“See, I didn’t break the rules at all. Come kick this judge out if you dare, or Zhen Xiaoyan will win today, not you!” Ye Lang’s statement was shameless but firm, strongly implying his integrity. 

“You...You…” Everyone was speechless. 

“Come on, spit it out. Alright, I now declare Zhen Xiaoyan the winner! You’re out!” a small smile appeared at the corner of Ye Lang’s lips. 

“Ye Lang, you should be more discreet if you’re trying to help her, you’re too obvious!” the mentor rushed over after hearing the commotion. A throbbing headache was brewing in her skull as she took in the mess.

“No, I’m not trying to help her at all. Look, she has completed her task but this gentleman over here wanted to argue with me. I even forgot what I was supposed to do next,” Ye Lang pointed at Zhen Xiaoyan. Everyone finally realized that she had indeed completed the task quietly while the argument went on. 

As long as everyone agreed that Ye Lang didn’t alter the outcome, the winner would be Zhen Xiaoyan! Would everyone agree though? 

They would, a vast majority of them would. Not out of fear, or to give Ye Lang face, but because they were very impressed by his words. 

“I admit I was a little selfish, but I’d like to make one thing clear. As an alchemist, you should focus on completing your task without getting disrupted by your surroundings or others. Although I did do something that angered you, you should’ve ignored me and focused on your task instead!” 

“If you can’t do something as simple as this, you’ll never reach the peak of alchemy and there’ll be no need for you to participate in this competition either!” 

True. If it were Ye Lang, he would’ve focused all his attention on completing his alchemy task perfectly even if there were major disruptions. Alchemy was an art that required true attentiveness, a small change would trigger major side-effects!  

 

If one was planning to use it in a battle, they should remember that. Or else, death awaited. 

Although Ye Lang’s statement felt more like an excuse than anything, everyone who witnessed the heated exchange couldn’t help but agree as it was the truth. Zhen Xiaoyan’s opponent was evidently affected. 

Zhen Xiaoyan had done a terrific job in ignoring the chaos. Though Ye Lang’s mannerisms had given her second-hand embarrassment, she was able to finish her task. That was what made her the winner! 

“Alright, I’ve done my part, I can finally give myself a break. Ma’am, I’m sure you have no objections to that, right?” said Ye Lang with a smile. Finally, another chance to rest! 

“Up to you, that’s none of my business,” replied the beautiful teacher dismissively.

“Thank you, Ma’am! Fatty, I’m hungry, let’s go eat!” Ye Lang quickly pulled Zhen Xiaoyan along. The girl quickly gave everyone else an apologetic bow before leaving with Ye Lang. 

Suddenly, Ye Lang halted his footsteps. Ah, he almost forgot… 

“If anyone wants to challenge Zhen Xiaoyan, I’ll definitely be back to be your judge. Please feel free to do so.” 

What the fuck? Ye Lang as the judge? Who would dare to challenge her then?! 

This was obviously a threat! A full-on threat! 

“Ye Lang, you’re playing favourites!” the seventh princess wasn’t happy about it. 

“I was there for fun anyways, playing favourites isn’t a concern. There’s no doubt I would help fatty!” replied Ye Lang promptly. 

“I wasn’t talking about that!” the seventh princess frowned, pulling the corners of her lips down. 

“What do you mean?” questioned Ye Lang. 

“You’re… always so nice to Xiaoyan, you always try to protect and help her but you never seemed to care about me!” the seventh princess was very jealous. 

“You don’t need my help at all. You’re very intelligent but Xiaoyan is dumb, wouldn’t it make more sense to help her instead?” replied Ye Lang. 

“Nonsense! You’re obviously playing favourites!” the seventh princess clenched Ye Lang’s hand tightly, she looked very dejected. 

“You shouldn’t have to feel jealous about it. I help her a lot, yes, but I’ve always treated you better than her,” Ye Lang stared at the seventh princess, confused by the display.  

“Really?” Her eyes shone. 

“Yes, we grew up together and we’ve known each other since we were in diapers! You’re obviously much more important to me,” said Ye Lang calmly. Though his words made Zhen Xiaoyan a little uncomfortable, it was undeniably the truth. 

“That’s more like it!” the seventh princess was pleased with his answer. Satisfied, she rested her head on his shoulder. 

“Little seven...”Ye Lang wanted to say something but was interrupted by the seventh princess. 

