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Additionally, Yang Qing himself had already brought his main troops and temporarily stationed them in Ever Peace Manor. Naturally, they wouldn’t surrender the harvest from Ever Peace Manor’s vassal city, Every Peace City, and had already sent men to bring the City Lord over.

Following which, he also sent Qing Mei and Qing Ju to the Manor of Conformity situated in the capital of the Fifth Earthly Branch—to settle the issues between him and the School of Blue Jade. How could he waste the opportunity that the School of Blue Jade had so generously given to him?

There was another matter that he obviously couldn’t afford to forget nor delay, otherwise it would be disadvantageous for him.

Yang Qing personally wrote down a report and attached Zhang Decheng’s head to it, then ordered someone to send it to Suppressing Second Hall.

Inside the report, Zhang Decheng was naturally the one at fault. Yang Qing was merely compelled to act.

Likewise, if he had fallen to Zhang Decheng, all the fault would definitely have been shifted to him. Dead men could not dispute an argument, after all.

As for his conquering of Ever Peace Manor, he didn’t need to beat around the bush with his motives, and simply expressed his dedication in the report. Firstly, he was afraid that the remnants of Zhang Decheng’s forces might continue to wreak havoc. Secondly, the harvesting period for the Orbs of Will were around the corner. He did not wish for the handover of Ever Peace Manor’s Orbs of Will this year to be affected by matters between him and Zhang Decheng—that was why he had taken over. Once the Hall Master chose someone suitable to relieve the position, he would naturally heed the order to return to South Edict Manor, and asked for the Hall Master’s understanding.

Once the report reached Suppressing Second Hall, it quickly made its way to the intended recipient.

The fragrance of plum blossoms originates from the bitter cold.

Inside the courtyard, the fallen snow had been swept to the sides of the yard. Hall Master Huo Lingxiao held two jade archives in his hand. One was Yang Qing’s report, and the other was the complaint from Suppressing Third Hall’s Liu Jingtian. After looking through both of them, he held the jade archives behind his back with one hand, and gently brushed the piling snow off the branch of a plum tree with the other. He brought a plum blossom to his nose to take a whiff, then smiled and said, "South Edict Manor did not fall. Instead, they launched a counterattack and conquered Ever Peace Manor. Even getting Suppressing Third Hall wrapped up in the mix. It seems like I decided on the wrong target."

He turned to hand Yang Qing’s report over to the handmaiden beside him and said, "Let the three Advisors have a look at this report."

The handmaiden received the jade archive with an affirmation. As she was about to leave, Huo Lingxiao added, "Look into the sequence of events. I would like to know where he found the audacity to even take Ever Peace Manor for himself!"

"Yes!" the handmaiden bowed and departed.

After Han Luping, one of the three great Advisors, read through the report, he fell deep into thought. After his contemplation, he slowly shook his head and said, "It seems like Lu Yu did not die in vain. I’m afraid Feng Zhihuan and He Yunye will be quite displeased. Deliver this to Feng Zhihuan!" he commanded, handing the jade archive over to his own handmaiden.

After Feng Zhihuan read through the report, his face was covered with a dark shadow. Yang Qing had actually withstood it! Not only had he survived—he even managed to turn things around and successfully conquered Ever Peace Manor!

What did this result mean?

Out of the ten Manor Heads of Suppressing Second Hall’s ten Manors, five were his own men, who would send him tributes every year. Han Luping had three Manor Heads under him, and He Yunye had two. If he gave Yang Qing up, he still had four—the most out of the three great Advisors. With Yang Qing’s counterattack, none of the Advisors had gained an advantage, which meant that the Hall Master’s goals of balancing the three Advisors’ forces was not accomplished. Thus, he would definitely continue to target the Manor Heads under his command.

If the Hall Master wished for it to be, he had no way of opposing him. For the Hall Master to have used such an indirect method, he was already considered giving sufficient respect. If Feng Zhihuan dared to obstruct Yang Qing, he would be provoking the Hall Master to use rougher methods, and setting himself as the target.

As such, it meant that Feng Zhihuan himself had sacrificed two Manor Heads when he chose to give up on a single Yang Qing—losing the tributes from two Manors every year.

When he thought about this, Feng Zhihuan felt an ache in his heart. If he had known earlier, he would have chosen someone else to be the sacrifice. Why had he given up on Yang Qing? Now his losses were even greater.

Feng Zhihuan cursed to himself, calling He Yunye a useless old fool incapable of even handling a small affair like this properly, wounding himself and others in the process.

