Chapter 108: The Secret Struggle Begins
The restaurant was filled with all sorts of people, so no one noticed Meng Hao’s strange behavior. He slowly put down his cup of alcohol. His expression was as calm as ever, but his heart had suddenly begun pounding, and a roaring sound filled his head.
He silently turned his head to look at the person who had mentioned the seven stars in the eyes of the corpse of the Immortal. Then he lowered his head and took another drink.
“You know what, it’s weird. That Immortal is dead, but it’s body still exudes a powerful pressure which caused all kinds of strange phenomena. The great Sects and Clans could only approach to a distance of three hundred meters.”
“I heard that recently the great Clans and Sects made some special preparations and were able to approach closer than three hundred meters.” The discussions continued until midday, whereupon people began to disperse. The person who had mentioned the seven stars stood up. Chatting and laughing with his companion, he made to leave.
It was at this moment that Meng Hao lightly tapped the table. The tap emitted a roaring boom, which sent a tremor through the bodies of the nearby Cultivators. Their expressions changed as they all turned to look at Meng Hao.
His Cultivation base suddenly emitted the massive pressure of Foundation Establishment, enveloping the restaurant. Then it dissipated. However, in that brief moment, the bodies of the eighth and ninth level Qi Condensation Cultivators trembled. Their faces grew pale, and their hearts flip-flopped as they tried to remember whether or not they had said something to offend this Foundation Establishment expert.
“Elder generation….” One by one, they saluted, their hearts were filled with veneration. They knew that fighting was prohibited within the city limits, so this person wouldn’t attack someone lightly. But to them, the mighty pressure exuded by a Foundation Establishment Cultivator was incredibly powerful, and caused dread to well up inside of them.
“You,” said Meng Hao, pointing at one of the people. “Come here.” It was a young man who looked to be about twenty-seven or twenty-eight years old. He was at the eighth level of Qi Condensation. When Meng Hao pointed at him, his body began to shake and the blood drained from his face.
“Elder generation….” Fear filled his eyes, and confusion his heart. He had never seen Meng Hao before and had no idea how he had attracted his attention. The other Cultivators surrounding him quickly slipped away from the restaurant, letting out sighs of relief in their hearts.
Face expressionless, Meng Hao took another drink. The young man hesitated, not daring to refuse to approach. Reverently and cautiously, he took a few steps forward.
Meng Hao lifted his head and looked at him. “You just said that the corpse of that Immortal had gray eyes, within which were seven stars. Is what you said true?”
“Senior, allow me to explain,” said the young man quickly, not daring to leave anything out. “I didn’t see the matter with my own eyes, I only heard about it. However, I have a good friend who really did observe the whole thing personally.”
“And where exactly is this good friend of yours?” said Meng Hao, his voice low.
“I haven’t seen him for half a year,” he replied quickly, worried Meng Hao would think he was making things up if he took too long to respond. “He’s a Water Bamboo Sect disciple named Xu Yan.”
Meng Hao frowned and nodded, waving his hand dismissively. The young man bowed respectfully, and then left as fast as possible, heaving a sigh of relief. He decided that he would never again return to this place again.
Meng Hao sat there thinking. There weren’t many people left in the restaurant, and all of them were of the Qi Condensation stage. Having seen what just occurred, they all paid their bill and left, one by one. Soon the restaurant was empty.
“Gray pupils with seven stars. Could the corpse of that Immortal and the animated corpse I saw in the whirlpool above the Tower of Tang in the State of Zhao… be one and the same?!” Meng Hao sat there, contemplating the corpse he’d seen and the sense of calamity he’d felt. The more he thought about, the more it seemed that some complicated matters were unfolding behind the scenes.
“If I want to confirm it, I’ll have to see the corpse with my own eyes….” After a while, he returned to his room. The matter of the Immortal’s corpse was now a heavy weight on his heart. He had the sinking sensation that the reason the corpse had fallen to the earth… was he himself.
Meng Hao spent the next half-month trying to gather more information about the corpse of the Immortal. As he did, he slowly came to have a much better understanding of the all the momentous events which had occurred in the past two or three years because of it.
“The year the corpse fell, it immediately aroused the attention of the five great Sects and three great clans of the Southern Domain. One after another, they attempted to reach the corpse, but could never get closer than three thousand meters. Plus, they encountered problems with the strangeness from within the Rebirth Cave.
“They made further attempts, even using various Sect treasures, and were eventually able to get as close as three hundred meters…. The most momentous thing that happened was half a year ago. The Solitary Sword Sect used their Dao Reserve to break past the three hundred meter mark. They were able to get two drops of blood from the corpse!
“One of the drops was purchased by the Violet Fate Sect for an exorbitant price. The other was taken back to the Solitary Sword Sect to be used to gain enlightenment regarding the meaning of Immortality.” Meng Hao sat cross-legged in his room, recording all of the information onto a jade slip. He had come across all this information at the cost of some Spirit Stones.
“There were even some Cultivators from the Great Tang in the Eastern Lands who came to investigate…. People from the Western Desert have also arrived. The corpse came to be called an Immortal’s corpse, and has sent shockwaves throughout the entire Cultivation world.” Meng Hao was quiet for a moment. He put the jade slip away and then left the inn, his eyes glittering.
