As much as Ves wanted to snap up numerous samples of medium to high-grade exotics, he restrained himself as much as possible.
He only converted a certain amount of his money into firthals, and intended to reserve most of it for the acquisition of P-stones, F-stones and other spiritually-reactive exotics.
Nonetheless, his resolve wavered numerous times when he carefully brushed his gaze past exotics with useful applications.
Now that he was in the process of assimilating Senior-level Metallurgy, he recognized a wide variety of metallic exotics with known applications. He memorized their most relevant properties and also gained a sense of their prevailing market values.
Prices fluctuated considerably here. Not every exotic was sold at a bargain, and not every bargain offered a lot of savings. Part of the reason for that was the intense bargaining taking place.
Whenever a customer wanted to buy a product, they entered one of the nearby negotiating chambers administered by the Circle of Mota and bargained as if their lives depended on their efforts!
Both the buyers and sellers negotiated aggressively, so much so that a lot of people who finished their transactions stomped out of the negotiating chambers in a fit of fury!
The use of negotiating chambers to conduct transactions in relative privacy benefited both sides when they engaged in expensive transactions.
Their presence made it difficult for Ves to gauge the level of trade that went on. While all sellers drove hard bargains, he was unable to gauge which one was better at ripping off their customers than others.
Meanwhile, the buyers also maintained discretion. None of them looked forward to showing off the amount of firthals they carried to the unscrupulous guests of the Circle of Mota.
After trawling the stalls and shops for half an hour, he abruptly found his first lucky score.
When his spirituality brushed over a black chunk of rock, he immediately encountered the tell-tale reaction of a P-stone!
Ves casually raised his hand with one finger pointing upwards. It was his signal to Nitaa that he encountered a good that he really wanted to obtain!
Considering the extremely sharp bargaining abilities of the sellers, Ves did his best not to show his interest in the exotic.
Just like before, he approached the stall selling the P-stone slowly, expressing interest at other goods before considering the P-stone.
Though the dance stretched on for twenty agonizing minutes, he eventually managed to purchase the P-stone in exchange for the measly price of 7 million firthals!
For an exotic that possessed the rare property of storing his spiritual energy or spiritual entities while protecting them from decay, this was an absolute steal!
Of course, considering the P-stone's lack of properties, the seller didn't find this price to be so low. Unaware of its true applications, the P-stone had been mislabeled as a marginal low-grade exotic with unknown properties!
In a place like Centerpoint where an enormous amount of wealthy mech designers and other people came to shop, the vendors there jacked up the prices of such unknown exotics to a ridiculous degree!
In the Circle of Mota, such practices didn't fly as well here. The clientele was a lot poorer here. The sellers also couldn't afford to wait for years or decades until some random mech designer arrived and snapped up the goods at a ridiculous premium.
Ves was under no illusion that all of the firthals he paid would fall into the hands of pirates and other unsavory organizations.
Each and every guest of the Circle of Mota directly or indirectly facilitated the pirates each time they completed a transaction.
They did this through purchasing their sometimes ill-gotten gains, thereby placing a lot of firthals into their hands.
The visitors also supplied the pirates with valuable goods and services that were very difficult to come by in the Nyxian Gap but were essential to sustain their deplorable activities.
Nonetheless, even though Ves knew he indirectly enabled the pirates when he purchased the P-stone, he didn't care. Spiritually-reactive exotics were simply too valuable for him to let his conscience get in the way of empowering himself!
In fact, he was even willing to give the Five Scrolls Compact a hand if they bribed him with P-stones!
"Who knows if I'm already doing so." He quietly muttered as he received the floating container that held his third P-stone.
Though Nitaa still hadn't ascertained whether the Circle of Mota was tied to the Compact or not, they had only been able to explore a portion of the underground marketplace.
Most notably, the center of the city was closed off to most visitors. Only a small proportion of close associates of the Circle of Mota gained permission to enter. Ves had no clue what happened inside, but he had a feeling that more than just a couple of incidental trades took place in the core region.
If the Compact really had a hand in the Circle of Mota, then gaining entry to the center was the best way to obtain evidence!
It was times like these that he hated his mother's incredibly inconvenient appropriation of his Devil Tiger.
A masterwork mech was incredibly valuable! If Ves arrived at the Circle of Mota with such an incredibly valuable mech on offer, he might have gained enough regard from the organization to enter the inner marketplace. Who knew what he was missing out on now that he lost his only means of leverage.
He consoled himself with the acquisition of his third P-stone. Just like his first two P-stones, its appearance and physical makeup diverged as well. Yet even though it consisted of completely different materials, it possessed the exact same properties as the other two P-stones.
The addition of yet another P-stone in his arsenal was of immense value to him! Not only did he increase his external spiritual energy storage capacity by fifty percent, he also gained an extra container to hold living spiritual entities!
