Leng Ziming was not really an expert in magical equipment. However, as an experienced gunfighter who valued his guns as much as his own life, he was even more familiar with the two pistols than the refiner who made them was.
Besides, Leng Ziming had done major modifications on the two gold pistols. It was quite a tricky challenge even if Li Yao had seen the original magical equipment before.
From within the intense, black smoke came Li Yao's calm-as-usual voice.
"Fine by me."
The rest of the four teammates retreated to the corners of the room and held their breath, waiting.
Hong Tong clashed two disks with a brisk sound by manipulating the gravity.
The match had officially begun!
Not only did the black smoke hinder the four bystanders' sight, their telepathic thoughts were severely jammed, too.
For a moment, the four of them couldn't see clearly what was happening inside the black smoke. They could only hear a series of sounds.
At first, there was the sound of wind, as if two storms were raging furiously inside the black smoke.
The two contenders were probably picking up necessary components in the darkness.
Then, there were sounds of things being thrown away.
At this moment, the two of them were tossing unneeded components to each other in order to disrupt the other's collection.
About half a minute later, cracking sounds dominated the smoke, as if two giant animals were feasting upon metals.
They'd started reassembling the pistols!
Although unable to see their faces, Ding Lingdang and the rest of the team could all picture their solemn and fully-focused faces.
The four of them were so anxious that their hearts nearly skipped a beat, while they were too concentrated to ignore the feeblest sound inside the smoke.
1 minute and 43 seconds later, something clicked in a corner of the darkness.
Then, all the sounds in the smoke suddenly stopped. The only thing left was Leng Ziming's heavy breathing.
As for Li Yao, he seemed to have become a ghost who had melted into the smoke. There was no way to sense his existence at all.
Leng Ziming spoke, somewhat hoarsely, in the darkness.
"You can't be faster than me.
"The two gold pistols modified by me each have 327 components. 272 of them are fundamental for the pistol to be triggered. The other components are to enlarge the shooting range and to ensure the stability.
"I have assembled 265 components, with only 7 to go. There's no way you could have been faster than me!
"More importantly, I've picked up all the bullets of the pistols in my hand, which is also why I was 5.4 seconds slower than you during the collection of components. There are no bullets in your pistol. What can you do even if you are pressing it against my head?"
There was a brief silence in the smoke, which was broken by Li Yao's calm voice.
"Firstly, the two pistols of yours are 'Tsunami VII' developed seventeen years ago by 'Blowing Wind Hall'. The model has a long shooting range, an impressive power system, and an ultra-solid structure. It also entails the possibility for the user to carve various rune arrays for the purpose of modification. It is indeed a piece of classic gun magical equipment, which you have upgraded with 27 special components of your own.
"However, this gun model does not require 272 components to be triggered. In the extreme conditions, 231 components will be enough.
"Of course, under such circumstances, the pistol has no precision whatsoever. Its effective shooting range may be well below 20 meters. Due to lack of rune arrays, its inner structure is not stable, which could potentially lead to explosion in the bore.
"But since I'm pressing the gun against your head, precision and shooting range are highly unimportant. So, I simply ignored all the components in these regards.
"Secondly, you did take away all the bullets of the pistols. That why I had changed the barrel of the pistol in my hand into the barrel of a storm bolter, which allowed me to use bullets forstorm bolters. At such a short distance, I can blow apart your head easily even if you are at the Building Foundation Stage."
Leng Ziming's voice indicated that he was not convinced.
"Although Tsunami VII is a heavy pistol model, its components are not appropriate for the barrel of storm bolters. If you are using the bullets of storm bolters, the odds of an explosion in the bore are at least fifty percent!"
Li Yao's voice remained tranquil.
"Not fifty percent, but eighty percent. To be precisely, there is an 84% likelihood that after I pull off the trigger, the overloading spiritual energy will raise an explosion immediately due to lack of stabilization rune arrays.
"But I'm very confident in my modification. The bullet will be shot out before the explosion!
"For a Building Foundation Stage Cultivator such as myself, an explosion in the bore would possibly seriously damage my hand. But with timely treatment, it is very likely that it can be recovered to normal.
"In the worst-case scenario, I can put on artificial limb if my entire hand is blown to pieces.
"But if your head is blown to pieces, you can't come back to life even if we install a crystal processor into your brain.
"Therefore, in my opinion, a risk of my hand being detonated in exchange for a certainty of a headshot is a good bargain."
Hong Tong activated the ventilating system of the room. The black smoke was soon extracted.
In a corner of the room, Leng Ziming was holding a gold pistol in his hand which was sparkling and ready to be completed. Yet, there was nothing he could do, because a thick barrel was pressed against one of his temples.
Behind the thick barrel was a messy eye-sore that could not be called a gun at all.
But no one doubted that fatal bullets could be shot out from the thing.
