The merchant in question was a man surnamed Wang that gave Ao Jing an even worse impression after he met him. He was dressed gaudily, the robes made from fine silk and with jewelry adorning his hands and hair, not at all like somebody who had to scrape together the money to be able to pay for some hero to fight a bandit.
Merchant Wang rubbed his hands when he saw the two of them, very much the image of somebody who was happy to make a profit. “Hero! You’ve already returned. You can’t believe how happy I am. Have you brought back the proof that you killed that … bandit?”
Ao Jing slightly raised a brow at that pause in the man’s speech and glanced at his husband.
Shangguan Yu just nodded though and took out the jade pendant. “Is this the one you were talking about?”
The merchant’s eyes glimmered when he saw the pendant. “Yes! Yes, that is precisely the one. You’ve really done our town a great service!” He reached out, wanting to take the pendant from Shangguan Yu but he had already retracted his hand and put the pendant away.
“Well, I’m happy that I was able to help.”
Merchant Wang looked at him, seemingly considering what to do next. “That … Hero, would you mind handing the pendant to me?”
Shangguan Yu blinked his eyes. “Why that? Since you’ve seen it, you know that I’ve been able to kill the bandit, don’t you? Why would you want to keep something that reminds you of this tragedy?”
The merchant’s lips twitched. “Well, I’m not the only one who suffered because of this incident. I feel like we should make sure that the others know that this has happened.”
Shangguan Yu nodded. “You’re right. Why didn’t I think of that? How about this? Let’s go to the market square right now to announce it. I’m sure everybody will be very happy to hear this.”
The merchant looked from Shangguan Yu to Ao Jing and then back again as if trying to figure something out. “Well … We should first schedule an announcement, shouldn’t we? Otherwise, there wouldn’t be enough people to hear.”
Shangguan Yu blinked his eyes just like before as if he didn’t understand once again. “Why though? Isn’t it on the market square? I’m pretty sure there are always people around. And after they have been able to ensure that what I said is the truth and that the bandit really isn’t there anymore, they will be able to spread the message to the others. Since this was such a tragedy to everybody, they should be able to find out as soon as possible, don’t you think so?”
What he said sounded very reasonable but the merchant didn’t look like he liked hearing even a single word of this. Ao Jing took the time to check his equipment while he still had the time, anticipating that they might be getting into trouble very soon. Whatever the actual backstory of this quest was, it seemed they had already made a mistake when they killed that ‘bandit’. From here on out, that would bring them nothing but trouble.
Merchant Wang finally nodded with some hesitation. “Very well. But at least let me go and fetch a coat. I feel like it has gotten a little chilly outside these days.”
Shangguan Yu raised his brows. Obviously, it was the height of summer outside. If this wasn’t a game where they were playing as cultivators and martial artists who had internal energy, they probably would’ve been sweating profusely by now. But, well, if the quest giver was of the opinion that he needed a coat … Then they would let him get a coat. Thus he nodded good-naturedly. “Of course. Please take your time. The two of us will wait here.”
The merchant nodded and then stepped away, his servant following him out of the room.
As soon as the door closed behind them, Shangguan Yu leaned over to Ao Jing. “What do you think happened? There’s definitely something shady going on here.”
Ao Jing nodded, albeit still unsure about the intricacies of the situation. “I’m positive that the person you killed wasn’t a bandit. As for what his real identity is …” He shook his head. “I have no idea. He could be a competitor to this guy or maybe there’s something even deeper behind this. I’m afraid we won’t be able to find out without a thorough investigation. I’m just afraid that we won’t have the time for that. This guy … there’s no way he would really need a coat.”
“Maybe he’s sick.”
Ao Jing turned to look at his husband. “You really believe in the good inside of people, don’t you? I really don’t want to say this but this guy is … huge. If he is still able to wear a coat in this kind of heat with his weight, then I’d really be doubting my understanding of biology. Anyway, he didn’t seem cold inside this room and I don’t see anything to keep it warm. If it was an illness, then things would certainly be different.”
Shangguan Yu took a casual look around and nodded. “That’s for sure.”
Ao Jing continued to look at him and then raised his brows. “He also doesn’t look like he lacks money. Do you really believe that he had to scrape everything he had together to be able to pay you?”
Shangguan Yu gave a strained smile in return. “Actually … Until you pointed it out, I never thought about that. I guess you’re right though. I just can’t shake the feeling that it’s a game so they just do this kind of stuff for appearance’s sake. Shouldn’t a merchant look like this? Like some greedy pig? It’s definitely not original but it’s what I’d expect. So I just can’t help but think of it like that.”
Ao Jing sighed. “I feared as much. Well, let’s see what he has in store for us. I mean what’s the worst thing that could happen?”