Book 1, Chapter 43

Sunk Cost

Not just anybody could get a hold of dragon materials. Even a new legendary being would have to be quite cautious dealing with one, and such an act would leave them constantly on guard against the dragons’ vengeance.

Still there was a fair number of people in Norland capable of killing dragons, but few also had a passion for collecting treasure. This was why the midsummer festival had grown popular, its scale far surpassing that of the large auctions of the three human empires. The supply of top-grade materials available at it far surpassed the others in both quality and quantity.

Blackgold had long since busied himself on this front. The festival this year would be three times larger than the last one based just on the invitations the Deepblue had sent out directly. The difficulty and complexity of the preparations had increased more than tenfold.

The Deepblue’s main tower and even the borders needed to be cleared out to make space for the aristocrats on their way. Many caravans, servants, warriors, and mercenaries would be relegated to the villages nearby, and the dwarf had already commissioned over ten thousand slaves and a thousand artisans to build three new towns they could rent out. Once the midsummer festival was done, these new towns could house new immigrants.

The Deepblue was bustling with life, and the function of the harbour began to show itself. The south knew of the products and prosperity of the north, so even before peak season huge fleets almost filled the entire harbour up one by one. The farsighted dwarf had already begun expansion works, making use of the festival to let the aristocracy see the value of the produce in the north. Top-grade materials were a brand in itself, and large supplies of basic items would make good profit. This was a flood of gold coins!

The moment the Deepblue’s power surpassed a certain point, the ambitious grey dwarf was going to consider expansion into the northern continent. Indeed, the northern continent was ruled by the mighty and merciless grey dwarves and beastmen, but the grey dwarves too were known for being able to be bribed. Blackgold was prepared to use his unique status and progressively invade the grey dwarf tribes. His final target was to buy the Stormhammer tribe!

However, while the blueprint was grand, the most important work to do was make inventory of the items that the legendary mage was preparing to toss out and auction off. Blackgold had to categorise them and appraise their value so that he could determine the starting price for the auction. Then, he would hand it to the artist who would make the catalogue for the auction. There was not much time left.

All sorts of strange and unfathomable items were piled into a room that was over a hundred square metres in area, forming a heap nearly ten metres tall. Buried underneath these miscellaneous items, there was actually a complete set of bones! If any necromancer was to see this, they would go crazy over this. However, the grey dwarf had a different attitude towards it. In front of this huge pile of treasure that he had to gaze up at, he found that he was extremely small. Clearing and categorising them was definitely not going to be easy.

Blackgold was the one with the least helpers amongst the grand mages, to the point that once he’d arranged for everything else he didn’t have one extra person with him. As he began labelling a meteorite, he began considering getting another helper for the first time. However, at the thought of the gold coins he would have to pay out of his own pocket for that, the grey dwarf resolutely shook his head and put more effort into work.

The legendary mage’s choice of auction items had been very simple. She just wanted to dump everything that was either about to expire, had an unknown function, looked annoying, or just took up too much space. Her own trove had evolved with time, and with the increasing number of items an increasing number of precious resources such as materials from rare animals grew in number. Another asset was minerals not native to Norland, as well as magic crystals which were a currency of the powerful. The number of precious items had grown to the point that they needed to be cleared out; the semi-plane serving as the legendary mage’s warehouse wasn’t all that big, and there would eventually come a day when it was filled up.

The set of dragon bones, for example, had been Sharon’s most precious treasure twenty years ago. Now, it had turned into trash that was using up precious space.

From the items auctioned away at the midsummer auction that happened once every four years, people could trace and deduce the general strength and wealth of the legendary mage. As the items became more abundant and rare, the Deepblue gave the arrogant powerful beings of the continent a clear message that the legendary mage’s strength was still quickly rising. Hence, after every midsummer festival, the Deepblue would welcome four years of increased prosperity.

The midsummer festival was truly a large event for the Deepblue. It was a chance to soar, able to make dreams come true as one could exhibit their abilities. Most aristocrats used the event to expand their networks, while ordinary people got a rare chance to make contact with those in power. This was a chance for them to achieve their dreams. The midsummer festival was also a time for a flood of alcohol, and a time when many young girls were dragged to bed, willingly or unwillingly.

