Despite the insults hurled at him, Stone just laughed nastily.
“Either give me 300 dilo and take it, or don’t. I won’t sell it for anything less.”
“Is that your final offer?”
“Yes, just seeing this alone will bring the madam a lifetime of blessings. It wasn’t supposed to be here in the first place, you know.”
“It wasn’t supposed to be here?”
“Yes, yes, it’s an item that already has an owner.”
“I see. Then why are you selling it without the owner’s knowledge?”
“Well, the owner is dead….”
Stone twisted his neck and stuck his tongue out as if he were dying.
“The owner is dead?”
“Well, yes. Don’t pry too much. Anyway, it’s 300 dilo or nothing.”
Stone waved his hand like he was chasing a fly.
“You’re a very rude person. Don’t you know who this is?”
Edward stepped forward, frowning at Stone’s behavior.
“Whether I know or not doesn’t matter. She’s the Archduke of Lucendorf’s wife, isn’t she? And why, he’s gone mad because of the war…uhh, cough.”
“Be careful with your words.”
“Are you saying you won’t sell under 300 dilo?”
“Do you think that amount is unreasonable?”
Tension rose between Stone and Edward.
“Thank you for your concern, Count Tormaite. But I would like to handle this matter myself.”
Laura stepped forward.
“But, Archduchess, this man is not someone you can handle.”
Edward tried to dissuade her with a worried look.
“Leave it be, Edward.”
A cold voice flowed from behind them.
Killian, who had been watching Laura from a distance, stepped forward. He stood next to her and looked down at Edward indifferently.
But there was a cold aura in his cobalt blue eyes.
“Let my wife do as she pleases. I won’t tolerate any more interference.”
His quiet voice felt heavy, as if it could suffocate the other person’s breath.
“I may have overstepped my bounds. I apologize if I offended you.”
Edward took a step back and politely bowed his head. His clean admission showed his good manners.
Killian watched him for a moment before turning to Laura.
“Are you going to buy it for 300 dilo?”
“I don’t think so.”
“What are you going to do? The merchant doesn’t seem like he’s going to back down.”
Laura clenched her jaw.
Watching the nobles, Stone chuckled. He put his thumb on his belt and shrugged as if to say, ‘try whatever you want.’
Laura walked confidently up to Stone.
The onlookers watched Laura with interest and murmured.
“What is the Archduchess up to?”
“I don’t know. She might just embarrass herself.”
Laura approached Stone and clapped her hands together.
“Can you lend me your ear?”
Stone snorted once and bent over, staggering.
But then Laura grabbed his ear roughly, causing him to scream in pain.
Ignoring his cries, Laura whispered in his ear.
The next moment, his eyes bulged out as if they were about to pop.
He screamed strangely and quickly backed away from Laura.
His rough face suddenly turned pale and he looked at her as if he were seeing a ghost.
“It’s a lie… it can’t be happening…”
He shook his head in denial, as if rejecting the reality in front of him. Then he pointed his trembling finger at Laura.
“Call me Archduchess.”
Laura smiled slyly.
“Why is the merchant acting like this?”
“What did the Archduchess say?”
People whispered to each other.
“Archduchess, Archduchess… Yes, you’re the Archduchess of Lucendorf.”
Stone rambled like a crazy person.
After murmuring to himself for a while, he suddenly lifted his head. Then he started to glare at Laura with madness in his eyes. Eventually…
He laughed heartily, shaking his head.
The people who had gathered to watch the laughter that echoed through the hall were bewildered.
“He must be crazy.”
They pointed their fingers and laughed at Stone, who was laughing so hard that he was holding his stomach and slapping his thighs.
“Ha ha ha… Wow, I’ve never experienced anything like this before. Hoo hoo hoo!”
Stone wiped away tears from his eyes with the back of his hand.
“Are you done laughing?”
“Yes! I laughed very heartily.”
“Shall we start the transaction then?”
“Yes, would you like me to wrap it up for you?”
“Yes, thank you.”
Laura nodded her head, and Stone lifted the cage he had placed on the floor.
He opened the door of the cage and carefully placed a wooden dish filled with ash inside.
“Here you go.”
Stone handed the cage to Laura.
“The amount is 200 dilo?”
“Just take it.”
Stone spoke with a satisfied expression as if he had just put down a heavy load.
Just a moment ago, he had shouted that he wouldn’t sell it unless he was given 300 dilo, but now his attitude had changed.
“Why are you just giving this to me?”
“It’s going back to its original owner. Besides, I’ve already received payment.”
Stone shrugged as if it was nothing.
“So you do have a conscience.”
Laura murmured softly as she looked down at the cage with her product in it.
He understood what she meant and pounded his chest with his fist, saying,
“Haha, if I didn’t have a conscience, I’d be a corpse!”
A secret glance passed between the two of them.
