No one saw the unwillingness in Princess Ling Meng's eyes. Though the eyes of the black robed people behind her shined as they looked at those bottles of wine.
"Since the Princess is bidding, I will make no further bids. I will bid later. It's unlikely that someone will bid against me the next time; am I right?" Hai Chen Feng's demeanor was elegant. He smiled to show his benevolence as he moved out of the way.
"Princess Ling Meng bids one million and five hundred thousand silver taels for the second batch of fifty wine bottles. Is there no higher bid for them? …still no higher bid? One million and five hundred thousand going once… One million and five hundred thousand going twice… One million and five hundred thousand going for the third time… sold to the Princess's bid!"
"Bang!" The hammer struck the table. Fatty Tang was extremely excited. He loved that 'bang' sound when the final call was made.
Upstairs, Jun Mo Xie laughed so hard that his eyes turned to slits, "This Fatty really leaves me speechless. He just shouted that Princess Ling Meng is getting married!" (1)
"Pfft" Jun Wu Yi spit out a mouthful of tea and coughed. The Third Master of the Jun Family had learned one thing — no matter what, Jun Mo Xie's mouth was capable of altering the meaning of anything. …Tang Yuan had obviously shouted "bid!", but the Young Master Jun had altered it to "getting married"(1). [Pah! How did I get into this ditch with this guy?]
The First Prince spoke up as soon as the third batch was introduced for auction, "This Prince has taken a fancy to this commodity. I bid six hundred thousand for this fine wine!"
Atop the stage, Tang Yuan rolled his eyes as he thought, [Bah! I think you're full of shit! The first batch was auctioned for over five million, and the second batch was auctioned for one million and five hundred thousand. Yet you unexpectedly bid a price which is only a little higher than the base price?! Moreover, this tone of yours is not one of competition. 'I bid six hundred thousand for this fine wine!' …this is obviously a warning; 'don't mess with me, I am the First Prince!' Such shamelessness ah!]
The First Prince smiled as he made his bid. He then turned his body to face the rest of guests and said, "Would anyone like to bid? This auction must go to a very high price. So be at ease ladies and gentlemen. This First Prince will not mind if you bid."
Everyone's face twitched as they cursed him in secrecy; [did you say that you won't 'mind'? You could also have meant — 'I will slaughter the person who bids'? Will you really mind or not?]
Tang Yuan hadn't had the time to speak when "guest" Hai Chen Feng's voice resounded. He coughed and cleared his throat before he said, "Your Majesty the First Prince has spoken the truth. The price must go high. Therefore, I bid one million silver taels; as I had done earlier."
"Oh?" The First Price smiled as he looked at him, "Gang Leader Hai has a very good outlook on things. If that is the case, this Prince will bid one million and five hundred thousand!"
Hai Chen Feng hesitated for a moment. It seemed that he wanted to increase the price again. However, he quietly sat down.
This continued for the next sixteen batches of wine. Hai Chen Feng made a bid for each batch. And each time he was unable to make the purchase. One million and five hundred had apparently become the fixed rate for the auction. These sixteen batches were auctioned off to the major families of the city. They got to walk away with the wine once they bid one million and five hundred thousand.
The stock of three thousand bottles of wine was already short of nine hundred by now.
The people sitting in the rows behind made no attempts to bid. They obviously didn't dare to.
However, they couldn't help but scratch their cheeks in anxiety.
[Not much is left now!]
General Dugu Wudi's face had already become as dark as charcoal.
This time… he was truly done for. The first nine hundred bottles had been auctioned for an astronomical price of thirty million silver taels. And now he would have to compensate more than twenty five million in silver since Jun Mo Xie's base price of ten thousand taels per bottle had been bettered. Moreover, further two-thousand-plus bottles of this wine still remained.
[I estimate that this auction will end-up making a crazy seventy million by the time it comes to an end! …Conservatively... ]
[And this figure is what I would owe him… this debt could crush me to death!](2)
Though the Dugu Family was very powerful, where would they get that seventy million silver from? It could be said that selling everything they owned wouldn't be enough to settle this debt.
[Would I have to use my daughter to repay the debt?]
[How can this be any good? Would I really have to use my daughter to settle this loan? This bears down on my heart. Won't the Dugu Family become the biggest joke in the Tian Xiang Empire? People will say that we couldn't even afford our wine… that we had to send our daughter to someone's family in order to clear our debts… ]
"Oh dear!" Dugu Wudi sighed deeply. His anxiety was weighing him down. [I should not have made that bet! I should've never added that line in particular… that I would compensate according to the price his wine was auctioned at! Isn't this like burying myself in a grave that I dug?]
[Originally, I would've had no option but to pay the twenty five million. However, the price is now at one million and five hundred thousand per batch. That's around thirty thousand per bottles. This would mean that my family would have to pay at least seventy five million. And this is the most conservative figure! Forget about doing this alone… even the entire Dugu Family would not be able to cough up so much silver. What a horrible fate!]
On the stage, Tang Yuan was pushing his throat by shouting-it-hoarse in excitement. Yet he still was unable to make enough of a din. Right now, the princes, the nobility and the merchants — all the rich and powerful were opening their mouths to yell out their bids. Every individual's voice was loud since they feared that they would lose out.
