"All the audience in front of the light beam, the Skyhill Sword Seminar that everybody has been looking forward to is about to begin! 3,200 of the best young refiners have gathered together, fully prepared for an ultimate clash!
"In the first round, the contestants will be divided into groups of ten, 320 groups in total. They will compete against each other in refurbishment and maintenance skills!
"There are ten rusted, broken blades in front of each contestant. They will recover the total-loss magical equipment with the most rudimental tools!
"There is a strict standard as to what is considered to be 'recovered'. Only when the damage that the magical equipment can deal surpasses a certain threshold after receiving a designated unit of spiritual energy will the magical equipment be regarded as 'recovered'!
"Of the ten contestants in a group, the fastest to restore the ten blades will be qualified for the next round, while the other nine will be eliminated ruthlessly!
"One in ten. This is how cruel the match is. I can almost smell the scent of fire inside the field!"
The honeycomb-like field had been divided into hundreds of independent workshops which were connected to the contestants' personal chambers through short-distance teleportation arrays.
Very soon, colorful brilliance burst out of the teleportation arrays. Contestants of the same group appeared in the workshops one after another.
Li Yao walked out of the teleportation array and eyed his opponents, only to be dazed when he noticed a fatty guy.
He had run into an old friend. It was Luo Dong, heir of the Luo family of East Brightness, whom he had met three days ago in the sword-tasting gettogether.
It was well known that the Luo family's refining style was most distinguished for their hand speed!
Li Yao smiled and said friendlily, "Fellow Cultivator Luo, I didn't expect that we would be classified into the same group."
Luo Dong felt surprised, too. He laughed and scratched his head. "Greetings, Fellow Cultivator Li, I didn't know that we would be competing in the same workshop either. It is indeed a pity.
"In fact, your capability is quite good. Your performance was very stable that day despite your thick gloves. If you try your best today, with any luck, you are almost certain to be a dark horse and make it into top 300!
"However, of the ten contestants, only one can go to the next round. So don't blame me, but I'm definitely going to do my best!"
Li Yao smiled and stopped talking. He found his seat according to the number he'd been given. Then he sat down, crossed his legs, and placed his hands on his thighs dutifully.
His hands were shaking.
Luo Dong noticed that. He secretly sighed; the guy was a newbie to the Skyhill Sword Seminar after all, and he had lost control over his hands before the match began due to anxiety!
Let the match begin now! Li Yao thought. He felt like his two hands had turned into two ferocious animals that couldn't wait to devour the wasted blades in front of his eyes!
The soft background music was switched to high-pitched shrills, before it came to an abrupt end. The first round of the Skyhill Sword Seminar had officially begun!
Bo! Bo! Bo!
The barriers that had been enveloping all the wasted blades broke apart simultaneously!
There was no other sound in the vast honeycomb-like refining center except the rattling noises that were the result of 3,200 pairs of quickly-moving hands!
"The match has begun!"
"The best result of the first around last year was 54'22''! The record of the recent ten years is 51'24''! I wonder, is anybody going to break either of the two records today?
"Let's switch the picture to Mo Tianshui and Huangpu Xiaoya, our top two seed players!"
"Wow. Mo Tianshui is really fast. In less than one minute, he has dismantled the ten wasted blades into the most fundamental components!
"Waves are spreading out of his fingertips, make his hands five times larger than usual. The hundred components are all covered!"
"Ms. Bi, would you please explain what is going on?"
"Of course. Mo Tianshui's hands are shaking at a frequency that is too high for the human eyes to catch. He has placed more than ten metal pieces among his fingers, and when the pieces collide, a special soundwave is triggered, which removes the rust on the blades instantly!
"This method is known as 'supersonic rust eradication'. It is not a secret in the circle of refiners. But there won't be a second refiner younger than forty who can perform it as fluently!
"Alright. Let's move the camera to Huangpu Xiaoya. Hiss Her hands have turned into two balls lightnings! Countless electric arcs are causing the components to dance crazily in the midair!
"The competitors near her are dumbfounded!"
"It appears that the two monster-level geniuses are both confident about securing the title of 'Sword Master' in the Skyhill Sword Seminar this year! Incredible, truly incredible!"
In the live stream that followed, Mo Tianshui and Huangpu Xiaoya occupied most of the picture.
The two of them did not disappoint anyone. Their unbelievable maintenance skills were dreamy and marvelous!
As time went by, the number of blades they had repaired gradually increased.
"Everyone, it's only been 49 minutes and 33 seconds, and Mo Tianshui and Huangpu Xiaoya are both close to completion right now. Will they break the record and make a miracle today?
"Almost there. Almost there. Ah, Huangpu Xiaoya's last battle saber has passed the test! 49'55''! A new record has been born! Remember this remarkable moment, my friends!
