The set up for the auction was rather normal in the sense that it wasn’t much different to a normal auction. There was a host on stage with the businessmen seated below. With that said, it didn’t qualify as an auction entirely since the host wasn’t the seller but the people who sat on the other side away from us. Nevertheless, we could wait for the right price to make our move. When we made a bid, those who accepted our bid would go over to the host’s side.
Unsurprisingly, Albert attracted everyone’s attention. He no longer had any reason to come and buy the shares to the shipyard as he already had a way to make loads of money. They, consequently, were perplexed as to why he came to the trade centre. However, they quickly realised they had fallen for his deceits, which were part of his ploy. Indeed, it should’ve been highly suspicious when Albert suddenly slashed the prices on his ceramic products when he previously sold them as occasional drips. It was an uncharacteristic move that raised eyebrows. Lots of them were even convinced that he discovered a way to produce ceramic goods… To be fair, he had the products on hand, so he was strongly persuasive.
Albert diverted their attention, and then caused the share price to dip. The individual who looked the most furious was presumably the weapons merchant and Albert’s erstwhile competitor. He was probably dying inside from regret. After all, he thought Albert had given up, didn’t buy the shares while the price was high and, instead, waited for the drop, only to now be face-to-face with Albert, who had enough money at this point. In other words, he had lost his opportunity because it was a contest of money before this. Judging from the status quo, Albert had totally triumphed. Read that again: the winner would be he who had more money.
I gave the businessmen a smile and raised my hands: “You need not fret, gentlemen. I didn’t come to bid and won’t be getting involved in any shape or form. Queen Sisi has nothing to say about your trade, so she won’t involve herself, either. Rest assured and enjoy bidding. I’m just here to spectate. Don’t worry.”
While the businessmen smiled, they were only polite smiles. The people up front sat down. Albert was seated in the front row, unsurprisingly. He was the star, after all. A victor should always be closest to his prize.
I swept my gaze over the entire venue. I didn’t see any women, unfortunately. The businessmen didn’t bring their family along when it was time to do business, which was normal. What had me on edge, nonetheless, was where Melissa was.
“Our agreed time was today; Melissa is supposed to be sitting in among the bidders. She was supposed to be back yesterday. Why isn’t she here? Weren’t things supposed to go smoothly at the imperial capital? If she’s not present, my plan is going to be flushed down the toilet! Drats! Did I just actually give Albert the strategy to sweep the floor with his competitors and acquire the shipyard?! My supposed revenge for Achilles has turned into me siding with Albert! What in the world did I come here for?
How am I going to face the things Achilles left in my care? I accepted his fortune and promised to avenge him, only to let my greed help a treacherous arsonist, who killed innocent people, build a blissful life for himself, his wife and child? What have I done? What have I done?” I wondered, feeling tense.
I had maintained unfettered the entire time… until now, when tension started to choke me.
“If Melissa isn’t coming back and ran off with the money… Stop, stop. I know it’s easy to let my imagination run wild when I’m on edge. The further my train of thought goes in that direction, the more debilitating it’ll be on my ability to think. Don’t let your imagination take over. The final crisis isn’t here yet. There’s still a chance. Melissa might just be small due to her female nature. Calm down. There’s no need to despair until the final moment. As long as the final call is yet to be made, there’ll still be a chance to turn it around,” I rationalised in my mind.
I trusted Melissa. If someone in business receives help when his business is about to hit the coffin and somebody offers help, the assisted only needs to cherish their future as a businessman and their reputation. By the same logic, I believed that Melissa would uphold our agreement. Besides, what else could I trust in? I didn’t have any other solution besides placing my trust in her. I didn’t have enough money, thereby no means of buying the shares. All I could do was place my faith in Madam Melissa.
By nature, businessmen are lying, yet sincere and honest, people. When a businessman begins to lie, he has no reasoning he must abide by. Once he has terms and conditions he must abide to, he will have to make good on them even if it costs him his life. Why are businessmen and religions always the direct opposite of each other? That’s because businessmen are a contradiction; they have their own creed.
More and more people gradually filed in, engaging in their own conversations and taking their seats. A considerable number of businessmen came to spectate as opposed to bidding, perhaps. Only the people seated on the other side were genuinely deliberating and comparing. It was their market, after all. They were going to compare whose price suited them better. They would sit there and consider whether or not a moment of patience would see another hand raised with a higher offer.
Today was their last opportunity. They had held onto the shares for a long time for the opportunity. If they didn’t sell now at the conference that would end it all, then their shares would become scrap. Nonetheless, my concern remained: Madam Melissa had yet to appear…
Seeing as there didn’t seem to be anyone else coming, the host cleared his throat. I looked at the backs in front of me and gently clasped my face, inwardly questioning, “Is there any hope left? Will Melissa make it?”
“So, then, if you are all prepared, l-“
I looked up to see Madam Melissa holding up her skirt and breathing laboriously at the door. She took in a deep breath and wiped her sweat. She raised her head again but with a graceful smile this time. Voice calm, she stated, “All right now. I have also arrived, so we can begin now.”
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