Written by Tinalynge & Blue Jay
Edited by ONI_Ghost
Beta read by OEE
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It was very sudden and hard for Luo Xiao to understand. It certainly startled him, but after some consideration, he decided to just let it be. He couldn’t change Jiang Yao’s behavior by just thinking about it.
The sun’s light was already starting to cast long shadows as the two walked towards the vendors. At most, they had about an hour before the merchants closed their stalls for the night and as such, Luo Xiao was a little hurried as they approached the sellers.
A majority of the sellers out right now were those girls Luo Xiao had talked to before, and as they stopped to look at one of their stalls, the merchant girls quickly took notice and smiled at them.
“Want to buy anything? We have some really nice artifacts from our home region, the Myriad Sands Kingdom,” one of the girls said while she smiled at them, attracting Luo Xiao’s attention to her items.
Momentarily glancing at them, he saw some intricate knives, a few bottles which looked as if they were made from a mysterious crystal, a few necklaces, some feathers, and weird fruits.
His interest wasn’t in the items actually, but in the words the girl had spoken. “The Myriad Sands Kingdom? But I thought that you told me you were born and raised by merchants your whole life?” Luo Xiao said.
Before the girl could speak, Jiang Yao softly sighed. “Xiaoxiao, born and raised by merchants doesn’t mean they don’t have a home,” he said.
Luo Xiao wasn’t stupid, but he had only superficial knowledge about the world around him. Everything he knew was either from books, his father’s words, or from what Jiang Yao had told him.
The pretty merchant girl giggled as she noticed the slightly confused look in Luo Xiao’s eyes. “Want me to tell you about my hometown? Your partner might not know about it, it is pretty remote compared to…”
“I know about the Myriad Sands Kingdom, no need for you to explain,” Jiang Yao interrupted rather coldly, glaring a little at the girl.
Her expression, which had warmed up a little due Luo Xiao’s curiosity, very quickly turned fearful as she looked away, unable to respond. Jiang Yao’s gaze was just too domineering for the merchant girl to handle.
Luo Xiao lost any interest in the items and looked at Jiang Yao with curiosity despite their previous quarrel. “Can you tell me about the Myriad Sands Kingdom?” Luo Xiao asked.
“Only if you pay me with a kiss,” Jiang Yao replied quietly as if sharing a secret, but it was obvious that the girl had heard him. Her face quickly flushed at the thought as she looked away.
Luo Xiao felt his face heat up. He pouted a little before looking away from the handsome man. He was too daring! There was no way he would pay for everything with a kiss, there had to be another way!
A rather amused twinkle appeared in the handsome man’s eyes as he took Luo Xiao’s hand and walked towards the next vendors in line.
“Alright, alright, this one will be free. Xiaoxiao, do you remember anything from the map you looked at a few days ago?” As they approached and passed another stall set up by one of the more gossipy girls, Jiang Yao once more lifted up Luo Xiao’s mood, distracting him from his words earlier.
“The map? Of course I do! Are you going to let me look at it again?” Luo Xiao said with a brilliant smile as he looked through the items laid out for sale. He eagerly looked through a few books before moving away to the next stall.
“One of the bordering countries of the Chengzi Empire is the Myriad Sands Kingdom. It’s also like your Kingdom of Zhanshi, a rather backwater place at the edge of the continent,” Jiang Yao said with a sigh. Occasionally he glanced at the items offered for sale, but he had no interest in them. Unlike Luo Xiao who looked upon every item with excitement. But he really couldn’t decide on which ones to buy.
“It’s said that their land experienced desertification after an extremely strong spirit was born there millions of years ago, but whether that is true or false, nobody knows,” Jiang Yao said.
Luo Xiao’s ears perked up at the mention of a spirit. He put down the small figurine he’d been looking at and glanced at Jiang Yao. “A spirit? Can they really change the land just by being born?” Luo Xiao asked.
The handsome man chuckled at Luo Xiao’s question. He was beginning to like this feeling of telling Luo Xiao new information. “Xiaoxiao, you should get a book on spirits just like that one on demons, even I don’t know many things about them,” Jiang Yao said.
Luo Xiao felt that Jiang Yao wasn’t really answering his question, which made his pouting even more obvious. Clearly, Jiang Yao would not answer questions that he didn’t pay for.
Realizing this, he could not help but sigh to himself. After thinking about this, Luo Xiao picked up a small glass bead which glistened gently in the dimming sunlight.
“I’ll tell you one last thing for free. The Myriad Sands Kingdom are known for their exports of really well-made glass goods. They have special sand mines, where they gain a material called Jade Wisp Crystal. That bead you’re holding is made from those Jade Wisp Crystals. In fact, most of their goods are made from them,” Jiang Yao said.
Luo Xiao’s eyes lit up. He could not help but look at the bead with more interest. But he shook his head and put it down before moving on to the next stall.
Inwardly, Luo Xiao felt quite awkward around Jiang Yao now, especially considering how quickly the handsome man’s emotions had changed earlier. The anger he had witnessed less than an hour ago was still clear in his mind, something which Jiang Yao could see as plain as day.
