Chapter 398: Overwhelming victory
The Fishery Island had a long fishing season. Long Feiye's team was already here rather early in spite of that, but Northern Li's imperial clan had come as well. The people of Northern Li primarily lived a nomadic lifestyle with their herds, so fish couldn't even count as a dietary supplement to their meals. What was someone from the imperial clan doing here right after New Year's?
And which member of royalty could it be?
There was only one viable harbor for the entire Fishery Island located on its western end. It was a very small space, so the battleship that got there first would leave the other helpless beyond floating in place. Long Feiye's ship was approaching the area from the southwest, while the Northern Li ship was sailing in from the northwest. They were about equal distance away from the docking point, too far away to see each other, but not to fire cannons back and forth.
Since space was limited, anyone who didn't want their ship to languish in the sea would have to snatch the space for themselves first! Speed would be paramount to winning this race, but there were plenty of variables at sea to interfere with that plan. Long Feiye, Han Yunxi, and General Baili stood at the head of their ship observing the other vessel put up their sails to get more leeway. On the seas, ships depended on both manpower and the winds to travel, and sails were used to harness the strength of the winds. Typically speaking, a ship should withdraw its sails upon approaching the harbor, but this one was doing the opposite. Were they really that afraid of getting there last?
"It looks like they're determined to compete with us," Han Yunxi remarked.
"Your Highness, the wind's picked up. Both it and the waves are in their favor." General Baili might not have fought any naval battles, but he had plenty of seafaring experience. For the sake of forming Tianning's navy, he used to have his fleet following long-distance fishing boats and stay at sea for two to three years at a time. It made him quite intimate with the currents and climate of the oceans. Judging from the current situation, Northern Li's ship had a great advantage.
"Dispatch my orders, full speed ahead!" Long Feiye said coldly. He wasn't concerned to failing to seize a geographical advantage. Since he was coming to Fishery Island, he was determined to win and had made preparations ahead of time. As soon as General Baili issued his orders, the sailors on both sides of the ship immediately increased their numbers from 20 to 30, adding 50% to their raw strength. Even a landlubber like Han Yunxi felt the increase in speed from their ship.
"General Baili, I never expected you to have so many sailors hidden in reserve," Han Yunxi said as she peered over the sides and saw row after row of strong-armed men powering their boat.
"Esteemed wangfei, this subject has yet to introduce this ship to you. Her name is Sovereign's Vessel, the leader of the Baili Naval fleet."
There was no need to explain anything else beyond the fact that this ship was the leader. That told all. Thrilled, Han Yunxi exclaimed, "What a domineering name! Heheh, now it's time to see how you do."
Long Feiye's ship wasn't very remarkable until it started speeding up and started outstripping Northern Li's battleship. The leader of Northern Li's ship immediately grew restless and walked out of his cabin to peer at his opponent.
"Why did they suddenly speed up?" he asked.
"Master, they're going against the wind, so they must have added rowers. There's no other explanation!" the boatman replied in a hurry.
This master was a disdainful man who gave a cold harumph. "Could mere manpower be enough to contend with the Heavens? They're overestimating themselves! Someone come, put up all the sails for your lord! Full speed ahead!"
The boatman immediately went to work and had all the sails hoisted up. At the same time, the wind grew stronger and blew against the fabric. The master of the ship headed on deck towards the prow of the ship, allowing the whip to whip his hair and robes every which way.
"What a time for the wind to hit! Even the Heavens are blessing us!" he laughed out loud, looking rampant and wild. The sails grew full from the gusts and sent their ship rushing forward as if an invisible hand was pushing them along the water. Like an arrow whizzing through the air, it headed straight for the harbor.
Long Feiye and Han Yunxi stood shoulder-to-shoulder at the head of the ship with hands behind their backs, looking coldly at the battleship as it grew closer and closer.
"Men, add 20 more rowers and increase the speed!" General Baili made a prompt decision. At his words, twenty sailors each joined the rowers on both sides of the ship, making a total of 50 sailors for both sides and 100 sailors total.
Who was it that said manpower couldn't triumph over the Heavens? The 100 rowers with their 100 oars flashed against the water as they powered the ship forward. The waves they left in their wake made a powerful and impressive effect on morale. Now they had sped up to match Northern Li's speed again. At the moment, there was no difference between the two of them, so it was hard to see who would make it there first.
"Master, their rowers are extraordinary!" the boatman said in amazement.
"How many are there?" his master replied.
"I can't see them right, but with their current strength, we'll be in danger as soon as the winds stop!" the boatman said worriedly. Their own rowers were already doing their best to help, but if the winds stopped, the difference between the two ships would grow obvious.
The master glared at him, and the boatman immediately shut up. As the two ships drew closer to the harbor, the tension on the seas grew more and more pronounced. The master's gaze turned ruthless for a second before he personally flew to the tail end of the ship and wrested the drumsticks from the man in charge of keeping rhythm. He pounded the drum three times and said, "All of you, listen well to your lord. Exert yourself to your limits to send us full speed ahead. Once we reach the harbor, your lord shall reward you all handsomely!"
