As it happened, the world in which I had found myself was temporally structured in a similar fashion to my original world: twenty-four hours made a day, seven days made a week, fifty-two weeks made a year. Unlike my world, however, they did not have names for the days of the week – Wednesday was “the third day of the week”, Friday was “the fifth day of the week”, and so on.
Considering that it is a mouthful, I will, for simplicity’s sake, refer to the days of the week by the names I had learned in my previous world from this point onward. I do not know who may end up reading these memoirs, but in anticipation of the possibility that it is a denizen of this world – rather than of my own – who is reading this, the days of the week, from the first through the seventh, are as follows: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. If, at any point, my usage of the above names confuses you, refer back to this section.
It was on a Sunday, three days after Ruth departed from our town, that I stepped out of the tavern for the first time since I had started living with Rosalind. She had decided that it was unhealthy that I should remain cooped inside my room all the time, and so had requisitioned my help with the shopping. Naturally, I was hesitant – I had grown so used to the comfort of a familiar space that leaving it was an untantalising prospect. For the first time, I felt a semblance of what it must have been like to be voluntarily unemployed. However, recognising that I stayed with Rosalind by her good graces alone, and feeling a sense of obligation to at least answer her efforts, I had grudgingly agreed.
So it was that we ended up walking along the streets of the town, with Rosalind pointing out various landmarks.
“Over there is the fountain square. It’s the town’s centre, so if you’re trying to find your way to a specific part of town, it’s always a good idea to start looking from here. In the interest of public safety, horses and carts aren’t allowed on it, so those have to take a detour around the square – that’s what that large track is for. The fountain itself uses a fascinating network of pipes to keep the water flowing, but we don’t really turn it on much these days because of the frequent droughts. The seers apparently claim that the drought will end after another two months, so perhaps we’ll be able to see it then. It’s a wonderful sight. That said, even with the fountain disabled, the square, as you can see, is still a popular place for the children to play, as well as for young couples discovering the passions of love.”
Indeed, the fountain square was crowded with little children running around and playing. Furthermore, there were several couples seated on stone benches that littered the square. Several of them were momentarily preoccupied with locking lips, publicly displaying their affection for all to see. However, what caught my attention was not those couples, but the people who were glaring at them.
“…Is there a reason there are guards in armor glaring at the kissing couples?”
“Hm? Oh, they’re making sure the couples don’t start having sex in public.”
“I’m sorry, what was that?”
“Oh, it’s an old superstition that if you have sex on the fountain square, your love will be eternal and fertile. There are several conflicting accounts as to the origin of the practice, but personally I think some couple just invented it as an excuse when they were caught. Either way, it’s still public indecency to have sex in public, so the guards post people here to keep the lovebirds in line. Even then, there are still about ten couples arrested for it every year. Anyway, we’ve wasted enough time here. Let’s move on.”
“What kind of superstition is that…”
I shook my head in disbelief and followed along after Rosalind, who had already resumed walking. We passed by the school, the merchant district, the prisons and numerous other landmarks as we made our way to the market, with Rosalind pointing out public institutions to me whenever we came across them and sharing information, along with occasional trivia. I found it rather telling that she was focusing on public institutions rather than tourist attractions or historical sites; it meant that either she recognised it was more imminently important that I should know where these services were located, or that the town itself had little in the way of tourism and history.
One building in particular caught my eye as we passed it – it was a large building that resembled the courthouses back in my world. Large, white pillars supported a perfectly symmetrical white roof. As far as I could tell, the building had no windows, but there was a slight gap between the roof and the top of the main building, suggesting that it was a construction meant to allow ventilation without the need for windows. It was a large, imposing building. I liked it. I stopped Rosalind as we passed by.
“Ros, what’s this building?”
