The fish bones, and the aura of a heavenly dragonfish coming from them, caused Chen Su’s heart to seize, and his mind to spin.
As a celestial in the Saint-Emperor Dynasty, he had seen heavenly dragonfish given out as rewards before. Whenever it happened, the recipients would keep them in ponds and take good care of them.
This was his first time hearing of someone doing something so shocking as eating a national treasure….
In fact, he almost couldn’t process it mentally. After staring blankly at the fish bones for a moment, he shook his head and sighed.
“What a reckless waste!” Unsure of exactly how he felt, he slowly left the blessed land.
After he was gone, Bai Xiaochun and the Giant Ghost King looked at each other in shock.
“It’s just a fish, right?” the Giant Ghost King said. “These Saint-Emperor Dynasty people are real weirdos.” The truth was that he was actually feeling a bit guilty at having gathered incomplete information the night before. Clearing his throat, he looked up into the evening sky.
“Well, Xiaochun, it’s actually a long way to Godsifter Prefecture. I really need to get going. Who knows when we’ll meet again.” He sighed. The two of them had accomplished a lot since their initial reunion in the Vile-Emperor Dynasty, and as he thought back, he realized that there had been many twists and turns in their journey.
The upside was that he now had a firm foundation, and his own path to tread.
Bai Xiaochun was feeling a bit emotional as well as he escorted the Giant Ghost King all the way to the teleportation portal. After the Giant Ghost King faded away, Bai Xiaochun sighed, and then turned to head back to his blessed land.
“With the Giant Ghost King gone, I'm all alone now. I guess it's time to start working hard on my cultivation base breakthrough.” A glint of determination could be seen in his eyes as he proceeded along. There were other pedestrians, mostly cultivators, although the occasional mortal could also be seen. And yet, even the mortals seemed to have arrogance baked into them all the way down to their bones.
Everyone in the capital city seemed to have a very high impression of themselves, and the truth was that Bai Xiaochun didn’t mind that. As he walked along, he looked around at the buildings, and thought about how Saint-Emperor City rested on enormous lotus leaves. It all made him sigh.
“And to think that it’s all built on top of a huge mountain and a heavenly pond.” At one point, his path took him toward the very edge of the lotus leaf, where he took the opportunity to look over at the water below.
Heavenly dragonfish swam there, and would occasionally leap up out of the water, their golden scales glistening in the sunlight and making them look particularly beautiful.
Quite a few people were in the area. Although the locals were used to heavenly dragonfish, they were still such an amazing sight that people would come to scenic spots like this to look at them. And of course, passing visitors would always come to do the same thing.
“These are the national treasures of the Saint-Emperor Dynasty, heavenly dragonfish!”
“These heavenly dragonfish are the most beautiful spirit creatures I've ever seen in my entire life! If the Saint-Emperor gave one to me as a gift, I would take care of it in my home forever. What an honor to my ancestors that would be!”
Many such expressions of praise could be heard. However, as Bai Xiaochun stood there in the crowd, he was thinking something very different. His mind was occupied with thoughts of how delicious the heavenly dragonfish were, and how beneficial they were to his cultivation base.
He couldn’t help but lick his lips. Considering the level of his cultivation base, it was easy for him to get a general idea of how many fish there were in the heavenly pond, and there were a lot. Even as he pondered if it might be possible to catch one, a visiting cultivator in the crowd turned to a friend and asked, “Considering that the heavenly dragonfish are precious national treasures, what would happen if one of them went missing…?”
When Bai Xiaochun heard that, his eyes glittered.
“Missing?” Laughter rippled through the crowd, causing the cultivator who had asked the question to flush in embarrassment.
Standing nearby was an old man with a Nascent Soul cultivation base, a person who had clearly lived in Saint-Emperor City for many years. Looking naturally pompous, he provided an answer.
