Chapter 35:

Chapter XXXIII – Be jubilant my feet, to surprise them!

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

Mud, rain, slight fog and a steep incline, marching had become a slog that had slowed down to a petrified snail’s pace. Like a snail leaving behind a trail, the count’s men also left behind a trail of footprints and tired men who gave up on continuing the journey. Attrition had set in so early that the sun was still rising when tiredness set in to the hearts of men.

What was supposed to be a simple operation to capture fugitives and loot an estate had become a muddy hell on not-Earth. This would have been bearable, especially with the prospect of loot, if not for the ambush yesterday leaving a scar on their spirits. The men were constantly looking up, trying to anticipate another unexpected rain of copper and fury. They had yet to face the enemy properly, as in none of them had seen the faces of their adversary, but there was the prospect of facing them any time. That prospect, of potential death even if their allies would achieve victory over the fugitives, was quite frightening to this force of people who weren’t that used to warfare against other people.

Much to their surprise however, there were no more attacks on their way to the Algernon estate. The rest of the march of the count’s army turned out to be a surprisingly peaceful one, and spirits slowly recovered as they inched closer to the estate in anticipation of the loot that surely awaited them at the end.

The only one who wasn’t as excited was Sir Baha, who was probably the only person in the group who wasn’t presently afflicted by concerns of the material kind. He rode on his horse, flanked by his small retinue, doing his best to follow the disorganized march of the count’s army. Following him was Shakira and her ridiculously enormous sword, who had just kind of stuck around after having stayed in the same tent as him.

“Can you see the estate?” Shakira looked up at Baha, who could see higher ground thanks to being mounted.

“No, but I believe that we should see it soon.” Baha quickened his pace slightly, prompting his retainers to do the same. Shakira’s legs protested as she had to catch up on foot. The petty lord turned to address his retainers following him from behind. “We should make haste.” He wanted to make sure that Leila’s body wouldn’t be looted or lost during the chaos; Baha wanted to give her a proper funeral at the least.

With their haste soon came the Algernon estate showing itself on top of yet another incline. Or, it was supposed to show itself. Baha had visited the place before so he knew where it was supposed to be, yet he couldn’t see any of the estate’s buildings from down where he was at. Hesitation struck him, and he quickly signaled his own men to stop. “Halt! There’s something wrong going on here.”

“Why’d we stop?” Shakira halted alongside. The rest of the count’s men, however, didn’t as they weren’t beholden to the will of some petty lord. They got on top of the hill and, in a manner that wasn’t too unexpected, some shrill screams were heard from the top.

Baha rushed forward on his horse without saying a word. His retainers stared at each other with a blank expression before they understood that they should probably follow their lord. Shakira, the poor soul she was without a horse, had to use her own legs to carry herself upwards. After a minute or two of arduous uphill running she saw what was wrong:

“Shit! Who built a ditch here?”

“Help get me out of this place!”

“How did you idiots not see that?”

There was a ditch built around the estate, one last surprise prepared specially for them by old John Brown, which one could easily fall into as it was obscured during the uphill climb. A few had managed to land themselves in the ditch, which had a surprise for them in the form of wooden stakes built under loosely packed dirt. Dropping down there didn’t look like a pleasant experience; it wasn’t a pleasant experience as those in the ditch could currently attest to.

The ditch itself might have been surprising, but it wasn’t as surprising as something else that was on the hill. Or, more accurately, something that wasn’t on the hill.

“…It’s all burnt down.” Sir Baha got off his high horse to take a closer look at what was left of the Algernon estate. For that matter, all that was left was blackened pieces of wood, carpentry, and perilous bits of glass. The fire had burnt so greatly that the earth under the former mansion had blackened like charcoal. There was nothing of value left, save the occasional bits of copper ore that had melted down thanks to the mansion itself acting as an expensive kiln during its final moments.

Slowly the adventurers and other men on foot made managed to climb the hill as well, and their disappointment was immeasurable. There was no loot, no slaves, nothing of value that’d make almost dying worth it.

They had only wasted their time by coming here; Count Leon had wasted his good graces and favor by making them come here to this dilapidated estate in a place so remote that even the Divine had most likely forgotten of its existence.

Worst of all, only for Sir Baha, there was no Leila to be found anywhere. Where did she lay among this field of ash and earth? Baha knew not. He frankly wasn’t that excited to find out the state her corpse would be in. There somewhere laid his sister, who could have been saved if not for Count Leon having decided to rush in for the sake of surprising the fugitives. Baha bent his knees and touched the earth as well, doing his best not to cry in front of a live audience.

