The crater in the middle of Dongluo City had long since been filled in with vast amounts of vegetation. The damaged second level was also restored to its normal condition. However, the “5” on the big tree could not be covered up, no matter what the Dongluo Clan did.
The auction was being held not very far away from that very tree. As Meng Hao approached the auction, he couldn’t help but see it. The parrot, perched on his shoulder, looked up at it out of the corner of his eye. With an egotistical expression, he lifted his head up as if everything were beneath him.
The auction facility wasn’t very large, a far cry from the Violet Fate Sect auction, in which tens of thousands of Cultivators could participate. There were only a few hundred people seated around the auction floor, conversing in whispers. In the middle of it all was a raised platform.
Only Cultivators with the appropriate command medallions from the Dongluo Clan could enter. As soon as Meng Hao produced his black command medallion, he was immediately treated with favor, and escorted to a comfortable seat.
If the auction floor had been set up with private booths, Meng Hao would have been entitled to one because of the black command medallion.
He sat down, his expression the same as ever, then closed his eyes and settled his mind. There weren’t very many people seated near him, nor were there many people in the auction in general. This wasn’t a very common sight in Dongluo City.
Because of the latest news circulating around the Black Lands, people were nervous. Many Cultivators had already fled the cities. At the moment, the cities of the United Nine were no longer as safe as the outside world was.
After all, the Black Lands Palace was targeting, not Black Lands Cultivators in general, but the Clans of the United Nine.
Under such circumstances, Meng Hao knew that any people who had chosen to come attend this auction were people with utmost self-confidence. Considering war had already broken out, an auction like this most likely wouldn’t be held again for some time. In fact, this would probably be the last auction in Dongluo City until the war ended.
“I have to attend….” said Meng Hao to himself. After enough time passed for an incense stick to burn, the auction would begin. More people began to filter in, and as they did, a man and a woman approached Meng Hao.
As they neared, Meng Hao opened his eyes and saw Dongluo Han and the beautiful Dongluo Ling. Dongluo Han had a broad smile on his face, whereas Dongluo Ling looked irritated, like she didn’t want to be there.
“Fancy meeting you here, Fellow Daoist,” said Dongluo Han with a grin, approaching Meng Hao and sitting down next to him. “When last we parted, I was unable to enquire as to your respected name. Would it be possible to find out?”
Dongluo Ling hesitated for a moment and then sat down on the other side of Meng Hao.
“My humble surname is Meng,” said Meng Hao coolly. “I’m a simple Rogue Cultivator.” He smiled at Dongluo Han. He could sense that the man hadn’t come to cause him trouble, but must have some other request, and had chosen this moment before the auction to bring it up.
His presence here was not unexpected; Meng Hao had actually predicted that something like this would happen.
“Brother Meng, there’s no need to be so modest,” replied Dongluo Han with a polite smile. “Considering how strong you are, I don’t think any other Rogue Cultivators could measure up to you.” His glance flitted over the parrot, and an imperceptible flicker of fear flashed through his eyes.
As for Dongluo Ling, she sat on the other side of Meng Hao. During the entire time, she had been glaring fiercely at the parrot. If looks could kill, then she would have slain the parrot many times over by now.
Meng Hao chuckled but didn’t say anything. Since Dongluo Han hadn’t brought up whatever request he planned to discuss, Meng Hao would just have to remain in the dark. However, he turned the good luck charm over and over in his palm, just as he had been doing for the past several days, never returning it to his bag of holding.
It was at this point that the parrot looked impatiently at Dongluo Ling and said, “What the hell? Are you crazy? What do you keep staring at Lord Fifth for? Are you looking for a screw?”
Dongluo Ling’s eyes went wide, and the veins on her face bulged out. Her beautiful features went purple, and she lunged to her feet, filled with explosive power. She was so angry that her entire body trembled.
During her entire life, she had never met anyone who she wanted to chop into pieces as much as this parrot. As such, her disgust toward Meng Hao had also reached an incredible level.
Dongluo Han gaped for a moment, then laughed bitterly and was about to say something when the parrot rolled its eyes. “Lord Fifth hates featherless, furless necks,” it said in its high-pitched voice. “Lord Fifth also hates waists with no fur or feathers. Nice chest and rear end, but again, no fur, no feathers. Even if you offered yourself free of charge, Lord Fifth wouldn’t accept.” The expression on its face said that no matter what she said, it would never like her.
Meng Hao felt a massive headache coming on. He cleared his throat.
The parrot’s words just now made Dongluo Ling feel as if her mind were about to explode. Flames of fire raged in her eyes, and she seemed on the verge of losing control. She was about to spring into action when Dongluo Han’s face suddenly darkened.
“Fifth Sis, SIT DOWN!”
Dongluo Ling’s head shot up to look at him. Gritting her teeth, she thought about the safety of her Clan, and of Dongluo Han’s solemn expression. Bottling up her frustration and fury, she could do nothing but sit back down. However, she made a firm decision that in the future, no matter who tried to get her to come see this detestable parrot, she would absolutely refuse.
“We’ve incurred Brother Meng’s ridicule,” said Dongluo Han. “Please don’t take offense at my younger sister’s impulsiveness. Actually, I brought her with me today to offer an apology for the matter from the other day.”
“You’re too courteous, Fellow Daoist Dongluo. That was just a misunderstanding, there’s no need to bring it up.” Meng Hao smiled, but inwardly, he was on guard. He had anticipated that the Clan would seek him out eventually. Because of the power he had displayed, and the parrot’s performance, most likely, he met the qualifications to be recruited by the Clan.
However, based on what Dongluo Han had said just now, Meng Hao could tell that he had something even bigger planned.
“My younger sister lacks discipline, and unfortunately, the Clan is facing upheaval. Brother Meng, you are handsome and talented. You and I hit it off well right from the start. In fact, I don’t even take you to be an outsider. Brother Meng, I wonder if you would….”
Meng Hao’s eyes suddenly flashed, and he was about to say something when Dongluo Ling once again shot to her feet.
“What are you talking about, Third Bro? You said you brought me here to make an apology! I get what you’re trying to say, and I completely disagree! I don’t care if it’s your idea or the Clan’s idea, I will never comply. If you try to force me, then I’ll kill myself! I will never become anyone’s beloved, especially this shameless, vulgar, despicable hoodlum!” She turned to glare coldly at Meng Hao, making no attempt to conceal her hatred, disgust and contempt. “You might as well quit your dreaming. I’ve taken an oath to never become someone’s beloved, but even if I hadn’t, there are countless heroes in the United Nine, and you don’t measure up to even a single one of them!”
With that, she gave Meng Hao a final contemptuous look, then turned her supple waist and stalked off. Her slender, lithe figure would cause any man who saw it to feel tremors in his heart.
Meng Hao frowned. After hearing Dongluo Han’s suggestion, he had been about to refuse. However, hearing Dongluo Ling’s reaction caused him to smile and hold his tongue. He looked back at Dongluo Han.
Dongluo Han sighed inwardly. The idea hadn’t come from the Clan. It was something he had spontaneously come up with himself. He had the feeling that this Cultivator named Meng possessed some unfathomable secret. As such, the idea of convincing him to join the Clan had wormed its way into his head.
Seeing Dongluo Ling’s fierce reaction, however, caused Dongluo Han to shake his head with a bitter laugh. He gave Meng Hao an apologetic look, and didn’t bring the matter up again. Instead, he sat silently in thought for a moment and said, “I assume you guessed my purpose in coming, Brother Meng. The Black Lands are falling into chaos. The Alliance of United Nine Cities isn’t equal to the Black Lands Palace, but our power is not too far off. Fellow Daoist, join the United Nine, and your every wish will be but a command away.”
Meng Hao didn’t immediately refuse. He sat thinking for a short while, before slowly responding, “I can’t make a decision immediately, sir.”
“No matter,” replied Dongluo Han. Actually, if Meng Hao had agreed immediately, it would have aroused his suspicions. An initial refusal was actually the most appropriate response. “The United Nine will be recruiting Black Lands Cultivators throughout the coming days. I want you to know that the United Nine will naturally treat recruits with utmost sincerity. Even though war has broken out between the Black Lands Palace and the United Nine, you should be able to see that the United Nine will not easily be exterminated. Brother Meng, I will await your decision. You can use that command medallion to notify the Dongluo Clan. In addition you can use the medallion to borrow some Spirit Stones for use in the auction today, a gift from me.”
It was at this time that bells echoed out from the platform in the center of the auction floor. A glowing light emanated out, and a figure appeared on the platform. The auction was officially beginning.
Dongluo Han clasped hands and smiled, then made his way out of the auction area to look for other Cultivators to recruit. The entire Dongluo Clan had been mobilized in an effort to get more Rogue Cultivators to bolster the alliance.
There weren’t a lot of people present, but the auction atmosphere was still lively. However, Meng Hao quickly noticed that there were three particular groups of people with whom others would not compete, regardless of what item was up for auction. At the most, they would watch on with dark expressions, but would hold their tongues.
These three groups were located carefully in opposite locations of the auction floor, and would not compete with each other.
Meng Hao glanced them over, then paid them no further attention. Regardless of where you went, there would be groups of various levels of influence and power. Groups like this would invariably flex their muscles at an important auction such as this.
Perhaps under normal circumstances they would be a bit more cautious. However, considering this was Dongluo City, and also considering the general chaos in the Black Lands, groups such as this were now far more valuable than before.
What Meng Hao needed, though, was the Spirit Orchid Leaf, of which ten would be available in the auction. Considering the turmoil on the horizon for the Black Lands, medicinal plants that could heal injuries would be increasingly valuable.
Despite that, Meng Hao still was able to acquire one. When he did, seven or eight Cultivators eyed him greedily.
His expression was the same as ever as he waited for the auction house to deliver the Spirit Orchid Leaf to him, whereupon he prepared to leave.
“Next up for auction is a flag. This flag is a treasure suitable for the Core Formation stage, and is called the Black Days Banner. When unfurled, it unleashes incredible power, and places inky blackness beneath your feet. It can be used both offensively and defensively, and most strange of all, can be fused with your Core Qi!
“This treasure was acquired from within some ancient ruins. Furthermore, we guarantee that in all the Black Lands, there is only this one.” As auctioneer introduced the item, a woman walked out from behind him bearing a copper tray. Atop the tray was a piece of cloth the size of a fist.
Meng Hao was just about to leave when he heard all of this. Suddenly, the parrot’s eyes went wide, and it stared at the flag, its eyes filled with disbelief.
After a moment the parrot didn’t speak, but rather transmitted its shrill, disbelieving voice into Meng Hao’s head. “Get it! You have to get it! This is incredible luck for you!”