The huge lanterns represented eight petals. Eight maidens carefully supported them, and when the eight petals folded together, they created a massive lotus.
Suddenly, the lotus bloomed and the center of the flower shook slightly. Only now did people realize that there was a beautiful woman in the center.
The entire crowd cheered when she appeared. That was the Phoenix Cry Empire’s first princess. Long Chen found that she really was pretty good and worthy of praise.
Raising her hand, two lines of poetry appeared. The top one: the Heavens protect Phoenix Cry; the bottom one: let the Nation prosper, it’s People at peace. The entire crowd burst into cheers.
Long Chen smiled slightly. Being a nation’s princess was also pretty sorrowful. It was like having to live your whole life as a cricket in a jar.
That was a life of hidden fighting all day and night. But thinking about himself, he had also ended up in a life like that.
If you didn’t suppress others, then you would simply be trampled on. Being stepped on by those above you was whatever, but more importantly, they would crush you firmly to death.
Whether this had to do with enmity, right and wrong, etc., didn’t matter; perhaps this struggle was just the most primitive of man’s nature.
As Long Chen was sighing over this, the second princess appeared. Due to his absent-mindedness, he ended up not catching a glimpse of her, something he regretted.
But the next one was Chu Yao’s lantern. He kept his eyes wide open, afraid to miss a single detail.
First, a few fireworks lit up the sky, accompanied by cheering.
Then immediately after, a huge dragon kite whistled through the air.
At the same time, beside the huge dragon was a colorful phoenix with gorgeous wings. Golden powder sprinkled from its wings, just as if a real phoenix had descended upon the earth.
“Wow, how beautiful!”
Along with the scattering powder, the dragon and phoenix shone, making it seem as if everyone had entered a world of legends.
They slowly fluttered down to the earth. From the dragon’s mouth came a large sphere of white light that burst open, sending streamers flying.
From those ribbons, a beautiful woman dressed in ancient costume slowly appeared, shapely and leisurely, a beauty that made you never want to stop looking at her.
The entire crowd erupted in acclaim when the third princess appeared. Many of the young men had heard of the third princess’s beauty before. Hers was a beauty that could cause the downfall of an empire. Today, they finally got to see her in person, and for a moment, all that could be heard were fanatic screams.
Long Chen was also struck foolish for a moment upon seeing her. This was the first time Long Chen had seen her dressed up so beautifully.
Her eyes wandered over the crowd. Suddenly, her eyes brightened when she saw Long Chen, and she tossed a small ball which slowly flew out towards him.
Long Chen reached out his hand to catch it and found that the ball had a small tag on it.
The entire crown immediately went silent, all of them staring at Long Chen. The Empress Dowager was also startled, but she didn’t say anything.
But the person whose expression was most unsightly was definitely the Grand Xia’s Xia Changfeng. Although he tried to appear natural and at ease, his uncontrollable anger turned his face green.
The Empress Dowager had already decided to marry off Chu Yao to Xia Changfeng, but her display today of the dragon and phoenix had obvious significance. Moreover, that ball was thrown directly towards Long Chen.
Normally, a ball didn’t have any special meaning, but that was not the same when added with the display of the lanterns. It was the same exact custom as in ancient times when maidens threw embroidered balls to pick their husband.
Despite doing his best to control himself, Xia Changfeng could not stop his body from trembling and his veins popping.
“Changfeng, endure it.” Wei Cang glanced at Xia Changfeng.
“Don’t worry grandmaster, Changfeng will restrain himself.” Xia Changfeng nodded, but his voice still trembled in a way that could not be concealed.
Xia Changfeng wished for Long Chen to die more than anything right now. Long Chen also felt everyone’s peculiar gazes on him.
Amongst the people present, grandmaster Yun Qi was the only one to smile slightly here. Everyone else had either complicated or jealous gazes.
Long Chen looked at Chu Yao and her beautiful, leisurely smile. She gestured towards the ball in his hand.
Long Chen realized that it was actually a firework, so he pulled its tag and threw it high into the sky.
A gorgeous light lit up the entire plaza. When the light rays faded, two phrases appeared in the sky.
The Dragon swims across the four oceans; the Phoenix flies throughout the nine lands.
Xia Changfeng was no longer able to control himself at all and ended up crushing the teacup in his hand.
“Long Chen, if I don’t crush you into a thousand pieces, then I wouldn’t be Xia Changfeng! As for you Chu Yao, I’ll make you live a life worse than death, you slut!”
Chu Yao’s actions humiliated him even more than if she had viciously slapped him in the face.
The Empress Dowager’s expression was also extremely ugly. She had never expected Chu Yao to actually be so bold and express affection for a man in such a public manner.
Long Chen was also speechless as he looked at the distant Chu Yao. Her pretty face was completely red, but it was still filled with determination.
Tears slowly flowed out when she looked at Long Chen, causing him to feel pain for her. What was she despairing of now? Was this her way of expressing herself one final time before facing death?
Seeing Chu Yao’s smiling face covered in tears, Long Chen’s mind buzzed blankly. He suddenly stood and roared, “Seas of blood may block us, but we will never give up our path; Dragon and Phoenix will both live to old age!”
Long Chen’s angry roar rang out in every single person’s ears. His roar held an incredibly resolute determination, a willpower that would rather die than submit.
