The announcer waited for the attendants to deliver the pieces of chest armor to each of the remaining 500 competitors before announcing the start of the Second Stage. For the second round, the competitors were given 15 minutes; a time limit most despaired to even think about. Yet, Elizabeth was still of the mind that they were given far too much time.
The refined chest armor given to her was made of the same material as the iron ore that she refined in the first round, the only difference being the refinement rate; where the armor that was given to her possessed a mere 70% refinement rate. Looking over the formula of inscriptions provided by the tournament, Elizabeth shook her head at how rudimentary the enchantment they wanted the competitors to imprint was.
‘It's not even the full Neutral Enchantment for Basic Forging!’ As Elizabeth complained in her heart, she took her inscription pen and began transcribing the inscriptions at a breakneck pace. After successfully capturing the attention of everyone in attendance, Elizabeth’s performance was closely monitored by everyone able.
Her fellow competitors may have had to capitalize on the time given to them to engrave inscriptions to the best of their ability. But, the spectators could freely concentrate on Elizabeth, and what they saw… it was every bit as ridiculous as her performance during the First Stage! In fact, it could very well be described as even more absurd, as Elizabeth went above and beyond what she was asked to do and inscribed the complete Neutral Enchantment for Basic Forging on her piece of chest armor.
She took a full three and a half minutes to complete the inscription and then another three minutes to ensure her inscriptions and the refinement of the armor were as close to perfection as possible. If she had followed the instructions and only engraved the foundation for the Neutral Enchantment as was requested for the tournament, perhaps she would have finished before even five minutes passed.
Looking over her work in satisfaction that she had done all that was possible to improve what was given to her, Elizabeth slouched over in her chair. Taking another minute to meditate and recover her expended energy, Elizabeth soon found herself bored with nothing to do again. Looking around the arena, she grew bored looking at the work of the other smiths as they all relied too heavily on their techniques. ‘What’s the point of possessing such high-level moves when your foundation is so bad you can’t even tap into a ten-thousandth of power held within the forging technique?’
She felt ashamed just from comparing herself to these people. Sure, they had better equipment, better techniques, and more time practicing, but she thoroughly outclassed them just by relying on the rudimentary foundation that all smiths learned. That was what her [Saintly Forging] method contained, after all. It was the same as her [Saintly Cooking]; containing nothing but the basics. But even so, with just the basics she stood uncontested when it came to managing Mortal Grade artifacts.
As her eyes drifted across the arena, she came into contact with an attendant and suddenly had a great idea. She waved at the attendant and succeeded in getting him over to her direction. Careful to avoid disturbing the other competitors, the attendant slowly made his way over to Elizabeth’s forging block and asked her, “Ms. Elizabeth… Is something the matter?”
Elizabeth smiled as she took her armor and presented it to him whilst saying, “I don’t have a problem. I just want to turn this in earlier, so that I may use up the forge to practice while I wait for the Stage to conclude. I wouldn’t want to be accused of cheating, so if I turn this in early, I should be allowed to practice with my materials, right?”
“...” The attendant was unsure of how to respond. There had never been a case as bizarre as this, where a contestant not only finished so quickly but also wished to continued practicing as the Stage progressed. Thus, with a shake of the head, the attendant said, “Please wait a moment as I ask the judges if this is acceptable.”
As the attendant moved to leave the competitor’s arena, Elizabeth suddenly recalled something and stopped him. Before letting him leave, she said, “Oh and could you also ask if I can buy some material? I just remembered that I ran out of my own supply before the tournament began...” Helplessly, the attendant sighed as he nodded his head and went on his merry way.
He was quickly allowed to see the judges as everyone knew of his exchange with Elizabeth, and after hearing what the monster lass wanted, all the judges couldn’t help but react in the same manner as the attendant. Yet, amidst the dreary helplessness that now pervaded the VIP section, there suddenly started to ring a bell-like laughter which succeeded in brightening up the mood. Lady Keter was tearing up from how ridiculous Elizabeth’s request was. But, through her laughter, she managed to say, “Just give her the two iron ingots she refined from the first round.”
The people in the VIP area quickly sobered up, and after being given the two iron ingots, the attendant left to go deliver them to Elizabeth. Carrying the ingots all the way over to Elizabeth's station, the attendant placed the pieces of iron atop the anvil as he took the completed chest armor. He said, “The judges have decided to give you the pieces of iron you refined in the earlier Stage free of cost...”
Elizabeth waved him goodbye before immediately throwing the pieces of iron back into the fires of her furnace. Once properly heated, she divided up the iron ingots into equally sized disks and began attempting the Multipass technique in earnest as she waited for the time in the Second Stage to run out.
There wasn’t much she could do in the five or so minutes that remained for the Second Stage, but she did manage to complete her first Time-type Enchantment after investing four and a half minutes whilst also Multipassing both Neutral and Time-type Magic through her pen. Soon, yet another buzzing sound came through the speaker and it was time for the remaining contestants to turn in their work. In the time that Elizabeth waited for the attendants to collect the competitor’s material and for the judges to appraise each competitor’s work, Elizabeth managed to make another two Enchantments with the disks of iron she had earlier refined; every subsequent Enchantment was completed slightly faster than the last as indication of her progress in the Multipass technique.
