The initial costs to develop the mine were enormous and had nearly drained all the capital of Thunderbolt Hall.
Due to recent demon beast invasions, not only had the Thunderbolt Hall suffered a tremendous loss from the worker strike, it needed to pay a huge amount of compensation to the miners who were killed, too.
Right now, Thunderbolt Hall's cash flow was running dry.
Luo Jingang and a few elders of Thunderbolt Hall did their best and managed to raise almost two billion.
But when they arrived at the exposition and looked around, they noticed that it was enough to buy common magical equipment such as chainsword, storm bolters, or Hellfire-Lightnings. But the crystal suits, the kings of magical equipment, were too expensive for them.
A disciple of Red Serpent Sect came up to them and greeted them with a smile. He quickly introduced himself.
"Hello. I am Cao Huorong, a disciple of the Red Serpent Sect. We are a renowned sect in refining and our history can be dated back to hundreds of years ago. In regard to magical equipment of fire attributes, we are definitely top of the federation. May I know what you're looking for?"
Seeing that Luo Jingang and his companions were gazing at a crystal suit, he continued, "You've picked a good one. This crystal suit is called 'Bursting Flame Battlesuit XVII'. It is the latest model of a classic crystal suit of our sect. It is mainly made of Thousand Flames Scale, Hundred Crimson Stones, and Phoenix Dance Gold and is most suitable for the Cultivators who are good at manipulating fiery spiritual energy, or the environments that were extremely hot.
"The Fire Dragon Saber that it carries can automatically absorb the fiery spiritual energy floating in the air and transform it into unstoppable saber attack. Our super crystal processor, which boasts amazing computational ability, can store five ultimate skills beforehand. With a telepathic thought, the skills can be performed without the Exo doing anything.
"The God Slayer Cannon on the crystal suit is even more powerful. It has two working modes. In the maximum mode, it takes three minutes for it to charge up with spiritual energy, and then it will perform a deadly attack like a volcano eruption that is equal to a full-strength strike of a Core Formation Stage Cultivator!"
"Full-strength strike of a Core Formation Stage Cultivator"
Luo Jingang swallowed. He looked at Ge Feipeng, an elder of Thunderbolt Hall, and noticed that his companion was as tempted as himself.
More than thirty different kinds of fiery crystals were buried in the mother lode of Thunderbolt Hall. The temperature of the underground mines was extremely high. Sometimes it could be hundreds of degrees.
Meanwhile, the demon beasts that lived on the fiery crystals nearby mostly belonged to the fire class, too. Their burning attack could have a temperature as high as a thousand degrees.
Therefore, the purpose of their trip was to purchase a batch of magical equipment of fire attributes that was suitable for the high temperature and sweltering environment.
Red Serpent Sect was best known for its fire-class magical equipment. Its classic crystal suit 'Bursting Flame Battlesuit' was a heat-resistant heavy crystal suit specially designed to fight fiery demon beasts. The elegant outline and the intimidating plate armor, which seemed to be made of thousands of solidified flames, were indeed enticing.
However, its price burned Leader Luo's heart like a fire of thousands of degrees, too.
"The price for a standard 'Bursting Flame Battlesuit XVII' is 1.55 billion. With the latest attack modules, its price will be just over 2 billion. Every time it is used, the spiritual energy consumption and the erosion of magical equipment components will result to a cost of several million. If it is damaged in a battle, the repair fee"
Cold sweat was dripping from Luo Jingang's forehead as he was running the calculations.
"Actually, we are planning to purchase some magical equipment for the juniors of our sect. Do you have any crystal suit that is more suitable for Refinement Stage Cultivators?"
Cao Huorong's face remained unchanged. He continued smiling as he replied, "That's no problem. Bursting Flame Battlesuit is indeed too advanced for Refinement Stage Cultivators. It would be wasteful.
"Here, we have an MP crystal suit model named Flying Flame Battlesuit which is the simplified version of the Bursting Flame Battlesuit. It is specially designed for the Refinement Stage Cultivators. Please follow me."
Cao Huorong led the two Cultivators of the Thunderbolt Hall to a crystal suit that was smaller in size.
The crystal suit looked alike to the Bursting Flame Battlesuit. It was also shining in incandescent brilliance which was indicative of its supreme quality.
But, of course, its specifications were far from those of the Bursting Flame Battlesuit.
On the bright side, its price was much lower, too. The naked version without any additional magical equipment would cost 230 million. The fully equipped version was about 300 million apiece.
"Well, the price"
Luo Jingang stroke his beard.
Cao Huorong was smiling brightly as he said, "Mister, judging from your outlook, I can tell that you must be a seasoned warrior from the Grand Desolate Plateau who knows a lot about the cost and performance of different crystal suits.
"The Flying Flame Battlesuit refined by us might not be the strongest of all MP crystal suit models. But it's definitely one of the best in regard of price-performance ratio. Also, it is particularly suitable for high-temperature environments where the fiery spiritual energy is abundant. In such cases, no crystal suit will be match for the Flying Flame Battlesuit!"
Luo Jingang nodded his head. As a Demon Hunter, he had worn a lot of crystal suits in his decades of hunting life. He knew very well the price of a decent crystal suit.
In fact, he was quite surprised to see that the price for a fully equipped crystal suit was below 500 million, and he was embarrassed to negotiate over the price.
