Chester got over his seasickness—or river sickness—in a few days time.
When they stopped at shore, Jonathan and Chester exercised their horses alongside the mercenaries.
The boat reached the capital of Celtie in only five days’ time, as they were aided by the current.
The pirates had already prepared the ship to undergo inspection at the port. It largely involved hiding their smuggled contraband in various small niches.
The passengers—the mercenary band, Jonathan, and Chester—had time to wander around the capital during the inspection and restocking. Most of them, including the latter two, went to the markets.
The markets of Celtie’s capital were rather lively; town squares and inner city streets were filled with people buying, selling, and wandering.
Chester was soon engrossed by a stall that specialized in musical instruments. He bought some rosin and new strings.
Jonathan was awkwardly standing nearby. He had no particular interest in instruments and never had. Fencing and whittling were two hobbies he had taken to, but his siblings had taken up the musically inclined hobbies, such as singing, violin, and piano.
The woman running the stall next door was covered in a thick cloak despite the warm day. The only parts of her that were visible were covered in gaudy jewelry. “See anything you like?”
Jonathan was holding Oceton, as the bird had refused to perch on his shoulder today. “I’m not sure. Do you have anything on magic or legends? Dragons, phoenixes, things like that?”
“I don’t have anything for magic. If you’re looking for legitimate manuals, you need to check out one of the academies or find a graduate,” the vendor explained. “However, I do have books on legends.” She dramatically gestured to a few books. “These are the ones you’re looking for.”
Jonathan picked up the ones that were pointed out to him, and thumbed through the books. There was mostly folklore, but one seemed to chronicle more historical events related to dragons, phoenixes, humans, and other sentient races. “How much for this?”
Jonathan dropped the coins into the vendor’s hand and put the book in his satchel. The transmigrator glanced at the musical instruments stall but didn’t see Chester. He didn’t panic, as they would meet back on the boat.
He was thinking of buying a new coat, but the red one he had gotten was rather comfortable and good for cold nights. Regardless of if he bought anything, he could at least look at some clothes.
Jonathan wandered through the market. There were sellers of coats, shoes, shirts, belts, pants, and jewelry. Some were in different styles and came in various fabrics. He did buy a new pair of boots, as his old ones were worn out, and traded the old ones to a seamstress who wanted to recycle them.
Wading through the crowd was a must at some parts, and Jonathan bore with it. At one point he felt as if he was stuck in a concert mosh pit back home. After the transmigrator crawled his way through, he stood for a moment and caught his breath.
Someone rammed into his side, clutching onto his shirt, and crying.
Oceton squawked in alarm. His claws dug into Jonathan’s shoulder.
Jonathan looked down and saw who had latched onto him.
It was Liam.
Jonathan cursed under his breath and picked the kid up. He went over to an open corner between two stalls, and then down the alleyway behind.
Jonathan had a choice. The scar was a bit of a giveaway. He could lie and pretend to be Roscoe, or he could be Jonathan. He had to make a choice. He hated his options.
He didn’t want to be like them.
Jonathan sighed and used his thumb to wipe away the tears. He had made his decision, and he would hate himself for it later. “You’ve grown taller.”
Liam burst into tears again.
Oceton hopped off his perch and glided down to the floor. He walked a little bit away, giving off the aura of not wanting to be involved.
“Don’t cry, don’t cry. I’m fine.” Jonathan awkwardly patted Liam’s back. His arms were getting tired already, so he crouched and put Liam down. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m living with Oliver. He’s nice! He’s my favorite brother.” Liam backpedaled immediately and said, “You’re also my favorite. You’re nice too.”
“I’m nice too, huh.” Jonathan didn’t know how to take that. Even his younger siblings called him grumpy and mean most of the time. “You’re taller.”
“I am,” Liam said proudly. “And your hair is way longer.”
“I haven’t had the time to cut it.”
“Why did you leave?”
Jonathan thought he was doing so well with controlling the conversation. He was wrong. “You have to promise to keep this all a secret. You can’t let anyone know, not even your mom or Oliver.”
“If you keep my secret too, I promise,” Liam bargained and held out his thumb. He had snuck out of the castle he was in, leaving behind his guards and attendants.
“I promise.” Jonathan pressed his thumb against Liam’s. Aderes and Chester taught him how to make promises in this world; it was a different way than the handshakes or pinky promises he had been used to. “I had to leave because I was in danger. My name is Jonathan now.”
“It . . . It wasn’t because of my mom, right?”
Jonathan hesitated. He didn’t have a lot of options when Liam found him. He was not going to do anything to Liam, that wasn’t even an option. It would be hard to find Jonathan as he was keeping a low profile and was out of the Empire. The only issue was whether his death being faked would affect the imperial family’s politics. “Do you really want to know?”
Liam stared up at Jonathan, half-sad and half-guilty. It seems that he already knew. He just didn’t want to accept it.
“Yes, that’s why I want you not to tell Oliver or Consort Lorelei.” Jonathan sighed. He told the kid what he had to tell himself for years, “Just remember it’s not your fault.”
Liam sharply nodded and changed the conversation, wanting to avoid the topic. He pointed to the bird. “What’s her name?”
Oceton puffed up indignantly.
“His name is Oceton,” Jonathan introduced. He hid his smile behind his hand.
Liam seemed to have decided not to try petting Oceton, and instead looked at Jonathan with hope in his eyes. “Do you still have my dagger?”
“Of course.” Jonathan pulled out the knife and held it out.
Liam stared at the weapon. “I. . .” He bit his lip, expression indecisive. “Keep it.”
Liam nodded furiously. He liked the present, the only thing he had been given by his mother for his eighth birthday, but his brother would have more use for it. He wanted Roscoe to be safe. His knife would do that.
“Thank you.” Jonathan pet Liam on the head. He cast a look up at the sky. “I need to go. My ship will be leaving port soon.” He held his arm out and Oceton made the short flight over to perch on him.
“You’ll send letters, right?”
“I’ll definitely try to.” Jonathan wasn’t sure exactly how, but he might be able to figure something out.
They hugged once, and then Jonathan went back to the ship.
Yes, the characters from the first five or so chapters are indeed important. Emlyn, Millan, and Liam have made their brief reappearances. (Unfortunately, Jonathan is the type of main character with common sense and is not easily distracted—otherwise he would get involved in mafias, investigations, political strife, and such. He’s trying to live normal life of anonymity and he will stick to that as much as possible.) Truthfully, most characters will show up again at some point, or at least be mentioned here and there. I like tying things together.
What do you like to do when it’s raining?