After drifting across the seas for two to three months, the ship bearing the Western Constellations Palace's lantern had finally reached the oceanic border between Suppressing Second Hall and Suppressing Third Hall.
Even though Miao Yi seemed calm, his heart was filled with excitement as he stood on the ship's upper deck for a whole day, gazing into the distance as he thought, 'I'm back! I've finally made it back alive!'
"Little Brother! We're almost at your place. We should get ready to alight soon." Yan Beihong came up to the upper deck as well, waving a jade archive with the map of the sea in his hands.
It was evident that Yan Beihong was also feeling a little excited. After all, he had left his two handmaidens here as well.
The ship proceeded along the shoreline of the Celestial Nation, and according to the original route of their return, Yan Beihong should have gotten off the ship two days ago. However, he couldn't just leave his two women aside. Obviously, he needed to go fetch them. Thus, he decided to tag along with Miao Yi.
Zhao Fei and Sikong Wuwei also appeared upon the ship's upper deck. It was not yet time for the two of them to alight, but they intended to pay Miao Yi's place a visit, so they were getting ready to get off the ship early as well.
Miao Yi turned around and nodded. The four of them then proceeded into a small cabin on the upper deck of the ship and announced their leave to the Western Constellation Palace's ship attendant.
The other party didn't waste time talking either. He took out a jade archive and had the four of them sign off on being successfully delivered to their destination.
Now that the relevant documents had been signed, the other party nodded plainly and said, "Have a safe trip!"
"Farewell!" The four of them cupped their fists and said in unison. After which, they immediately departed.
The four of them headed down to the middle deck and waited by the ship's bow. Miao Yi was very familiar with the waters around this area. By the time the port of East Arrival City was within sight, that would be when they needed to alight.
Soon, another seven to eight people came up to the middle deck. Ye Xin was among the crowd as well. Gu Sanzheng and Tan Lao had already gotten off around five to six days ago. It wasn't time for Ye Xin to disembark yet.
"Take care!" Everyone came over with cupped fists to send Miao Yi and the others off. After staying together on the ship for so long, they naturally became familiar with one another.
"Take care!" Miao Yi and the others replied in kind.
"Ye Xin, want to visit my place for a cup of tea?" Miao Yi asked Ye Xin jokingly via voice transmission.
Ye Xin gently smiled. "It wouldn't be appropriate!"
It was indeed inappropriate as Ye Xin's fellow disciples were in Miao Yi's territory as well. How would it look if she were to return with him? If that were to happen, she wouldn't be able to explain herself no matter how hard she tried.
Finally, the port of East Arrival City could be vaguely seen. Miao Yi and the others cupped their fists again and bid farewell to the crowd, "Everyone! If fate wills it, let us meet again!"
"See you soon!" The crowd cupped their fists as well.
Miao Yi then secretly transmitted his voice over to Ye Xin, saying, "Let us meet again in the capital city!"
Ye Xin replied in kind, "See you in the capital city!"
The reason for this meeting was because before they left, Tang Jun had informed them that once they finished the handover procedures for their respective territories, they were to head to the capital city and meet the Overlord. There, they would receive a formal decree on their new appointments, and after which, they would then head to their new territories to take up their posts. As Ye Xin, Tan Lao, and Gu Sanzheng were all members of the Fifth Earthly Branch as well, they would obviously be meeting up again in the capital city after this.
Miao Yi turned to Yan Beihong and the others and gently nodded. Yan Beihong then raised his voice and shouted, "Let's go!"
The four of them immediately leaped off the ship and ran across the waves towards the port of East Arrival City, as Ye Xin and the rest watched them leave...
The port of East Arrival City was now under temporary lockdown, and the passage of ships was being heavily restricted. A single cultivator stood atop a wooden tower that was built along the port. Gazing towards the ocean, the cultivator suddenly turned his head, activating his transcendence energy as he shouted, "They're here! They're here!"
The entire port immediately resounded with the sound of footsteps as crowds of people rushed out from the offices and warehouses. As for Qian'Er and Xue'Er, they were running at the front of the crowd with the hems of their dresses raised.
Even Wen Fang was caught up in the excitement as well and followed at the back of the crowd. This woman had stubbornly stayed in Mount Calming Sea for close to two months now. She didn't care about those small business deals that she had in South Edict Manor's Chamber of Commerce. As long as she could ride on the coattails of Mister Big Shot Miao, she was sure to accomplish her quota for the year. It needn't be said which option she should take. If someone else were to take even one step ahead of her to nab this opportunity, she would surely be beside herself with regret. As such, she obviously needed to guard over it like her life depended on it.