Chu Yao shook, her hands covering her mouth, her tears slowly flowing. She had not had such aspirations; she had just wanted to express her true feelings once before her doom so that Long Chen understood her heart.
But wasn’t Long Chen’s response just now just sinking himself into her own demise? She was both moved and regretful that she had harmed him.
“The third princess is tired. Come and support her off the stage.” The Empress Dowager was resisting her fury as best as she could.
Five bodyguards came, and just as they were inviting Chu Yao to leave with them, grandmaster Yun Qi spoke out. “Empress Dowager, this isn’t right. It’s a good thing for young people to have emotions. Come, Chu Yao, sit beside this old man.”
The Empress Dowager’s expression changed; who would have imagined grandmaster Yun Qi who never participated in worldly affairs would actually get involved in imperial matters?
Chu Yao rejoiced when she heard grandmaster Yun Qi’s words. Perhaps he couldn’t save her from her doom, but she did think that he was capable of protecting Long Chen.
Thinking of that, she bent down to kneel in front of him. But before she could, grandmaster Yun Qi reached out a hand, and a gentle force pulled her back up.
“Child, there’s no need for this etiquette.” He pulled Chu Yao over to his side to sit.
But the strange thing in other people’s eyes was that despite being at extreme odds with him, Wei Cang only looked on coldly without saying a single thing.
The Empress Dowager was extremely infuriated inside, but she didn’t want to offend Yun Qi over such a small matter. Without the support of the alchemist guild, then no matter how strong the royal family was, they would quickly collapse. Therefore, she could only restrain herself.
But as the Empress Dowager, her thinking and schemes were profound. Her expression didn’t change and she merely smiled, “Then, let the festivities continue.”
Shi Feng finally stood up beside Long Chen. Stretching, he laughed, “Looks like it’s finally time for me to get on stage.”
In previous years, the battle between noble sons for the number one junior warrior would begin as soon as the princesses’ lanterns were lit.
“Please wait a moment, Empress Dowager. This old man came all the way over from the Grand Xia just to attend your lantern festival, and I brought a special event just for you,” said Wei Cang hurriedly.
“Oh? Grandmaster’s event will definitely be marvelous to see.” The Empress Dowager paused for a moment before smiling.
“This is my apprentice who is only seventeen this year. But she’s already a true and tested Pill Apprentice.” Wei Cang particularly emphasized ‘true and tested’.
Everyone naturally looked at Long Chen. Anyone who wasn’t an idiot would understand; he was making indirect accusations that Long Chen was a fake.
Most people had no idea just how Long Chen’s Pill Apprentice status had been obtained. There were many people who had doubts about his true strength. Long Chen had refined pills for others to see just once before, but that had happened internally within the guild, so the outside world still didn’t know anything about it. The majority of people felt that Long Chen had just managed to sneak his way in and didn’t necessarily have any true skills when it came to alchemy.
Due to his old status as a cripple having hanged around him for too long and how quickly he had risen recently, many people had suspicions that he might have some sort of powerful support behind him, and that support was very likely grandmaster Yun Qi.
But no matter how amazing grandmaster Yun Qi was, how could he turn a cripple into a Pill Apprentice in just a short two months?
A ridiculing smile appeared on Long Chen’s face when he heard this.
Yun Qi also didn’t say anything. Wei Cang continued, “Today, let’s let my apprentice give a display of how an alchemist refines.”
The crowd cheered; alchemists were extremely revered, and most of the people present had never seen the process of refining pills personally.
They were filled with both great respect and curiosity towards this profession. Personally witnessing the process through which a pill was formed was definitely a great opportunity for them.
“But actually, this can be even more enjoyable. Baichi can represent my Grand Xia’s alchemist guild. I wonder if there is anyone from the same generation within the Phoenix Cry alchemist guild who would like to join her?” Wei Cang glanced at grandmaster Yun Qi.
“She’s your apprentice, but Long Chen isn’t my apprentice. So your little hidden challenge doesn’t mean anything,” said Yun Qi indifferently.
Long Chen’s heart shook; was the reason Yun Qi never took him in as an apprentice related to Wei Cang?
“It’s just playing around. It’ll also liven things up here, so it’s not useless.”
Wei Cang then produced a see-through bottle which actually held a thumb-sized flame that was constantly burning.
“This beast flame comes from a second rank Magical Beast, the Flame Leopard. Whoever wins will be awarded it.”
Xia Baichi also looked longingly towards that beast flame. She had actually wanted it for a long time, but Wei Cang had always refused to give it to her.
That beast flame also posed an extremely great temptation to Long Chen.
“So, kid, do you want to come up and play?”
Many people were shaking their heads inside at how obvious the provocation was. Wei Cang’s conduct didn’t suit his status as a grandmaster.
As they suspected, Long Chen was smiling at Wei Cang in contempt. But shockingly, he still spat out a single word:
Fatty Yu and the others couldn’t help gasping. Brother Long, what are you doing?
In front of everyone’s strange gazes, Long Chen walked up to the stage and said to Xia Baichi:
“You heard your master. So just how should I play with you?”
 The Long in Long Chen’s name means Dragon. The Chen means dust, often in reference to the dust of the mortal world.