The person that had blocked their path said coldly, "It's not my problem that you guys are late. Time waits for no man - we're getting closer and closer to the end of the competition."
Huo Yuhao smiled, a very warm smile. "Alright then. Xiao Dong, Xiao Na, you guys can go ahead and follow his instructions. We'll make the wager. However, I hope you have the courage to stay here until the end, mister. I'm a very stingy person, and you will have to pay with your life if I lose my money."
The middle-aged man was momentarily stunned. He stared at the warm smile on Huo Yuhao's face, but for some reason, he began to feel a chill run down his spine. But the sensation only lasted for an instant, and he returned to normal as he said indifferently, "You're in the Duskwater Alliance's territory. If you have the ability, my life doesn't mean anything at all."
Huo Yuhao nodded and said, "Very well. Show us the way."
Wang Dong'er didn't feel very assured, but she went ahead with Na Na to make the wager anyway. Huo Yuhao and He Caitou followed the middle-aged man that Huo Yuhao had just threatened to the competition arena.
They weren't qualified to participate in the competition on stage, so they were brought to two metal desks in the outer corners that belonged to participants that had already finished their part in the contest.
Huo Yuhao frowned and said, "You guys don't even provide materials for crafting soul tools?"
The middle-aged man had just been threatened, so he shot Huo Yuhao a dark look and said, "We did have some originally, but there won't be any for you because of what you said earlier. You can find your own materials since you guys are late." He turned around to leave after he finished talking, and another elderly man clothed in yellow walked over and stood behind the two of them. The other contestants were in a similar situation.
"What are the rules?" Huo Yuhao asked the old man in yellow.
The old man pointed to a desk not far from them that was being used for the contest. "There's an hourglass over there - you guys will check the time yourselves. You have to craft a Class 3 soul tool before the last grain of sand drops down in the hourglass, and you will qualify for the next round once you complete your soul tool within the stipulated time. You will be eliminated if you can't complete the task. You may begin. I will be here to watch and to ensure that you don't use finished or half-finished soul tools to cheat."
Huo Yuhao turned around toward He Caitou, and then he looked at the metal desk that was well-equipped with crafting tools. He smiled and said, "Big brother, doesn't this feel familiar?"
He Caitou was wearing a mask. He naturally knew that Huo Yuhao was referring to their days inside the Illustrious Virtue Hall, and he nodded.
Huo Yuhao sighed and said, "Not giving us materials is just so harsh and unkind. I have to make use of what's around me, I guess."
He raised his right hand as he spoke. The old man behind him saw a dark-golden flash of light before one of the steel desk's corners was lopped off. The piece was half a foot thick, and the old man also saw the five sharp blades that flickered with dark golden radiance that extended from Huo Yuhao's right hand.
The Darkgolden Terrorclaw Bear was known as one of the most powerful species in the world of soul beasts. A unique and frightening aura could be felt once Huo Yuhao unleashed his Darkgolden Terrorclaw.
Huo Yuhao flicked his claw upwards, and the metal piece flew towards He Caitou. "We'll have to make do with this, big brother."
"Alright." He Caitou decided to talk as little as he could, to avoid saying the wrong things. He took the piece of metal and immediately began to work on it with a carving knife from the crafting tools that were laid out on the table.
Huo Yuhao didn't wait for the old man to stop him. The sharp blades flickered once more, and another piece of steel was cut off, but he took it himself this time.
"This is a standard desk for crafting soul tools, and every table is worth five thousand golden soul coins!" The invigilator was shaken by the Darkgolden Terrorclaw's aura for a little while.
"Oh." Huo Yuhao answered casually before he began to work with his right hand. Five golden blades trembled at the same time, and it felt as if they were forming a dark golden layer of water that undulated on the metal desk's surface. Metal powder and fragments drifted down, but they didn't scatter all over the place. They actually spread around him in an orderly fashion.
Huo Yuhao wasn't even looking at the tough steel that he had just retrieved. He turned around towards the invigilator and asked, "Are you a soul engineer as well? What's your Class?"
The elderly man didn't answer his question, because he was in a complete daze at the moment, his eyes fixated upon Huo Yuhao's rhythmic right hand.
That was a hand that could accomplish miracles! Huo Yuhao's five razor-sharp blades continued to move rhythmically, and the irregular piece of steel quickly became rectangular, before strange and peculiar patterns began to appear on its surface. The steel piece was subsequently split into pieces and carved… the entire process was as smooth as a flowing river.
Huo Yuhao's fingers seemed like they were just faintly quivering, and every movement was just so precise and accurate...
Just as Huo Yuhao had said, the old man in yellow was also a soul engineer, but he was only a Class 3 soul engineer. In the end, breaking through three rings was quite a drastic change for most soul masters, and many people couldn't breach that barrier, even across an entire lifetime.
