The Cyclic Mirror Lake was round and wide, and the water within was impeccably clear. When moonlight fell on it, it looked just like a mirror from afar, hence its name.
Many grand buildings were built around the lake. They were grandly decorated to match the festivities. This was where the Fireworks Festival Feast would be held.
Autarch Yun and the other Theocrats were welcoming their guests to the venue. The ones who were qualified to participate in the feast were among the richest and most influential people in the Divine Capital.
The many clans, hegemons, officials, generals, imperial relatives, and even strongest fighters would be there to meet Autarch Yun. This was the first feast held since his ascension, hence why it was so grand. The whole Theocracy was greatly anticipating this year's event.
Young men like Tianming and the rest wouldn't be the mainstays of the event. They were an entertaining sideshow at best, held for their seniors' entertainment. The true purpose of the feast was Autarch Yun hosting the other greats of the Theocracy.
In a building around Cyclic Mirror Lake called Lakeside Parlor were many well-dressed people clad in all sorts of jeweled robes. They were none other than the youths of the Dongyang, Jiang, and other Ancient Clans. They were seated at tables filled with all sorts of delicacies. There were also many beautiful and flexible women in the parlor dancing and performing throughout the feast.
A man in a long, black and gold robe sat in the grandest seat. He gave off a sense of domination. Though half of his face was black, it didn't affect his looks, nor did it diminish his superiority at all. Instead, it made him look even more domineering. He was none other than the crown prince, Dongyang Fengchen.
To his left and right were tens of other youths standing in two rows. The ones that stood closest to him were naturally from the Dongyang Clan, followed by the Jiangs and those from the Ancient Clans. The way they saw it, Dongyang Fengchen was the undisputed ruler among the younger generation. He was a person who didn't show much emotion, making his personality rather hard to grasp. The other youths, with inferior statuses, were a little intimidated by his presence.
Currently, the song and dance was at its peak, yet, Dongyang Fengchen merely quietly watched the leading dancer, whose thin dancewear draped scantily over her soft, fair skin and supple flesh. Her movements were as enchanting and graceful as her unforgettable looks and her eyes seemed to speak of wonders that would rob one of their soul.
It went without saying that her gaze was fixed on Dongyang Fengchen. The change in her expression followed the beat of the song and rhythm of her dance. She seemed to be dancing in a deep trance.
Apart from Dongyang Fengchen, nobody dared to steal a glance at her. Soon, the dance ended and the dancer came to Dongyang Fengchen and sat next to him alluringly. She poured him some wine and served it to him warmly, her eyes locked on his the entire time.
Then, someone came in and made a report. "Your Highness, Li Tianming and Ye Lingfeng have arrived."
It was only now that the crown prince cracked a smile. The tension from before was no longer present. "He really is a brave one. This is going to be fun."
The other youths laughed heartily in response.
Dongyang Fengchen stretched his arm over the dancer's slender waist and asked, "Qingqing, have you talked it out with your patron?"
"Your Highness, it’s done. As long as they come, we will have worthy foes for them."
"Good. Who’s slated to fight them?"
"By Your Highness's orders, four eighth-level earth saints have been chosen. They’re among the weakest we have," said the dancer.
"Oh? Which four? Let me see."
Four young men and women stepped out with their heads lowered toward Dongyang Fengchen.
"Do you all know what to do?"
"Yes, Your Highness. We’ll feign a tough battle and lose to Li Tianming and Ye Lingfeng, letting them get the space in the Tomb of the Ancients. We’ll certainly lose in such a way that the seniors will have no way to tell," said one of the four.
"Good. If the show fails, I’ll have you pay for it."
"You may leave now."
"Ninth Brother, I'm feeling a little doubtful about this," said a Dongyang Clan member who sat near Dongyang Fengchen. He was tall and slender, not nearly as domineering, but oozed a little more charisma.
"Oh?" Dongyang Fengchen seemed a little dissatisfied.
"I mean, Your Highness! Forgive my transgression!" the youth said in a panic. He knew that even though he was also the son of Autarch Yun from the same mother, he could no longer just address the crown prince as brother. The youth was the fourteenth prince, Dongyang Fengxiao, and he was twenty-eight. Though he was the fourteenth prince, and his brother was the ninth, their mother had only given birth to the two of them. The other princes came from the autarch's other lovers.
"Tell me your doubts."
"That wretched Li Tianming killed Big Brother's son, Dongyang Zhuo, and still dares to act so arrogantly. He was invited to the feast precisely so we could get back at him. Why did the weaker ones get picked to challenge him, just to lose to him instead?"