Tang Yuan was also teasing them. He would still bring out batches of fifty bottles. But when the time came to remove them off the table... he'd do it one-by-one-by-one…
Everyone was afraid of not being able to buy a wine bottle, and losing their hard earned aristocratic identity. The more anxious they'd get, the more aggressively and openly they'd participate for fear of being outdone. And the price seemed to increase because of this.
Even "customer" Hai Chen Feng did not get an opportunity to bid. It seemed that everyone present had become Jun Mo Xie's "customers". As long as one shouted; 'I bid one million', there would be several others who would shout — 'I bid one million and five hundred thousand'.
It seemed that the heartfelt desire of the Jin Yang Gang's new leader would not be fulfilled. However, this matter would become clear later on.
Jun Mo Xie had initially intended to sell the wine at a base price of ten thousand taels per bottle. However, it seemed that base price had now been established at thirty thousand instead. Moreover, the upper limit of the bids was still shooting.
It seemed as if the supply was unable to meet the demand. In fact, the price of the wine would've shot even higher if the guests not been limited with regard to the number of purchases they could make.
This auction was finally reaching its conclusion after witnessing several crazy tussles during the biddings. Two thousand and seven hundred of the three thousand bottles had already been sold off. Merely three hundred bottles of wine remained. However, there was still a small section of the audience which had not presented its bids yet.
However, the most noteworthy of all was Hai Chen Feng. The leader of the Jin Yang Gang still hadn't been able to obtain his long-cherished desire. He once again cleared his throat and said, "I bid one million!"
"Wait a moment! Let the Imperial Prince speak!" Someone shouted loudly. Everyone turned to look at the source, only to see the Third Prince climb the auction platform. Then, he hurriedly snatched the hammer from Tang Yuan's hand and exerted himself as 'banged' that hammer thrice on the small table.
Everyone was preparing for the final leg of this extraordinary wine's auction. Hence, they were alarmed to see the Third Prince suddenly make his way to the platform, and couldn't help but find it strange. However, they calmed down. [What is the Third Prince trying to do… That guy was auctioning the wine... Could it be that you wish to make a guest appearance and act as an auctioneer?]
"Ladies and gentlemen! Listen to what I have to say!" The Third Prince crossed his hands behind his back as he looked at everyone. His mannerism was arrogant enough to disgust most people.
"Today we were fortunate enough to taste this 'Heavenly Wine'; it is indeed a great blessing. I would like to convey my sincere thanks to all the stakeholders of the Aristocratic Hall. In this regard, this Prince extends his sincere gratitude." The Third Prince nodded towards Tang Yuan. Then, he turned to speak, "This wine is indeed exceptional and very valuable. However, we must not forget basic etiquette!
"This Prince is ashamed!" The Third Princes let out a fake sigh, "I just remembered a moment ago… that there someone within our Tian Xiang City who is more qualified than anyone else when it comes to tasting such excellent wine. And yet, unfortunately that person is not here. He works his heart out. He exhausts himself mentally for this country… and the common people!"
All who were qualified to be called "aristocrats" had been able to enter. They clearly understood 'who' this man was referring to. However, they still couldn't understand what the Third Prince was attempting.
He seemed nothing more than an intimidating character who was trying bullying the weak by using his powerful connections.
"That person is naturally this Prince's father, the Emperor — our Tian Xiang Empire's King, His Majesty! My father, the Emperor, is busy with the nation's affairs and does not have time to attend such an event. Tell me, can't we show even a little reverence towards him? Are we incapable of sacrificing a little from our personal desires for the sake of the nation?"
The Third Prince's voice sounded strict, "Not showing any respect towards one's elders is equal to committing a reprehensible crime! The auction has already entered its closing stages! And only three hundred bottles of this extraordinary wine remain. This Prince suggests that we present these bottles to the Emperor, and show him our love and respect. Tell me; is it not a good idea?"
The Third Prince's voluminous speech ended; it was greeted by complete silence.
Everyone had thought that the Third Prince acted up because he wished to obtain the remaining bottles. However, no one had expected that the Third Prince would take this road. It was clear that he wanted to stop the auction, and then make the Aristocratic Hall offer the remaining bottles to him; free of cost!
In fact, it seemed as if he asking the Aristocratic Hall for a favor.
Everyone cursed him in the secrecy of their hearts!
[You want to show respect to your father? Then you should send him what you've bought! Didn't you win a bid for fifty bottles earlier? You didn't seem to be bothering about respecting your father then. And now you wish to take other people's things to ingratiate yourself in your father's eyes? And on top of that, you even managed to speak of it in such a self-righteous manner! We cannot help but call this a 'skill of sorts'! You have a great talent which can distort the truth, and mix the right with the wrong…!]
Everyone was discontent, but no one made a single noise. The people who hadn't been able to buy anything were obviously the most disappointed ones. It could be assumed that such people were mostly seated in the back since they weren't the richest or the most influential ones. Therefore, how could they dare to offend the Emperor's son? Moreover, raising an objection might just lead to a criminal charge for disrespecting the Royal Family! Hence, no one said a word. They simply looked at Young Master Tang since it would now depend on the Aristocratic Hall's chief auctioneer.
"Young Master Tang, what do you think?" The Third Prince asked in a low and calm voice.
This is an instance of word-play (in the native language of the text). 出价 (chū jià) means 'to bid' and 出嫁 (chū jià)means 'to get married'. They sound very similar. Jun Mo Xie repeats Fatty Tang's words with the alteration to crack a joke.
The calculation is explained later in the chapter.