While the results of their transaction were satisfying, Locke was in for a bigger one. Earlier in the tent, Chief Shabille pointed at the major monster skin and other materials laid on the ground. “We don’t want any of this!”
“Mm.” Locke had merely displayed everything he brought. Chief Shabille had the final say in the trades. “However, our tribe can provide some monster materials if you’d ever need any!” The offer that escaped Chief Shabille’s lips was shocking.
Bond, on the other hand, was unfazed. The young noble knew much about Chief Shabille’s tribe. Naturally, Bond understood that the chief didn't only mean ‘some monster materials’. Unfortunately, Bond’s family wasn't involved in trading major monster materials. What may seem like precious material to the general public was merely trash to them.
Chief Shabille’s words were not just meant for Locke, but also Rafael and Gauss who were standing beside him. Surprisingly, Rafael and Gauss rejected Chief Shabille’s offer. Locke certainly wasn’t expecting that.
They both belonged to huge noble clans. Their relatively complicated upbringing made sure they were exposed to lots of experiences since their childhoods. Both their clans weren’t involved in the major monster material trade either.
The market in Aomar was complex. If one really wished to dabble into it, there were many aspects to consider. Most importantly, the Glint Plains was just too far away from their clans’ operating bases; the money required for just logistics was already a problem.
In the end, Locke mentioned that he’d consider the offer, to which Chief Shabille’s expression lightened up a little. Billie’s family business was mainly focused in Princeton, with only a small amount conducted in the outer provinces. He could always bring this offer up to Billie when he returned. Even if it was a no-deal, there was nothing to lose.
Declining Chief Shabille’s request to stay longer, the four left together in the afternoon after their trade session. Blood essence was rare. It was an item that had recurrent benefits for knights' advancement. They all intended to use it as soon as they arrived home.
Before leaving, Locke studied the teru who had been waiting on the riverbank for days. It hadn’t moved much at all. Though the monster was close to death, it didn’t appear weak at all to Locke.
Yet, the blood essence in his grip was no doubt real. Perhaps they only sold so much of it to intimidate the surrounding tribes. There were only a few hundreds of members in Shabille’s tribe. Despite that, they were able to occupy a small area of the river. This would’ve been impossible to achieve if they were weak.
The teru was a high-rank major monster. Though its magic abilities weren’t outstanding, its sheer size was something to be wary of, making it excel in raw strength.
There wasn’t much to see on Glint Plains. The return journey was the exact same as before. Due to time constraint, they decided to not visit the other nomad kingdoms deeper into the plains. That said, not all countries were friendly to Aomar. Locke could clearly sense that the barbarians of the plains were very wary of them.
After purchasing some local specialities from a hub called Gibb on the border of Glint Plains, they continued their travels and soon saw the empire above the horizon.
Soon, it was time for them to part. Bond needed to head southwest to deal with some family affairs while Gauss and Rafael were headed for the east and the north respectively to continue their travels. They wished to thoroughly enjoy their holiday before it ended, though the decadent wanderlust of the nobles wasn't something Locke could approve of.
With no desire to follow them, Locke declined Rafael and Gauss’s invitation and decided to go home. He had gained a lot this time. There was a sixty-gram blood essence in his spatial ring, which was worth thirty thousand gold moores on the empire’s black market. That made him as rich as the average noble, though it didn't come with a cost: the heavy blue armour.
Since he took it from Glace’s treasury, he only used it a handful of times due to its weight. His wind impetus also made him favour lighter gear rather than heavier protective ones.
He continued south along the Sangan River, the largest waterway in the empire. The path was familiar to him as had travelled this route many times. Soon, he reached his destination, Princeton.
“An auction?” Locke asked, staring at his guest, Billie.
“Yeah. Interested?” Billie waved the golden-leaved invitation in her hand.
The next morning, Locke left his residence fully dressed. He climbed into a carriage with Billie, who was dressed just as formally.
“So… What is the event like?” Locke asked. He still didn't know much about the auction.
“Well, it’s co-organized by my family and a few others. It’s more of a private event. Most of the attendees are people on good terms with the families.”
The venue was set in an unassuming store along the busy Sachiel Street. Its location and decor was nothing special; it looked just like any regular sundry shop. But as soon as they entered, it looked completely different. From the attendants at the stairway that inspected their invitations or the prominent figures hidden in different corners of the venue, Locke figured that this was a serious ordeal.