In the past month, and everyone in this city of Cultivators was talking about the upcoming auction. Meng Hao had already gone to the Hundred Treasures Pavilion to pay his deposit and get his auction medallion.
At the moment, he strode down the street. After passing through a few alleys, his robe became black. He put on his wide bamboo hat and covered his face with a mask. Lately, more and more people dressed in a similar fashion. With the auction just around the corner, there were many people who didn’t want their personal affairs to be made known, and thus went about in disguise.
Soon, Meng Hao reached the area where the auction was to be held. It was a large, circular public square. Numerous restrictive spells could be seen, causing glowing magical symbols to fill the air.
Numerous Cultivators patrolled about on guard duty, ten of whom were at Foundation Establishment stage. Four Cultivators floated cross-legged in the air above the auction stage, their bodies glowing. The pressure they exuded around the area was that of the Core Formation stage.
This was just the guard force that was visible. To organize an auction of this scale would require the support of Nascent Soul Cultivators. A Nascent Soul Cultivator could strike fear into the heart of an entire city. But even in the five great Sects and three great Clans of the Southern Domain, Nascent Soul Cultivators were rare.
Any Nascent Soul Cultivator would be referred to as Patriarch, and would usually spend time in secluded meditation. Usually, Core Formation Cultivators would be the ones to leave the Sect to handle matters.
Most of the people attending the auction were from the State of Eastern Emergence. Also present were Cultivators from surrounding nations, who had traveled here for the sole purpose of participating in the auction. Everyone who entered the auction square had an auction plaque. By the time Meng Hao arrived, there were already several hundred people present. More continued to stream in.
Meng Hao had paid for a seat at the very far edge. He sat down cross-legged in his position, looking coldly at the stage and the square. Above the main square were three levels of private booths, arranged, not for Cultivators with high Cultivation bases, but for Cultivators with high positions.
Looking around at the Cultivators around him, he saw a group who were clearly much taller than everyone else. They wore less clothing, and in fact, many parts of their bodies were encircled with iron hoops. Their skin was dark, and most of them had blue eyes.
Each and every one of them were big and tall, their hair wild. From their strange clothing and iron hoops, it was obvious that they weren’t from the Southern Domain. These were Cultivators from the Western Desert.
Time passed, two hours. Soon, when the auction square was filled with nearly a thousand people, the sound of a bell rang out. The bustle and noise died down, and everything grew quiet.
At the same time, a blinding, multi-colored glow appeared in the middle of the auction stage. It expanded out to cover the entire auction square.
As the glow expanded out, a man appeared on the stage, seemingly from nowhere. He was old, and wore a long, expansive robe. His hair was white, and he had an ancient look. He gazed about with gleaming eyes, causing quite a commotion amongst the surrounding Cultivators.
“It’s Sir Qiao from the Hundred Treasures Pavilion!”
“So, Sir Qiao is going to personally preside over the auction. He’s in the middle of the Core Formation stage. He’s not from the Southern Domain. He came here several years ago from the coastal islands in the Milky Way Sea.”
Discussions rippled out, after which the old man on the stage coughed lightly. Then he spoke, his voice filling the entire auction square.
“There shall be one hundred items auctioned today,” he said coolly. “They include medicinal pills, magical items, legacies, precious materials, goods from the Western Desert, treasures of the Southern Domain, and valuables from the Milky Way Sea. I don’t need to waste time stating the rules of the auction. Lot 1 is a thousand-year-old conch shell from the Milky Way Sea!” A woman appeared behind him, seemingly out of nowhere. She was lithe and beautiful, and had an air of extreme confidence. She carried a jade tray, upon which was a black conch shell, about the size of a hand.
The conch shell was covered with numerous lines, which ran and interlocked randomly across its surface. It glimmered as if it contained secrets of the Heavens and the Dao. As soon as it appeared, a mysterious, celestial sound filled the air in the auction square.
“This treasure is a thousand years old, and emits a celestial sound,” said Sir Qiao. The auction square went quiet. “The veins that run through the shell are magical in nature. By imbuing them with Spiritual Sense for three days, you can add half of a sixty-year-cycle to your longevity. There is no reserve price for this item.” As soon as he finished talking, the auction square erupted with conversations.
A treasure that could increase longevity could cause quite a sensation, and even fighting. Even many of the people in the private booths were shocked. It seemed this day’s auction would be quite an affair.
Even though he was far away from the auction stage, Meng Hao’s attention was focused on the composed young woman. An expression of shock covered his face as he realized he recognized her. This was the woman who had flirted with him in the Hundred Treasures Pavilion in Eastern Refinement City. Her name was Qiao Ling.
“How could she be here?” he thought. “The State of Zhao disappeared a long time ago…. Maybe she left before all the momentous events. After all, there’s a Hundred Treasures Pavilion in this city too.”
At the moment, Chu Yuyan stood in one of the private booths in the first level, looking down at the auction square. Next to her stood a middle-aged man, a respectful look on his face.
“Fellow Daoist Chu, the Spring and Autumn tree that you need is here. Unfortunately, the rules of our Pavilion cannot be broken. If you need it, you must acquire it through auction. It is lot 39 on the auction list.”