Within the grand hall, Yang Qing sat on his high throne, studying the crowd respectfully standing beneath him. He officially declared, "Everyone, the Hall Master has honoured us. From this very day onward, he has permitted me to govern both South Edict and Ever Peace Manors. I hope everyone will work together with me to avoid disappointing the Hall Master’s great expectation!"
On their journey back, Yang Qing hadn’t leaked any information before this moment. Everyone thought the reason why the Manor Head had assembled them was to make preparations to withdraw from Ever Peace Manor, and make haste to South Edict with their men.
They would never have expected the Manor Head to unveil such shockingly amazing news—the Hall Master had actually allowed Manor Head to control two Manors?
What did this mean? When the Manor Head ate meat, everyone at least had a bowl of soup to drink—who would want to devote their life to him, if only the Manor Head reaped all the benefits? Wouldn’t this mean that there was a chance the territories they seized would now belong to them?
An uproar instantly broke out within the grand hall. Everyone was overwhelmed by surprise and happiness. After the first clamoring roar, they eventually settled down and together, faced Yang Qing seated on his high throne. They cupped their hands, and shouted loudly in unison, "Congratulations, Manor Head! Congratulations, Manor Head! Your subordinates are willing to serve Manor Head faithfully!"
The crowd truly meant what they said from the bottom of their hearts. Any lingering apprehension they felt from their seizure of Ever Peace Manor—for fear of punishment from the upper echelons—was swept away by Yang Qing’s continued bold actions and relentlessness. The Manor Head really had everything in his grasps.
Yang Qing smiled as he pressed his hands together. After seeing everyone’s expectant gazes, he knew they were anticipating his next words.
He didn’t disappoint them. "I already said as much. If nobody betrayed me, I certainly wouldn’t treat everyone unfairly. The past few days have seen everyone stationed at two mountains simultaneously—looking after both lands and manors. It’s tough, so I want to once again divide everyone’s governed land, and make it easier for everyone to administer. Are there any objections?"
It really was true! The group was ecstatic; every one of their eyes were alight.
Naturally, they would agree to dividing the territories once more to rearrange two separate Manors and mountains together. Otherwise, it really was too inconvenient. They all cupped their hands in response, and said, "We will follow Manor Head’s orders without question!"
Yang Qing nodded his head in satisfaction, but then began furrowing his brows. "There is one more matter that I’ve been having difficulty with…, so I wish to confer with everyone."
"We are all ears!" The group once again replied.
From his seat between Qing mei and Qing Ju, Yang Qing stood up and clasped his hands behind him. He sighed, "We are short on men. It is possible for us to manage two manors simultaneously, however, it will be difficult to maintain in the long run. The Hall Master empathized with us, and has given me three hundred men, who will be arriving within the next few days. At first, I wanted to divide these three hundred forces to everyone, but I wonder if it will really be alright for us to divide them all?"
As they listened to the tone of his words, everyone instantly felt their heart strings were being tugged.
The Hall Master had allocated three hundred men to them. If they scattered them all and didn’t give any concessions, even if the Hall Master wasn't suspicious of them conspiring against him and they were firm like a metal bucket—he would still be upset, and those three hundred men definitely wouldn’t just accept it.
Were they simply going to be subordinates for everyone once they were sent down from Suppressing Second Hall? For cultivators with low cultivations, there wouldn’t be any issues with such an arrangement—but what if they were established cultivators? If they actually decided on this arrangement, it wouldn’t be easy for them to manage such a difficult person among their subordinates.
This was him hinting that he intended to separate some of their territories from them!
Nobody was willing. The smiles on their faces had disappeared without a trace. Yet they still spoke as one, "We will comply with the Head Master’s arrangements."
That was the line Yang Qing had been waiting for. He nodded and said, "I wish to set aside one mountain from each manor to help settle them. I want to know if anyone here is willing to let go of one mountain?"
It was easy to offend people with such actions. Should he have forcefully arranged it, nobody would have dared to have any objections regardless of who he picked, and they wouldn’t be willing to part with their mountain either way. It was inevitable that there would be resentment. It hadn’t been easy for them to battle for cultivation resources little by little—they needed a more effective way to gain it.
Wasn’t it for this exact reason that Yang Qing had resented Lu Yu, and decided to stage a revolt?
