High up in the skies, a vast aura surged outward as a huge metal warship appeared. It traveled through the clouds, looking extremely cool.
A few figures emerged from within the warship. They donned robes that were different from the robes of a normal alchemist; their robes were nobler, and the materials used to make them were quite extraordinary. Little white clouds had been embroidered on the robes, and they seemed to be floating in the air.
They were the judicators to review the contest, and every single one of them was a Four Cloud alchemist. Not only did they all have lofty statuses within the Pill Palace, but they were also the alchemist powerhouses in charge of the Magical Hands Conference. They had arrived to maintain law and order in the contest.
Each of them was a powerhouse from a different Pill City. Heavenly Pill City, Heavenly Shine City, and even Heavenly Mist City... Powerhouses from these cities were present in this group.
They were all sage-like and resembled banished immortals.
One of these Four Cloud alchemists came from Heavenly Mist City. He was the strongest alchemist in Heavenly Mist City, the Four Cloud alchemist Grand Master Xuan Ming.
As the elimination rounds had ended, and the names of the top 100 alchemists were revealed. They were all going to compete in the semi-final.
After they were organized by the various judges, the top 100 all made their way to the main stage.
The crowd went wild and cheered loudly. They all looked up at the grand alchemists who were suspended in the void, with expressions of excitement they were not able to control. This was because the grand masters were their idols!
In the Pill Palace, the stronger one's alchemy skills were, the higher the position they would have.
Five Cloud alchemists were rare in the Pill Palace, and every single one of them was famous.
They were rarely seen in the outside world because their appearance always caused a huge commotion.
After the chief judge announced Bu Fang's advancement to the semi-final, the former lowered his head and continued to devour the Chopped Pepper Fish Head. Although beads of sweat dripped down his forehead, his face was red, and his lips were swollen and felt like burning charcoal, he was unable to stop himself. The amazing taste of the dish was like an addictive drug he was completely hooked on.
The chief judge seemed unable to control himself, and the corners of his mouth were smeared with red oil. He heaved in a deep breath of air in excitement.
A spicy aroma filled the air.
The audience below all had stunned expressions on their faces. The spicy aroma had now filled the arena completely, but it no longer caused them any adverse reactions.
As they watched the chief judge hastily devour the Chopped Pepper Fish Head, they found it more difficult to control themselves and licked their lips.
It seemed as though... It seemed as though the dish was really delicious!
"Chief judge, what are you doing? The judicators already asked the people who advanced to gather at the main stage!"
A judge hurriedly yelled at the chief judge when he saw the latter still engrossed in the spicy dish.
When the chief judge heard that, he was stunned for a moment and raised his head. When he saw the Four Cloud alchemists hovering the sky, his expression gravely changed.
"Hurry up! Follow me; head over to the main stage!"
Without waiting for Bu Fang to speak, the chief judge hurriedly wiped his mouth and attempted to drag Bu Fang off the first arena's stage.
In disgust, Bu Fang slapped away the chief judge's oily hands. He turned around, grabbed his giant signboard, and walked off the stage.
The chief judge simply smiled at that and followed Bu Fang off the stage.
As for the alchemists left behind in the first arena, most of them cried out in frustration.
After Bu Fang's departure, the crowd began to disperse. They left the first arena and went towards the main stage.
The main stage was located at the center of the plaza. It was so extremely huge that it took up a huge part of the plaza.
There was a crowd of people began to gather at the bottom of the main stage. They were soon packed liked sardines and completely filled the space around the main stage.
After the elimination rounds, more people began to pay attention to the Magical Hands Conference.
A warship hovered in the air.
Several Four Cloud alchemists floated out of the warship and gracefully landed on the main stage, and as soon as their feet touched the ground, the main stage was instantly surrounded by magic arrays. The arrays began to emit a thick radiance which shrouded the entire main stage. The scene above it became the focus.
The arrays resembled slowly rotating wheels of light, and they made the main stage look dream-like.
