Chapter 209: Dreams of Astrum

    Chapter 209: Dreams of Astrum

    One million NEU. Not a small number. Enough, in fact, to purchase a special c- or normal b-ranked power gem. Who would be willing to spend that kind of money?

    The female bid caller looked out over the silent crowd, her face stoic. She called out the starting bid a few more times, with no takers, while secretly bemoaning the lack of interest.

    The pricing scheme for the metal had been determined by its energy multiplication functions and its beautiful appearance. There was no shortage of auction goers, and the women among them especially should find the piece alluring.

    And yet, judging by the scene before her eyes, the bid caller assumed they had judged the piece of unique metal and had found it wanting. No one, not even the women, seemed interested in paying the price. Some didn't even raise their head to look.

    Unfortunately, it was the movement of the thing itself that was causing the female audience members to fear it! The thing had a life of its own, how could they be sure it was safe, much less useful? They could get hurt. The fear was compounded by the recent events on Taihua, which spurred a deep distrust - maybe even a hatred - of unknown life forms. That, the bid caller surmised, was the reason for their apparent disinterest.

    As the seconds ticked by, the young woman's face grew more distressed. Are we really going to be stuck with this thing?

    As she was preparing to give in, a placard shot up from somewhere within the crowd. "One million, bidder 570 bids a million NEU for the living metal." The relief was audible in her voice, and when she continued her volume had increased in power and octave. "No other takers? Perhaps the very only specimen in all the Three Alliances. This is quite possibly your only chance to own this very special item. Any other bidders?"

    Lan Jue slowly allowed his arm to drop, resting his placard in his lap. The number 570 was scrawled across it.

    Xiuxiu and Lin Guoguo exchanged a glance, full of curiosity, but said nothing. Whatever the reason for their boss' interest in this, they stood by him unconditionally.

    Su He was also surprised by the development, but like the two Amazons kept his piece. This was a public auction, who knew what the people next to them were doing, if they were listening. Being inattentive could lose you the item and disrupt the proceedings.

    It was common courtesy in a setting such as this to be quiet and respectful.

    Still the bid caller cried the prices. For a full minute she fought to raise the items price, but none spoke up.

    "Final call... sold!" The hammer cracked as it struck the sound block, the deal was done. Lan Jue was now the proud owner of a living metal nugget.

    A small smile pulled at the corners of Lan Jue's lips. In the same moment, a sliver of silver blue energy soundlessly emerged from the ground ten centimeters away from him. It wriggled back into his body, merging with his discipline, unnoticed.

    One million NEU. It was a hefty price tag, one Lan Jue certainly couldn't afford to pay simply on a whim. He wasn't a wastrel.

    Just then, as the bid caller was recording the sale, he'd employed his lightning discipline to send out a small bolt of electricity. Quietly, without drawing attention, the extension of Lan Jue's power slithered under the stage. It drew close to the cart where the living metal lay, but did not interact with it. He didn't need to; Lan Jue could clearly feel the waves of energy the slab released.

    Rare metals were expensive, but rarely surpassed the price of power gems. This was largely due to the fact that power gems came with enormous amounts of energy already within them. These rare metals were only possessed of their own special quality. Most didn't have their own energy stores to speak of.

    But this one, Lan Jue felt, was different. Through the extension of his Discipline he'd been able to feel pulses of energy being released from the chunk of metal. He couldn't put a price on this thing. What's more, the closer he got the more violent its shaking became.

    An electric field! This was Lan Jue's first determination. Somehow the material was releasing it's own electric field. The revelation certainly affixed some value to the strange piece.

    Lan Jue was an Adept who commanded the forces of thunderbolts and lightning. It was certainly rare to find an Adept who possessed the power of two Disciplines - especially disciplines that complimented one another - but they weren't impossible to come across. About ten percent of adepts above rank five were blessed in this way. The reason for Lan Jue's dominance, was his commitment to developing both of his disciplines equally to the best of his ability. And then there was this piece of metal. Like him, it had two functions, a similarity he was growing steadily more interested in.

    Lan Jue made the bid, and though he couldn't be sure of the metal's exact properties, he didn't regret the purchase.

    Experiences were different for everyone, and the resulting insights were as varying as the people who had them. Lan Jue knew several Paragons, and each one possessed a weapon that played off their strengths. He called them Astrums, and each were able to meld with and amplify their master's abilities. However, the most difficult part of obtaining an Astrum was finding components that paired with one's Discipline.

