Chapter 667: Gamble Royale
A middle-aged man was currently smiling as he led a group of seven older men up to the second floor.
The seven old men wore long brocaded robes, and in a single glance, anyone could tell that they were famous and extraordinary figures. Their eyes were bright and shining, and their Cultivation bases extraordinary. All were at the great circle of the Nascent Soul stage. Although they smiled, their smiles were filled with unyielding pride.
“After you, Fellow Daoists!” said the middle-aged man with a sincere smile. His expression was one of excitement as he led the seven old men up to the second floor. He caught sight of Meng Hao and Wei Li, but after a glance, completely ignored them.
Sun Yunliang was originally frowning, but when he saw the seven old men, his eyes immediately grew bright. Laughing loudly, he rose to his feet and hurried over to receive them.
“So, it turns out to be the Seven Tycoons of Seahold!” said Sun Yunliang, continuing to laugh as he clasped hands and bowed. “Your presence brings light to our humble establishment!”
The seven old men all smiled and clasped hands in return.
Meng Hao’s expression was the same as ever as he continued to sip tea. As for Wei Li, after she saw the seven old men, her pupils instantly constricted. Her voice filled with awe, she turned to Meng Hao and said, “Senior, these seven men are all famous shopkeepers here in Seahold. Their Cultivation bases are extraordinary, and they control vast amounts of Demon hearts….
“The Demon heart exchange shops set up by the three Sects here in Seahold do not just cater to the masses of ordinary Cultivators. There is a strict requirement of the various shops in the city that they exchange Demon hearts on a yearly basis.
“Of course, as for which particular Sect they pick to do business with, that is up to them. The three Sects have no say in the matter….”
Meng Hao lifted his teacup up and took another sip. His eyes seemed a bit clouded, even empty, as if he weren’t present mentally. Wei Li wasn’t even sure if he had heard her speaking.
Joy filled the heart of Sun Yunliang as he looked over at the middle-aged man, and his eyes flickered with admiration. The middle-aged man looked quite excited, and treated the seven shopkeepers with incredible courtesy.
The whole group laughed and exchanged pleasantries as they walked over to the area with the seats. Sun Yunliang was just about to have one of the maidservants serve some tea when the middle-aged man frowned and looked over at Meng Hao and Wei Li. Then, he directed his attention to Sun Yunliang and transmitted, “Elder Sun, who are these two?”
“Customers who arrived earlier to exchange some Demon hearts,” he responded via the same method.
When he heard this, the middle-aged man felt a bit more at ease. At first, he had taken the people to be friends of Sun Yunliang. “Elder, the Seven Tycoons are honored guests, shouldn’t you have someone from downstairs take care of these other loafers?”
Sun Yunliang hesitated for a moment, then turned to Meng Hao, clasped hands, and smiled.
“Fellow Daoist, I truly beg your pardon. Would you mind going downstairs? I’ll arrange for someone to help you exchange your Demon hearts. What do you say?”
When he heard Sun Yunliang speaking, the cloudiness in Meng Hao’s eyes vanished, and he put down his teacup. Instantly, one of the maidservants stepped forward from the group led by the middle-aged man, and collected it up.
Meng Hao frowned, rose to his feet, and looked over at Sun Yunliang. “Fine,” he said. “By the way, what is the current exchange rate?”
“Set your mind at ease, Fellow Daoist,” he said with a smile, “the price is set at six hundred Spirit Stones for one Demon heart.” With that, he clapped his hands together, and a Sun Soul Society disciples immediately came up from the first floor. After giving Meng Hao a respectful bow, he gestured for Meng Hao to follow him downstairs.
Meng Hao smiled, albeit faintly, and his expression was calm. First they had taken away his tea and tried to shoo him away. If the price they gave him was acceptable, he could have accepted the matter, but instead, they offered him a different amount of Spirit Stones than the seven old men.
Continuing to smile, he sat back down.
The action caused Sun Yunliang to instantly frown. In his mind, Meng Hao wasn’t acting very sensibly.
