The old farmer seemed averse to silence. He didn’t let the quiet of the road settle at all, as he immediately asked, “So, how old are you Jonathan?”
“I’m eighteen.” That was the transmigrator’s estimate for this body, at least. His actual age was twenty three.
“Well, I won’t say how old I am,” Jordi laughed, “But my boy Kern here is thirteen. His birthday is coming up soon. How about you?”
“I lost track,” Jonathan lied. “What day is it?”
“It’s getting. . .let’s see.” Jordi stared off down the road as he thought. The farmer’s face was scrunched up in thought. “Second moon of the Spring was only a few days ago. Maybe five? So Lunar Two, Day Five.”
“Thank you. I was born after Lunar Three, Day Two.” Jonathan was completely lying. He had no idea how to translate his birthday from Gregorian to Lunar, or whatever that meant.
The farmer laughed. “Close to my wife’s then.”
The road cut through many open fields of crops, as Pinscher had the best soil out of the Hrea Empire. It was considered the breadbasket of the continent, along with the central part of Ahan, a country in the West.
To Jonathan, the sight of so much farmland was rather interesting. He hadn’t seen much of the country in his previous world.
Kern took a breath and asked, “Is there anything going on in the Capital?”
Jonathan nodded towards the younger boy. “Prince Roscoe the Fourth died.”
The farmer sighed. “A shame, but whether a prince or not, death isn’t something cruel.”
Jonathan couldn’t help the slightly dark chuckle at that statement. “What about the manner of death? He burned alive.” In truth, in his opinion, the manner didn’t matter. Death was cruel, even if only to those not dead yet.
“Truly, yes. Now that can be cruel.” Jordi looked a bit grim. “I’ve seen a lot of death in my life and as you put it, many manners of death. Burning is a rather harsh one. Same as poisoning and drowning.”
“You sound as if you’ve lived an interesting life.”
“I used to, but not anymore. For that, I am thankful.” The farmer sighed. “I was conscripted into the Imperial Army a while ago.”
In the back of the wagon, Kern’s face flickered through several emotions. However, he didn’t seem surprised at hearing about his father’s past, only disappointed in some way.
The farmer waved a hand through the air as if to wave away the previous conversation. “Well, as for news we have.” His voice dropped lower and he gave big dramatic pauses as he continued, “Before we left, our neighbors have been saying some beasts have started to wander down the mountain ranges. It might be because of a dragon being territorial or might be one of the old dragons woke up after a few millennia. I wasn’t alive at any of these type of times myself, but our family kept diaries of such things. Most of the times the beasts have moved down the hills because a dragon’s doing something.”
In the back of the wagon, Kern groaned in dismay as his father went on a tangent about how one can learn about fallowing fields and cycling through types of crops through yields. He had, as many children have, the misfortune of hearing their parents talk and repeat themselves for hours on particular subjects of interest. There were only so many times one could hear a twenty minute lecturer of the intricacies of growing legumes.
Similar to Kern, Jonathan long zoned out of the one-sided conversation. He occasionally muttered something when asked a question. For some reason, the experience felt oddly similar to listening to the radio or a podcast while driving, albeit he was riding a horse and the background noise seemed to be talking about lentils.
Jonathan was offered one of the fish caught in the river and he offered up some of the biscuits he had bought from the general store to the farmers in return. Thankfully, they were the southern type biscuits, not hard tack. It meant they would spoil a bit faster, but he had been craving soft bread.
After dinner, he was told he was allowed to sleep in the wagon if he wished. Jonathan accepted and found himself staring up at the stars once again; this time with hard wooden slats against his back. He found himself falling asleep quickly from exhaustion.
On the third day, the mountains had appeared in the distance. They took a break to get a respite from the hot, noon sun.
Jonathan and Kern led their respective horses down to the river to let them drink and started talking; perhaps more accurately, they started arguing about swords.
Jonathan raised an eyebrow skeptically and stated, “The broadsword is best.” He had done epee fencing from a young age. Anything with a basket-hilt he approved of.
“What are you talking about?” Kern scowled. It was the first open show of emotion he had since he met Jonathan. “Longswords are better. You have much more maneuverability.”
“However, that ignores their lack of power and the benefits of a basket hilt,” Jonathan pointed out. He would deny the smile on his face if someone pointed it out, but he had missed having dumb debates with people over random topics.
“Sure. That still doesn’t change that longswords are still the best.”
“Yeah, yeah, you brat. Agree to disagree I guess.” Jonathan rolled his eyes and used his hand to flick water at Kern, who failed to shield himself from the playful attack. The transmigrator quickly found the tables turned on him when Kern threateningly uncapped his canteen and smirked vengefully at Jonathan.
They travelled together for another several days. The mountains they were riding towards seemed close enough to touch.
The three set up a camp near a fork in the road when the sun started getting too close to the horizon for comfort. It was actually the one they would have to split up at, but they chose to stay together that night and have an early start.
Sleeping in the wagon was far more comfortable when Jonathan put one of the blankets underneath him. He felt far too young to experience back pain, and yet he still was. The transmigrator tried to sleep for several minutes, but Kern kept on moving around. After another few minutes of rustling, he finally gave in and asked, “What’s on your mind?”
Kern stopped moving. “What?”
“What’s bothering you?” Jonathan sighed.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Kern rolled over onto his side, looking away.
“Okay,” Jonathan said and waited, letting the silence grow without any resistance. If the teenager wanted to talk to him, he would. Prying wouldn’t help build trust and it was honestly none of his business. It hadn’t been that long since he had met Jordi and Kern, after all.
“It’s just . . .”
Jonathan’s patience paid off, it seemed. “Just what?”
Jonathan is actually a not very curious person. He minds his own business until someone ropes him in.
Have you ever been annoyed by people trying to get involved in your business?