Chapter 400: A pretty good mood
Fishery Island was a miraculous place. The entire island was shaped like a circle, and beyond the outer ring of beaches was a perimeter of forests that surrounded its most mystical point, the Illusory Sea Lake. Baili Mingxiang led the way while swaddled up in her thick fox fur cloak. She had done research into the lake before, and even came here a few times on her own. Naturally, she knew where to find fisheyes.
Han Yunxi and Long Feiye were right behind her, where the latter had somehow grasped her hand again. This seemed to have turned into a habit for him. General Baili brought up the rear with a team of fishermen and attendants, and the entire group made their way through the forest.
"It really is mysterious. Although it's the middle of winter, the plants here are flourishing. If that's the case, why would the lake up ahead be frozen in ice?" Han Yunxi asked.
This island was located near the north as well, so it was perfectly normal to have a frozen lake in winter. But the flourishing green forest was another matter. Han Yunxi discovered that she couldn't make sense of the situation at all with her common knowledge. Baili Mingxiang was about to explain when Long Feiye beat her to it. "This entire island works outside of logic."
Fine, something like that could explain away all irregularities.
"That doesn't answer the question at all," Han Yunxi whispered to herself. Still, she slowly found it an acceptable explanation. There were plenty of inexplicable phenomenon that existed in nature to begin with, after all. After walking for a bit, Han Yunxi adjusted her cloak, feeling a bit cold. Aside from the wind, the temperatures hadn't felt much different until now.
Her movement attracted Long Feiye's attention, who lowered his voice to ask, "Cold?"
"I'm alright," Han Yunxi's fox fur cloak was still enough to keep out the chill, and her palms were still warm. Long Feiye didn't reply, but pulled her into his embrace until she was standing by his side. Now she truly wasn't cold. This fellow has a cold personality, but his body's quite warm. So comfy.
"How cold is this Illusory Sea Lake?" Han Yunxi asked with interest.
"The entire lake starts freezing over near the second half of the year. The ice is about three feet thick, and any water scattered on its surface immediately freezes up. That's why any fish we catch can be frozen instantly and kept fresh for up to half a year." Once again, it was Long Feiye who replied.
All of the subordinates under Long Feiye's command knew that the taciturn Duke of Qin was quite talkative when it came to esteemed wangfei.
"That's so convenient. No wonder you'd come here to find food!" Fishery Island wasn't very far from the disaster regions either, so if they delivered the fish while the weather was still cold, it'd definitely arrive fresh. Fish meat could be eaten right then and there or preserved for future use. It could also be cooked with various vegetables and plants, as well as the limited supplies of grain, to make a meal, thus saving grain overall. For the disaster victims, this would definitely be a boon.
The more Han Yunxi thought about this, the more expectations she held. If possible, she'd take back a giant boat of fish right now to make the people happier. At the same time, it'd stifled Emperor Tianhui's spirits. As the wind rose again, cold blasts of air from the frozen lake blew painfully against their faces.
"Can you bear it?" Long Feiye asked.
The woman in his arms wasn't a spoiled sort to start with; moreover, with him shielding her, what was a little chill like this?
"It's fine," Even Han Yunxi's heart was warm! Meanwhile, Baili Mingxiang kept at the head, her hands clutching her cloak as she bowed her head and listened to the conversation behind her. Despite her silence, an uncontrollable sense of misery rose up in her heart. She was the one who was truly cold! Her body was weak to begin with, so it couldn't stand cold temperatures. Despite standing right in front of His Highness Duke of Qin, the man had no eyes for her at all.
General Baili's estate and all its residents were all willing to sell their lives for His Highness Duke of Qin's sake, so none of them had ever spared her an extra glance. Now she was doing the same, but he still couldn't see her. He would be the same regardless of whether or not she existed. That's why she didn't compete for his attention. She knew all the well that it wouldn't make any differences, so she always kept silent. That kind of vain struggle would only leave a person hopeless.
As they drew closer to the lake, the winds grew stronger. Baili Mingxiang huddled up into a ball until suddenly, warmth settled over her shoulders. She unconsciously looked back and discovered that Han Yunxi had already reached her side and covered her in a large, fine down cloak.
"I figured your fox fur cloak wouldn't be enough," Han Yunxi said as she covered Baili Mingxiang's chilly ears with her hands, warming them up in her palms before putting up a warm fur hood.
"Originally, I wanted you to stay in the cold a bit until you got used to the temperature. This way, it won't be too much of a shock when you go to the Illusory Sea Lake later. But as things stand, I think it's better to bundle up first."
After placing the hood on Baili Mingxiang's head, Han Yunxi carefully tied it fast below her chin and bundled her up nice and snug until only her eyes and nose were exposed. Baili Mingxiang stared at her concentrated expression before her lips drew into a tight line. She found herself unable to speak. She thought that everyone had forgotten about her already, but that wasn't true. Han Yunxi had been caring for her the entire time!
This woman. She's clearly the younger one between us, but she's taking care of me like an older sister. Baili Mingxiang suddenly felt an urge to cry, overwhelmed by the warmth. She was the youngest daughter of General Baili's estate and had many older sisters. But today was the first time she knew what it felt like to truly have one care for her! Her eyes began to sting, so she quickly bowed her head before she was found out.
"Many thanks to esteemed wangfei."
