The ‘Viride Leaf’ in the box looked just the same as the one on the auction stage, but the kind of energy and vitality was nowhere to be found. Han Shuo felt it with his hand, and immediately found that this thing was definitely not the wood attribute treasure ‘Viride Leaf’, but a counterfeit carved from a block of fine, dark green jade.
Having spent 300 thousand gold coins, only to discover that what he received was just a counterfeit article carved from regular jade. No one would be in a very good mood, let alone Han Shuo.
“What’s the matter?” seeing that there seemed to be some sort of dispute, a high-level personnel wearing a dinner suit hastily came over and asked.
“Lord Zarya, the gentleman says the item is amiss!” an attendant in charge of receiving Han Shuo hastily replied.
Zarya had carefully observed Han Shuo during the auction. Extravagant characters like Han Shuo tended to leave lasting impressions on him. In any case, Han Shuo spent 300 thousand gold coins in purchasing the item. It was a matter of course for him to treat Han Shuo as a VIP.
Zarya hurried over. After listening to the attendant’s explanation, he anxiously said to Han Shuo, “May I have a look?”
Unimpressed, Han Shuo handed over the counterfeit Viride Leaf. In a deep voice, he said, “Your auction house is very reputable in the whole of Kasi Empire. I suppose that you guys aren’t deliberately playing a joke on me right?”
“Of course not! Of course not!” Zarya could make out the wrath between Han Shuo’s words. He took out the ‘Viride Leaf’ and felt it with his hands, and his face fell. He asked the attendant, “Who brought the item here earlier?” “It was Galia, Sir!” the attendant replied.
Zarya took a deep breath and respectfully executed a bow towards Han Shuo. He sternly said, “My apologies, there is indeed something wrong with this item. Sir, we will first refund you the 300 thousand gold coins. Please give us some time, and we will quickly get the genuine item to you.”
“Han, it probably had nothing to do with the auction house. They wouldn’t purposely do such things that would damage their own reputation!” whispered Sophie, who has been right beside Han Shuo.
Han Shuo originally thought that the auction house was deliberately trying to dupe him. He was even prepared to give the auction house a bloodbath if they wouldn’t admit to it. But now, Zarya, the person in charge, immediately acknowledged the matter while also being very friendly in attitude. Hence, Han Shuo immediately realized that there was more to the situation than met the eyes.
“Alright then. I hope that your auction house will give me an appropriate explanation. In addition, it is I who won the item fairly and aboveboard, I hope that you will not sell it to someone else!” Han Shuo said in a deep voice as he stared coldly at Zarya.
Zarya looked at Han Shuo with fear and trepidation. He could suddenly feel this unprepossessing fatty become extremely frightening all of a sudden. From Han Shuo’s body, he felt killing intent that was as though material. That kind of stifling pressure petrified him and he knew that Han Shuo was not a man to make enemies with.
Zarya, being in the high position he was in, was no simple character. Just from that terrifying demeanor coming from Han Shuo he understood that he was not a force to be reckoned with. He agreed with him like a yes-man as he turned over in his mind how to appropriately resolve this issue.
“Please leave us a contact method. Once we find the item, we will immediately look for you to make a new transaction!” Zarya, who was scared witless, said respectfully after refunding 300 thousand gold coins to Han Shuo.
“No need for that. I will be here for the next two days. You guys better shape up!” Han Shuo coldly groaned before signalling Sophie with his eyes and striding out.
Sophie caught up to Han Shuo. When they were near the exit, seeing that no one was around, Sophie conjectured, “I think the problem didn’t come from the auction house, it’s more likely to be Braque, that two-faced guy!”
Suddenly, Han Shuo firmly grasped onto Sophie’s small hand, and before she could react, Han Shuo abruptly increased his pace, and rapidly vanished among the streets outside the auction house as he dragged her along.
Just as the duo was rapidly leaving, sacred knight Sulo hurriedly approached from another passageway. All he saw was Han Shuo pulling Sophie by the hand as they disappeared into the bustling streets. On the busy street lined with vendor’s booths and swamped with people, Sulo soon lost track of the two.
Sulo wore a gloomy face. Gazing into the crowd as the duo disappeared from his sight, he softly mumbled, “Who is this guy?”
