The Beginning After The End - Chapter 24 - Auction
Applause thundered in enthusiasm at the old gentleman’s ardent introduction.
“If everyone in the audience would now kindly turn to face the back room at the very top, we have a few exceedingly important figures that have decided to bless us with their presence. Please join me in welcoming the King and Queen of Sapin!” The auctioneer was the first to flick out the tail of his suit and genuflect. The audience immediately followed suit, lowering themselves respectfully in a bow since they couldn’t kneel in their seats.
The King and Queen, in response, stepped out towards the window in front of me and waved their arms slowly in a practiced motion.
“Next, the one that made this whole event possible. Please give a big round of applause for Vincent Helstea!”
The auctioneer’s introduction was followed by another round of applause as Vincent stepped up next to the King and Queen, giving a deep bow in return.
I remained seated, looking down below at the crowds of people who were supposed to be of much higher class than me, but I couldn’t help but look at them as if they were…
No… I shouldn’t think like that. I’m not a king anymore. Hell, I haven’t even gone through puberty yet. No point in acting like someone who didn’t exist anymore.
I turned my gaze toward the King and Queen, studying them. Despite the stoic expression the King always carried, he didn’t have a domineering demeanor. He had a charismatic and strong presence, making it easy to believe that a majority of the citizens of Sapin would respect him, but that was it. He didn’t earn his seat; his father had given it to him. The Glayder family had been the Royal Family since the founding of Sapin. I wasn’t surprised to see that King Glayder’s mana core was only at the red stage.
Turning my gaze over to the Queen, something caught my eyes that I didn’t really notice at first. Strapped to the backside of her dress was a white wand. I couldn’t sense her mana, which meant she was either carrying an artifact that could hide it or she was at a level high enough where I couldn’t sense it.
Queen Priscilla caught me observing her and gave me a discerning smile, revealing her pearl white teeth. Her smile threw me off-guard, making me flinch and quickly turn away. I could feel how hot my face was, making it all the more embarrassing. The word beautiful wouldn’t do justice as a means of describing her. However, one thing I had noticed ever since coming to this world was the fact that I lacked any sort of sexual attraction towards these older women. At first, I had thought that it might’ve been due of the lack of necessary hormones currently in this prepubescent body, but the more I thought about it, I felt like it boiled down to the fact that my mother was just a bit younger than I had been before being reborn into this world.
I had never really been interested in human psychology but it was interesting noticing that women associated with the same age group as my parental guardian made them unappealing sexually. Maybe that was just me; no way to tell.
Of course, that also didn’t mean I’d go for children my age like Tess, Lilia, or even this ice princess here. They could be the very personification of beauty itself, but it didn’t change the fact that their mental level was that of a child. This was the reason I wasn’t able to see Tess as anything other than a friend or a sister to me, even when she was so obvious in showing her attraction towards me. Maybe when she’s older and more mature, I would start thinking about it.
Sigh. Being popular sure was a hassle.
“…kuu.” I looked down to see Sylvie staring at me cynically, her eye half-open, judging eye seeming to say ’are you serious?’
“Haha…” I couldn’t help but laugh in embarrassment as I pushed Sylvie’s face in a different direction to redirect her hurtful stare with my hands to block her hurtful gaze.
A large hand lightly squeezed my shoulder. “Arthur, a sword is up for auction right now. Tell me if you want it so I can put in my bid. Don’t worry about the price either! Perks of being the owner of this place,” Vincent whispered.
“Thank you.” I turned my attention to the item being auctioned off.
“This short sword was forged by a master smith who is also a fire artificer, ensuring that the quality during the forging process is top class. The core of this weapon is made from the core of a Thunder Hawk mana beast. Reinforcing this sword with just a little mana will produce currents of electricity around the edge of the blade, enhancing its cutting power and even having a mild paralyzing effect! The bid will start at fifty gold!”
Excited cries erupted immediately as nearly every noble boy who sought to become a mage tugged at their parent’s sleeves, begging them to bid. I remained motionless, my head propped up on my arm as I inadvertently let out a yawn. There was a large screen that magnified the items so the audience in the back was able to see. However, while the little shock ability could be handy, it was obvious that the sword itself was subpar at best compared to the blade I had wielded in my previous life.
