After the Grand Elder could finally calm his heart, he asked earnestly, "So, what do you need?"
Hana stood up suddenly and spoke with excitement, startling the poor old fish, "Investors. We needed investors with a strong financial background to support our endeavor!"
Realizing she had overdone it, she coughed and blushed bashfully.
"Of course, we knew your side had been very generous with your 'gifts', thank you so much for that. We're genuinely grateful. Esteemed Grand Elder needed to know that, with your spirit pearls, we have successfully perfected the method to transform a small confined area into a location with dense spiritual energy. Imagine, using only Spirit Pearls but obtained the same effect of utilizing Spirit Crystals! What if, the base is Spirit Crystals? It could definitely support Noble-tiered spirit beasts' cultivation easily!"
"Now, we're ready to test it on a larger scale, and we needed more resources for our pilot plant(1). It will be the last step before we really started the actual large-scaled planting of spirit herbs. These spirit herbs will then be used to prepare advancement meals to the ones selected. Obviously, we won't let anyone waste the spiritual energy by directly cultivating in this specially designated area to maintain the land's potency. What say you, Grand Elder? Isn't it exciting?!"
"So, finally it boils down to wanting more Spirit Crystals, right? Why don't Mistress Hana just said you want to rob us of our limited resources?" The Grand Elder chuckled lightly, but the laughter didn't reach his eyes.
"Of course not, Grand Elder! You jest! The amount isn't as much as you think it would be. Come, come, listen to my plan first for the benefit of us both!" Hana inched closer to the floating silver catfish. With ease, she entered the Grand Elder's water bubble and placed her arms around the Grand Elder's back, just like bosom friends. Feeling extremely awkward with the sudden chumminess, the Grand Elder tried hard to contain himself from deflecting Hana's touch. He knew, Ara's Master's constitution wasn't that great. She could die from a simple light slap from him. He could even notice the white fox tensed up with the Mistress' actions. He sighed. The Mistress must have been the cause of heartache for both serpent and fox, and pitied them a little at this moment.
"I have been thinking about how to implement a reward-based system, you know. To make it fair for everyone. Obviously, one who doesn't work doesn't need to eat. They need to earn their keep. Do you agree?" Hana walked out of Elder Watershade's bubble with ease. She sat back opposite him and lightly tap the table-like boulder. Automatically, Chomper came over, conjured some water the size of a golf ball, while Hana happily thrust a 'straw' to drink. Talking so much made her feel thirsty, but it felt weird drinking water directly from the Grand Elder's bubble. It felt... unhygienic.
The old fish nodded with a slightly unhappy look. (mrs mooncat: Aigoo, how lah can see an unhappy look on a silver catfish? Aren't they look grumpy all the time?)
"Since we will be working for the benefit of your people, it is apt for you to keep on supplying cultivation resources as usual for their daily use, and maybe, even increase their allowance slightly as a reward. They will then use their cultivation resources to book a slot for the advancement meals. The less tested ones, or the ones with fewer ingredients, will be cheaper. The later, safer ones, will of course, costs a fortune. However, the clan didn't have to fork out the costs, let them bear it themselves. They can even pay in installments!"
"That could work." The Grand Elder nodded after ruminating for a while. His uneasiness lessened a lot. "However, Mistress Hana needed to know that the little ones you've taken a liking to won't have any resources upon their persons. They are, after all, the lowest tiered servants in our clan. We rewarded resources based on merit, cultivation talents, and abilities. I'm afraid, they won't do you any good." The Grand Elder spoke truthfully. These servants were only rewarded with clams as their main diet. Because their talents were subpar, the clan deemed them as someone that shouldn't be invested in. To cultivate them into experts will need too high a cost, which is extremely wasteful.
"No worries. The spirit crystals will move around. I'm sure of it. I will implement a Dam Haji session once in two-days time. They need to wager their resources to join. Only the ones who won a certain amount of time could be eligible to book for an advancement meal slot. I heard they've managed to gather quite a sum." Hana chuckled mirthfully. It didn't matter who tried for the advancement meal. But Hana was determined to sieve them all and only give the chances to the intelligent ones. All brawns but no brains will be hard to talk to.
"You don't worry too much, Grand Elder. I'll iron out all the details with my team first before supplying you with the rest of the information."
