Vol. 1: chapter eleven – twelve celestial Cauldrons (part 1)

Li Xinwen was observing Xue Rui closely from his seat. Xue Rui was hunched forward, wearing an uncomfortable yet happy expression. By this time, Li Xinwen had somewhat figured out most of Xue Rui’s behavior, and he felt he could easily read Xue Rui – especially when it came to his penchant for demonstrating his affection physically towards Li Xinwen.

‘He’s acting all happy by himself… the fool!’ he thought as he shook his head.

‘I will let that kiss slide today… I’ll consider that as payment, since he made sure that I was not taken advantage of by that sly manager. Perhaps this fool actually thinks that I have acknowledged his advances?’ Seeing the smile plastered on Xue Rui’s face, he couldn’t help but shake his head. ‘He is indeed a fool. The only reason I did not pull my hand away was because I was busy reprimanding myself for almost falling for such a petty trick from the manager,’ his thoughts continued, and as he closed his eyes he exercised a lot of control over his desire to collar Xue Rui.

‘Just you wait until I can use my full strength in the open Xue Rui… you won’t be able to touch even a hair on my head… ha!’ and he let out a sigh and managed a restrained smile.

They didn’t have to wait long for the auction to begin. A smartly dressed man in his late fifties walked on stage and stood behind the lectern. He wore round-rimmed glasses and his hair was predominantly white, including his mustache. He was a little bit on the pudgy side but was relatively tall. He fumbled with the microphone and smiled at the seated would-be bidders, as if the fumble was all part of an act to set up a relaxed and friendly mood in the hall.

The auctioneer’s smile was replaced with a furrowed brow and he suddenly touched his left ear and looked down, as if listening intently to something. This particular behavior by the auctioneer intrigued Li Xinwen. From where he sat, he noticed there was something fixed on the auctioneer’s left ear and that roused his curiosity even further. He looked through the original’s memories and came across a piece of information which clarified everything.

‘Oh, so that’s what they call an earpiece…a device you can use to listen to things privately…’ Li Xinwen thought to himself. He compared the earpiece with the transmission jade slip from Long Xing and noticed that though the earpiece was small and looked aesthetic, its functionality was inferior to the transmission jade slip, since the earpiece’s capability depended on its distance from the source. However, what Li Xinwen forgot was that there was something more effective that functioned well in comparison to the transmission jade slip – a technology called a mobile phone.

Suddenly, the sound of the gavel striking the wood block pulled Li Xinwen out of his thoughts. “Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to the 46th Auction of the Moqi Association,” came the rich baritone voice of the auctioneer. “I’m sure all of you are excited to make your bid on the vast collection of items we have included for today’s event. Without further ado, we will now officially begin! The first item on the list is the statue of Lucrais Forsàidh!” The auctioneer introduced the item with much flair and drama, which instantaneously grabbed the participants’ attention.

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A group of employees wheeled a cloth-covered cart onto the stage. From its size, one could tell that the item under the cloth was quite big, but Li Xinwen did not show even the slightest interest.

When the statue was uncovered, gasps and murmurs started to fill the auction hall. Upon hearing the crowd’s enthusiasm, Li Xinwen was suddenly filled with curiosity. The reaction from the participants was similar to the reaction elicited from cultivators in Long Xing whenever they encountered a rare treasure during an auction. He narrowed his eyes and leaned a little forward to examine the statue from his seat.

“It is the last work of the well-known sculptor from the 1400s, Daniel O’Brolchain. As history would have it, Master Daniel died without ever getting married. A group of people found the statue after forcibly entering Master Daniel’s lodgings because of the foul stench of rotting flesh coming from inside. Within the house, they found Master Daniel’s corpse, the tools of his trade, and this unfinished statue,” the auctioneer explained.

Then he rambled on that the statue brought with it a curse to whoever had ownership, which, once again drew gasps and murmurs from the participants. The auctioneer could not have been happier with this reaction from the crowd. As if baiting the participants, he went on to share that although the previous owners had died grotesquely, they did enjoy ten years of success in their lifetime.