This was the projection array. It was able to capture the image within the array and transmit it to the various Pill Cities, via a mysterious method.
Hence, those in other Pill Cities who could not make it to Heavenly Mist City would still be able to watch the Magical Hands Conference.
With warm expressions on their faces, the Four Cloud alchemists sat down on prestigious seats, slightly nodded their heads at the spectators, and began to chat amongst themselves. No one knew what they were talking about.
Their gazes occasionally shifted to the young alchemists who were slowly ascending the stage, and when it did, the Four Cloud alchemists would nod their heads and begin chatting amongst themselves again, with smiles on their faces.
Suddenly, a Four Cloud alchemist froze in mid-speech. He looked into the distance with an expression of doubt.
There was a figure in the distance slowly approaching the main stage; it was this figure that had attracted his attention. The person seemed to be holding a giant board.
"Which city is this alchemist from? Why has be brought a giant board with him to the stage?" The Four Cloud alchemist furrowed his brows and asked in confusion.
This caused the other Four Cloud alchemists to look over at the approaching figure as well. When they looked at the young man's face, neither of them could recognize him.
"He cannot be an alchemist from my Heavenly Shine City... This old man knows every single alchemist from my Heavenly Shine City who made it to the semi-final," said a Four Cloud alchemist, Grand Master Yao Guang, who was from Heavenly Shine City.
"Hey, hey... He isn't an alchemist from my Heavenly Pill City as well. Could he be an alchemist from Xuan Ming's Heavenly Mist City? Anyway, what is this kid trying to pull by bringing that giant board with him to the main stage?" Grand Master Gu He laughed.
Grand Master Xuan Ming deeply stared at the youth with the giant board, and then he shook his head sideways. "Impossible... This person is definitely not an alchemist from my Heavenly Mist City."
He wasn't from the Heavenly Pill City; he wasn't from the Heavenly Shine City, and he wasn't from the Heavenly Mist City.
Where in the world had that alchemist come from then?
The Four Cloud alchemists were stunned and exchanged identical gazes of confusion with each other.
"Could it be... Could it be that this young man is someone with a strange talent? Someone else with a strange talent was able to enter the top 100 in this competition?"
The Four Cloud alchemists exhaled long breaths as they looked at Bu Fang with curiosity. For someone with a strange talent to crush the alchemists of the three Pill Cities and advance into the top 100... showed that this youth wasn't simple.
A sense of appreciation emerged in the hearts of the Four Cloud alchemists.
However, if they were to learn how Bu Fang was able to charge into the top 100, they would no longer be able to appreciate his talents; instead, they may be tempted to strangle him to death!
This was because Bu Fang had blown away many alchemists on his journey into the top 100. And some of the alchemists Bu Fang had embarrassed were the disciples of grandmasters.
The chief judge felt extremely awkward.
The people that had emerged from other arenas were magnificent alchemists. However, the person beside him was someone carrying a giant signboard... Worse, he wasn't even an alchemist; he was a chef.
The difference was too vast. The other arenas had produced groups of competitors while he had brought along only one person.
Strange gazes were directed toward the chief judge, and his face, which was already red, became even redder.
The chief judge could only cough dryly to hide his helplessness and embarrassment.
Bu Fang, on the other hand, remained composed. He stood amongst the crowd with his giant board, and his face was expressionless.
The people around him were all alchemists, and Bu Fang was able to recognize many of them.
Nangong Wuque winked and gestured wildly at Bu Fang from far away, but Bu Fang ignored him.
Yang Meiji, who stood on another side, turned around, and her eyes widened. She looked at Bu Fang with shock. Now that she realized that the famous chef was actually Bu Fang, she was in a state of disarray.
Bu Fang had actually charged into the top 100? That was really terrifying! He was the terrifying chef who had caused all the commotion! He was the public enemy of the alchemists!
However, the person who had been the most shocked when they learned of this was not Nangong Wuque or Yang Meiji; it was someone else who was standing in the distance. As this person gazed at Bu Fang's back, his entire body shivered uncontrollably.
