Such enormous profits were too alluring, and the influence of Radiant City's three main underground organizations' reached every corner of the country, so it was natural that they could reap the rewards. Every year gave them immeasurable profits, and this was even under the circumstances where the country monopolized the industry, while ruling rare metals as strategic resources. The country had even prohibited exports!
The three underground organizations named this competition the Radiant City Elite Soul Engineer Tournament, and it piggybacked on the reputation of the Continental Elite Youth Soul Master Tournament.
Huo Yuhao decided to choose the strongest underground organization out of the three, because this organization was also being discreetly marginalized and clamped down on by the other two: the Duskwater Alliance. He was the only one who knew the rationale behind his decision.
The Duskwater Alliance's preliminary rounds were designated to be carried out at a luxurious hotel in the city center. One of the reasons this place was picked was because this hotel was not far from the Brilliant Delight Hotel, so the participants wouldn't have to travel too far away. Huo Yuhao wasn't that mobile after all, and a long journey would be a burden on him. He couldn't just let Wang Dong'er push him around inside the city…
The Green Hotel had a unique and characteristic name. It was a little more than a kilometer away from the Brilliant Delight Hotel, and was but two kilometers away from the Sun Moon Empire's royal palace, located in a very prime and profitable location. However, people often mispronounced its name, and so people easily misunderstood this place as the Romantic Love Hotel… and yet, it was because of this fact that it became quite well-known. This property belonged to the Duskwater Alliance, but nobody knew if the Duskwater Alliance's headquarters were also located here.
The Green Hotel was built on a smaller scale than the Brilliant Delight Hotel. There were only five levels above the ground, but those who were familiar with this hotel understood that its true substance was beneath the ground!
There were four muscular men clad in black warrior robes standing outside the hotel's main door. They were all more than two meters tall, and they surveyed the throngs of people walking by with ice-cold eyes.
Huo Yuhao and his group hadn't even come near when one of them stepped up and blocked their path.
"The hotel isn't open for business today. Please leave."
Huo Yuhao was still sitting in the wheelchair. He smiled and said, "We're here to participate in the Radiant City Elite Soul Engineer Tournament."
The man in black was stunned for a moment, but his expression then became a little gentler. Soul engineers were held in high regard within the Sun Moon Empire compared to other empires, and offending a soul engineer wasn't a smart choice even if the other party had a modest rank.
"I'm sorry, soul engineer. The preliminary rounds have already begun, and they're about to end soon. You're too late." The man in black spoke with a look of regret on his face, but his expression contained a little more respect than before. Perhaps his change of attitude was also because the mysterious aura from He Caitou affected his state of mind.
Huo Yuhao also seemed a little rueful. "That's a pity. I originally believed that I could represent the Duskwater Alliance to participate in the final round, and perhaps help you guys claim the championship. How about this? I'll use a hundred thousand golden soul coins, and I'll wager that I can pass the preliminary rounds today. There isn't much time left anyway, so you guys will win a large sum of money even if I don't. But if I do, it also means that the Duskwater Alliance will have another relatively outstanding soul engineer to participate in the final round. This is a win-win situation for you guys, am I right?"
The man in black was slightly taken aback. "A hundred thousand golden soul coins,,, are you sure?" This underground wagering business wasn't a secret. The underground organizations wouldn't be able to host a competition as large as this without implicit approval from the authorities. Therefore, the man in black didn't dodge the question, but he was still astounded by the sum that Huo Yuhao had just quoted. Even aristocratic families were rarely able to quote sums like that, and this guy was betting on himself. Was he not afraid that the Duskwater Alliance would play some dirty tricks to win his money?
Huo Yuhao nodded seriously and said, "I believe that the Duskwater Alliance will be just. If you can't make this decision, please bring it to your superiors."
"Please wait here." The man in black seemed even more respectful than before. He bowed to Huo Yuhao courteously before he walked briskly back to the Green Hotel's main door and said something to his companions before swiftly entering the hotel.
It didn't take long before a middle-aged man dressed in a long and elegant white gown stepped out from the Green Hotel's main door. He immediately saw Huo Yuhao, and he took a few quick steps forward before he smiled radiantly and said, "I'm sorry, my subordinates are too immature. Please follow me, my honored guests." He made a gesture to invite them into the hotel as he spoke.
