Chapter 399: Trade consortium, taking a step back
Long Feiye and his sword pointed at Jun Yixie was a sign that he wanted to fight; Jun Yixie and his fearless, scornful look back was a sight that he'd...retaliate? Both of these men were two of the three most famous figures of the three princes of repute across Cloud Realm Continent, with equal amounts of power and influence. At least, that was the case before Han Yunxi appeared. One of them had superior martial arts, while the other excelled in poisons. The two of them used to be equally matched.
Unfortunately, Han Yunxi's appearance upset the balance and helped minimize much of Long Feiye's wariness towards Jun Yixie's poisons and increase his chances of success against the man by three parts. Even half a bit of advantage yielded frightening possibilities when experts were involved, so the past year or so of confrontations had always ended with Jun Yixie fleeing from Long Feiye's triumphant sword. If he couldn't lose his temper on Han Yunxi for that, who else would he pick?
Despite their faceoff, Han Yunxi was suffering from the most tempestuous emotions. Her stare was as sharp as knives as she fixated on Jun Yixie. If possible, she'd make mincemeat of that swine. When opponents met, it was all too natural to get in a fight. She didn't even mind if it was a man against a woman when Jun Yixie was so despicable. If the white-robed man hadn't risked his life to save her that day, she didn't dare to imagine what the consequences might be. She used to hold some modicum of respect for Jun Yixie, but now it was pure contempt.
Disgraceful affairs like that weren't worth mentioning, nor did she want to tattle about it pitifully to Long Feiye in tears. She only knew that she'd help Long Feiye completely as soon as he made a move. Any principles were wasted on a beast like Jun Yixie.
Long Feiye's sword slashed through the air with a shrill cry until the blade became nothing more than a shadow to join its speeding owner. After shimmering hazily in the air for a few seconds, both human and weapon headed for Jun Yixie. There was still some distance between the two ships, and Han Yunxi dearly wished she knew enough martial arts at this moment to chase after Long Feiye. Unfortunately, she knew nothing.
But instead of losing heart, she used all her energy to stare at Jun Yixie. Perhaps she could find a chance to counter any poisons he used!
"Duke of Qin, long time no see. Won't you exchange a few words with me?" Jun Yixie looked arrogant and presumptuous, but he avoided Long Feiye's attack all the same.
"You have no right to speak with your lordship!" Then again, who could be more arrogant than Long Feiye himself? He wasn't stupid enough to chase Jun Yixie all the way to his boat, but hovered high over the seas, slashing through the air with his sword to send a wave of sword qi blasting towards Jun Yixie.
Jun Yixie avoided the blast again, making Long Feiye realize that he had no intentions to truly fight him. His constant evasions only hinted towards a trap lying in wait.
"What, has Northern Li's Duke of Kang turned into a shrinking turtle after all this time?" Long Feiye asked coldly.
Dissatisfaction flashed through Jun Yunxie's eyes, but he simply twisted his body to avoid another blast of sword qi before diving unexpectedly into the water.
"He really is a cowardly turtle!" Long Feiye gave a cold snort as he icy eyes stared at the surface of the sea. Unfortunately, Jun Yixie had dove too deep to show any sign of himself.
"Baili, be on guard!" Long Feiye shouted. Naturally, General Baili understood. One of the greatest fears of battling on the water was someone secretly sabotaging one's ship. Not only was it hard to guard against such attacks, they very often proved fatal. Han Yunxi was also anxiously studying the ocean. Although poisoning the entire sea was something neither she nor Jun Yixie could manage, she was still on alert in case he tried anything toxic.
General Baili ordered a few of his men to dive into the sea and protect the boat. Underwater battles were a challenge, so it was unlikely that Jun Yixie could defeat his naval soldiers. Time passed slowly, but there was still no sign of their target. It seemed like he'd really ended up running away. But that wasn't his style at all!
No matter what Jun Yixie's intentions were, Long Feiye didn't have enough patience to wait for him. A monk can run away, but the temple won't flee with him. That was an idiom that meant Jun Yixie could run this time, but he'd have to come back sooner or later. Long Feiye would get him then.
In fact, his eyes were even now sweeping the entire sea before settling on Northern Li's battleship. See if you'll still keep hiding after I wreck your ship!
But before Long Feiye made his move, a man dressed in brocade robes walked out of his quarters on the towered ship. He couldn't be more than 20 years old, but he had an elegant and smart carriage as well as a heroic air. His robes were inlaid with gold-lined hems, and every movement he made gave off a noble air. Though he looked genteel and refined, his eyes held the shrewd light of a businessman.
"Your Highness Duke of Qin, it's been years since we've last met, but you're as graceful as ever!" he cupped his hands in a urbane bow.
"Ouyang Ningnuo."1 Long Feiye was caught off guard. He never expected to see this man on Jun Yixie's ship, of all places.
Han Yunxi's gaze grew complicated after hearing the name as well. Although she didn't know him by sight, she'd long heard of his name. Ouyang Ningnuo was the head of Cloud Realm Continent's Trade Consortium. Although he looked like a cultured man, he was a crafty, treacherous type! He controlled key branches of trade across all of Cloud Realm Continent and was capable of affecting an entire nation's economy. For example, although Medicine City's Medical Materials Association was controlled by the city's three great families, that wasn't actually the case. If Ouyang Ningnuo was feeling unhappy, he could make it impossible for two-thirds of Medicine City to sell any of their wares. Rumors had it that trade between Medicine City and Medical City involved the man as well, because he'd supposedly bought off the countless people within the medical academy and the three great medicinal clans.