It was Duan Yun...
He was terrified. No matter how much he thought about it, he remained at a loss. He never thought that he would actually meet Bu Fang there.
"Bu... Owner Bu?"
Duan Yun's movements were sluggish; it was as though he had seen a ghost.
Wasn't Bu Fang supposed to be in the Southern Border? Wasn't he supposed to be protecting that small store in a secluded corner? Why had he suddenly appeared there?
Bu Fang was naturally unaware that someone behind him was looking at him with a fright-filled gaze. He held his giant board as he stood there impatiently.
He didn't know that the competitors who had advanced had to gather right after the elimination rounds. He had been preparing to return his shop and resume business.
"Ahem... First, congratulations to everyone for passing the elimination rounds. You were able to reach the top 100, out of tens of thousands of alchemists who participated in the contest..." The Four Cloud alchemist from Heavenly Mist City, Grand Master Xuan Ming, stood up and waved his hand as he looked at the participants with a solemn gaze.
Suddenly, his voice faltered. He had just realized that there were only 91 people on the main stage, instead of 100.
What was going on? Did something go wrong?
The audience noticed the grand master's confused gaze as well, and they all looked in Bu Fang's direction. When their eyes landed on Bu Fang, they realized that he was the only one standing in the place allocated to the contestants of the first arena. He stood there with a huge signboard and an expressionless face. They instantly raised an uproar. The other competitors were unable to keep quiet as well, and everyone started to clamor.
There was only one person there... Could it be that only one person from the first arena advanced into the semi-final?
This wasn't a funny joke at all!
Senior Brother Zhang, who was in the crowd, watched the chaos, and his heart shuddered. He felt heartache for the alchemists who were eliminated.
How in the world did you guys meet such a monster?
The chief judge's face became even redder, and at that point, it was almost blue.
It was really embarrassing... As the chief judge, in the arena he was responsible for, only one person had advanced into the semi-final. He had wanted more people to qualify, but all their furnaces exploded! How were they supposed to qualify?
The most tragic thing in life was when one left a backdoor open for people to pass, but no one managed to crawl through it.
The stifling feeling in the chief judge's heart was unbearable.
When Grand Master Xuan Ming looked at him coldly, the chief judge's grief grew so intense that he almost lost his mind. However, Grand Master Xuan Ming did not pursue the matter; instead, he began to explain the rules of the upcoming competition.
"The elimination round preceded the semi-final. The semi-final is also known as the competition of the top 100. The semi-final consists of several rounds. You all will be randomly matched with different opponents, and you can only rely on luck to draw your opponents... Furthermore, the only way to advance to the next round of the competition is by defeating your opponent. Victors will be able to enter the competition of the top 50!" Grand Master Xuan Ming lightly said.
"Considering the fact that every competitor here endured several days of intense competition during the elimination rounds, I'm sure you all are tensed, and for that, you will all be given three days of rest. The three days are for you to rest and prepare for the competition. You all should take this time to properly prepare for the upcoming semi-final... After three days, the semi-final will officially commence. Right now, however, you will be matched against your opponents!"
Saying so, Grand Master Xuan Ming took out an orange-yellow jade symbol from his bosom. There were intricate and mysterious lines painted on the jade symbol.
Every competitor on the main stage was handed a jade symbol by a judge.
Grand Master Xuan Ming's true energy entered the orange-yellow jade symbol, and the jade symbols in the hands of the competitors began to glow with blinding lights.
All manner of mysterious fluctuations appeared on the main stage.
Bu Fang looked at the jade symbol in his hand with curiosity. After a long time, a name appeared on his jade symbol.
"An Sheng? Is this my opponent in the next round?" Bu Fang softly muttered to himself.
As for the chief judge standing behind, he looked over Bu Fang's shoulder curiously. When he saw the name on Bu Fang's jade symbol, he immediately became terrified.
"What?! Your next opponent is the sorceress from Heavenly Pill City... An Sheng?"