Even if Yang Qing hadn’t risen in rebellion, he would have seized Lu Yu’s nuts from behind by colluding with outsiders, and worked to harm him from the shadows.
However, such people were easily singled out by others. For instance, Yang Qing was targeted by Feng Zhihuan and, with his help from the shadows, Yang Qing had struck up a rebellion.
The most important point was, that it would be easy for his subordinates to grow distant. If the hearts of his men fell apart, it wouldn’t be easy for him to lead the team.
When he spoke, silence engulfed the area below him. People were lowering their heads quietly, or glancing speechlessly at each other; completely unlike their previously boisterous and exhilarated mood.
Yang Qing shot a gaze at Qin Weiwei from under his lowered lids.
Qin Weiwei picked up on his hint, and stepped worth with cupped fists. "At the battle in East Arrival Cave, I knew nothing of the enemy, and behaved recklessly. In being tricked, I almost consigned the entire South Edict Manor to eternal damnation. I cannot escape my punishment—I am willing to relinquish Mount Calming Sea!"
Everyone was shocked. After that, all of them unconsciously turned to Xiong Xiao, to see how he would react.
To tell the truth, everyone felt that Xiong Xiao was the most suitable choice. This bastard had three mountains in his clutches, one more than them. Everyone felt that it had been a little unfair from the beginning, but alas, the man had indeed performed a great merit—there was nothing they could say about it.
However, now the situation had changed. Who was Qin Weiwei? She was the adopted daughter of the Manor Head! Since Xiong Xiao had taken more than his dues, shouldn’t he consider loosening his grip a little? Was he going to watch on impassively as Qin Weiwei fell?
Everyone was in the same boat, they all had two mountains under them. There was no law that punished the majority, so they didn’t have anything to worry about.
The bird that sticks its head out, gets shot. When Xiong Xiao felt everyone’s gaze on him, it was as if he was under a great pressure. The topic didn’t have anything to do with him, yet the pressure had suddenly fallen on him.
Yang Qing didn’t even glance at Xiong Xiao. Without any pretense of trying to delay it further, he firmly continued to eye Qin Weiwei as he nodded, and said, "It’s good that you know your mistake. Alright! Relinquish Mount Calming Sea, and prepare to…"
"Manor Head!" All of a sudden, Xiong Xiao stepped forth from his line to stop him, and exclaimed loudly with cupped fists, "I beg Manor Head to give Mountain Chieftain Qin one more chance. I have three mountains under my command, I am willing to part with one!"
For those following Yang Qing up till this moment—unless they made some grievous mistakes—none of them had ever stepped down from being defeated in a war. It was normal to kill, win, and lose in the cultivation realm. Yang Qing always gave everyone a chance, and wouldn’t kick someone out because of a loss. The most he would do was punish them.
Once Yang Qing did this, he would have a hole in his heart. If he were to do this to Qin Weiwei now, then he could go after he, Xiong Xiao, next. When that time comes, Yang Qing would have the means to make Xiong Xiao give up all three of his mountains in one go.
Although the Hall Master Huo Lingxiao had given Xiong Xiao hope, it would still depend on Xiong Xiao’s performance. The Hall Master would never allow an incompetent person attain a high position. He had to at least raised his cultivation level until he was qualified for it.
Being stripped of one mountain, or having none at all; it was a simple decision to make. What’s more, Yang Qing had always treat Xiong Xiao kindly, so reasonably speaking—just on sentiment alone—he needed to lend Qin Weiwei a hand.
"That’s not right, isn’t it?" said Yang Qing, shaking his head slightly.
Xiong Xiao once again cupped his fists to reaffirm, "During the battle with Zhang Decheng, the fault did not lie with Mountain Chieftain Qin. From before, Zhang Decheng had long ago hatched schemes with her as the base. If I were in her shoes, I might have been tricked as well. Even if Mountain Chieftain Qin was at fault, she has also done a meritorious deed. If it wasn’t for Mountain Chieftain Qin destroying Zhang Decheng’s scheme at the most crucial moment, all of us would not have the chance to hold two manors. In reality, Mountain Chieftain’s great service was greater than her errors. Earlier, she didn’t receive a reward, to my benefit; I have felt uneasy since. How can I watch as Mountain Chieftain gets punished? Manor Head already once rewarded Xiong Xiao then—how could you still punish Mountain Chieftain again? I am willing to offer one mountain. I hope Manor Head can understand!"
