Everyone was just meeting for the first time. Jokes and laughter were abound as both parties relaxed the tension in their hearts. It was best if they could easily acquaint themselves with one another.
Under the cover of the many pagoda trees that lined this shaded path, the ambience was quite pleasant. Together with the beautiful scenery, it made everyone feel as though they were a couple of old friends at first sight.
Obviously, this was all simply an act of courtesy for appearance’s sake. It would be odd if they acted like they were truly old friends on their first meeting.
"I am Tong Renmei. I serve as the School of Blue Jade’s….," Tong Renmei was in the midst of introducing himself as the School of Blue Jade’s Chief Elder.
Nobody expected that after Miao Yi cupped his fists towards them, he would completely ignore Tong Renmei. He directed a laugh at Hong Changhai and said, "Elder Hong. We finally meet again. I, Miao Yi, have come to pay you a visit. Why are you hiding in the back? Did I do something to offend you?"
Everyone was silent. The disciples from the School of Blue Jade looked towards Tong Renmei. With his fists half-cupped, he stood there like a duck held at the neck—unable to continue speaking. After realizing that he was actually being ignored by Miao Yi, his expression tensed as he awkwardly lowered his hands.
However, it didn’t take long for him to regain his composure. He even smiled as he stepped out of Miao Yi’s path and allowed him to reunite with Hong Changhai at the rear.
Beside him, Zhan Lisong stealthily transmitted, "This fellow is being too impolite. He is just a puny Steed Deputy. Does he actually think he is an important person? How dare he behave disrespectfully to you, Senior Brother?"
"No matter. It is possible that he is still unaware of my identity," Tong Renmei was rather tolerant.
Miao Yi went up and grabbed ahold of Hong Changhai’s arm, holding onto it as they chatted away merrily; as though he were completely oblivious to the people around him.
After they were done, Hong Changhai was the one who first broke the ice and introduced Tong Renmei and the rest to Miao Yi. When he heard this, Miao Yi gasped, "Elder Hong. Aren’t you the School of Blue Jade’s Chief Elder?"
"I am not that competent," Hong Changhai said in embarrassment.
"I hope Great Elder Tong will not hold this against me. My ignorance is to blame for offending you so!" Miao Yi hastily apologized.
In truth, his actions had been intentional. It wasn’t solely because he wanted to give Hong Changhai face, but because there were too many people here who had a higher cultivation than he did. He wanted to make everyone understand—‘It doesn’t matter if your cultivations are higher. I don’t consider any of you to be important.’
For matters like first impressions, extreme measures were sometimes required. Otherwise, if he lowered his head too much, everyone wouldn’t think very much of him. Especially since he had come here on his own, a large portion of them would be inclined to regard him with contempt.
It couldn’t be helped that some encounters ended up this way.
If you had a slightly more overbearing air, then even if the other person was unhappy, that person would still be a little more mindful. This was because that person knew that you were not someone who regarded him or her with any importance. If he or she said anything disrespectful, then you were sure to be furious—which would put both parties in a difficult position.
If you take a step back, then the other person would assume that you know your place. Then, the other person would believe that they had the more dominant temperament, and may not continue to treat you respectfully. Bluntly speaking, they would think that you were easy to bully.
This was exactly the case for the current situation. Even though the majority of them weren’t pleased with Miao Yi, they would still console themselves in their mind and tell themselves not to hold it against such an ignorant fool. Each and every one of them would still have to cup their fists in a respectful manner towards Miao Yi for appearance’s sake.
"You are too humble, Milord!" Elder Tong turned around to extend his arm, "When the Sect Master heard that Milord would be coming, he came out of his closed-door cultivation. Please come!"
"Oh! After you, Elder Tong!" Miao Yi politely replied, and followed by his side.
The rest of the party split themselves onto either side of the road, and followed after the two of them as they walked up the stone steps. The other members would occasionally hear jokes and laughter coming from the two before them.
As they walked up the stone steps, they came upon the walls of a courtyard guarded by a mighty gate. Once they were past the walls of the courtyard, they were greeted by another long flight of steps. Up on the other end, they were finally able to see the great width of the School of Blue Jade’s Grand Hall.
When the crowd reached the foot of the steps to the grand hall, the majority stood in place. Only the few who had the qualifications to enter the grand hall continued onwards.
Once Miao Yi walked past the doors of the grand hall, he could see an empty seat under the statue of the School of Blue Jade’s founding father. He assumed it was the seat of the School of Blue Jade’s Sect Master, though he had yet to arrive.
