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Pathfinder: 180 BN - Chapter 43

Published at 2nd of April 2024 01:32:26 PM


Chapter 43

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Evergreen, 8th of Budrise, year 179 BN

Gazing up at the night sky, countless stars were shining down onto the planet. Yet, Richard could not make out one constellation. He wasn't an astrologer or someone who studied the stars and the universe. But, he did know a couple of constellations, the most common being the big and little dipper. Neither of those could be seen here.

How people found different constellations astounded him, it was a giant mystery. When he gazed up at the stars, he only saw a mess of lights, and even when someone pointed out to him where the big dipper was and how it looked. Richard still could not see or understand how people considered that to be part of a bear constellation. He just couldn't see it.

It was the same here, his eyes were trying to find out if there was some mystical creature drawn in the night sky. But he came up empty.

With a rueful shake of his head, he continued on his way to Roxanne's tavern. He went there earlier in the day to sell her the goods he managed to obtain in Disceroa, but she was too busy at the time to learn how to make fried chicken. Thus, he opted to swing by later on tonight when she said things would start to die down.

As Richard made his way down the dimly lit streets of Evergreen, the town was silent. The road he was walking along changed from a dirt path to stone pavement. The homes weren't anything extraordinary but could use a lot of renovation. They had thatched roofs to shelter the occupants from rain and snow, with others boasting sturdy, tiled coverings.

His own home was his workshop, and it also had a tiled roof. It was made of stone and kept out the cold for the most part, but it lacked any insulation. Usually, he made do with a small fire to keep warm, during the cold nights when his fur blanket wasn't enough. The people of this world were strong, he could appreciate that.

A wry chuckle escaped him as he mused over the dependence of Earth's younger generations on technology. The mere thought of them grappling with the rudimentary sanitation of this era—choosing between a bucket and a nocturnal trek to the outhouse—struck him as comically implausible. Yet, amidst his amusement, a pang of nostalgia for Earth's conveniences—soap, showers, quality clothing—crept in, only to be sternly dismissed. Time had blurred, with a year, perhaps more, having quietly slipped by since his arrival. Despite his wealth of knowledge and skills, he had no tangible achievements. He had minor successes but nothing that left a significant impact.

The realization that he had yet to exploit his potential to its fullest gnawed at him. Armed with the knowledge of another world, he could have revolutionized his living standards, and introduced the luxury of heated baths, or even a rudimentary shower system. Yet, he's done nothing of the sort. Thinking about it now, even his 'home' wasn't really a home. Letting out a weak laugh, he couldn't help but glance at the items he was carrying.

He's gotten a chance at something people would kill for. A second chance at life, even if the world wasn't the same, he still had his knowledge. But, he had nothing to show for it. Not during the time he's been here at least. Anyone else given the same time as him could have, would have accomplished something of note. But him, he was failing.

Gazing up at the night sky once more, Richard couldn't help but think. What did he want for himself? What did he want to accomplish in this life? He wanted money. It was something he never had an abundance of in his previous world, but would that be enough? Did he only want to gain endless wealth?

Right now, at this very moment, he had a chance to change the entire world. To set the course for a history that's never been seen before.

He's thought about it maybe a few times as to why he was here, in this world. What was his purpose? He had to, it was hard not to think about the reason as to why he was here. He'd be stupid to not have that question pop into his head.

Was it... was it so that he could change the direction of the world? No. That'd be too ambitious, and he'd never be able to accomplish something like that. He didn't doubt his skills as a blacksmith and craftsman, but changing the world? That was out of his reach, he knew that.

But, given the technology level of the world at large right now from what Richard has seen. They were probably lower than ancient Rome, or at least equal to them. Producing steel here, when it's yet to be discovered would accelerate the technology level of this world by centuries if their course followed the same as his world.

Even with the fantasy elements he's seen so far, this world would take centuries to catch up to Earth. But, was creating steel all he should do? Which led him back to the question he asked himself before. What did he want here? What did he want his legacy to be?

The world was too large for him to change, but Evergreen? Richard looked around at the surroundings. There were a few men lost in their drunken stupor, wobbling along the edges of the street or slumped against the cool stone walls. A couple he could see vomiting. No women walked the streets, and the city never seemed to be teeming with life. It was like everyone here was stuck in a routine.

Evergreen. He could transform this place. It'd take time, but he was still young. Richard wanted to make Evergreen the city everyone wanted to visit and live in, a place bustling with activity. Where he could use his skills best.

Better homes, roads, plumbing, baths, and the like. To bring in better food and culture. He didn't care if people wanted to stay locked in their homes all day long, but he would like to see women be able to walk around. Seeing men all the time was not the best sight, and he was lucky enough to meet Roxanne. She seemed to be the only free woman here, and that was saying something. Then there were the slaves, they also had to go.

