Chapter 273 - Sweeping Stones
The Hell Storm Racetrack was a legendary racing track for amateur super shuttle racers. It was of some renown among the professional super shuttle drivers, too.
The racing track was set in a world fragment named "Hell Storm Domain", which was a world of billowing winds full of furious spiritual energy.
The gravity in the Hell Storm Domain was only two thirds of that in the Heaven's Origin Sector. Many giant stones were floating up in the sky and formed unpredictable floating stone belts.
A super shuttle that was running in the Hell Storm Domain would need to worry about both the ferocious wind that was everywhere and the floating stone belt that might come from nowhere.
Once consumed by the floating stone belt, the super shuttle would be like a rat that fell into a meat mincer, ready to be ruined at any moment.
The reason why the Aurora Autos offered such a high bonus was partly because it wanted to attract more super shuttle fans, and partly because it was a good way of marketing.
Every driver that had finished the Hell Storm Racetrack, whatever their result was, would need to overhaul their super shuttles or even entirely renew them.
The repair and modification fees alone were profitable enough for the Aurora Autos.
In some cases, a pissed-off driver would directly buy a brand new super shuttle from the Aurora Autos when his old one was crashed in the Hell Storm Racetrack, only to crash it again on the racetrack half a day later.
With the expenses of the drivers, the bonus could be earned back easily.
0.1 second for one million, 1 second for ten million, 10 seconds for a hundred million.
It sounded like a shockingly high bonus.
However, anyone who had touched super shuttle racing would know that when the record had reached its limitation, it would be extremely difficult to be improved by even a 0.1 second.
When the Hell Storm Racetrack was just built, the record was being broken all the time and when it happened, it would be brought down by half a second or an entire second.
But as more and more people were drawn to the Hell Storm Racetrack, many professional drivers joined the competition, too. The more times the record was broken, the trickier it was to break it again in the future.
The latest record of Hell Storm Racetrack, 11'47''35, was created by a professional driver and had stay unbroken for three months.
Even so, countless super shuttle fans were still passionate about the Hell Storm Racetrack. One of their major motivations was that there were a lot of uncertainties on this racing track.
On a normal racetrack, the gap between amateur drivers and professional drivers was transparent. There was absolutely no way that an amateur driver could break a record set by a professional driver.
In comparison, the Hell Storm Racetrack reduced the gap between professionals and amateurs to the minimum.
Theoretically speaking, if an amateur driver was lucky enough to race under a peaceful weather without being hindered by the floating stone belt, there would be a good chance that he might beat the record of a professional.
Although it was just a theoretical possibility, it was still better than nothing.
As time went by, it was not the bonus that the super shuttle fans were chasing after. They were too rich to take the small change seriously.
"I've beaten the professional driver blablabla on the Hell Storm Racetrack!"
Such winning declarations were what they were going after.
Therefore, although it was an extremely difficult racetrack, the challengers still came and had a go, which exactly fitted the purpose of the boss of the Aurora Autos.
"I don't care about the bonus!"
Yuan Qi's eyes were beaming in redness. He shouted fiercely, "I just want to know what my limit is!"
Li Yao stared at the bird nest. A moment later, he asked, "Is there any requirement for the driver or the vehicle to challenge the Hell Storm Racetrack?"
Yuan Qi shook his head.
"Nothing special. There're just two.
"Firstly, the driver can only use the strength of the Refinement Stage. Using the strength of the Building Foundation Stage or above is strictly forbidden. It's for the fairness of the game, which was supposed to be a pure competition of driving skills.
"Secondly, the super shuttle can be modified any way the driver deems fit, except that the spiritual shield of the vehicle must be kept below a given amount and that no aggressive weapons should be installed to the vehicle. Otherwise, someone might decide to blow the floating stone belt into pieces before moving on, which would be a foul play."
Li Yao pondered for a moment. He said, "Let's go and maintain your ALKAID first. I'm very interested in this Hell Storm Racetrack, too!"
An hour later.
Through a large-scale teleportation array, Yuan Qi drove ALKAID to the Hell Storm Domain.
Almost a hundred crystal cameras captured what was happening inside the Hell Storm Domain and sent the pictures to a giant light beam outside of the bird nest.
Some of the pictures were taken from the perspective of Yuan Qi, which made the audience feel that they were also in the super shuttle ready for the challenge.
With the booming of power rune arrays and the explosive music, everyone felt that their hearts were beating fast and their blood was boiling.
Encouraged by the passionate vibe, many of the spectators were preparing to take their chance on the Hell Storm Racetrack when Yuan Qi was done.
Li Yao couldn't help but laughed when he saw the picture of the Hell Storm Domain.
Howling winds, drifting sand, stirring earth… The environment of the Hell Storm Domain was almost exactly the same as the Dust Storm Area where he had been training day and night back when he was in the Thunder Training Camp.
The only difference was that the intensity of the wind in the Hell Storm Domain was much weaker than in the Dust Storm Area. If it were exactly the same as the Dust Storm Area, no driver would be able to drive a super shuttle through.
Moreover, because of the low gravity, the floating stone belts that was wandering in the sky were much denser than those in the Dust Storm Area. They were like giant beasts made up of rocks lurking in the driver's way waiting for their prey.
The scenery of the Hell Storm Domain reminded Li Yao of the days when he slayed the tornadoes one after another. His fingers danced up and down without him knowing.
The racetrack in the Hell Storm Domain was marked out by two mystic lights and extended deep into the wind and sand.
