While Li Yao was reveling in the vast world of starship maintenance, the top meeting room of Gold Horn was tense. Even Lei Dalu's smile was a bit rigid today.
In front of him and Bai Kaixin were three crystal suits, or whatever was left of them, as well as many components whose purposes no one could tell.
Sitting across them, Xiong Tao said emotionlessly, "When I saw the explosion of the cockpit of Ghost Jail a few days ago, I felt that something was not right. Therefore, other than repairing Gold Horn, I've also spent some time over the past few days searching for and collecting the debris in the critical parts of Ghost Jail.
"And once they are put together, a soul-stirring discovery is revealed.
"Firstly, look at the scrap of a chest-protecting plate refined out of titanium alloys.
"Titanium is a rarely-seen, special-purpose metal that is of high value. Judging from the defense rune arrays carved on the plate, it should've been made by 'Yin Feng', a seasoned Armadominus of Spider Den.
"Although Yin Feng always hangs around with space pirates, his expertise in refining is well acknowledged among the refiners of the Flying Star Sector. He is one of the best in the trade.
"He is a respected man on Spider Den and doesn't have the habit of serving small fries. Only the most brutal and barbaric space pirates have the privilege of wearing one of the crystal suits crafted by Yin Feng.
"As far as I know, among the space pirates of Storm Prison that we pursued, only one of them was wearing a crystal suit that had been installed with a titanium-alloy chest-protecting plate. Fengyu Ming and his 'Dark Fire Battlesuit'!"
Bai Kaixin observed, "The chest-protecting plate is the most important defense magical equipment on a crystal suit. Finding that means finding Fengyu Ming. Uncle Xiong, where did you locate this scrap?"
Xiong Tao replied, still emotionlessly, "Among the residues in the bottom of a crystal reactor."
Bai Kaixin was dazed.
Lei Dalu's brows, which were as thick as brooms, shot up.
Xiong Tao continued, "I found quite a few other scraps that seemed to belong to a crystal suit. But most of them are as undistinguishable as mud. Only the few materials that boasted resistance against extremely high temperatures managed to maintain their basic form. Judging from the number and ratio of the scraps, there should've been a complete Dark Fire Battlesuit."
Bai Kaixin frowned and mumbled, "Did Fengyu Ming throw his own crystal suit into the crystal reactor to destroy it?"
Xiong Tao shook his head. "I also found a fuel transmission tube on which there were clearly traces of struggling and scratching. Many broken bones and a lot of blood stains were found, too."
Bai Kaixin was silent for a moment, but his eyes grew wider and wider. He remarked, "Therefore, Fengyu Ming was stuffed into the fuel transmission tube in his crystal suit by brute force, tossed into the crystal reactor, and burned to ash alive?"
Xiong Tao nodded. "It is the only plausible explanation."
Bai Kaixin and Lei Dalu looked at each other and both noticed the bewilderment in their eyes.
Fengyu Ming was indeed not a renowned expert. But the 'Dark Fire Battlesuit' that he'd been wearing was a powerful crystal suit modified and strengthened multiple times. Who was it that snuck into Ghost Jail without alarming anyone and stuffed him into a crystal reactor?
Xiong Tao said solemnly, "There's more to the story.
"As Fengyu Zhong's only son, Fengyu Ming must've carried a few Cosmos Rings with him on his first solo hunting trip in case he ever needed anything.
"Cosmos Rings are extremely durable. They are often made of materials that are even solider than what jade chips are made of. Generally speaking, even a temperature of almost ten thousand degrees is not enough to obliterate them.
"Besides, most people carry their Cosmos Rings with them. For suspicious space pirates who didn't trust anyone, like Fengyu Ming, it's simply impossible that he kept his Cosmos Rings elsewhere, at least not all of them.
"However, I didn't find a single Cosmos Ring among the residue.
"The only possibility is that the mysterious murderer took his Cosmos Rings away after killing him.
"Fengyu Ming was thrown into the crystal reactor alive. Therefore, his Cosmos Rings were taken away before he was killed. At that time, there was still a horde of space pirates outside. There was definitely not much time for an interrogation. Ten minutes, tops.
"Fengyu Ming should've known that he was dead for sure after he was captured. Then, here comes the billion-dollar question.
"If it were any of us, would we have been confident to make a space pirate who was clear of his fate surrender all his Cosmos Rings nicely?"
Cold sweat was appearing on Bai Kaixin's and Lei Dalu's foreheads. Both of them had slain countless space pirates and were well aware of the difficulty of handling the evil, malicious, and cunning foxes.
It might not be hard to kill them, but it was a whole different matter to make them submit their secrets, magical equipment, and Cosmos Rings.
It was especially so when it came to Cosmos Rings, which were small, hard, and easily concealable. The experienced space pirates had ten thousand ways to hide them.
Moreover, a lot of assets and even magical equipment could be stored inside a Cosmos Ring, which might be the only hope for the space pirate to reverse the situation. There was no way that they could hand it over until they were tortured to an unbearable point.
How did the mysterious man get them within several minutes?
Bai Kaixin and Lei Dalu both felt that a chill run down their spines. They seemed able to envision that, in a dark, gloomy engine compartment, an obscure phantom was tormenting Fengyu Ming in ways that they couldn't fathom and made the guy succumb within several minutes.
"Let's put Fengyu Ming aside for a moment and check these three crystal suits."
