Chapter 46:

Chapter XLIV – Visitors in the midst of a city.

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

27th of Summer, 5859
Imperial Highway №04-765, Outskirts of the City of Casamonu

John Brown was done with giant death robots, giant death onions, anything to do with large sizes. Unfortunately for old Brown, he was en route to a large city, the largest one in Casamonu and the namesake of the county in fact. Its presence could be felt even if the city was far away: the desire path was suddenly cut off by a paved road leading to the city. It was quite a wide one, made with stone bricks sourced from Mount Curry lined up as to allow up to two carriages to pass through simultaneously.

There was a milestone next to the intersection of the desire path, declaring that this road was “Imperial Highway №04-765” in English and a few other languages that Brown nor anyone else in his party could read. The sides of this milestone contained the many names of the patrons of this highway, starting at the top with “the gracious Mayor Erkan of Kasatmonu, son of Erkan of Kasatmonu” two millenia ago, continuing after another millenium with “His Imperial Majesty Glory IV Earlyriser” and ending with “the ever-generous Sir Kim Seong-min of Hangvuk” a year ago. Brown could at least admire the civic spirit shown by a road having been kept alive for so long, though he’d appreciate it a bit more if this road was not maintained by slave labor.

Ayomide appreciated the road a bit less. She, in a minor act of protest against the empire, turned over one of the loose bricks on the road and tossed it away into the woods. It was a joy to imagine some pompous nobleman’s carriage being ruined by this missing stone, and joy was a thing that fugitives desperately lacked.

Shinasi watched as the stone flew away deep into the woods. “I’d be careful with that.” said the adventurer “This entire road is bona fide imperial property. What you did would get the same punishment as the one you’d get if you broke into his palace and chucked one of the vases out of the window.”

“Oh? Really?” This only served to goad Ayomide further. She spat spitefully in spite of Shinasi’s warning, her spittle of spit landing on one of the stones. “And is this equivalent to spitting on his balding head?” She’d go further with defiling the road if not for John Brown angrily staring them down.

Shinasi sighed. “I don’t know why I warned you. It’s not like they can hang you twice for being a fugitive and lese-majesty.”

"They can do that if I end up not dying like the old man.” Shinasi and Ayomide couldn’t help but laugh in the face of their grim situation. Humor was the only thing keeping them sane from the real threat of capture and death.

“I do appreciate your enthusiasm in harming enemy infrastructure” said Brown, suddenly butting into the conversation “but we’ll be doing that in an organized manner when the time comes, so please exercise patience” Brown had read about the Romans of old and how they had built extensive road networks that constituted the lifeline of the empire. Trade, armies, communication, all flow from roads and the Gemeinplatz Empire seemed to be aware of that fact evident by the magnificent road in front of old Brown. Seeing this road had already gotten his brain to work on plans to sabotage this road network for abolitionist gains. A couple of angry freemen who had extensive experience with pickaxes would be perfect for this job, not to mention arming a few of them to extort slave traders trying to use the road… The road of opportunity seemed to stretch as wide as the road in front of him, as if the Lord himself had paved this road network to grant these former slaves an opportunity. “Let us conduct our business in the city swiftly so that we may return to take care of other pressing issues in Libertycave.” For now however, they were just sheep entering a den of wolves.

“Aye aye captain.” replied Shinasi, doing his best not to kick away a brick from the road. The dungeon had eaten into their time quite a bit, and they were around two away from Casamonu when the sun slowly began its gentle retreat. Shinasi had planned the trip to end in one day, so he hadn’t told any of his party members to pack camping supplies. Thankfully, he had a contingency plan. “I think we’re getting close.”

“Close?” Brown looked around him to make sure. “I don’t see the city anywhere, young man.”

“I don’t mean the city.” He pointed to a structure just off the road. It was a monument of some sort, with a stone base and four rectangular pillars which had long been broken away. “We’re an hour away from our resting point.”

“Resting point?” Ayomide didn’t seem too comfortable with the idea. “I bet they don’t even have proper accommodations for a darkskin.”