After looking at the report, He Yunye summoned Wan Shunchang over once more. ‘BANG!’ He slapped the tea table into pieces, and pointed at Wan Shunchang’s nose shouting, "Worthless trash!"

The news spread like wildfire, and shook the entirety of Suppressing Second Hall’s subordinate domain. All the Manor Heads of every respective Manor were greatly surprised.

Those who could become Manor Heads were no fools, they had their own information network amongst the upper echelons. Previously when Yang Qing had been questioned in public by He Yunye within the Suppressing Second Hall’s Grand Hall, everyone had already guessed that Yang Qing would most likely suffer an ill fate, and predicted what was about to happen.

Everyone thought that since Yang Qing was the weakest in strength, it was normal for him to be eliminated. They hardly expected that the instigator, Zhang Decheng, would instead be destroyed by Yang Qing, and that Yang Qing even had the gall to take over another Manor when he belonged to one already. What was he trying to do? Was he trying to become a Hall Master?

This was obviously not possible! Yang Qing’s cultivation was only at Blue Lotus Fifth Grade. Not even the Hall Master would believe it even if he heard such a thing.

These were all not important—what was important, was that everyone had a new understanding of Yang Qing’s capabilities, and realised that he was not as easy to trifle with as they had imagined.

What’s more, this crazy bastard even dared to take over Ever Peace Manor!

First, he had killed his own Manor Head Lu Yu, and taken over South Edict Manor. Now he had killed another Manor Head, Zhang Decheng, and taken over Ever Peace Manor. His name was practically plastered with infamy. Who could assure that he wouldn’t lay his hands on other Manors in the future?

Thus, if Yang Qing could overcome the current obstacle before the Hall Master, everyone considered it wiser to be more courteous towards him should they meet in the future, to avoid inviting trouble upon themselves.

A dispute between two Manors that had even involved Suppressing Third Hall—with such a large commotion, it naturally wasn’t too difficult for Huo Lingxiao to understand the sequence of events should he wish. There were too many participants among his subordinates, he could unearth everything if he just casually found someone who knew the details, and secretly asked them.

Outsiders might find it difficult to understand the hidden machinations of Suppressing Second Hall, but with the Hall Master himself sending men over to interrogate, who among those under Suppressing Second Hall’s command would dare to refuse?

After the snowfall ceased, Huo Lingxiao continued holding his hands behind his back, pacing back and forth between the pavilions. His handmaiden, Liu Xing, trailed behind him as she reported the main points of the incident.

Beginning from how Zhang Decheng had secretly sent his men to attack East Arrival Cave to draw out Qin Weiwei; to the East Arrival Cave Master single-handedly killing his way in and out to rescue Qin Weiwei and foiling Zhang Decheng’s plan; to Zhang Decheng being forced into a corner and having no options left but to launch an all-out attack with his forces in a desperate attempt to eliminate Yang Qing; and how Yang Qing had used himself as bait to lure Zhang Decheng into a chase, in order to buy time for his subordinates to launch an ambush on Suppressing Third Hall’s Thriving Ten-Thousand Manor. After that, she recounted how the Mountain Chieftain of Mount Shaotai had fearlessly dived into danger and successfully tricked Thriving Ten-Thousand Manor’s Liu Jingtian into leading his troops over to launch a pincer attack on Zhang Decheng with Yang Qing—eliminating Zhang Decheng in a single stroke. In addition, she reported how the School of Blue Jade had failed in their attempt to kick Yang Qing while he was down. Following which, Yang Qing led his troops and assaulted Ever Peace Manor against Deacon Wan Shunchang—frightening him away with Zhang Decheng’s head in hand, and with just that, took over Ever Peace Manor. After the dust had settled, she described how Yang Qing had immediately used Ever Peace Manor’s shares to reward his subordinates and encouraged them to pluck the fruits of Ever Peace Manor at speed, and within a short time frame. Now, even if they were to sent men to Ever Peace Manor, they could forget about reaping any benefits.

After listening to the sequence of events, a look of surprise flashed through Huo Lingxiao’s eyes. He was surprised by how Yang Qing had managed to grasp the opportunity for a moment’s respite in that kind of situation, and immediately devised a strategy that was capable of making a comeback.

He came to a halt in the corridor, facing the frozen surface of the lake, Huo Lingxiao nodded and said, "He is someone capable; he has the qualifications to oversee a domain for me. His subordinates are full of talented men, and I can see that he is skilled in managing them. He is an exceptional talent."

