Li Luo looked over to the raised sign and saw a blue-haired youth looking in his direction. He threw a friendly smile Li Luo's way.
Li Luo saw nothing but sharp teeth in that smile.
"Who's that?" he asked.
Lu Qing'er's well-trimmed brow creased a little. She hesitated. "The young lord of House Duze, Duze Beixuan.
"Li Luo, he's targeting you. He's trying to inflate your bid."
"So that's Duze Beixuan, eh."
Li Luo was taken aback. Sizing up the blue-haired youth, he breathed out. "Well, in terms of looks, the young lord of House Luolan has House Duze beat, in spades. That's one battle won."
The little kid beside him rolled his eyes. Was a war between two houses all about looks?
Lu Qing'er did not smile. She knew that Li Luo's wisecrack meant that he had marked Duze Beixuan well.
Li Luo looked at him for a moment more, then raised his own plaque. "26,000."
Duze Beixuan coughed lightly, raising his own sign without hesitation. "30,000."
There was a slight mutter in the auction room now, and people were starting to recognize Duze Beixuan. "It's the young lord of House Duze! Duze Beixuan!"
"Whose price is he inflating?"
"I don't know, never seen him around before..."
"That's the young lord of House Luolan, Li Luo. He's too easy to recognize. Keke, no wonder Duze Beixuan's upping the bid. He's found an enemy."
"Haha, I heard that House Luolan’s young lord had his Suncreek Villa president headhunted by House Duze. A real blow for the Luolan young lord..."
"It's hard to avoid a fight when those two meet."
The entire auction house was interested now, watching a bidding war break out between two historical rivals.
Lu Qing'er was very worried now. 30,000 for a 10,000-grade rare material was pricey. Plus, four of them meant a staggering 120,000. That was no small sum.
Li Luo still looked calm. Neither did he look in the mood to talk to Duze Beixuan. He raised his sign again. "32,000."
Duze Beixuan gleefully raised his own. "35,000."
With this raise from Duze Beixuan, the muttering had grown much louder now. Such was the financial power of House Duze's young lord. Hundreds of thousands of skygold could be thrown away without batting an eyelid.
Li Luo smiled at the price and then gave Duze Beixuan a thumbs-up from afar.
He was not intending to bid further. The price was too high, and far beyond reason.
"This Li Luo is quite a composed one, eh?" Ning Zhao chuckled. He had thought a last-minute outbid would tilt him off the edge.
Duze Beixuan nodded with a wry smile. "A little harder to deal with than I imagined. I'm afraid I'll get scolded for bringing these four rare materials back at that price."
Still, he had a satisfied expression.
After all, House Duze had been successful for many years now, accruing an unstoppable financial momentum. House Luolan was on the way down. How could Li Luo hope to compete against him?
Just then, a reedy, little voice piped up.
All heads turned to the voice. It was the little boy beside Li Luo, raising his plaque with boyish excitement.
Li Luo's eyes bulged. He looked over with a mixture of disbelief and respect. "Which family are you the prodigal son of?"
"You're the prodigal son." The boy squabbled right back.
Duze Beixuan was looking at the boy with uncertainty. "Who's that?" he asked Ning Zhao sharply.
Ning Zhao shook his head. "I don't recognize him, but he seems to be familiar with Li Luo. Is he intending to use a kid to play with you?"
Duze Beixuan snorted, irritated. "This Li Luo is really an interesting one." He raised his plaque. "45,000."
The boy had spotted Duze Beixuan eying him as well. "What is he saying?" he asked, craning his head indignantly as he tried to peer over his high-backed chair.
Li Luo stroked his chin. "He's saying that little monkeys like yourself should go home and drink their milk to grow into strong apes."
The little boy flushed in anger. "50,000!" he yelled.
There was a shocked silence in the auction house as they all looked over at the furious boy. 50,000 apiece for four 10,000-grade rare materials meant a total of 200,000. It was a princely sum.