Leng Ziming's eyeball were rolling, while he managed to put on a smile. "I think that Mr. Li Yao is more than qualified to join Team Blue Bronze. With him as our teammate, we will never run out of magical equipment on the battleground. I have a feeling that he could produce a piece of deadly magical equipment even if he were given nothing but a frying pan."
Li Yao nodded his head and slowly pulled the gun that he had cobbled together away from Leng Ziming's head. Then he continued. "I've devised certain crystal bombs which use frying pans and cooking pots as disguises. They are perfect indoor traps."
Hong Tong and his other three teammates looked at each other.
Yan Yangtian whistled. Ba Weiqi grinned. Everyone was beaming with delight.
"Welcome to Team Blue Bronze!"
Hong Tong laughed in satisfaction and hugged Li Yao.
Then, they went through the standard procedures.
Li Yao and Team Blue Bronze signed a contract. He received a lot of personal combat videos of his teammates. In return, he offered his detailed files, including the abilities that he was good at.
In the Occult Orbs, tacit cooperation between teammates was always of paramount importance.
"Adept at ancient rune arrays"
"Adept at the identification of ancient spiritual beasts and exotic treasures"
"Adept at ancient puppets"
"Adept at the identification and repair of ancient magical equipment"
"Adept at the identification and usage of Heavenly Materials and Earthly Treasures"
Reading all this, Hong Tong couldn't have been more excited. He exclaimed, "Excellent. If you are indeed an expert in the identification of Heavenly Materials and Earthly Treasures and the study of ancient magical equipment, we may be able to try our luck in the 'secret treasure exchange'!"
Li Yao raised his eyebrow.
"Secret treasure exchange?"
He had heard the name before in the Bountiful Treasures Pavilion of Serpent City. It was supposed to be a trade fair for defective or unknown materials.
At that time, the manager of the Bountiful Treasures Pavilion also told him that the trade fair there was not even close to the largest of the federation.
The largest secret treasure exchange was always held in Killua City on the Grand Desolate Plateau.
Hong Tong smiled.
"As a refiner, you have probably heard of secret treasure exchanges before. Maybe you even joined some of them in person.
"However, even the secret treasure exchange in Killua City is boring. They're only trading things that we're not interested in.
"The secret treasures that they deem precious were mostly excavated from the Occult Orbs by us. Of course, we get to choose what we want first.
"A large-scale secret treasure exchange will be held every month in Empyreal Star City. The Orb Patrollers will be given a big discount if they want to buy any of them. Only those secret treasures which we leave behind are given to the outside world.
"In the past, there was no expert at identifying Heavenly Materials and Earthly Treasures in Team Blue Bronze. Therefore, we hardly took part in the secret treasure exchanges. Even if we did, our purpose was mainly for fun.
"Right now, we've got an expert in our team. We're definitely going to purchase something big!"
While Hong Tong was talking, he led Li Yao to a meeting room.
In the center of the meeting room was a fixed crystal processor which was connected to the mainframe crystal processor of Empyreal Star City in the minimum level, allowing it to retrieve information whose confidentiality level was not high.
An astounding scene unfolded itself in the light beam.
In the depths of the deep, dark, desolate sea of stars, a nebula was swirling slowly.
What was weird was that in the center of the nebula, there seemed to be a gigantic eye which was blinking and unleashing soul-stirring disturbance through the light beam.
In the center of the eye was a grey planet.
Although it was just a few seconds, Li Yao had the feeling that someone was peeping at him. His heart was racing, and he felt a strong killing intent.
Hong Tong explained, "This is an Occult Orb more than nine thousand lightyears away from the Heaven's Origin Sector which was discovered by a 'Phantom Traveler'."
The Phantom Traveler was a kind of special magical equipment that represented the peak of the probe technologies of the Heaven's Origin Sector. It could send back everything that it saw back to Heaven's Origin Sector momentarily.
Over the past hundred years, the astronomic technology of the Star Glory Federation had developed exponentially. Countless Phantom Travelers had been sent in every direction to explore the endless sea of stars.
The cost to launch a Phantom Traveler was one tenth of that to launch a star shuttle. They could be sent to more distant places than the star shuttles could, too.
Therefore, Phantom Travelers inevitably became the vanguard of exploration of Occult Orbs.
Only after a Phantom Traveler detected the existence of an Occult Orb and determined that it was of acceptable value would star shuttles carrying Orb Patrollers be deployed for further research.
"This is the farthest, largest Occult Orb that the Star Glory Federation had ever seen. It is also the one with the most intensive spiritual waves. According to the estimation of the experts, it could be a key battleground in the renaissance war of human beings 10,000 years ago, or an important military base of the Star Ocean Imperium, or an extremely rarely-seen natural paradise for Heavenly Materials and Earthly Treasures.
"The experts have asserted that this particular Occult Orb is hundreds of times more valuable than any of the Occult Orbs we've discovered so far. It may be the key to the great war between the Heaven's Origin Sector and the Blood Demon Sector!"