Until now, Richard had maintained a distance from the lives of those around him, content to remain an observer rather than an active participant. Yet, the realization that he could catalyze significant transformation within Evergreen sparked an unfamiliar sense of purpose within him. For the first time, he contemplated the impact of his actions not just on his own life, but on the community as a whole. Evergreen presented him with a place where he could leave a lasting mark, an opportunity to redefine what it meant to live and thrive in this corner of the world.

Another modern person might say he's thinking too small, he should aim higher or do something else. But, this was what he wanted.

A sigh escaped his lips as he dreaded what this meant. He'd have to be involved in politics, which he disliked. The crap politicians of his world drove it to what it was, and there was a lot he could say about Earth. Yet, there was a positive for every negative comment he could mention.

Besides, if he managed to become rich then he'd find a way to maneuver the council to support his ideas. A lot of people say money can't solve all your problems. Those people never had enough money to solve their problems. Because in his view, anything under the sun can be brought with money.

He picked up his foot and started to move once more. Any change he wanted to make, he had to start with himself. Changing Evergreen would be his goal, his long-term one. His short-term goal was starting a profitable business, and starting a family. Something he lacked back on Earth, but he thought possible here.

As he neared Roxanne's tavern, the muted sounds of the night began to give way to the faint hum of life within. Going inside he could hear the murmurs of conversation. One man was slumped over the wooden table with his right hand gripping the mug but his eyes were closed. The majority of the seats were empty, there were only seven people remaining here.

At the counter he found Roxanne cleaning out some mugs. Beside her, a new hire—a young man with the sturdy build of a laborer and dark, tousled hair—maneuvered a barrel of ale with ease. Richard wasn't sure if the young man was a slave, he never did get around to asking her that.

He approached the counter and sat down placing his pot down.

"You actually came back," she remarked, setting down a freshly cleaned mug.

"Yeah, said I would, didn't I?" Richard replied, his tone light, betraying a hint of amusement at her doubt.

Roxanne nodded, her gaze momentarily drifting over Richard's shoulder to the remaining patrons. "It's just so late, and I figured you'd be busy," she admitted, her attention returning to him. "It's almost time to close."

Richard's smile broadened, a glint of mischief in his eyes as he suggested, "Then you won't have to work much longer tonight. We could use the time to discuss improvements for the tavern, beyond just expanding the menu."

Roxanne's gaze lingered on the pot Richard had placed on the counter. "And have a meal too? Fried chicken?" She asked.

With a nod, Richard lifted the lid off the pot, revealing the chicken pieces submerged in water, prepped and ready for cooking. "Yes, fried chicken," he confirmed. His attention momentarily shifted to the young male worker busying himself around the tavern. Roxanne quickly clarified, "No, he won't be joining us, but he'll stay until we close to help manage the drunks." 

Richard nodded in understanding, "I can wait." 

Roxanne, having finished with the mugs said, "There's not much left to do out here." Her eyes made contract with the young man she hired, and he gave her a nod. Turning back to Richard, she suggested, "Let's head to the kitchen."

Picking up the pot, Richard went behind the counter and into the Kitchen following behind Roxanne. A few customers raised their eyebrows at the sight, as this was a first for them. Seeing someone enter the kitchen that didn't work here, and with Roxanne. A few looked at their mugs before glancing back at the kitchen door where the two vanished. Maybe they were drinking too much because Roxanne's been known to never invite anyone to the kitchen.

There was very little change to the kitchen since the last time he was here. It was still spacious and stored the food that she used for the tavern. The wooden shelves on the left wall had more items on it that before, and he even noted a few that he sold to her earlier in the day were there. Those large bags of what he assumed to be rice were still stacked up in a pile without there seeming to be any notable change.

He did see that she had a whole section dedicated to storing eggs, which caused him to chuckle.

"What?" Roxanne asked as she looked back at him.

"Nothing," Richard replied, the corners of his mouth twitching upwards. Approaching the stove made of red bricks the pot he was holding found its place with a gentle clink. 

"Did you get the flour?" he inquired, turning to face Roxanne, who was now rummaging through a shelf.

"Right here," she declared, brandishing a small bag. 

Richard clapped his hands with a light smile. "Great, now all we need are some spices to add flavor." At times like this he wished he could open up one of the cabinets in his kitchen and grab one of the many spices they contained.

Roxanne let out a laugh as her eyes wandered to the spices she had brought from Richard earlier. "I have what you sold me," she reminded him.

