“Second Uncle, don’t worry. Our preparations for the auction are flawless. We’ve hired unremarkable vagrant cultivators to purchase the items we require. On the surface, they are unrelated to our Ye Clan and after the auction is over, they will all be killed and silenced.”
With some hesitation, the beautiful woman asked, “But how are you dealing with matters on the Emperor’s side? The High Zenith Sect’s Sable and the Heavenly Devil Sect’s Sevenwonders were sent to the palace. Could it be due to the rumors?”
When the old man heard this, he wore an anxious expression.
The middle-aged man’s cheek twitched and he answered with a solemn tone, “Rest assured, Eldest Brother has already probed their reason for coming— the Three Royal Monastery’s Mountain Crushing Seal. Since it is on the verge of completion, the information collected from their many spies and the rumors that we’ve deliberately leaked had led them to believe that we are refining a treasure. As a result, they are putting pressure on your Ye Clan to sell the treasure to them. In fact, this is a good result; With the bait out in the open, they won’t take notice of our true scheme. But just in case, all elders that know of the plan are to stay together whenever they go out. If they are not careful, those two eccentrics could ambush them and forcefully read through their souls. Daoist Sevenwonders in particular is skilled in all sorts of bewitchment techniques. Even Nascent Soul-stage cultivators will fall prey to him if they aren’t careful.”
The old man then sadly said, “So it was like that. But aren’t we letting go of the Mountain Crushing Seal too easily despite the efforts we put into refining it?”
The middle-aged sneered. “Not at all! If one sect were to visit us, we wouldn’t be able to resist the pressure and only give in. But with two of them here, there is an opportunity to exploit. Eldest Brother had already made a plan. Regardless of who the Mountain Crushing Seal goes to, it will cost them quite a bit.”
The old man and the beautiful woman exchanged a glance of confusion and could only tactfully drop the matter.
The three then talked for a moment more before departing on their own ways.
Time quickly passed and it was the day the grand auction convened.
During this time, the Yin Sifting Sect had searched all over the city for Han Li’s whereabouts, but they had actually only looked at the other markets, inns, and other places where cultivators had gathered. Since Han Li was wholly focused on refining the Snow Crystal Pearl, he hadn’t emerged even once.
During the morning, Han Li had changed his appearance to a large tan man, and the bamboo tube on his back transformed into a longsword. With his disguise prepared, he made his way to the West Jin Market with his cultivation restrained to mid-Core Formation stage to avoid attracting much attention.
As he had anticipated, the closer he approached the market, the more high-grade cultivators he could detect. While a majority of them were at Core Formation stage and low-grade cultivators, there were quite a number of Nascent Soul eccentrics.
It appeared that the more wealthy cultivators were unwilling to let the grand auction pass them by.
After Han Li passed through the restriction and headed into the market, he discovered that the street was filled with cultivators dressed in a variety of unfamiliar styles.
As he swept his gaze past them, he discovered several black-robed individuals at the entrance, including Ge Tianhao. They were currently looking at all those entering the market.
Han Li inwardly frowned and calmly walked through the entrance without meeting their gaze. But just as he was walking by, a faint thread of spiritual sense examined him and quickly moved on to look at another Core Formation cultivator.
The Yin Sifting Sect Elders didn’t look at every cultivator that entered the market with their spiritual sense, only those that they found unfamiliar or suspected to be vagrant cultivators.
While their stealthy prying wouldn’t be sensed by Core Formation cultivators, vagrants at Nascent Soul stage would be angered and they would bitterly glare at the Yin Sifting Sect elders.
Fortunately, the Yin Sifting Sect had no intention of stirring up trouble and didn’t continue after they were done with their cursory inspection. Although the vagrant cultivators felt resentful, they weren’t about to provoke a sect as large as the Yin Sifting Sect and simply continued on their way.
As if dissatisfied with the fruitless search, the old man with sharp eyes from the Yin Sifting Sect members said, “Elder Ge, I heard that this person is skilled in appearance transformation techniques. I fear there is no use in guarding the entrance.”
