It only takes two hours to get to Yueyang from Changsha by train.
It’s drizzling today. There is mist over the lake. Though it’s the 21st century, old-style fishing boats are floating on the lake.
Lin Luoran and Rong Donglin stand on the bank of Dongting Lake. Gentle wind is blowing. Their clothes are wet even though they are holding an umbrella.
The lake waves. Dongting Lake has become much smaller than before and the water is not as clear as it used to be. Granted that there are dragons living in the lake, Lin doesn’t know how they could survive the pollution.
Lin Luoran hasn’t seen any dragon. The fishing boats have anchored and the fishermen are sorting out the fish they have caught today. The closed fishing season is coming. The fishermen have to work for a long time recently. They catch the fish and bring them to the bank. Their wives and old peoples are responsible for sorting the fish out.
It’s not the best season for crab. Nevertheless, lots of crayfish live in Dongting Lake. Crayfish reproduce in March and April. A large proportion of the fish dumped in batches is crayfish.
Crayfish are poisonous after they’re dead. These dead crayfish are piled up on the bank of Dongting Lake and the smell is so disgusting.
Lin Luoran likes to eat spicy crayfish. However, she can’t accept that way of fishing.
Rong Donglin seems to notice what is bothering Lin. He scratches his head and says, “One of my roommates told me that crayfish is the cheapest in Yueyang. One pound of crayfish only costs three or four yuan. The fishermen have to increase the quantity.”
Lin smiles and lets the topic pass. She walks to the fishermen.
“Hello, are these fish and crayfish for sale?”
The woman doesn’t even look up. She waves her hand and answers,
“This is not for retail.”
Lin Luoran doesn’t insist to buy. She asks dozens of fishermen one by one. Finally, an old man who is smoking gives her a different response.
His skin is tanned and he smells like fish. He is smoking his hand-rolled cigarettes by a shabby boat.
“Hello, how is your day?”
The old man knows that Lin Luoran is trying to buy some fish. He was actually waiting for them to ask. However, the woman only asked about his day. The old man looks up at the young man and woman.
They both look like they are in their early twenties. The young man looks ordinary, and the woman is outstanding.
“Little girl, are you really here to buy some fish?” The old fisherman takes a puff and asks indifferently.
Rong’s heartbeats accelerate. He can’t understand why Lin is acting like this. They took plane to Changsha and came to Yueyang by train. They didn’t rest even for a minute. However, after they finally arrived at Dongting Lake, Lin started to buy fish.
Hearing the fisherman’s question, Rong suddenly understands. Miss Lin is so smart. She never does meaningless things. Rong is just going to wait and see.
Lin Luoran blinks. She looks like an innocent schoolgirl. She says,
“Yes, we’re here to buy fish. Can you sell it to us?”
The fisherman takes a glance at the little fish and shrimps left in his boat. He puts out his cigarette and says, “I can’t sell you these leftovers. People will say that I am not an honest businessman.”
The fisherman notices that Lin Luoran is neither disappointed nor angry about this, and switches the topic, “If you don’t abhor my dirty boat, I can cook some fish for you.”
Rong Donglin looks at the fisherman’s boat. This boat is also his home. His daily life supplies are at the corner of the boat, and everything is just as dirty as the man’s clothes.
Rong is afraid that Lin won’t have appetite to eat at such a place.
Rong thinks that Lin will turn the fisherman down. However, Lin says gladly,
“Then we shall stay. Thank you so much.”
Lin Luoran folds the umbrella and jumps onto the boat. Rong follows, still feeling confused.
The fisherman makes a fire with some wood in the stove and puts a wok with water on it. He picks some fish, shrimps, and crabs and starts to kill and clean them. He throws the heads and claws of the crayfish into the boiling water.
He doesn’t put any ginger, shallots, or cooking wine to cover up the fishy flavor. Therefore, Rong doesn’t expect the fish to be tasty. After the fisherman adds some salt to the soup, Rong smells the delicious flavor.
The fisherman takes out two cracked bowls and fills them for the two.
“Go ahead.” He speaks to Lin and Rong.
Lin Luoran takes a sip of the soup. The soup is pretty bland because there are no seasonings except for salt. Nevertheless, it is delicious.
“Rong, the soup is good, isn’t it?”
Lin likes the soup. Rong mumbles with fish in his mouth.
The old fisherman is glad that the young man and woman like the soup.
“Thank you for making us the fish soup…”
“Not at all. It will be 300 yuan.”
The fisherman reaches out and asks for money. He doesn’t care about Lin and Rong’s friendliness.
“You…” Rong can’t believe in what is actually happening. 300 yuan for two bowls of fish soup? The fisherman is extorting them!
“So what? I never said that the soup is on the house. This was genuine wild fish and you watched me cook. It is worthy of 300 yuan!” The fisherman rolls his eyes. Rong is speechless.
Rong is never good at arguing. He just wants to leave.
Lin Luoran takes 300 yuan out from her purse and gives it to the old fisherman who is getting angry.
The fisherman smiles and takes the money. He says, “Little girl, you’re smart!”
Lin casts a glance at Rong to calm him down. Then she sits on the footstool and starts to chat with the fisherman.
The fisherman is willing to talk to Lin because of the money. Lin starts with the small talk,
“You must have been fishing on Dongting Lake for a long time, right?”
“Right… I’ve been living here since I was nine years old. It has been over sixty years.”
It is really a long time.
Lin and the fisherman keep chatting. As time passes, the fisherman starts to get impatient.
“Hey, are you guy going to stay the night on my boat?”
Rong really doesn’t want to sleep on the dirty and shabby boat.
The rain is getting heavier and the wind is becoming stronger. The boat shakes. The weather is really quite bad.
Lin Luoran isn’t bothered by the weather. She says carelessly,
“I believe you’re familiar with the lake. Do you mind my asking…if there is a Dragon Palace under the lake, and where would it be?”
This is her real intention of chatting with the cranky old fisherman.
Rong feels dizzy. He thinks that maybe Lin has got a cold so that she is acting so strangely…