"Pui! I wouldn’t survive even if you did report me! Do you think I have anything else to fear? How about I kill you as a scapegoat first?" Miao Yi threatened ruthlessly.
Contrary to what one might expect, Xiao Yizhu didn’t appear to be alarmed. After he groaned to himself, he nodded his head, saying, "Alright. I promise I will pretend I didn’t see it. Let me go."
"Really?" Miao Yi still felt considerably suspicious over his casual surrender, which didn’t tally with his usual understanding of the problem.
Xiao Yizhu smiled. "Really."
The other party was behaving too calmly and didn’t appear the least bit afraid. Miao Yi’s mind was thrown off by his current demeanor. No matter how he looked at it, he felt that this bastard wasn’t someone that could easily be dealt with. What if this bastard was trying to pacify him for now, but was actually going to report the incident the moment he was safe from harm? What would Miao Yi do then?
"Why do I feel like you’re harboring ill intentions?" asked Miao Yi.
"Am I?" Xiao Yizhu laughed involuntarily, shaking his head as he said, "You’re overthinking it. Let me go. The more we dawdle, the more likely someone will spot us here."
"I feel like something’s not right. I’m not sure I should let you go with such ease."
"Then what do you plan to do?"
"Uhm…" The great Cave Master Miao was instantly put on the spot with no way to back out. He regretted running around so blindly. It was really unfortunate that he’d chosen to break off a plum sprig belonging to the Hall Master’s favorite tree. In the Hall Master’s eyes, a small Cave Master like him truly couldn’t be compared to a plum sprig.
With the spear tip pressing against the other party’s stomach, he pondered for a while. All of a sudden, he broke into a smile and said, "How about we share our happiness and hardships together?"
"Oh?" said Xiao Yizhu in amusement. "I’d like to hear the details. How do we share our happiness and hardships together?"
Miao Yi pursed his lips at the surrounding plum forest in full bloom. "We should bask in the Hall Master’s light and pledge brotherhood in this plum garden."
"Pledge brotherhood?" Xiao Yizhu was at a loss for words, unable to wrap his mind around Miao Yi’s intentions. It was all because Miao Yi’s suggestion had come out of nowhere, outstripping the current range of his thoughts in a flash.
"We were Horse Deputies before and are at a cultivation of White Lotus Third Grade. Being able to meet in this plum forest could also be considered as fate. How could we miss this opportune encounter bestowed by the heavens above? After we become sworn brothers, we will share our happiness and hardships together! Although my East Arrival Cave is small, I’m still the master of one cave with a myriad of followers under my reign. Naturally, we’re not lacking in beauties and fine liquors as well. If Brother Xiao has the time to spare, you can always enjoy yourself at my East Arrival Cave. I definitely won’t treat you shabbily. How about it?"
The great Cave Master Miao offered up a pile of vain temptations, and he didn’t know how much of it he could honor. In short, he wanted to secure the other man’s goodwill first.
"Becoming sworn brothers…" Xiao Yizhu was nonetheless stunned from the proposal.
"Don’t hesitate anymore." Without another word, he quickly fished out two jade archives and stuffed one into the other man’s hand. Using the Inversed-Scale Spear to force the man, he urged, "I shall trouble Brother Xiao to write a card stating our brotherhood and then we will exchange it."
"..." Xiao Yizhu was once again rendered speechless as he stared at Miao Yi like he was a freak.
He understood Miao Yi’s intent. Wishing to become sworn brothers with him was just a facade, whereas wanting him to write on this sworn brotherhood card was real. Once Miao Yi let him go, then if he ever dared to report him, Miao Yi would definitely take out this card and say they were sworn brothers.
People who could betray their own sworn brothers had grave issues in their moral integrity. They shouldn’t dream of doing well in Suppressing Second Hall in the future.
This was trying to use the sworn brotherhood card to blackmail him! When did the act of pledging brotherhood become like this?
Miao Yi jabbed at him again with the Inversed-Scale Spear, and continued to threaten, "Hurry up and write. Stop wasting time!"
"I…" Xiao Yizhu wanted to say something but then seemed struck by a sudden thought, and began to smile while shaking his head. Unexpectedly, he invoked his arts and wrote down the sworn statements in the jade archive.
