Chapter 6:

Chapter VI – Blessed are ye.

His Soul is Marching On to Another World; or, the John Brown Isekai (Fall of the Slave Harem)

Nothing so charms the American people as personal bravery.
- John Brown, addressing the League of Gileadites

47th of Spring, 5859
Mount Curry, Azdavay / Casamonu

Mount Curry, and the rest of Casamonu, had enjoyed a lucky period of respite from snow or rain. Yet, as spring came in full force, endless rain was now on the menu once more. The soil, already muddy from melting snow, now became marshlike up in the treeless mountains. Those who are sane would avoid travel during these times to avoid being soaked in water and covered in mud. The already deserted mountain path had become even more deserted, except for a few less-than-sane adventurers looking for easy prey.

“Damn the mud…” murmured Shinasi as he slowly marched on the path with his adventuring comrades. “We should’ve gone out the moment this quest dropped, instead of waiting like idiots.” He and his comrades were wearing slightly more sensible clothing while outdoors. They all wore a thick piece of gambeson, to protect from both injury and cold, along with less sensible random bits of metal strewn throughout their bodies that provided minimal protection but maximum fashion. They carried their helmets in their bags, for the creed of the adventurer decreed that showing your hair and face off was more important than always protecting your noggin.

“You were the ones who told us to wait until the man-bears calmed down, you idiot.” replied Shakira. She held the flat side her ridiculously enormous two-handed sword up on her head, using it as a makeshift umbrella. Shinasi was doing a similar thing with his shield. Shakir, the oldest and wisest of the bunch, had simply cast a magical shield over his head.

“It’s your fault for listening to me then!” Shinasi half-seriously continued complaining like so while Shakira replied and Shakir listened. There wasn’t really anything else that they could do to pass the time while on the road.

Fog began obscuring their vision and the air got colder and colder as they got up higher and higher on the mountain. Nevertheless, the brave adventurers marched on for the noble cause of ‘getting that dosh’. Sir Jacob had put a good price for finding and bringing back his lost slave.

All this walking made Shinasi quite hungry. Thankfully, he spotted some juicy pear-shaped berries on the side of the road. He reached for them, only to be interrupted by the flat side of Shakira’s enormous sword slamming his back.

“What the Otherworld was that for?!” screamed Shinasi as he rubbed his aching back. “There are enough berries for all of us, no need to get jealous!”

“These are poisonous you bloody idiot!” Shakir took one of the berries to show it clearly to Shinasi. “These are the ‘death’s crown’ that sprout in the rainy season. You might not have seen them due to being a winesop who’s afraid of mud dirtying their precious boots.”

“It’s called ‘being an oenophile’, not ‘being a winesop’!” Shinasi grumbled in mild annoyance at being unable to have a snack. He turned around from the bush, and met with a nondescriptly small cliff. What was non-nondescript about the cliff was a tall, humanoid shadow that stood over it. This shadow seemed to be watching them from beyond the fog.

“Weird shadow watching over us to my front, to single-file battle formation!” whispered Shinasi as to not alert their enigmatic observer. The adventurers, now in serious business mode, quickly entered their usual battle position. Shinasi was at the front doing tank duty, holding a shield and spear. Shakira was next to her with her enormously large sword ready to cleave anything down. Shakir took out his staff and retreated to the back. From there he began his usual analysis of their enemy.

“Considering our altitude and the size of the beast, I estimate that we’re most likely encountering an ogre, sasquatch or a cyclops. All three of these beasts should be peaceful as long as they are not hungry. Let us retreat, not breaking visual contact, while exercising caution.” Shakir’s range of vocabulary seemed vast only when he was in combat mode. Heeding his words, the trio slowly walked backwards in formation.

Suddenly the beast behind the fog shouted at them. “Greetings travelers, you need not to retreat! I bear no ill will towards you!” The adventurers’ retreat stopped. They looked at each other, trying to decide what to do. “Come here and rest good sirs, there is a cave here that’ll shelter you from the rain!” Shinasi hesitated, before he broke formation and began walking towards the shadowy figure.

“Shinasi, what’re you thinking?! Maybe he’s a mimic of some sort, don’t go near strange people without thinking!” protested Shakira.

Shakir shook his head. “No, mimics don’t dwell outside of dungeons. I don’t know any monsters that dwell in these mountains that have the capability for proper human speech.” He stepped forward to join Shinasi. “It’s just one man, we can easily beat him up if he tries anything strange.”

Shakira wanted to respond with “What if he’s a skilled wizard or cultivator?”, but she gave up upon realizing that her team members wouldn’t listen out of a desire to rest. She joined them in scaling the small cliff. Reaching on top, they found an old man standing in front of a brightly lit cave.