The appearance of a P-stone in the Circle of Mota confirmed his suspicion that the Nyxian Gap likely held more. There might even be a major deposit at one of its asteroids or larger satellites, just waiting to be excavated!
Filled with hope, Ves tried to restrain his urgency as he resumed browsing the shops and stalls. While the somewhat quiet and restrained bazaar failed to match the exuberance of normal bazaars, Ves was having the time of his life!
This was because he encountered three more P-stones!
Within a matter of hours, he instantly doubled his reserve of P-stones! He had even been forced to procure a floating coffer in order to hold his new acquisitions!
Due to their lack of perceived value, Ves managed to purchase them without significantly denting his budget. He still had plenty of firthals left to spare for other purchases!
"This is remarkable. I never expected to encounter so many useful samples here."
He understood why. All of the P-stones he obtained so far weren't very energetic. The curated marketplaces at Centerpoint and elsewhere preferred to sell something of more obvious value, while the Circle of Mota was much less discerning.
His only regret was that he hadn't encountered any other variety of spiritually-reactive exotics throughout his entire search of the rare materials quarter. He visited each and every shop and swept his spiritual senses over each and every stupid rock.
No luck. Now that Ves got his fill of P-stones, he wanted to supplement his exotics collection with F-stones and materials with different reactions to spirituality.
The F-stone he obtained at the Peacekeeper branch ought to have come from the Nyxian Gap as well. Why hadn't it shown up here? Could it be that certain people discovered their uses and kept them for themselves?
That spelled bad news for Ves, because the likeliest people to hog the F-stones was the cultists of the Five Scrolls Compact!
"Look to your left." Nitaa suddenly said, interrupting his troubled thoughts. "An auction is starting soon inside."
Ves frowned. "Auction halls are where high-value goods are put on offer."
Goods like his Devil Tiger mech.
"Maybe you can find what you are seeking inside."
"That's true, but the auction is too conspicuous. Attracting attention is not our goal."
Even though the auction venue probably did its best to hide the identity of its auction goers, Ves still harbored misgivings over entering it. Right now, he was just one of many anonymous guests of the marketplace.
If he wanted to participate in the auction, he had to demonstrate his ability to spend. From what he saw, the auction only allowed guests with greater access passes or lots of firthals at their disposal.
However, if he skipped the auction, he might miss the opportunity to procure another spiritually-reactive exotic if one went up for auction.
The problem was that the auction hall did not list out the goods it was about to auction. Guests continually approached the auction workers in order to submit their high-value goods.
Just as Ves gave up on the idea of participating in the auction, he halted. After a brief consideration, he decided to take a risk.
He swept his spiritual senses outwards and into the auction hall.
This was a very risky course of action. Before, Ves only limited himself to extending his spiritual senses within arms length or a bit further if he wasn't allowed to get closer to the exotics for sale.
He didn't dare to leverage his Spirituality out of his body too much in case some monitors from the Five Scrolls Compact kept their eye on such phenomena.
Yet the auction hall's potential offerings simply tempted him too much. The goods up for auction should definitely be a cut above the rest!
As his spiritual senses stretched forward, he tried to sweep the interior of the theatre-like auction hall as fast as possible. In order to minimize the risks of discovery, he eschewed precision and depth in favor of speed and reach.
His spiritual senses stretched further than he had ever tried to do before in the material realm. Due to the dispersion of his senses, his sensitivity and discernment ability became worse!
Rather than carefully inspecting the interior of the auction hall, Ves instead swept out his spiritual senses in a rapid pulse that lasted less than a dozen seconds!
Like an active sensor that pulsed out a signal and awaited a return signal, Ves only sought to ascertain if his senses bumped into something unusual.
Surprisingly, his senses encountered two different bumps during the brief period of exploration!
The first instance occurred when his spirituality encountered a wall of some kind that blocked his senses from going any further. It was as if the object possessed the capability of blocking spiritual snooping!
The second instance his senses encountered something remarkable was when he suddenly brushed against something large. His spiritual senses immediately became stagnant when it encountered the large object. It was as if it had entered into a swamp and got stuck in the morass!
Ves sensed a hint of something else buried deeper in the large object, but his sweep of the auction hall quickly finished.
Considering the continued risk of extending his spiritual senses so far, he reluctantly decided to retract them all. In any case, he got what he wanted out of the attempt.
"Let's enter the auction hall." He abruptly spoke up again.
Nitaa didn't question his U-turn. Both of them calmly stepped in line and awaited their turn. Once they arrived at the front, Ves handed over his data chip which presented proof that he possessed enough firthals to compete in the auctions.
"Pass." The impassive guard said while handing back the data chip. "Behave yourself inside. Don't attack anyone inside and don't bid for something that is beyond your means to pay. We reserve the full right to ascertain whether you are violating our rules and dole out the necessary punishment. Is that clear?"
Though the warning sounded sketchy as hell, he heard the same spiel just before he entered the marketplace.
"Then make way and head inside. You are blocking the way."