The next day, Chester showed up with a black stallion. He seemed tired. He also had a different shirt; this one was white and frilly.
Jonathan raised an eyebrow at the changes, but didn’t bring it up. Whatever the bard had done was none of his business.
They started on the road, heading for one of the mountain passes between the large range that curled across Lembroke.
The bard started humming to himself, then only minutes later he was singing snatches of verses out loud.
Jonathan, having developed a headache as he had not gotten much sleep the night before due to his fear of being robbed or killed, was a bit irritated. He was at least thankful it wasn’t country or classical. He had a long vendetta against those two genres of music.
Aderes listened with a critical ear and occasionally joined in with her own opinion. She seemed less bored as she had two people to talk to now.
Three days later, the strange trio of travelers were riding along a rocky path. Jonathan was paranoid about being ambushed and his two companions were trading folk tales once again. At this point, he was just thankful they had moved past discussing the variety of small deities that apparently existed in this world.
“What’s your favorite?” Aderes asked.
“Mine?” Chester hummed thoughtfully. He tapped his fingers against the leather of his stallion’s reins, held casually in his hands. He quickly buried the nervous tick as soon as it showed. “There was a bard who went on many adventures. Malachi traveled with royalty and knights and people from distant lands. When he once met a dragon, he made no attempt to fight. This bard had no weapon. Instead, Malachi made a deal with the dragon that he would play one song. If the dragon approved of the song, Malachi would be free to go. He was clever and chose to play a lullaby. Once the dragon was asleep, Malachi escaped with his life.”
Aderes hid her mouth behind her hand. Her chuckles were muffled but still audible. “Do you just like the story because it’s about a famous bard?”
Chester ignored the comment and turned the previous question around. “How about you?”
Jonathan kept quiet. Now that he thought about it, he felt weird getting close to two people like this, all the stories and jokes . . . It had been like this with his best friends. Maybe his luck in this world wouldn’t be as bad as he had been the one who transmigrated.
He found it nice. Jonathan wasn’t pretending to be Roscoe. He didn’t have to. Aderes and Chester only knew Jonathan, the city boy travelling to his uncle’s farm in Lembroke. And, maybe not everyone was hiding secrets. Aderes could simply have the same name as the princess of the country. Chester was just a bard, albeit one that was terrible at making lyrics.
“My favorite . . .” Aderes chewed on a strand of hair for a bit before she started. “Long ago there was a man, King Tantei who united the kingdom of Lembroke. King Tlantei lost his life in battle. An army went to besiege the capital and they thought it would be easy. However, his daughter Princess Mrei took over the capital’s defenses. She fought on the front lines when too many of the men were injured.” Her tone made her admiration of the heroic princess obvious.
“Huh,” Chester murmured. He glanced at the young woman. “You want to be a leader like that?”
“What if I do?” Aderes kept her voice steady, although there was a red blush rising to her cheeks.
“How are you going to be like that though?” Chester pointed out, not unkindly, but realistically. He continued to rattle off, “Are you smart or strong? Good with people? Are you a genius at magic?”
“I can’t use elemental magic, but that doesn’t matter.” Aderes’s tone was determined, steel hammered into shape by her misfortunes. “I can fight. I can lead an army.”
Jonathan posed his own question, keeping his gaze straight towards the road ahead and not looking back to the other two. “Is fighting and leading an army all there is to ruling?”
“. . . No,” Aderes quietly admitted.
“Then you have areas that are important for you to improve in,” Jonathan simply stated. In his opinion, that’s all there was to it. Every leader was flawed and had weaknesses. As long as they were decent leaders and improving themselves, he didn’t have an issue with them.
Aderes was silent. She seemed to have completely zoned out of the conversation. Either she couldn’t take criticism at all—unlikely based on her past behavior—or she was seriously thinking about what her two companions had said.
Chester smiled. He seemed happy that Jonathan was joining in a conversation voluntarily once again. “Alright, alright. Moving on. Jonathan, what’s your favorite?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Everyone has one story they like,” Chester coaxed. He pulled his horse closer and smiled winningly at Jonathan.
“I really don’t have one.”
The evening of their ninth day traveling together, they camped by a clearing.
Jonathan was attempting to make a soup for the three of them. He had caught, with Aderes’ help, a brace of furred creatures similar to rabbits. The transmigrator also added some type of starch that had been recommended by the store clerk and Chester at the last town. As focused as he was on cooking, he didn’t notice the shadows sneaking up behind him. Something was rammed onto his head.
Jonathan started at the noise and almost dropped the ladle in his hand. He touched the top of his head; his fingers hitting the soft, velvet texture of flower petals.
“Surprise!” Chester cheered. He was sporting a crown of his own. His flowers were large and blindingly yellow in color.
Aderes had already moved onto braiding flowers into Biscuit’s hair before Jonathan could say a word. She wasn’t randomly choosing flowers. She knew which ones were poisonous to horses due to an unfortunate happening to hers in the past.
“I . . .” Jonathan trailed off. He adjusted the crown on his head and stood up. “How good are you at cooking?”
“Oh really?” Jonathan asked in a disbelieving tone.
Chester straightened his back at the question. It was apparently something he took some pride in. “I’m definitely better than you at it.”
“I will,” Chester replied. His expression showed how fired up he was at the challenge. Usually, it was an almost frozen smile, but now he was frowning in focus.
Jonathan patted Chester on the shoulder and went to go refill their canteens. He had successfully baited someone into taking over his job.
When Jonathan came back, he saw Chester hard at work on the dinner still and Aderes sitting on a rock sharpening her spear. The transmigrator watched the bard cook and couldn’t help but mutter, “Mm. When you’re like this, you’re okay.” The hyper energy of Chester was being channeled towards something for once.
Aderes mumbled in agreement.
Chester looked back at them. “What was that?”
“Nothing.” Jonathan brushed the question away with a hand. “Anyways . . .” He quickly diverted the conversation to talking about supplies and their route. Despite not being from this world, he had a map and was designated as the navigator of the group.
Their dinner was surprisingly good due to Chester’s efforts. Aderes and Jonathan nodded at each other in secret agreement. The bard was going to be badgered into cooking for the group whenever they pooled their food for dinner.
Favorite meal to make?
New Animation for Aderes is up. You can click This or paste the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcZjeC1Yz8M