“How did you get the wound on your neck?” Peter asked.
Jonathan reached up to his neck on instinct. The wound was sore, but it wasn’t really that deep. “An accident at my family’s shop,” he lied.
The farmer nodded in easy acceptance. “Life comes with plenty of marks. Some of them good and some of them bad.”
“Have you ever wished you weren’t a farmer?” Jonathan blurted out. His steps faltered after he asked the question, not quite sure why he had decided to pry into this random layman’s life. Perhaps it was because he was wondering what he should do in this world.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re king or a farmer, life can get boring and difficult and complicated for everyone.” Peter chuckled. “However, I have to correct you on one thing. I’m not a farmer, I’m a merchant.”
Jonathan blinked in confusion and stared at Peter. “Then weren’t you offering . . . I would be buying your supplies and transportation.”
“Oh, don’t worry about me, son,” the merchant assured. “I can always find a way to where I want to be. I was actually planning to buy a train ticket to Reagle.”
Jonathan glanced behind them. He had passed the train station on his way. “If you’re leaving on a train, why are you heading outside of the Capital?”
“My inn is outside of the gates,” the merchant said. He shrugged and patted Biscuit’s nose as the horse whinnied.
“The ring I have is worth quite a bit. It was my mother’s,” Jonathan lied. “I bet there are some stores willing to buy it from you.”
“Why aren’t you selling it yourself, son?” Peter narrowed his eyes.
“I don’t have time to waste. My uncle in Lembroke offered to take me in.”
The merchant stayed silent for a few moments. “I’m guessing your parents have passed?”
Jonathan didn’t have to act as he bit his lip and took a deep breath at the question. He wished he was lying about this part. “Yes, Mr. Peter. Both of them passed recently. It was . . . unexpected.” He hated this. He wished he had come up with something else to explain what he was doing.
“I’m sorry about that son.” Peter cleared his throat. His voice was soft as he revealed, “I can understand your grief. My wife passed away not too long ago.”
“I’m sorry for your loss,” Jonathan muttered. He didn’t like how little those words meant and how false he sounded. He had hated them even more after his parents died. He now hated how he felt as if he couldn’t say anything else except for those words.
Peter’s reply was quiet and heartfelt. “Thank you.”
The two walked in a half-awkward and half-solemn silence until they reached the gates. They weren’t the only people leaving the Capital close to sunset; lone travelers, caravans, and animals crowded together in a confusing mix of smells and sounds and sights.
The guard’s chainmail clinked with every step he took. Only a sliver of his eyes were visible through his metal helmet. “You two, what’s your business?”
“Farmer Peter, sir.” The old man smiled gently. “I’m taking my nephew to live with me in the country. His parents are, frankly, at the end of their rope with him causing trouble.”
The guard nodded. He wrote something down and then peered through the eye slit of his helmet. “I’m Elysius. What’s your name kid?”
Jonathan adopted a mulish expression. “John.” He wasn’t sure why the old man was lying, but he wasn’t going to be an idiot and question it now.
“I was a country boy myself. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it. And you should be able to go back to your family once things settle down, I’m sure,” the guard reassured.
Jonathan stared. He couldn’t understand someone being so certain a family would accept someone they had thrown out. His reply was bitter. “How do you know they will accept me back?”
“If they love you, they will,” Elysius stated simply. There was something a bit hopeful to his voice, but it was hidden under his casual tone. “Once you come back, apologize and make amends.” The guard looked behind the two travelers and grimaced at the long line. “Alright, alright. You two can go. And . . . good luck, John.”
Jonathan muttered a thanks under his breath and turned away.
After they got further away, Peter mounted the horse. “Once we get to my inn, I’ll sell Biscuit to you, son.” He patted the horse’s side. “You’ll have to adjust the stirrups and his things are in the saddlebags on the right. I don’t need her tack and grooming items so you can have those for free.”
“Any quirks I should know?”
“Not really.” Peter laughed and patted the horse’s side. “Overall she’s a rather mellow horse. Although you should know that Biscuit will try to eat pretty much anything when she’s hungry.”
“Okay.” Jonathan wasn’t sure what that meant but he wasn’t planning on a demonstration either.
They turned at the split to a side road. There was a small sign with off-white, peeling paint. It was so short that the sign would be easily lost among the weeds if one wasn’t looking for the inn.
The road they were on was now completely deserted. Jonathan thought it was a great time to ask as they were alone now. If he was going to get robbed and murdered for the ring in the middle of nowhere, he wanted some answers first. “Why lie? Are you really a merchant?”
“That probably did seem strange. My apologies for throwing you into that situation without warning. I am a merchant, but I have had some bad experiences with guards.” A frown flickered across Peter’s face. “I have been extorted, beaten, and robbed by far too many officers looking for a quick money making scheme.”
Jonathan still wasn’t entirely sure, yet he agreed. “Makes sense.”
They turned another bend and saw the inn rising up in front of them. The place was worn but still proud, the gold painted shutters dulled by age.
Peter dismounted and handed over the reins.
Jonathan traded the ring for the reins. He rubbed Biscuit’s nose and was relieved when the mare didn’t shy away from him. The transmigrator was glad he had taken some riding lessons after being harassed by his horse loving friend. He wasn’t great but he wouldn’t get himself killed, just the basics would do for him.
“Good doing business with you, son.” Peter tilted his straw hat at the young man.
Jonathan adjusted the stirrups as the merchant was a tad shorter and mounted the horse. He was happy to find that Biscuit wasn’t too tall for him to swing the leg of his new body over. “Same to you.”
Peter is half grandpa half shady car salesman energy. He was based on the classic premise of the npc merchant who sells things to main characters.