The silhouette of Han Shuo and Sophie holding hands was deeply imprinted in Sulo’s heart. When he suddenly called to mind the influences of the Pillion family in Kasi Empire, Sulo had an instant headache. Shaking his head with a bitter smile on his face, he sighed, “Fifi ah Fifi, you really know how to find troubles for dad!”
“Mister Sulo, what’s the matter?” As Sulo was talking to himself, Thuram, a minion of Braque’s, suddenly came over and asked.
“No, nothing!” Sulo replied succinctly. Seeing Braque walk out from behind Thuram, holding up all the treasures he gained from the auction sale with a glimmer in his eye, Sulo didn’t feel the slightest bit of joy, but on the contrary, began worrying for his entire family.
Sulo knew Braque even better than Sophie. Despite his rather good approval rating in Kasi Empire, his true temperament was not at all as good-natured as one could see on the outside. This person, once he had his eyes on something, would never let go. Once he settled on something, he would not stop until he got his way. As it happened, the House of Pillon was the royal family of Kasi Empire. Sulo realized that merely with him alone, he was incapable of helping Sophie find true happiness.
He sighed. Sulo had decided that no matter what, he had to get Sophie and Braque together. Otherwise, it wasn't just a matter of Sulo and Sophie. Their collateral relatives would not need to bother thinking about having a foothold in Kasi Empire.
“Father-in-law, Fifi really is a headstrong one. She didn’t even tell us where she ran to. But still, I am sure that among these things, there will be a few that Sophie will like,” Braque laughed as he walked over, expressing his affection for Sophie.
He must be truly in love with Fifi. Fifi ought to be even happier with him. It must be so! Sulo consoled himself before he smilingly said, “How considerate of you. I think Fifi will surely see how much you care about her!”
“Of course, she is my fiance! How could I not treat her well!” Braque chuckled.
While Sulo and Braque were conversing, Han Shuo dragged Sophie to the middle of the unending sea of people. It was only when Han Shuo found out that Sulo had lost track of the two that he let go of Sophie’s delicate hand. He then explained, “Your father was just looking for you.”
“Oh,” Sophie replied without much thought. Although she appeared nonchalant on the surface, her eyes were somewhat flickering. Han Shuo’s subconsciously rubbing his left thumb on her forefinger left her somewhat absent-minded.
Han Shuo too was somewhat embarrassed. As he was about to say something, he suddenly sensed a natural aura of vitality from the southwest. Immediately, he knew that that energy must have originated from the ‘Viride Leaf’. He hastily said, “I have some business to take care of, wait a moment.”
As soon as he finished those words, Han Shuo weaved through the crowd. He followed his consciousness southwest to the ‘Viride Leaf’. Sophie only stared blankly for a short while and before realizing that Han Shuo had made some distance with her. Sophie knew that the Shrine of Ice was Han Shuo’s enemy in Kasi Empire. Fearing that something bad would happen to Han Shuo, she chased up to him.
It was when Han Shuo had just left the crowd, before he took off to the air, that he found out that the energy of the ‘Viride Leaf’ had disappeared. Han Shuo was certain that the ‘Viride Leaf' was being kept away by someone, which explained why that previously released energy disappeared again.
When that happened, Han Shuo grew even more anxious. He immediately deployed the Art of the Demonic Ninth Heavens and rapidly flew, continuing in that direction. He had to locate the ‘Viride Leaf’ before the thief left the area.
Han Shuo flew with all his strength. In just a few minutes, he made it to the region where he sensed the ‘Viride Leaf’. It was exactly the same expansive public square at which Han Shuo and Sophie stopped over previously. He looked as far as his eyes could see, but discovered no one suspicious. When he concentrated his attention to sense with his consciousness, he could no longer feel the energy from the ‘Viride Leaf’.
Han Shuo glanced all around him once more as he wracked his brain for another solution. Braque seemed the most obvious suspect of swapping Han Shuo’s wood attribute treasure ‘Viride Leaf’. But of course, Zofi and that upper-class woman were not to be ruled out.
Han Shuo was absolutely determined to obtain the wood attribute treasure. Unable to smoothly procure it with 300 thousand gold coins, Han Shuo had started to consider other means of taking possession of it. Although Zofi was rich and overbearing, he did not hold much power within Kasi Empire. As for that upper-class woman, she didn’t seem to be a particularly politically powerful character either. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have given up when the bidding price reached 250 thousand gold coins.
