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Since he decided to defect, he was bound to be in opposition to Yang Qing. Xiong Xiao no longer needed to hold himself back under Yang Qing’s suppression any longer.
His cultivation level was already at Blue Lotus First Grade, and he even had three other Blue Lotus First Grade cultivators as his subordinates. Along with the might of twenty Caves, he had long possessed the power to trample East Arrival Cave with ease. Killing Miao Yi and taking his revenge would not be difficult at all. If he wasn’t fearful of Yang Qing, he would have done this a long time ago.
It was precisely because he was fearful of Yang Qing and aware that Yang Qing was already quite displeased with him, that he had suppressed his resentment. He kept a low profile for the last few years and threw most of his time into cultivation, taking advantage of the fact that he was charged with two Mountains and had a sufficient supply of Orbs of Will. He tried his utmost to bolster his own cultivation in the event of any mishap.
It could be said that things were rather peaceful between him and Miao Yi throughout these past few years. He was afraid to touch Miao Yi because of Yang Qing, while Miao Yi was similarly wary of the forces he possessed, realizing that he could not beat Xiong Xiao at the present moment. As such, both sides endured, ushering forth over a decade of peace.
He never expected to receive such terribly distressing news—Yang Qing had actually secretly drafted his name into the list of men for the Sea of Constellations Subjugation Crusade! Every time that the crusade was held, a ten percent survival rate was already an optimistic estimate for the cultivators. Those that could come out of it alive were definitely the cream of the crop. The Celestial Nation was very large and had numerous talented individuals. Xiong Xiao admitted that he was no elite, and couldn’t compete with those who were gods among men. Once he went to the Sea of Constellations, he basically has no chance of survival.
Xiong Xiao was full of bitterness. He had already suppressed his resentment and maintained an abnormally low profile. He never expected that Yang Qing wouldn’t even give him the chance to slowly raise his cultivation level, and secretly laid a trap for him.
Now that he was determined to betray Yang Qing, he didn’t mind using the last of his authority to eradicate Miao Yi. He even thought of launching an assault on Mount Calming Sea to kill Qin Weiwei as well, to rub it in Yang Qing’s face!
However, he knew that that plan was unrealistic. It wasn't that he didn’t have the ability to kill Qin Weiwei off. He was very much capable of doing so.
However, his subordinates may not feel the same way he did. Even if he did not let them know of the plan from the beginning, once they reached Mount Calming Sea, it was likely that no one would be willing to obey his orders to move against Qin Weiwei even if he commanded them to. This was because Yang Qing was standing behind Qin Weiwei. If they still wanted to continue on within the two Manors, then no one would dare act on Qin Weiwei. Therefore, Xiong Xiao could only give up on this.
He was not confident that he could convince his subordinates to defect alongside him. There were many among his subordinates who had benefited greatly from being in command of two Caves. Should they decide to defect as well—where else would they find such a place that could provide them with such lucrative gains? Even Xiong Xiao himself wouldn’t do such a thing for his own gain. It was only because Yang Qing had forced his hand that he had to defect. He was not confident of convincing his subordinates to leave with him at all.
Killing Miao Yi though, was not a problem. Everyone knew of the grudge between him and Miao Yi. It wasn't unusual for both parties to fight.
After issuing an official decree to the various Caves, Xiong Xiao immediately assembled his main forces. Rolling out in a thunderous gallop, he continued to gather his forces along the way but didn't yet reveal to them that they were about to launch an attack on East Arrival Cave.
This time, he didn’t throw his personal handmaidens aside. He brought Xia He and Qiu Yu along with him. After over a decade of training, his two handmaidens were already close to reaching White Lotus First Grade cultivation. It wasn’t easy to foster two reliable and trustworthy aides from scratch; so naturally, he had to bring them along…
Long Viridescent Cave — After receiving word from Mount Calming Sea, Gongsun Yu heaved a sigh of relief. With the Mountain Chieftain stepping out, and with even Hong Mian coming over, there shouldn’t be a problem anymore.
However, when he thought about meeting that lunatic Miao Yi, he still couldn’t help but feel a little apprehensive.
Gongsun Yu calculated the amount of time it would take for them to reach, and brought his men over to the mountain gates ahead of time to welcome them.
After waiting for a couple of hours, the sky was already beginning to darken when the six steeds lead by Hong Mian finally appeared in the distance.
Six steeds galloped over and stopped before the mountain gates. The six riders dismounted their steeds as Gongsun Yu stepped forth and greeted, "I respectfully greet Elder Auntie."