Huo Yuhao was a little surprised at how candid this person was. He nodded in acknowledgement before Wang Dong'er pushed him into the Green Hotel.
The Green Hotel was quite rustic, indeed. Its layout was extremely simple, and there was no way one could tell from its appearance that this place was the number-one location that symbolized the underground organizations' influence. Furthermore, this was also one of the Duskwater Alliance's important strongholds!
The hotel's layout felt smooth and sleek. There were white porcelain decorations and ornaments everywhere, and even the flooring and the walls were made of white porcelain. White and red were the main colors.
Wang Dong'er surveyed her surroundings as she pushed Huo Yuhao's wheelchair. She thought to herself, Are those red decorations foreshadowing fresh blood? What does all this white porcelain signify? Fresh blood amongst all the pure whiteness?
The middle-aged man stopped walking once they entered the hotel and said, "My valued guests, may I know who the one that's going to participate in the competition is?"
Huo Yuhao said, "My big brother and I will both join the competition." He pointed at He Caitou beside him as he spoke.
The middle-aged man nodded his head and said, "How do I address the two of you?"
Huo Yuhao answered, "My big brother is called Tang Si, and I am called Tang Wu."
The middle-aged man's eyes sparkled. He could obviously tell that the two of them were patronizing him, and that these definitely weren't their real names.
However, he didn't know that Huo Yuhao hadn't come up with these names at random. The Tang Sect's original ancestor was named Tang San, so he definitely wouldn't coin an identical name for himself. Therefore, he came up with Tang Si and Tang Wu.
The man didn't pursue the matter any further. Many soul engineers had their own preferences and reservations, and many people were still relatively cautious. Since they were participating in an underground competition, there were quite a few contestants who used fake names. These underground organizations also definitely didn't keep their hold on these soul engineers based on their names. It was important for these organizations not to probe into these soul engineers' private information, as these organizations could only keep them here if they provided benefits.
"The competition has already been underway for quite some time, and will end soon. Time is of the essence. Why don't the two of you verify that you guys are soul engineers first, and I will immediately arrange your entries into the competition. Also, about the wager that you just mentioned…"
Huo Yuhao raised his hand, and Wang Dong'er passed a dark-golden card forward from behind him.
"This is the Auspicious Gold Bank's black gold VIP card that can be used across the Continent. Xiao Na, follow this mister afterwards to place our bet." Huo Yuhao spoke plainly as he raised his right hand, and the middle-aged man saw a flash before his eyes before a short dagger appeared in Huo Yuhao's right hand. A white beam of light shot up as a razor-sharp sword aura soared into the air and howled shrilly at the sky.
He Caitou's method was even simpler. He raised his hand and unleashed an enormous soul cannon, which he pointed at the middle-aged man.
Cold sweat erupted from the man's forehead, and he hurriedly said, "Calm down, guys. You have been verified, completely verified!"
Huo Yuhao smiled faintly and said, "Since you said that we are tight on time, then bring us there as quickly as you can." He gradually withdrew his White Tiger Dagger as he spoke.
Huo Yuhao always carried around the only item that his mother had left him. He was no longer the immature youth that he had been, and he had done some research and investigation into his White Tiger Dagger. He realized that his White Tiger Dagger was a Class 5 close-combat soul tool, and it possessed a soul skill called Devour. As long as his opponent's attack didn't exceed his White Tiger Dagger's absorption limits, the dagger could consume the attack and convert it into its own power, which would be released in the next attack.
Back when he had first entered the Great Star Dou Forest all those years ago, he relied on the White Tiger Dagger's special characteristics to survive after he was ambushed by that ten-year soul beast.
The manager wiped the cold sweat from his brow as he escorted Huo Yuhao and the others to some soul elevators in the hotel's inner regions. He used a soul transmitter to pass a few messages before he directed the four of them into a lift.
The lift went all the way down, and stopped after about ten seconds. When the lift's doors opened again, a cacophony of noise could be heard, along with a strong smell of paper and metal that wafted into their faces.
This scene was drastically different from the main lobby's simplicity. The shiny magnificence of the hotel's underground world dazzled everyone. Everything was golden, even the mirrors! It felt as if this underground world was made entirely from gold...
The manager led them out of the elevator, and they crossed an extravagant circular hall before they entering through a door right in front of them.
There were two guards standing by the door, who immediately opened the large door when they saw the manager.
