Episode 88

Networking Fight (1)
3 weeks ago
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May had arrived, with flowers blooming, following the early spring.

Thanks to the warmer weather, various events were being held in the empire.

Starting with a fireworks festival imported from the East.

To the horseback competitions held in the West.

Men, women, and children alike enjoyed the numerous events offered by the empire.

Of course, I was no exception.

After finishing my morning patrol, I headed to a very important event.

Today, instead of my usual drab Defense Knight uniform, I wore a neat suit.

Together with the Toruman Clan, I headed to the Northern Imperial Palace.

The foreign men wore suits for the first time in their lives.

They looked excited, as if they had become noblemen.

However, Oren, the leader, was different.

He was worried that following me might somehow cause trouble.

“Um… Mr. Vail, is it really alright for us to be here?”

“Of course, it’s because of you guys that I’m here.”

The event I attended was an auction held in the Imperial Palace garden.

<15th Northern Mansion Auction>

It was an auction to reserve mansions or construction slots from various famous architects.

“Now, let’s see if I can act like a noble.”

Together with them, I confidently entered the garden.

After positioning them near the entrance, I sat in the bidding seats alone.

In fact, there was nothing good about showing my face to the upper class.

But through this, I could create a disguised identity.

And if I could acquire a mansion with training facilities, it would be worth the risk.

Moreover, this auction included the last outsourced project of a royal craftsman nearing retirement.

And beneath his training facilities, many outstanding Sword Masters were born.

Fortunately, as expected in the Northern capital, there weren’t many wealthy nobles.

If there was anyone bothersome…

It would probably be the secretary of the Northern Duke’s heir sitting in that corner.

A black-haired middle-aged man wearing a monocle.

Looking quite imposing, he silently organized contracts from his seat.

The documents listed in detail the properties he had acquired at the auction.

He had secured a considerable number of estates even before I arrived.

And he was preparing to win the final outsourced project from the royal craftsman.

But that didn’t mean I didn’t stand a chance.

He had already spent a lot of money.

He probably wouldn’t have enough funds left to invest in the special item I was eyeing.

After all, that item was a surprise event.

“Now, sold for 5,000 gold!”

While various items were auctioned off, I silently held my seat.

Then, I sensed someone approaching the seat next to me.

“Excuse me.”

A woman with long black hair, wearing an elegant black dress.

She carefully sat down next to me.

‘She must be from the North. Judging by her attire, she seems to be a lady.’

She appeared to be in her mid to late twenties.

Her demeanor oozed elegance.

“Are you here for the auction?”

“Yes, I’m here to secure a construction reservation.”

“Hmm, really? I haven’t seen you around here before.”

She rested her chin on her hand and looked at me with interest.

Perhaps she was another competitor aiming for a mansion.

“You might not have seen me often, as I’m not a noble.”

I’m not a noble.

Most of the upper class would awkwardly avoid such a statement.

But this lady was different.

“There’s no law saying only nobles can participate in auctions, right?”

And she smiled, covering her lips with her hand.

“My husband is also a former war prisoner.”

That was unexpected.

Taking a war prisoner as a husband.

‘She must have loved him quite a bit.’

“Oh, I see.”

I looked at the auctioneer, not paying much attention to the woman beside me.

But I couldn’t help but glance at her, despite trying to ignore her.

Nobles approached her during the auction.

Especially young ladies showed immense interest in her.

“Lady Duchess, it’s an honor to meet you…”

“Could you give me an autograph here?”

Ladies in vibrant silk dresses.

They often received autographs for their novels.

“Ladies, I’ll give the rest of the autographs outside. This is a public place, you know?”

The lady gracefully dismissed them.

Instead of being displeased, the ladies obligingly made way, understanding her request.

It was as if I was seeing a famous author.

“Sorry for the commotion, wasn’t it?”

“Not at all. You must be quite famous?”

When I asked, the lady smiled and denied it.

“I’m a bit active in the literary world. It’s nothing significant.”

The woman waved her hand dismissively and put away her fountain pen.

Then, as if nothing had happened, she focused intently on the auction.

She seemed reluctant to reveal what novel she was writing.

“This item is the much-anticipated work of the royal craftsman, Sir Colbert!”

As the artisan’s name was mentioned, the participants focused.

They all began to fiddle with the number placards placed in front of them.

“I will start the bidding at 10,000 gold.”

“10,500.”

The placards kept rising.

Responding in kind, I also raised my placard.