After Miao Yi examined it, he nodded his head in satisfaction. Keeping it inside his storage ring, he also wrote another one, imbuing it with his transcendent seal before handing it over to Xiao Yizhu. Then, he proceeded to laugh heartily as he cupped his fists and said, "You’re much older than me. I, your little brother, will respectfully address you as Big Brother! Big Brother Xiao!"
Caught between tears and laughter, Xiao Yizhu cupped his hands and said in response, "Little Brother!"
"You flatter me! It’s our first time meeting and so suddenly, too. I didn’t prepare any gifts but I have a pot of superb liquor as a small token of my gratitude. I hope Big Brother Xiao doesn’t mind!"
After stuffing the pot of wine into the other man’s hands, Miao Yi immediately bid a hurried goodbye, "Little Brother still has some matters to attend to. Since Big Brother is busy, I won’t bother you further. When you’re free next time, come and visit my East Arrival Cave. I will definitely give you a cordial reception. Don’t bother to see me out."
He had said everything in a hurry, not giving his big brother the slightest chance to reply or to bid farewell. He quickly turned and ran off, unwilling to stay behind for a moment longer, fearing that an undue delay would cause more trouble. Thus, he swiftly rushed out of the plum garden.
"..." Staring at the direction that the great Cave Master Miao had disappeared to, Xiao Yizhu remained silent for a long time. So just like that, their brotherhood pledge was considered complete?
He could tell that Miao Yi’s Inversed-Scale Spear had been made using extraordinary refinery skills. He initially intended to ask about its origin, but unexpectedly, his ‘little brother’ wouldn’t even spare him a chance and had run off without a backwards glance. He simply couldn’t catch up with the quick leaps in Miao Yi’s line of thoughts and behavior.
Those who weren’t fools would know that the great Cave Master didn’t hold this brotherhood pledge to heart or with any esteem. It was clear that he didn’t want Xiao Yizhu to take it seriously as well. It was purely done to act as a handhold for an easy escape. The next time he met Xiao Yizhu again, it was still questionable as to whether he would recognize Xiao Yizhu or not.
"This convenient sworn brothers tactic was handled too abruptly. It’s as though it fell from the sky. No common person could ever think a pledge and a pot of wine would be enough to dismiss me?"
Supporting the wine pot in the palm of his hand, Xiao Yizhu muttered to himself as his lips curled into a teasing smile.
He once again looked at the item on his other hand. That conveniently sworn little brother had not only given him a pot of wine but a sworn brotherhood jade archive, as well as two low-grade Orbs of Will.
Glancing back at the pot of wine in his hand, he invoked his arts slightly, instantly popping off the sealing clay on top of the wine pot. A wave of fragrance that suppressed the sweet smelling plums of the garden made Xiao Yizhu’s eyes gleam. Just one whiff and he knew that the wine was extraordinary.
Instantly, a stream of crystalline jade liquid came flowing out of the wine pot. Xiao Yizhu opened his mouth to receive it. He sampled a little and immediately narrowed his eyes, a look of captivation appearing on his face.
After savouring the aftertaste for a long while, he gently breathed out an intoxicating alcoholic breath. Suddenly opening his eyes, he revealed a look of amazement as he glanced at the wine pot in his hand. Gradually shaking his head, he clucked his tongue and said, "He really didn’t fool me. It’s truly a rare bejeweled nectar. The spiritual fluid is amber-colored, suggesting an aged wine that’s used spiritual herbs as a medium! A taste like this is impossible to be brewed unless it’s done by an expert in wine. It leaves a rich aftertaste! Simply memorable! Where did that brat manage to get such a good wine as this?"
He didn’t know that this ‘expert in wine’ had been part of seventy-two, and all of them killed by ‘little brother’ in one sweep. If such a thing were discovered by a person who loved liquor, they would wring their hands and lament as they stamped their feet and hammered their chest, since it was truly a crime against nature!
Taking another sip of the crystalline jade liquor into his mouth, he continued to stare at the pot of wine in his palm, recalling the matters that had transpired earlier.
"Little brother?" Xiao Yizhu smiled. He heard the faint sound of familiar footsteps coming from outside the garden. Turning around, he exited the plum garden.
It was uncertain as to who he had bumped into outside the garden, and he could be heard saying, "Try tasting this."
Soon, a woman’s voice could be heard, "Amazing wine! You can’t find an excellent wine like this in Suppressing Second Hall!"
Xiao Yizhu’s hearty laughter sounded from the distance. "My sworn brother gave it to me."
"Sworn brother?" The woman’s voice carried a trace of confusion.