"Cave Master Gongsun," replied Hong Mian with a smile. Then, she turned to find that Miao Yi and Gongsun Yu had already locked their gazes with one another.
Miao Yi was all smiles as he looked at Gongsun Yu.
Gongsun Yu seemed very uneasy, but he still stepped forward of his own accord. With his dignity as a Cave Master, he greeted Miao Yi, a Steed Deputy, first. "Welcome, Brother Miao. We meet again."
"Indeed." Miao Yi smiled as he cupped his fists and continued, "Twice I have sent invitations to Cave Master Gongsun, but Cave Master Gongsun would not give me face. I even thought you had forgotten about me. Or is it because that I was demoted to Steed Deputy that you don’t hold me with any regard?"
"How could my relationship with Brother Miao be shaken by something like status or position? You and I were once comrades in arms, sharing life and death together. How could I forget such brotherhood? It was only because I was busy with work that I could not leave at then. Today, let me make it up as the host and offer Brother Miao my sincerest apologies." Gongsun Yu turned and extended his arm. "Elder Auntie. Brother Miao. Please, come inside!"
In front of his subordinates, he sure made it sound pretty. He did not mention that it was because he had offended East Arrival Cave, and thus had no choice but to apologize now that the other party had come up to his doorstep. Instead, he made it seem as though he was apologizing to Miao Yi because he was unable to attend his banquet.
To the side, Yuan Fang laughed inwardly—‘Weren’t you very arrogant back at Mount Calming Sea? Against Yan Xiu, you had the utmost confidence but when Miao Yi stepped out, you immediately submitted. Evil can truly only be suppressed by a much greater evil.’
From the corner of his eyes, Miao Yi shot a glance to Hong Mian. He had to give Gongsun Yu face in front of her. Otherwise, he would have definitely ripped Gongsun Yu’s facade apart and put him on the spot.
Gongsun Yu followed behind the two as they walked in under the Long Viridescent Cave’s name plaque.
The group entered the Cave Master’s residential quarters together. The two escorts that Hong Mian brought, along with Miao Yi’s two subordinates, were invited to a separate location to be entertained. It wasn't appropriate for them to share a seat with their masters because of their status. In the mean time, Gongsun Yu personally entertained Hong Mian and Miao Yi with a welcoming feast in the Cave Master’s residential quarters.
The dishes were all prepared earlier, and were ready to be served as soon as they arrived. Gongsun Yu cordially invited the two to sit down, and his two personal handmaidens swiftly poured wine for the three of them.
Hong Mian narrowed her eyes at Gongsun Yu’s two beautiful handmaidens, with their radiant complexions resulting from rich foods, and lightly shook her head.
She was long acquainted with Gongsun Yu. Before Gongsun Yu became a Cave Master, he didn’t have the authority to choose handmaidens with an aptitude for cultivation. The human handmaidens by his side were changed multiple times. Those that grew old and lost their charm would be sent to places like the Manor of Merciful Hope to receive new duties, and would then be substituted with young, beautiful women.
She obviously knew that Gongsun Yu was trying to pursue Qin Weiwei. Moverover, compared to the other cultivators in the two Manors, Gongsun Yu was rather decent in terms of both looks and loyalty. Not to mention, he was also Yang Qing’s trusted aide. Even Yang Qing himself intended to match them both together at first. To Yang Qing, Gongsun Yu switching handmaidens as often as he did was nothing out of the ordinary.
However, that was looking at things from a man’s perspective. Hong Mian sighed inwardly. Why couldn’t Gongsun Yu just stand from Qin Weiwei’s perspective as a woman? Even disregarding the fact that he took such pleasure in his personal handmaidens, his status was nowhere near Qin Weiwei’s and his strength was all the more so. Yet he still wished to be Qin Weiwei’s dual-cultivation partner. He placed Qin Weiwei at the same level as those of his handmaidens when it came to pleasures of the flesh. How could Qin Weiwei be willing to accept that?
Hong Mian and Lu Liu had shared many of these private conversations with Qin Weiwei when it was just them, so they knew her thoughts for the most part. Alas, such was the way of the world. However, Qin Weiwei wasn’t expecting any man to really keep his chastity for her his whole life either. At the very least, whoever Qin Weiwei would marry, her two personal handmaidens would eventually have to wait on the husband in bed as well . Qin Weiwei was not so selfish as to deprive Hong Mian and Lu Liu of the taste of a man for the rest of their lives.
That being said, as mistress of the house, Qin Weiwei wished to be first in line. All she wanted was for the husband to restrain himself, and not flirt around too much. Wasn’t it enough already for a man to have several women beside him? Qin Weiwei believed that this wish of hers wasn’t too difficult to fulfill.