The middle-aged man was starting to look a bit impatient. As far as he was concerned, Meng Hao would surely be exchanging no more than a few hundred Demon hearts at most. “Friend,” he said, “this shop is owned by the Sun Soul Society. I myself am an honor guard of that very same Sect. This… is not the place for you to cause a disturbance. To go downstairs of your own accord is much better than being assisted to do so.”
He had seen many such people, people who couldn’t possibly compare to the Seven Tycoons. Each one of the seven had vast amounts of Demon hearts, and he himself had expended quite a bit of effort in order to attract them here.
“Go ahead and try,” said Meng Hao coolly.
The words instantly caused Sun Yunliang’s expression to turn serious. The middle-aged man frowned, suddenly unsure of who exactly Meng Hao was.
The seven old men didn’t look very pleased. They could exchange their Demon hearts at any shop they wished. The main reason they had selected this location was because of the diligent attention paid them by the middle-aged man. Of course, even more important was the fact that the exchange rate here was slightly better than at the other two Sects.
After all, the Saint currently in command of the city was none other than Saint Sun Soul.
The old man who occupied the center position among the seven calmly said, “Elder Sun, Honor Guard Zhou, the seven of us have very limited time. We can’t stand around waiting for very long. Why don’t we consider doing business another time?”
The words immediately caused the man named Zhou to feel very anxious. He was just about to drive Meng Hao away forcibly when suddenly Elder Sun stepped forward.
“Fellow Daoist,” he said, looking at Meng Hao, “the Spirit Stones aren’t an issue. I make the decisions here, so how about I give you seven hundred Spirit Stones per Demon heart? What do you say?”
Hearing this, Meng Hao felt a little bit embarrassed. Smiling, he rose to his feet and was about to go downstairs when suddenly, the old man standing in the right-most position among the seven sneered.
“So, it turns out anybody can get seven hundred Spirit Stones,” he said. “Well, then, Honor Guard Zhou. How many Spirit Stones will we be getting?”
Immediately, the other six old men began to nod. The shops run by seven of them were backed by their own various Sects and Clans. Furthermore, they were intelligent people who would definitely take advantage of any opportunity they saw come their way.
“If that man can get seven hundred Spirit Stones,” said another of the old men, “then we should get at least eight hundred per Demon heart. In any case, it is unacceptable that we be given the same price as a random passerby. Honor Guard Zhou, that was your promise to us, was it not?”
“Correct,” said another man. “Honor Guard Zhou, the reason we demand more Spirit Stones is because we will be exchanging a huge amount of Demon hearts. In fact, we have more Demon hearts than you usually exchange in several months down on the first floor. If someone with a trifling few hundred Demon hearts can get the same price as us, how can we maintain any face?”
Sun Yunliang’s face flickered as he realized he was in somewhat of a predicament. As for Honor Guard Zhou, his face was also quite unsightly as he glared over at Meng Hao and Wei Li.
“Elder Sun, this really is a bit inappropriate, don’t you think?” asked another of the men.
Sun Yunliang hesitated for a moment, then sighed inwardly. However, before he could even open his mouth, Meng Hao began to speak.
“So you guys have a lot of Demon hearts?” he asked the seven men.
“More than you, I can assure you,” said the first man who had spoken, his voice cool.
Meng Hao’s eyes flashed. He gave a cold harrumph and then flicked his sleeve. “Do the lot of you dare to have a little competition?” he asked. “The loser will forfeit all of the Demon hearts to the winner.”
His words caused the expressions on the faces of the seven old men to flicker. They looked over at Meng Hao, and suddenly, the atmosphere grew very stifling. Sun Yunliang hastened to step forward and clasp hands to both parties.
“Gentlemen, there’s no need to get angry. All of this is my fault, for not providing proper introductions. Fellow Daoist, these are the Seven Tycoons, who run the seven largest businesses in Seahold. Every year, they exchange a huge quantity of Demon hearts.
“Why don’t you give me a bit of face, and just drop the matter? How about it?”
