• The two main characters are introduced: Lao Long and Lao Chen. Hong is fifteen and is the youngest of three sons.
• Chen is a prodigy in languages and by age four had learned more Chinese characters than most adults.
• The boys live with their father in Sichuan Province in the 16th century. Their mother is dead and their father is a drinker and gambler.
• Chen has tested and passed the first series of exams for those seeking good positions with the government.
• Chen's mother hoped he will take the provincial exams and even the highest ones at the imperial palace.
• Hong raises fighting crickets and intends to use these to help Chen fulfill their mother's dream.
• Hong arranges a match against Meng, a wealthy landlord, who will put up a great deal of money if Chen wins.
• Hong intends his two crickets, Fire Star and Dragon...
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