“Welcome to my humble little abode, travelers. My name is John Brown, and your names are?” Brown seemed excited at the prospect of getting to meet the people of this land. “Please, enter before you get soaked any further.”

The trio gave their names as they entered the cave at the behest of this odd hermit. There was a fire burning in the middle with a helmet being used as a makeshift bowl. Scattered on the edges was a bear’s pelt, a small mountain of blue soap bars and some crude earthenware.

“Excuse me if the food is meagre, I wasn’t expecting to receive any guests with this kind of weather.” Brown scooped up some cooked slime from the helmet and distributed it evenly among his guests. He also took one bowl for himself, leaving some spare in the helmet.

Shakira and Shinasi were staring at Shakir, who had to step up in situations that involved suspicious strangers handing out free food. [Check Poison]… He waited for a few seconds before an answer beamed into his head. Nothing. He nodded at his teammates to indicate that the slime stew was safe to eat.

The trio attacked at the food as if it was a monster, forgetting to thank him or Him for providing them their meal. Brown had to content himself with staring at them with a disapproving look; he had to put up with some uncouth people if he wanted to get any information as to his whereabouts. Ayomide hadn’t been useful in this regard, especially as she had not been awake since Brown’s arm had miraculously recovered.

Brown pushed aside thoughts of chiding the adventurers. He had business to conduct. “Well then, good travelers, where do you hail from?”

“We’ve come to these mountains from Azdavay, looking to complete our quest.” Shakir had taken up the job of answering Brown’s queries. “Apparently, a fugitive slave was last seen travelling in these mountains. We’re here on the orders of the Adventurer’s Guild of Casamonu to apprehend them if possible.” Shakir took out a small piece of paper from his pocket. “‘Short darkskin female demi-human with ginger hair. Bad tempered and prone to violent outbursts.’ Have you seen anyone that matches this description?”

Brown shook his head “No, I haven’t seen anyone here for the last few weeks.” He was acting more cautiously since he now knew that he was dealing with bounty hunters of some sort. “I think they’d be dead by now if they escaped alone to these mountains in this weather.”

“Right…” Shakir sighed in disappointment. This whole quest has been a huge waste of time. It’d be better if we just returned to Azdavay. “We’ll take our leave, then. Thank you for your cooperation.” The adventurers sat up, intending to leave. They were curious about who Brown was and what he was doing, but they were not curious enough to waste their time talking to some hermit.

Brown had one last question for the adventurers. “Before you leave, could you please help an old man and point me to where this Azdaweigh is?”

“You just need to go straight down the mountain path, Azdavay is right on the path.” Shakir pointed in the general direction of Azdavay while speaking. “You probably shouldn’t travel alone, though. The forest isn’t too dangerous since it’s close to town, but some of the creatures there can be quite a problem if they knock you out.”

Brown nodded his head and gave a simple farewell. “Right, thank you. Safe travels to you then.” He watched as the adventurers left the cave one by one, leaving Brown in his lonesome.

After confirming that the adventurers were not in sight, Brown quickly poured the leftover solid blue soup from the helmet to a bowl. He rushed over, bowl in hand, toward the inconspicuous bear hide that lay in the corner of the cave. The old man pulled the bear hide aside to reveal Ayomide, who was awake much to Brown’s surprise.

“Young lady, you’ve awoken?” He handed the bowl over to Ayomide. “I thought you were never waking up after the… the miracle happened.”

Ayomide lazily yawned while she slowly got up. She didn’t seem too bothered by the situation. “Good morning…” It was night “…It’s just a bit of mana fatigue, old man. Nothing too serious.”

“Nothing too serious? You’ve been sleeping for a week, young lady!” Brown was nonplussed at the plussed state of Ayomide.

“I needed some good sleep, that’s all.” She yawned again. Ayomide was looking much healthier compared to the first time Brown had seen her. She had a relaxed smile on her face as she stood up to stretch her legs. “Thank you for not letting those adventurers get me.”

“Thank the Lord, young lady, for your hasty re… covery?!” Brown’s words slowly lost their way when he noticed something odd with Ayomide. He hadn’t noticed this since Ayomide had been covered by a bear’s pelt all this time, but she seemed to have a long, furry object that was wagging on her back. “Young lady, if it isn’t discourteous of me to ask, what is that odd object behind you?”

“This?” Ayomide turned her back to Brown. “It’s called a tail. Did you not have tails in Awmereighka? All the otherworlders I’ve met were always obsessed the tails of catgirls…” She pointed towards the tail as it wagged to-and-fro. “Also, here are my ears, if you’ve never seen one either.” she added sarcastically as she pointed toward the two catlike ears, which Brown had thought were unruly tufts of hair up until now, that stood atop her head.

Old John Brown had expected to encounter slavery. He had expected to encounter crimes against humanity. He had not expected to encounter a catgirl.

“What hath God wrought…”

Taylor J