span of a night.
However, her elation did not last long. She soon found herself sprawled on the floor of the training grounds, glaring at Ursuline Ricaydo’s neatly-shaven face.
The knight let out an exasperated sigh. “There must be something wrong with the way your muscles are connected, my lady.”