"No need to be so polite. Let's go, you can't get sick!" Han Yunxi took Baili Mingxiang's arm, hoping to share some of her warmth with the poor girl. Baili Mingxiang was left feeling equal parts thankful and upset. At the very least, His Highness Duke of Qin must be looking at us now.
Long Feiye was indeed focused on the two women, but he was thinking about the Beauty's Blood. Obtaining it would definitely help Han Yunxi's efforts in unraveling the Perplexing Butterfly Illusion.
Now that esteemed wangfei had left His Highness's side, General Baili moved forward to speak. "Your Highness, Ouyang Ningnuo actually teamed up with Jun Yixie. This general doesn't understand why."
Even though Ouyang Ningnuo was a merchant who favored advantageous friendships, he didn't have to find Jun Yixie to harvest fish. He was far more competent than that. Naturally, Long Feiye had considered the issue as well. "I'm afraid those two have other deals in the background as well."
"Your Highness, we cannot allow the strength of the Cloud Realm Continent's Trade Consortium to simply give themselves up to Jun Yixie!" General Baili urged.
Long Feiye was clearer on this point than anything else, which was why he hadn't yielded to the other party for nothing. "You don't need to worry about it. Your lordship naturally knows what I'm doing." Long Feiye said mildly. He had started investigating Ouyang Ningnuo years ago, when he'd gotten into a business deal with the man at the frontier borders.
As Long Feiye and Han Yunxi's party headed towards the Illusory Sea Lake, Jun Yixie and Ouyang Ningnuo were doing the same with their own team of fishermen. This time, it was Ouyang Ningnuo who found Jun Yixie first to form an alliance. Though flattered by the unexpected favor, Jun Yixie was still left on guard. It wasn't until he discovered that Ouyang Ningnuo wanted to do some business with Northern Li battle horses and wanted to ask him for a favor that he relaxed.
News of Long Feiye's exploits in the disaster regions had spread far and wide. Jun Yixie had been keeping a secret eye on the proceedings, and naturally guessed that the man would come to Fishery Island for his next step. Fortunately, Ouyang Ningnuo had many fisheye-hunting experts in his employ, so the two of them settled on deal together after much discussion. Jun Yixie would help Ouyang Ningnuo recover the battle horses that had been detained while he was doing business, while the latter would help Jun Yixie find the right fisheyes to haul the largest load of fish. Jun Yixie was win this contest, since he was planning to use these fish to exchange for Han Yunxi's antidote!
Although he'd ran into Long Feiye here as well, it wouldn't affect his plans. After all, Ouyang Ningnuo's men were just simple hired men, but fishermen intimately familiar with fisheyes-areas in the ice ideal for breaking open and netting fish.
"Your Highness Duke of Kang and the Duke of Qin seem to have a deepset grudge," Ouyang Ningnuo said with a smile. He knew that the two men were antagonistic, but didn't expect them to start fighting as soon as they spotted each other.
Jun Yixie only smiled coldly without a world. As the wind blew towards their faces, he subconsciously clutched at his arm with a pained expression. That was the arm and shoulder that had been poisoned by Han Yunxi. Even now, the toxin was still there. The colder it grew, the stronger it ached. It exhausted him to his wits' end like rheumatism, leaving him helpless against it. Although he was good at enduring pain, sometimes he'd still lose control. He still couldn't figure out what kind of poison was in his arm and shoulder, but experience told him that the pain would only intensify with time. Eventually, it'd render his whole arm useless. He had to get rid of this poison first, then take his time toying back with Han Yunxi! As soon as he spread news of the poison beast, Han Yunxi would have her share of troubles!
Since Jun Yixie didn't respond to his query, Ouyang Ningnuo stopped probing and began to focus on Han Yunxi instead. "I heard that Qin Wangfei is a high-level poisons expert?"
"Heheh, you'll know if you test her yourself," Jun Yixie ridiculed.
Ouyang Ningnuo smiled as he shook his head. Like Jun Yixie, he seemed to be in a good mood. Overall, both of them were very confident in their fishing team. With the fishermen leading the way, they quickly arrived at the shores of the Illusory Sea Lake. Unfortunately, the first thing they saw upon emerging from the forest was Long Feiye's team not far awy.
The Illusory Sea Lake was shaped like a large circle, and its depths were filled with thousands of varieties of fish. Though the surface was covered in ice, the water deeper down was free-flowing and allowed the fish to lead normal lives. Any hole made into the ice would attract a large amount of fish into the opening to breathe. The so-called 'fisheyes' were certain locations atop the ice that could attract whole schools of fish. They were classified into large, medium, and small sizes to match the quantity of fish they drew in.
Fisheyes weren't easy to find. Discovering a medium-sized fisheye was already considered a difficult feat. Historically speaking, not a single person had uncovered a large sized fisheye on Fishery Island yet! Legends said that a single large fisheye could net all the fish in Illusory Sea Lake.
Long Feiye and Han Yunxi soon noticed the other party as well. As expected, enemies were bound to meet on a narrow road! Meanwhile, Baili Mingxiang was still freezing beneath her two layers of cloaks, but she stepped onto the frozen lake without hesitation.
"Your Highness, this is the region where all the schools of fish flock to. It's also the place with the highest concentration of fisheyes." Despite her fear and anxiety, Baili Mingxiang was still serious in the face of such a monumental task.