As she walked out of the wooden shack, Qin Weiwei stood by the doorway, gazing at Miao Yi’s departing figure for a moment. Then she turned back, and said, "Stand down. All of you!"
"Understood!" The men beside the doorway heeded her orders, cupping their fists before leaving.
When Qin Weiwei turned back, she found Yang Qing had been standing behind the doorframe with his hands behind his back.
She moved to stand by his side. Dressed in her snow white dress, Qin Weiwei gazed down the mountain, and couldn’t help but ask, "Manor Head, didn’t you always regard him highly? Why did you repeatedly demote him this time?"
Yang Qing narrowed his eyes at the figure leaving with great strides down the mountain, then moved his gaze to his daughter beside him, and intentionally avoided the subject, "Do I need a reason?’
Qin Weiwei stayed silent for a moment, but in the end she still asked, "Father. I wish to know the reason."
She wouldn’t have suspected that Yang Qing was probing her attitude. He looked at this daughter of his—she would never publicly call him ‘Father’. Yet here she was using her status as his daughter to ask for his advice. He immediately concluded that Qin Weiwei had indeed been trying to help Miao Yi earlier.
He was somewhat curious as he asked, "As far as I know, you have not always seen eye to eye with this East Arrival Cave Master, and always desired to demote him. Why do you want to help him now all of a sudden?"
Qin Weiwei’s gaze flittered a little at those words. "He helped me to dodge a bullet this time, and foiled Liu Jingtian’s plan. You could say that he has accomplished some merit. Furthermore, he has already saved my life once before. I do not wish to be indebted to him."
Yang Qing had expected something along this line of thought, and asked, "Then how do you think I should punish him?"
"How he should be punished is up to you, Father. I am simply curious why you kept getting on his case this time?
"This brat is becoming more, and more lawless. Just because he had some men on his hands—as a mere Cave Master, he would dare lead them to attack a Mountain Chieftain time and again."
"It seems that in Father’s heart, Xiong Xiao is still more important than he is."
"Is this how you see it?" asked Yang Qing, as he turned to regard her.
Qin Weiwei asked in return, "Have I misread your intentions, Father?"
Yang Qing shook his head, and replied, "Based on their positions alone, Xiong Xiao is naturally more important than Miao Yi. It is true that I was biased towards Xiong Xiao—when facing the Mountain Chieftains of the other domains, I can only be biased towards him. If I weren’t biased towards a trusted aide that followed me for many years, and instead chose to support a new member—it would alienate the hearts of the others. Who would choose to risk their lives for me then? However, that was just for appearance sakes. If it weren’t for my leniency, where would he have the men to battle against Xiong Xiao? Let me ask you again, do you think he is Xiong Xiao’s opponent right now?"
Qin Weiwei solemnly replied, "Before the arrival of the forces from the three major sects—with the forces he had, I’m afraid that even Xiong Xiao was a little fearful. That Miao Yi was able to launch an assault on Mount Shaotai, and kill Xiong Xiao’s two personal handmaidens is proof of this. However, now that Xiong Xiao’s forces have been replenished with disciples from the three major schools...."
Before she could finish her sentence, Yang Qing interjected, "This is precisely the point. Right now, that brat Miao Yi is at a disadvantage. This brat was lawless to the point that things escalated this far, giving Xiong Xiao ample reason to get rid of him. Since he could use this ploy, how could Xiong Xiao not? With Xiong Xiao’s current forces alone, along with the fact that the brat just handed him an excuse to act—do you think Xiong Xiao would let him go again? If it were not for the debt that I owe Miao Yi for saving my daughter, I would have kept one eye open and the other closed this time, and just allow Miao Yi to fool me. After that, I would see how Xiong Xiao teaches him a lesson!"
Qin Weiwei immediately realized his intent, and looked at Yang Qing with an admiring gaze. She couldn’t help but be impressed by his ingenious methods.
With Yang Qing’s clarification, she immediately understood everything.
At this moment, Xiong Xiao had a powerful army that far surpassed Miao Yi’s forces; and once Xiong Xiao decided to return the favor, Miao Yi would most likely perish.
