The air around the Red Scarves Alliance had become awkward. The subordinates all eyed the transcendent artifact the Alliance Master possessed but weren't bold enough to act on their desires due to the strength he wielded. On the other hand, the Alliance Master was wary against his subordinates as well. It was easy to imagine how unpleasant the situation was.
That said, the incident was not completely a bad thing. At least it had revealed the true colors of some people.
After that, Zhao Fei and Sikong Wuwei moved next to Miao Yi's cave. They carved out two new caves, keeping Miao Yi's safe in the middle.
Then Wang Yuetian joined in as well and carved out another cave along the sides, protecting Miao Yi together with the others.
Miao Yi had Qi Xiuhong prepare a few dishes and invited the three of them over.
As soon as they sat down, Miao Yi smiled and asked, "Why are you doing this? Do you not desire that transcendent artifact?"
The three of them knew what he meant. Zhao Fei smiled bitterly and replied, "It's not that I don't want it, but I know that it won't fall into my hands either way even if the Alliance Master chooses to give it up. I won't be able to win against the others since I don't have the background of a sect, nor do I have command of my own forces. I only mean to maintain the balance of the situation by keeping close to the Alliance Master. Together with these two, we will protect you. By the looks of things, if the Red Scarves Alliance falls, those without a background like us will definitely be unable to survive in the Sea of Constellations. We will only end up as prey. Together with the Alliance Master, the three of us Blue Lotus Ninth Grade cultivators will be able to maintain a balance within the forces of the Red Scarves Alliance. The others will not act rashly with us around. This way, the Red Scarves Alliance can still exist. All we can do for now is to stabilize the situation. Then, we can slowly find other alternatives… Forgive me for being blunt, but the allegiance of everyone in the Red Scarves Alliance is already gone, and I'm afraid it won't last much longer. If a new situation suddenly develops, it will surely crumble. Has the Alliance Master thought of where to go after this?"
Miao Yi didn't reply to his question and merely shifted his gaze towards Sikong Wuwei. "What about you? Is it simply because I saved your life?"
"Please stop mentioning that matter, Alliance Master. Now it seems like I owe you my life." Sikong Wuwei chuckled and continued, "I am a simple man. Unlike Zhao Fei, my reasons aren't as practical. I merely do what my heart tells me to. There is no other reason besides the fact that I just hate seeing those sect members act all haughty because they have the backing of many people."
Miao Yi didn't press the matter and cast his gaze towards Wang Yuetian.
Wang Yuetian understood and smiled. "I was the first person to object when the Alliance Master decided to recruit those sect members in the first place, but you were insistent, and now the situation has escalated thus far. Thinking back, the three of us were the ones who followed behind the Alliance Master right from the start. Since the two of them are this adamant, I obviously can't fall behind as well. It's just my luck that I'm also someone without a background."
Miao Yi chuckled. He then raised his cup and said, "Cheers!"
They knocked their cups together when suddenly they heard the beating hooves of dragon steeds coming from outside. Everyone exchanged glances, then placed down their cups before rushing out the cave.
Outside, one person jumped off his mount and reported, "Alliance Master. There is a group of five approaching us from the northern sea."
"Only five?" Sikong Wuwei laughed, "This will be too easy."
Zhao Fei said somberly, "Don't be careless. Since they're daring enough to recklessly wander around the Sea of Constellations with just five people, they surely possess something that they can rely on. If it's another item like the Mystic Yin Mirror, then it's still uncertain who'll have the last laugh."
"Zhao Fei speaks the truth!" Miao Yi nodded in agreement. After their experience with Kuang Lianqiu, he didn't dare to try another ambush. Not to mention, everyone's hearts were wavering right now. It was better to utilize the strategy they had prepared beforehand. Regardless of how many enemies there were, the chances of success would still be higher. There was no need for him to do something as risky as the last time. Miao Yi quickly commanded, "Gather the troops and send a few people to lure them over. If they turn out to be experts with special skills, then they shall face the surging waters of our peaceful lake."
Soon, all the troops readied themselves for battle as they waited for the other party to approach. Qi Xiuhong also donned a set of Second Grade Transcendent Artifacts and waited behind Miao Yi.
They hid in the forest as they waited. Little did they expect that the people they'd sent to bait the enemy would soon return with five others. They came up to the foot of the mountain and shouted, "Senior Uncle Lu, they're allies! Allies! It's Senior Uncle Zhao and the others!"
