Chapter 436: A fellow brother and His Excellency Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
The scent of rice!
Jun Yixie felt energized as soon as he caught whiff of it. He followed his nose until it led him to the depths of the forest. There on the ground was a black-robed man in the middle of cooking. This fellow looked like he came prepared, because there were multiple bags of things by his body. He had set up two stone stoves with a pot on each, with one boiling water while the other cooked his rice. Those snow-white kernels and fine round grains were a mouth-watering sight. Hot steam rose from the pot, making Jun Yixie swallow his drool.
Three months, ah. Three months without a single grain of rice!
Despite how much he wanted the meal, how could a man like him bow and scrape to get a share? Despite his dire straits, Jun Yixie held himself back and gulped a few times before reining his emotions in.
Then he walked over and greeted, “This younger brother looks exceptionally refined.”
Gu Qishao surveyed him before he laughed. “I expect that you must be Northern Li’s Duke of Kang, Jun Yixie?”
Jun Yixie started feeling awkward at those words. The news that Long Feiye had moved the entire Tianning Navy just to blockade him on Fishery Island had long spread across Cloud Realm continent. It wasn’t strange for visitors here to recognize him. But the embarrassment only lasted for a moment. The presumptuous Jun Yixie admitted his identity openly.
“It’s exactly your lord. I don’t know how I should address you in turn?”
“Just another idler in the jianghu,” Gu Qishao replied vaguely, seemingly uninterested in Jun Yixie’s status.
“Fellow brother, this isn’t the season for fishing, is it?” Jun Yixie queried next. Although half his soul had already floated away with the scent of rice, he could still keep a cool head. Wasn’t it strange for this black-robed man to run over here and cook?
“Hehe, this is the perfect time to visit. The Illusory Sea Lake’s lobsters are fattest during the cusp between spring and summer,” Gu Qishao explained patiently.
“I see, I see…” Jun Yixie had heard of the Illusory Sea Lake’s lobsters, yet it wasn’t easy fishing them up without extreme patience. That was why so few people bothered trying. He’d met two people who tried last month before they gave up out of the sheer difficulty.
By now, the water in the pot had come to a boil. Gu Qishao took out a packet of powder and poured it into the pot, sending up a cloud of delicious fragrance. Unlike the fresh scent of rice, this smelled like meat and was absolutely irresistible. Jun Yixie sucked in a deep breath, unable to hide his pleasant surprise.
“That is Northern Li’s fatty lamb hotpot stock from Rong City! It has the reputation as the world’s finest hotpot.”
“Your Highness Duke of Kang can tell the taste just by a hint of its scent? It may not be a bad idea for you to have a taste,” Gu Qishao grinned. He was right. The fragrance had yet to spread fully. Once the water had boiled a little bit longer, the scene would increase ten-thousand fold and linger on the tongue.
Jun Yixie’s stomach had long grown restless from the scent alone, so he invited himself to a seat and chuckled. “Fatty lamb hotpot stock is a tribute of the imperial clan. It has only spread to the common people in the last two years, so the supply is rather limited. Fellow brother, you must have expended some effort to buy this stock, no?”
Gu Qishao laughed. “Heheh, people will die for the sake of a good meal1 after all!” The original saying was supposed to be ‘People die for the sake of wealth, birds die for the sake of a meal,’ but this fellow had simply combined the two phrases into one!
Jun Yixie laughed out loud. “Fellow brother has quite a personality, your lord approves!”
By now, the hotpot was cooking away nicely, its distinctive fragrance rising with the steam to tempt one’s nose and taste buds. Gu Qishao grinned and purposely took a deep breath. “Delicious! Truly delicious!”
Jun Yixie hastened to speak, “Fellow brother, this isn’t how you’re supposed to sniff the stock. It’s more like this.” So speaking, he took in a deep breath and held it until the fragrance gradually filled his nasal cavity and then spread down to his mouth. Gu Qishao quickly copied the motion. A deep breath like that, combined with holding one’s breath afterwards, really reached new heights of enjoyment with the lingering scent!
“Your Highness Duke of Kang is quite the expert on this,” Gu Qishao said.
Jun Yixie chuckled and kept taking deep breaths, enjoying the delicious scent. Even if he couldn’t eat any, smelling it was enjoyable as well! Once the hotpot starting boiling, Gu Qishao brought over two more packages—one big, one small—and opened them up to reveal two things. One was thinly sliced mutton strips, while the other was fresh green vegetables. Jun Yixie couldn’t hold back his drool then. Not only was there delicious white rice, but also lamb and fresh vegetables for the hotpot! The combination would be delectable!
