Chapter 653: The Final Item

    Chapter 653: The Final Item

    ""Ladies and gentlemen, please wait for a moment." The Wine Master's voice suddenly called out. The buyers all cast their eyes his way.

    The Wine Master continued. "In recognition of your presence and support, the Eastern Alliance has decided to relinquish one final vital crystal for our auction, the best yet. It is on its way now, we simply ask you to wait a little longer. Jewelry Master, if you would fetch it for us?"

    "Alright." Lan Jue rose to his feet and stepped out.

    More? A final item?

    The dejected face of the Western delegate changed and an excited light glinted in his eye. The Northern representative gaped at the Wine Master. This wasn't on the auction agenda! However, there were no rules against adding items.

    What sort of crystal could be even more impressive than the last one? When Lan Jue left the museum, he took a brief stroll along the Avenue. What did he need to get? The crystal was stored safely in Thor's Promise.

    When he returned to the hall, his arrival was heralded by an intensely rich aura. Cradled in his hands was a vital crystal, not particularly large.

    The crystal itself was surrounded by a hazy rose-tinted hue. It was about the size of his palm, flat, and octagonal in shape. The surface was oddly ridged. This was far more potent than any of the crystals that they'd seen before.

    The Terminator, who had for a while been silent, suddenly popped his eyes wide. The fire within them was fierce. He sensed that the energy inside was in a liquid state. What's more, it had protogenia! Vital protogenia!

    This crystal was alive with vital protogenia! Logically this meant only a Paragon could create it. The Avenue was holding onto a crystal like this all along? He could hardly believe it, but as a Paragon this crystal had tremendous significance.

    Of course the Pontiff wasn't the only one who desired to extend his life. The Terminator was no less urgent. Although he wasn't as old, the process of converting his body into a machine had riddled his body with problems. Upon breaking through, protogenia helped to mitigate most of them, but they did not disappear. Whether he wanted to take the next step as a Paragon or just live longer, these problems had to be addressed. Vital protogenia would help greatly.

    Lan Jue's gait was deliberately slow, allowing everyone a chance to see the crystal, feel its energies. One could even use it to supplement their cultivation and catapult them to Paragon status!

    Lucifer felt similarly. Although he was slightly weaker than Metatron, they were stuck at the same hurdle.

    Dozens of fervent stares followed Lan Jue, but he paid them no mind. He hadn't the slightest fear that someone might try to take advantage. What had happened to the Astral Phantom was still fresh on everyone's mind. Skyfire Avenue had dealt with her handily. They sat within the Avenue after all, the museum - former home of the Clairvoyant.

    Greedy eyes drank in the light of the crystal. Their minds raced. Everyone knew what this meant.

    Lan Jue made his way to the Wine Master's side.

    The Avenue's chairman did not immediately open bidding. "I imagine you're all tired after such a long and competitive affair. We've prepared food and drink for you to enjoy. After a half hour break we'll proceed with the bids for our final item." With that, both he and Lan Jue left the stage. There was a flash of silver, and they were gone.

    When they vanished, order crumbled. The chatter became loud and unruly. Many were making calls to their backers with the news.

    It wasn't the first time something like this had happened at auction, but this level of ardency was unprecedented. The crystal was one-of-a-kind.

    "I'm a little reluctant!" The Wine Master handed Lan Jue a glass of brandy. He sounded upset, clearly the crystal was of interest him, too.

    "The covetous child can't trick the wolf," Lan Jue said through an impatient frown. You know what our goal is, here. Don't you already have one, anyway?"

    This final crystal was indeed one of the best they'd obtained during their time in the Starfields, capture by Jue Di in that single-punch massacre. However, there had been a good seven or eight other crystals which had been better than this one, which the Wine Master had access to.

    The auction had been for the benefit of Skyfire Avenue, but they also had an ulterior motive. It wasn't the Wine Master's brainchild, but a suggestion from Jue Di. It was simple; Lan Qing would get his pick of the earnings from the auction, up to fifty percent of the total.

    The alien planets were powerful enough to present a real danger, even for Jue Di. Something in there was more powerful than anything they'd encountered, but even Jue Di couldn't tell how strong. In a situation like this, safety was only assured through personal strength. An Lun had been struggling for resources, especially ships.

    The East was not flush, either. They only had four interstellar fleets. One was stationed on An Lun, but it was hardly their strongest. It was unsatisfying. Indeed, their interest was making sure the other side didn't outpace them.

    However, right now the situation had changed. Lan Qing was a Paragon, inheriting great abilities. His influence in the East was vast. As far as the East was concerned, strengthening An Lun was in everyone's best interest. They would worry about the scope of his power if humanity survived the alien menace.

    The Eastern government agreed to Skyfire Avenue's suggestion. It was part of the reason why Lan Qing was at the auction.

    The Wine Master replied. "Ah, you. A real scoundrel. Collaborations between you and Hua Li are going well? Ah, who'd have thought he'd be a Paragon?" He hadn't known, but once Hua Li revealed his face the secret was out. He and Lan Jue were so close, he couldn't blame them.

    Lan Jue answered. "I didn't think it would be so fast, either. It must be an inheritance. In fact, every generation of the Poseidon family has a Paragon. It's a power that's passed down. Hua Li's father must have sacrificed much to lift him into this Domain. Once it's stabilized, he'll be a true Paragon. Right now my brother and Hua Li have both ascended, A-Cheng is sequestered away in cultivation. I've fallen so behind. Skyfire Avenue isn't hiding any secret powers that'd make a Paragon, eh?"

    "Enough crap," the Wine Master muttered in irritation. "If we did could anything compare to Jue Di? He's showed you the way step by step, there's no better situation."

    Lan Jue changed the subject. "This auction has been a great success, but I'm not sure about the next one. They're likely already bitter at having to give up so many strategic resources. I've already set up the jewelry shop, you want to let them out for fresh air?"

    The Wine Master nodded. "It's all prepared. When the auction is over the news will get out."

    Some participants in the auction found it impossible to compete, and were going to go home empty-handed. Their longing for even one was almost too much to bear. The Avenue still had many, and could use this opportunity to sell another batch on the black market. Prices weren't limited to ships; mechas and power gems were also accepted as valuable resources. They planned to leverage the crystals' rarity to get whatever they needed.

    There had been a plan for this auction from the beginning. First, was to put the West's doubts to rest. Then suck up as much power from their rivals as possible. This was how they would profit from the crystals. Also, it gave them an opportunity to puzzle out the state of these governments and wealthy families. Under all of that, though, the intent was to prepare the East as best they can for the alien invasion, and as a deterrent force against their neighbors.

    The East's relative weakness wasn't something that would be changed overnight. However, the fact that their Alliance had a bevy of powerful Adepts. Their sheer number of Paragons was a deterrent against attacks, and it was only going to grow. The East or North would have to destroy the Avenue to take it.
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