Vincent had been constantly shifting his gaze between me and the weapon, hoping I would at least be interested in the weapon that most people would kill over.
I shook my head in response.
“No worries! That was just the start! Let me know when you find something you like. Oh! I almost forgot. I have the items you wanted in the back. I’ll have one of the workers deliver it to me after this event is over,” he whispered, leaning closely to so only I could hear.
My ears perked up as I abruptly turned to him. “You managed to find a voice-altering mask as well?”
“It took a bit longer than I expected but I finally managed to find one. I also got you a coat made from a nightmare fox that should make it harder for the wearer to be registered to the unsuspecting eye. I thought it would be something you would want so I snatched that too while I could,” Vincent replied softly, shooting me a wink.
“That’s more than what I had hoped for.” The mask was essential for me to become an adventurer, but the coat would no doubt be useful as well.
“Don’t worry about it and just stay safe. I’m the one that has to deal with your family if something happens to you, you know,” he chuckled.
I just smiled wryly at this fact. No. I wasn’t going to give my family a reason to grieve again like I had done to them before.
There were a few interesting items along the way. There were several beast cores, most of which were B-class or lower. The prices for those were astronomical. Even a C-class core was around fifty gold, and each class multiplied this figure exponentially. There were a few more artifacts and cores but none of those were things I wanted.
The King himself bid on a few of them, winning an A-class beast core. It wasn’t until a mage actually absorbed the core that they would find whether a beast core still contained a will or not. Chances were slim to find a core that still had its will still intact; even if it did contain the will, it had to be compatible with the user. Most beasts, however, had already passed it on to one of its offspring or instinctively chose to disperse their will before dying.
I guess the King was hoping to get lucky. The Queen, on the other hand, bid on a mana absorption ring and a couple other items useful for conjurers.
As we approached the latter half of the auction, the items began increasing in value. As more and more items were sold off, my interest started to deplete until a large, square container, covered by a sheet, was rolled out onto the stage by a few workers.
I couldn’t help but grow agitated as the auctioneer removed the sheet, revealing a cage full of females chained together with only a dirty sack to cover their private areas.
It disgusted me as so many noblemen frantically began bidding on the young female slaves that were soon stripped to show their assets like animals. I realized that being born in a small town with people who disagreed with the idea of having slaves had made me almost forget the fact that slaves actually existed in this world.
My world abolished slavery hundreds of years ago, so the idea of owning a slave was something that I just couldn’t get used to.
Memories of killing the slave traders that had abducted Tessia came back to mind. If I hadn’t been there to rescue her, what would’ve happened? A shiver ran down my spine at the thought of Tessia being abused by a corrupt aristocrat. Now that I think about it, didn’t I inadvertently prevent a war from happening between the humans and elves?
The taste of metal in my mouth brought me back to reality. Realizing that I had bit down too hard on my lower lip, I quickly wiped the blood off of my lips with my finger.
Tabitha and my mother had solemn faces at the sight of the slaves, but they simply shook their heads and focused their attention on Ellie and Lilia instead. Even though the Helstea family was a very prominent noble house, they opposed the idea of keeping slaves and opted to simply hire maids and butlers.
Vincent’s face flashed with guilt but he quickly regained composure. I’m sure he was against this, but it couldn’t be helped that the popularity and demand of slaves were too high.
Turning my head, I spotted the prince murmuring something to the little princess, but I couldn’t guess what from her expressionless face.
This was becoming tedious. I was beginning to think that it would be better to hold off on getting a decent sword for now and just settle for a decent practice sword until my body matured a bit.
Getting up from my seat, I leaned back, stretching my stiff body when I spotted the hooded guard named Sebastian eyeing Sylvie with a disturbing twinkle in his eyes.
The beady-eyed, bony conjurer underneath that hood continued impatiently fiddling with his metal staff as his eyes stayed greedily fixated on my bond.
After a few moments, he noticed that I was glaring back at him. Letting out a stifled cough in response, he straightened his robe as he spread out his normally hunched shoulders to make himself look bigger. Staring down at me, he had the audacity to let out a smug grin, as if he had every right to do what he was going to do.
This foolish plebeian has the audacity to…
VINCENT HELSTEA’S POV:
It was a pity Arthur wasn’t able to find a suitable sword.