Miao Yi could understand the reason behind this. The Sect Master represented the face of the School of Blue Jade. It was already a great show of respect for them to send the Elders to welcome him. If an honorable Sect Master was already seated here and waiting on a Steed Deputy like him, what would that imply? Miao Yi figured that he didn’t have the qualifications for that yet.
Even if Mountain Chieftain Qin Weiwei were the one here, she would likely get the same treatment. Yang Qing might be the only one who could have the School of Blue Jade’s Sect Master personally come out to welcome him.
Once they entered the hall, the disciples’ expressions instantly turned solemn and respectful. The first thing they did was to bow before the statue of the founding father. Miao Yi didn’t follow suit, and instead cupped his fists, greeting thrice as a gesture of respect.
After that, they simply waited. In a short while, a young boy came out from the side gate behind the hall. In a clear voice, he announced, "The Sect Master’s carriage has arrived!"
Everyone replied in unison, "We respectfully greet the Sect Master!"
Miao Yi didn’t need to shout along with them for this.
After which, a middle-aged man dressed in ceremonial robe appeared, with a mitre crowning his head. This person was none other than the School of Blue Jade’s Sect Master, Feng Hai.
Feng Hai appeared much younger than the Elders, but his cultivation was higher than theirs. He carried himself in a remarkable manner as he walked over to the high seat, and seated himself whilst two boys stood at attention beside him.
As he took his seat, Feng Hai’s eyes brightened as he looked at Miao Yi. The latter cupped his fists and said, "Miao Yi respectfully greets Sect Master Feng."
Feng Hai smiled, "Milord must be tired from the long journey here. Please have a seat!"
A School of Blue Jade disciple immediately carried a chair over and placed it by his side. The Sect Master gestured for Miao Yi to take a seat. Everyone else in the grand hall didn’t have the right to do so. Miao Yi had this right not as a result of his strength, but as a show of respect towards Miao Yi’s background as a government official. It was inexcusable to have a government official stand beneath him whilst they were speaking.
"May I know the reason as to why Milord has come to visit my School of Blue Jade?" Feng Hai asked.
"This….," Miao Yi gazed took in everyone else. It wasn’t convenient to share his matters with the public, so he replied, "I have some personal matters that I wish to consult Elder Hong with. I never expected that I would cause the Sect Master to come over himself in his carriage. I am truly sorry."
Everyone immediately understood that it was a sensitive matter that was difficult to disclose in public. Feng Hai threw a look at Hong Changhai, but he didn’t probe any further.
Following that, they simply exchanged a few casual words of courtesy, but it was impossible to have the leader of a sect like Feng Hai accompany a mere Steed Deputy like Miao Yi, and be all chummy.
After Feng Hai instructed Tong Renmei to entertain their esteemed guest well, he departed and was sent-off by everyone.
As Hang Changhai sent the Sect Master off from the grand hall, his expression twitched ferociously. Miao Yi had already stated that he had private matters to consult with him, but the Sect Master still asked for Tong Renmei to entertain him...
The mighty School of Blue Jade naturally wasn’t short of guesthouses to entertain guests with. Tong Renmei personally accompanied Miao Yi into a guesthouse.
Great walls surrounded a large courtyard as ancient boles cast towering shadows. Water flowed beneath a small bridge, creating a beautiful contrast with the rockery. A pavilion stood by the water’s edge, surrounded by a peaceful landscape. ‘The sparrow may be small, but it’s vital organs were whole’—this was an ideal place for one who wished to have a quiet stay. It was perfect for entertaining guests.
Tong Renmei personally guided Miao Yi on a tour around the guesthouse with its serene and tranquil environment, saying, "This place is not as well-endowed by nature as the land East Arrival Cave resides in. I hope Milord will not mind that the conditions may not be to your satisfaction."
Miao Yi shook his head, "Elder Tong is exaggerating. Even though the environment in East Arrival Cave is good, it has seen much turmoil and conflict. It cannot compare to this land’s deep-rooted tranquility."
He wasn’t giving shallow praise. Every one of the Caves were constantly at war and had seen much destruction. They were truly incapable of creating such a foundation. Take the ancient trees that were easily a hundred years old in the courtyard for example—none of those were in East Arrival Cave. They could only approximate a foundation like theirs by transplanting some grass, flowers, and the like. This was the difference in foundation. All the money in the world could not buy it.
"Speaking of seeing much conflict. I have heard much in the School of Blue Jade of Milord’s heroic feats in leading your subordinates to defeat strong foes time and time again. Milord is a very promising youth whose future is bound to be bright."