“10,900.”

The nobles focused their gaze on me.

The woman sitting next to me did the same.

She stared at me intently, her lips hidden behind a fan.

“20,000.”

The Duke’s secretary immediately followed with 20,000.

Then I immediately raised my placard and leisurely shouted.

“20,900.”

Cunningly raising it by only 900 each time.

The woman smiled with her eyes, as if she found it amusing.

“30,000!”

The price had now risen to 30,000.

From this point, the number of people raising placards significantly decreased.

However, the Duke’s secretary continued to bid.

He claimed Colbert’s mansion for 50,000 gold with a victorious expression.

“Hmm, that’s a bit much for today.”

The woman, arms crossed, spoke leisurely to herself.

As if she knew the Duke’s secretary.

“You’re quite mischievous too.”

The woman turned her head sharply.

Then she looked at me with an expression as if to say I was cute.

“You raised the price even though you had no intention of buying.”

“Well, I really wanted to buy it.”

I shrugged my shoulders nonchalantly.

Then, the lady snapped her fan close and lifted the corners of her mouth.

“You cunningly raised it by only 900 each time to lead the secretary.”

“I was just bidding according to the amount I have.”

When I acted nonchalantly, she chuckled.

Then she nodded, indicating she understood my intention.

“Alright, then we will have one more surprise auction here!”

Here it comes.

The artisan prepared this surprise auction not for the ordinary rich but for someone who would truly value his mansion.

“A surprise auction…?”

Probably even the Duke’s secretary didn’t know about this.

I also knew about the property through the memories of my past life.

“Well then, let’s start the auction!”

The starting price was 50,000 gold.

I entered the first bid in earnest.

“60,000.”

“70,000…”

“80,000.”

“8… 85,000!”

The Duke’s secretary suddenly changed the bid increments to 5,000.

‘Hmm. Was the limit 140,000 gold?’

The secretary swallowed hard.

And then he glared at me with resentful eyes.

I gazed back at him intently.

And then I cracked a sly smile and opened my mouth.

“90,000.”

I preemptively took over his limit.

Then, the secretary was left speechless.

He made a troubled face at the amount that far exceeded his budget.

But his troubled expression wasn’t the only one.

The lady next to me was surprised that a commoner like me had 90,000 gold.

She seemed to think of me as a young lord from a major guild.

“Is it okay…?”

“Well, so far it is.”

I crossed my legs, as if to show off to all the nobles.

And then I introduced my prepared disguised identity.

“I’m going to set up a large farm soon, and having such a mansion nearby would be great.”

I snapped my fingers to call Oren, who was standing at a distance.

Then, a line of sturdy blonde men approached.

“Who are those men?”

The lady and the surrounding nobles gazed dumbfoundedly at the men, who looked like wild beasts.

They had the appearance of robust males.

Especially the middle-aged women were agape at the impressive appearance of these unfamiliar foreigners.

“Ah, they are ‘employees’ working on my western estate.”

They weren’t mere tenant farmers.

The implication was that they were legitimate employees.

Touched by these words, Oren and his men changed their expressions.

“What kind of crops are you growing in the west?”

The nobles were curious about the crops grown on the expensive western lands.

In response, I answered with a very old-fashioned look in my eyes.

“It’s a variety called watermelon. Originating from the East, it’s known for its red juice and sweetness.”

“Ooh….”

The nobles began to show interest in me all at once.

In other words, they had no doubt about my status.

Thanks to this, I had imprinted the image of a wealthy farmer among the upper class.

However, hearing that I was a commoner, a close associate of the Duke abruptly rose from his seat.

Then he approached the auctioneer and whispered.

The auctioneer listened attentively to his words.

Then, with a loud voice, he drew everyone’s attention.

“Ah, ah. Please, everyone, wait a moment!”

At his booming voice, everyone promptly stopped.

Then, the auctioneer said with a serious look.

“Normally, a guarantor is required for bids over 50,000 gold.”

“So, Sir Vail Mikhail and Secretary Romus, please provide a guarantor’s written pledge.”

The experienced old secretary began to drag his feet and cause delays.

He must have thought that being a commoner, I would have few connections among the upper class.

I scratched the back of my head with an annoyed expression.

Well, I could certainly find a guarantor if needed.

Deputy Commander of the Sinrok Knights, Allen.

Deputy Commander of the East Knights, Batsyu.

And if necessary, the strategic Chief of Staff of the Knights of Light, Damian.