Xiong Tao turned to another three wrecked crystal suits. He pointed to the damage on them and said, "Iron Tiger Battlesuits are best known for the plate armor on the front. There are two small launchers that can send out flying swords in its chest. But someone has torn open the crystal suit in one attack with a piece of claw-shaped magical equipment, avoiding all the solid structures. The heart of the Exo inside was ruined on the spot.
"This Gold Eagle Battlesuit was slashed open from the left shoulder to the ribs on the right. All the joints in between have been cut through, even including the plate armor on the back. Of course, the Exo inside couldn't be more dead.
"As for this Phantom Spider Battlesuit, its helmet now looks more like a honeycomb. We found part of a broken shell and yet failed to determine what it was made of after all the thorough analysis!
"Those clean, straightforward wounds give me that feeling that it was not a fight, not even a massacre, but a dissection!
"Yes. A dissection. Those brutal space pirates were no better than corpses on the slab faced with a sharp scalpel when they confronted the mysterious man!
"My conclusion is
"Firstly, the mysterious man is particularly good at melee combat. It's likely that he hasn't advanced into the Core Formation Stage yet, but his abundant battle experience made up for that. His attacks were deadly and effective.
"Moreover, he has a far deeper understanding of crystal suits than common Exos do. Or rather, it may be a natural gift of his. Like a shark that can smell blood hundreds of kilometers away, he can perceive the gaps and weaknesses of every crystal suit precisely!
"But the knowledge alone was not enough to inflict such perfect wounds.
"He should also be in possession of several pieces of extremely powerful magical equipment, or even a super crystal suit made of magical equipment that has been refined out of materials beyond our recognition. Even I can't evaluate the level of such a crystal suit.
"If I am to give a summary of the guy, he is extremely dangerous!"
Bai Kaixin took a long breath and asked, "Anything else?"
Xiong Tao nodded and projected dozens of holographs from his mini crystal processor. "These are pictures of the explosion scenes on Ghost Jail that I took. I have located thirty-three points of explosion so far.
"Blowing up a starship, even from the inside, is not an easy task. Starships have been built to withstand explosions. The fast-response filling foams can suppress an explosion and the resulting fire, too.
"The points of explosions were not randomly selected but carefully calculated. The most critical places were chosen so that the most damage could be done with the fewest crystal bombs. The guy even took the distribution of crystal tubes into consideration so that more enemies would be affected by the explosions.
"Proficient! He was definitely a proficient explosion expert!"
Bai Kaixin's white eyebrows suddenly moved although there was no wind. He extended three fingers and said calmly, "So, there was an interrogation expert, a melee expert wearing a super crystal suit, and an explosion expert who worked together to take down Fengyu Ming and sabotage Ghost Jail before we were able to do so?"
Lei Dalu grinned and said, half smiling, "Maybe, it was not three of them, but one. The mainframe crystal processor of Ghost Jail must've stored the surveillance footage of the entire starship. Even if it was damaged by the explosions, I believe Uncle Xiong must have methods to recover the information inside. Let's dig it out and there are bound to be traces of this mysterious man."
Xiong Tao squinted and said coldly, "And here comes the most important point."
What appeared in the light beam was the broken mainframe crystal processor of Ghost Jail. It had been cleaned up preliminarily, but there was a shocking hole in the center of it.
Xiong Tao pointed at the hole and said, "Look. The information storage chip group of the mainframe crystal processor is supposed to be in this place. But right now, the place has been messed up. It seems somebody stabbed their hands in and uprooted the entire chip group by force."
Lei Dalu's eyebrows almost flew off, yet he even had the mood to whistle.
Xiong Tao sighed and said, "But that is still not the most surprising part.
"The most surprising part for me is what happened to the alarm system. Nineteen alarm rune arrays, sixteen in plain sight and three hidden, were deployed in the mainframe crystal processor of Ghost Jail.
"The alarm rune arrays are kept in the hibernation state during the peacetime. When somebody attacks the mainframe crystal processor, they automatically trigger and erase all the critical data inside it.
"But as it turns out, although the chip group was uprooted forcefully, none of the rune arrays were activated.
"Do you understand? It's like a crazy, brawny man slashed you two hundred times with a rusted blade recklessly, but none of the attacks reached the critical parts of your body. Not half of your veins or nerves were injured!
"This is a real expert in magical equipment who has a profound understanding of the internal structure of the mainframe crystal processor. Impressive. Very impressive!"
Lei Dalu grinned. "Is he even more skilled than Uncle Xiong?"
Xiong Tao shook his head and said, "It's not comparable.
"The world of magical equipment has too many crossroads, each of which lead to an unknown destination. Even the best refiners can't boast that they are experts in every kind of magical equipment.
"My research field is super large magical equipment, and I've been working on starships. In regard to refinement, maintenance and modification of starships, I'm confident that I'm as good as anyone.
"This mysterious man, on the other hand, must've focused more on personal magical equipment, namely flying swords, battle sabers, firearms, and crystal suits. He is an expert in these regards.
"In our Great Horn Exo Society, Old Jie and Little Mai can both be call crystal suit experts. But sadly, they were both killed in the big explosion last time.
"As for me, I'm truly uncertain whether or not I can beat this guy in the field of crystal suits."
Both Lei Dalu and Bai Kaixin were greatly shocked.
Only those who were well aware of Xiong Tao's background knew what a high evaluation he had just given!