Even Duze Beixuan was staggered by this. His gaze wavered and then, with a sudden smile, he threw down his sign in surrender.
Although he did not mind spending 200,000 on four rare materials, he did not wish to blow money unnecessarily.
Since someone was willing to let him out of this one, he was going to take it. His mission to cause trouble for Li Luo had already succeeded.
Finally, the four rare materials were awarded to the boy. There was a huge commotion over the messy conclusion. It was a little bit of a letdown.
Li Luo turned to the boy, still lost in the thrill of winning a bid for the first time in his life. "Are you going to get a beating when you get home?" he asked with concern.
The boy shook his head. "Nope."
Li Luo was flabbergasted. How rich was his family?
"But I don't carry that much money around with me." He gave Li Luo a bright and innocent smile. "Can you lend me some?"
"My little friend, you are still very young. Beatings will do you good once in a while."
At this time Duze Beixuan had made his way over, throwing another warm smile Li Luo's way. "Li Luo, finally we meet."
Li Luo's eyes flicked up, taking in the blue ponytail neatly tied up behind him. A rather respectable impression, although there was slyness in his manner.
"Hello." Li Luo nodded back affably. "I hear your dad was beaten 18 times by mine back in the day."
Duze Beixuan's eyes narrowed and he forced a bitter smile that looked more like a grimace. "Young Lord Li Luo, still basking in the glory of yesteryear, I see. That only makes you look weak. Let's wait and see. Perhaps in a year, House Luolan will have to change its name.
"Besides, what does 18 losses even count for? At the Astral Sage College, you'll go through tenfold that."
"Are you threatening me?" Li Luo said.
"Perhaps I am..."
Duze Beixuan said with a sly smile. He turned to the boy. "Pretty clever, I must say. You used a kid to avoid being cast as a wastrel. Nice scapegoating.
"Still, you're going to have to pay up." He inclined his head to the auction staff making their way over with Ning Zhao.
Another staff member was bearing the four rare materials that the little boy had won, beaming. "My Young Master, we graciously await your payment."
The boy blinked and then pulled out 20,000 in golden dragon notes from his pocket. "That's all I have with me."
The staff member's smile froze on his face. "Young Master, please stop pulling my leg."
Duze Beixuan was mocking Li Luo openly now. "Come now, you can't be such an ungracious loser. Cough it up."
The boy frowned. "I won the bid. What does this have to do with him? How about you just wait a while, and I'll send someone to get the money."
Lu Qing'er spoke up now as well. "Li Luo and the young gentleman do not know each other."
Ning Zhao gave an impatient laugh. "Qing'er, people saw them enter together. And from the way they talk, it does not seem like they do not know each other."
"According to the rules of the auction house, those under 10 years old are not to be given an auction plaque," Lu Qing'er countered coolly. "And yet he was allowed to bid. Is this not the fault of the auction house?"
It was the staff member's turn to sweat profusely.
"Seems to me like there are many problems surrounding this bid," she continued. "Perhaps we should take the items back and re-auction them tomorrow."
"Miss Qing'er," Duze Beixuan protested, "surely you are being too biased towards them."
This was unheard of. Bidding was all about the atmosphere and flow of the room. No one would stand for it.
Ning Zhao agreed with a troubled expression. "Qing'er, that's not really in the rules."
"It was the auction house's mistake to begin with," she stated calmly.
Things were getting tense, and Duze Beixuan reached out a hand to grab the small boy. "If we do not sort this out today, none of you will leave."
Li Luo marked his move with disapproval and was about to intervene, stretching out his hand.
Just as he did so, another hand beat him there, flashing out like an eagle's claw to clamp Duze Beixuan's own wrist in a vice-like grip.
"Who dares?!" Duze Beixuan roared.
He looked up to see a gaunt, pale man standing behind the boy. He looked at Duze Beixuan emotionlessly, his dead eyes sending a chill down Duze Beixuan's spine.
"We were talking... but you had to resort to violence. Did the House Lord of Duze not teach you manners?"Previous Chapter Next Chapter