“Ye Lang, call me by my name. You’ve never said it before,” requested the seventh princess. Ye Lang had only referred to her with 3 names since they were kids; from wife to the seventh princess to the more recent Little Seven. She was curious about how her name would sound like coming from his lips.  

“Well... I think Little Seven sounds a little more intimate!” responded Ye Lang after giving it a slight thought. Perhaps he was a little shy to call her by her name. 

“How about calling me your wife again? That’s even more intimate!” murmured the seventh princess softly. 

“Sure, my wife…” he complied. 

“Good boy!” the seventh princess wasn’t expecting him to obey her request. It had been years since she last heard him call her that, she missed it. She turned a pretty pink and her heart hummed with content. 

In reality, Ye Lang was relieved when she dropped her request for him to call her name. He had just noticed a huge problem- he didn’t know the seventh princess’s name! 

No one could blame him for he had never once called her name, people around him had always referred to her as the seventh princess or princess. She was a respected royal family member after all! 

He never had much concern to names, as long as there is something to refer them to, he was good to go. 

But if the seventh princess knew, she’d definitely be mad as hell! 

Therefore, Ye Lang was on a self-assigned mission to know her name before the seventh princess found out. It was rather embarrassing for him for he had just loudly proclaimed their long relationship, and yet he didn’t even know her real name. How odd… 

“Hey, sister. Do you know what Little Seven’s real name is?” Ye Lanyu was caught aback by the question, she started to recall her memories. 

“Zhao… something. Who in this kingdom doesn’t know that her surname is Zhao?!”

Yikes! 

“Her name? I don’t know, shouldn’t you know best?” asked Zhen Xiaoyan as she stared at Ye Lang.

“Cough cough. Of course I know! I was just testing you!” 

Another failure!    

“Oh, the seventh princess? Uh… what’s her name?” the question was reverted back to him by a random passerby. 

“Fuck, if I knew I wouldn’t be asking you!” 

Yet, another failure!

After some research, Ye Lang found out that no one in the capital had the slightest idea about the seventh princess’s given name. Though not many were aware of the other princess’s names either, there had to be at least a knowledgeable few. 

The seventh princess preferred to lay low. Other than gracing the others with her presence when she was with Ye Lang, everyone else hardly noticed her presence when she was alone. 

It was the same for Ye Lang’s parents too, they weren’t sure about the name of their future daughter in law! They had some blurry distant memories of it, they only remembered the first half of her name… Zhao Ya- something. Yeah, Zhao Ya- something because all the princesses of this era had their name in a similar fashion!

Ye Lang’s search for an answer was unfruitful. In the end, he decided to look for an opening to ask the seventh princess herself. If she had caught wind that he had gone around the capital asking everyone else instead of herself for her name, she would definitely get angry. Guess his answer wouldn’t come so soon… 

In the dark… 

“How is the plan coming along?” an icy voice echoed in the dark, causing the servant to shudder in response. 

“It’s all going according to your plan, master. They are still clueless, which is part of our plan! I believe the kingdom would be yours soon, master.” reported the servant. 

“Very well! Just you wait, Ye Lang. I’ll show you hell!” the voice had gotten unbearably colder, sending chills down the servant’s spine.  

What plan could that possibly be? 

What was Ye Lang involved? 

Who were these people? 

Something bad was about to happen soon and Ye Lang was going to be caught in it.

As this mysterious plan churned in the background, the participating team for the contest had also been confirmed.

After a strict round of selection, the Royal Institute had selected its representative team. Next, what awaited the team were intense training, character development and team building. 

 

Just like every other year, the training would be held out of school and a different path would be taken to reach the contest venue, indicating that the participants wouldn’t be back for a very long time once training began. 

“Fatty, I’ll miss you…” Ye Lang looked at Zhen Xiaoyan emotionally, painfully aware that Zhen Xiaoyan would be away for a very long time. 

“Yeah, right. You’ll only be missing my cooking!” the girl was unfazed, she knew him too well at this point. 

“Smart! From today onwards, you should prepare me a year’s worth of food,” complimented Ye Lang. 

“Hmph, in your dreams! I’ll let you starve,” jeered Zhen Xiaoyan. She would be away for a whole year, couldn’t Ye Lang at least act like he cared? 

Starve for all I care! Go to hell!