As the bell chimed, Rurik gestured to the seats. "Let's take our seats, my friends."
The curtains on the center stage slowly rose, revealing an exceptionally beautiful half-elf girl with silver hair that cascaded gracefully down her back. Her fair skin seemed to glow under the soft, ambient light, and her eyes, a striking shade of azure, sparkled with an enchanting allure. Her slender, well-proportioned figure was elegantly accentuated by a form-fitting, revealing dress that left the crowd in awe.
"Oh my, look at her beauty!" someone in the crowd whispered.
"Unbelievable!" another person exclaimed.
Rurik leaned over to Michael and Raphael, a proud smile on his face. "Allow me to introduce you to the best in the auctioning business. This, my friends, is Meenal Dahl."
Meenal Dahl extended her hand gracefully. "I am honored to be the host of yet another Divine Towers auction, and I simply adore the crowd."
The crowd erupted in cheers and gasps of admiration.
"Meenal, Meenal, Meenal!" they chanted enthusiastically, captivated not only by her beauty but also by her charismatic presence.
Even Rurik, who usually detested large crowds and auctions, found himself captivated by the half-elf's beauty. Michael couldn't blame him or anyone else for that matter; Meenal was indeed the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. Even the likes of Gaya and Lailah, who were known for their celestial beauty, couldn't hold a candle to Meenal's enchanting allure. There was something about her that exuded an immediate angelic charm.
"By the name of Goddess Celestia, I will begin this year's auction," Meenal's voice flowed like a gentle river, soothing the ears of those in attendance.
"Goddess Celestia's worshipper, huh? No wonder she's so beautiful," Raphael remarked, his tone suggesting familiarity with the Goddess.
However, Michael remained silent, refraining from asking any questions. As Meenal commenced the auction, a swirling blue portal materialized behind her. From this portal emerged a colossal, blue-scaled dragon, its massive form towering over Meenal. Lightning crackled around its body, creating an awe-inspiring yet menacing spectacle.
"Good things always come first. Just like that, the first item we are going to auction today is the Mighty Thunder King. He is at the Elemental Attunement stage and has chosen lightning as his element. You can tell by the looks of these lightning cracks," Meenal announced, her voice unwavering in the dragon's imposing presence. The dragon exuded a majestic aura, appearing as though it regarded the onlookers with regal disdain.
"But before I initiate the initial bid, let me go through the rules. You may bid using only gold coins. Celestial crystals are not accepted. If you win a bid, your item will be stored on the first floor with your token number. You can then pay the price and retrieve your item. Please refrain from placing bids you cannot afford. Violations or failure to pay the price will result in several decades of prison time," Meenal's tone turned stern and serious, her words holding the attention of every spectator. As a devout worshipper of Goddess Celestia, it was second nature for Meenal to attract and captivate those around her.
"And if you're concerned about how to control such a majestic and powerful creature, fear not. The Mighty Thunder King has been trained by the Ironhands beast tamers. We all know their reputation as the best in the beast-taming business. So, have no doubts about Thunder King's obedience. But to further reassure you, one of the Ironhands beast tamers will be provided to you, free of cost, to be with you and the dragon, and help initiate a bond between you and the dragon," Meenal explained, her words causing murmurs of discussion among the audience.
"Now, without further ado, let's begin. The starting bid for the Thunder King is five hundred thousand gold coins," Meenal announced, her angelic voice carrying throughout the hall.
Upon hearing the starting bid amount, the commoners in the general area of the auction hall gasped in shock.
"Five hundred thousand?! Oh my goodness!"
"There goes my dream of owning a dragon."
"Quit your nonsense; you could never afford a dragon. You can barely afford the ticket to get inside."
The commoners voiced their astonishment, revealing their disbelief at the high starting bid.
"Six hundred thousand!" Rurik suddenly roared, surprising Michael.
Michael couldn't help but smile as Rurik sported a mischievous grin, typical of dwarves.
"Seven hundred thousand!" Another voice from a different VIP pavilion entered the bidding war against Rurik.
"Eight hundred!" Rurik countered, laughing heartily.
"Are you raising the bid on purpose?" Michael asked Rurik.
"Of course I am. Can't a dwarf have some fun at an auction?" Rurik chuckled, thoroughly enjoying the escalating bidding war. Even Arlen had entered the fray, competing to win the Thunder King.
As the bidding war for the dragon continued, someone swiftly raised the bid from one billion gold coins to a staggering one point three billion coins in the blink of an eye. The crowd was left in awe at the sudden and massive bid increase, and many of the other nobles began to back off, deeming the price too steep for a single dragon.
"The Mighty Thunder King is sold to the representatives of Predonia!" Meenal announced with an ear-to-ear grin, her face radiating delight. She knew that for every item she sold, she would receive a generous cut based on the final bid, so her happiness was quite understandable.
