Hearing those words left Jiang Chen's jaws slack. Could this really be true? Did someone really not know what Radiant Celestial Grass was? Most present reacted the same way. They were stuck at an awkward state between tears and laughter. Evidently, the reason had shocked them the same way it did Jiang Chen.
Pill King Blue Phoenix vehemently shook his head. "Shame, shame."
Master Wang Xuetong laughed. "I hardly think the seller feels ashamed. Maybe it's actually a clever ruse. He's just an origin realm cultivator, right? A treasure like this wouldn't have a fraction of its true effect in his hands. Pretending he doesn't know what it is and auctioning it off is much better in the long run. Sure, the Temple of Cleansing Fire gets to take some of that money, but it maximizes his profit nevertheless."
The formation master's words made perfect sense. Still, Jiang Chen preferred to believe that the Radiant Celestial Grass's current owner simply failed to identify the plant.
Emperor Peerless seemed to have a different opinion. "Don't forget, for an origin realm cultivator to have Radiant Celestial Grass… well, it may spell disaster for him. In this case, having something that he cannot protect is quite undesirable. Possession alone is his sin, as it were."
The emperor had spoken truly. Radiant Celestial Grass was not necessarily safe in the hands of even a sage realm cultivator, much less an origin realm one. It was a sky rank spirit herb, and medicine of that caliber wasn't regularly used by the likes of anyone at emperor realm, much less those below. Sky rank herbs corresponded with great emperors, after all.
Thus, an origin realm cultivator having a valuable like this spirit herb probably was criminal. The choice of selling it off was quite wise in light of that. The Temple of Cleansing Fire was a fair organization, with maintaining its clientele's secrecy a top priority. An origin realm cultivator could do significantly worse than selling off the Grass for a princely sum of saint spirit stones.
The only concern was the possibility that the Temple could sell off his information and whereabouts. Given its reputation in Pillfire City, though, something like that was virtually unheard of. In fact, the Temple's pristine record was probably one of the contributing factors for the Radiant Celestial Grass's presence here in the first place. No matter the reason for its auction, the spirit herb had been submitted as one of the items to be sold today.
All eyes shot greedy looks towards the herb, their expressions betraying their eagerness for the prize.
"Hah, are you interested, Brother Blue Phoenix?" Master Wang Xuetong laughed.
The pill king in question was the equal of a pill emperor, the thirty-sixth ranked within this millenium's Hall of Fame. How could someone like that not thirst after a spirit herb as rare as Radiant Celestial Grass?
"I am a lonely old man," Pill King Blue Phoenix smiled faintly, "childless and without disciples. Obtaining the herb holds little meaning for me."
"What, you're not planning to fight for it in the auction?" Wang Xuetong was stunned.
The pill king shook his head. "There's no point. For those who need it, the Sage Smile Pill is a pearl without price. I am not one such, and I don't see much value in it."
The Sage Smile Pill was intended for sage realm cultivators. If Pill King Blue Phoenix had sons and nephews, or perhaps students and their students, he would definitely compete for the Radiant Celestial Grass. But he had none of those things, and he cared not for the struggles of youth. It was no surprise that the Radiant Celestial Grass didn't have hold allure for him.
On the other hand, Jiang Chen's look towards the spirit herb was very thoughtful. Madam Man clearly wanted to whet her audience's appetite. She held the herb in her hand, showing it off to the crowd. Its glistening light reflected the desire in their eyes.
"The starting price for the Radiant Celestial Grass is eighty million saint spirit stones. The minimum bid increment is one million. Tycoons of Pillfire, now is the time for you to flaunt your wealth!" The madam's tone animated her listeners and enlivened the atmosphere.
"I bid a hundred million!"
"A hundred thirty!"
"A hundred fifty!"
"A hundred eighty!" The crowd began bidding furiously after she finished speaking. It seemed that many were dead set on taking the spirit herb home with them.
Jiang Chen did not make any bids himself, however. Seeing this, Pill King Blue Phoenix couldn't help his puzzlement. "Brother Shao, will you not make a move for the Radiant Celestial Grass? I saw you thinking about it. That's why I didn't, really."
Blinking, Jiang Chen burst out laughing. "I thank you, Senior Blue Phoenix, but there's no need for that. I like a fair competition between fellow bidders more."
"Ah, well. For something like that, those who love it want it to death, while those who don't could not care less about it. Not everyone falls in the former category." The pill king's commentary was reasonably representative of common thought on the subject. A lot of people had placed bids on the spirit herb, but a fair few more were completely unmoved, signaling their total lack of interest.
After all, not everyone needed the Sage Smile Pill. The heads of important factions were, in fact, typically unwilling to see youngsters who were close to them consume the pill. In their eyes, the Sage Smile Pill's level increase risked negative effects in the future. This was a common misconception.
Some pills were like that, but the Sage Smile Pill and the Origin Doubling Pill weren't. As long as one's foundations were solid and there were no intrinsic problems with cultivation otherwise, no side effects would be experienced as a result of using those pills. Still, many of the rich were unaware of that.
Regardless of its exact usefulness, the appearance of the Radiant Celestial Grass heated up the auction's atmosphere. In no time at all, the current bid exceeded three hundred million.
Pill King Blue Phoenix sighed softly. "These people are all crazy. The true value of the Radiant Celestial Grass is two hundred million at most. What a waste of spirit stones!"
