One Last Struggle
Richard maintained his composure as the auction continued, continuing to buy items at a breakneck pace. Even though more than a third of what he bought wasn’t donated, he still hit a staggering amount of 6 million gold, only 200,000 behind Cardiff.
Cardiff was nowhere near as calm; his shirt was soaked through by this point, and he couldn’t stop gnawing through his fingernails. Only when his aide returned with a small case that contained twenty high-purity magic crystals did he relax, but even then he was feeling immense pressure. Even if he won and Lina accepted his proposal, he would barely make any profit overall. Besides, Lina wasn’t even a part of the bet. As for losing, the losses from that would amount to almost ten million. He would go completely bankrupt!
He was starting to regret agreeing to this bet. Richard still looked active as ever even after spending 10 million gold! Cardiff couldn’t figure out how an Archeron could have that much money, but he had already hit the point of no return. He asked for a cup of wine and downed it in one go, spending almost 2 million over the next few items to hit 8 million gold. However, Richard was still behind by 200,000. The royal runemaster had even spent another million on a few pieces of epic-grade equipment that he kept to himself!
The bustle of the surrounding nobles had died off long ago. Nobody understood how Richard had come up with more than 13 million gold, but it looked like he still had a lot left. He didn’t even seem to be fazed by spending this amount, still as enthusiastic as he had been at the start. Some people even started wondering whether the Archerons had sold more than ten million gold’s worth of equipment recently.
Gaton had once told Richard that there was a simple way to change the people that derided them for being upstarts; power. Over time, he had come to understand that wealth worked just as well. The abhorrence and disdain quickly warped into admiration and respect, even envy. People would still hate him in secret, but they wouldn’t have the guts to scorn him in public.
Richard shot Cardiff a glance and laughed, “Do you want to sell some territories, Carden? It seems like your funds are… insufficient.”
“NON—” Cardiff’s face burned in embarrassment, but he forced himself to stop and calmed down. The mockery and contempt in Richard’s eyes made him murderous, but he knew it would do no good to go berserk. Ultimately, he swallowed down his threats. Prince Nyris was still present, as were many other nobles. He would only be called someone without poise if he acted out now.
Cardiff knew well that perception was an important part of nobility. Losing this bet would only result in financial troubles, but lost respect would not be easy to earn back. A family that wasn’t revered was only a skeleton waiting to crumble.
Richard shook his head with regret that Cardiff hadn’t taken the bait, turning his attention to the auctioneer. In a split second he bumped up his donation to 10 million gold, defeating Cardiff completely. The earl was breathing hard, his entire body stiff as he stretched his hands into the case only to find nothing within.
The auction thus approached its end. The last item wasn’t a single piece but a total of 200 sets of enchanted chainmail that was suitable for most types of troops. Each set was only a little worse than a piece of epic-grade equipment, and the starting price of the auction was 30,000 gold each. This was the standard for auctions in Norland; anything useful in planar war was normally pushed to the end.
The price of mass-manufactured equipment was normally very precise, and wouldn’t jump too much even in an auction. Richard ended up buying all the sets for 36,000 gold each, planning to use it to arm drones or some such thing. This left everyone present gasping in shock; he had spent more than 20 million gold!
All colour drained from Cardiff’s face as he understood that he was destined to lose this competition. However, seeing Richard take out more promissory notes from the royal family he finally lost control and growled, “You cheated! That money is from the royal family, not you! I haven’t lost this bet!”
Richard raised his brow, “I told you to sell some territories if you wanted more money to compete, Candry.”
Nyris stood up abruptly, the lethargy replaced by rage, “Cardiff Tuescher, watch your tongue! If you wish to imply that the royal family is helping someone cheat in a bet, have your family head bring it up in court! The Emperor and the assembly will conduct an investigation to ensure the fairness of this bet!”
Cardiff couldn’t find a response to that statement. Regardless of what the truth was, bringing this up in court would do him no good. If Nyris really was helping Richard out, then the Tueschers would fall out with the Fourth Prince. And if the truth was otherwise… He shuddered at the very thought. Even his own family would not agree to blow this up. After all, this loss was his own; if they went to court, that would greatly affect the reputation of all Tueschers.
All of Cardiff’s followers looked just as defeated as him, especially the middle-aged man that had torn up Lina’s money. They looked at Richard like he was some sort of monster, unable to believe the situation.
Twenty million gold, and all upfront! Who could even spend so much in a single auction?
With more than a hundred nobles present as witnesses, there was no chance for Cardiff to renege on the bet. However, he had run out of money long ago. The only choice left was to pay with land; for 3 million gold, he would have to give up a viscount’s territory.
Richard thought over it for a moment and offered to count the territory for 10% above its standard value if he got to choose himself. This was more than 200,000 gold saved, so Cardiff quickly agreed. A map of his lands was quickly brought over, and Richard chose the territory of Viscount Lief which was somewhat close to Blackrose Castle.
An attendant sent by the royal family quickly marked the deed and sent it back, and Richard sent a guard to inform the steward to take care of the remaining formalities. The bet thus moved on to the most entertaining segment.
Everyone knew that Richard was a mage while Cardiff was a warrior. Even though the face was the weakest part of the human body, a saint could certainly put enough energy into it to protect it thoroughly. The energy would even affect any attackers; a mage’s hand would be bloodied up if they were to slap a saint’s face with full strength.
Cardiff stood in the middle of the auction hall and leaned forward, smiling at Richard, “Come, let’s get this over with!” He had suddenly regained his elegance and poise, perfectly playing the part of a son of nobility.
Richard’s eyes glowed dimly for a moment as he walked over towards Cardiff. The Earl felt his hairs stand on end, feeling like his entire existence had been seen through in that one instant. It left him in a cold sweat.
“Are you sure you want to do it this way?” Richard asked as he came to a stop.
Cardiff shuddered for a moment but quickly regained his calm, “I don’t understand what you are talking about.”
The earl had already moved the entirety of his internal energy to his face, something that was unnoticeable to most because of the specific techniques he trained in. This was a great amount of energy that would shatter a common mage’s hand, but the backlash from the impact would also tear his own skin apart. Normally this would be a lose-lose situation, but Cardiff had suffered his fair share of loss today and didn’t care for a bit of pain. And while shattered hands were trivial to normal mages, Richard was a runemaster! A pair of stable hands was the core of his career!Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Karen
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA