Meng Hao paused in mid-step, then sat back and focused once again on the auction, his eyes glittering slightly. There didn’t seem to be anything very special about the flag, but for the parrot to show such interest in it left Meng Hao assured that it was something extraordinary.
“10,000 Spirit Stones!” someone cried in a husky voice, even as the introductory words were still echoing around the auction floor. Meng Hao glanced around surreptitiously and saw that the owner of the voice was someone among one of the three groups of Cultivators who were dominating the auction.
The opening bid caused everyone to frown. However, nobody dared to offer another bid. Not even the Cultivators from the other two groups did anything more than discuss the matter in low tones.
The auctioneer sighed inwardly. In the past, such a situation would never have arisen in the Dongluo City auction. However, because of the current disorder in the Black Lands, the United Nine wanted to recruit powerful groups of Cultivators just like these ones. Therefore, the auction itself wasn’t very important, and matters such as those occurring right now were ignored.
Just as the auctioneer was about to bang his hammer down to set the final price, Meng Hao’s cool voice rang out.
“15,000 Spirit Stones,” he said calmly. The instant he did, the entire auction floor went silent, and one gaze after another came to rest on him. This was especially true of the group of Cultivators who had called out the opening bid. There were more than ten of them in the group, three of whom were of the Core Formation stage. The rest were Foundation Establishment, but all of them gave dark looks to Meng Hao.
One of the three Core Formation Cultivators, whose Cultivation base was about the same as Meng Hao’s, coldly said, “Hand over your 15,000 Spirit Stones to me and then leave. If you do, we won’t cause any trouble for you.”
His words only caused Meng Hao to smile. “16,000 Spirit Stones,” he said.
This caused the surrounding Cultivators to gasp. They could see a strange light in Meng Hao’s eyes that caused the face of the middle-aged man who had just spoken to darken. Killing intent gleamed in his eyes.
“Are you fool enough to reject a face-saving offer? 20,000 Spirit Stones!”
“21,000 Spirit Stones!” Meng Hao didn’t have many more Spirit Stones, and in fact, this was his limit. After purchasing the Spirit Orchid Leaf, his supply was dried up.
“Interesting,” said an old man standing next to the middle-aged man. He was one of the other three Core Formation Cultivators. His Cultivation base was the same as Dongluo Han’s, at the mid Core Formation stage. “So, it turns out that there’s someone in Dongluo City who dares to steal things that belong to one of the three great Sects. I’ll offer 40,000 for this flag.”
He glared at Meng Hao as if he were already a dead man.
Meng Hao was silent for the space of a few breaths and then said, “50,000 Spirit Stones!” The surroundings were completely silent. Even the auctioneer appeared to be shaking with fear. In his estimation, this flag was worth no more than around 40,000 spirit stones. 50,000 was an extremely high price.
Perhaps auctions could reach such a high price in the Southern Domain, but this was the Black Lands. Furthermore, the actual function of the flag was not as amazing as he had made it sound; he had actually exaggerated a bit.
The mid Core Formation old man looked at Meng Hao, his gaze icy cold. It wasn’t just him; many of the surrounding Cultivators seemed to think that Meng Hao was specifically targeting one of the three major powers of the Dongluo City region, the Han River Sect.
“If you want to make a bid like that, you’ll need to show the Spirit Stones,” said the old man, his gaze flickering. “Otherwise I could make random bids too.” He looked over at the auctioneer, who hesitated for a moment and then faced Meng Hao.
“Fellow Daoist,” he said, “according to the rules of the auction, since you’ve incurred the suspicion of fellow participants in the auction, you’ll need to produce the Spirit Stones to prove that you have them. Please, don’t make things difficult for me.”
“How many Spirit Stones can I borrow with this?” asked Meng Hao, lifting up the black command medallion.
“100,000,” replied the auctioneer, looking back at the Core Formation Cultivator.
“I’ll pay 150,000 for the flag,” said the Core Formation Cultivator coolly. He looked at Meng Hao with cold laughter in his eyes. Given the power of the three great Sects, as well the fact that they had received recruitment invitations, a mere 150,000 Spirit Stones was a price that could easily be erased by the Dongluo Clan. Therefore, he didn’t care too much. What he did care about was having his Sect targeted in front of all these Cultivators. Killing intent already glowed in his eyes.
Meng Hao was silent for a moment, and then sighed inwardly. He just wanted the flag; he wasn’t targeting anybody. However, the auctioneer was now looking over at him, apparently preparing to announce the winner of this lot.
“Just how important is this flag?” Meng Hao transmitted to the parrot.
“Very important,” was the response. “If Lord Fifth isn’t mistaken, that’s no flag. Whoever it was that refined that thing into a flag is an idiot. He wrecked a precious treasure! Do you remember the guy I told you about who painted a talisman which ended up getting burned? The falling ash from the talisman became the Black Lands. Well, that talisman wasn’t completely destroyed; some of it remained and fell to the earth.