It felt like they had entered another world once they stepped inside. There wasn't as much light in this place, and what light there was seemed a lot gentler. However, the sheer size of this place caused Huo Yuhao to react in astonishment.
They were inside a circular domed hall, where the hall's ceiling seemed to be made of uncountable golden lines that were orderly and rhythmically intertwined together. The enormous dome provided enough light for the spacious hall, and rows of seats extended neatly down the aisle, while there were spiraling escalators that led upwards around the seats. There was a circular room hovering at the end of every flight of soul escalators, and there was no way to tell with the naked eye how those rooms were just levitating in midair.
There were eight sets of these soul escalators and hovering rooms, and forming a circle about the place.
There was a circular platform in the center of the hall at least thirty meters in diameter. It wasn't as spacious as the Continental Elite Youth Soul Master Tournament's competition stage, but it was spectacular enough. This was part of the underground world, after all!
There were numerous metal desks on the stage at the moment, and light flickered from time to time. There were several metal desks around the circular platform, and more than a hundred metal desks on the central platform. Some metal desks were already empty.
There were row after row of sapphire velvet chairs around the competition stage, and they were packed with people. However, they were all extremely quiet, and they were intently watching the people hard at work at the metal desks. A conservative estimate would place the number of people in the audience at more than two thousand, and one could tell from their clothes and their accessories that they were all relatively well-to-do.
Huo Yuhao had discovered from Na Na that only the whales who had wagered more than ten thousand golden soul coins could watch the contest in person. The other normal citizens who had also placed bets could only watch from these underground organizations' outer betting spots.
This was just one of the competition's multiple regions, and there were already several hundred soul engineers below the age of thirty who were participating in the contest. The black market's great contest was alluring indeed!
"Excuse me, how many people from the Duskwater Alliance are participating in the competition?" Huo Yuhao asked the manager, who was leading the way.
The middle-aged man replied respectfully, "We have a total of two hundred and sixty-four soul engineers participating in the competition. We will have two hundred and sixty-six if we include the two of you. Some of these soul engineers have already completed their projects. Today's contest is only the qualifying round, so we only require participants to craft a Class 3 soul tool in order to pass the assessment. Of course, you have to finish the project within a certain period of time. Look there, every soul engineer's desk has an hourglass. However, only half of the hourglass is remaining for the last few soul engineers who joined the contest, and that means you only have about an hour left. I wonder if the two of you will have enough time?"
Huo Yuhao smiled, and the corner of his mouth flowed with subtle confidence and pride. "That's enough." He was roleplaying as another person and not himself, so he began to make adjustments to his demeanor and his emotions from this moment onwards.
Huo Yuhao asked, "What is this place used for normally? An auction?"
A wary look flashed across the mnager's eyes. "Have you guys never been to our Golden Hall?"
Huo Yuhao curled the corner of his lip apathetically and said, "Of course not. My family is so rich that…" He paused after this, and the same wary look came over his eyes. However, the wary look in his eyes made the middle-aged man look a lot more relaxed than before.
The manager smiled faintly, and a tinge of elegance could be seen in his expression. He said confidently, "That's a real pity, then. This place is an auction, and it's the largest auction house in Radiant City. Let me tell you a secret... even people from the royal family have sent people to participate in our top-tier auction! If you have time in the future, you are very welcome to participate! You will be treated like honored guests."
They arrived near the arena's center as they spoke, but someone blocked their path.
Two people who were dressed the same way as the manager intercepted them. After some brief conversation, one of the two men that blocked their way said, "The participants can enter, but everyone else has to wait outside. Place your bets immediately."
Wang Dong'er raised her eyebrows, but Huo Yuhao waved his hand and said, "Xiao Dong, Xiao Na, the two of you can go outside. Xiao Na will place the wager. I wonder what the odds are like today?"
The manager replied plainly, "If you bet on the exact number of people to qualify and you get it right, you will win ten times your wager. You can also place multiple bets, and the odds are different for every option."
Huo Yuhao was surprised. "But we said before this that we were wagering on the two of us being able to qualify."
The manager said calmly, "That wager is not possible, and this is but a qualifying round. However, the sum that you quoted must be wagered. Otherwise, you guys won't be allowed to enter the competition."
Huo Yuhao was momentarily taken aback. "You guys never mentioned that before."