Xiao Yizhu’s voice became faintly discernible, traveling from afar as they both walked away. He explained in detail the incident that had transpired, eventually disappearing into the distance as unrestrained laughter rang out from the woman accompanying him…
Inside the waiting room, Xiong Xiao was abiding by the rules as usual. He obediently sat at his former seat, and didn’t try to leave.
He didn’t overstep his bounds and refrained from saying anything excessive.
It was because he understood that when arriving at a place like this, it was better to avoid causing unnecessary trouble. Should he cause a disturbance, there was a high chance he would have to bear the consequences. A cultivator like him, who hadn’t even reached the Blue Lotus realm, was considered as nothing in this place.
As a person who had lived for a long time, he knew from experience the truth of that fact. And Miao Yi who had hurriedly returned, was a good example of it.
Even breaking a plum sprig could cause such trouble. The great Cave Master forced a smile towards the little handmaiden, cupping his hands. He went back to his former seat, with trepidation lingering in his heart.
He was feeling slightly anxious, and he hoped the sworn big brother would be smart about it. If by any chance he chose to be a brainless idiot by daring to report it, then the aftermath would be difficult to predict.
Honestly speaking, he’d only thought of this method of coercion because he’d been at a loss about what to do. He sincerely felt that it didn’t count as a brilliant countermeasure at all.
While he sat restlessly, another little handmaiden dressed in palace attire came in from outside. Her voice was exceptionally sweet as she asked, "Who is Xiong Xiao and Miao Yi?"
Xiong Xiao and Miao Yi naturally stood up to cup their hands in response.
"Elder Auntie wants to meet you. Follow me!" With that said, the little handmaiden turned and left.
The two foes exchanged glances with each other. The aforementioned Elder Auntie must be the Elder Auntie of Suppressing Second Hell. Why did she want to meet them? What was the meaning of this?
Not daring to hesitate, the two trailed after her, all the while pondering over this baffling turn of events.
They moved through the palatial gardens and after some distance, Miao Yi realized that the path was a bit familiar. He’d been here before, when he was taking a stroll earlier.
By the time he caught sight of the moon gate of the plum garden’s entrance, the great Cave Master Miao’s expression became distorted. He had just left this place, why was he back here again?
He would be lying if he said he wasn’t nervous. Why would the Elder Auntie of Suppressing Second Hall want to meet with a small Cave Master of East Arrival Cave? Could it be that the fool had truly reported him earlier?
All of a sudden, an elegant, extraordinary and beautiful woman emerged from the moon gate entrance. She stood in the middle of the moon gate, her eyes looking straight at them.
The little handmaiden immediately went forth, giving a courteous bow as she said, "Elder Auntie, I’ve brought them here."
As it turned out, this was the legendary Elder Auntie Tian Yu of Suppressing Second Hall. Miao Yi secretly sized her up with a glance. Xiong Xiao, on the other hand, had met her before.
The two of them got up to their feet and bowed. "Xiong Xiao, Miao Yi, greets Elder Auntie."
Tian Yu gestured with her hands to indicate there wasn’t any need for formalities. She stared at Miao Yi and asked, "You’re Miao Yi, the Cave Master of East Arrival Cave?"
"Correct!" Miao Yi readily nodded his head.
Upon raising his head, he eventually realized that this Elder Auntie Tian Yu had been staring at him in a weird manner. She scrutinized him from top to bottom before sweeping her gaze back up, as though she was staring at an oddity.
Feeling guilty as a thief, Miao Yi’s heart instantly raced, could it be that the fool had reported him?
Even Xiong Xiao had noticed that the Elder Auntie was looking at Miao Yi with a slightly peculiar expression. It wasn’t just slightly, it was incredibly strange. What on earth was going on?
The look Tian Yu gave was enough for Xiong Xiao to feel nervous as well.
"Send Cave Master Miao back!" Tian Yu smiled as she gestured with her hands.
A look of surprise flashed past the little handmaiden’s eyes. She felt that the Elder Auntie was treating this small Cave Master with a little more politeness.
Without thinking further on it, she immediately invited Miao Yi to follow her back.
Tian Yu’s gaze dropped onto Xiong Xiao, and she curbed her smiling demeanor. With an indifferent tone, she uttered, "You, follow me."
The vast difference in attitude shown between the two only served to heighten Xiong Xiao’s anxiety, and he submissively followed her into the plum garden.