Chapter 401: Intense rivalry
The Illusory Sea Lake was absolutely silent. Long Feiye and Han Yunxi's group sat by the shore, gathering warmth from the fire they'd set up. Of their number, Baili Mingxiang was the only one who had ventured onto the ice. Jun Yixie and Ouyang Ningruo were also keeping warm on the opposite shore, but they had 10 fishermen to their name on the lake surface. The two groups were less than 100 meters apart, and the difference in strength between them was obvious. Although neither side spoke nor acted impulsively, they each kept an eye on their respective opponents.
The smell of gunpowder had already spread across the lake. Both Baili Mingxiang and the ten fishermen were measuring each others' strength by their movements. Suddenly, one fisherman stomped ferociously on the ice. Whatever was on the bottom of his shoe pierced into the surface and formed a depression. He stomped in the same place three more times until he made a hole. Naturally, just random stomping wouldn't reveal any fisheyes, but the fish would still gather to the breathing hole to get some air. The fisherman actually took a long spear and stabbed into the water before getting a pole full of at least twenty large fish.
"Heheh, this lord is quite hungry!" Jun Yixie roared in delight as he accepted the offered pole and placed it over the fire for roasting. He is obviously taking advantage of the situation! Although anyone could make a hole and spear some fish, the fisherman's quick and efficient moves proved him an expert. An ordinary person might take ages just to break through the ice itself. Long Feiye and Han Yunxi simply watched on coldly without saying a word.
Baili Mingxiang was a very calm, collected woman. She knew those fishermen were formidable, but she wasn't afraid. There were plenty of fisheyes hidden in this lake, but it took skill to find them all. Rather than quantity, they were competing in quality. Otherwise, she could have found her own team of experienced fishermen as well. She looked back at Han Yunxi and said in a bantering tone, "Esteemed wangfei, are you hungry?"
"After seeing a certain someone's tastes, I've lost my appetite. Let's start." Han Yunxi wore a brilliant smile, being even calmer than Baili Mingxiang. If they expected to scare her with such a simple show, they were greatly underestimating her. General Baili had only brought along Baili Mingxiang, but he most likely had his own reasons.
"Yes!" Baili Mingxiang was glad to see esteemed wangfei trusted her so much. Still, she couldn't resist glancing at His Highness Duke of Qin during the second she turned back. It was enough to fill her vision with his handsome profile and drink deep of his fathomless gaze, as well as his frozen heart.
Your Highness Duke of Qin, just for the sake of this one glance today, Baili Mingxiang will help you win this battle.
Ignoring the demonstration from her opponents, Baili Mingxiang crouched down to carefully examine the ice, her jade-like fingers knocking lightly against its surface as she listened to the sounds produced. She stroked the frozen floor and gradually lost herself in the search, so much that she forgot all about the cold. Subconsciously, she gathered up her sleeves and began to measure the ice with her bare arms.
Seeing that their provocation had failed, the fishermen, Jun Yixie, and Ouyang Ningruo all lost interest in continuing the charade.
"Start searching. Whoever finds something will be rewarded with a multi-deck ship." In all of Cloud Realm Continent, only Ouyang Ningruo's wealth could be compared to the Duke of Qin's. He made the declaration quite casually, but the fishermen were all elated at the promise. Very soon, all ten of them were searching studiously on the ice. Though the scene looked serene, an intense rivalry had just begun!
Jun Yixie purposely rose to his feet and walked to the edge of the lake to survey Baili Mingxiang's delicate figure. Soon enough, Ouyang Ningruo joined him with a murmur. "This girl isn't as simple as she looks." Long Feiye had to have a reason to send out such a frail-looking figure.
"What, are you afraid of her?" Jun Yixie retorted. Ouyang Ningruo remained smiling soundlessly. Of his ten fishermen, two were first-rate experts with extensive records in fish hunting on Fishery Island. How could I be afraid? When have I ever made a bad business deal?
Jun Yixie stared at Baili Mingxiang for a long time and couldn't help but feel that her complexion looked off. This sickly looking beauty didn't seem ill, but poisoned instead. Unfortunately, he was too far away to ascertain his suspicions. He was puzzled as to what kind of poison lurked in her body. Was it something that Han Yunxi couldn't cure herself? And how had the woman gotten poisoned in the first place? As Jun Yixie lost himself in his thoughts, there was a sudden noise.
Following the sound led one to a fisherman who'd violently stomped at the ice, sending ripples of cracks emanating from the center.
Could it be... Jun Yixie was an amateur when it came to fishing, but Ouyang Ningruo had starting laughing out loud long before his young partner knew what was going on.
"Old Yu,1 your skills certainly have improved!"
The fisherman burst into racous laughter. "Master's over praising me. My decrepit self's merely found a small fisheye, that's all." So speaking, he took out a spear and broke through the ice, revealing a hole teeming with noisy water. One could well imagine the quantity of fish thrashing beneath the surface.
As soon as the fisheye was found, the workers on the side swooped in with their nets to catch the fish. They had curved handles that allowed them to dip into the water and catch fish from a distance, thus allowing them to snag a large quantity of fish in a short amount of time.
"That fast! You guys can take it easy, don't net all the fish in the lake!" Jun Yixie laughed as he walked closer to observe the fisheye.
"Your Highness Duke of Kang, it's impossible for us to catch them all. Still, we can probably manage to net all the fish in this section of the lake," Old Yu said happily.