“Sir.” Ted, Baha’s most loyal servant, tapped on his lord’s shoulders. “You’re going to get dirt on your trousers.”

“…” Baha got up. Nobility, even the pettiest ones like him, couldn’t even have a proper emotional moment without having to care about decorum. He was instinctively about to reply with a ‘sorry’, before he also realized that lords usually didn’t apologize to their servants. Sometimes, especially when times of financial difficulty and hardship hit, Baha wished he could just quit his job.

It looked like everyone else was similarly tired after this farce, for different reasons compared Baha, and the adventurers had already began setting up camp without any orders from the count.

Count Leon himself did his best to stay back and not show his face lest he incur the wrath of the lootless adventurers. This wasn’t the time for a pompous speech. He was surprised, and frustrated, at how much his enemy had managed to damage them despite not properly facing them at all.

In all honesty, this was a dishonorable way to fight – but a man of honor against slavers Brown was not. Honor was reserved for those who were honorable in conduct to their fellow man; the wicked deserved to receive the wrath of the Lord delivered to them personally.

“…Baha! Brother!”

Baha looked around him. Was he hearing voices now? Perhaps his sister’s soul still lingered on here.

“Mistress! Is that you?” Ted had managed to locate the source of the voice. Leila’s soul was nowhere to be found; her body was still marching on, or barely marching on through the crowds of adventurers busy with setting up camp. She was flanked by her two children walking next to her and, on her arms, another one that Baha had yet to see until today.

“Sister!” Baha ran towards her, intending to hug her. He couldn’t as her hands were currently preoccupied. The petty lord had to suffice with patting the children on the head. “I thought that… I thought that those savages would definitely murder you when we came here!”

Leila was smiling, thanks to the safe reunion, but the rest of her countenance was a grim one. Her hair had become messy, her dress was laden with dust, and the kids didn’t look any better. A broken smile, one compromised of a world suddenly shattered by its sins and contradictions. “I… Their leader decided to spare me.” She didn’t look all that excited to be alive at this moment.

“Huh? Those savage darkskins spared you?” Baha wasn’t sure what to make of that. He still wasn’t sure that the woman in front of him was real. He had to recover from the absurdity of such a thing before he could reply further. “That’s… great!”

“It is…” said Leila, silently adding an ‘…I guess’ to the end of her sentence. She was a free woman at this point, a noble one at that, what did she realistically have to worry about? Baha couldn’t get why his sister seemed to be in such a state.

“What’s most important is that you are fine, mistress.” added Ted, ever so faithful.

“Yeah, cheer up won’t you?” further added Shakira, who had been awkwardly attending this family reunion. She had felt a tad bit too awkward when she was standing silently, hence her sudden interjection.

Leila didn’t reply, but she did her best to at least not look sullen. She was a widow now, sure, but her brother had enough funds to take care of her family. Life was going to be fine. No hitches, no slave uprisings, no… None of that nonsense. The mistress would be back to her usual routine, of idle comfort and luxury, until the day she’d finally croak out of this world into another one.

This was the ideal life for a noble lady like her, for noble ladies and gents across Gemeinplatz. Raised on the shoulders of their slaves, and subjects, they could afford to stay high, mighty, and idle. That was how things were supposed to be. That’s how they must be…

…right? The slaves, those abominable darkskins, working among themselves, that was just a fluke. Their weird rituals, of voting and consulting each other as equals, those were the workings of inferior minds. The lightskin had already found the perfect way, the most civilized way…

“Mistress? Are you fine?” Ted had already begun working on their tent with the help of Shakira. “You shouldn’t stare at the sky so much. Looking at the sun is going to damage your eyes.”

“Right. Thank you.” Leila closed her eyes to let them rest. She was a well-read woman, but reading was just an activity to pass her idle time. The mistress didn’t like to think too much. Thinking made her brain hurt, made her heart be in trouble with the harsh questions that this world presented to her, those were all things a proper lady shouldn’t be worried about.

“Here, I have some tea for you, mistress.” Ted had taken a break from the tent to get something for his mistress. He handed over a suitably fancy cup filled with even fancier tea.

Leila gracefully took the cup. The warm liquid flowing through her made Leila calm once more.

All would be fine. All was fine.

There were no wild abolitionists running around, making plans to emancipate the entirety of Gemeinplatz with righteous fury of the most hallow kind. No, totally. All was fine…


Taylor J
Steward McOy