“Oh, this is the Town Hall. It was built by the Adventurer’s Guild to be a branch office, but they never moved into it, for some reason. Probably figured that a town so far from the main port didn’t need a branch. Whatever the reason, they sold it off cheap to the lord of this region, so he converted it into a Town Hall. We hold emergency meetings there if the lord calls for it, but that rarely happens. For the most part, it serves as a form of employment. Even though nobody uses it, the lord maintains a group of workers to keep it clean and orderly. If I recall, he also opened it up to the people’s use – anyone can pay a fee and reserve the venue for a week. Nobody does that though. There are very few activities that require such a large space. Regardless, we should keep moving. If we take any longer, the market will close.”
I nodded and hurried along to the market, where Rosalind showed me how to pick vegetables – our meats were directly supplied to our storefront every Friday, but Rosalind preferred to make the trek down to the market for greens. The day after Ruth had left, Rosalind had spent the morning with me, teaching me how to inspect the meat that was delivered. Additionally, she had spent the last two days teaching me how to cook food from this world – a skill which, as expected, I picked up very quickly. It still confounded me why my gift considered cooking to be a skill which could be weaponised, but I certainly was not going to complain. The meats of this world were similar to those of my world, and the cooking methods were familiar as well – by the second day, I could cook just as well as Rosalind.
In any case, between the cooking lessons and this trip, it was clear that Rosalind was pushing me to be able to help her out with more aspects of the tavern business – which would in turn allow her to spend more time hearing stories. I did not particularly mind. I did owe her many favors, and cooking was a useful skill to have.
Moving through the market, we picked up numerous different types of fresh produce, stacking it all in a basket that I carried, being the stronger. I watched Rosalind as she playfully bartered with the grocers, earning her deep chortles and friendly slaps on her shoulder. My butler outfit, on the other hand, had gotten me several incredulous looks. I decided to ignore them. I was wearing it by choice. As much as I had rejected the idea at first, I had quickly come to realise that I rather liked the butler aesthetic. It was a clothing style that managed to stay close to what I had worn for most of my adult life.
When Rosalind had finally selected the last of the produce, we started to head back to the tavern; we were due to re-open tonight, and we had preparations to complete. As we walked, I complimented her on her demeanor.
“You’re really popular, aren’t you? Those grocers all looked like they enjoyed talking to you.”
“Well, of course. I’m a tavern girl. It’s basically my job to ensure the people I talk to enjoy our conversations. Besides, I’ve known most of them since I was a little girl. I know they’ll give me a fair price. They’re all good people.”
“Hm. Come to think of it, you’ve spent most of your life in this town, huh. Though I suppose that must be rather common for this world.”
Rosalind looked at me questioningly.
“Is it uncommon in yours?”
“Well, it depends on the person, really. We spend most of our lives in one place or another, but most of us have gone to another country at least once. Of course, there are exceptions. I’ve done a fair bit of travelling myself, but I’ve always found myself most comfortable at home.”
“…I see… Travelling the world… it sounds nice.”
Rosalind’s eyes seemed to go out of focus, as if she were looking at some far-off object. I quickly spoke up.
“Well, it’s not as glamorous as it sounds, really.”
“Hmmm…? Still, I’d like to try it at least once…”
Rosalind sounded unconvinced. I frantically tried to think of something to say to cheer her up, but found my attention drawn to a crowd gathering in the fountain. Rosalind, roused from her contemplative silence by the clamor, watched the commotion with growing curiosity as well. I turned to her.
“Let’s check it out.”
She nodded, and we joined the converging crowd. A guard was holding up something and shouting.
“This cloak was found in the wreckage of a looted cart two days to the West of this town. We suspect that its owner was attacked by bandits, but we found no signs of them – the horse team pulling the cart was also missing. The make of the cart seems to suggest that the owner was a merchant. If anyone has any information on any cart-driving merchants leaving this town in the last three days, please step forward.”
Feeling a sense of dread, I narrowed my eyes and scrutinised the cloak – it was a brown cloak, with strands of short, brown hair – a lighter shade – resting on it in various places. It looked just the same as when I had seen it three days ago, except for the fact that it was tattered and damaged in various areas, and parts of it had been dyed with what was unmistakably blood.
Next to me, Rosalind collapsed to her knees, her hand cupped over her mouth. I tried to think of something to say, but no words came.