No matter. There are enough swords in storage; I’m sure he will take a liking to at least one of them.
“Your Majesty, I hope you’re finding it worthwhile to visit this humble auction house of ours,” I assured, lowering myself.
“This place and event was anything but humble, Vincent. And yes, I’m not sure how you managed to secure an A-class beast core from a silvercoat bear, but you’ve managed to build quite the network. Let’s just hope that the beast will is still intact.” He clasped my back excitedly with his hand.
“Don’t get your hopes up too much, Dear. You know how rare it is,” I could hear the Queen mutter quietly in response.
The Queen turned back to resume her conversation with Alice and my wife. They seemed to be discussing something about the kids.
His Majesty and I turned our attention back to the main stage when, all of a sudden, a terrifyingly oppressive presence filled the room, constricting my body.
I tried my hardest to move, to try and find the source of this domineering bloodlust, but my body refused to obey.
What the hell was going on? This was the most secure area in the entire building with the King’s guard inside, as well as my own, securing the outside of the room.
My breathing turned shallow as the overbearing pressure continued gripping at my insides.
I could feel beads of cold sweat slowly rolling down my face as if they, too, were afraid.
With much effort, my body relented a little and I was able to turn my gaze slightly to see if they knew what was going on.
While they were at least able to move their bodies, it was clear that they were just as confused as I was.
I had no idea what to expect next. I had assumed that I would live for quite a bit longer, yet here I was, at death’s door, trying to struggle out of his icy grasp.
What in Hell’s name was happening?
ARTHUR LEYWIN’S POV:
Damn it. I lost control.
I quickly turned away from the pale-faced Sebastian currently shaking on the floor, hoping no one had noticed.
I had only meant to give Sebastian a little scare, not to terrify every person in the room.
Taking a quick peek around, I let out a small sigh of relief after seeing that my mother and sister were okay. My sister was startled and crying, but they were both far away enough to not get directly affected.
I didn’t think it would be this bad with this body of mine.
This was the first time letting my killing intent loose. Even when I was up against the slave traders, I had chosen not to emit any kind of intent in order to catch them by surprise.
The King’s augmenter guards had their weapons unsheathed and positioned to defend around the royal family by the time I had withdrawn the pressure I had exerted onto the room.
“Who’s there? You dare try and attack the royal family?” the King roared as he pushed his wife and children behind him. Queen Priscilla had her wand out and was silently muttering a spell as she herded her frightened children, as well as my mother and my sister, Ellie, behind her husband and the guards.
Vincent used an artifact in his hands to call for more guards inside and had the others scout the area for any assassins that may be, or had been, nearby.
Time ticked slowly for me as everyone in the room was in a state of panic and tension. My mother had grabbed me, holding firmly onto me and my sister as guards ran around with weapons held close.
My father had stopped by, but, after making sure that we were okay, left to try and search for the mysterious attacker.
It wasn’t until they confirmed killing an intruder on the roof of the auction house that everyone had calmed down.
I let out sigh of relief, but unlike everyone else, my relief wasn’t for the fact that the intruder had been killed, but the fact that I had been provided with a convenient scapegoat.
Thank you, intruder on the roof. Your sacrifice was not in vain.
“Oy Sebastian. How could a royal guard fall on his arse by a little intimidation from an intruder? You’re going to die early like this.” A hooded augmenter holding a spear shook his head, trying to sound tough in front of his comrades.
“I merely slipped!” Sebastian snarled, slapping away the hand that one of the guards held out.
He regarded me suspiciously for a moment but said nothing else as he turned away in disdain.
“Now! For the final item we have up for the lucky individual fortunate enough to acquire this!” The auctioneer’s dramatic voice echoed from below as another cage covered by a silky cloth was dragged onstage.
Everyone in the room was still noticeably tense from the initial shock of an intruder, but their attention was now focused back onto the stage after Vincent announced he had been killed.
After a dramatic pause, the tarp covering the cage was removed, revealing a small feline animal the size of a large dog.
The auctioneer bellowed at that exact moment, “An infant world lion! For those who are ignorant of this magnificent mana beast, an adult world lion has the capability to at least become a B-class mana beast. I dare say that if taken care of well, this infant world lion could even become an A-class mana beast! Do you know what this means? Taking care of and treasuring this fine beast will allow its master to become a legendary beast tamer!”