Emperor Peerless did not agree, however. "Just like you said, those who love it want it to death, while those who don't, wouldn't be willing to pay even a few dozen million. As long as the buyer gets what they need, it's fine."
Suddenly, Jiang Chen raised a hand. "Four hundred million."
He'd increased the current bid by another hundred million! The bid ushered in instant silence from the surroundings. It was as if time stood still.
Four hundred million? The price went up by a whole hundred million? This is... that guy's first bid? Heads roiled in an attempt to get a better look in Jiang Chen's direction. Everyone wanted to know who the mad bidder was.
One of them identified the young man immediately. "It's Arena Lord Shao, the bounty king of this year's Bounty Arena."
"Arena Lord Shao? Is that the arena lord who is exceedingly young, yet esteemed by Emperor Peerless? He… he bid four hundred million? Isn't that a little ridiculous?"
"Those who are wealthy can afford to do ridiculous things. Who would want to compete with a bid like that? Even if there was someone, I doubt they'd win the bidding war. That young arena lord made more than two billion stones off his bounties just a short while ago."
"Arena Lord Shao is sensational indeed!" There was a smattering of mutterings within the crowd. Rumor and hearsay circulated very rapidly to and fro. The bid had set the atmosphere aflame.
Pill King Blue Phoenix couldn't close his mouth. Remembering what he'd said just now, he felt tangible pain to the skin of his face. He couldn't stomach such an embarrassment. As soon as he'd said three hundred million was a waste of money, Arena Lord Shao bid four hundred. It seemed suspiciously rude in context.
"You're intentionally doing the opposite of what Blue Phoenix says, aren't you?" Emperor Peerless said, half-jokingly, laughing at Jiang Chen's antics.
Master Wang Xuetong chuckled as well. "What a disaster, Brother Blue Phoenix."
The pill king's face reddened, his expression dubious. "Brother Shao, the Radiant Celestial Grass really isn't worth four hundred million. It's not worth it just for a few cauldrons of Sage Smile Pills."
Even if a couple dozen of those pills could be refined to benefit the same number of sage realm cultivators, what then? Four hundred million spirit stones could help hundreds to the same goal, and there was no risk involved in doing so. Four hundred million wasn't pocket change.
It was large enough for all but the most powerful factions in Pillfire City to have reservations about. Only the best of the best, the first-rate factions and some of their equals, had the financial clout needed to throw that much away on a whim. Second-rate factions had the money, but not necessarily the freedom to spend it.
Yet this Arena Lord Shao had slammed down the stones without so much as an eyeblink. This expansive gesture sent all his competitors reeling. His opponents were mostly the city's noble youths, each with his own robust purchasing power. But in the latter stages of the bidding war, they'd only raised the price by a few million each time.
Jiang Chen's overwhelming determination shown in the hundred-million increment crushed the others' wills to fight. Everyone knew that Arena Lord Shao was fabulously affluent. It wasn't particularly worthwhile to try muscling him aside with sheer finances. No matter how nice the Radiant Celestial Grass was, what was the point of spending four or five hundred million saint spirit stones?
Plus, there was the ever-present possibility that the arena lord was a secret shill, hired to artificially inflate the price. If so, competing with him was absolutely no good. No amount of money would fill up an endless void.
Seeing the wills of the competing bidders crushed, Madam Man tried to incite their fervor again. "Our local tycoons frequent us every year, but I see an exceptionally large number of you here with us today. A friend over here has bid four hundred million saint spirit stones. Can no one from Pillfire City compete with that number? Is that the extent of your fortunes? Four hundred million saint spirit stones. Surely there's someone that'll call a higher price, no?"
It was a very effective speech, but the natural weight of the current bid required anyone and everyone to carefully consider before they named a new competing bid. Any new bid could end up being a sale. It wasn't worth spending so many saint spirit stones for one specimen of Radiant Celestial Grass.
For the time being, all the other competitors ceased their bidding, returning to their respective seats. Resignation and dejection were plain on their faces, and they cursed Jiang Chen's apparent stupidity again and again. However, it was unrealistic to expect them to continue the bidding war.
No matter how Madam Man tried to provoke them, she could not invoke their fighting spirit. Jiang Chen had brought the auction for the Radiant Celestial Grass to a screeching halt. In fact, he was the auction's first winning buyer.
"Haha, Brother Shao, congratulations. It is a good omen that you've taken the lead in this auction. I'm confident in whatever you're planning to do here." Wang Xuetong gave the younger man a big thumbs-up.
Pill King Blue Phoenix flashed a wry smile. "Once again, my intentional villainy has gone to waste. Still, Brother Shao… this is four hundred million saint spirit stones you're spending."
The young man knew that the pill king bore no ill will. He also responded with a smile. "I like this spirit herb very much. It's more valuable to me than four hundred million spirit stones."
The pill king spluttered when he heard that. "If we do the math and say you can refine fifty Sage Smile Pills with one Radiant Celestial Grass, how much can you sell them for? Ten million each? Your average sage realm genius can't afford to pay that. The cultivators from wealthy families who can, might not be willing to. They typically prefer to get there by cultivating themselves, or use more beneficial routes."
The math checked out. The Radiant Celestial Grass didn't seem to be worth four hundred million at all.