|Author: Mad Flower||Original Source: SFACG||Word Count: 2174 characters|
|Translator: Keissen||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1271 words|
“I’ll buy it right away!” Declaring with fervor, Kastina slammed the table, rising to her feet, a hint of a blush gracing her cheeks. It was the flush of excitement. In her mind’s eye, she envisioned a towering heap of gold coins, all for her and [Princess].
Seeing her so determined, Yaeger hesitated for a split second before asserting, “I’ll accompany you.” A nagging feeling suggested things might not proceed as smoothly as they hoped.
“Huh? You’re coming too?” Kastina paused, turning to gauge Yaeger’s expression.
“Alright then, let’s head out together.” Kastina’s lips curled in a smirk. She had been engrossed in money-making ventures lately, and Yaeger had been preoccupied with her own affairs. Now, an opportunity presented itself for them to bond. Kastina was elated, though she’d never admit it out loud. “But don’t slow me down!” she added swiftly, letting her smile fade, determined to keep her inner glee hidden from the ‘lowly slave’.
Ding! Kastina’s Favorability towards you has increased by 1,000 points.
The notification from the system had Yaeger smirking inwardly, confirming her suspicions about Kastina’s feigned indifference. She donned a black cloak, left some coins on the counter for their meal, and exited the eatery alongside Kastina.
Minutes later, they stood before a vast, decaying building located a mere fifty meters from the Adventurers’ Guild. “It looks on the brink of collapse,” remarked Kastina, examining the structure.
“Indeed,” Yaeger replied coolly.
The building in question was the Imperial Auction House. It stood, or rather sagged, in a state of disrepair, with gaping holes and a worn exterior that looked more like a ruin than a once-bustling hub of commerce.
Pushing open the creaky entrance, a cascade of dust tumbled from above, curiously avoiding them as if repelled by an invisible shield. “This place used to be teeming with activity,” Kastina reminisced.
“Why did it deteriorate to this state?” Yaeger inquired. She was aware of the auction house’s downfall but lacked the specifics behind its decline.
Kastina explained, “It faltered because underground auctions grew in popularity. They were initiated by influential nobles, charged minimal commissions, and operated at a quicker pace. The conventional, and perhaps outdated, Imperial Auction House simply couldn’t compete. Its decline was inevitable.”
Yaeger mused, “With the Imperial Auction House out of the picture, the underground auctions would naturally raise their commissions, wouldn’t they?”
Kastina nodded with a sly grin, “Exactly.”
“And the royal family? They’ve made no moves against these underground auctions?”
“As I said, it’s the handiwork of powerful nobles. Challenging them isn’t a simple feat,” Kastina pointed out.
Yaeger agreed, “True. Handing over power often means you can’t easily reclaim it.”
And that was the crux of the matter. The longer a noble family had been in power, the more clout they amassed. Even the Emperor would tread lightly around them. Bestowing power was a double-edged sword. Once relinquished, it was a Herculean task to regain.
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“This nation is in dire need of a sweeping reform,” Yaeger murmured, more to herself than anyone else.
Concluding their inspection of the dilapidated auction house, they directed their steps to the Imperial administration building, home to officials overseeing assets—mostly non-performing ones. Leading the way, Kastina ushered Yaeger into the office of the highest-ranking official. Recognizing Kastina, he bowed immediately, “Your royal highness, the seventh princess!”
“I’ve come on business,” she stated regally, extending her hand.
“How may I serve you, your highness?” The official was rotund, his short hair paired with vibrant, predominantly red, oriental robes, which lent him an air of merriness.
“I wish to purchase the Empire’s auction house—both the property and the managerial rights. Name your price,” Kastina asserted, her tone leaving no room for doubt.
The proposition rendered the stout official momentarily speechless.
Was the seventh princess having a lapse in judgment today? Why would she even entertain the idea of purchasing that place? The official pondered, ‘Could there possibly be some hidden treasure within the auction house that I’m unaware of?’ According to the laws of the Empire, even royal heirs couldn’t arbitrarily lay claim to national assets. They had to acquire them through the proper channels.
However, rules were man-made and could be bent by those with enough power. A powerful heir desiring a particular piece of land could easily have it, without making a personal appearance at such offices. But the catch was, they needed the power to begin with.
And Kastina? She had none of it.
As a princess preordained to be wedded off to another nation, she wielded little to no influence within the Empire. To make matters worse, her rampant behavior and habit of clashing with many had made her rather unpopular among the nobility. Had she not been of royal blood, she might have already faced a gruesome fate at the hands of her numerous adversaries.
The plump official hesitated, then finally spoke up, “Your Highness, the auction house already has a potential buyer who has placed a deposit.”
He truly wanted to steer clear of any dealings with Kastina. If she failed to hold up her end of the bargain, he’d be the one to face the consequences.
“What was that? Could you repeat?” Kastina’s voice took on a chilling tone, making the atmosphere in the room turn icy.
The official, quaking in his boots, stammered, “Your… Highness, it’s the truth! Someone has already shown interest. The final price hasn’t been settled, but there’s a bid.”
“But no deal has been sealed since no payment has been made,” Kastina retorted calmly.
“But… Viscount Yelu has essentially claimed it. Perhaps, Your Highness, you might consider discussing this with him?” The official suggested, clearly apprehensive about angering both parties.
Yaeger’s eyes, concealed under her dark cloak, narrowed. This was in line with her suspicions – things were never going to be straightforward. ‘Is their aim to gain legitimacy, or have they spotted the abnormal spending habits of the outsiders and deduced what I have?’ she pondered, or perhaps it was a combination of both reasons.
Yaeger found herself lost in thought.
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On one hand, the once-renowned Imperial Auction House had tarnished its reputation beyond repair. Meanwhile, the clandestine underground auctions, despite their popularity, could never officially be recognized, especially given their limited reach. It seemed logical for them to seize the opportunity to reinvent themselves and gain legitimacy.
On the other hand, she observed that affluent outsiders were wary of trading with local merchants, opting instead to deal directly with each other. However, the absence of any formal trading regulations led to frequent disputes.
‘I suspect this Viscount Yelu might just be a front,’ Yaeger mused with a sly smirk. ‘Behind him probably stands a cavalcade of influential nobles. It seems I’m not the only one seizing opportunities in the Emperor’s absence.’
These very individuals had orchestrated the downfall of the Imperial Auction House, with plans to capitalize on its demise and resurrect it under their terms. Their strategy was evident: they couldn’t appropriate the Auction House with the Emperor watching closely. However, with him away, the timing was impeccable.
She realized that upon the Emperor’s eventual return, he would be rendered powerless, no matter the depth of his outrage.
“I’m giving you a mere three minutes to hand over the auction house. If not, brace yourself for the repercussions,” Kastina warned sternly, her finger directed at the apprehensive official. She had quickly caught on to Yaeger’s deductions and understood the urgency of the situation.
An unfamiliar voice interrupted, echoing through the room, “Your highness, such assertiveness!” The voice originated from somewhere behind them.