There were quite an amount of attendees. Both sides of the street were constantly flooded with elaborate carriages. Gentlemanly nobles and sophisticated ladies got off their wagons and entered the unassuming shop gracefully.
When it was their turn for inspection, the attendant made no move to halt them. “Miss,” he quickly greeted Billie respectfully without even needing to check the invitation.
Billie’s expression hadn’t changed the slightest bit. She led Locke into the walkway behind the attendant. Locke stole a glance at her, feeling that there was more to her than meets the eye. He had brought up Chief Shabille’s offer to Billie a few days ago after his return. Without hesitation, she said she would accept the deal.
“I’ll write a recommendation letter to Chief Shabille then,” said Locke, trying to continue the conversation.
“Mhm.” Billie nodded, seemingly nonchalant about their exchange.
Locke felt this sudden urge to learn more about the scale of Billie’s family business from Joaquin. There was indeed something odd about this small sundry shop. The corridors were illogically lengthy. As the two continued to walk, it began to slope downwards.
“Oh, the auction is held underground,” said Locke in awe. After living in Princeton a few years, he knew that there were a lot of underground structures there. During his first year here, Henry dragged Locke to an underground bar a few times too often.
Bars that were underground and aboveground bore no difference in Locke’s opinion. The alcohol tasted the same and the waitresses weren’t particularly better-looking either, so he had no idea why Henry was so fond of it.
Certainly, the venue of the auction couldn’t be compared to a lowly place like a bar. The carpets and the bright fluorite stones embedded for illumination along the corridor was a sign of the owner's deep pockets.
Locke was already starting to regret this. He shouldn’t have followed Billie to the auction without much thought. He had already spent most of his extra money on the blood essence. Plus, Angelina had been holed up in the academy working on her experiment, so there was no way he would borrow money from her.
“In hindsight, I should’ve asked Glace for a few pieces of antique jewellery before coming here,” grumbled Locke. As time passed, Locke had grown increasingly intimate with her to the point they considered their wealth shared. They often asked each other for money without really keeping count.
Glace’s wealth was mainly in the form of antiques, crafts, jewellery and other treasures that she brought out of Shalor. Compared to the surrounding kingdoms like Faustian, Shalor had a far more developed culture of craftsmanship. Aomarian nobles fancied the refined Shalorian crafts quite a lot. Because of that, Glace was the second richest member of Locke's 'family', with the wealthiest being Angelina without question.
Kristin’s spatial ring also contained a considerable amount of good stuff, though the girl was really very careful with her spending. She wouldn’t touch any of the items in her ring normally, only opting to spend the pocket money Locke provided, and she only gave those items in her ring to Locke and Glace.
“Not enough money?” asked Billie, almost as if she could sense his distress. She then produced two golden cards from her bag. Those were priceless cards that amounted to one thousand gold moores each.
“No, I can't just take it.” Frankly, Locke wasn’t close enough with Billie to borrow money from her just yet. “Am I allowed to auction something off here instead?”
“Of course.” She wasn't expecting that question at all.
They finally reached the end of the long corridor and entered a humongous underground space. Every corner was sparkling gold and screamed wealth. Locke was curious about how the filthy rich managed to have something like this built. Billie and Locke’s seats were located on the third row, but they weren’t in a rush to get seated.
“If you wish to auction off something, let me bring you backstage," Billie said with a smile.
Items scheduled for today’s auction had been decided three days ago. While a sudden request to add more to the catalogue would definitely interrupt the flow of the event, it was not an issue for Billie, the daughter of one of the event’s organizers. There was no one there to stop them. Without hindrance, the duo entered the backstage area.
“Please get me Meister Lis,” Billie instructed a nearby attendant.
Without further ado, a blond old man with a receding hairline appeared. “What item would this knight wish to auction off?” The old man was a sharp one. He could tell that he was supposed to service the knight beside the lady.
After a moment of hesitation, Locke retrieved ten grams worth of blood essence from his spatial ring.
“Oh? That’s a super rare commodity!” Meister Lis recognized it at a glance. He was very confident of its authenticity as from the thick scent of blood it exuded. Not to mention, Locke was here with Billie, which should be more than enough to forgo the standard inspection protocols.