The audience below us erupted into a frenzy as hands shot into the air, bidding without even waiting for the auctioneer. To my surprise, King Glayder smacked the glass with his hand as his eyes stayed glued to the mana beast.
Having never traversed to the Beast Glades, I was intrigued by cub as well.
Sebastian walked over to the edge of the room as well to get a better view of the mana beast currently on display. However, he merely let out a dissatisfied snort before walking back, getting another greedy eyeful of Sylvie.
I normally wouldn’t have minded someone becoming jealous of the fact that I had a bond, but it was obvious that Sebastian had intentions to try and take my bond away from me. Needless to say, my patience with his borderline perverted leering was growing increasingly thin.
“Now, now! I won’t be able to start the bidding until everyone gets settled!” The auctioneer shook his fingers with a satisfied grin plastered on his face as he waited for the crowd to sedate.
As the bidders all reluctantly settled, the auctioneer finally announced the starting bid. “We will start at one hundred gold!”
Back in Ashber, ten silver coins were more than enough to feed a family of four for a year. Of course, there were obviously luxury foods that totaled astronomical amounts, but simply by going off of that standard, one hundred silver coins, which amounted to a single gold coin, would be more than enough to feed a family of four for ten years.
Growing up in the humble outpost of a town, I had never realized how much money was truly spent by the affluent class.
Immediately, the price for the world lion soared. Soon, it passed four hundred gold and the bidders had no intention of stopping.
“1000 gold coins!” the King bellowed into a voice-amplifying artifact.
Simply by hearing their king’s voice, the crowd’s incessant bidding stopped. It was obvious that, while there were plenty who could afford to bid higher, they were more debating on whether it was worth bidding against their own king.
It didn’t seem fair once the King stepped in, but he at least had the decency to put up a high enough price.
After the auctioneer counted off, the price was eventually settled at a thousand gold coins or one white-gold tablet; something I’d only seen in books and pictures.
Vincent walked up to the King with his hand held out. “Seems like no one wants to bid against you, King Glayder,” he congratulated.
“One white-gold tablet shouldn’t be too unfair, right?” the King joked as he peered back down onto the stage, obviously excited.
“Thank you for the consideration,” Vincent chuckled in defeat. “What are your plans with the new royal pet? Will you use it for yourself, or perhaps give it to your son?”
“While tempting it is for me to acquire a bond, I’m thinking of giving it to Curtis…” he said casually. “Of course, that all depends on how he does,” he finished, patting his son’s head.
“D-Dad!” Prince Curtis, whose face had visibly brightened at his father’s first remark, stuttered out in worry.
Queen Priscilla, adding fuel to the fire, added, “Curtis, I remember you’ve been slacking off on your sword lessons.”
“Ah! Mom! That was supposed to be a secret!” The fierce-looking prince tugged on his mother’s sleeve as his eyes switched been his mother and father.
“Mama, can I have a pet?” Ellie asked.
“Haha! I don’t know. Mana beasts only want to be pets for nice ladies,” my mom teased.
“Ellie is nice! Right, Brother?” She pulled on my sleeve, sending me out to battle on her behalf.
“Hmm? Who knows.” Shooting her an evil smile, I placed Sylvie on my sister’s lap before she started crying.
The Tenth Anniversary event ended without any further commotion besides the one that I caused, and the guards escorted all of us back downstairs.
Upon reaching the storage room behind the stage, Vincent handed me a package wrapped in a black cloth. The items that the King purchased were being hauled to the carriage by some of the workers.
“Thank you.” I accepted it graciously.
“For everything you and your family has done for us, this is hardly enough,” Vincent replied. “Arthur, we have some swords in the back if you want to take a look while you’re here. They might not be anything special, but I’m sure you’ll be able to find a solid sword to last you until your body finishes growing.”
“Oh! Are you planning on taking lessons with the sword?” The King inquired, putting a hand on his son’s shoulder. “My boy has just started learning as well. Maybe you two can spar one day.”
“Swords are merely a hobby for me, Your Majesty. I would never hope to amount to the same level as your son,” I replied, turning back to redeem Vincent’s offer.
