It took almost half an hour for the merchant to return. And when he did, what was hanging over his shoulders could at most be described as an overcoat thin as a cicada’s wing that would not help to keep him warm for even a single moment. At most, this would serve to make him appear even gaudier.
The merchant still smiled brightly as if nothing was strange about his behavior. “I’m very sorry to let you wait for so long. I’m finished now. So let’s go.”
Shangguan Yu nodded seemingly happily while he did try to see if there was anything strange going on around them. Unfortunately, he couldn’t see anything, and right now was not the moment to ask Ao Jing for his opinion. Thus, the three people went outside where a servant was waiting with a carriage.
The merchant turned toward them, giving yet another smile. “I hope you don’t mind. I’m not that good on food so I’d rather take the carriage to go somewhere. I really hope I’m not slowing us down too much.”
Shangguan Yu put on an expression as if it wasn’t a problem at all and just motioned toward the carriage. “But of course not. If you need one, then please get inside. We’ll just follow along from behind.”
Merchant Wang smiled just as happily. “Ah, I’ve hired you to do this important task for us and you freed us from our great scourge. How could I just let you walk? Please come and sit inside with me.”
Shangguan Yu and Ao Jing exchanged a glance but finally agreed. Thus, they followed the merchant onto the carriage while their gazes flitted about, trying to see if anything fishy was going on close by. There were no signs of any questionable activities though.
The carriage soon reached the marketplace and merchant Wang got off first, Shangguan Yu and Ao Jing following behind.
Looking around, the people already on the square seemed to question what they were even doing there. And the gazes they got weren’t necessarily friendly ones. Now that he looked at it like this, Shangguan Yu really wondered how he had been able to miss what was really going on here. Thankfully, this was just a game or he really would’ve been in trouble.
He turned to Ao Jing, lightly patting his arm. “You stay here when I follow him to show the proof. If something goes wrong, you can still figure out a way from outside and swoop in to save me.”
Ao Jing nodded and then stepped back, crossing his arms in front of his chest.
Merchant Wang looked back, raising his brows. “What’s the matter? Is his brother not going to accompany us?”
Shangguan Yu gave a smile and wanted to explain but Ao Jing already spoke up.
“You’re too kind. I didn’t have anything to do with the task you gave and it was already accomplished when I met brother Shangguan so it would be quite shameless of me to just go up there and ask for people to praise me for it. Anyway, we might have only met by coincidence but I still feel like there is some fate in that. It wouldn’t be right to slight brother Shangguan like this.”
Shangguan Yu blinked his eyes at him, barely holding back a smile. “How can brother Ao say things like this? I’m very happy that I had company on the way back. It can get a little lonely traveling the roads of the Jianghu on your own. Wouldn’t you say so?”
Ao Jing’s lips couldn’t help but curve into a smile. That was precisely what Shangguan Yu had told him back then when he suggested getting married. Hearing these words again, he just couldn’t help but recall the fond memories. If he could, he really would’ve liked to pull Shangguan Yu into his arms and whisper some sweet words back. Unfortunately, that currently wasn’t possible. Thus, he could give only give him a sweet smile and then avert his head as if all of this had nothing to do with him.
Merchant Wang was confused at the exchange between the two of them but finally decided not to bother about it. Anyway, he had no idea what these people of the Jianghu were thinking. He should just see that he got over with things fast.
Thinking of that, he made his way over to the center of the market square and waved for Shangguan Yu to come and follow him.
Seeing merchant Wang make his way over there, the people around them couldn’t help but start to whisper. Shangguan Yu couldn’t help but feel that things were even worse than he had thought in the beginning. This didn’t seem like this merchant was very well-received in this town. In fact, it looked a bit as if people thought of him as the actual bandit.
Ah, if he had known beforehand … He really wouldn’t have acted so rashly and instead gone to inquire about this guy for a bit. The next time, he would definitely wait for Ao Jing before he went to accept a new quest like this.
His expression was a little strained when standing next to the merchant but the man didn’t even seem to notice. He clapped his hands as if he still had any need to get the people’s attention and gave them a bright smile.
“I’m sure that everybody will be happy with the news that I have to announce. This young hero here has helped us against that bandit Liangqiu Min. He has brought back his jade pendant as proof of his work.” He turned to Shangguan Yu, urging him to show the pendant.
Shangguan Yu glanced at the people around him, feeling that things really weren’t good. He didn’t know who exactly that Liangqiu Min was but after everything that he had noticed before and how people were looking at him right now, he was pretty sure that this guy was actually well-liked around him. If he really showed that proof … He was afraid he’d be lynched the next moment.