Huo Yuhao wasn't in a hurry as he picked up a silver-white piece of metal and placed it in his soul tool model. He had already activated his Spiritual Detection, and the two soul engineers with the 96 and 98 number tags were his targets. Huo Yuhao didn't need his eyes to see, and he could still monitor every single movement that they were making.
Huo Yuhao was already astonished even though he had just started observing them.
The two soul engineers were moving very quickly, taking one metal block apiece and getting to work right away.
Experts could always tell with one look. These two soul engineers were familiar, well-trained, and they moved with rhythm and unnatural calm. They seemed extremely composed, and their hands were so stable that it was almost frightening. Every movement was exceedingly accurate and precise, and they did things just like Huo Yuhao had in the first round that he participated in. They didn't use the tools provided on the crafting desk, each instead retrieving a carving knife each as they began to do their own carving and engraving.
Truly formidable soul engineers didn't really believe in needing tools to help them, they would rather complete everything on their own.
What caught Huo Yuhao's attention were the two carving knives in their hands.
Number 96 was holding a dark red carving knife. The knife didn't seem like it was made from metal because it became thinner closer to the blade's edge. Therefore, this carving knife had a gradient that slowly changed from dark red to fiery-red, to light red, and then down to transparency. The blade was extremely peculiar, and its entire body seemed to be crafted from some kind of jade.
There were patches of cloud patterns on one side of the carving knife, and these cloud patterns seemed to come alive when soul power was injected during the carving and engraving process. This made the carving knife's sharp edges shine faintly with layers of blade light. The glow wasn't intense, and one could only see it upon closer inspection. However, it was because of these lights that the carving knife was especially sharp. The carving knife easily sliced and cut through the tough metal as if it were dicing tofu.
The carving knife that Number 98 drew out wasn't ordinary, either. His knife was dark green in color, and a little bigger than his companion's. There appeared to be rusty marks on its surface, but it didn't look to be made of iron. It seemed very old, even ancient, with dragon-shaped engravings on both sides. One could almost hear a dragon's calls as the carving blade was being used, and every cut and move added a green layer to the metal block's surface before the green hues rapidly disappeared. There seemed to be wind-type undulations contained within.
Ranked carving knives? Huo Yuhao was astonished.
The Carving Knife Leaderboard was the list that soul engineers paid the most attention to, and the list gradually took shape over the years. There were one hundred ranked carving knives, and the list consisted of the most outstanding carving knives on the continent. The list also had an order, but most carving knives were similar in capability and had their own unique characteristics. Huo Yuhao's Soul-Devouring Carving Knife was ranked on that list, though it was ranked towards the bottom because it had a unique trait of lashing back at its owner. Ever since the knife became Huo Yuhao's Life Guardian Blade, he had not brought it out to compete for a spot among the other ranked carving knives.
The ranked carving knives were assessed every ten years, and they would be compared with the previous one hundred carving knives on the Continent that were ranked ten years ago. The winners would be added to the list.
The Carving Knife Leaderboard was extremely authoritative, determined and judged by nine of the most influential and formidable soul engineers. One Class 8 soul engineer from each of the Continent's three native countries were on this committee, while the six others were Class 9 soul engineers from the Sun Moon Empire. It wasn't hard to see how dominant the Sun Moon Empire was in the world of soul engineers, and more than seventy of the current ranked carving knives were located inside the Sun Moon Empire.
It would be foolish to think that one hundred ranked carving knives was already one too many. How many soul engineers were there? Ranked carving knives were priceless treasures to any soul engineer, and it was glorious for any soul engineer to possess one such blade.
The most powerful thing about ranked carving knives was the fact that they had their own unique characteristics, and perhaps even their own sentience, so to speak. This was especially pronounced when creating formation arrays. Ranked carving knives would infuse their own unique attributes into the soul tools that they were used to craft, and these soul tools would possess special capabilities that made them superior to other soul tools of the same class.
Certain ranked carving knives made the crafting process a lot easier because they possessed an extraordinary ability to slice through metal. Some ranked carving knives could add elements to soul tools, and the advantage of using such a carving knife was extremely conspicuous in the circumstance that Huo Yuhao and the others were in now. Of course, the more powerful the ranked carving knife, the more complicated the workmanship required to create it, and the rarer the materials required to craft it. More than thirty percent of the current ranked carving knives were unable to be replicated, while another thirty percent were replicable in theory, but almost impossible to replicate in reality. The formula to craft the remaining forty percent had been lost throughout the generations, and one could tell from all this that a ranked carving knife was extremely valuable.
It was hard to find a ranked carving knife in an auction, even in any of the top-tier auctions on the Continent. Everybody would be fighting for the ranked carving knife if it did appear.