As for why he had said that Yang Qing had many talented subordinates, and that he was adept in managing them—he was referring to the East Arrival Cave Master who had risked his life to save Qin Weiwei and foil Zhang Decheng’s plan, as well as the Mountain Chieftain of Mount Shaotai who had braved great peril alone to help Yang Qing fool some reinforcements into coming over.

Liu Xing smiled from behind him and said, "Hall Master, on my investigation of the matter, I also heard something interesting regarding that East Arrival Cave’s Cave Master."

"Oh!" Huo Lingxiao exclaimed curiously. "Tell me about it."

"That East Arrival Cave Master was originally a Horse Deputy of Transient Light Cave. He was basically a nobody. When Yang Qing was attacking Lu Yu, those that wanted to run away from Transient Light Cave had fled the battle; those who perished died in the skirmish; and those that would give up, had surrendered willingly. Only he—with a White Lotus First Grade cultivation—would fight to the death, single-handedly killing three White Lotus Second Grade cultivators, then engaged in battle with three White Lotus Third Grade and two White Lotus Second Grade cultivators on his own. The five of them actually fought a drawn-out battle with him, and were still unable to defeat him. He even taunted Yang Qing, saying ‘Who would dare fight me?’. If it were a normal person, I’m afraid they would have already murdered this impudent fellow where he stood. However, Yang Qing personally subdued him, then went against the majority and allowed him to become East Arrival Cave’s Cave Master with a White Lotus First Grade cultivation. At the time, many in South Edict Manor still had some prejudice against him, but unexpectedly, when all of South Edict Manor’s men had their hands tied by the School of Blue Jade, only he was able to whip all of the School of Blue Jade disciples in East Arrival Cave into obedience. This time, it was also he who had rescued Yang Qing’s adopted daughter at a critical moment, and created a tipping point in the state of battle. One could say that Yang Qing’s past efforts on him, had not been in vain."

"A Horse Deputy? A White Lotus First Grade Cave Master?" Huo Lingxiao exclaimed. After he had his fill of surprise, he couldn’t help but chuckle at this lowly cultivator of low standing. He nodded and said, "I can see that Yang Qing definitely has a knack for managing his subordinates."

Liu Xing added, "Yang Qing also sent men over to the Manor of Conformity in the capital, and the Manor of Conformity’s Commandment of Conformity has already reached the School of Blue Jade. The Sect Master admitted that they were the ones who had violated the terms of the agreement first, and was willing to abide by the Commandment of Conformity. Yang Qing is already free of the School of Blue Jade’s interference."

Huo Lingxiao flipped his hand and flashed out the jade archive with Liu Jingtian’s complaint from his storage ring. His lips revealed a cunning smile as he said, "To say nothing of utterly manipulating Suppressing Third Hall, he not only managed to wash his hands off everything—he even prepared evidence to help me deal with Suppressing Third Hall when they would come for retribution. With his abilities, it is obvious that taking the opportunity to be free of the School of Blue Jade’s interference was a given. It was only a matter of course. I never thought that I had such a talent among my subordinates. Wouldn’t it have been a waste if he had perished? It will be valuable to have him by my side as a strategist as well!"

In truth, he had been behind everything from the very beginning. No one else had been interested in acting against Yang Qing. As for why he had chosen Yang Qing—it was mainly because Yang Qing had inexorably bound himself with the School of Blue Jade. He despised useless individuals who could only succeed by depending on the power of others, and weren’t able to overcome their own obstacles.

Since he had to pick one of his subordinates to act against either way—he might as well pick Yang Qing.

In hindsight, he was the one who had misjudged. Yang Qing either hadn’t found an opportunity because time was too short, or he had other plans in mind.

No matter. Regardless of how he thought of Yang Qing in the past, righteousness always stood on the side of the victorious.

At this moment, another handmaiden, Tian Yu, slowly walked in. After greeting him, she spoke. "Hall Master, Advisor He is here again and requests an audience with you. He is waiting outside the palace as we speak."

Huo Lingxiao coldly scoffed and replied, "What is there to explain? Don’t tell me he still wants me to reward him after failing to perform his task? Just say that I am cultivating."

Tian Yu and Liu Xing glanced at each other—the former responded with an acknowledgment and left.

Huo Lingxiao then turned towards Liu Xing and gave an order. "When the time for handing over the tributes come, have Yang Qing bring over that Mountain Chieftain of Mount Shaotai, and that Cave Master of East Arrival Cave with him. I want to have a look at them as well."

"Yes!" Liu Xing shouted in acknowledgment.

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