"So, how much Spirit Crystals are we talking here?" Grand Elder Watershade asked again. He needed to at least get a definite answer to prepare for the worst. Will his move this time drained the clan's coffers totally? If it was so, that would be unacceptable. Their clan could go bankrupt!
Hana smiled politely. "As much as you can bear to part with it. Or as much as your need to gain more experts within your ranks for the wellbeing of the clan's future."
Sly. This aunty was truly sly. Her words were like a heavy-duty razor being twisted in the Grand Elder's gut.
Those words penetrated deep.
"Imagine, Grand Elder. After a little investment, you'll get a share in spirit herbs production. The young ones in your clan become experts one after another while spending less spirit crystals to groom them. A future where you can widen your turf is not far anymore! Just that leap of faith barring you from that future!" Hana was so spirited, even saliva splashed around as she spoke. She hadn't realized she sounded exactly like someone who was trying to cheat a person into joining Get-rich-quick Scheme!
Although Grand Elder Watershade tried hard to control his emotions, he was affected deeply by Hana's enthusiasm. Anything that will benefit the clan has always been the Grand Elder's soft spot. He built the clan together with his brother-in-arms, Tittua, from scratch, using these pair of fins (and the occasional whiskers). Of course, he wished for it to soar high and mighty even when he won't be around someday. At the moment, although the clan had strength in numbers, they were severely lacking in high-classed experts. This problem needed to be addressed as soon as possible. That was why the old silver catfish was eager to jump into the wagon together with the shrewd aunty.
He was that desperate.
"How will you solve the time factor? That is the only biggest flaw in your plan."
"We're planning to ensla.. ehem, work together with a Forest Spirit." Hana pretended to laugh and lightly explained as how Kuro told him before. She won't think too much about it. This plan was so important, little sacrifices were needed. Knowing how harsh the outside world could be, she was determined to stay alive and especially thrived!
"A Forest Spirit? THE Forest Spirit living nearby?"
Hana nodded while grinning sheepishly.
The Grand Elder caressed his whiskers with his pectoral fin while in deep thoughts. As it was too comical, Hana telepathically instructed Shiro to snap a few pics of the old silver catfish. Ignoring the white fox's antics, he nodded lightly, "I see. It is doable then, though I am not sure how your team was going to catch it. Lord Lightning Serpent is going to catch it, I presume? It is a very tricky fellow."
"Don't worry about it. I have absolute trust in Kuro's abilities. Just prepare and sort out the ones that you wish to help out with the advancement and sent them over together."
"This old one thought Mistress only favored the little ones from before?"
"It's good to have a little rivalry going on. It will propel the ones I'm fond of to strive harder." She tapped on her temples lightly with a grin. "Psychology."
The Grand Elder was a little offended to finally understand Hana's intentions. She explained to him with a grin that she was going to use the highly talented ones to stoke the fire of the ones the clan has given up on. However, he didn't voice out his displeasure. It was better to give some hope to those they wanted rather than snuffed them out totally. If the Mistress was unhappy, she won't even let the ones the clan was approved of in at all. Then, that will be a problem.
Now, he needed to grind all of the hopeful talented younger generations with the mind sharpening techniques disseminated in their clan a few days ago. If not, they will lose all their spirit crystals to the servants.
"Yes!" The sudden call made the Grand Elder, who was deep in thoughts, jolted. What was it this time?
"Can I have some clams too? Pretty please?" Hana grinned bashfully.
1) pilot plant = it is a term to be used for making something like a 'field trial'. Small scale (1 plot of land as big as 1ft x 1ft) < large scale (5 ft x 5 ft) < pilot plant (a football field-sized plot) < Implementation (duplicate method on maybe 4-10 football fields) <---these are just examples ok haha. Usually, smaller-scaled experimentation will have a slightly different result than the larger-scaled ones. Not because the results are inaccurate, but when the experiment becomes larger, the variables increased. If the experimenter didn't control well and considered all the new variables, obviously, the results will be different.
P/S: This is what Grand Elder Water Shade looks like. And yes, 'Mekong' in the storyline is the same species as the Grand Elder. Check from the link (https://www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/newshound/2011/06/welsh-angler-catches-world-record-giant-mekong-catfish/), or google (ikan patin gergasi)