Jonathan woke up with soreness in his neck that wasn’t just from the wound. He vowed to buy a small pillow, or perhaps another blanket he could ball up under his head. At the very least, he was glad it hadn’t rained as then he would have been even more miserable.
He packed up his stuff, saddled up Biscuit, and continued down the road.
It was around noon when they entered the small town the main road went through. The horse’s hooves created a simple rhythm against the paved stones as she trotted.
Judging from what he saw through the window, this one was a general store. Jonathan tied Biscuit up at a stall and went inside to buy a few things. His first priority was a blanket that could double as a pillow. He also bought a sort of sling bag as he needed a bit more room to carry things. After he left, Jonathan was happy to find that no one had stolen his horse in the brief time he was gone.
Jonathan glanced down an alleyway as he passed, having heard a noise coming from it.
A man had cornered someone. From how small they were, it seemed to be a child. The stranger was kicking the kid, who was curled around something like a particularly tenacious clam.
“Hey,” Jonathan called out. “What’s going on?”
“None of your business,” the stranger yelled back. Despite the morning hour, his words were slurred as if he had been drinking. His clothes were messy and stained with a variety of things. The stranger seemed to be the village drunk.
“What’s up with the kid?”
The stranger seemed to realize the young man wouldn’t go away without some sort of explanation. “Ah . . . my son here took my money.” The man directed another kick at the kid’s side. “I’m just getting it back.”
The kid turned his face and glared up at the man. “I’m not your son!”
“What, is he your stepfather?” Jonathan asked calmly. He really wasn’t liking this situation. He regretted getting involved. His conscience wouldn’t let him leave it alone now.
“No. And I don’t have money. He’s just trying to take my books,” the kid accused.
“What do you mean you don’t have money,” the stranger snarled. He pummeled his small target with more kicks. “You walked in this town clutching that bag-”
Jonathan had moved while the drunk was distracted. He quickly reached around the man’s throat and drew it tight. He locked his hand in with his other arm. Choking people out was actually rather easy to do. It just took a bit of time for them to pass out. Jonathan ignored the attempts to pull at and scratch at his arms.
“You’re free to leave,” Jonathan told the kid once the drunk was unconscious. He dragged the unconscious man away before the kid could respond. It wasn’t too long before Jonathan had tied up and hauled the stranger onto his horse. He went back into the shop nearby and said what happened. Upon the shop owner’s suggestion, Jonathan left the drunkard there. When the next officer came by, the shop owner would turn the drunkard over to be jailed or stuck in the town’s stocks.
When Jonathan came out, he was surprised to see that the kid was waiting for him. “What is it and what’s your name?”
“Joseph. I . . . wanted to thank you.” He had his hands clasped in front of him, still clearly nervous. His boots were covered with a layer of grime. Dark reddish bruises were already forming on his cheek.
“You’re welcome.” Jonathan mounted Biscuit and started down the road. He looked behind him and frowned. “Why are you following me?”
“Do you know the way to the Capital?” Joseph asked. “I lost the map I had.”
“I can make a map for you if you’d like. However, I’m going to eat now.” Jonathan longed for a hot, homemade meal in the way one longed for air. His breakfast in the palace was only yesterday, but to him it seemed centuries ago.
“I know a good pub in this town, Mister,” Joseph piped up. “The lady there saw I was alone and gave me some bread earlier.”
“Okay. Lead me there.” Jonathan watched the kid as he moved ahead. There weren’t any signs of broken bones or bleeding. It seemed that Joseph was lucky and would just end up with bruises from that beating.
The pub was decent looking. It was built of wood, as was everything else in the town. Jonathan took out the map he made in the Imperial Library and followed the kid inside. Biscuit was tied up outside and would be able to graze when Jonathan took breaks on the road.
When Jonathan and Joseph entered, they got a few glances, but no one stopped talking or eating. Jonathan bought a bowl of soup for himself. He wasn’t entirely sure what it was made of, but it smelled good. There was a pretty good chance that the foodstuffs of this world were a bit different than his, perhaps made with creatures and plants he had never seen.
Jonathan put the map on the table, thankful it was clean. He ate and watched the kid unpack his own bag.
There were indeed books in there, as well as a few quills and parchment. There was also one inkwell that had not shattered during the fight, as Joseph had been curled around it. Once he was set up, Joseph started copying the map and some of the annotations on it.
Jonathan glanced around the room, then back at the kid. He sighed and offered, “I’ll buy you one thing. What do you want to eat?”
Joseph hesitated then said, “The soup you had. It looked good.”
Jonathan nodded and walked over to the bar. He couldn’t help but overhear a few of the people talking. Most of it was normal drama, gossip, and work complaints. The exception was the three or four sitting at the bar who were talking.
“Did you hear about Prince Roscoe?”
The name surprised Jonathan. It was a thunderbolt that sent his heart thumping in his chest. He glanced over at the woman who said that and was fortunate that she didn’t catch him looking over. He finished ordering and headed back, hearing the response of the man as he did.
“That poor young man. Dying in a fire is a terrible business.”
Jonathan took in a breath before he sat down. It seemed it hadn’t been discovered that he was actually still alive. Or at the least, the public didn’t know and thus wouldn’t also be looking for a recent runaway prince.
Joseph looked up from the map he was making. “Mister, what’s your name?”
If the new identity is dead, might as well use your real one, right?
What name would you guy choose to go by if you got isekai’ed, or had to fake your death?