An Unwilling Prince Chapter 10: A River

“Thank you very much for all of the help, Mister Jonathan.”

“You’re welcome.”

“But, why did you help me?” Joseph was wary; it showed in his eyes. Too much help from unexpected corners? A child with a good upbringing would have trust; he did not. On the other hand, it was not to say he wasn’t wrong to trust someone so easily, as he really shouldn’t.

Jonathan watched Joseph paint the long mountain range that ran across the North of the continent. He leaned forward, putting his elbows on the table. “I’ve been on the streets before. I’ve been mugged. I’ve been beaten by drunkards. Since I know what that feels like, how can I not try to help?” And maybe he had a soft spot for kids because of his younger siblings, so what.

“You could have been hurt by that thief,” Joseph pointed out with mounting frustration. His annoyance wasn’t directed at Jonathan; it was just that he couldn’t understand why a stranger would help him.

“I could have,” Jonathan acknowledged. His former body had many scars from his failures, but also far more muscle. Trying to subdue the drunk was definitely a risk. “Kindness isn’t just a choice. Kindness is a gamble. I try to raise my chances, but I am well aware I can be hurt by helping.”

Joseph frowned and didn’t reply, a thoughtful look on his face. He finished making his copy of the map. The kid seemed to have some skill, as his brush work was rather clean and he managed to avoid staining his hands.

“How old are you?”

“Fifteen.”

Jonathan didn’t question it, but he really didn’t believe the kid. “Your writing is nice. Who taught you?” From what he had had seen at the general store and this pub, the common people knew how to read and write, but not to this level. The kid’s writing was like that of an expert, confident brush strokes that sat on a perfect imaginary line.

“I learned by myself. I grew up in a noble’s house.” Joseph’s smile fell. “My mom was an indentured servant.”

“That’s rough.” Jonathan folded up his map. “Why are you heading to the Capital then?”

“I heard there’s some opportunities among the scholars. There’s even supposedly a couple who trains street children.”

Jonathan was uncomfortable with how honest this kid was. He wouldn’t tell Joseph where he was going or why, but he also knew he would feel bad about lying. Instead, he took out the carving of a scimitar he had made the night before and put it on the table. “Here.”

“Is that for me?” Joseph’s hand inched closer and closer to the wooden carving as he spoke. Despite how serious he sounded most of the time, he was still rather young and his curiosity shone through his attitude towards the small gift.

Jonathan snorted. “Of course. It’s for you.” He also pulled out two silver coins to pay for the meal and set it on the table. “Good luck with the Capital. Your food will be out soon. ”

“Thank you, Mister Jonathan.”

“You’re welcome.” Jonathan chuckled under his breath. The kid also seemed to be more self- conscious than he appeared, based on how much Joseph kept thanking him. As he walked out of the pub, his smile fell. The constant thanking was also likely because such basic kindness hadn’t been shown to Joseph in a long time. He left the small town about a day’s ride from the Capital and really did hope things worked out for the kid.

Biscuit was happy to be moving again. Due to their sedate pace, she would occasionally drop her head and try to bite at the grass growing through the spaces in the stony path.

He spotted the river and was happy to finally reach what he would be following to the country of Lembroke. Jonathan stopped to take a break. He dozed in the tall grass, letting Biscuit drink from the river and graze around him. His back was rather sore; riding for most of the day in a saddle would do that.

Jonathan lifted his head up as he heard a wagon coming down the road.

The wagon stopped and two people got out. The boy unhooked their two draft horses and led them down to the river while the old man went to refill their water supply.

“Hello there!” The old man hollered as he spotted someone laying near the river. “Good day today, isn’t it?” His skin was tanned and leathery from years of working under the sun, making his wrinkles all the more prominent. He was dressed in brown, worn clothes, with an equally worn bowler hat on his head. There were two canteens under his arms, uncapped.

Jonathan sat up and plastered a smile on his face. When the old man got closer, he greeted, “Hello, Sir. It is.”

“My name is Jordi. I’m a farmer.” The old man pointed down the road, the way the river was flowing from. “My place is down that-a-ways.”

“I’m Jonathan.” The transmigrator stood and brushed off the stray grass strands from his pants. “I’m going to my uncle’s farm in Lembroke.”

The farmer hummed. “Lembroke is a while away. If it’s a farm, likely in the foothills. Makes sense you’re on this road. Guessing you’re following the river then?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“No need to be so uptight.” The farmer waved away the formality. “You’ll make me blush. I’m just an old farmer here. Anyways, would you mind some company on the road? My son and I still got another few days’ ride to our farm.”

“That sounds fine,” Jonathan agreed. He didn’t see a particular reason to refuse. He needed more information about this world. If the farmer and son weren’t going to rob or murder him, he stood to gain from travelling with them.

“I’ve gotta go fill these up. I’ll be back in a jiffy,” the farmer promised as he headed off towards the shore of the river.

Jonathan nodded towards the farmer and then called, “Biscuit!” The horse perked up at her name and walked over. The transmigrator was glad he had taken off Biscuit’s tack; the mare had walked into the shallows of the river to cool off.

Once Jonathan put Biscuit’s saddle back on, he headed back to the road and waited by the wagon.

The son of the farmer led two draft horses to the wagon and hitched them up. He had many scrapes and cuts on his hands, but his skin was pale. Most noticeably, he had a large black earring on his left ear.

Jonathan waved to him. “I’m Jonathan. You’re Jordi’s son, right?”

“Kern,” the son replied. Then he started sorting through the bags and chests in the back of the wagon. When he was done, he turned back and asked, “You’re coming from the Capital?”

“Yeah.” Jonathan chuckled. He wasn’t entirely surprised Kern figured out where he was from. His clothes were for city folk, not for country folk.

“We’re from right on the foothills of Lembroke,” Kern offered. “Although Dad probably already said that.” There was a slight hint of irritation in his voice.

Almost as if summoned, Jordi came back and patted his son on the shoulder. “Good job with the horses. Has Ol’ Hidy been having trouble?” He hoisted himself into the front seat of the wagon.

Kern fiddled with his earring and muttered, “No.” He jumped in the back, using one of the bags as a pillow.

Jonathan mounted Biscuit. The mare trotted along the side of the wagon.

A/N

Jonathan: *sees child*

Jonathan: *big brother instinct activates*

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About Luxa Ren

Writer of An Unwilling Prince. Longtime reader, fanfic writer, artist, and animator. Ko-fi: https://ko-fi.com/thesilverhunt3r Tumblr: https://anunwillingprince.tumblr.com/

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