Miao Yi and the others exchanged glances, whereas Lu Siping was already galloping down the mountain to receive them. He then offered his greetings as soon as he met up with the other party.
The people at the top didn't know what they were talking about, but seeing how submissive Lu Siping was acting, it seemed like the other party was reproaching him.
Soon, Lu Siping came back up on his own and rode over to Miao Yi. He cupped his fists and said, "Alliance Master. They are not our enemies. They are all the Senior and Junior Brothers from my sect. I have already convinced them to join our Red Scarves Alliance. To avoid a misunderstanding, they are waiting down the mountain for an audience with you."
Everyone exchanged glances. They'd all been worked up for nothing. Since they obviously didn't need to hide any longer, they stepped out to show themselves.
Miao Yi nodded. "Since they are allies, let them come over."
Lu Siping immediately shouted, "Senior Brother Zhao, come on over!"
Soon, the five riders at the foot of the mountain came up. Once they ascended, they scanned their surroundings and were startled by what they saw.
Earlier at the foot of the mountain, they had heard Lu Siping explain the situation, but when they saw for themselves the number of people hiding here, they were still quite taken aback.
The person in front was the Senior Brother Zhao whom Lu Siping had mentioned. His face was thin and gaunt, with a goatee under his chin. He wore a blank expression as he coldly sized Miao Yi up.
"Senior Brother. This is Alliance Master Miao Yi whom I mentioned to you. Alliance Master, this is my Senior Brother Zhao Lingtu. He is the one leading the team of participants dispatched directly by my sect…" Lu Siping introduced both sides to one another. He didn't miss out the other four as well.
Zhao Lingtu cupped his fists and said arrogantly, "I greet the Alliance Master."
"Since you have decided to join our Red Scarves Alliance, that makes you family. No need to be so courteous." Miao Yi cupped his fists as well. He then asked, "Since Brother Zhao was able to lead your fellow disciples across the Western Star Sea, I trust you are someone capable. We have been hiding in this place for so long, so we don't know what it's like outside. Would Brother Zhao care to tell us what the current situation is like outside?"
"The strong go around hunting for prey, while the weak flee for their lives. It's a dog-eat-dog world out there." Disinclined to speak further, Zhao Lingtu merely spat out a few words. It was no different than having said nothing at all.
Miao Yi's smile disappeared when he saw how unsociable and arrogant the other party was acting. He turned his head towards Lu Siping and said plainly, "They must be tired after fleeing so much. Bring them somewhere that they can rest."
He made use of the word 'flee' as the other party had when he said 'the strong go around hunting for prey, while the weak flee for their lives', implying that they were weaklings who had fled for their lives.
Since the other party was being so rude, he didn't have to act so graciously. With the hearts of everyone in the Red Scarves Alliance currently wavering, it was all the more reason for him not to show any signs of weakness before them. Otherwise, the situation could take a turn for the worse.
Sikong Wuwei chuckled when he heard Miao Yi's words. In contrast, Zhao Lingtu and his fellow disciples' expressions slowly darkened as they stared coldly at Miao Yi, a vicious aura around their bodies. It was easy to tell that they had killed a lot of people.
Lu Siping hurriedly stepped forth to mediate the situation. "Senior Brother must be tired. Please follow me. I'll bring all of you to a resting place." At the same time, he transmitted his voice, "Senior Brother. It is not wise to offend this person."
As he watched them depart, Miao Yi dispersed the troops with a wave of his hand. Then, he turned over to Sikong Wuwei and transmitted his voice, "Have a few people keep an eye on them."
Sikong Wuwei nodded and took his leave.
Lu Siping brought his Senior and Junior Brothers back to his cave. Before he even sat down to take a breather, Zhao Lingtu asked, "Junior Brother, why did you stop me? The sect has bestowed the Mountain Suppressing Hammer to me. With it by my side, I have killed many strong enemies throughout our journey. Are you actually afraid that I won't be able to win against him?"
Lu Siping immediately gasped in surprise. "Senior Brother, you brought the Mountain Suppressing Hammer with you?"
"How about it? Do you think I can fight against that Alliance Master?"
