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Chapter 651: Competitive Bidding

    Chapter 651: Competitive Bidding

    Lan Jue's face betrayed a small smile. They couldn't contain it any longer!

    "Three expedition ships!" The mysterious stranger who'd stoked the chaos cried out again. He didn't bother with incremental bids, and instead immediately offered another big bid.

    "Three expedition ships and one battleship." A Westerner challenged his bid. His paddle bore the number two.

    "Three expeditions and five battleships!" The Northerner with paddle number one added his voice.

    "Four expedition ships!" Mysterious Number Three was on a tear.

    "Four and one battleship!" Number two shouted.

    The Northerners were silent. Number three threw up his paddle. "Five expedition ships."

    Stunned, everyone went quiet. These were expedition ships! Their systems could draw radiation from space to keep it going, almost indefinitely. They were considered the real force in an interstellar fleet, second only to dreadnaughts and capital ships. Typically, a fleet didn't have more than thirty expedition ships. Relinquishing five of them for a single vital crystal, it seemed crazy.

    "Bidder number three has offered five expedition ships. Any other bids?" The Wine Master calmly asked.

    One of the Western delegates was glaring bloody murder at the cloaked man. His face was a thunderhead. He'd been specifically told to get a crystal just like that - but this price was too high!

    The Wine Master didn't let the prices or bidders affect his auction. "Five expedition ships. Going once. Going twice..."

    "Wait! Five expedition ships and one battleship." The elderly Northern gentlemen threw his paddle up!

    The auction hall broke into an uproar. The North apparently accepted this as a worthy price. The other representatives felt their hearts sink. These prices were madness!

    There were high-level buyers hell-bent on winning, but not just from the West. The North was just as hungry!

    "Five and two battleships." Mysterious Number Three increased the bid, but much less aggressively than before.

    "Six expedition ships!" The Northern representative lifted his paddle to confirm the bid. He knew that if this trend continued, the remaining crystals would be even harder to obtain. Bidding would only get more intense as supply dipped and demand grew. Chances only increased that desperation would drive the prices up.

    "Six and one battleship!" The Westerner's curt voice arose with his paddle. Everyone here was intelligent, and he had to have come to the same conclusion as his Northern contemporary. Things were only going to get worse. This crystal was also the third best one in the whole batch.

    Bidder number one's face was stern. "Six and two."

    Number two. "Six and three!"

    "Seven expedition ships!" A new voice broke in from somewhere in the back.

    The Northern and Western representatives craned their heads back to see. They first saw the paddle held high - number twenty three. It was borne by a stiff-faced man in his middle years who no one seemed to know. He was at least eighth level, however, judging by the waves of energy coming from him.

    Seven ships was too much. The Western and Northern leaders glared with unbridled hatred. Both were uncertain whether they wanted to continue.

    The Wine Master was ambivalent to their troubles. "Seven expedition ships. Any further takers? Seven expedition ships going once, going twice. Three times. Sold!" The hammer fell, another crystal was sold.

    Number twenty three allowed himself to crack a small smile. All throughout the auction he'd been silent, until now. His sudden and expensive addition captured some attention.

    His bid proved timely. A third high level crystal followed, vital crystal sixty four. The bidding was vicious, but the Northern representative came away the victory. His winning bid had been six expedition ships and six battleships. However, the crystal was a full twenty percent smaller than the last one.

    The atmosphere felt white-hot, fervent. Those without the wealth to throw around were slowly being weeded out.

    The North employed their riches to gather sixteen crystals, but they were not the biggest winner. Mysterious Number Three boasted that honor. Twenty crystals were his, including one high-grade piece, crystal number seventy nine. It was the second largest of the batch. He'd started the bid with a dreadnaught, and no one contested him.

    Afterwards no one thought he was an Eastern agent any longer. There was no more need to fire up the crowd.

    After three hours, the final vital crystal made its way on stage.

    "This is our last piece on offer, and one of the best." A grin broke the Wine Master's professional façade. He didn't feel the need to introduce the crystal beyond that sentence. The East was already rich, boasting the equivalent of six hundred battleships. That was half what would be considered a fine interstellar navy. Half, only because dreadnaughts and Capital ships were tremendously expensive.

    Everyone perked up when they realized it was time for the last crystal.

    An Liu brought the cart up from backstage. The box atop it was hidden beneath a red cloth, but it was clear the box was bigger than all the others before it. The buyers' thoughts went back to yesterday, and a sparkle of interest lit up their eyes. Several representatives were especially zealous.

    The red cloth was removed. Presented within the box was a vital crystal roughly the size of a man's skull. It glowed purplish-black, and from time to time a strange mist seemed to surround it before quickly vanishing. Despite the box, everyone could feel the vital energies coming from the crystal.

    The four high-grade crystals together couldn't compare to this specimen. Hearts sank to think of what it would cost.

    Breaths came more rapid. Mysterious Number Three had taken two of the four best crystals so far. The other two belonged to number twenty three and number one respectively. The crystal one stage now was everyone's last chance. Even before the auction began they knew this was going to be a vicious bid. It was destined, there were too many people too desperate for a quality crystal.

    The Western government was determined to have it, as were the two Citadels. The Great Conclave was less rabid. Because the Terminator had such close connection to the Northern government, they were sure to give him crystals to complete research of the exuvium process. In that way they shared the benefits.

    But be that as it may, who didn't want a crystal for themselves? Who was to say the North didn't have some interest in this, the largest of the vital crystals? The rich families were especially determined. They had money, if they were still here.

    "Starting price is five expedition ships. Minimum increase, one expedition ship. State your bids!" The price had catapulted, far above any previous item. Scout ships, battleships - they were no longer enough. The auction had not yet started, but the pain of the bidders was palpable already.

    "One dreadnaught!" Mysterious Number Three threw his paddle up, immediately increasing the base price by half.

    His deep pockets and determination caused several buyers to openly gasp. A dreadnaught!

    "One dreadnaught and one expedition ship." Paddle number one rose. There was an underlining fear of the Wine Master among the buyers. He was fast, there was no time to think. A moment's hesitation could lose them their prize.

    This final crystal was everyone's last chance, why not try? What's more, if bidders couldn't have one themselves they would make sure their competition couldn't get it cheap. There was no more room for equivocation.

    "One dreadnaught and three expedition ships!" The Western delegate raised the bid.

    "One dreadnaught, five expedition ships." A bidder from one of the richer families threw their offer in.

    "Two dreadnaughts!" This bid came from Lucifer. He'd been mostly quiet but for a few common crystals earlier in the auction.

    The Great Conclave and both Citadels boasted a Paragon as their leader, Paragons who e\yearned terribly for a crystal as powerful as this one. Their representatives had no option but to throw everything they had at the opportunity. Therefore, Lucifer was not conservative with his bid, hoping to scare the others into silence. Judging by what they'd seen so far, two dreadnaughts was not too much for this item.

    "Three dreadnaughts!" A voice beside Lucifer called out right on the Fallen Angel's heels. He angrily snapped his eyes to the side. His old rival, Metatron, had challenged his bid.
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