There were plenty of notable figures.

‘Since it has come to this, let’s prepare a substantial guarantor’s pledge that the old man can’t quibble over.’

“Then, let’s do it this way.”

I looked at the secretary and stood up from my seat.

And then I spoke to him confidently.

“A guarantor’s letter is too impersonal. It hardly proves the trust of a guarantor.”

The secretary listened to my relaxed words.

He looked at me with a disdainful expression and asked.

“So, what exactly do you want to do?”

“How about asking for a small gift to brighten up this occasion?”

Being in a position above the deputy commanders, I could easily ask for a gift.

But what about the secretary?

Even if he asks, only his master, the Duke of the North, and a few others would comply.

“What…?”

The secretary frowned at the audacity of having to ask the Duke for a gift.

I dealt him the decisive blow.

“Why? Are you scared? You’re the secretary of a Duke, after all.”

The secretary scoffed, seemingly flabbergasted.

With a look that seemed to say, ‘Don’t you know whom I serve?’

“Fine, but you know if my guarantor has more influence, right?”

“Of course. I’ll yield the mansion.”

The secretary confidently headed towards the writing desk.

And he diligently wrote a letter to his master.

In contrast, I scribbled my letter casually.

After all, all of them owed me a great debt.

“There, sent. Now let’s wait patiently!”

“Let’s do that.”

Afterwards.

We sat facing each other at the table.

And waited to see whose gift would arrive first.

Most of the upper class gravitated towards the secretary of the Duke of the North, whispering among themselves.

However.

The lady, previously surrounded by young ladies, slowly approached me.

“You’ve made a mistake.”

She thought of me as a young lord from a rich family.

She advised me to back out of the competition, even now.

“The secretary’s master is the Duke of the North. No matter how much money you have, it will be tough in terms of connections…?”

I looked up at her, appreciatively for taking my side and offering advice.

And then I gently asked.

“Knowing that, why did you come to my side?”

“That’s…”

The lady glanced briefly at the secretary.

Then, with a look of disdain, she shook her head.

“Maybe because I don’t like seeing my younger brother succeed?”

“Younger brother…?”

I frowned and looked up at her.

Then, in the meantime, the gifts started arriving.

Everyone looked simultaneously towards the garden entrance.

“Who is it?”

“It must be the Duke, of course.”

The nobles chuckled and approached to see the Duke’s connections.

However.

They tilted their heads at the extravagant wreath they had never seen before.

The first gift they encountered was…

From the East, completely unrelated to the Duke of the North.

“Guardian of the East, Vail Mikhail. Let’s play again next time.”

A fruit box bearing the handwritten signature of the 3rd Princess.

And inside the box were the finest green grapes.

‘These seem like the same type of grapes I ate with her…’

The nobles backed away with astonished expressions.

Next, they focused on the incoming gifts.

With eyes sure that this time it would be the Duke’s gift.

However, their expectations were beautifully missed again.

Because the next gift also came from the West, not the North.

“Book-eating Fox, Vail Mikhail. Congratulations on your new residence.”

A set of fairy tale books with the golden lion seal of the 1st Princess.

The cover featured a fox voraciously eating a book.

‘A fairy tale book as a gift?’

The 1st Princess played a prank with her guarantor’s gift.

I couldn’t help but chuckle.

With an awkward smile, I turned my head.

Then I looked at the flustered Duchess of the North.

“H-how did this happen? The guarantors are… Princesses?”

Even she, who had been composed until now, had her eyes wide in astonishment.

Seeing this, I forced a smile.

“Well, I’m also a bit involved with the royal family. It’s somewhat similar to your situation.”

On the outside, I was smiling.

But inside, I really felt like crying.

I had certainly asked the deputy commanders for a guarantor’s gifts.

How on earth did they know to send them directly?

“Sigh…”

I secretly sighed heavily, turning my head away.

However.

Soon, I went beyond sighing, my eyes sparkling with realization.

Avoiding the Duchess’s gaze, I looked towards the garden entrance.

There, not just a simple gift, but the guarantor herself had come to the auction.

A silver-haired woman wearing a hat with a wide brim.

Irina, in a platinum-colored dress, came directly to me with a basket of fruit.

“Vail, what do you mean by buying a mansion in the West…?”

Her eyes had lost their focus.

The freshly cut watermelon in the basket trembled.

At this sight, the nobles all stood up.

And they hurriedly bowed their heads to greet the royalty.

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