If Gongsun Yu didn’t have these traits that Qin Weiwei detested, Hong Mian believed that Qin Weiwei would likely have been wed to Gongsun Yu and she herself would already be waiting on him in bed. Alas, this was not meant to be!
Hong Mian then looked at Miao Yi. She found this fellow rather decent. He was faithful and was never too flirtatious when it came to women. When it came to romance, he possessed moral qualities that were rather difficult to find in the cultivation realm. If Qin Weiwei were to truly marry him one day, it would not be too unacceptable to wait on him in bed either.
Little did she know that she was over-estimating Miao Yi. If she knew about how Miao Yi wanted to take Qian’Er and Xue’Er’s chastities but had his plans foiled by Luo Shuangfei, who knew what she would think then?
The two handmaidens stood to the side after filling the cups with wine. Gongsun Yu raised his cup and smiled cheerfully. "Elder Auntie and Brother Miao have travelled far to come here. I shall first offer a toast to the two of you."
Miao Yi did not come all this way just to drink and chat with him. He came here to demand Gongsun Yu to compensate for his transgressions. He did not want to raise his cup and sat there like a statue.
With his cup raised, Gongsun Yu was left in an awkward position. Beside Miao Yi, Hong Mian immediately kicked him in the shin under the table and shot him a glare. Only then did Miao Yi reluctantly raise his cup and half-heartedly drink to Gongsun Yu.
The look on Miao Yi’s face reflected his thoughts. There were no outsiders here. Hong Mian shot Gongsun Yu a glance to remind him—‘I’m afraid the patience of this fellow beside me is terribly short. You better do what you should be doing quick. Otherwise, if you wait until this fellow casts all courtesies aside, it would look bad for everyone. Don’t waste the Mountain Chieftain’s goodwill.’
Gongsun Yu understood what she was trying to tell him. He refilled his cup, then raised it with both hands and said, "Brother Miao. Back in Mount Calming Sea, I offended East Arrival Cave. It was all my fault. I hereby offer my sincerest apologies to Brother Miao. I hope Brother Miao will not lower yourself to my standard and hold it against me."
Miao Yi looked around. ‘Damn it. There isn’t a single outsider here. You think that everything would be over by just hiding here and apologizing in private? Don’t you think you need to make a public apology at least? Otherwise, who would know that you apologized to me? You think that just because you want to save face, my East Arrival Cave doesn’t? Just wait and see!’
He raised his eyebrow, about to burst out in fury and show Gongsun Yu a piece of his mind. However, Hong Mian immediately interjected when she realized something was off, and said, "Miao Yi. Everyone serves under the Mountain Chieftain’s banner together. Even if Cave Master Gongsun is at fault, East Arrival Cave did not suffer any loss. Now that Cave Master Gongsun has made a sincere apology, I hope you will not make things difficult for the Mountain Chieftain."
She was sent over by Qin Weiwei to mediate between these two in the first place. Naturally, she would not allow things to escalate and tried her best to solve it peacefully.
Miao Yi’s lips twitched. Now that Hong Mian brought Qin Weiwei up, he couldn’t deny her this face, at least in public. If he really caused Qin Weiwei to lose face, that would be a slap to not only Qin Weiwei, but to Yang Qing’s face as well. Yang Qing would definitely punish him severely for that.
It wouldn’t be good to stir up any trouble with Hong Mian sitting here. All Miao Yi could do was lift up his cup and blankly say, "I can feel the sincerity behind Cave Master Gongsun’s apology. It would not do us any good to discuss this topic any further. Let bygones be bygones."
Hong Mian immediately clapped her hands together and smiled, "How easy-going! Precisely because of such admirable traits, I shall take this drink together with the two of you."
As the mediator, she lifted her cup and stood up. Miao Yi and Gongsun Yu could only follow suit. The three then knocked their cups together before drinking.
As soon as the three of them sat down, Hong Mian and Gongsun Yu were finally able to heave a sigh of relief.
Miao Yi placed his cup down and looked about him, then said, "Cave Master Gongsun. It is my first time visiting Long Viridescent Cave. I have yet to explore its beautiful scenery, and so come tomorrow’s daybreak, I wish to take a look around. What do you think, Cave Master Gongsun?"
Hong Mian immediately shot Gongsun Yu a glance, as though saying—'He is already willing to let you off the hook so easily. You’re not going to decline even such a simple request, are you?’
Gongsun Yu immediately laughed, "Well said. Tomorrow, I will be sure to personally accompany Brother Miao for a tour around the Cave as the host."