Having identified his objectives, Han Shuo was prepared to take the ‘Viride Leaf’ by force. In any case, he had already established a hostile relationship with the Shrine of Ice in Kasi Empire. Han Shuo was not about to be heedful of someone like Braque.
“Han, what’s wrong?” Han Shuo was still mulling in his head when Sophie hurried over to him, gasping for breath. As she did not summon her pegasus, this time, Sophie was even shorter on breath when she came over. Her chest was rising and falling, and seemed much bigger than usual.
“You! You hoodlum! What are you looking at!” Sophie immediately discovered that Han Shuo was looking in a strange direction, and yelled at him.
“I'm-- nothing, not looking at anything!” Han Shuo replied in a flurry. After that, he explained, “I just sensed the Viride Leaf appearing here. But it seems that I’m still too late. Whoever took it probably hid it away and brought it to another region.”
“Stop thinking about it. Just leave it to the auction house. This auction house is one of the largest in Kasi Empire. Even His Majesty owns a share in it. They'll settle it for you!” Sophie consoled Han Shuo.
“What if it was Braque who was behind it? Will they be able to handle it then?” Han Shuo raised a brow.
Sophie shrugged and somewhat helplessly said, “In that case, I don’t know,”
“Alright, alright, let’s stop worrying about that! Hmm, it’s getting late. How about we meet again tomorrow?” Han Shuo said as he raised his head to look at the sky. He intended to send Sophie away and look for people from the Dark Mantle to ask about the location of Braque’s manor. And afterwards, at night, he would make a trip there to snatch the ‘Viride Leaf’.
“It’s still early, what are you rushing for! Hahah, come. First, I will bring you around to taste some interesting food. Then when the night falls, we will have a look at the nightscape of the well-known Riverie City of Kasi Empire!” Sophie had no intention of letting Han Shuo off so easily. She grasped at the corner of Han Shuo’s robes and giggled as she pulled Han Shuo with her. She then continued, “I’m only tugging on the corner of your shirt, so this can’t be considered as taking advantage of you!”
Being hauled by Sophie as she headed to their destination, Han Shuo immediately understood the meaning behind those insinuating words. He could do nothing but force a smile and explain, “Miss, that was due to the special circumstances of that time. Must you really hold such grudges even until now?”
Sophie shot a glance at Han Shuo and replied, “It’s true that the circumstances were special. But hasn’t that someone been acting a little too indecent while holding my hand?”
Han Shuo's mind went blank for a moment, and only then did he recall that when he held Sophie’s delicate hand before, he had been subconsciously rubbing his thumb against the back of it. He was used to such intimacy with Emily, Fanny, and Phoebe, and therefore he instinctively did the same to Sophie earlier.
At that time, when Han Shuo became aware of his indecency, he immediately stopped. He even surreptitiously glanced at Sophie. When he saw Sophie acting as though nothing happened, he assumed that she didn’t mind it. But who knew that Sophie would so deliberately expose him at this time.
Han Shuo’s thick-skinned face blushed, but it was not visible as his skin was concealed. He awkwardly smiled and said in embarrassment, “I did not notice it. Ha ha, sorry!”
“Humph! Don’t think I will ever believe your barefaced lie!” Sophie pouted and shot a glare at Han Shuo. But then, she magnanimously said, “But I’m a benevolent gentlewoman. As long as you keep me company and entertain me, I shall pardon you!”
“Umm, but, if I remember correctly, it is me who is the guest right?” Han Shuo said with a forced smile.
“That’s irrelevant. If I’m happy, then you will be happy too!” Sophie giggled playfully. She started running as she towed Han Shuo, as though she wanted to make Han Shuo stagger.
Han Shuo had experienced first-hand just how unforgiving Sophie was. Nevertheless, he didn't think that this kind of harmless, petty practical joke of hers was excessive. He deliberately walked unsteadily, as though he really was staggering. However, in this situation, Han Shuo would suddenly lean closely to Sophie, and might ‘accidentally’ bump with her body.
Han Shuo mischievously laughed in his heart, awfully delighted in his exploit.