According to the information that he gathered before he came, most of the MP crystal suit models provided by the major sects were of similar price. Few of them were cheaper than this one.
Although there were several other renowned MP crystal suit models such as Tiger King, Sword Torrent, and Mournful Mist, they were much more expensive and not suitable for battles in the underground mines. Therefore, Luo Jingang had never taken them into consideration since the beginning.
The Flying Flame Battlesuit seemed to be their best choice right now.
"Big Peng, what about it?" Luo Jingang asked Ge Feipeng, elder of Thunderbolt Hall and also his lifelong brother, in a low voice.
"We've visited a lot of booths. It seems that this model fits us best, doesn't it?"
"It's still a little too expensive."
Ge Feipeng frowned. "300 million apiece. Even if we put all our money into it, we can only buy five to six, which would only be enough for one tactical squad."
"But we have five working sites and more than thirty mines being exploited in our mother lode. How can one tactical squad defend all of them at the same time?"
"I guess we the old men have to do more work then. What other choices do we have? The king of magical equipment is always expensive!"
Luo Jingang sighed and said, "If we want cheaper ones, we'll have to look for second-hand crystal suits."
As experienced Demon Hunters, the two of them knew too well how messy the market of second-hand crystal suits was.
A well-maintained second-hand crystal suit was less expensive than a new one, but its price could still be as high as 200 million. There were other second-hand crystal suits which had been used for more than a hundred years with deep-buried problems due to battlefield damages.
Sometimes the latter pretended to be the former.
Such second-hand crystal suits looked splendid, but they might crack up any moment when the wearers were using them, which might lead to dire consequences. So, they were also known as 'walking coffins'.
There was no way that Luo Jingang and Ge Feipeng would endanger the lives of their own disciples with such counterfeits.
Having no other solution, Luo Jingang had to negotiate with Cao Huorong reluctantly.
However, Cao Huorong had seen through that they didn't have alternative choices. Not only did he refuse to lower the price, he also came up with a series of rigorous conditions, including that they had to buy designated attack magical equipment and that the crystal suits they bought must be maintained by the refiners of Red Serpent Sect.
As a battle-type Cultivator, Luo Jingang always hated detailed and boring negotiations. While he was talking gloomily, a sharp voice shouted from behind him, "Dad, check the booth of the Grand Desolate War Institution out!"
Luo Jingang raised his eyebrow.
"Ah Ling, where did you go? Come and see this crystal suit. Haven't you and your senior brothers been asking to go down the mines and hunt the demon beasts? Your Uncle Ge and I are planning to purchase crystal suits for you so that we'll be able to fight together in the mines."
Luo Ling, Luo Jingang's daughter, stared at the crystal suit up and down. Then her lips twitched as she remarked, "The performance is not bad. But isn't it a little too expensive? We have more than ten candidates in Thunderbolt Hall who are capable enough to wear the crystal suit. But we'll only be able to buy five or so back according to the price tag. The underground mines are too complicated. I'm afraid that the few crystal suits won't help much."
"We're in the middle of a financial crisis right now and we have to grit our teeth through it. Let's figure out what to do when the financial state is better next year," Luo Jingang replied hesitantly.
"But we don't have to buy it here. Dad, Uncle Ge, the Grand Desolate War Institution's booth is exhibiting a crystal suit that is only 100 million apiece. Its price is below 150 million even if it is fully equipped. If we choose their crystal suit, we'll be able to buy ten of them, which should be enough for two tactical squads. It will be much easier to deal with the underground situation with two squads," Luo Ling exclaimed.
"100 million apiece?"
Luo Jingang's face changed. "Are you serious? Wait. Grand Desolate War Institution? That sounds familiar. I remember that it had an accident last year?"
"Last year and today are different. From what I've seen, the crystal suit they provide is quite acceptable, at least in regard of stability and precision. What harm is there to check it out? This is only the first day of the military magical equipment exhibition. We don't need to place an order now. Let's just shop around first," Luo Ling replied disapprovingly.
Luo Jingang pondered for a moment. Then he waved his hand and said, "Let's go and see what drama the Grand Desolate War Institution is playing this year!"
While they were talking, they walked out of the booth of Red Serpent Sect.
Cao Huorong was about to complete the deal, when the Grand Desolate War Institution jumped out of nowhere and wrecked his business. The cooked duck flew away!
The Grand Desolate War Institution's booth was as lively as ever.
Li Yao was as busy as bee. The moment he finished interpreting the specifications for a few visitors, he hurriedly put on the brand new Mystic Skeleton Battlesuit to take a picture with a little girl at her request. Then he heard someone calling him, "Mr. Li Yao, I've brought my dad here. Please repeat what you just said to him. Thunderbolt Hall is really interested in the Mystic Skeleton Battlesuit!"
Turning back, he found Luo Ling who was smiling brightly, followed by two Cultivators with scarred faces which indicated their seniority in the trade.
Before Li Yao was able to say anything, Luo Jingang raised his eyebrow, "Li Yao? The name sounds familiar."
"Of course it does."
Luo Ling said, "Dad, do you remember that we purchased a batch of magical equipment named Demon Beast Detector some time ago as labor protection appliances which proved to be very useful? Li Yao is its inventor!"