"Mo Tianshui has completed the match. 49'59''! It took him less than 50 minutes, too! I can't believe my eyes! Any other year, this would have been a groundbreaking result! Too bad he met Huangpu Xiaoya this year and has to let her steal his thunder!
"I'm looking forward to the confrontation of the two geniuses in the final round very much!"
"Alright, let's switch the camera to some of the other groups."
After the conclusion of the two geniuses' performances, both the host and the two guests apparently lost their momentum. They continued changing the camera while they chitchatted with each other and commented on the contestants' presentation uninterestedly.
"Not bad. This contestant is cleaning the surface of the magical equipment with 'Fire Melting Technique'. Very creative."
"This contestant's skills are quite fluent, and reasonably good, yes, reasonably good."
"This is Luo Dong from the Luo family of East Brightness. He came 124th in the Skyhill Sword Seminar last year and is famous for his fast hand movements. His performance must be very enjoyable. Let's watch his show for a moment
"Huh? Luo Dong's actions are quite awkward. He seems to be quite anxious. It does not befit his usual performances!
"Oh? Luo Dong is not the fastest in his group. Another contestant has been suppressing him and going faster than him. The guy has finished the maintenance of nine blades and completely disrupted Luo Dong's pace!"
Inside the picture, Luo Dong was perspiring, his hands shaking violently.
What emphasized his uneasiness was Li Yao's movements, which were as focused and precise as a clock.
His actions were accurate, to the extent that one might call them rigid, and were not in the least enjoyable compared with Mo Tianshui's and Huangpu Xiaoya's eye-catching styles.
However, his speed was as equally shocking as theirs.
The components in front of him were quickly assembled into sharp sabers and swords despite the somewhat warped operations.
1 hour, 2 minutes, and 34 seconds later, Li Yao finished the maintenance of the ten blades first in his group. He passed the first round and marched into the top 320!
Luo Dong grunted. He stared at Li Yao in a daze with a pale face.
His fingers were trembling violently, indicating that he was experiencing cramp in his hands!
"Unbelievable! A previously-unknown young man from the Great Horn Exo Society has defeated the heir of the Luo family of East Brightness. His hands were indeed clumsy, but they were really fast too!
"Although Li Yao's movements do not fit the standards, the procedures of his maintenance were seamless. I barely saw any pause or interruption. He must've received unimaginably cruel training and will likely be the dark horse this year!"
"This is the most interesting part about the Skyhill Sword Seminar. There are more experts living in seclusion in the sea of stars than anyone can count. In the next round of the match, I suggest we focus more on this Li Yao. Everybody should widen your eyes and see how far he can go!"
One or two dark horses appeared in the Skyhill Sword Seminar every year. The host and the two guests had all seen many of them, and therefore, were not very surprised.
Now that the winner of this group had been determined, the camera was soon shifted to other groups.
An hour and a half later, all the groups had completed the match.
A commercial cut in. The host and the guests were all relieved to take a moment of rest.
Master Dustless, the old professor from Flying Star University, frowned and was deep in thought.
After pondering for a moment, Master Dustless asked, "Can you replay Li Yao's performance at one tenth the original speed and zoom in on the picture, preferably with ancillary technologies, so that we can see his hands more clearly?"
The host was surprised. "Master Dustless, why do you"
Bi Luoling, the rising star in Red Line School which was one of the three main crystal suit centers, raised her eyebrows. "Master Dustless, do you also feel that Li Yao's actions were odd?"
"A little bit."
Master Dustless shook his head and mumbled, "The picture of his performance keeps coming back to me. I sense that there's something wrong about it, and it gives me a weird feeling. Let's watch it first and discuss later!"
The host projected a light beam immediately and asked the technological department to replay Li Yao's match video. The speed was set in one tenth of the original; the picture was zoomed in with the resolution enhanced. Li Yao's stiff and clumsy hands were focused in the center.
Three heads drew close to the light beam.
After watching for a while, Master Dustless' and Bi Luoling's faces turned solemn, if not appalled. They looked at each other in disbelief.
The host did not understand what had happened at all. He asked, "Is there a problem?"
"Look at his hands, his fingers!" Bi Luoling's voice was coarse.
The host observed the subject carefully for a moment and still failed to notice anything wrong. There were no airwaves nor electric arcs on his fingertips. It was the most ordinary method of polishing. The speed of his hands was amazing, but definitely not something that deserved such attention.
"Didn't you notice that he only used eight fingers from beginning to end?"
Bi Luoling exclaimed, "His two thumbs were kept still while his two hands were moving at an extremely high speed. They never touched a single component and were not part of the maintenance work!"