A few more minutes passed as they shopped in such a manner. The shadows grew longer and longer as the girls began to close up their stalls and put away their goods. While walking beside the stalls, Luo Xiao managed to learn a few more sparse things from Jiang Yao about the Jade Wisp Crystal as they approached the second to last merchant displaying her goods.
Now, Luo Xiao knew that the Jade Wisp Crystals were a relatively precious material in the outer regions of the continent. There were properties of the Jade Wisp Crystal that could be helpful to the cultivation of beasts. For this reason, humans were extremely protective of the mineral.
It didn’t have any desirable properties for the other three races, but any items made from it had a special luster to them. Therefore it was used in making crowns, jewelry, rings, and other decorative items crafted from these crystals. This, in turn, led them to be sold for exorbitant prices in the outer countries. Of course, Jiang Yao had no need to mention that to him. After all, these so-called luxurious items were nothing more than trash.
The last stall that the two men approached was surprisingly owned not by a youth, but an old man. The items he had for display were relatively similar to the rest of the merchants, but there were also a few that were not made from Jade Wisp Crystals.
Luo Xiao’s expression lit up as he saw new, unfamiliar items, and he picked up a golden hairpin that was on display. Tilting it a little in the fading sunlight, Luo Xiao saw a beautiful net-like structure inside.
Next to it, there was also a small bracelet made from the same materials as the hairpin. Luo Xiao looked at it with fascination. “Jiang Yao, what is this?” he asked.
The handsome man who had been observing Luo Xiao calmly glanced at the hairpin and bracelet.
“This is a similar mineral to the Jade Wisp Crystal, but it’s found in a different place. Nothing too special,” he waved his hand easily dismissing it.
Luo Xiao’s gaze lingered on the two beautiful objects for a little longer before putting them both down with a sigh. “They are beautiful,” he said.
It was so clear to Jiang Yao that Luo Xiao had finally found something he wanted.
“How much for both of these?” he suddenly spoke to the old man behind the stall, his voice carrying the demeanor of royalty he tried to avoid using when he spoke with Luo Xiao.
“Thirty Earth Grade spirit crystals for the hairpin, twenty for the bracelet,”
“Earth Grade spirit crystals!” Luo Xiao gasped, startling the rather unimpressed Jiang Yao.
“Xiaoxiao, are you alright?” Jiang Yao said.
Luo Xiao’s eyes went wide as he stared at the bracelet and the hairpin before looking down. “Jiang Yao… We can’t afford that…” Luo Xiao said.
It was only then Jiang Yao realized that Luo Xiao had only ever heard of spirit crystals and never seen or used them himself. Born in such a faraway place like the Kingdom of Zhanshi, and in such a small village, he had barely ever even seen gold not to mention spirit crystals.
All the youth knew was that they were more precious than gold and no one in his village had ever even seen one, to the villagers spirit crystals were a myth.
Naturally, Luo Xiao also had no idea that Jiang Yao was in possession of these spirit crystals as he had only seen the handsome man pay with gold and gold bars.
Jiang Yao was quite amused, “Xiaoxiao, didn’t I tell you that you can always pay with a kiss?” he said.
Almost instantly, Luo Xiao blushed a deep red making the aged vendor raise an eyebrow while Jiang Yao took out some softly glowing crystals from his embroidered pouch.
“Thirty for the hairpin, twenty for the bracelet,” Jiang Yao said as he placed the spirit crystals down next to the hairpin and bracelet. He then took the two items away and put them in his pouch. “It’s getting dark now Xiaoxiao, let’s head back,” he said.
Luo Xiao’s brown eyes had moved and were curiously looking at the spirit crystals, though he was still blushing from his lover’s comment. His eyes sparkled with a childish interest toward the world. This was something that made Jiang Yao gaze at him for a little longer before he took his hand and headed back to their carriage.
The sun had almost fully set as the old man watched them leave. He chuckled a little at the slightly possessive behavior Jiang Yao had over his innocent and gem-like Xiaoxiao as he called him.
“If only…” he muttered before shaking his head. It was just a fleeting, unimportant memory that those two reminded him of. With a slight smile, he put his fifty Earth Grade spirit crystals away and packed up his stall, like everyone else in the caravan.
In such a manner, three more weeks of endless travel passed with the caravan. They stopped at a few small cities along the way and at each one, the merchants opened their stalls and sold their wares to mortals and cultivators alike.
For the most part, Luo Xiao and Jiang Yao were social. Every evening they came out and talked with the merchants, although they avoided the jealous girls. Jiang Yao didn’t leave Luo Xiao’s side even once this whole time. It became clear to the people of the caravan that Jiang Yao enjoyed teasing the younger one. Every day, at least once, Luo Xiao’s face would look like a bright red tomato, making people laugh, especially if it happened during dinner.
At the end of the third week, the two finally bid their farewell to the caravan after Heavenward City’s fortified walls appeared in the distance. There were merely a few more hours of travel by foot to the seemingly rather big city.
Even if the distance could be covered quicker with the caravan, Jiang Yao insisted on it being just him and Luo Xiao for the last stretch.
The handsome man smirked while holding Luo Xiao’s hand tightly as he led the way.