With that, Yang Qing borrowed Qiu Xian’s reason of how Mio Yi and Xiong Xiao’s internal enmity had spread, and become infamous; as an excuse to be furious and forcibly punish Miao Yi. He even ordered Xiong Xiao not to privately act against Miao Yi in the future. It would seem like he was biased towards Xiong Xiao, and was punishing Miao Yi—but in truth, at that point, he was looking for an excuse to deal with Miao Yi, so he could help him.
With this, not only could he use the high-handed method of punishing Miao Yi, as an excuse to instill some fear into Xiong Xiao and the rest; threatening Xiong Xiao not to covertly act against Miao Yi in the future, helped Miao Yi eliminate the danger he would have to face; all while leading the everyone to believe he was biased towards Xiong Xiao. Therefore, both his subordinates’ hearts, and his objectives were not lost.
If he really wanted to get rid of Miao Yi and support Xiong Xiao, Yang Qing could have easily allowed Xiong Xiao to eliminate Miao Yi afterwards. Once the matter was finished, he could have just given Xiong Xiao a couple of words of warning, and be done with it.
Once Qin Weiwei understood everything, she pursed her lips and said, "I’m just afraid that Miao Yi does not know the underlying reason, and is holding a grudge against you for it. Would it be best to find an opportunity to explain to him?"
"Explain? What is there to explain?" Yang Qing scoffed, before coldly saying, "That brat’s path has been a little too smooth. It is also time to give him a good smack in the head. That dogfight between him and Xiong Xiao left both of them with tufts of fur their mouths, those I can close an eye to—but why look at what he has done! Right now, he is becoming more and more audacious; daring to make a false report of the enemy to me, and trying to pull the wool over my eyes right to my face. It was obviously Thriving Ten-Thousand Manor that attacked East Arrival Cave, yet he still dared to pin the blame on Xiong Xiao. As a Cave Master that oversees a domain, he actually disregarded the safety of both Manors all for the sake of some petty personal vendetta; this has already crossed my bottom line. If I hadn’t realized it sooner, who knows what could have happened? What else would he have done? This is all because I have been too forbearing with him. This time, it is precisely because I want to teach him a lesson. I have already granted him mercy by letting him be East Arrival Cave’s Horse Deputy. If it wasn’t for the fact that he saved you life, just see how I would have dealt with him!"
Qin Weiwei knew that Yang Qing was in the right, but from Miao Yi’s perspective, that might not be the case. However, what else could she say? She could only smile wryly.
"What is that brat trying to do now? Showing off the final vestiges of a Cave Master’s authority?" Yang Qing said, pursing his lips as he gazed at the foot of the mountain.
Qin Weiwei looked back, only to find that—next to the rubble of the East Arrival Grand Hall, the forces of East Arrival Cave were gathered once again.
She turned back to ease the Manor Head, "It should be nothing. They aren’t capable of causing any damage."
"Damage?" Yang Qing coldly mocked, "Does he still think he is a Cave Master? This time, I’ll let him know how cold the world truly is. Without the position of a Cave Master, let him see who will still heed his orders! With this opportunity, he will be able to see who was loyal to him and who was simply pretending. It might not necessarily be a bad thing."
Even though Manor Head Yang had an exceptional wit, he was still oblivious to the truth!
At the foot of the mountain, after hearing the truth from Yuan Fang and Lai Yuhan, Yan Xiu was a little dumbfounded.
The Manor Head actually gave the order himself, to have the Cave Master discharged and even demote him to a Horse Deputy again?
Miao Yi sat atop a ruined platform, clearly displeased. He had truly suffered major losses this time. Not only was he unable to rid himself of Xiong Xiao, he even lost his treasured Cave Master seat.
On hearing the terrible news, both Qian’Er and Xue’Er’s eyes also reddened. On was behin him, helping to massage his shoulders; the other was crouched down in front of him, helping him to pound hi legs. They were using their actions to comfort the person who had now become a former ‘Cave Master’.
The changes in East Arrival Cave may affect other people, but to both of these young ladies, at most they would not be able to enjoy the treatment of an Elder Auntie and Little Auntie anymore. It still would not change the fact that they were Miao Yi’s handmaidens.
The forces of East Arrival Cave were all also gathered in front of him.
