Chapter 655: The Auction Ends
By now the auction was downright stifling. Every new bid could be the last. Every second was the buyers grappling with whether they could justify the price. The North was rich and prosperous, while the West needed the combined wealth of Satan and the Pontiff to compete. The Western government could provide the ships, but they’d need the citadels’ capital. However, their relationship with the Western government wasn’t nearly so close as in the North.
“One Capital ship, one dreadnaught and two expedition ships!” Metatron grit his teeth and lifted his paddle.
“Take it then!” The Terminator hissed. He didn’t press further.
Metatron, a ninth level Adept at his peak, nearly collapsed. He let out a long breath. Was it over? He’d won.
“One Capital ship and two dreadnaughts.” Just as the buyers were thinking the Terminator’s refusal meant the end of the auction, another took his place. Poseidon.
Metatron’s hands were shaking. Where this anywhere else he might not have been able to hold himself back. But Poseidon was already a Paragon, and at his back was humanity’s wealthiest organization. He didn’t dare offend.
“His Majesty Poseidon still feels he hasn’t purchased enough?” Metatron snidely spat.
Hua Li replied in an even voice. “Whether it’s enough or not is my business. This crystal as just as important to me as it is to you. If our friend Metatron has the resources, he can feel free to raise the bid.” Hua Li had never liked the Pontiff’s Citadel. Especially after what they did to Lan Jue, which prompted him to cut off relations.
Metatron sighed, fury writ clear on his face. Of course he wanted to keep going, but the Western delegate had already turned and shook his head. This was already far beyond what they agreed was the limit. Pressing any further would overwhelm his Alliance’s government. After all, there were limits to what this crystal could provide them. In times of war these ships were priceless resources.
But this crystal was just as important! What could they do?
The Wine Master interrupted. “One Capital ship and two dreadnaughts. Going once.”
Metatron grit his teeth, mad with determination. “Add an expedition cruiser!” His breathing was ragged, his face twisted. He absolutely could not pass up this chance. It might be his only opportunity to become a Paragon. Lucifer, perhaps for the first time, admired the man. He wanted it just as bad!
With luck this crystal could mold several Paragons from the ranks of the Western citadels while extending the lives of their leaders. They needed it.
Veins protruded from the Western representative’s forehead, which was slick with sweat.
“All yours!” Finally, Hua Li spoke the words.
Metatron leaned against the back of his chair. His mind was blank. Lucifer was the same. The two of them were practically hand in hand – the first and likely last time such a phenomenon was to occur.
It was over! In the end the grandest prize had gone to the West. Paying what was owed, however, would be a long process. Once the ships were delivered they would receive the items purchased.
Lan Jue and his brother quietly slipped away. Lan Qing’s calm exterior had been replaced with a grin he couldn’t seem to shake. Skyfire Avenue had made out like bandits, and half of that was going to An Lun. Adding the fleet he already commanded, An Lun was now a frightening force to be reckon with.
He looked at Lan Jue and smirked. It had been a fine idea! Of course, the North and West might have felt differently.
“I have something I need to take care of, I’ll catch up with you later,” Lan Jue said as they left the museum.
“Mh.” Lan Qing nodded, he had things to tend to as well. Namely, the Astral Phantom. There were still problems that needed to be solved. Her soul was marked, but there was still much to do.
Lan Jue left for Zeus’ Jewelry shop, its surface counterpart. Ke’er greeted him with a bubbly smile. “Boss! You’re back!”
“Are things prepared underground?” He asked immediately.
“All set,” she replied. “Mika, Xiuxiu and Guo-er  are there. They’ve been very busy.”
Lan Jue smiled. “Prepared two glasses of cold water. We’ll have guests soon.”
“Ok,” she answered, then bounded off to fetch them.
Just then, a pillar of blue light arose from the ground like a mountain spring. It coalesced into a familiar form.
“His Majesty Poseidon certainly had a dominant bearing today!” When he saw him, Lan Jue couldn’t help but laugh. Hu Li materialized from the spectral light.
Hua Li replied with a smile. “All arranged by you, of course. Why didn’t you let me take that last crystal? It’s useful to my people as well. It could be used to supplement my father’s power, maybe even return him to Paragon. Bringing that back home would have been significant, especially in helping my family’s next generation of Paragon. It’d make it easier and more stable.”
He wouldn’t have offered such tremendous sums without reason. He meant it; that crystal would have been wonderful for the Poseidon family.
Lan Jue shook his head. “I didn’t want you to throw money away. Gobi Entertainment has money but that doesn’t mean you should waste it! I’ll give you one.” As he spoke there was a flash around his hand. A crystal about the size of his fist appeared. In terms of size it was similar to the one he’d given up, but the energies inside were even more potent.
Hua Li looked at him, shocked. You have more. This is too much, I can’t accept.”
Lan Jue tossed it at him. “What does any of that mean to friends? Stop the bullshit and take it. It belongs to you. Without you we wouldn’t have walked away nearly so rich. It won’t be long before the Pontiff and Satan head out to try and get their own, considering their poor showing today. This was likely the last auction we’re going to hold as well.”
Hua Li looked doubtful. “Is killing those aliens that easy? Aliens with cores like this won’t be weak.”
His friend nodded. “This did come from a strong alien. Energy to match a Paragon, but not on a protogenic level. One on one, we’d be able to take it alone though it’d be a tough fight. Our last trip to the Starfields we came away with our coffers full. When the aliens attack things will be different, but not impossible. We just need to make sure we have the upper hand.”
Hua Li didn’t voice any more opposition, taking the crystal. “I’m happy to have completed my task. I’ll bring this back home and give it to my father. We have our own preparations to attend to before the fight. When the time comes we’ll likely be here.”
“Excellent,” Lan Jue replied. “Skyfire Avenue is the safest place in the East. The West is unreliable. But it depends on where the planets show up first.”
Hua Li laughed, making his face even more attractive and elegant. Even Lan Jue stopped to appreciate it. “No matter where they show up, though, I’ll be by your side.”
Lan Jue chortled. “Stop talking like a hopeless romantic, yeah? Alright, you have things to do. I need to take every opportunity to cultivate as well. You’ve broken through and I’m way behind. With A-Cheng sequestered for so long he’s probably broken through as well. I’m the last one.”
“You’ve split yourself up too much,” Hua Li said. “Quiet your heart and focus on cultivation. Don’t let the outside world intrude too much.”
“Yeah,” Lan Jue replied with a nod.
Hua Li bid him farewell and left. After a moment, Lan Jue left too to find the Driver. Their Disciplines hadn’t been fully transformed yet. He was close, and the thunder essence had pushed him to a new level. His intentional suppression was what kept his Discipline from advancing faster. He was in no rush, breaking through would happen sooner or later. In fact the later he could push it, the better the end result.
Lan Qing’s living arrangements on the Avenue had been set up in the Gothic Winery. Typically it would be the jewelry shop, but Lan Jue was too busy.
Several rooms were in the back of the winery where people could rest. Streams of light filtered through the stained glass, giving the room a fairyland-type feel. On a stool by the window was the Astral Phantom in a plain yellow dress, peering out onto the street. She seemed entirely tranquil. Lan Qing admired her attractive face in portrait, and the delicate lines of her slender neck.
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