She would have begun crafting out her fourth Enchantment, but another buzzing came to lead the announcer to begin with the formalities of presenting the Second Stage’s results. Much like the disqualifying run for the First Stage, all those that placed from 500th place to 101st place had their competitor’s number displayed alongside their performance rating and were asked to leave. Those that ranked 100th to 11th place were given the more detailed analysis of their score; having their names plastered alongside their placement and performance rating.
Again, for the top ten, all the competitors that perform well enough to reach this far had their images shown on the TV screen to the north of the arena and for the most part, the top ten stayed the same as it was in the First Stage. The only change occurring being the rearrangement of the contestants. In particular, the top three caused quite a commotion as the announcer announced their results saying, “Number 3! Dave Mateo, the contestant who placed 7th in the First Stage, rose to third place after engraving premium quality inscriptions on his provided piece of armor, as well as increasing the refinement rate all the way up to 93%!”
His result brought about much gossip as it was uncommon to see such a large increase in ranking going to and from any Stage within any Event. Then, as Daniel Cherkovski was revealed to have stayed in second place even after engraving near perfect inscriptions whilst also augmenting the refinement rate of his armor from 70% to 98%, people truly started to go insane. Again, he had broken his past record and achieved something unheard for even before the previous Yaozheng Era, yet the white-haired lass had beaten him yet again?! Never had an arena been more silent in expectation of the reveal for Number 1…
Continuing to read from his cards, after announcing Cherkovski’s placement, the announcer gulped before saying, “As for First Place… Ms. Elizabeth Ultimatia has retained her placement from the First Stage with yet another unbelievable score… Not only are her inscriptions judged to be perfect by every stretch of the word’s definition, but she also went beyond the formula given out by the tournament guidelines to complete to entire Neutral Enchantment; not just the foundational inscriptions… She also synchronized her armor piece to achieve a perfect 99% refinement rate.
Taking into account the fact that there might be hundreds or even thousands of people in the spectator's area unaware about the peculiarities of Synchronization, the announcer continued to speak with a solemn tone, explaining, “To those unaware… given the initial quality of the armor handed to her, 99% refinement is the absolute highest refinement rate the armor could have attained. Only artifact bases that have been refined to 95% or higher during their initial Refinement phase can achieve the full 100% refinement rate after synchronization...”
The demon in question could be seen on the TV screen nodding her head in agreement with his words. As everyone around her dwelled in their disbelief over her overwhelming abilities as a smith, she, on the other hand, was sighing internally, thinking, ‘What a shame… If only they had given me a better piece of a material to work with, I’m sure I could have gotten another 100% refinement rate to my name...’
Stuck in her thoughts, the interviewer from before came up to the stage and asked her, “Well, Ms. Elizabeth you sure seem to be a divine talent for the way of forging! I’m sure all the spectators are dying to know how it is that you began your path to forging. We have no need for you to share your secrets. But, if you could, please share with us how you came about picking up a hammer for the first time...”
“How I came to start forging?” As Elizabeth thought about the question, she realized the truth was something she could never share with these people. After all, who would believe that she received some methods to begin her career as a smith by buying clothes and being rescued? What she ultimately came to say was, “As a gun user, I sought out the foundational skills that all smiths must possess for the purpose of supplying my own ammunition. You could say that I received my introductory smithing lessons in exchange for running some errands for a senior.”
“Mhmm, I see… Now for a final question before I leave to let the final Stage to begin, I’d like to ask: Your background information says that you hail from a Muay Thai Dojo based in Miami. How exactly is that Dojo supporting your growth as a Smith? Surely, they must be hemorrhaging resources to train a little demon such as yourself, no? Hahaha...” Although the announcer spoke playfully, almost everyone in attendance understood what he was doing.
By bringing up the matter of how she was being nurtured, several of the top factions could seek to snatch her away from Atid’s dojo by offering up some tempting deals. After all, even though Atid’s Dojo wasn’t a small faction, it was anywhere near the top echelon across the entire Martial Society. Many had heard of his dojo and though that information, it was widely known that his faction was primarily dedicated to cultivating martial arts and developing fighting strength. By asking such a question, the announcer would not only curry favor with top Forging Factions that were already salivating at the thought of picking up a talent as amazing as Elizabeth, but he was also doing Elizabeth herself a favor by providing her a reason to leave such an undeserving faction; at least in his opinion Atid’d dojo was undeserving of her.
Yet, for everything the announcer, as well as all the other expectant spectators, prepared themselves to hear, they couldn’t have prepared enough to listen in on an unhesitant Elizabeth say, “Um… They have nothing to do with my training as a smith. In fact, this might be the first they hear of my accomplishments as I’ve not really gone out of my way to show off. Remember, I’ve only been the Martial Society for just over three weeks. In that time, I’ve focused most of my time and energy on cultivating Ma… Qi and raising my strength.”
Just when her boasting seemed to have reached a new limit, the crimson-eyed demon always seemed to know what words would cause the most chaos within the arena. If before she had subtly humiliated all the participating smiths, now they had been thoroughly slapped in the face and the worst part is… Elizabeth had no clue.