Chapter 26:

Chapter XXIV – The aftermath is come.

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

It was the night of the day that the freemen had held their council. The debate had raged on for a long, long time, after they had dissolved. So much so that no other work had been done for the day, except for some slaves making preparations to depart to Zon’guldac.

Far away from all this worry was Ayomide and Ekene, intending to take a soak in the mansion’s bath. One of the things that Brown insisted they bring along was soap; Ayomide could now see why. The old man had been worried about the spread of disease within their ranks, and had taken special care to direct the newly freed men toward the bath. They happily obliged, taking a hot bath was something that no one would object to.

Ekene witnessed Ayomide’s less-than human features when she removed the bear fur that served as her cloak. “You one of those demi-humans?” The girl approached Ayomide, clearly intending to more closely observe her tail.

“Indeed I am. Is that a problem?” Ayomide instinctively took a few steps back. Personal space, please.

“No, no. I’ve just never seen one. Never left this mansion, you know.” Ekene breathed a sigh of relief. At least she could leave now. “I want to see all kinds of demi-humans and whatnot when I get to leave.” She was smiling as the thought of all the sights that she might see out there in the larger world.

“Travelling isn’t that easy, sister. The adventurers will hunt us down.” She took her first step into the water as she talked “You better stick with us Brown folk.”

Ekene joined Ayomide. She went silent for a few seconds to fully enjoy the water. “…but ain’t that man a bit insane? He’s talking about freeing everyone and toppling the big emperor man himself.” In a world where hierarchy and monarchy were the norm, thinking of an egalitarian society did indeed seem like the fever dream of a deranged lunatic.

“I think he is.” Ayomide closed her eyes. “Sister, you should just stick with a group if you want to increase your chance to survive. You don’t have to follow him to your grave. I certainly don’t intend to.”

Ekene raised her brow. Something seemed off with Ayomide’s statement just now. “You were giving all those fervent speeches about ‘liberty or death’. Were all those lies?”

“No, I’m was not lying about that. I do think that we’ll either live free or die.” She looked at a far away distance, toward particularly nothing. “But that’s our fate, isn’t it? Most either leave to Zon’guldac, to a faraway place that they know nothing about, or they die while reaching there. In our case, we’re either going to free ourselves in Gemeinplatz or find ourselves dead. This fact has nothing to do with the old man.”

Ekene took one of the bars of soap from a corner, and began rinsing herself. “And all the other stuff about dehmokrasee?”

Ayomide seriously thought of this question for a while. “…I don’t know.” This was her honest answer. “I’m not exactly a philosopher or one of those political theorists. I don't really care whether the lightskins get to live under a better Gemeinplatz. Most of them can all go to an Otherworld, for all I care.” Having been enslaved hadn’t left much empathy in Ayomide, or any of the other slaves for that matter. “Still, the old man delivers on the emancipation front, and that’s all I, and you, should care about for now. We can all bail out if he goes too crazy on the other stuff.”

“I guess. I don’t even know how I could reach Zon’guldac in the first place.” Ekene handed her soap over to Ayomide. “Could you wash my back please? I can’t reach there.”

“No problem.” Ekene turned around to let Ayomide reach her back. Ayomide recoiled when she saw the whip scars, some new some old, scattered around her back. They all looked like deep canyons of torn flesh, an unpleasant image of cruelty that said a thousand words in itself. “Holy… This is all Algernon?”

“Yes.” Ekene remembered Ayomide healing Hakim’s injured leg. “Can you do something about them with your magic?”

Ayomide shook her head, even though Ekene couldn’t see it. “I can’t heal scars, unfortunately. That's really advanced stuff that white-bearded hermits do.” She began doing her best to rinse Ekene’s back, trying to avoid the scars. Ekene still winced as soap made contact with her. “…What a bastard.”

“Well, I don’t think he was too cruel, compared to other masters I’ve heard about.” Ekene didn’t want to go into further detail about other horrors, so she fell silent after making this remark.

“Not to mention, thousands of masters live in Gemeinplatz...” Her and Ekene’s horrors were only a miniscule part of the horrors that the entire institution of slavery brought. “And Brown always talks about how merciful his all-powerful god supposedly is. Not to mention the guys over at the Temple of the Divine, they’ve always annoyed me.”

“…but doesn’t his god also allow him to emancipate the enslaved?” Ekene asked a question that irked Ayomide, but she wasn’t in the mood for needless theological debate. She didn’t mind what Brown thought as long as he wasn’t thinking anything malevolent. Ekene had another question. “Also, what’s this ‘Temple of the Divine’?”

Ayomide was surprised at the fact that Ekene was so sheltered. “I don’t really know, since Jacob never went to their sermons nor did we.” Most otherworlders tended to be irreligious, especially those from East Asia, so attendance among them was very low. “Apparently, they’re guys who believe in a divine force that rules over the universe, pretty similar to Brown’s religion. Pretty big deal in Gemeinplatz, far as I know. I’m surprised you haven’t heard of them.”