This elderly man was just a Class 3 soul engineer, but his eyes were quite fine. He was part of the Duskwater Alliance, and he had seen multiple high-level soul engineers craft soul tools. What Huo Yuhao was doing at the moment was comparable to those high-level soul engineers. He was smooth, quick, and agile at the same time, and he was working at a speed that was almost impossible to believe.
From a soul engineer's perspective, steel was a relatively standard crafting material that was also easy to carve and engrave. However, working at such rapid pace was simply unbelievable, and the old man knew that he couldn't do anything like Huo Yuhao. The youth before him was going through everything so casually, and he hadn't even pulled out his carving knife. This youth was just using sharp blades from his martial soul, or perhaps from a soul skill, to craft his soul tool.
The silver-white steel gradually took shape. Huo Yuhao didn't use a single crafting toolfrom the table, but an impeccable metal tube was produced just like that. He quickly assembled, crafted, and inserted the formation arrays.
Huo Yuhao used the five sharp claws of his Darkgolden Terrorclaw to cut, drill, slice, chisel, and whatever techniques he had to use to craft his soul tool, and he only used one hand from beginning to end. Of course, there was no way he could use his other hand even if he wanted to, but the old man didn't know that. The elderly man felt as if he wasn't watching a contest, but a performance, an incredibly spectacular performance in crafting soul tools.
This process didn't continue for too long. Five minutes, after just five minutes, Huo Yuhao's undulating blades halted, and his body casually turned around as he signaled to the old man, who had a blank look in his eyes. "It's done!"
The elderly man recovered from his astonishment, and quickly stepped forward to pick up the silver-white soul tool on the desk.
The silver-white metal tube was long and smooth. It was about a foot long, and there was an arm buckle beneath it, so it was most suitable for use when attached to the arm. The old man carefully infused soul power into the soul tool, and it immediately lit up. The old man gasped, as he could feel that this soul tool was consuming his soul power at an alarming rate, to the point where he couldn't control it anymore. Afterwards, he could feel the formation arrays activating themselves from the soul power compressed in them. The entire silver-white metal tube sparkled, and intense soul power immediately began to radiate out of it. He realized that there was no way for him to stop it.
The contest was still ongoing at the moment, and this was the Green Hotel's Golden Hall! The invigilator didn't know what would happen if this soul tool was allowed to fire. He went a little hysterical as he exclaimed, "Quick, make it stop! Why won't it stop?"
Huo Yuhao smiled and said, "That's because you're not operating it in the right way." He raised his right hand as he spoke, and pressed down gently on the tube's surface. The charging and compression instantly disappeared, and the entire soul tool powered down.
Huo Yuhao said, "Your soul power isn't wasted. The energy-gathering formation array will still maintain its activity for two hours, and you can fire it at anytime you wish."
The old man wiped the sweat from his brow and stared at Huo Yuhao fearfully. "The soul tool that you have made is…"
Huo Yuhao grinned and said, "It's a simplified energy-gathering soul cannon. It should be at least Class 3, but Class 4 soul engineers are typically more suited to operate something like this. It seems like you're not a Class 4 soul engineer yet. The materials that I have had to retrieve on the spot were a little substandard, so this cannon can only be fired thrice. If you want to play around with it, you'll have to wait for me to complete the qualifying round. My part of the contest is over; have I passed?"
The old man's expression was entirely different from before. He handed the soul tool back to Huo Yuhao respectfully and said, "Of course you have passed the qualifying round. You're the one who has crafted this soul tool, please take it back. The soul engineers get to keep all the soul tools that they make within this competition. Of course, you can sell your productions to us if you wish."
Huo Yuhao replied, "I'll leave it to you then. Just treat it as compensation for damaging the table. That should be enough, right?"
"Yes, yes it's enough." A Class 3 soul tool was worth about three to five thousand golden soul coins, while Huo Yuhao didn't destroy the entire table, so repairing the table probably wouldn't require more than ten golden soul coins. Using a soul tool like this to compensate for the damage was more than enough. Furthermore, the crafting abilities Huo Yuhao had just displayed completely astounded this invigilator.
The old man asked probingly, "If I may ask, what Class are you in?"
Huo Yuhao smiled faintly and said, "You will know eventually. However, you have to continue with your duties. You haven't seen the soul tool that my big brother is crafting yet."
The old man realized that He Caitou's hands had stopped moving on the other side as well, and he had also crafted another soul tool from the piece cut off from the table. The soul tool that He Caitou had crafted was a broad bracelet, the kind intended for men. The old man quickly went over to check.
"This… is this a storage-type soul tool? A storage-type soul tool crafted from steel?! Oh, my goodness! That's such a waste of your abilities." The old man didn't know what else to say. He discovered after inspecting and testing the soul tool that this broad bracelet had about five cubic liters of storage space, and it absolutely met the criteria as a Class 3 soul tool.