He went on to tell tales of how one of the owners became a successful employee in his chosen career, another became a well-known entertainer, and the last owner even entered the list of the world’s richest men within a week of obtaining the statue.

‘Oh, I’ve got your attention now! Hook, line and sinker!’ the auctioneer thought.

And he couldn’t have been more right. With all the good things he just mentioned he could feel that the participants were now leaning more towards bidding for the statue. Except of course for Li Xinwen who knew that the auctioneer was exaggerating.

“Rui-ge, why did he lie and say the item is cursed?” Li Xinwen asked.

“Hmm? Is that really an exaggeration?” Xue Rui asked. “It’s a fact that the previous owners of that statue died in disturbing circumstances…” Xue Rui said with a smile, hoping to scare Li Xinwen. Unfortunately, it did not have the desired effect and Li Xinwen just snickered at his statement.

“Aiya… Rui-ge, you don’t really think it’s cursed do you?” Li Xinwen asked Xue Rui, his expression teasing but full of gentle affection. “My, my, I never thought that Rui-ge also had this cute side to him. Don’t worry, there is no curse on that statue. If it comes down to it, I’ll be here to defend you from whatever curse there is,” Li Xinwen said, chuckling as he shook his head.

Faced with Li Xinwen’s teasing, Xue Rui turned red from embarrassment. Not only because of his failed attempt to scare Li Xinwen with the curse but also because Li Xinwen said that it was cute.

‘Oh my god, my heart!” thought Xue Rui. “Did I hear Li Xinwen correctly? He thinks my behavior was cute? No, calm down Rui… do not get your hopes up just yet… Oh, but isn’t it alright for me to think for a while that it may be possible after all?’

Seeing Xue Rui’s reaction to his teasing, Li Xinwen couldn’t help but be amused.

‘Ah… you are too simple Xue Rui,’ Li Xinwen thought. ‘Just a little teasing and you’re already this happy? Perhaps I should refrain from teasing him lest he gets the wrong idea again?’

Regaining his composure, Xue Rui cleared his throat and said in response, “Of course not!” He pretended to straighten his tie and he adjusted his expression, which made Li Xinwen laugh just a little.

This small banter between the two could have gone on longer if it wasn’t for the auctioneer’s jovial announcement. “400,000 yuan, going once! 400,000 yuan, going twice! Sold for 400,000 yuan to the lovely lady at the back!” and he gestured his gavel towards an elegantly dressed elderly woman, before striking the gavel against a sound block, which signaled the item as officially sold.

‘Oh, it sold for 400,000 yuan? That’s quite high,’ thought Li Xinwen. ‘That could have sold for much less in Long Xing, judging from the overall condition of the statue. I’m guessing it sold for a relatively high price because of the auctioneer’s exaggeration. Mortals in the lower realms are so simple…’

His train of thought was interrupted when the auctioneer announced the second item. Although he was unable to catch the actual name of the item, he felt a sudden quickening of his spiritual senses, as if he was alerted that something magical was within the premises, and Lan Yu’s reaction from within his hand confirmed this. Li Xinwen suddenly felt vigorous pulses coming from Lan Yu, as streams of warm energy spread through his hand. It was as if Lan Yu was trying to communicate with him.

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‘I know, Lan Yu… I can sense the same magical energy in the auction hall. We’d better get ready to duke it out in the bidding…’ he said in his mind as his response to Lan Yu.

Li Xinwen’s eyes narrowed and examined the item brought in by the auction employees. Even without Lan Yu telling him, he already knew the nature of the item.

“Rui-ge, do you think ten million would be enough to outbid every other bidder for this next item?” Li Xinwen asked, his eyes fixed on the still covered item. The spiritual energy radiating from the item was undeniable and Li Xinwen knew that it was something that a cultivator such as himself would find very useful. Considering the state of this mortal world and the scarcity of spiritual energy, even a low-grade magical item would be precious and he would need to obtain it no matter the cost.

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