"I'm not worried that Senior Brother will lose against him, but I am concerned about the number of his supporters. We shouldn't attempt to fight when it's obvious we will lose," Lu Siping explained, trying to help his Senior Brother save face. Then, he talked about Miao Yi's strength, starting from how he recruited everyone back on the ship and formed the alliance, to how he'd killed Blue Lotus cultivators as easily as slicing up vegetables right when they disembarked. Finally, he revealed the way Miao Yi had recently vanquished the Ghost Cultivator and stolen his artifact. Lu Siping cupped his fists. "Even though the Mountain Suppressing Hammer is a powerful transcendent artifact, it cannot fight multiple opponents simultaneously. On the other hand, the Mystic Yin Mirror he carries is capable of contending against an entire army on its own. It is definitely not something you should make light of. That's why I would advise Senior Brother not to act rashly."
"How fortunate for him to obtain such a powerful transcendent artifact." Zhao Lingtu felt a twinge of jealousy as he narrowed his eyes and continued, "If we can obtain such a transcendent artifact, our chances of placing within the top one hundred will surely increase. Not only will we be able to win praise for our school and be heavily rewarded once we return, all of us will also be able to become Manor Heads. How can you just stand aside and watch such an opportunity pass you by, Junior Brother?"
"I am fully aware of Senior Brother's intentions. However, let me ask you this: if the thousand-strong-army stationed here were to fight against us, will Senior Brother's Mountain Suppressing Hammer be able to oppose them?"
"This…" Zhao Lingtu hesitated. He continued in a somber tone, "If I get the chance, I can use the Mountain Suppressing Hammer to pulverize that Alliance Master in a single stroke. However, once I use the Mountain Suppressing Hammer, I will be vulnerable in close-quarters combat. If I am surrounded by a thousand troops, even with the Mountain Suppressing Hammer, I fear I won't be able to block them all. It will be a matter of time before I am defeated." He shifted his gaze, then asked, "With Junior Brother's cultivation base, is there not a single person in the entire Red Scarves Alliance we can use to aid us?"
Lu Siping smiled bitterly and replied, "I am just an Elder Enforcer within the Red Scarves Alliance. I don't have a lot of subordinates. Even if I did, aside from our fellow disciples, why would anyone else risk their lives for us?"
Someone beside him asked, "Senior Brother Lu, is there really no other way?"
His other Senior and Junior Brothers also felt tempted by the idea of placing within the top one hundred together. No one would willingly come all the way here just to die and help someone else to survive.
"We aren't completely out of ideas. At this moment, everyone's allegiance to the Red Scarves Alliance is wavering…" Lu Siping explained how the Red Scarves Alliance had changed after Miao Yi obtained the Mystic Yin Mirror. He then posed an idea, "The Red Scarves Alliance takes advantage of the local terrain to fight against its enemies. Senior Brother, you're the second batch of troops to arrive. There will surely be others after you. Since Senior Brother wields the Mountain Suppressing Hammer, you can use it to show off your might when we are under an enemy attack…"
His plan was not overly complicated. Once they encountered an enemy attack, Zhao Lingtu would use the Mountain Suppressing Hammer against the enemy. With that, he would display his might for the others to see that he possessed the means to fight against Miao Yi. Then, Lu Siping would secretly contact the others' forces and inform them that Zhao Lingtu wished to become the Red Scarves Alliance Master. Once Zhao Lingtu killed Miao Yi, they would use the method of drawing straws that Dong Quan had mentioned to decide the ownership of the Mystic Yin Mirror.
As long as the others cooperated, it would work to Lu Siping's favor even if they stayed still. Once Zhao Lingtu killed Miao Yi and obtained the Mystic Yin Mirror, even if the others came to regret their decision, what could they possibly do to him?
"What a brilliant plan!" Zhao Lingtu praised, clapping his hands. He turned to his other Junior Brothers and smiled. "Then we shall try not to reveal our hand by acting more respectfully to that Alliance Master for the time being. And when the opportunity presents itself, I will hammer him into a bloody pulp."
His Senior and Junior Brothers were overjoyed when they heard him. They thought about how they would all place within the top one hundred, becoming Manor Heads once they returned. They would then have control over ten million followers, living a life of riches and beautiful women all within their reach. Not to mention, they would obtain a large number of Orbs of Will every year without lifting a finger. It was a wonderful feeling to have.