"It's simple. No matter how hard we pay them back for what they've done, it would never regain face for our clan. Only by letting him into the tomb to die from unfortunate circumstances will the others know that we’re a patient breed. They'll never know when we'll come for them for their transgressions." Dongyang Fengchen chuckled and the others joined in the laughter.
"But if we lose again, wouldn't we be embarrassed even further? We'd feel rather down about it, at least until we enter the tomb," said a woman in tight-fitting, purple clothes. She also had a half black face like Dongyang Fengchen's, though it was of a much lighter tone that clashed against her amazing facial features.
But even though she lost some beauty from the odd half face, she seemed even more domineering. It was as if she naturally inspired fearful respect. She was Jiang Fengyue, the nineteenth child of Autarch Yun. She was the daughter of the autarchess and five years Dongyang Fengxiao's junior, being only twenty-three. Her talent was far more impressive than Dongyang Zhuo's and her own elder brother's. Otherwise, there was no way a woman like her would be allowed to mingle with the crown prince’s crowd.
She seemed a little impatient about getting revenge, having been there and watched the battle for the Earth Ranking. When Tianming called them the Nineshades Clan, she got so angry she killed a few innocent eunuchs and handmaidens to vent, though it didn't do her much good.
"Fengyue, His Highness wants Tianming to bring the girl called Jiang Feiling into the tomb with him. We'll let him win just this one time today so that he can suffer even more then," the dancer beside the crown prince gently answered, revealing his true intentions.
"Did I say you could reveal that?" Dongyang Fengchen said, glancing at her.
She lowered her head and stayed silent. Everyone knew that the crown prince was quite a lustful person who collected beauties. Even the sisters, Jiang Yutong and Jiang Yufei, weren't able to escape his grasp at the ages of sixteen.
"I heard that that Jiang Feiling girl is so beautiful that she pushed Sister Qingqing to second place on the beauty rankings...."
It was no surprise that the crown prince would have his eye on her. Dongyang Fengchen wasn't unique in that regard, though, for it was the tradition for all crown princes to seek out the most beautiful and talented women for their harems. After all, talented descendants were their trump cards. Some even said that if it weren’t for Dongyang Fengchen's immense talent and potential, Autarch Yun might not have been the one to ascend to the throne.
"Alright, we'll let him enjoy the limelight for a little while longer," Jiang Fengyue said.
"Little Sister, the atmosphere of the feast can easily inflate someone's ego. If you hate him so much, you're free to vent it when we go into the tomb. Don't worry, this Li Tianming isn't even worth His Highness's attention," Dongyang Fengxiao said. He was right, for Dongyang Fengchen had many other rivals, like the first prince, Dongyang Fen. The teenage Tianming was only noteworthy because of Feiling; there was no other reason why someone at the age of thirty would want to have anything to do with a teenager otherwise.
"The last time Li Tianming fought, he was at the seventh level of the Earth Saint stage. It's too bad we couldn't even find any seventh-level earth saints ourselves to make it easier for him. I hope he improves, or the performance will be hard to sell."
The others broke into laughter once more.
"The seniors are about to enter. Let's go," Dongyang Fengchen said as he stood up.
"Okay!" Everyone proceeded to go downstairs.
"Qingqing, you stay back," Dongyang Fengchen said. The dancer started for a bit, then stopped worryingly. "Why did you say something you didn't have to today? Did you turn stupid or something?"
"How long has it been?"
"A month or so."
"Get it removed. You should only give birth after forty. It's still prime cultivation time for you, and giving birth will take up lots of your time and ruin your figure."
"Do you think you'll be able to control me if you get pregnant?" he asked, squinting.
"No. I just wanted to get closer to you."
"That's as far as you can go. There is no woman suited to stand by my side. If you're smart, I'll let you be the head of Skysource Palace. But if you meddle in my affairs...."
"Only death awaits?"
"You're as clever as usual. That's great," he said coldly.
And so, the feast began. Tianming followed his seniors to Cyclic Mirror Lake. Many seats had been prepared, and the experts from the Decimo Dao Palace got the top seats that were just slightly lower than the Dongyang Clan's. It seemed that Autarch Yun was really giving them face.
The lake was rather vast, and the closer one was to it, the better the scenic view would be—especially that of the gleaming moon.
Around the seating were countless colorful lights. The guests were led to their seats, whereas their juniors, like Tianming, would stand in a corner and watch. Tianming didn't know many of the powerful officials or seniors that had come. Among those he recognized were Dongyang Fen, Jiang An, Jiang Xiao, Jiang Jianying, and Wei Ji from the Ancient Greedwolf Clan, as well as others from the Ancient Taotie Clan, which was the strongest of the Ancient Clans. Chong Yang, Jing Yue, and Ling Xing from the Ancient Qilin Clan were there, too.Previous Chapter Next Chapter