"This…" Yang Qing appeared to be placed in a difficult position. However, Xiong Xiao’s words were reasonable, so he couldn’t help but ask everyone present, "What do all of you think?"
"Xiong Xiao make sense!"
"I second Xiong Xiao!"
Everybody was speaking on behalf of Qin Weiwei, and Xiong Xiao. Qin Weiwei remained calm and still, but everyone could feel their heart ache for Xiong Xiao—a mountain had been given away—just like that.
Xiong Xiao understood that these group of bastards weren’t actually helping him; they were helping themselves. They didn’t want Yang Qing to begin forcing them to step down from losing in a war; otherwise, there was a chance that one of them would be out of luck.
Of course, there were also some who were envious of Xiong Xiao’s social status.
"Since everyone has said so, then it’s decided!" Yang Qing waved his hand, and slapped the board.
As usual, he complied with the majority when it came to matters of distributing their gains. Everything was agreed by them, without being forced by him.
But in reality, everything had always been in his grasp.
After that, everything else fell into place. Dividing everyone’s territories once again, brought the separate governance of two mountains to an end, by placing the territories next to each other—it made it easier for each of the Mountain Chieftain to control and administer; and inevitably, their forces had to be shuffled around Ever Peace Manor, and South Edict Manor.
Although Qin Weiwei didn’t get punished again, she still only had Mount Calming Sea in her hands; it was honestly due to her current ability and cultivation base. Yang Qing had already made an exception for her by promoting her to a Mountain Chieftain. Should he allow her to govern two mountains—it would be going too far.
The remaining mountain was naturally left for the men of Suppressing Second Hall. A portion of them would be taken out to enter this mountain.
After the assembly was over, apart from Xiong Xiao—the others were visibly delighted, and quite satisfied. The next thing they had to do was to invest some time into tidying up their territories.
Within the courtyard, Qing Mei trailed behind Yang Qing and asked, "Won’t Xiong Xiao grow resentful?"
Even though the outcome of the assembly just then had gone with the majority decision, those with keen eyes had already noticed that it was an outcome steered by Yang Qing. Xiong Xiao wouldn’t be unaware of that either.
Yang Qing coldly scoffed, "Does it matter if he bears a grudge against me? I have always treated him kindly, and taken his side. What happened today was done to discipline him, so he won’t think that just because he had a few words with the Hall Master—that I won’t dare touch him. This was to make him clearly understand, that this still isn’t the time for him to indulge in his fantasies. I can take back whatever I have given him."
"The Hall Master met him alone. If you do it this way, won’t that be a little inappropriate?"
"There’s nothing inappropriate about it. If I don’t approve, then it’s a no. If I can’t even control my own subordinates, what use does the Hall Master have for me?"
After a few days, once every respective mountain force had been decided, the Mountain Chieftains came to report one after another. The three hundred men assigned by Suppressing Second Hall were already in their assigned positions.
Once every Mountain Chieftain left with their men, Qin Weiwei was in no hurry to leave. Instead, she stayed beside Qing Mei and Qing Ju for a long time.
When she left, she also brought along fifty men. Although they couldn’t completely replenish Mount Calming Sea’s troops, it was better than nothing. Yang Qing would never have allowed her to be short on manpower for long. Besides that, Yang Qing still needed to think of ways to replenish the remaining vacancies. He needed to set his sights on the available sects.
Riding without rest back to Mount Calming Sea, Qin Weiwei was in the middle of bathing her delicate, tender body in scented water; when she suddenly said to Hong Mian, "Take a trip down to East Arrival Cave. Check how the restoration of East Arrival Cave is progressing right now."
Hong Mian was quite surprised—did such a matter require her to personally go? Yet, she still agreed in the end.
Unexpectedly, Qin Weiwei clenched her jaw, and bit her lips before adding, "Yuan Zhengkun, Li Xin and Sun Jiaojiao are now being sheltered by Xiong Xiao at Changfeng Cave. Come up with a way to let Miao Yi know. Don’t make it too obvious—you can’t leave any trace of it behind!"