In the next few days, Rando, Jonathan, and Chester discussed a variety of subjects while they rode. Occasionally Peter or Hans would also join in.
It was the last day they were riding together, and the political situations of each country had come up. This was because Peter found out that there was a betting pool among the mercenaries about what major force would hire them next. Staying up to date on wars, positions, and nobility were important issues.
“What sort of things do you bet on?” The merchant questioned.
“After King Tel Legen kicks the bucket, how many and which of his kids will survive the bloodbath that occurs when about fifty widows and their sons fight for the throne of Malamut,” Rando blandly stated.
“If he dies,” Buffo said with a laugh, “There’s been rumors he hasn’t aged a day since taking the throne, and I have to say they’re true from the few times I’ve been to court.”
Jonathan chuckled dryly. “Considering that implies those are just the ones he has married . . . King Legen has created quite the potential power keg.” His mind wandered back to the prince he had bumped into, Bas. The transmigrator had some hope that Bas and Liam would be able to stay out of the power struggles because they were further down the lines of succession.
“Rather morbid.” Peter frowned. “Anything else?”
Chester tilted his head. He was petting Magnus as his stallion seemed unhappy. “Whether Nu and Ahan’s military agreement will fall through, if Malamut will try a rematch with the Empire despite not having their necromancy, or if Shibe’s Crown Prince will die after attempting yet another elemental contract.”
“Wasn’t there also something about an Imperial Princess?” Bob asked. He had been riding along with them rather quietly.
Jonathan glanced around them. He wasn’t sure if the cook was nearby, but there was a chance. “Hans, do you know?”
“I believe you’re talking about 2nd Princess Adoncia,” Hans said. He had done what he had a habit of doing: showing up without any warning. “She’s one of the main diplomats of the Empire and the younger sister of Deimena, Queen of Alita. The bets would be on her marriage prospects.”
Jonathan was confused. He had seen her, and she looked normal. She was smart and her status was also impressive. “Her marriage prospects?” He repeated, questioningly.
“When Princess Deimena was married to the former King of Alita, she joined the rebellion and killed her husband. Queen Deimena soon married the rebel leader, who turned out to be the grandson of a fallen ducal house.” Hans smiled as he explained, “Therefore, no one wants to marry Princess Adoncia, for fear that she will follow in the footsteps of her older sister.”
Jonathan snorted. He watched as Rando pulled ahead of the small group and went to the very front of the mercenaries, riding beside Buffo for a long while. Rando talked with the tall mercenary, and received a slap on the back and uproarious laughter.
With that, the leadership of the mercenary band changed hands officially.
The mercenary band and their clients raised far too many toasts to the new leader that night.
Eventually, they came to a fork in the road where Chester and Jonathan decided to part ways with the mercenary band. Chester wanted to visit his family in Alita which would require the Western path, but the mercenaries would be heading straight South to their village. Jonathan, of course, chose to travel with his good friend. Peter decided to stay with the mercenaries.
They all stopped at the split in the path to break for a short lunch, and to prolong their separation.
Chester loudly sang and played his mandolin. He had learned some new songs and tales from the mercenaries during the trip. That was fortunate, as he usually went awry whenever he tried his hand at being a lyricist.
“What’s this?” Buffo questioned. In his large hands, the carving of a bastard sword seemed even more tiny.
“It’s a carving,” Rando bluntly stated. He had a longsword that was carefully tweaked to add details of being weathered and chipped. “What about this is confusing to you?”
Buffo picked the sword up between two fingers. He was being excessively gentle with it, fearful of snapping the wood. “Why am I being given one?”
Jonathan wasn’t sure how to explain his habit of giving out carvings. “It’s a goodbye gift?”
Hans studied his carving—a curved dagger similar to those he carried—with a slight, genuine smile.
Jonathan and Rando were squeezed into a bear hug by the tall mercenary, who was bawling his eyes out. Jonathan awkwardly patted Buffo’s back, trading a commiserating look with Rando. Rando was standing stock still, with eyes that spoke of how he had accepted his fate after so many years of this. Eventually, Buffo let go, and the two quickly backed up, out of hugging range.
“Don’t suffocate the new leader,” Hans advised. He said this, and yet he did nothing to interrupt the hug lest he be dragged into it as well.
Buffo nodded, but he was wiping at his eyes.
Jonathan sighed and gave a look of sympathy towards Rando. “I forgot to say it before, so good luck on becoming the leader. You’ll do okay.”
“Just okay?” Rando snorted. He waved a hand dismissively.
Jonathan smiled and moved on. It didn’t take long to spot Peter, hawking his wares near the horses.
“Hello Jonathan. Getting ready to go?”
“I’m already fully packed, just saying . . . goodbye.” Jonathan held out a carving of a straw hat. It had been a challenge as he didn’t want to make it too thin and delicate, while also putting in the details of the weaving that shaped it.
“Oh, why thank you.” Peter’s pasted-on smile seemed more natural, lacking the usual sort of shadiness that happened whenever he was holding an ulterior motive.
Jonathan had given Peter a gift because he had come to a decision: he hated what people did. He hated what those people had done to him. However, if they didn’t have a choice like he hadn’t had a choice, then he wouldn’t hate fellow transmigrators for that; he would only hate them for the choices they were able to make.
Biscuit wandered over, already tacked up before Jonathan left to say goodbyes. She jumped her nose against her owner’s shoulder, seeming to know that it was time to leave.
Jonathan nodded towards the merchant and mounted Biscuit easily. He walked over to where Chester was entertaining most of the eating mercenaries, The Blade, and Oceton. It only took a sharp whistle to call the bird over to the transmigrator.
Oceton made the short flight over without any issue. He landed on Jonathan’s hand and then walked carefully up to the shoulder.
Jonathan was rather happy that he had bought the pair of leather gloves from Peter. He would hate to get scars from when Oceton was landing and the bird’s talons were ridiculously sharp. Jonathan waited for Chester to finish his song, and then slowly started down the path West.
He laughed, ignoring the panicked yell from his friend who was frantically racing to catch up. Jonathan knew the bard was packed already, it was just that Chester wanted to stay longer as he was still a bit scared of meeting his family again. However, Jonathan wanted Chester to be able to go home, because Jonathan knew that he would never be able to.
I’m looking at the chapters left and realizing how little there is until the end. It’s a strange feeling.
Are you comforted by things that end, or are you frustrated?