Yang Qing and the others had come out as well, gazing out to the sea as they walked.
Qin Weiwei stared at the ocean with a slight restlessness in her glistening eyes.
As for Zhou Huan and the others, their expressions looked somewhat distressed as they suddenly felt an immense pressure weigh upon them.
These people had already been waiting at the port for a few days now, as they couldn't confirm the precise date that Miao Yi would arrive. Hence, they estimated the day of his return and waited here several days in advance.
A crowd soon congregated at the port. As four figures quickly approached atop the ocean waves, Qian'Er and Xue'Er abruptly pointed towards the ocean and exclaimed joyfully, "It's Master! It's Master! Master is back!"
"Master is back!" Hong Xiu and Hong Fu were also holding one another's hands in joy.
Soon, the four figures running across the waves leaped and landed on the port. Yang Qing was slightly startled and exchanged glances with Fan Zizhang beside him—the moment Zhao Fei and Sikong Wuwei landed, the nine-petaled blue lotus mark on their foreheads could be seen fading away. These two people were actually Blue Lotus Ninth Grade experts!
As for Miao Yi and Yan Beihong, they clearly shared the same habit of hiding the lotus mark on their foreheads, which was an indicator of their cultivation. It was as though they were ashamed of themselves.
Miao Yi swept his gaze across the crowd, and couldn't help feeling a little startled. He never thought that he would receive such an entourage for his return.
Unable to contain themselves any longer, Qian'Er and Xue'Er hurriedly stepped forward and lowered their bodies as they paid their respects. "Qian'Er and Xue'Er respectfully greets Master!"
"Hong Xiu and Hong Fu respectfully greets Master!" With reddened eyes, Hong Xiu and Hong Fu lowered their bodies and paid their respects as well. The two of them had been completely unaware of Yan Beihong's return before this, as the capital city of the Fifth Earthly Branch simply didn't deign to announce the news concerning the other Earthly Branches besides their own. Hence, the two ladies never expected that Yan Beihong would actually return alongside Miao Yi—both were moved to tears.
Miao Yi let out a gentle smile and nodded as he extended his arm and beckoned them to stand.
In contrast, Yan Beihong laughed heartily as he spread his arms and hugged Hong Xiu and Hong Fu, fiercely spinning the two around in a circle before finally releasing them.
Zhou Huan and the others' expressions slightly turned for the worse, as they had offended these two ladies on more than one occasion in the past. They simply had no idea who Hong Xiu and Hong Fu's master was, and why these two ladies had hidden in Mount Calming Sea since ten years ago.
Starting from Yan Xiu, all the subordinates of Mount Calming Sea greeted in unison, "Welcome back, Mountain Chieftain!"
"No need to stand on ceremony!" Miao Yi raised his hand and swept his gaze across the crowd. He raised his eyebrow slightly, and the joy he felt from being welcomed instantly sank when he noticed the people that he had promoted in the past were now standing at the back of the crowd, whereas the people that he once demoted had now taken their place in front. The members of the three major sects had risen to power once again.
However, Miao Yi didn't say anything about it and just walked past between Qian'Er and Xue'Er, heading straight for Yang Qing. The two ladies naturally followed behind their Master as they once did.
"Miao Yi respectfully greets the Manor Head!" Miao Yi walked up to Yang Qing and bowed. Even though he would soon become a Manor Head himself, that was still to come much later in the future. It would be unwise to think of something that had yet to happen as a matter of fact. At the moment, Yang Qing was still his superior.
Yang Qing noticed that Miao Yi was slightly different now. To be accurate, there was an air of confidence about him now, even when he was standing before him. Even though Miao Yi was politely bowing to him, Yang Qing could already feel a little pressure from his unflinching composure. This was charisma!
"No need to be so formal. I'm just glad to see you back. I've always known that you would survive, and sure enough, you didn't disappoint me!" Yang Qing stretched out his hand and pulled Miao Yi up by the arm. He then proceeded to introduce Miao Yi to the Suppressing Second Hall's Deacon Fan Zizhang.
Standing beside them, Qin Weiwei watched as they exchanged pleasantries. She wanted to go up and greet Miao Yi as well, but she figured now was not the time for her to cut into the conversation.
"And these three people are?" Pulling on Miao Yi's arm, Yang Qing asked as he looked at Yan Beihong and the others.