Having heard this, Meng Hao’s face flickered imperceptibly. Yet again, he gave a cold snort. However, this time, his words were a bit softer. “Very well, Elder Sun, for you, I can let the matter drop.” With that, he turned to head downstairs.
The eyes of the seven old men flashed as they stared at Meng Hao. Suddenly, one of them flickered and reappeared directly in front of Meng Hao, blocking his way. “Hold it right there!”
“What are you people trying to pull??” growled Meng Hao. An alarmed and suspicious look flickered in his eyes. From the time he was young, he had grown accustomed to conning people. Furthermore, after all the hundreds of years, he had also grown quite used to putting on an act. It was an ability that had long since seeped down into his bones.
The seven old men might be shrewd and astute, but if they thought they could figure Meng Hao out by looking at his expression, well, that was simply impossible.
Honor Guard Zhou laughed coldly, his eyes were filled with scorn.
Sun Yunliang frowned as he looked at Meng Hao, and then turned back to the seven old men.
The old man who blocked Meng Hao’s way stood there, eyes glittering, unspeaking. As for the six other old men, their expressions were that of excitement. Suddenly, one of them said, “You said you wanted to have a competition, so let’s compete. The loser will turn over all Demon hearts to the winner.”
Sun Yunliang once again clasped hands and bowed. “Seven Tycoons, this Fellow Daoist came to exchange a few hundred Demon hearts. He may have spoken some sharp words, but I implore the seven of you to give me a bit of face….”
Meng Hao sighed in relief audibly, then walked around the man who blocked his way. Followed by Wei Li, he headed toward the staircase. As for the cold smile which twisted the side of his mouth, nobody could see it.
According to his estimation, the seven old men would definitely fall into his con. As it turned out, he was completely correct. By now, because of their probing for information, the old men were certain that even if Meng Hao did have a good collection of Demon hearts, it couldn’t possibly match up to their own.
Sure enough, Meng Hao had only walked down six stairs when two of the seven old men suddenly flickered, appearing in front of him to block his way.
“Careless talk can lead to a lot of trouble,” said one of them. “Since you brought up a competition, a competition is what will take place.”
Meng Hao’s face looked unsightly, and he stood there silently for a moment. His face grim, he turned and headed back up the stairs.
Sun Yunliang smiled bitterly and gave Meng Hao an apologetic look. As for Honor Guard Zhou, the ridicule in his expression was quite obvious.
Meng Hao gritted his teeth, and, looking like he was getting ready to go for broke, said, “How do we compete?”
One of the seven men stepped forward, a lofty expression on his face. “I alone will suffice,” he said, lifting up a bag of holding.
“Inside this bag of holding are 13,000 low-grade Demon hearts. Fellow Daoist, how many Demon hearts do you have?” With that, he tossed the bag of holding over to Honor Guard Zhou, who accepted in and then scanned it with Divine Sense. He nodded, and then, in order to ensure impartiality, produced a stone slab.
It was three meters tall and carved with nine dragons. When Honor Guard Zhou placed the bag of holding onto the slab, the first dragon began to glow with light, making it look very lifelike. As for the second dragon, it was thirty percent lit.
“On the Nine Dragons Demon Heart Scale,” said Sun Yunliang, “each dragon represents 10,000 low-grade Demon hearts.” With that, he produced an identical stone slab for Meng Hao’s use.
The old man competing with Meng Hao loftily said, “I wonder how many Demon hearts you have, Fellow Daoist. Please produce them so that we can widen our knowledge.”
The other six old men looked at Meng Hao with enigmatic smiles, seemingly completely confident of the outcome.
Honor Guard Zhou’s smile grew even more radiant. He hadn’t liked Meng Hao from the beginning, and now, the ridicule in his gaze was even more obvious than before. He couldn’t wait to see Meng Hao’s expression in reaction to what was happening.
This chapter was sponsored by Suneil Patel, Abhishek Aluri, Byron Sego, and Justin Volpato