“Your Majesty, Prince Curtis would only become infected with bad habits if he began sparring with mere commoners,” Sebastian’s hissy voice rang.
As I turned back to retort, my father and the Twin Horns came into view.
“Ah, you guys are here! How did you enjoy the Auction?” my father exclaimed, picking up Ellie after showing his respects to the King and Queen.
My father pulled Vincent aside as he and the Twin Horns began debriefing about the event.
“Your Majesty. If I may have a word with you,” I heard Sebastian say as he leaned closely to the King’s ear.
After a few moments, King Glayder shot his royal guard an irritated glance, but let out a sigh.
As the two walked towards me, it was obvious what they had just discussed by the way Sebastian wasn’t even looking at me, but instead, at my bond.
However, instead of talking to me, the King called upon my father.
The King smiled at him, but his eyes remained stern. “I never did catch your name. You must be this young boy’s father, correct?” he affirmed rather than asked.
“My name is Reynolds Leywin and yes, that is the case. What might be the matter, Your Majesty?” my father replied, lowering himself slightly.
“Sebastian, here, has been a royal guard for a while now and has helped our family an uncountable amount of times.”
His voice stayed relaxed he spoke to my father, but the condescension in his tone was still apparent. “For the exemplary services he has provided me, and therefore the country, I do feel the need to reward him at times. You see; he has taken a fancy to your son’s bond. I know it’s not easy to sever a contract and I’m sure the boy has grown close to his little pet, but I would be more than willing hire a mage to take care of the contract and compensate you and your family for the troubles.”
“Y-Your Majesty,” my father stuttered, caught by surprise by the severe request. Taking a glance at me, he turned back to the King. “I must apologize, Your Majesty. Neither I nor my wife had anything to do to with my son’s bond. He had acquired it himself, so I cannot speak on my son’s behalf on matters of his bond.”
“Hmm,” the King turned his attention to my direction, regarding me loftily, and I suddenly realized that I was returning his gaze. He realized, then, that for the entirety of their conversation, I had been staring icily at him and his guard.
“Boy. Didn’t your father teach you to lower your gaze when speaking to someone of your superior?” Sebastian snarled in disdain as he slammed the end of his metal staff to the ground.
“Sebastian, silence!” The King held up his hand. Besides the royal family and their guards, the King’s request had caught the attention of the rest of my family as well as Vincent’s.
“Hello, child.” The King approached, standing an arm’s length away from me. “I’m sure you’ve just heard me speak to your father so I won’t repeat myself. How about it? My royal armory would certainly have a sword befitting that of any aspiring knight.”
Not wanting to make a big commotion, I swallowed back the profanity that was itching to spew out of my mouth. “Thank you, Your Majesty, for your gracious offer, but I must refuse. A simple sword could never replace Sylvie.”
“Sebastian!” King Glayder roared. Turning back to me, he spoke again with a much more impatient tone. “How about a trade then? The world lion cub that I just purchased for your bond?”
“Father!” Curtis scurried over to his father, pulling on his sleeve. “I thought the mana beast was mine?”
Ignoring his son, the King waited for my response.
“Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear. I do not wish to give, sell or trade my bond,” I reiterated, failing to mask the annoyed expression on my face.
“I have asked you twice, child, for a favor. Twice,” he emphasized, his tone growing grave. “I will ask you once more; will you give me your bond?”
The air was tense as everyone’s attention was directed at me. Sebastian gave me a menacing look from bloodshot eyes, just waiting to be released. The rest of the royal guards were on standby near the two, carefully observing the situation.
“Then let me ask you a question in response, Your Majesty. How much are you willing to sell your children to me?” I asked coolly, never batting an eye.
Thrown off-guard, the King wasn’t able to respond to the seemingly random question. “You have asked me twice and I have rejected you both times, yet it seems your pride won’t allow you to accept my refusal. You don’t seem to be aware of what you were asking me, so I hoped to clarify using my question instead. How much money should I give you in return for your son or your daughter, King Glayder?” I rephrased, without wavering.
I heard the sharp whistle of a sword leaving its scabbard. “Insolent peasant! You dare insult the King and his family?” a guard roared as he charged at me before anyone had the chance to respond.