"True, but are you sure you want to use them? There are other dishes that they might work better for." Richard said as he didn't want her to waste what she had on fried chicken. There was a limited supply of those spices, and once she was out, it'd be difficult for her to get them once more.

"It's up to you," Roxanne said. "You're the one who knows how to make fried chicken."

The prospect of bland chicken was unappealing, but given that Roxanne didn't know what it tasted like would it even matter? He knew, but it's been so long that he might as well be new to it just like her. However, he wanted to add a bit of flavor in, it would only add to the experience. "Why not? It'll be a first for both of us," he decided.

"How about that Dragon Pepper, some salt, and Grium?" He suggested as he pointed to the items on the shelf. Without wasting a beat he continued, "The Dragon pepper and Grium aren't in flakes, so we'll crush them together and mix them in a bowl. Add in a bit of water to help create a paste before coating the chicken in it to add a bit of flavor."

All three of those items were picked up from Discero from the merchant, Erik he encountered. The Dragon pepper was supposed to add in a kick, and Richard hoped it lived up to the hype Erik gave it. While the Dragon pepper was ebony black with a crimson stem, the Grium were five small green balls attached to a brown stem. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary Erik told him, but it was supposed to help with flavor.

"Is that how you usually do it?" Roxanne asked.

"No," Richard admitted. "Sort of improvising here, but under the circumstances, I figured it's worth a try."

Roxanne moved about the kitchen grabbing the items Richard listed. She handed them to him, and Richard grabbed a wooden bowl. "Alright, we only need a little bit of it, so how about you do it?"

"You sure?" She asked.

"Yeah, why not? Shouldn't hurt anything, you have to learn anyway. And if this turns out good, then once you get yourself some olive oil you can make it yourself." He encouraged. 

Roxanne sidled up beside him, a flutter of excitement took her for some reason. Cooking a meal was usually never exciting to her, but the time Richard introduced scrambled eggs to her also made her feel this. Although, now they were alone together. Last time Gregor was here, and it was still daytime. She could feel her heart beating, she wasn't supposed to, was she?

A deep breath did little to steady her nerves, and Richard's unexpected touch on her shoulder sent a jolt through her.

"Nervous?" He asked.

A nervous chuckle escaped her. "A bit," she admitted, her cheeks warming with the confession.

Richard gave her a heartfelt smile. "Don't be, you won't mess up. There's enough pieces of chicken in that pot, so if the first one doesn't turn out right, we can adjust."

With a single nod, Roxanne brushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear. She tended to do this when she was a little nervous, or if it was bothering her. Richard seemed so calm in this situation, that she wondered if she lost her charm. Besides the little playful banter they had every once in a while, she couldn't figure out if he showed any interest in her. Normally the male would make it clear that they had some interest, but him, he hadn't said a word.

Her confidence wavered momentarily; despite her undeniable beauty, could it be that she held no charm for him? Yet, why should such thoughts disturb her? He was just here to help her out, nothing more, nothing less. She had to stop thinking useless thoughts. 

"Ok, I'm ready," she declared, her resolve firming as she picked up a knife.

"Trim just this portion," Richard instructed, guiding her hand along the Dragon Pepper, "We'll save the rest for later." He then turned his attention to the Grium. "And for these, we'll need only half of one. We can mix them with this," he said, his gaze scanning the kitchen until it alighted on a wooden whisk across Roxanne.

"To combine them, we'll add a touch of water, stirring in the salt as we go. Got that?" He asked.

She nodded, her focus momentarily drifting from the whisk to Richard's gaze. "I think so," she murmured, her voice barely above a whisper.

The preparation was straightforward and swiftly completed. Richard opened the pot and grabbed one of the chicken strips. He cut them into strips to make things easier for them, and also because chicken strips were his favorite. Coating them in the watery paste, he then covered it in flour. A moment later, he did the same to four more strips.

"All that's left is to fry them," Richard announced as he set about igniting the stove. He had moved to find a small enough pot for the oil while Roxanne was busy mixing the spices together.

Roxanne was strangely silent, something that caught him off guard. He looked back and saw her staring at the chicken he covered in the flour. Maybe she was wondering about why he was doing that, but she didn't ask him. Was she trying to figure it out on her own?

Richard waited for the stove to heat up. Richard turned to Roxanne, noticing her distant gaze. "Are you okay?" He asked.

Roxanne's focus snapped back, a soft, "Yeah, just... thinking is all," escaping her as she tried to mask her introspection.

"Want to share?" he prodded gently, his eyes searching hers for an invitation to delve deeper.

Exhaling a weary sigh, "Just life, my future, and what the future holds."

"Just keep moving forward, whatever comes you'll handle it. If you can't, just ask me for help, and I'll see what I can do." Richard replied.

She didn't want to ask for help but was thankful for the gesture. Still, the thought of leaning on another person had not crossed her mind, she's been on her own for a long time now. Richard was something else, he just seemed to catch things that others would overlook. It was little things like that, that caused her to be attracted to him. 

"You're too kind," Roxanne murmured.

"Am I?" Richard asked as he noticed the oil was hot enough. The sizzle of chicken strips hitting the hot oil made his mouth water a little. "I didn't think I was."

"Honestly, I'm surprised you aren't married yet. Given you're a blacksmith, and young there should be various women trying to marry you. Have no families come to you yet?" Roxanne asked.

Richard's chuckle was low, tinged with amusement. "No, I usually keep to myself. Besides, I wouldn't marry just anyone. Also..." His gaze drifted to hers. "I'm not sure how marriage works here."

"The same as everywhere. However, the lord and councilmen usually have grand weddings and invite people of status to attend. For people like me, it's simple, we just go to the priest and they bind us together. No crowds or the sort." Roxanne explained.

"That is simple. I like simple. I'll marry when I find someone, I'm not just looking for anyone." He smiled softly. "You interested in me?"

Her response was silence, yet the subtle flush creeping up the tips of her ears. 

He could hear the sizzling of the chicken and turned his attention to it. Grabbing a piece he checked it, light brown and dripping with oil. It was done, just needed to dry off a little.

Taking all of the chicken out, he set them down into a bowl. In these quiet moments, his gaze often found Roxanne, not out of necessity, but a genuine fondness for her presence. Every time he talked with her, she made him feel a bit more at ease being here in this world. Although Gregor did the same, but they were different.

The chicken ready, Richard extended a piece towards Roxanne, who accepted it graciously. 

"Moment of truth," he announced right before taking a bite into another strip he picked up. It was juicy, far more so than he first imagined. There was a sweet taste that greeted him first before the spice kicked in. It reminded him of buffalo wings so he loved it. Not something he expected considering the ingredients he used. 

Roxanne's reaction was visceral, a moan of pleasure escaping her lips as the blend of spice and tenderness overwhelmed her senses. It was an explosion of flavor, the spice mixing with the juicy tenderness of the meat. Unbeknownst to her, a drop of juice traced a path down her chin.

Richard chuckled as he watched her. "That good huh?" he quipped, reaching out to gently wipe away the stray drop. His thumb moved with a care that belied the casual nature of their cooking endeavor, pausing ever so slightly on her skin.

Roxanne's gaze met his, and she felt a wave of emotions in that glance. Richard's hand lingered on her face, the warmth of his touch sending a shiver down Roxanne's spine. Her breath hitched slightly, she felt like a little girl meeting her crush for the first time. His hand was warm and comforting, unlike that of her deceased husband.

His hand should have moved by now, but instead, she found Richard caressing her cheek. He was leaning in closer, and she didn't pull away. She found herself drawn to him, the anticipation of what was to come making her heart skip a beat.

Their lips met softly at first, as Richard's right hand held her waist drawing her in closer. His tongue slipped inside and intertwined with her own. She felt an electric shock course through her body as their kiss deepened.

Cornered by the counter yet devoid of any desire to flee, Roxanne found herself momentarily breathless, her back against the cool surface. She let out a shriek as she felt his hands move lower down her back. Richard lifted her up and set her down on the countertop. Their breathing heavy as she felt her heart racing. She never felt this before, it was thrilling. As their lips parted, Richard gazed at her softly. She didn't even know that she had her hands around his neck.

Catching her breath, Roxanne searched Richard's eyes for a sign of what this meant. Did he feel the same way as her, or was this simply a moment for him that would pass? Richard offered her a tender smile. 

"Roxanne," Richard whispered, the warmth of his breath tickling her skin. "I—"

She cut him off, a bit of uncertainty in her voice. "Do you not care about your reputation? Being with me, you'll only damage it." She couldn't help asking as she was a widow, and no longer pure. Richard would be going places far out of her reach, she acknowledged that and he had to have a status that fit. Being with her would only tarnish it.

Richard was caught off guard by the question. "What?" His eyes saw that this question meant a lot to her. "I don't care what others think. Do you?"

 

VanishingDust

This was going to go into detail about the aftermath of what happened during the meeting, or with what occurred after Richard and Gregor left the room. But, I wrote this section first, and decided the chapter was already long enough.

This volume only has a couple more chapters remaining, then the epilogue.

After which, I will take a break from writing this to edit/revise the chapters and include the dates/year to make it easier to keep track of time.

On another note, this could have quickly turned into smut, but figured that wasn't worth the writing.





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