After two hours.
342 examinees stepped onto a giant lift and continued to advance deeper into the ground.
The lift was like an enormous metallic disc which relied on anti-gravity array glyphs to silently move in the darkness.
The stabilizing array glyphs at the edge of the disc flickered with weak blue light, illuminating the terribly tired and haggard faces, one after another.
Even if the examinees were powerful cultivators, operating their brains at super high speed continuously for a dozen hours had made them somewhat exhausted.
The examinees were divided into two distinct groups.
340 examinees sat at the edge of the enormous disc, forming a huge ring.
While at the center, there were only two examinees.
They were none other than Li Yao and Jiang Shaoyang.
The monstrous performance of the two had shocked everyone. Everyone could not help but maintain a certain distance from the two unconsciously. They were afraid that they would interrupt the duel between the two monsters.
It was as though two T-rex from billions of years ago stood facing each other, while no other creature dared to stand between the two.
In a moment, a brilliant flash blurred everyone's vision.
Finally, the lift broke through the veil of darkness and sank a kilometer below the ground.
A grand and magnificent scene came into everyone's sight, making everyone hold their breath.
They'd entered an incredibly vast underground stalactite cave.
As they raised their head to look, countless stalactites hanging down the hundreds of meters high roof covered their vision.
When they looked downward, all they saw was pitch black darkness; they simply couldn't see the bottom.
As they looked around them, the cylindrical stalactite cave was over a kilometer in diameter and its walls had been artificially excavated into thousands upon thousands of caves.
It was a hive. This place looked like the interior of a huge steel hive.
And they were but the smallest ants.
Even the enormous lift looked like a lonely boat after having entered the stalactite cave. All around them, countless shiny metallic discs were flying; giving the picture of a busy life.
"This is the strength of our nation!
"Only by mobilizing the strength of tens of billions of citizens of a nation can make it possible to build such a vast and magnificent world under ground!
"Only with this kind of power can we compete with billions of demons and devils in the endless cosmos!"
Li Yao sighed with emotion. While he'd come to experience his own insignificance, he also felt deeply proud for being a citizen of such a powerful country.
The disc slowed down and flew towards the wall shining with a metallic gloss.
Two firefly-like specks of light floated up from deep within the underground and flew next to the disc.
The speck of lights were two soldiers with metallic wings attached to their backs.
The two soldiers each held a magical equipment that released a red light which covered the entire disc.
A dazzling red light suddenly turned into a warm green light; the identification of everyone had been verified.
On the walls, the entrances of hundreds of man-made caves were sealed by huge, metallic doors which, at this moment, silently slid open.
The enormous disc rose and fell, all in accordance with the roll number of the examinees; delivering everyone to their corresponding cave.
Li Yao drew a long, deep breath and strode into his own cave before the metallic doors behind him closed slowly.
The final round!
Li Yao looked around the cave with great curiosity. He was quite familiar with the furnishing inside the cave. It was a repair workshop, and at the back, there was also a small refining room as well as a warehouse. It was small, but it had everything.
The exam crystal processor displayed a message, displaying the topic's details of the practical exam, according to which the examinees had to repair a puppet warbeast to 90% of its battle force using the facilities in the repair workshop and the raw material from the warehouse within 24 hours.
"A maintenance-type task?"
Li Yao beamed with joy, was the task custom-made for him?
At the corner of the workshop, something small was covered with a tarpaulin. As Li Yao uncovered it, he was dazzled.
The puppet warbeast was quite similar to the "wooden oxen" that Li Yao had repaired in the small mountain village a year ago. It was controlled by artificial intelligence implemented in a crystal processor, giving it the ability to operate autonomously.
The Mystic Wolf was a puppet warbeast that was manufactured by Wolves Valley thirty-three years ago.
And it was purchased by the army in large numbers because of its excellent design and high performance.
This kind of puppet warbeast was created using bionics. It was designed with reference to many wolf-type and leopard-type demon beasts' appearances and characteristics. With its narrow, streamlined, and agile body, it could adapt to multitudes of complex terrains. It was especially suitable for fighting in plains and jungles, even if it was on a steep mountain, it could climb quite easily.
The Mystic Wolf belonged to a light warbeast category, with a length of 1.56 meter and a total weight of 156.33 kilograms. Two light crystal railguns attached to either side of its body. Additionally, a flying sword launcher could also be attached to its abdominal region that could fire twelve mini-flying swords; greatly enhancing its long-range firepower.
In addition, at the end of its limbs, vibro-claws built using a super alloy were respectively installed. Its jaw that was filled with steel teeth had extremely high bite force, and a flamethrower was also installed in its throat which was driven by flame array glyphs and could project a long stream of fire with a temperature of over a thousand degrees; it was capable of reducing the enemies into ashes in the blink of an eye.
The Mystic Wolf had two modes of operations.
It could be remotely controlled by soldiers or cultivators.
One could also enter a general objective beforehand, such as "patrol", "guard", "weapons-free", after which the Mystic Wolf would be controlled by the built-in crystal processor and conduct operations autonomously in accordance with the previous commands.
Once the Mystic Wolf appeared, it immediately replaced the position of many army dog-type spirit beasts. And it was particularly favored by the scouts.
Today, each standard reconnaissance unit of the army consists of two scouts and a Mystic Wolf.
However, the condition of the Mystic Wolf before Li Yao was somewhat worse for wear.
It seemed that the Mystic Wolf had suffered a long-range corrosive attack from a demon beast; its metallic coverings had been eroded and was riddled with holes, even the crystal fibers connecting many of the key points had suffered from corrosion.