Shinasi smiled to reassure her. “Don’t worry, I’m not talking about a roadside inn.” Ayomide looked at him hoping for an answer, but she didn’t receive one. “Be patient, you’ll soon find out.”

Ayomide’s patience was tasted for another whole hour as the party continued on the main road. The road was populated by the scant city guards on patrol and passersby as they got closer to Casamonu while the sun retreated even further. She was beginning to worry that they wouldn’t reach this ‘resting point’ until Shinasi stopped his march and pointed to a small village off the side of the road. “Here we are.”

Like any other village in Northern Gemeinplatz, the houses of this village were built with wood, fueled with wood and supported with wood. Some villages further away from the city would also have palisades constructed with wood, but this one lacked any as patrols from Casamonu provided ample protection to villages near the highway. Still, the entrance of the village had a watchtower built just in case. The watchtower had a sign hanging from it revealing the name of the village to be “Yellowclover” with a crude image of a yellow clover next to the text. There were no yellow clovers, or any clovers, around the area which made one wonder how it had gotten the name in the first place. Instead of plants there were plenty of fields around the village, filled with lentils, wheat and potatoes which need no further description. The denizens of the village had all retreated into their houses by now after having done their daily work, which meant that the village itself looked quite abandoned at this hour.

Shinasi lead his party to an inconspicuous house in the corner. It was small, almost falling apart and consisted of only one floor. He casually knocked on the door of the house, which was replied with sounds of someone rushing to open the door.

“Coming!” the voice inside opened the door, revealing a girl quite younger than Shinasi. She was the perfect stereotype of a village girl in Gemeinplatz: a colorful headscarf adorned with felt cut to look like various flowers, a long linen dress embroidered with various geometrical shapes held by a silk sash that must have cost quite the fortune trailing down to the floor. Locks of hairs colored like chestnuts flowed down from her headscarf, almost blocking her eyes.

She ignored the other visitors and focused on Shinasi. “Oh, brother!” They rushed to hug each other, Shinasi having to crouch to reach his sister.

“How have you been faring, Shirin?”

“Decently enough, we just returned from taking care of the fields. It’s a bit hard without you around.”

“Eh, I’m sure a strong lady like you can take care of any field.”

A round of mostly pointless small talk occurred between the siblings before Shirin’s attention was finally dragged back to the visitors standing outside the door.

“Who are these people? An escort quest?” Her eyes bounced between Brown and Ayomide. Both of them looked out of place like a conga line of neon pink elephants on a space station. The village folk didn’t frequently get to see an Awmereighkan and a catgirl stand side-to-side.

“I guess you could call this an escort mission, yes.” He stood aside to let Shirin see his comrades more clearly. “The old man is John Brown, and the catgirl is Ayomide. They’ll be staying the night here.”

“They’re guests then? Wait a sec.” Shirin turned around and quickly entered a room to the back while shouting “Father! We have guests, and brother!”

Shinasi entered his own house without hesitation while beckoning for his party to do the same. “Come in, make yourselves at home. This is my house after all.” Brown and Ayomide followed him to the indoors, which was as plain as the outside of the house. The only thing decorating the room was a faint rug laid on the wooden floor and a low table standing in the middle of it. They sat on the rug while Shinasi stood up to follow his sister into the room, asking “Would you like some tea, captain and Ayomide?” before leaving. They both nodded, being as athirst as anyone could reasonably be after having walked for an entire day. Noises of copperware clanging together and rushed speech could be heard from the backroom, before Shirin returned with a boiling iron teapot (tea was so important as to indulge in buying an iron one) and four teacups on a tray. She set the table, pouring the tilia tea while nervously eyeing the strangers.

The silence was broken by Shinasi barging into the room, shouting “Shinasi coming through!” while carrying an old man in his arms. He set the old man next to the wall, allowing him to lean towards the wall for support. He introduced this old man to his party as well “This is my father Shinasi.” Confirming this statement was the fact that Shinasi Jr. looked like the spitting image of Shinasi Sr., the only difference being their age and garb. Compared to Shinasi’s adventure-ready gambeson, Shinasi Sr.’s outfit consisted of a wool cap and shirt protected by a leather jacket.