Gu Qishao glanced at Jun Yixie as his eyes flashed with icy laughter. He mixed up his sauce on the side before beginning to broil the meat. Piece of piece, he swished the slices of mutton in the hot water before scooping them out, dipping them in the sauce, and taking a bite while the meat was still steaming. The tender juices left a mouthwatering aftertaste on his tongue as a truly scrumptious bite.
Jun Yixie’s stomach grumbled at the sight, and he awkwardly pressed a hand against his abdomen to muffle the sound. Gu Qishao pretended not to notice and ate a few more bits before he said in satisfaction, “Mm, the taste is just right. Your Highness Duke Kang, want to try some?”
Jun Yixie would never ask to try some himself. He was waiting for these very words! In delight, he replied, “It is better to accept reverentially than to decline courteously.”
Gu Qishao broke his chopsticks in half and offered one portion to Jun Yixie. “We’ll have to make do with this.”
He only brought one pair of chopsticks? Then it’s highly probable he didn’t come just for me. Those were Jun Yixie’s thoughts, but he still had enough caution to check whether the lamb was poisoned before eating it himself. As it turned out, once he started eating, he couldn’t stop.
Soon enough, both men had polished off the pot of rice and an entire hotpot’s worth of lamb and vegetables. Once full to his heart’s content, Jun Yixie asked, “Fellow brother, have you heard any news regarding the war between Northern Li and Tianning?”
From what Jun Yixie knew of his sovereign, the Northern Li emperor would never take Long Feiye’s slight lying down. He would definitely fight back and threaten Emperor Tianhui. There was no reason for things to stay so quiet!
Gu Qishao leaned lazily against the tree trunk as he arched an eyebrow at Jun Yixie. Laughing coldly, he said, “This young master has never been interested in court politics.”
Jun Yixie knit his brows. There’s something off about his attitude. Just what does he mean by that?
Gu Qishao’s eyes suddenly turned cold. “This young master’s only interested in you!”
Jun Yixie was immediately on guard after hearing that. He glanced at the remnants of their meal, sensing that he’d been tricked. But he had been so sure there was no poison! Aside from Han Yunxi, are there others with superior poison skills to me?
“Just who are you? Why did you come here?” he asked coldly.
Gu Qishao slowly drawled out two words, “The Bear chuan…”
At this, Jun Yixie was shocked, though he didn’t reveal it on his face. With frost in his voice, he retorted, “What’s a Bear chuan?”
“You don’t know it?” Gu Qishao smiled.
“I’ve never even heard of it!” Jun Yixie denied it utterly.
But how could not know it? The Bear chuan was an exceedingly precious and unique medicinal ingredient. It wasn’t only used to treat illnesses, but also as an ingredient in antidotes as well. He had expended no end of effort and money to secure one in the past. How did this fellow managed to find out about my Bear chuan? What kind of poison could he be trying to cure with it?
Gu Qishao didn’t argue when Jun Yixie repudiated his claims. Instead, he sat watching the man in amusement with his arched eyebrows. After eating an entire meal with the man, Jun Yixie was ill at ease. He creased his brows and prepared to fight until he recalled the No Fighting policy on Fishery Island.
“Just what are you planning?” he raged.
Gu Qishao’s eyes turned vicious as he spat out, word by word, “Hand over the Bear chuan and I’ll give you the antidote! Otherwise…”
Jun Yixie felt puzzled. Judging by the man’s attitude, he seemed to harbor a serious grudge towards me. He’d offended plenty of people in his life, including killing off fathers, wives, and entire families.
So which one does this current situation fall under?
Though he was bewildered, he still put up a strong front and shot Gu Qishao a scornful look. “Or else, what?”
But he’d barely finished speaking when a sharp pain arose from his stomach. It gradually intensified into sharp, stabbing pains, it was as if something was burning his intestines from the inside out.
Would any of Gu Qishao’s poisons be a simple affair? Even a man like Jun Yixie couldn’t stop himself from knitting his brows! Of course, aside from the pain, his heart was already filling with terror. So the meal was really poisoned! But I didn’t even notice it when I ate. Moreover, I still don’t know what kind of poison this is?! To fail in his strongest subject was sheer humiliation for the famous and celebrated poisons expert and head of the Hundred Poison Sect, Jun Yixie!
