The two cuts were a stark contrast to her otherwise fair skin. Blood kept flowing from the wounds, dyeing her neck red.
Her vision turned misty as crystalline tears welled up in the corners of her eyes, falling and mixing with her blood.
She had fallen into despair.
Faced with General Trent Xavier, all her helplessness and hopelessness piled up.
More than anything, hate swelled up within her.
She hated that she ran into that fire because she heard someone calling out for help!
She may have saved one person, but the injury that had been inflicted upon her cost her ten years of torment! Ten years of pain!
She became the laughing stock of the entire school when she got those burns.
Even the friends she was once close with wanted nothing to do with her!
Her classmates treated her like a bringer of plagues, avoiding her as much as they could!
Her family started hating her. Even her own parents treated her like she was worthless!
When her scars were finally healed, she had thought that maybe those ten years of suffering were worth it, after all.
But now, she was once again in the throes of despair.
“Please, General Xavier. This has absolutely nothing to do with us. It’s all Thea’s fault!”
“Yeah! It’s all her fault! Torture her if you want, just please let us go!”
Thea stared up at Trent’s expressionless face and listened to the Callahans push her onto the proverbial train tracks, all so they themselves could live. She fell deeper into despair.
“Not talking, are you?”
Trent waved a hand, his expression turning cold. Immediately, two men walked up to him.
“Take her to the auction hall. I want everyone in Cansington to know what happens when they cross my family. We’ll deal with Alex Yates after getting rid of the Callahans.”
The men untied Thea’s restraints, then dragged her out by the hair like it was a dog’s leash.
Thea was only wearing a thin dress. It ripped under the friction between her and the ground. Her skin was rubbed raw as she was dragged to the auction hall. Her wounds sent sharp sparks of pain through her every time they made contact with the ground, but the men ignored her wailing pleas for mercy, no matter how loudly she screamed.
Back on the top floor of the Cansington Hotel, the auction was proceeding as scheduled.
None of the items they had put up were worth anything, yet their starting bids were high, at least ten times higher than what they would be worth normally.
Most of the attendees were notable figures in Cansington. They were all well-versed in business proceedings and immediately caught onto what was really happening.
Alex Yates had bankrupted the Xaviers, but Trent Xavier had returned to gather funds, intending on building his family back up.
The attendees had no choice but to bid. Trent was the General of the western border. He had immense power, and crossing him was the last thing any of them wanted.
So, they kept bidding, even when they knew what they were bidding on were fakes and forgeries that were worth nothing, because they knew the alternative would be Trent Xavier getting payback on them for not buying anything tonight.
Another item was brought on stage as soon as the last bid was complete. It was Moonlit Flowers of Cliffside’s Edge.
The beautiful auctioneer started her spiel. “The following item is for Moonlit Flowers on Cliffside’s Edge. The starting bid is eight million, bidders must bid no less than half a million every time they make a bid.”
The crowd understood what happened when the painting resurfaced. That painting Thea had destroyed was also a fake. The Xaviers just wanted an excuse to take the Callahans down.
Rumors had spread that the reason why the Xaviers went bankrupt was because Thea Callahan had called Alex Yates and put him on speaker, so Alex heard what Joel Xavier had said and bankrupted the Xaviers out of spite.
The true painting was worth a fortune. 1.8 billion dollars would be a fair starting bid for it, yet now the Xaviers had offered a fake one for eight million. This was a clear scam.
“I’m representing the Frasiers. We bid ten million. I’m getting that painting!”
“I’m representing the Zimmermans. We bid eleven million. I want that painting!”
“I’m representing the Wilsons. We bid twelve million!”
They knew it was fake, but in order to get on the Western Border General Trent Xavier’s good side, some of the wealthier families started bidding in earnest. Soon enough, the forged Moonlit Flowers on Cliffside’s Edge went from being worthless to having a hefty price tag of twelve million dollars, with the biddings showing no signs of slowing down.
Eventually, the forged painting was finally bought for twenty-one million dollars.
Just as the crowd was waiting for yet another item, two fully armed men dragged a woman on stage.
Her hair was disheveled and blood caked her face. One of her high heels was missing, and she had friction burns on her knees. Blood continued flowing freely from her cuts.
The crowd drew in a cold breath at the scene.
Thea was finally released once she arrived on stage.
They had positioned her so she just so happened to be facing the crowd.
Ten people sat at the auction stand. They were all big names in Cansington, but the sight of Thea’s bloodied face terrified them. Their faces went pale as they sat frozen in their seats, not even daring to breathe too loudly.
“Help… help me…”
Her hope renewed as she spotted the numerous people around her. Thea reached out to them like a drowning woman to a straw, calling out to them for help, but no one moved. They lacked the courage to even speak since the fully armed men stood between them and Thea.
Trent walked on stage with his dagger. He yanked Thea’s head up by her hair, placing her face in full view of the audience. “The Xaviers are the true rulers of Cansington. Anyone that crosses us must die!”
With that, the dagger once again sliced through Thea’s cheek.
“Ahhh!” Thea’s face contorted in pain as she wailed.
“Kill me! Just kill me, I beg of you! Stop torturing me!”
Thea’s body and soul were exhausted from the torment. All she wanted was release! Thus, she kept begging for him to take her life and be done with it.
James and Henry had been waiting outside the hotel. When it was almost time, they donned the masks they had prepared and approached the hotel.
They went through the back door, where there were no soldiers standing guard, unlike the heavily-guarded front entrance.
James and Henry made their way to the top floor, but before they could enter the auction hall, James heard Thea’s pained cries and desperate pleas.
His heart started pounding as he saw red. Rage surged from deep within him, consuming him whole.
Henry had been trailing after him but froze when he sensed James’s hostility. He instinctively took a few steps backward, trembling with unwarranted dread.
In all the years he had been working for James, he had only seen him this furious once.
A year ago, a great battle erupted in the Southern Plains. Tens of thousands of men in the Black Dragon Army were wiped out tragically in the hands of the enemy, caught in a trap the other side had set up. In a fit of uncontrollable rage, James had rushed into the enemy stronghold alone.
During that battle, blood flowed as freely as a river.
During that battle, corpses were piled as high as a mountain.
During that battle, James claimed the head of the enemy’s leader and brought it back to their base.
At that moment, Trent Xavier slid his dagger to Thea’s throat. “I’ll give you one last chance,” he said coldly. “Who was the person you saved ten years ago?”
The door burst open with a loud boom.
“It was me!”
James’s roar, filled with malice and bloodlust, resounded through the hall.