"I am no longer the Cave Master of East Arrival Cave. From now on, I will be caring for everyone’s steeds. I wonder what you all think about that!"
As he lazed atop the platform, Miao Yi was being a little secretive. While he enjoyed the service of the two handmaidens, his gaze constantly swept across everyone’s faces. Under his casual demeanor, lay a trace of a piercing scrutiny.
After being the Cave Master for so long, whatever remained of his once imposing authority still held weight in East Arrival Cave.
Everyone kept quiet. ‘What opinions could they possibly have?’
Seeing how everyone keeping silent, Miao Yi began directly calling out their names, "Yuan Fang, Yuhan. Both of you have the highest cultivation here. I want you both to speak out first, tell me your thoughts."
The both of them looked at each other. It would be a lie to say that they did not have any opinions at all. The both of them had the highest cultivation here, and were also the most likely candidates to succeed as East Arrival Cave Master.
Everyone’s gaze all gathered on the two of them. Qian’Er and Xue’Er’s hands also slowed down. The two young ladies were no longer as ignorant as before, and also watched both of them warily.
This scene made the both of them feel quite pressured.
Yuan Fang cupped his hands and replied, "Cave Master…"
"Don’t!" Miao Yi immediately raised his hand and cut him off, then scornfully said, "I am unable to bear such responsibility. I am now East Arrival Cave’s Horse Deputy, not its Cave Master. Do not call me by such a title again in the future. From now on, just call me Horse Deputy Miao. All of you can rest assured, I am a big-hearted person of considerable magnanimity. A mere title will not make me to throw a fit of anger from the shame. I will be sure to put in my best efforts to help raise all of your dragon steeds. I can guarantee that I will raise your steeds to be plump and robust. Aye!"
He swept his hand out, and pointed towards the not-so-distant Charcoal as he said, "I am not bluffing. You can tell just by seeing how fat I have raised my steed to become that everything I’ve said is true. I am sure that all of you will be very satisfied!"
To the side, Yan Xiu was sweating buckets. ‘Charcoal being so fat is due to his own laziness. How could you raise him to become that?’
All of them were not fools. They could tell that the ‘Cave Master’ carried some grievance deep inside, and was being sarcastic. If anyone really went along with it—with the audacity that this former ‘Cave Master’ had, it was likely that everyone’s steeds could forget about peaceful days in the future.
Yuan Fang cupped his fists again and said, "We do not have any opinions."
"You really don’t have any opinions?" Miao Yi narrowed his eyes, and immediately laid everything bare, "You and Yuhan have the highest cultivation here. In the past, I was there to suppress you both. But now that I’ve stepped off the pedestal, you two are most likely to succeed as the Cave Master of East Arrival Cave!"
The two that were called out glanced at each other once again. Lai Yuhan cupped his fists and smiled wryly as he replied, "We do wish that it would be so, but as you are aware, just from our School of Blue Jade background, this good fortune will not land on either one of us for the time being. There is a high chance that someone from the outside will be transferred over."
"It is good that you know. I thought that the both of you still didn’t understand this, and was about to give you a reminder!" Miao Yi remarked as he waved his hand. Qian’Er and Xue’Er soon backed away. He stood up to face the rest of them, and sighed, "If it was either one of you succeeding as East Arrival Cave’s Cave Master, I would have accepted it. After all, we are acquainted with one another; I would have obediently raised your steeds. However, the both of you don’t have this opportunity! I can’t accept someone else coming over! It was due to my efforts that East Arrival Cave’s forces grew to be so powerful. What right does another have to reap these benefits? Which is why…."
His tone abruptly changed, even his entire being looked to be brimming with vigor as he said, "I will make matters clear now. Since I am unable to remain the Cave Master of East Arrival Cave, then whoever succeeds afterwards can forget about having it easy. We should all band together and take care of whoever comes. Thus, we can ensure that we would still have the final say in East Arrival Cave in the future. Is everyone together on this?"
Indeed, after his stance changed; even the way he tackled problems was different from before. When he first arrived in East Arrival Cave to report for duty, and Song Fu was trying to cause trouble for him, the Cave Master—he immediately took care of Song Fu. Right now, his methods were actually no different from Song Fu’s. It was merely a test of who was more unfortunate.