Morale soared at his words, and the master personally started drumming a fast rhythm for the rowers to keep pace, urging them to row ever onwards. This, in combination with the wind, helped their ship speed up yet again. Meanwhile, the master kept his gaze between the drum and the other ship in the distance, his lips drawing up in a scornful smile. He knew who was standing at the prow of Tianning's ship, but he was determined to make that man taste the flavor of defeat!
By now, Northern Li's ship had already seen its own master join the fight, while on the Tianning side, Long Feiye and Han Yunxi were still observing from the sidelines. As they watched the other ship slowly increase their speed, the duo remained unmoved. Even General Baili quieted down by their side.
Did they have no other ideas?
For a long time, the Tianning ship had kept at a steady speed without any changes. The smile on the Northern Li prince's face grew more and more pronounced as he burst into wild laughter. "Come, speed up even more for your lord. I want to see them lose thoroughly!"
Inspired by his words, the rowers' speed grew to shocking heights. Even though their speed had reached maximum, the roaring of their oars created an irresistible momentum. The difference between success or failure seemed unquestionable at this point. The Northern Li prince couldn't even stop hitting the drums in his enthusiasm to win. His impassioned encouragement made him excited to the extreme!
But when the Northern Li ship was only 100 li from the harbor, Long Feiye suddenly said, "The sum of all his efforts is nothing more than this, in the end."
General Baili snorted and then ordered, "All rowers, to your positions!"
At his words, seats were brought down both in front and back of the ship on both sides, which were quickly seated with men. At least 100 of them had come to fill in the blanks! Added to the previous sum, there were now a total of 200 men paddling in unison, their strength more than enough to best the headwinds! The ship sprang forward like an arrow in flight!
A relentless onslaught at top speed? This was it!
Tianning's ship was like a dark horse that suddenly began to gallop, easily closing the distance to the harbor and catching up to Northern Li's battleship. At this distance, it was easy for both sides to see each other. Long Feiye saw at first glance the man beating the drums at the back of the ship-Jun Yixie. It wasn't unexpected, as the only member of the Northern Li imperial clan who could leave the capital around New Year's to go to Fishery Island would be him. Jun Yixie stopped drumming and raised his chin to look scornfully at them. His eyes didn't stay long on Long Feiye before straying to Han Yunxi instead.
Han Yunxi had completely narrowed her eyes into twin slits teeming with killing intent. Jun Yixie, long time no see! Three pairs of eyes stared at each other with murderous thoughts. Then the Tianning battleship sped past Northern Li and rushed with overwhelming speeds to the harbor, ending up as the ultimate victor!
Jun Yixie glared at them as his hands formed into fists. He really wasn't reconciled to this, but it was too late to salvage the situation. When the Northern Li sailors saw Tianning's 200 strong rowers sail past them, they were so stunned that they stopped rowing altogether. This was the first time they'd seen such an imposing sight at sea, and such a magnificent team of sailors. So they had all that strength to begin with, but they were watching us make a laughingstock out of ourselves?
Despite his dissatisfaction, Jun Yunxi still had to re-evaluate the strength of his opponents. Northern Li's battleship might look like a fighting vessel, but it was only showy without any practical use in war. Its only accomplishments were supplying the imperial clan with a place to vacation or play on the water. However, Tianning's battleship was a true vessel equipped for war!
At this sudden realization, Jun Yixie felt disgraced. He muttered to himself, "When did Tianning start raising a navy?"
By now, Tianning's battleship was already docked at the harbor, claiming all the land for its own. If Jun Yixie hadn't seen the warship with his own eyes, he might have blocked the exit to the harbor and confront Long Feiye there. But if he really did that, he'd only be dooming himself to death. Not only did he fail to win the harbor, he even lost prestige thanks to Long Feiye. Depressed as he was, he ignored it in favor of his real goals.
The real contest would start after they got onto Fishery Island. "Someone, cast anchor and stop the ship!"
After issuing orders, he was about to fly onto the island himself, but was stopped by Long Feiye unsheathing his sword and aiming the blade at him. Long Feiye had never forgotten his grudge on how Jun Yixie had attempted to kidnap Han Yunxi. Although he hadn't come knocking on the man's door, he wasn't going to let go of this chance to take his revenge.
Jun Yixie returned the gesture with an arrogant glare of his own, provoking in its own right. The poison that Han Yunxi had left in his shoulder, the fact that she'd exposed his alliance with Duanmu Yao and how he'd infected Long Tianmo with gu, were all things he remembered. Moreover, he hadn't forgotten about the poison beast or the white-robed man from the Shadow Clan. Over the past few months, he'd been plagued nonstop by his fellow imperial brothers. Furthermore, the Hundred Poison Sect had been kept under constant watch by Medical City, making it impossible for him to investigate his suspicions beyond sending a few men to search in secret. He hadn't planned to meet Long Feiye and Han Yunxi again so soon, but this wouldn't affect his plans.