And after the corrosive attack, the Mystic Wolf seemed to have fought with the brutal demon beast; its head had a deep dent, at many places the coverings had been broken into pieces, three of its four limbs were broken off, whereas only a few pitiful crystal fibers were keeping the two forelimbs from getting detached from the main body.
Its abdomen had an even more horrifying hole. Many of the engraved crucial array glyphs, crystal chips, and internal parts were missing. As for the rest, they were corroded from some kind of acid and riddled with holes; they were far from any operable standard.
With the exception of its intact spine that was refined from a special alloy, the Mystic Wolf was almost on the verge of getting scrapped.
As far as Li Yao was concerned, such a scene was quite common for him.
Whether it was the Magical Equipment Graveyard or the ruins of the Grand Desolate War Institution's Refining Department, 90% of the magical equipment was either on the verge of getting scrapped or were completely scrapped.
Couldn't he recover it bit by bit as before, or maybe even stronger than ever.
This Mystic Wolf was still far from the most damaged magical equipment which Li Yao had ever repaired.
Rubbing his hand, Li Yao threw himself into an intensive repair work with rapt attention.
First, he started disassembling all the components of the Mystic Wolf to see which components could be retained, which must be repaired, and which must be discarded. Only then could he start crafting anew.
"What the hell?"
After having spent eleven minutes and completed 80% of the disassembling work, Li Yao suddenly found a deeply hidden problem.
In his hands was the completely intact vertebral column of the Mystic Wolf.
However, from the sounds caused by the friction between the joints between the vertebrae, Li Yao sensed a subtle peculiarity.
Without a shred of hesitation, Li Yao pressed his ring finger with his thumb and lightly flicked at the twenty-second vertebra. As he carefully listened to the subsequent vibrations produced in the metal, an intricate cross-sectional diagram was sketched out in his mind.
"The twenty-second vertebra seems to have a problem!
"Although the vertebra column looks completely intact from the outside, after having been hit several times heavily, microscopic cracks which are invisible to the naked eyes have already appeared in the internal structure; the alloy has reached the limits of metal fatigue!
"As long as it suffered another high-speed impact, no, no, no, even without any collision, as long as the Mystic Wolf suddenly came to a stop after moving at a high speed, the vertebra would completely crack!"
Wolves were creatures with a copper head and an iron tail, but an abdominal region like tofu; its abdominal region was its fatal weakness.
The same was true for the puppet warbeast, the Mystic Wolf. In order to pursue incredible speed and flexibility, it had a streamlined body, the abdominal region connecting the anterior and the posterior regions was the most vulnerable region; it was only supported by the vertebral column.
What's more was that the Mystic Wolf was completely different from the wolf-type demon beasts, it also had two crystal railguns attached to its either side; the recoil from the fire would similarly produce a huge pressure on the vertebral column.
The twenty-second vertebra was located in the lumbar region and was the most important vertebra. Once it cracked, it was equivalent to paralysis of the lower body; the Mystic Wolf would lose 95% of its battle force in the blink of an eye!
"It appears that this is a trap!
"At first glance, the Mystic Wolf appeared to be riddled with holes, torn to pieces, and heavily damaged... but these are still minor problems!
"This invisible hidden damage is the true fatal injury!
"If we just repaired the damages on the surface and ignored the damage in the vertebral column, then, it would look brand-new but it will not be able to stand the combat trials. At the test site, just a few high-speed maneuvers would make its vertebral column to crack down!"
Li Yao slightly smiled. Since he had found the problem, the next step was easy to figure out.
Having checked twice again to confirm that this was the only trap, Li Yao walked into the warehouse and looked for the raw materials required for maintenance.
Soon, he discovered a second fatal issue.
"This isn't Purple-Gold Titanium, but a... Purple-Gold Titanium Associate!"
The Purple-Gold Titanium was a rare metal which was used in refining the special alloy that was used for forging the vertebral column of the Mystic Wolf. It was an essential raw material that could greatly enhance the tensile strength of the special alloy.
The Purple-Gold Titanium Associate was a very strange metal associate found in the Purple-Gold Titanite.
Although its appearance, color, texture bore a striking resemblance with the Purple-Gold Titanium, its properties were somewhat different. It was simply unable to elevate the tensile strength of alloys.
In the warehouse, there was some Purple-Gold Titanium Associate, but not even a gram of true Purple-Gold Titanium!
"Is this another trap?
"Do they want to test the examinees' acuity? Want to see whether we could differentiate between the Purple-Gold Titanium and the Purple-Gold Titanium Associate?
"I'm simply unable to refine a new vertebral column without the Purple-Gold Titanium."
Sitting at the center of the warehouse, Li Yao lightly tapped his finger on the ground as he quietly pondered.
In the control room, a strange smile was pasted upon the three examiners' faces as they watched the grimacing and pondering examinees.
"How many people among the three hundred or so examinees do you think would be able to notice the trap in the vertebral column, and even if they noticed it, after how long would they take to realize that we have provided the Purple-Gold Titanium Associate and 'forgot' to provide the real Purple-Gold Titanium?" Dong Liuqi asked with a smile.
Yan Tianhe slightly smiled as well. Just as he was about to open his mouth, a hologram at center suddenly flashed.
Apparently, an examinee had asked a question.
"Excuse me, why is there no Purple-Gold Titanium, which is absolutely necessary to repair the Mystic Wolf, in the warehouse?" In the hologram, Jiang Shaoyang very calmly asked.
 Vertebra - each of the series of small bones forming the backbone. Plural - Vertebrae.
 Lumbar Region - The part of spine in the abdominal region.
 Metal or Ore Associate - Minerals will often form in specific environments and be associated with specific minerals. Sometimes a mineral is only associated with a certain suite of minerals which are called metal or ore associate.