“Ah…” Ekene suddenly understood something that had bugged her for a long time. “I’ve always seen an old, clergyman visit Algernon once in a while. He muttered something about ‘salvation’ or whatnot, but he didn’t like to interact with the slaves too much.”

“Then he’s from the Temple. They came around now and then to ask Jacob for donations.” She stood back as she had finished cleaning the back of Ekene. “I scratch your back, you scratch mine?” She handed the soap over to her companion.

“Sure, o’ majestic Lady Orange. Your faithful servant shall do her best to clean your precious back.” Ayomide couldn’t help but laugh; it seems that Hakim and Tater had already spread her reputation. A former slave serving another former slave in such a manner seemed so funny to both.

“Commence, peasant. Suitably rinse my back or else your back shalt be unsuitably rinsed. The Lord sayeth thusly.”

“Aw, man…” Shinasi heaved a deep sigh, staring into the deep, dark unknown of the mountains. He was on guard duty, just like he had been before. Brown had chosen him as to not look suspicious to any passersby.

There wasn’t anything stirring in the unknown beyond, so poor Shinasi had been left alone with his thoughts. He had joined Brown, on a sort of whim, partly for ideological reasons, and mostly for the sake of love that he hadn’t fully confessed even to himself. He considered just running back to Azdavay, he still could, but he also equally didn’t want to return.

The behavior of Algernon had steeled his resolve somewhat, but hesitation was a beast that was greater than any fantastic creature Gemeinplatz could throw at him. He wasn’t a slave, he was a freeman that still had the potential to pull himself up by the bootstraps, or so his inner voice told him. But, would he be fulfilled if he did pull himself up, stomping on others on the way? Or did he want to throw the bootstraps away and forge a new path that was full of uncertainty?

“Hey.” A voice from behind startled Shinasi. He turned around, shield up and spear ready to go, only to meet a person that spelled trouble for his troubled heart.

“O- Oh, Ayomide. It’s you.” He put his shield down, literally, and put another shield up, figuratively. “Please, don’t arrive so suddenly. I’m on watch and alert; I wouldn’t want to injure an ally.”

“Right, I’m an ally now am I, Mr. Bounty Hunter.” Ayomide approached him further. The woman that had saved him, and in most unacceptable fashion according to Gemeinplatzian society, poor Shinasi had sort of fallen for. “How’s your watch going? Any fugitives?”

“There’s a whole camp of them behind me.” Shinasi nodded toward the mansion. “Not to mention the errant one in front of me right now. I don’t know what to do when odds are so stacked against me.” He had learned to play along with Ayomide.

Ayomide replied by laughing. “I see. You must have your work cut out for you then. Poor Shinasi… You’re such a bad guard that you let a whole slave rebellion into the estate!” She stopped to go back to what she intended to talk about when she had arrived at the scene. “Anyways, I heard that you were looking for someone.”

“Hm?!” Shinasi couldn’t help but shout. He was worried that the conversation might steer to that point, and he looked visibly flustered. “Um, I-”

“And I was so worried for my dear adventurer friend, he might lose his job if he fails his quest. That wouldn’t do, would it?” Ayomide shook her head to emphasize her point. She was visibly smirking. “Don’t worry, I’ve found the one your query was about.” Ayomide took out the red ribbon she had been keeping. “I’ll deliver it to her whenever I have the opportunity.”

Shinasi only got even more flustered as the conversation went on. ‘Deliver it to her whenever I have the opportunity’? What’s she trying to imply there? He took a good luck at Ayomide in his heart-thumping state. Women in Gemeinplatz had long hair; Ayomide always cut it short. The most beautiful of hairs were considered to be blond; she had an odd ginger color. The ideal for any person was skin that was indistinguishable from porcelain; hers was undistinguishable from the night. Yet…

Ayomide suddenly interrupted Shinasi. “Ahem, aside from that…” It was her time to get serious, and nervous. She shook around nervously, gaze averted from Shinasi, as she hid the ribbon behind her back. Speaking seriously, from the heart, was hard business for anyone as young as her. “You did a good job, some of us might have died if you hadn’t found when your buddies had a holiday.” She remembered the scarred back of her new sister, Ekene. “A lot of people are now free, with your help. Uhm… thank you.” She had to force herself to say the last part. “…you’re not too horrible, I guess.”

“I- I’m…” Shinasi couldn’t believe the last part. He wasn’t sure if he might’ve misheard. “I’m what? Could you repeat the last part?”

“I said that you’re not too horrible!” Ayomide’s composure was now broken. She quickly began taking a few steps back. Being honest was a bit too much. “Good night to you!” She ran away, back towards the mansion.

Shinasi stared, slack-jawed, at the quickly retreating Ayomide. He had been at that position a while ago. I guess she can get nervous as well… He scratched his head, and couldn’t help but dryly laugh out of stress. His heart was beating so fast that he could faint right at this moment.

I’m not seeing visions, right? I took care not to drink too much before my shift…