Ge Tianhao glanced at the old man and calmly said, “Senior Martial Brother Yin Li, I’ve only had you do this to stir him into action. This wasn’t meant to actually find this person. As his abilities are great, we have no method of seeing through his true identity. However, the aggressive manner of this search might fluster him and cause him to break his appearance. Even if he is completely unphased and can keep his disguise up, you don’t need to worry. As the Soaring Tribes and the Heavenly Devil Sect have a bit of friendship between them, Fellow Daoist Lin has already gone to the borrow the Clearsound Mirror from Fellow Daoist Sevenwonders. Unfortunately, he is occupied in his residence and won’t emerge for a few days. As such, our best plan of action would be to continue searching. And even if we can’t find him, he might let his guard down. Then, during the last two days of the auction, we will have the Clearsound Mirror break through his concealment and we’ll be able to quickly capture him.”
The sharp-eyed old man’s face lit up and he excitedly said, “ Given your unrivalled skill in planning, it is impossible that we’d do something of wasted effort. If it's like that, we won’t need to call over the Sect Master and the grand elders. We’ll gain great merit in the sect once we capture him.”
“I hope so.” Ge Tianhao dryly laughed and then glanced in the direction of the Treasureshine Hall.
From how he was being handled, it was clear that they viewed him as a fearsome character. It was only natural considering that he killed their sect’s fourth elder who was at the peak of mid-Nascent Soul stage. It wouldn’t be strange for things to go against their expectations so it was best for them to be careful.
With that in mind, Ge Tianhao unconsciously wore a sullen expression.
At that moment, Han Li was standing in front of a huge stone building. There was a layer of rainbow light covering it, giving the building a mysterious aura.
But what surprised him was that there was now another white stone hall floating above the Treasureshine Hall. It was one third the size of the building below but it was still colossal and spanned at least a kilometer in area.
In front of Han Li stood a yellow-robed attendant with Foundation Establishment cultivation. He was giving Han Li an explanation with a respectful tone. At that point, Han Li had ceased concealing his Nascent Soul cultivation. While the auction attendant viewed him with indifference, he didn’t dare to be rude.
In front of the building, there were several other similarly dressed attendants present. They were all accompanying Nascent Soul stage cultivators. As for the Core Formation stage cultivators, they were simply standing in front of a stone tablet that was set up in front of the building gate. They were reading what was carved on it.
After a while, Han Li withdrew his gaze from his surroundings and turned his attention back on the attendant, saying, “The participation fee for the Nascent Soul-stage auction will be a thousand spirit stones, and will take place in the Nine Firmaments Hall. And the Core Formation-grade auction will take place in Treasureshine Hall with a participation fee of a hundred spirit stones. Is that right?”
The attendant smiled and said, “It is exactly as Senior says. There are quite a few more cultivators participating in this auction than expected. As such, we had no choice but to borrow the Nine Firmaments Hall from the Hidden Fortune Pavilion in an emergency. Our spirit stone fees are the same as always, though. They are primarily used to avoid having the auctions from being too crowded, or else anyone could enter, allowing over ten times as many people. However, a senior like yourself shouldn’t view such a small sum of spirit stones with much regard.”
“A thousand spirit stones? Your hall is quite skilled in acquiring riches. But as you said, so long as I am able to grab the items I desire, this amount of spirit stones is of little cost. I have no interest in the Core Formation-grade auction and will only be participating in the Nascent Soul-grade auction.” Han Li waved his hand and tossed ten mid-grade spirit stones towards the yellow-robed attendant.
“Please come in, Senior. The Nascent Soul-grade auction will begin in the late morning. This is an auction badge. You can this to enter the later days of the auction.” The attendant took the spirit stones with a smile and handed over a jade badge over to Han Li.
He accepted the badge and his body wordlessly flickered with azure light. He then flew towards the large hall in the sky in a streak of light, along with other cultivators.
When Han Li arrived at the gate of the Nine Firmaments Hall, he saw that there was no one there apart from a barrier of white light.
His brow stirred and he poured a bit of spiritual power into the jade badge. Suddenly, a beam of red light flew out from the badge and split the barrier.
Without another thought, he flew inside in a blur before the gate sealed itself again.
Four hours later, several hundreds of Nascent Soul-stage cultivators had gathered together in the Nine Firmaments Hall.
With three huge bell strikes, the grand auction convened.