In actuality, the Deepblue had begun making preparations for the midsummer festival three months ago. However, for Richard and Steven, this had been deemed pointless. Normally Richard progressed at a speed that would stifle anyone, while Steven was suffering as he balanced strengthening his body and striking his opponent. However, now that he was using the strategy of utilising gold to widen the path in front of him, Steven began to value the midsummer festival for the first time. If he could get a few top-grade magic materials from the legendary mage’s personal auction items, that would have a decisive effect on the results of the competition.

While Steven currently lacked the technique and could not use quite a few methods that Saint Klaus had come up with, the concept of the design was still of value. If he could find specific precious materials and use natural qualities to make up for the technical aspects, he would be effective.

If he obtained an ice dragon tooth, for instance, the snow rabbit would gain a large increase in its cold resistance. It would also give it the ability to use frostbite and icicle blasts. On the other hand, a fire dragon hide would give it total immunity to the cold, rendering the winter wolf’s innate spells useless. The crystal core of an abyssal rot-consuming monster would allow the rabbit to spray out corrosive acid that would leave even polar mammoths with several deep holes in their bodies, forget a measly winter wolf.

Another property of rare materials was that they could lower the difficulty of runecrafting greatly. For example, if the fire dragon hide was a hundred percent resistant to cold, the snow rabbit would only need a rune that would impart about 10% resistance to become completely immune, the rest taken care of by the hide itself. In other words, since the material itself was powerful, the effects of just a small amount would be able to meet Saint Klaus’ requirements. That could also lower the difficulty to doable levels. Steven had already heard from Blackgold that amongst the items to be dumped from the legendary mage’s personal cache was a large number of dragon materials.

This was actually a cheap trick, a very wasteful method. However, since the Solam Family had already invested tens of millions of gold coins to nurture a runemaster, they did not mind adding in two or three million more. If not, the amount they had invested would become pointless. The grey dwarf had zeroed in on this, which was why he had incited the legendary mage to re-pick her runemaster apprentice in a competition that would take place half a year later. In order to obtain this placement, the Solam Family would definitely continuously pour money into the Deepblue.

The situation had developed just as the grey dwarf had expected. That was why, during one of the internal meetings, the grey dwarf had proudly introduced the results to date, and also invented a term just for the tens of millions of gold coins that the Solam Family had invested previously: the sunk cost. In the grey dwarf’s point of view this was like a huge warship sunk deep inside the Floe Bay; although it having sunk meant all previous investment had come to naught, it would still be able to drag more ships to the bottom. Sunk cost was what made many people walk further and further down the path of ruin.

The grand mages expressed their shock with a lack of words. Who knew that Blackgold had actually come up with such a theory to gain gold unscrupulously through conspiracies? They couldn’t help but change their view of the dwarf. Although they’d worked together for over a decade, their deep-rooted prejudices against his race had never been diluted. Although the Deepblue flourished immediately upon his appointment as financial officer, they all just thought this was due to Sharon’s strength and not his skills.

In the past decade, the grey dwarf had been doing all he could to change this view of him, to show them that a finance officer didn’t just do the accounts.

The upper class people had their politics, the middle class had their stresses, while those at the bottom only needed to do what was expected of them, and they did not even need to do it well. If they could not even meet the requirements, then they had two choices. One was to fall to the bottommost layer of the social hierarchy, and the other was to mess up the hierarchy by breaking the rules. With violence, they could overthrow what had been the upper class, sending them to the bottom and obtaining their power.

This was the law of the jungle, how things worked anywhere, be it the Deepblue, the Sacred Alliance, or anywhere else in Norland.

To some extent, even if Richard qualified to be a personal apprentice of Sharon herself he needed to rely on her for study materials. He was definitely in the lower strata. Steven, continuously obtaining the aid of his family was in the middle class of this hierarchy. When these individuals of different levels met on the eve of the midsummer festival, they obviously didn’t feel good about it.

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