ALKAID roared and thrusted into the sandstorm, like a mighty warrior who was charging at the formation of a hostile army alone.
Li Yao focused all his attention on Yuan Qi, not missing even a minor movement he made during the race.
Having challenged the Hell Storm Racetrack multiple times, Yuan Qi was quite familiar with the raging wind. ALKAID was like a sharp scalpel, finding the gaps between winds and cutting into them in sweeping curves.
His performance, although unprofessional in Li Yao's eyes, was good enough to drive the super shuttle fans crazy.
Everybody was pulling out their hair and couldn't believe their eyes.
"Amazing, Yuan Qi is truly amazing today!"
"He hasn't been interfered by the wind for an entire minute. Every gap between the gusts of wind has been detected. His movement has been precise, too."
Li Yao smiled. It was true that getting through the wind through the gaps could avoid the interference of the wind. However, it also meant that the super shuttle wouldn't be able to be stimulated by the power of the wind. It was acceptable, but only acceptable.
As the saying went, 'Let the wind guide the ship when you're sailing', only with the boost of the wind could one expect to break the limit of all limitations.
This was Li Yao had learnt that in the Dust Storm Area.
Very soon, Yuan Qi encountered the first floating stone belt.
Countless scattered stones, under the savage wind, was colliding and crushing each other, dashing in various directions without any pattern. It was like a remorseless battlefield.
Yuan Qi slowed down, yet his vehicle was more blurred than before, like a candle which was being attacked by wind yet managed to keep burning, however unstably.
Yuan Qi rushed out of the first floating stone belt. He accelerated again.
Soon, his super shuttle had passed four floating stone belts without being damaged.
But he was caught by an extraordinary floating stone belt when he was arriving at the finish line.
ALKAID's shell crackled as the scattered stone hit it like bullets, resulting to countless scrapes and rupture.
"Crap! Yuan Qi has been tangled up!"
"No shuttle could survive such intensive impacts!"
"He's going to have to quit the game!"
In everybody's shocking scream, Yuan Qi persisted like a butterfly in a thunderstorm. With a dive, he accelerated and broke out of the floating stone belt from its below in a long arc, before he finally reached the finish line.
Yuan Qi exclaimed in great joy, although his legs were still shivering when he crawled out of ALKAID which was no better than a pile of garbage with the deep wounds.
"12'12''38. A half-minute improvement of my personal record!
"Had I not unluckily met the damn floating stone belt towards the end, I might've been able to break the professional lap record!
"Master Fang, is there any possibility to further enhance the performance of ALKAID? Can you specially adapt it to the Hell Storm Racetrack?"
Yuan Qi was screaming and shouting due to over-excitement.
Li Yao glanced at him and said seriously,
"Of course it can be further strengthened. And yes, I can make it a model specially for the Hell Storm Racetrack. The problem is, will you be able to drive it?"
Yuan Qi was dazed. He was just asking the questions out of thrill and didn't expect an affirmative answer.
According to him, ALKAID was already perfect. To further boost its performance, the only way would be to replace the entire impetus system.
But on the Hell Storm Racetrack, a strong impetus system could not help very much because of the various of barriers.
Yuan Qi couldn't help but asked,
"What does a special model for the Hell Storm Racetrack look like? And does it demand unique driving skills?"
Li Yao smiled and said, "How about this, let's make another deal.
"ALKAID has been ravaged now and requires major maintenance anyway. I can help you repair it and upgrade it from inside to outside into a special model for the Hell Storm Racetrack for free.
"As my reward, I get to drive your ALKAID on the Hell Storm Racetrack once tomorrow."
At night, in Mr. Sun's super shuttle workshop.
"BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!"
The dull noises had lasted for an entire day.
Li Yao had been watching the video clips of experts racing in the Hell Storm Domain on more than twenty light beams simultaneously.
He paid special attention to the few professional drivers who had broken the records. Their video clips were scrutinized second by second with no detail being ignored.
"A professional is indeed a professional. So impressive!"
Li Yao rubbed his sore eyes and sighed.
On a racetrack that was full of uncertainties, such as the one in the Hell Storm Domain, the results of professionals might be only ten to twenty seconds better than those of amateurs.
However, in Li Yao's eyes, the ten to twenty seconds meant that every cut-in, every acceleration, and every back-end whip of the professional players was much better than those of amateurs.
In the flying sand and rolling pebbles, every perfect movement could only bring an advantage of 0.1 second. It was a lot of 0.1 seconds accumulated together that caused the final gap of ten to twenty seconds.
Yuan Qi said that he might have been able to break the professional record with better luck.
But in Li Yao's opinion, he had been unbelievably lucky today.
"I thought too little of the professionals before. Amateurs such as Yuan Qi are far from the best of the super shuttle racing players.
"I never thought that the professional drivers could be so strong!
"Their super shuttles are all masterpieces of experienced refiners that have been specially adjusted for the sandy environment.
"In the best-case scenario, I will only be faster than them by one or two seconds. It's still too close.
"What should I do?"
Li Yao gazed at the light beams, as if he were a Buddha statue made of mud, paying no attention to Mr. Sun and his mechanics' whispers.
When a super shuttle was crashed by scattered stones and falling to the ground in the picture, Li Yao felt he was onto something.
Deep inside his brain, although still not clear, a crazy modification plan and a set of out-of-mind racing strategies that had never been used before popped up.