A single Han Yunxi is already enough for me to deal with. Where in the world did this guy come from?! Jun Yixie endured the pain and roared, “Just who are you!?”
Gu Qishao was still leaning lazily against his tree, pulling up tufts of grass as he amused himself. It was a long time before he finally drawled again, “Bear…chuan…”
“I don’t have it!” Jun Yixie denied again in a stern voice.
Gu Qishao shrugged. After resting for a bit, he brought out another pack of lamb strips and started boiling hotpot anew, thoroughly enjoying the taste of the meat. But that length of time was enough to send Jun Yixie into the throes of agony. He clutched his stomach as he huddled over in pain, but forcing him to hand over the Bear chuan was hardly such a simple matter.
I will endure!
“I’m off to fish for lobsters. If Your Highness Duke of Kang has thought things through, come find me for the antidote at anytime,” Gu Qishao grinned.
Fishery Island might have prohibited fighting, but not poisons! As long as he didn’t poison all the fish to death, no one could do anything against him. If he hadn’t used Jun Yixie’s confidence in poisons against him, he might not have won this bout at all! Under Jun Yixie’s hateful glare, Gu Qishao picked up his fishing pole and started humming a tune as he headed for the Illusory Sea Lake. He was planning to catch a few giant lobsters to help Poison lass restore her health.
Late spring on the cusp of summer is a great season for lobsters after all!
As soon as Gu Qishao left, Jun Yixie was so angry he sent the hotpot flying with a kick! Dammnit! Have I gotten rusty? Any old peon can beat me now? If they want me to hand over the Bear chuan, they can just keep dreaming!
Jun Yixie sat at the base of the tree as he pressed pressed his hands against his stomach and forced himself to calm down. He refused to believe that he couldn’t treat this new poison!
Unfortunately, after hours of enduring the pain he still had no hints or clues. He was in so much pain that he couldn’t even sit straight, but remained hunched over on the ground. Here of all times, his poisoned shoulder started acting up as well. Jun Yixie fell to the side and grew still. Finally, he couldn’t bear the pain anymore and started thrashing around on the ground.
Pain could be fatal, too! Plenty of people had died from sheer pain alone. Aware that he likely wouldn’t be able to survive at this rate, Jun Yixie finally caved in. He forced himself to walk to the lake, too pained to talk, and held up the Bear chuan in one hand towards Gu Qishao.
“Aiya, you’ve thought things through?” Gu Qishao smiled coldly.
“Bring over the antidote!” Jun Yixie gasped out, his face pale and drenched in sweat.
“Do you really think you have the right to talk terms with me?” Gu Qishao retorted coldly.
Unwilling to concede yet helpless to do otherwise, Jun Yixie tossed the Bear chuan over. Gu Qishao caught it in his hands and made sure it was the real thing before rejoicing. He glanced back at Jun Yixie with a devastatingly beautiful smile and said, “Welp, it looks like I forgot to bring the antidote with me.”
- people will die for a good meal (人为食亡) – renwei shiwang, this is actually a shortened/modified version of the original saying, 人为财死，鸟为食亡 renwei caisi, niaowei shiwang, which means “people die for the sake of wealth (while) birds die for the sake of a meal.” Here, the saying has been adapted to just include the “people” and “sake of food” bits with an ironic twist. The original saying came from an anecdote about two people who had unexpectedly dug up a treasure trove on top of a mountain. In the midst of their excitement, Person A told Person B to bring back some food while he guarded the treasure, and to not tell anyone about it. Person B agreed and went down the mountain. After grabbing some rice and food, he started the trek back up, which took hours. While waiting for him, Person A began to entertain thoughts of keeping the treasure for himself, and plotted to kill off Person B. Meanwhile, Person B had the same thought, and placed poison in the food to kill off A. Eventually, Person B made it to Person A. While preparing to enjoy their meal, Person A caught Person B unawares with a knife and killed him. Then Person A ate a few bites of the meal in celebration, only to die shortly afterwards, scattering his rice on the ground. A few stray birds who flew by looking for a meal ate the rice and also died. In the end, no one got the treasure. Some time later, a wandering Immortal who came upon the scene sighed and murmured, “People died for the sake of wealth as birds die for the sake of a meal.” ↩