|Author: Mad Flower||Original Source: SFACG||Word Count: 2175 characters|
|Translator: Keissen||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1215 words|
The man stood tall at 1.85 meters, his wiry frame exuding an air of casual indifference. His eyes, sharp and narrowed, settled on Kastina, with a distinct black mole at the base of his right eye adding to his notable features. He was clad in Eastern-style robes, predominantly gold in color, which seemed to accentuate his self-assured stride.
“Viscount Yelu!” Kastina exclaimed, recognizing him instantly.
“Your Highness, the seventh princess, forgive my lack of immediate acknowledgment,” he responded. However, his indifferent demeanor and the brief flicker of disdain in his eyes spoke volumes. Being affiliated with Grand Duke Keene, one of the Empire’s three grand Dukes, he felt no obligation to feign respect for a princess who, in his eyes, held little power. In the confines of the palace, perhaps, but outside? Not a chance.
Yaeger, observing the exchange, remained silent, her gaze fixed intently on Viscount Yelu. It wasn’t her moment to intervene.
“If you’re aware of your oversight, perhaps kneeling would be appropriate,” Kastina replied with a cold edge to her voice. Any affront to her dignity was intolerable. And considering this man’s intentions with her potential gold mine, she had no reason to offer courtesy.
His reaction was instantaneous. His brows knitted together, eyes piercing, and hands clenched to the point of audibly crackling. The atmosphere grew palpably tense.
Attempting to mediate, the rotund official stammered, “Your Highness, Viscount Yelu, regarding the auction house…”
Cutting him off, Viscount Yelu retorted with a scoff, “I’ve already staked my claim on it. Surely, Your Highness wouldn’t resort to forcing her way into another’s affairs?”
Kastina’s response was swift and sharp, “You think mere words will deter me? One of my favorite pastimes is rebuffing overbearing lackeys such as yourself.”
The term ‘lackey’ hit a nerve. Viscount Yelu’s reaction was visceral; his eyes widened in rage. Though he was a servant of Grand Duke Keene, being reminded of that fact was a sore point.
Fury seethed within him. If not for her royal status, he would have lunged at her then and there. Although he possessed superior strength, in the societal hierarchy, he was beneath her. A viscount couldn’t lay a hand on a princess, at least not overtly.
Attempting a different tack, he leveled his gaze at Kastina, “To be forthright, Your Highness, Grand Duke Keene has expressed interest in this auction house. I’d advise you…”
His attempt at dropping a prominent name was a calculated move, hoping that the weight of the Grand Duke’s influence would deter her. In his estimation, no royal, especially one with limited power, would risk angering someone of the Grand Duke’s stature.
However, Kastina’s defiant retort shattered his expectations, “I have little interest in what you believe. My desires take precedence. I’m hardly perturbed by the whims of some Grand Duke.”
She might not have had much political power or influence, but her fearless demeanor was evident.
Facing a princess with such unwavering resolve, Viscount Yelu’s frustration bubbled up, and he almost let out an audible growl of anger. Redirecting his irritation, he turned his gaze to the corpulent official. “And what of you? Are you unafraid of the Grand Duke’s wrath as well?”
It was clear: if he couldn’t intimidate the princess, he’d turn his frustrations on the portly bureaucrat.
The official, caught between two imposing figures, was a sweat-soaked mess, his body quivering with fear. “I… I…” he stuttered, clearly torn.
The looming shadow of Grand Duke Keene was undeniably intimidating. A mere word from the Grand Duke had the power to end his existence. But on the other hand, displeasing royalty, especially a princess, could have equally disastrous consequences. Who would have thought that the seemingly insignificant auction house could become the cause of such a dilemma?
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He felt like a tiny vessel adrift in a storm, vulnerable and directionless.
Kastina, sensing his turmoil, quipped coldly, “Is the influence of Grand Duke Keene more formidable than that of my royal father, in your opinion?”
Both the Viscount and the official shifted uneasily at her words.
“Absolutely not!” the official exclaimed in a panic, keen to distance himself from any semblance of disloyalty.
“Your Highness, such allegations should not be taken lightly!” Viscount Yelu exclaimed, his face paling and beads of sweat forming on his forehead. The weight of her words hung heavy, and he felt its gravity deeply. He had merely wanted to lean on the influence of his patron, but now he was on the brink of a dangerous precipice.
Simultaneously, a new layer of apprehension for Kastina began to form in his mind. Who would’ve thought that behind her seemingly naive facade lay a mind so astute?
Kastina, noticing the shift in the room, returned to the matter at hand. “Now, to address the primary concern. I have set my sights on this auction house, and I intend to have it. However, I’m not so callous as to dismiss prior claims. Therefore, why don’t we settle this with a bid?”
Despite the tension and his bruised ego, Viscount Yelu recognized the fairness in Kastina’s proposal. Reluctantly, he gave a nod of approval.
The plump official, sensing a way out of the confrontation, eagerly chimed in. “Very well. The Imperial Auction House shall be auctioned. We start at thirty million, and each bid must raise the stakes by at least ten thousand gold.”
As soon as the words left the official’s lips, Viscount Yelu confidently raised four fingers, signifying his bid of “Forty million.”
He had upped the bid by an impressive ten million without hesitation. Such affluence was astonishing.
Yaeger mused internally, ‘Is this the kind of wealth all nobles possess?’
Kastina’s face creased with concern. With a budget set at two hundred million, the additional debt from the auction house was a significant burden. Overbidding could leave her strained financially, especially when she needed some of the funds as working capital. A cash flow disruption could lead to myriad complications.
Seeing her contemplative expression, a smirk tugged at Viscount Yelu’s lips.
‘Presuming to match my financial clout? Futile effort.’
Viscount Yelu had access to a substantial three hundred million in funds, with two hundred million earmarked by Grand Duke Keene specifically for the auction house. Though splurging such an amount seemed vast, it barely made a dent in his vast reserves. The only downside? The commission he’d earn from this purchase was less than desirable.
As they considered their next move, Yaeger leaned in, whispering to Kastina, “Add ten thousand.”
Taking her cue, Kastina responded, “Forty million and ten thousand.”
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Both the official and Viscount Yelu shot her quizzical looks. To them, she appeared to be making a mere jest of the bidding process.
Kastina, feigning nonchalance, remarked, “No counter offer? Excellent. Seems I’ll secure the bid at this price.”
Viscount Yelu’s disdain was palpable. He viewed her actions as nothing short of immature antics. Determined to counter and break her spirit, he resolved to place a staggering bid of one hundred million.
Yet, as he began to speak, a sudden sharp sting halted him. A minuscule green needle, almost as fine as hair, lodged into his throat, delivering an intense, debilitating pain. Panic set in as he tried to cry out, but his voice betrayed him, leaving him eerily silent.