    The Wine Master's scepter was an example, and Lan Jue couldn't imagine what the Paragon had to do in order to obtain it. It surely must have cost him, though.

    Many Paragon's codenames were actually the names of their Astrums, and the name of the power they commanded.

    A million NEU, to try and make his own Astrum. Of course the cost was worth it.

    Naturally, the bid caller wasn't aware of any of this. All she knew was she'd made the sale, and sighed in relief. Essentially she was just here to take notes and keep a record of sales.

    The final price was less than they'd hoped, but this wasn't the first time they'd tried to sell it. Several other bid callers had given it their best in previous auctions, but were ultimately unsuccessful. Just getting it off their hands was a good thing.

    "Next we come to the final items in our rare metals display. Are we ready?"

    The bidders began to come back around, giving the caller their full attention.

    The second-to-last began at six million NEU, higher even than the technetium. However, Lan Jue made no effort to cast a bid. The very last of the rare metals sold for nine million.

    It wasn't that Lan Jue wasn't interested in these rare materials. He was. It was a matter of practicality, for he didn't see much use for them in his situation. Plus, his interests lay in a later potential purchase.

    Finally, the sales were done, and the deals recorded. Once again the level of excitement in the hall had begun to rise.

    Eventually the bid callers and assistants got the room under control. Once she could be heard, the young man stated that they would adjourn temporarily. She went on to explain that those who'd made a purchase could see them about completing their transactions.

    Lan Jue turned his face towards Su He, still seated at his elbow. "Excuse me a moment, mentor. I'm going to go finish up."

    Su He blinked. "There's no rush. It's fine, wait until the auction is over. It'd be an inconvenience if you buy anything more later."

    Lan Jue smiled. "That's alright, I also feel like I want some fresh air." Lan Jue stood, and left without any further discussion.

    Naturally Lin Guoguo and Xiuxiu rose to follow their boss. As he walked out from the aisle they fanned out protectively behind him. Neither spoke, but both bore hints of surprise in their eyes.

    Both women knew their boss well, and they knew him to be relaxed and laid back. This rush was certainly uncharacteristic. He only got this way when it was important.

    Xiuxiu was especially curious. She had caught sight of the look in his eye, that excitement therein. He hid it well but no one knew Lan Jue better than she, and it had been a very, very long time since she'd seen that look.

    Items over a million NEU were watched over by individual receptionists responsible for their safety. It didn't take long, under the receptionist's guidance, to pay what they owed for their items. They left their purchases there, giving the staff their hotel address for delivery. Only the last item, that living metal, did Lan Jue take personally.

    It was smooth, a titanium white now with sparkling blue dots interspersed across its surface. Closer inspection only increased its beauty.

    Lin Guoguo gasped in appreciation, in spite of herself. "It's so pretty! Soft-looking and fluid... like a big ball of snot!" 1

    Xiuxiu tittered. "Ugh! Guoguo! So disgusting!"

    As Lan Jue took the crystal box the metal was stored in, he stopped. A look of pleasant surprise overcame him, but he did not yet open his prize. Instead there was a flash, and the box was gone - stored in Lan Jue's inter-dimensional storage space.

    The receptionist who'd been assigned to look after the metal saw everything. When she looked back to Lan Jue, there was a light of respect in her eyes.

    Inter-dimensional storage wasn't something within reach of your average person. Not only was a Discipline rank of six or higher necessary, one also needed the financial resources to set the whole thing up. Those power gems which allow for the creation of a stable, spacious alternate dimension, were always top of the gem lists.

    For example, creating a space large enough to fit a mecha would require nothing less than an a-ranked inter-dimensional power gem.

    There were spaces created that were large and stable enough to house entire battleships, themselves the product of s-ranked gems. The largest known inter-dimensional space was under Northern Alliance purview; they called it the Glory of the North, and it was big enough for an entire capital ship. 2

    However, the more commonly used pockets weren't obscenely expensive - c-ranked, only. They were the most expensive c-ranked gems you could purchase, though.

    They made their way back to the auction hall, with Lan Jue smiling the entire trip back. What he really wanted, was to head back to the hotel right away.

    Sensing auras from a distance and actually getting your hands on something were a world of difference. The second he gripped the box he knew; this metal did indeed have a powerful electric field.

    1. Really, I think she's my favorite. Mika comes close, but I'm full on Team Guoguo.

    2. Holy crap tho, think of that. You can get anything from inter-dimensional space, from anywhere. This means the President of the north could waltz on to Skyfire Mountain, open his little black hole pocket and BOOM - capital ship in Zhou Qianlin's living room.
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