"I was just lucky. I have the School of Blue Jade’s disciples to thank for always risking their life to help me. If there comes a day when my future is truly bright and assured, I surely will not forget the deeds that the School of Blue Jade has done for me."
The two of them spent some time in the courtyard tooting each other’s horn. Once they entered the main hall and took their seats, Tong Renmei finally touched on the main topic, "Previously in the grand hall, I heard Milord say that you have come to visit to attend to a personal matter. May I know if I could be of any assistance?"
Miao Yi laughed to himself. ‘Was it because his background as a government official was mighty? Or was it because he himself was very important indeed? There were actually people who couldn’t wait to cast Hong Changhai aside so that they could work for him.’
Naturally, he couldn’t believe that he was very important. He only believed that it was because his background as a government official was mighty.
No matter how strong he was, he was still just a Steed Deputy. He had no idea that the reason for this treatment was largely because of Hong Changhai. To protect himself, Hong Changhai heavily boasted of Miao Yi’s deeds and praised him to the skies. He made it seem as though Miao Yi had some great potential worth manipulating.
He had no choice. If Miao Yi lost any value to the School of Blue Jade, even if Hong Changhai monopolized on this connection between them, no one would pay him any heed.
Not to mention, according to the news sent over by the other School of Blue Jade disciples in the two Manors, this former East Arrival Cave Cave Master was indeed rather proud.
When Yang Qing was on the brink of a precarious situation, this fellow battled against Zhang Decheng’s forces to the north—single-handedly killing his way in and out of an encirclement of two hundred men and saving Yang Qing’s daughter against all odds. Then to the south, he fought against Liu Jingtian’s ambush—forcing the other party to return in defeat, and even killing Mount Returning Loyalty’s Mountain Chieftain Su Biao. Even though he was a mere Cave Master, his battle records among both Manors were nothing short of valiant.
If no accidents occured to someone like him, he was bound to be promoted. Otherwise, it would be an injustice.
What was even more awe-inspiring, was that he actually dared to lead the forces of a single Cave to attack Mount Shaotai’s Mountain Chieftain Xiong Xiao twice. His was a mighty presence within Yang Qing’s two Manors.
As for him inciting Yang Qing’s wrath, the School of Blue Jade would not believe it. When they were still working with Yang Qing previously, the School of Blue Jade knew that this fellow was highly regarded by Yang Qing. He even went as far as to promote him to a Cave Master, even with his White Lotus First Grade cultivation. It wouldn’t be wrong to call him Yang Qing’s trusted aide.
When he was demoted to a Steed Deputy and Yan Xiu took his place as East Arrival CaveMaster, the authority in East Arrival Cave still resided in his hands. It might seem like Yang Qing was biased towards Xiong Xiao and was punishing Miao Yi, but the School of Blue Jade was sure that Xiong Xiao’s place in Yang Qing’s heart couldn’t even compare to Miao Yi.
As such, the School of Blue Jade was sure that it was simply a matter of time for him to be reinstated. When his cultivation increased, he would probably become a Mountain Chieftain within the next hundred years.
Additionally, almost all of his subordinates were the School of Blue Jade’s disciples; and all of them were under Hong Changhai’s line of disciples to boot. What did it signify once he became a Mountain Chieftain? It meant that there was no one else he could use. Once he was promoted to Mountain Chieftain, most of the posts of his subordinate Cave Masters were sure to be taken up by Hong Changhai’s disciples.
The situation now was no longer as it was before. Yang Qing was no longer restrained by the School of Blue Jade. Once the time came, Yang Qing surely wouldn’t be too opposed to it.
When that happened, this also meant that Hong Changhai’s disciples would gain control over a territory populated by over a million followers. The benefits that the School of Blue Jade would be provided with would instantly multiply. For example, allowing the School of Blue Jade to have a monopoly over a certain area within their territory purely for business endeavours, it would already be able to provide the School of Blue Jade with a wealth of Crystal Coins in profit.
When that happened, the entire School of Blue Jade would have to act on the whims of Hong Changhai. Otherwise, if he was even slightly unhappy, he could simply order his disciples to obstruct the supply. At that time, Hong Changhai would probably be brought back to his high pedestal with the help of his disciples.
How could any of the School of Blue Jade’s Elders resist such a great benefit before their eyes? Tong Renmei naturally didn’t want Hong Changhai to succeed. Since he had already taken this position, how could he part with it so easily?