“All of the heavenly dragonfish here are the personal property of His Majesty the Saint-Emperor. They're all branded with his mark. Who would possibly dare to try to steal one?! It would never happen, trust me. If someone did steal a fish, they would meet a horrific and grisly fate! In fact, forget stealing. It’s forbidden to do anything that would even come close to harming a heavenly dragonfish!” In response to the old man’s explanation, the visiting cultivator nodded vigorously.
As for Bai Xiaochun, he frowned, slightly frustrated by what he was hearing.
When the old man realized that he was now the center of attention, he proudly continued, “Of course, His Majesty the Saint-Emperor is generous and benevolent, and is not the type to become overly attached to his personal property. Furthermore, he pays close attention to matters regarding destiny. Therefore, he made a proclamation long ago stating that, in addition to acquiring heavenly dragonfish as a personal gift from him, anyone can take them as long as they do so by fishing!”
“Fishing?” blurted one of the other nearby cultivators.
“That’s right. Fishing. With a hook and line! Magic isn’t allowed. Only ordinary fishing techniques!” The old man cleared his throat before continuing. “Dragonfish are intelligent, and if you are connected to one by destiny, it will allow you to hook it and even eat it.” Stroking his beard, the old man pointed to another location at the edge of the lotus leaf, where it was just possible to see someone seated in meditation, but with a fishing pole in his hand.
“Look, over there. That’s Preceptor Seadeep. He’s been fishing in that exact same spot for over a hundred years. He hasn’t changed fishing spots by even an inch. I guess it just goes to show that he isn’t connected by destiny to any of the dragonfish.” Most of the people in the crowd actually knew all of these things already, and were clearly very proud of them. Eventually, the visiting cultivator offered profound thanks, and the crowd dispersed.
Bai Xiaochun remained behind, peering down at the heavenly dragonfish, and occasionally looking at the demigod, who had been sitting there fishing for over a hundred years.
“This Saint-Emperor really is stuck up!” he thought, rubbing his chin.
Although the Saint-Emperor’s decree seemed like an expression of benevolence, the truth was that… it was close to impossible to hook a dragonfish. One would probably be lucky to catch one after fishing for a few decades.
After all, they were intelligent, and were used to eating precious materials of heaven and earth, making them almost like immortal creatures. According to the Saint-Emperor’s decree, anyone who was connected by destiny to a fish could eat it, except… that was not something that would happen for most ordinary cultivators. The more Bai Xiaochun thought about it, the more obvious it was. And likely, there were other powerful experts in the Saint-Emperor Dynasty who would realize that such matters of destiny made the prospect of catching a dragonfish basically impossible.
Few people could have the raw determination of Preceptor Seadeep.
Bai Xiaochun was already starting to feel a bit let down. He really wanted to eat some heavenly dragonfish, but it seemed like getting his hands on one would be too difficult.
After thinking about the matter for a while, he decided that it was possible he was thinking too deeply into the subject. Therefore, he went and bought some fishing gear and found a good place to try his hand at it. After several failures, he sighed and gave up.
“There’s no way you can hook one of those fish!” The fish in the water would simply pass by his line. Sometimes they would look up at him, and although he couldn’t be sure, he was fairly convinced that they were mocking him.
“How dare some fish make fun of me!!” he thought angrily, glaring down into the water as fiercely as he could. However, he soon shivered in defeat.
He usually won staring contests, but now… the mocking gazes of the heavenly dragonfish had him scowling on the verge of tears. Eventually he stomped away from the water’s edge.
“Complete and utter bullying!” he thought bitterly. However, he was out of options. Throwing his fishing pole down, he returned to his immortal's cave.
A few days later, an emissary came from the Vile-Emperor Dynasty to discuss the matter of Ghostmother with the Saint-Emperor. In the end, three prefectures were ceded to the Saint-Emperor Dynasty to get her back.
By the time Bai Xiaochun heard about it, the bone lizard battleship was flying off into the distance. He just barely made out Gongsun Wan’er on deck, toward whom he clasped hands and bowed, wishing her well after she got back to the Vile-Emperor Dynasty.
After all, the person returning to the Vile-Emperor was both Ghostmother and… not Ghostmother!