“Well, this flag is none other than a remnant of that scorched talisman. If you can get it, it will help you a lot in gaining enlightenment of that Immortal’s magical symbols. You could say that getting this flag will make you qualified to practice cultivation based on those magical symbols! If you don’t have the money, then just steal it! What are you waiting for! Don’t be scared! Have faith in the Lord Fifth, gain eternal life. Lord Fifth is watching over you. Steal it! That’s what I did all those years ago. Steal it! I’ll even help you break the shield protecting the platform!” The parrot seemed to be getting more and more excited at the prospect of getting Meng Hao to steal the flag.
The voice of the meat-jelly bell interrupted the mental conversation between the parrot and Meng Hao. “Stealing is immoral, wicked, wrong,” it said solemnly. “For you two to do this is really bad, I ….”
However, having heard the parrot’s words, Meng Hao’s eyes glittered and filled with determination. This auction was hosted by the Dongluo Clan, and Meng Hao was even considering joining them. However, he was only one person; how could he possibly compare to ten?
It was hard to tell who the Dongluo Clan would side with in the end, which was a problem. Seemingly having no other options, and seeing the auctioneer about to say something, Meng Hao suddenly stood up.
This caused the auctioneer to stare over in shock. As he did, Meng Hao’s body flickered. In front of the gaping eyes of all of the surrounding Cultivators, he shot toward the platform in the center of the auction floor.
He moved too quickly for anyone to react. As he neared the platform, the parrot continued to grow more excited. It squawked loudly, spitting something out of its mouth.
It was an attack that instantly slammed into the podium, causing a resounding boom to fill the air. The auctioneer stared in shock as the invisible shield protecting the podium shattered into countless pieces. Meng Hao descended, ignoring the auctioneer and grabbing the flag, then turning and shooting away.
Most of the Cultivators participating in the auction didn’t even have time to react. However, the instant Meng Hao began to make his escape, two roaring howls rose up from the center of the auction floor. Two old men had suddenly appeared and flew to intercept Meng Hao.
“You dare to steal from our Dongluo Clan auction!? You’re looking to die!”
“Get back here!” The Cultivation bases of the old men exploded with the power of the late Core Formation stage. Seeing them approach only seemed to make the parrot more excited. It squawked again, and a piercing sound rang out, an attack which spread out explosively toward the two late Core Formation old men. Their bodies shook, and they were incapable of approaching any closer.
Meng Hao dodged past them, flying like a shooting star above the heads of the other Cultivators. He kicked up a stiff wind that blew across their faces as he transformed into a beam of light that shot off into the sky.
This entire process took only the space of a few breaths. From the moment he snatched the flag until he disappeared, he moved with incredible speed. The method he had used to snatch the flag was natural and smooth, almost rehearsed. The minds of the observing Cultivators reeled and were filled with blankness.
This was the first time they had ever seen anyone rob an auction. Even in the Black Lands, this was something extremely rare, especially considering that it was always major Clans who hosted auctions. All of the Cultivators had strange expressions on their faces.
The people from the three great Sects watched on, stunned. Most shocked of all was the old man who had just made the top bid; how could he have anticipated that his opponent would actually… violate the rules in such a way?
He had no money, so he just stole the item…. Granted, these three great Sects often did similar things, but usually it was in secret. They would never dare to do so publicly.
In fact, now it seemed as if everything the old man had just said was a joke. An angry expression quickly appeared on his face. Even more angry were the two Core Formation old men who had tried to stop Meng Hao. Their eyes blazed with fury and the veins on their forehead bulged out; they were clearly incensed.
A buzz immediately rose up among the onlookers.
“Who was that? How brazen! He actually stole the item!”
“He’s far too daring. He had no Spirit Stones, so he stole it?! Compared to him, we don’t even count as Black Lands Cultivators! He is the true Black Lands Cultivator!”
“We need to learn from him!”
Off in the distance, on one particular wall that no one in the auction could see, was a small booth. Inside stood Dongluo Han, who was currently staring out in shock. From this booth, everything on the outside could be seen, however, no one could see inside.
He had long since noticed Meng Hao’s lack of Spirit Stones, and had felt a bit embarrassed. After all, Meng Hao had been competing with the Han River Sect, one of the three great Sects that the Dongluo Clan had already made an initial agreement with. Dongluo Han had already begun to prepare a diplomatic response if Meng Hao gave voice to complaint. He had never imagined that Meng Hao would actually resort to theft!
“What a daredevil….” Another man stood next to Dongluo Han. He looked gentle and refined, but he also let out a sigh of praise.
Dongluo Han could only make a wry smile.
At the same time….
The old Core Formation Cultivator from the Han River Clan let out a roar. “You dare to steal things at the Dongluo Clan auction, and my things at that!? The three great Sects won’t let you get away with this!” His body flashed as he flew up into the air He was immediately followed by ten or more people who all transformed into colorful beams that shot up into the air.
The other two groups from the three great Sects exchanged glances. Then, they also flew into the air to pursue at top speed.
As for the remaining Cultivators, they saw that the auction was now over, so they too flew up into the air to follow.
This chapter was sponsored by Matthieu Emery, Dennis Liu, Andrew Leung, Anon, and CV