Meanwhile, the onlookers were stunned by what was happening before their eyes.
Why did that person’s attitude change so suddenly just because the Archduchess whispered something?
It was because his changed attitude was as gentle and calm as though he’s treating a long-time regular customer.
Everyone was watching with curiosity when…
Killian’s cold voice interrupted their private moment.
Although he called Laura’s name, his gaze was fixed on Stone. Even though he just stared at him silently, the air around them became chilly.
Even the seasoned hunters who had experienced all kinds of battles felt an eerie atmosphere and shrank their shoulders.
“Damn, it’s so cold.”
Stone rubbed his arms. He didn’t know why the nobleman was staring at him.
“Honey, can we invite that merchant to our house?”
Laura asked Killian.
He turned his gaze from Stone to Laura, feeling puzzled by her unwavering gaze.
“Isn’t the transaction over? There’s no reason to invite him.”
“But I got the phoenix for free. I want to treat him to a meal to show my gratitude.”
“Is it not possible?”
Laura clutched the cage tightly and looked at him with pleading eyes.
Killian furrowed his eyebrows slightly without saying anything.
The reaction came from elsewhere.
“Cough, cough, adapting is… cough, not working, cough.”
Stone covered his mouth with his fist and suddenly began coughing.
Amidst the loud coughs, occasional words flowed out, but no one could understand them because his pronunciation was too muffled.
Killian furrowed his brows and gave Stone a sharp look. Just as his pupils seemed to flash dangerously, he quickly turned his head to look down at Laura.
“Do as you please.”
“Thank you, honey.”
As Stone listened to their conversation, he coughed loudly once again.
“I suppose I owe you a real apology? I didn’t realize the Archduchess would be so bold as to strike a deal.”
Edward approached with a soft smile.
“May I ask what you said to him?”
“That’s a secret.”
“Well, if it’s not a secret, there’s no need to whisper it in his ear.”
Edward glanced briefly at Stone, who was smiling the whole time.
“By the way, I’m curious as to why the Archduchess bought the ashes. Is that also a secret?”
“No. I just thought that the ashes were from a phoenix.”
“A real phoenix?”
“But real phoenixes are…”
Edward started to speak but then looked at Warren standing next to him.
“I agree with the Archduchess’s thoughts.”
Warren spoke while closely examining the wooden dish inside the cage.
“Are you saying that those ashes could be from a phoenix?”
“Yes. Phoenixes are commonly known as firebirds because their entire bodies are made of fire. And when a phoenix dies, it leaves behind ashes in its place.”
“Then is the ash that the Archduchess purchased a real phoenix? Not just a phoenix ‘egg’, but an actual one that was auctioned off?”
“That’s not the case.”
Warren smiled faintly.
“Just earlier, didn’t he say that the ash was left behind by a phoenix that died?”
“That’s just a theory. No one has ever seen a phoenix die or found the ashes left behind by one. It’s just a legend.”
“Hmm, is that so? But then again, you’ve already investigated all of the items that were auctioned off here.”
Warren had examined everything that claimed to be a phoenix. But unfortunately, the only thing that had reacted to his mana was the phoenix ‘egg.’
Laura listened to their conversation and opened the cage door.
Reaching out, she picked up a pinch of the ashes in the dish.
Killian asked, watching her actions.
Laura smiled at him and pulled back her hand from the cage.
It was when she tilted her head with an ambiguous expression.
Laura looked at her thumb and forefinger, which held the ashes, against each other.
A flame sprang from her fingertips and floated in the air.
The flame swelled to the size of a palm.
“Ah, what’s that?”
“The Archduchess’s hand is on fire!”
People were startled by the sudden incident and panicked.
The sight of fire shooting out from a human’s fingertips and floating in the air was fascinating yet scary.
“Look over there! It’s changing shape!”
“Isn’t that… like a feather?”
“Yes! It’s a bird feather. It looks like a feather made of fire!”
As they spoke, the flame that had sprung from Laura’s fingertips was undulating in the shape of a feather.
Warren stared in shock at the feather-shaped flame floating in the air.
“That’s… a phoenix… feather.”
A suppressed voice flowed out of him.
After a moment, he composed himself and turned to Laura. His dark gaze lingered on her for a long time.
“That’s a phoenix feather. The first ingredient of the elixir.”
Finally, Warren announced to the crowd.
As soon as those words fell, a scream mixed with amazement, shock, curiosity, and jealousy erupted inside the banquet hall.
“You’re lucky, Archduchess. You chose something that no one was interested in, and it turned out to be real. It’s as if you knew from the beginning that this ash was from a phoenix.”
Warren said to Laura. At first glance, it seemed like he was congratulating her, but there was a faint doubt underlying his words.
Laura innocently exclaimed, pretending not to understand his words.
“Isn’t it amazing? Fire sprang from my hand!”