At this moment, Huo Yuhao could already see two ranked carving knives with one glance. He felt a little strange, but he was more annoyed than he was surprised. He really wanted to slap himself across the face, as he only remembered when he saw their ranked carving knives that he had one of his own.
Huo Yuhao had kept his blade concealed even when he was on exchange in the Illustrious Virtue Hall all those years ago. He didn't want people to know he had it, and he wanted to prevent it from being stolen, so he had never used it before. His Life Guardian Blade had been nourished within his Eye of Destiny this entire time, to the point where he had forgotten that it was even there…
Yes, he had forgotten entirely that he possessed a blade as powerful as the Life Guardian Blade. He only remembered that he had it when he saw the two soul engineers' ranked carving knives!
What a tragedy! Huo Yuhao exclaimed grievingly and indignantly inside. However, he didn't retrieve his Life Guardian Blade right away. The Blade had been nourished within his Eye of Destiny this entire time, and he wasn't sure what it had become. Taking it out now would only attract unwanted attention. I guess I'll have to wait until I get back... I'm sorry, my precious darling carving knife!
Huo Yuhao's exasperation and helplessness didn't affect his movements. He began to use the most orderly and traditional methods to craft his Class 4 soul tool, as he didn't want to stand out too much. According to his original plan, He Caitou was the one who had to finish his Class 4 soul tool within one to two hours so that they could win their bet. However, he was immediately rendered speechless as he watched the two men in black who were using ranked carving knives, because he was about to lose his wager… with their speed, they wouldn't even need an hour to complete a Class 4 soul tool!
The truth proved that Huo Yuhao's judgement was accurate. Half an hour passed, and the two soul engineers withdrew their ranked carving knives and submitted their respective soul tools. The countdown was momentarily stopped, and their submission times would be officially counted as long as they passed the test for their soul tools' force afterwards.
"Yuhao!" He Caitou called out softly.
Huo Yuhao forced a laugh and said, "Three hundred thousand golden soul coins! Looks like I was careless."
"That's alright. We'll see about that in the next round." He Caitou smiled straightforwardly as he continued crafting the soul tool in his hands. However, his speed was conspicuously slower than before.
In the end, Huo Yuhao and He Caitou submitted their productions along with most of the other soul engineers after about three hours.
The two soul engineers who were the first to submit their soul tools were already long gone. Their soul tools passed the test with flying colors, and were far stronger than the other typical Class 4 soul tools. There was no doubt that they would progress into the next round.
Both Huo Yuhao and He Caitou's Class 4 soul tools were small soul cannons. The force of their soul cannons was just like the time that they took to craft them, average. They qualified, but they weren't outstanding at all.
There were only forty-eight people who remained after this round to participate in the subsequent rounds, and this group included Huo Yuhao and He Caitou, along with Numbers 96 and 98.
Chen An met up with Huo Yuhao one more time before they departed the Green Hotel. Chen An told him that the tournament would become a lot more competitive in the next round, and soul engineers would have to face off against each other one-versus-one. It would be a little antagonistic, but Chen An wasn't exactly sure what it would be like. Furthermore, he would no longer be the chief judge in the next round, as his superiors would send higher level soul engineers to anchor things down.
Having a inside man like Chen An was extremely beneficial for Huo Yuhao and He Caitou's participation in the competition, and this slightly alleviated the pain of losing three hundred thousand soul coins. Thankfully, he hadn't thrown everything into that bet. He hadn't wanted to attract unwanted attention, but it did seem like a highly rational choice in hindsight.
"Yuhao, are you hiding your abilities again?" Wang Dong'er asked Huo Yuhao as she pushed him in the wheelchair and they departed the Green Hotel.
Huo Yuhao laughed bitterly and said, "I don't think so... I feel like a fool now! Three hundred thousand soul coins! That's just painful. I will have to go back and apologize to everyone."
He Caitou chuckled and said, "That's alright. Just earn back what we've lost. If we don't hide our abilities, we can finish our soul tools within an hour too! We would have gotten our money if we placed our bet directly in that bracket, but we just didn't dare to do so. The next round is competitive, right? We'll see about earning back what we've lost during the next round."
Wang Dong'er giggled and said, "Looks like you've gambled before, second senior brother. You seem quite professional with your words."
He Caitou smiled and glanced at Wang Dong'er. "Why do I feel like you're especially lively and happy today? Did something good happen?"
Wang Dong'er was a little taken aback. She smiled sweetly and said, "Of course something good happened! But I'm not going to tell you!..."
He Caitou looked at her, and then at Huo Yuhao. He smiled mysteriously and said, "I know what happened."
Wang Dong'er stared at him in confusion and asked, "What do you know? That's not possible! You will never guess it!"