Following the announcement, eight ladies gracefully came out to support a woman down from the phoenix carriage.
Every single person kneeled down when that woman descended, respectfully calling, “Greetings, Empress Dowager.”
But Long Chen was not amongst the people kneeling. That wasn’t because of his arrogance or cultivation base.
According to the empire’s customs, cultivators above the Blood Condensation realm didn’t have to kneel towards princes. However, cultivation base didn’t matter when it came to the Empress Dowager. Any citizen of the empire had to kneel in front of her.
The exception that allowed him to ignore this custom was his status as a Pill Apprentice. As an alchemist, he had the option to not kneel. Furthermore, he was sitting amongst a huge crowd of people so he wouldn’t be noticed.
The Empress Dowager merely glanced at these people before indifferently raising her hand.
Only then did everyone slowly get up. Long Chen closely examined this woman who held all the power of the Phoenix Cry Empire.
She only appeared around thirty-seven or thirty-eight years old, but it was said that she was actually over fifty. Despite being called the Empress Dowager, she was not the blood mother of the Emperor, but the actual mother of the crown prince.
Since the Emperor had stayed in seclusion for so long, the chancellors finally decided that continuing to call her the Empress was becoming inappropriate. Since the crown prince had come of age now, he was set to ascend the throne the next year.
Therefore, her title had changed from Empress to Empress Dowager.
With the ladies’ support, she slowly walked over to the central seat and sat down.
The seven princes also came out in succession, sitting beside the Empress Dowager. This was the first time Long Chen had seen all the princes together.
He looked over them one by one. He had seen the crown prince before, and he also recognized the seventh prince. The current seventh prince had become much better behaved now and didn’t dare to mess around as much as he used to.
Long Chen finally found the one he was most interested in: the fourth prince. It went without saying that the fourth prince was very handsome. His face always had a modest smile that was very friendly and powerful.
Looking over his surroundings, Long Chen noticed that many of the young women were already infatuated with this handsome prince.
Long Chen shook his head at the other princes. Although they were all very grand, the arrogance in their eyes could not be hidden.
Naturally, he thought of Chu Yao at this time. Amongst these princes, how many of them weren’t wearing masks? Or more accurately, were they all wearing masks? And just how many masks were they wearing?
A sneer appeared on his lips. The more power the royalty held, the more difficult they would be to deal with when they were corrupted. It would be better to have them lead some wars and have them feel a bit of pain along with their people.
Long Chen turned his nose up at those people who had killed others in secret without actually touching blood. If they had such intentions, then why didn’t they just focus on increasing their own strength through cultivating?
“Grandmaster Yun Qi has arrived!”
What surprised Long Chen was that grandmaster Yun Qi actually appeared at the chairs. His appearance immediately caused a commotion.
This was the first time a person like grandmaster Yun Qi had ever come to the Phoenix Cry Lantern Festival.
As soon as grandmaster Yun Qi walked up, the Empress Dowager quickly stood up and paid her respects to him.
“This old man doesn’t deserve such courtesy from Empress Dowager.” Grandmaster Yun Qi also gave her a half-bow of respect.
After the two of them had greeted each other, grandmaster Yun Qi seated himself. His seat was right next to the Empress Dowager and at the exact same height, showing just how high his status was.
His gaze roved around the crowd, and he nodded slightly when he saw Long Chen practically hiding in the corner.
This slight movement of his immediately drew everyone’s attention. Following Yun Qi’s gaze, they immediately found Long Chen.
“Looks like the rumors are true; Long Chen really has been recognized by grandmaster Yun Qi. He might have already become his apprentice.”
Some people couldn’t help but sigh. It seemed like just moments ago that Long Chen had been a bullied trash, but now his life had completely changed with grandmaster Yun Qi’s recognition. He had actually become a highly revered Pill Apprentice.
Long Chen cursed when he saw grandmaster Yun Qi nod his head at him. As he expected, everyone immediately looked over at him.
He had no desire to become the focus of everyone’s attention, but now it was too late to be low-key.
Long Chen rose up and bowed towards grandmaster Yun Qi. Seeing that, the Empress Dowager smiled, “Looks like grandmaster’s closed heart has finally been moved after all these years. Are you planning on passing down your legacy?”
The crowd immediately quieted. It was rumored that grandmaster Yun Qi was extremely prideful and would never take an apprentice within his life. They were all curious as to what he would reply.
“This child has a great future ahead of him. I truly do hope he becomes my apprentice,” replied grandmaster Yun Qi lightly.
Although he didn’t exactly say it explicitly, his words still shocked everyone. He was such a prideful man that almost no one had ever heard him praise someone.
For him to look so highly upon Long Chen, then just how important was Long Chen to him? Countless theories popped up in people’s minds.
“I must assume Long Chen is an extremely talented alchemist, or an ordinary Pill Apprentice would not be able to enter your gaze like that,” said the fourth prince.
Yun Qi looked at the fourth prince and laughed, “Being a talented alchemist is just one part of it. The most important thing is perseverance. Fourth prince’s perseverance is also very admirable.”
He smiled, “You overpraise me, grandmaster.”
The fourth prince no longer continued to talk after this. Long Chen’s keen senses noticed that his expression had changed ever so slightly.
“Was it because of what grandmaster Yun Qi implied?” Long Chen couldn’t help wondering.