Besides that, the trade between Tianning and Western Zhou at their borders were even beyond the control of the commanders-in-chiefs stationed there. The true master behind the scenes was this man, who had the skills to make connections with any type of tribe or ethnic group. Apparently, he had a large stake in Cloud Realm Continent's two largest black markets as well.
Leaving aside the veracity of the rumors, his identity as head of Cloud Realm Continet's Trade Consortium was already a hefty status. Every source of authority needed to yield three steps before this man, no matter what kind of person they were. But why was he traveling with Jun Yixie? Was he here for the fish as well?
"This one is of humble birth. For Your Highness Duke of Qin to remember my name really is honor accumulated from three previous lifetimes," Ouyang Ningnuo was very modest.
Long Feiye wasn't buying any of it, and asked coldly, "Since when has Cloud Realm Continent's Trade Consortium become the Northern Li imperial clan's dog?"
These were harsh words, but Ouyang Ningnuo didn't get angry. He gladly explained, "Your Highness Duke of Qin, I am simply doing a spot of business with the Duke of Kang. I ask that Your Highness Duke of Qin give the trade consortium some face for my sake. Your Highness and the Duke of Qin can certainly settle your private affairs after matters here have concluded."
Long Feiye had no quarrel with Ouyang Ningnuo, and had even cooperated with him on private business matters in the past. Since he was asking for face so bluntly, he wasn't in a position to reject him. Of course, Long Feiye was no idiot either, and demanded, "What, has Cloud Realm Continent's Trade Consortium gotten their eyes on doing business with my Tianning's famine situation?"
His question came straight to the point. A typical smart man might only see that Ouyang Ningnuo was cooperating with Jun Yixie to get some fish, but Long Feiye had seen through their darker designs. The two of them weren't catching fish because they wanted or needed to; but for matters of trade. Of the three countries on Cloud Realm Continent, only Tianning citizens enjoyed eating fish. Currently, they were conveniently caught in the middle of a famine, so Ouyang Ningnuo was probably planning to gather fish and sell them back to the disaster regions!
"Your Highness Duke of Qin, trade is a free market. If there was any grain to buy, I'm certain Emperor Tianhui and yourself would be all too happy to spend silver on supplies. Naturally, the fish on Fishery Island are free for anyone to take as well. Your Highness Duke of Qin wouldn't be planning to claim it all by force, would you? If news of that spread, it'd greatly hurt your illustrious name."
See here, how beautifully Ouyang Ningnuo weaved his words! He was the one planning a despicable business deal, but he'd tossed out such a highfalutin excuse to make everything sound reasonable and logical. If Long Feiye still didn't back off after his words, wouldn't he just be seen as taking over Fishery Island with the pretense of settling private grudges with Jun Yixie?
Han Yunxi's lips curved up mockingly. Her first impression of this Ouyang Ningnuo was...absolutely shameless! Although Long Feiye kept staring at Ouyang Ningnuo without speaking, she knew that he had to give the other man some face. After all, he was the representative for the trade consortium. It was even harder to risk offensive when the man was working with Jun Yixie. Once they did, they'd only be pushing the entire trade consortium to side with Jun Yixie instead. Han Yunxi was a 100% cool-headed woman-aside from dealing with Long Feiye, of course.
While Long Feiye was hesitating, a figure suddenly emerged from the waters to land on the beach of Fishery Island. He was none other than Jun Yixie! With a scornful smile, he said, "Long Feiye, for the sake of saving Master Ouyang some face, your lord shall set aside our private grudges for now. We can chose another day to fight!"
This guy, he'd been provoking Long Feiye on purpose in the first place!
Long Feiye narrowed his eyes at him, his expression dangerous. But in the end, he didn't make any moves. He too, was a 100% cool-headed man who understood the customs forbidding combat on Fishery Island. Now that Jun Yixie had made it on land, there was no way he could touch the man. Anyone who violated the rules or went counter to its morals would be cursed by all the people in the world. There were plenty of chances to deal with Jun Yixie later, so it wouldn't be too late to teach him a lesson after they'd gotten their fish!
"Fine, Ouyang Ningnuo. Your lordship will give you this face!" Long Feiye re-sheathed his sword and returned to his ship.
"Many thanks to Your Highness Duke of Qin," Ouyang Ningnuo was still polite and refined in his speech. He changed to a smaller boat and sailed onshore with a bunch of attendants. Long Feiye and Han Yunxi did the same with General Baili and his daughter. Despite giving Ouyang Ningnuo face, they had no such reservations once they alighted on the island. Like what he just said, the fish here were free for all and first come, first serve. Rather than wasting their time with words, they should act to find the best 'fisheye' to lure out the fish!
"Mingxiang, you've got a lot of pressure on your shoulders," Han Yunxi murmured. She wasn't joking this time. Ouyang Ningnuo had admitted that he was gathering fish to sell back to Tianning's disaster regions. If his side really found the largest haul of fish first, Long Feiye and Tianning would both lose face. Leaving aside the fact that the people desperately needed this fish, the current situation was important enough to demand a victory for their side!
Baili Mingxiang knew she had a large duty to fulfill, but she was still rather confident. "Esteemed wangfei, don't worry. I'll definitely give it my all."
Two teams of men and horses all embarked upon the beach. Jun Yixie held himself with a haughty air and looked down upon them all, while Ouyang Ningnuo was as courteous as ever. He said, "Your Highness Duke of Qin, many thanks for making allowances. I shall head off first, then."
Since Long Feiye had already yielded a step, he simply gave a generous nod. Jun Yixie and his team faded into tiny figures in the distance before he finally spoke up. "Baili Mingxiang, lead the way!"
1. Ouyang Ningnuo () - Ouyang is a double character surname, Ning is "peaceful, tranquil," Nuo is "promise."