“Glad to meet you, good sir and…” Shinasi Sr. was unsure of how to refer to Ayomide, pausing while looking at the catgirl.

“Lady.” replied Ayomide, making her egality clear.

“Excuse me, good lady. My son briefly introduced me to you while he was scrambling to get the tea ready.” He shook hands with the Awmereighkan, saluting Ayomide afterwards by tipping his cap towards the catgirl. “Please excuse us for not being able to accommodate you as befitting a gentleman.”

Brown took a sip of the tea to clear his throat. It was quite plain, lacking sugar or milk. “I’m just a simple merchant making my way to Casamonu, Mister Shinasi. We should be the ones apologizing for making your household go through the trouble of accommodating guests on such a short notice.” While talking, his attention was drawn to Shinasi Sr.’s legs. The senior Shinasi hadn’t moved his legs at all since his son had set him on the floor.

Shinasi Sr. seemed used to this type of attention, and he replied upon noticing Brown’s gaze “Don’t worry sir, I haven’t been able to move them for a while now.” He had to lean forwards to take hold of his own cup of tea. “Work-related accident from a long time ago, back when I was in Casamonu with my wife.” He looked a bit far-away while reminiscing about his past. The old man seemed be the type who loves to talk about his life story to strangers without being prompted, though this was a common trait among older humans. “We were carrying a bunch of stuff off of a carriage, one that was stuffed to the brim. I try to tell the lord ‘Oh dear sir, we should get a bunch more people to carry these’, but does the idiot listen? Of course not, the entire thing came crashing down and crushed us to death.” He didn’t need to tell the rest of the story for one to understand what the result of this crushing was.

Shirin yawned, and Shinasi was twiddling his thumbs while his dad was retelling the same story for the umpteenth time. Sure, hearing about how their mother died was tragic for the first few times, but the emotional impact of the story tended to fade with time especially when his father tended to tell the tale of his tragic backstory to each and every guest that happened to come by their humble abode. The entirety of Gemeinplatz had probably heard of the story of Shinasi Sr. by now, and it would be no surprise if a bard or two had composed songs about his tale by now.

Having sufficiently retold his tale, Shinasi Sr. turned to his thumb-twiddling son. “I hope your journey was safe? All the merchants passing by have been telling us about how dangerous the roads are because of fugitives.”

It was surprising how quickly rumors of the ‘roving bands of escaping slaves ambushing merchants’ spread considering that the League of Gileadites had not engaged in any activities of that sort yet. Brown didn’t find it too surprising however; he knew very well how rumors about escaped slaves tended to be exaggerated and fabricated by an anxious populace. He found this rising fear of a slave rebellion to be a healthy thing. Let them fear the oppressed rising up and overthrowing them, for their fears are not unfounded.

Shinasi couldn’t help but hesitate with lying to his own father. “Umm… There were no problems. The road was as clear as it usually is.” He managed to keep his cool, doing his best not to seem suspicious.

“Good, the patrols seem to be doing their job for once then.” The room had eventually grown darker and darker while they were conversing as the sun finally disappeared from the sky. Crickets had come out to play, and their chirps could be heard. Lacking any form of cheap and convenient lighting, the rural folk of Gemeinplatz had no choice but to go to sleep at night. Shinasi Sr. tapped Shinasi Jr.’s shoulder to get his attention. “Son, get the bedding out for the guests. You don’t plan on letting them sleep on the floor now, do you?”

“Of course not.” With the father’s command, it was clear that it was time for the day to conclude. Everyone quickly sipped the remaining tea, and accommodations for Brown and Ayomide were set up on the entrance room. They were to rest on woolen futon-like bedding, which was much more comfortable compared to Libertycave’s luxury straw accommodations.

Thus the night would march on once more, eventually making way for day…