"The representatives of Predonia certainly know how to choose their beasts. Who am I kidding? We all know that when it comes to beasts, no one excels quite like the people of Predonia. You practically stole the dragon from us for that price. Congratulations," Meenal continued, her beautiful smile and sweet demeanor melting the hearts of the nobles who had just acquired the dragon.
It wasn't just the buyers of the Thunder King who were taken with her charm; the other young nobles in the VIP pavilions were now even more determined to win bids on the next items and impress her.
After the representatives of Predonia won the Thunder King, a portal appeared once more, and the dragon obediently stepped through, vanishing into it. Then, a smaller blue portal materialized, and this time, a golden cane floated gracefully out of it, hovering beside Meenal.
"What in the hell is that thing?" Rurik asked, his brow furrowing in confusion.
Many in the crowd shared Rurik's bewilderment, as they had no idea what this peculiar item could be. However, Michael could sense an immense power radiating from the cane. When he activated his X-ray vision, he observed the space around the cane distorting, a clear indication of its extraordinary capabilities.
"This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Crane of Agram—a primordial artifact that has existed for longer than many gods in the pantheon. This rare artifact has the ability to create portals to anywhere within the user's domain. Imagine you want to travel from the warm city of Goldspire to the chilling mountains of Nilfnore in Sagespire. Normally, you would have to spend months traversing forests and treacherous terrain. Even the most comfortable carriages can feel cumbersome during such long journeys, trust me, I know," Meenal said with a sweet chuckle, her charm captivating the audience.
"But with the Crane of Agram, you'll just have to open a portal and step into it. In the blink of an eye, you'll find yourself in Nilfnore. However, please remember that you cannot travel from one god's domain to another, and opening portals into secured areas is against the rules. So, we advise you not to open portals into Radeon's funds vault or a treasury," Meenal continued, chuckling again. It was clear that while such actions were against the rules, some individuals might still be tempted to try them.
This crane was indeed a dream come true for thieves, and the idea of acquiring it enticed even Michael for a moment. Fortunately, he had his portable portal and the System at his disposal.
"But wait, there's more to the Crane of Agram," Meenal continued in her enchanting voice. "You can use it to transport goods, seek hidden treasures, and explore the uncharted corners of your own domain. Just imagine the possibilities."
Meenal paused for a moment, letting the anticipation in the room build, and then she dropped the bombshell.
"We'll start the bidding for this remarkable artifact at one billion gold coins."
As soon as those words left her lips, a collective gasp swept through the commoners in the auction hall.
"One billion?! Can you believe this?"
"That's more than most of the nobles' entire estates!"
"They're all mad! Who in their right mind would spend that much on a cane?"
However, in the VIP pavilions, the atmosphere was entirely different. The nobles went into a frenzy, bidding against each other at a rapid pace.
"One point five billion!"
"Two point five billion!"
It seemed like the price was skyrocketing with every passing second as the nobles competed fiercely for ownership of the Crane of Agram.
"Rurik, aren't you going to bid for the crane?" Michael asked, looking at the bidding frenzy.
"Oh, lad, the Crane of Agram is a magnificent treasure, no doubt about that. But you see, even if I bid every piece of gold I own, there's no chance in the seven realms that I'll get it." Rurik chuckled heartily.
Michael raised an eyebrow, genuinely curious. "And why's that?"
Rurik leaned in closer and spoke in a hushed tone. "Because this pavilions aren't just for the noble houses. It's also for some of the shadiest, richest figures in the underworld. The Crane of Agram, my friend, isn't going to be won by a mere noble. I'd bet that every legendary thief and criminal in the city is here, itching to get their hands on it. Even if a noble manages to buy it, they'll have a target on their back, and not the good kind of target."
Michael nodded in understanding, realizing the dangerous game that was unfolding before them. The auction was far more than just a display of wealth; it was a high-stakes contest with consequences that extended beyond the auction hall.
"Don't forget the worshippers of the God of Murder, Xyloth," Raphael calmly mentioned. Michael noticed an immediate change in Rurik's expression. The dwarf's face turned pale, and his wooden cup trembled in his hands.
"Don't even say his name," Rurik stuttered, his fear of Xyloth, the God of Murder, clearly evident.
Unbeknownst to Michael, Xyloth belonged to the Dead Trinity, a trio of gods feared by the mortals in the realm of gods. One of the other gods in this terrifying trio was none other than the God of Death himself. Michael had already encountered an angel of Death, and soon, he would come face to face with an angel of Murder.
(This arc with God of Murder which will begin after the next arc- The God Killing Arc will be the most tense, thrilling and gore filled Arc you have read)