"Then hurry up and hunt. If all the fish are caught, your lord shall reward you all handsomely!" Jun Yixie declared, raising his voice. Naturally, Baili Mingxiang heard every word, but she didn't even deign to lift her head to look at them. As before, she remained crouched on the ice as she swept its surface with her hands. Behind her, Long Feiye, Han Yunxi, and General Baili remained silent as they waited, watching patiently.
Soon enough, there was another stomp as a second fisherman found a small fisheye as well.
"Someone come, cast the nets!" Jun Yixie waved his hand as a team of workers came hurrying over. More time passed until another kerthunk revealed the discovered of the third fisheye, again discovered by Old Yu.
Jun Yixie and Ouyang Ningruo ended up sitting side by side on the shore. The former was munching carefreely on his roasted fish, his expression wanton and insufferably arrogant as he looked disdainfully at Long Feiye and the rest. Meanwhile, Ouyang Ningruo wore the hint of a smile at the corners of his lips, very pleased with the fishermen's progress. Ten workers had already started gathering nets from the first fisheye, their arms straining from the effort of pulling it out. A net filled to the brim with flopping fish was left to rest on the ice, making for an extremely shocking sight!
While they were gathering their abundant harvest, two fishermen found two other fisheyes at the exact same time and stomped on the ice in unison. Everyone on the team was happy to hear the sound. Although these two turned out to be small fisheyes as well, they'd already gotten their fifth hole! On the other side, Baili Mingxiang hadn't found a single one. With the fish all crowded together like this, five fisheyes were already considered a heavy sum. It was quite possible that this section of the lake had no more fisheyes at all.
Long Feiye looked coldly at their enthusiastic fishing as his pupils turned even frostier than the ice. Han Yunxi had her sights set on Baili Mingxiang, who by now was sprawled against the lake with her ear pressed to its surface, as if listening for something. Han Yunxi didn't understand what she was doing, but she knew that Baili Mingxiang's body wouldn't be able to take the cold for long. Ice was cold to begin with, but Baili Mingxiang was still casting her life aside to lie on its surface. If she collapsed, there'd be no one to find fisheyes on their side at all. Even General Baili had begun to grow anxious at the sight.
Although he believed in his daughter's skills, the opposing side had several very capable fishermen as well. In fact, he realized he'd underestimated the others' strength. He had never expected to run into Jun Yixie either, and was planning to have Baili Mingxiang take her time searching the lake. It wasn't like they were in a rush. He was even considering switching locations on the lake for Baili Mingxiang, but wouldn't that just make them a laughingstock? That was no different than fleeing in defeat.
Still, if they didn't change their location soon, what would they do if all the fisheyes had been found in this location already? Then wouldn't his daughter be spending her efforts in vain while sacrificing her own body?
Kerthunk! There went the sixth stomp, credited yet again to Old Yu. Another small fisheye had been found. Finally, General Baili lost his cool and said, "Your Highness, should we change places? I'm worried that Mingxiang's body won't be able to take it."
"She knows better than anyone whether we should change places or not," Long Feiye said coldly, still calmly surveying the scenes of fishing across the lake. General Baili found himself in a difficult position. His Highness Duke of Qin had no understanding of Baili Mingxiang's personality, but he, as her father did. She would force herself to keep going so as to not lose a single hint of face for His Highness. Without another choice, General Baili cast a glance at Han Yunxi. She too, was worried about Baili Mingxiang straining herself in vain and losing sight of the big picture. She was about to speak up when Baili Mingixiang suddenly rose to her feet, her red, chilly frozen framed with joy.
Baili Mingxiang was so happy that she almost forgot herself and met Long Feiye's eyes squarely. Loudly, she declared, "Your Highness, I've found it! I've found a medium fisheye!"
In a flash, everyone's eyes looked over-including the large crowd of people standing at Jun Yixie's side. For an expert, finding small fisheyes were easy, but medium fisheyes were quite difficult! A single medium fisheye was equal to ten small ones!
"Good!" Long Feiye looked at Baili Mingixang and spoke but a single word, but his eyes in Baili Mingxiang's view was giving her affirmation. Baili Mingxiang stood in place and even felt a little at a loss. She'd done it. She'd finally done it. Aside from the Beauty's Blood, she'd managed to make him look at her a little longer and take up a little more space in his memories.
"Make a hole in the ice and release the nets!" Han Yunxi shouted, her cold eyes sweeping past Jun Yixie. They'd made such a big fuss, but all their holes so far couldn't be compared to a single one from Baili Mingxiang! What was with that showing off?
"Someone come, quickly!" General Baili was all too excited and glad. His daughter hadn't lost face for her or His Highness Duke of Qin! Thank goodness he didn't raise the issue of changing locations, or else they would have suffered losses.
Jun Yixie viciously tossed aside the roasted fish in his hands and rose to his feet. "Ouyang Ningruo, don't tell your lord that you want to change places now!"
Typically speaking, there wouldn't be another medium fisheye within 100 meters of the first. But immediately after Jun Yixie spoke, the fisherman Old Yu suddenly starting shouting. "Master! Master, hurry over here, quick. I've found it! I've found it!"
Ouyang Ningruo's gaze turned shrewd as he headed over, with a puzzled Jun Yixie following in his wake.
Just what...has Old Yu discovered?
1. Old Yu () - lao Yu, in which Yu means "extra, surplus." As an added pun, it's also pronounced the same way as (yu), or fish.