“Grandmaster Wei Cang, prince Changfeng, and princess Baichi have arrived!”
Following this announcement, Xia Changfeng, Xia Baichi, and a forty-year-old, thin, bearded man wearing a Pill Master’s robe walked out.
His robe had an exquisite pill cauldron sown in over the abdominal area. The cauldron had three lines on it, marking him as a Pill Master.
Long Chen also had such an alchemist robe, but the quality of his robe was much inferior, and there was only one line on his cauldron.
One line signified Pill Apprentice, two lines a Pill Adept, and three lines a Pill Master. Long Chen narrowed his eyes; just who was this person? Why would he appear here?
“Yun Qi, after not seeing you for so many years, it seems as if you’ve aged quite a bit,” said Wei Cang.
The entire plaza became completely silent once he said this. Grandmaster Yun Qi was revered highly within the Phoenix Cry Empire and no one would dare say such a thing to him.
“Wei Cang, did you finally leave the Grand Xia because you’re dying and want to see more of the world?” replied grandmaster Yun Qi.
“Even if I was dying, it’d be better than my wife dying. And my wives have become more numerous over these years.” Wei Cang laughed. Whether it was intentional or not was unknown, but Xia Baichi hugged Wei Cang’s arm and pressed her body close against his.
Long Chen’s gaze darkened when he noticed that Xia Baichi was wearing the exact same clothes as the woman in the picture Yun Qi had shown him.
If he hadn’t guessed wrong, then this old ghost was most likely Yun Qi’s enemy, and maybe even the death of his wife had been related to him.
He was clearly attacking grandmaster Yun Qi and was using Xia Baichi as a sharp weapon. Fury rose within Long Chen.
Although he hadn’t had much contact with grandmaster Yun Qi, he knew that he was a peaceful person who was open and honest with others. He was an elder worthy of respect, and for him to be schemed against by someone like this caused him to recklessly shout the following:
“You’re just a dying old stick. Take care for the day that you keel over during sex.”
The plaza was originally deathly silent, so Long Chen’s voice rang out clearly in every single person’s ears. Everyone turned to look at Long Chen in shock.
“You bold peasant, how dare you be so rude to this grandmaster!” Xia Baichi glared at Long Chen angrily.
“Do you think I care about being rude to an old pervert drowning in lust?” retorted Long Chen disdainfully.
Following what Long Chen implied, the crowd turned to look at Xia Baichi. Wei Cang’s hand was already all over her chest.
She quickly shook off the hand and glared at Long Chen. She pointed at Long Chen angrily but merely stuttered, unable to say anything.
“Are all your Phoenix Cry noble sons this lacking in upbringing?” snorted Wei Cang coldly.
Before the Empress Dowager could say anything, Yun Qi indifferently said, “Long Chen is already a Pill Apprentice of my alchemist guild.”
“Did you hear that old bastard? This lord is a member of the guild. But what are you?” said Long Chen.
“Idiot, grandmaster Wei Cang is the chairman of our Grand Xia’s alchemist guild,” retorted Xia Baichi angrily.
“Oh, so he wasn’t from here; good, I was confused about that. Our Phoenix Cry land is so fertile, there’s no way such a quacking old lecher could come from it,” Long Chen sighed in relief.
This sentence of his made everyone want to laugh, but they couldn’t. But they also couldn’t keep it down, so the smart ones all lowered their heads.
Some people didn’t react in time and actually let out a choked laugh before covering their mouth. But that was even more embarrassing for Wei Cang than if people had just outright laughed.
The atmosphere of the plaza became extremely awkward. The ones who had it the worst weren’t the people down below, but the princes. They couldn’t laugh for fear of offending, and they also had nowhere to hide, so their attempts at stifling their laughter were the most difficult.
“Cough, today is a holiday, so grandmaster Wei Cang, please come up and sit. The festivities will soon start.” The Empress Dowager also had it hard. Neither side could offend the other, so they had to come to a compromise.
“Fine.” Wei Cang graciously accepted the offer. He coldly snorted at Yun Qi before slowly walking up to his spot. Once he sat down, he icily swept his gaze over Long Chen.
Was this old stick trying to intimidate him? Long Chen extended his fist towards him, his middle finger shooting up high. Everyone gasped at this act of his.
Wei Cang’s face immediately turned green and killing intent overflowed from him. The Empress Dowager saw this and quickly shouted:
“Let the festivities begin!”
A melodious bell rang out. The waiting people started to illuminate the lanterns, turning the plaza as bright as it was in the daytime.
A string of huge lanterns appeared atop the stage.
 The title of this chapter was actually ‘Smoke Fills the Air’. I found it to be somewhat vague and meaningless, so I changed it to something more related to what happened in the chapter.
 For those unaware, an Empress Dowager is the wife of a dead Emperor (or the mother of the Emperor). Technically she would still be the ‘Empress’ since the Emperor isn’t dead, just in seclusion. But after so long, the chancellors decided that with the Emperor in a permanent seclusion, she couldn’t continue being the Empress and gave her the title of the Empress Dowager.
The raw title of this chapter was actually ‘Smoke Fills the Air’. I think the author's meaning behind it was the conflict between grandmaster Yun Qi and grandmaster Wei Cang caused 'sparks and smoke' to fly since it's an expression describing the air above a battlefield. I changed it to 'Grandmaster Wei Cang' so it would make more sense to readers.