"They are all my comrades-in-arms who fought alongside me in the Subjugation Crusade. This is the Manor Head of Traversing Land Palace's White Cloud Manor—Manor Head Zhao Fei. And this is…" Miao Yi then introduced the other three members in his group.
Yang Qing was shocked to find that there were two Blue Lotus Ninth Grade Manor Heads in the group as well. Judging by rank, they were equal to him. Judging by cultivation, however, they were much higher than he was. Yang Qing didn't dare put on any airs. He immediately let go of Miao Yi and walked up to greet them alongside Fan Zizhang. As they were all equal in status, they shared many conversation topics, and thus very naturally mingled together.
Yan Beihong only exchanged a few short pleasantries for the sake of formality, as he was different in rank from the rest of them. When it came to administration officials, the order of seniority was highly important in determining the circles one could join. Yan Beihong didn't have to force his way into the conversation. He turned his attention to Hong Xiu and Hong Fu beside him and asked how the two ladies had been living these past few years.
The two ladies then conveyed to him via voice transmission on a few things which weren't appropriate to share in public. It was unclear what exactly Yan Beihong had heard, but from time to time, he would let out a cold chuckle, while sweeping an icy gaze across the crowd.
Yang Qing was nothing if not highly observant. As he noticed the expressions on Yan Beihong and the two ladies' faces, the corner of his eye twitched slightly. He then continued on his merry conversation with Zhao Fei and Sikong Wuwei like nothing happened.
Once Yang Qing was done talking, the other Mountain Chieftains from the two Manors finally had their chance to speak. They all crowded around Miao Yi and cupped their fists, congratulating him on his safe return, regardless of whether they truly felt that way deep down. This was all just typical social convention. In actuality, there wasn't much of a relationship between them.
Naturally, Miao Yi also cupped his fists and thanked every one of them.
"Big Brother, do you still remember Little Sister?" Having finally gotten her chance to speak, Wen Fang suddenly voiced out and asked.
'Big Brother?' Startled, Miao Yi instinctively tilted his head to the source of the voice. Realizing it was this woman, he couldn't help asking in surprise, "Why are you here too?"
'What kind of a response is that?' Wen Fang revealed an awkward expression and rolled her eyes in disdain as she asked, "Little Sister came all the way here just to welcome you back. Do you not want me here?"
Miao Yi could immediately guess what she was doing here. He awkwardly replied, "Of course not! You are most welcome to be here! Xue'Er, help me entertain her for a bit!" Deep down, he thought, 'Damn it, woman, why do you have to show up and bother me now? Can't you see that I'm busy?'
Wen Fang was utterly lost for words, while Qian'Er and Xue'Er curled their lips into a snicker.
Miao Yi then continued to exchange pleasantries with the other Mountain Chieftains. Once almost everyone had said their piece and made way, Qin Weiwei finally stepped forward in front of Miao Yi, smiling as she asked, "You've finally returned. How have you been these past few years?"
Miao Yi cupped his fists and politely replied, "Mountain Chieftain Qin is even more beautiful than I remembered. Thank you for your concern."
This was just too formal of a reply. Qin Weiwei couldn't help feeling somewhat disappointed. However, she also knew that now was not the right time to reminisce about the past, when there were so many people around them. Hence, she simply returned the courtesy.
Miao Yi cast a glance at those subordinates of his who were feeling a little afraid to come close. He nodded apologetically at Qin Weiwei, then abruptly turned around and shouted, "Where is East Arrival Cave Master Jiang Yunlu?"
As he said this, the crowd instantly quieted down quite a bit. Most of the subordinates of Mount Calming Sea exchanged glances with one another. Standing at the back of the crowd, Jiang Yunlu looked utterly dismayed, unsure of whether he should step forward or not.
Miao Yi actually noticed Jiang Yunlu some time ago. However, he pretended not to have seen the latter and repeated loudly, "Where is East Arrival Cave Master Jiang Yunlu?"
This time, the whole crowd fell completely silent. Yang Qing and Fan Zizhang turned to look at Miao Yi, then instinctively exchanged glances with one another. However, they decided not to say anything either.
"Just because this mountain chieftain has been gone for ten years, do you no longer heed my commands?" Miao Yi coldly asked, "If the East Arrival Cave Master still doesn't step forward and respond, are you expecting the Manor Head and everyone else to continue standing out here on the port and under the blazing sun?"
Only now did someone step forward from the crowd. With an awkward expression, he walked up to Miao Yi and bowed, saying, "Your subordinate, Liu Xinggong, respectfully greets Mountain Chieftain!"
Miao Yi said blankly, "I'm looking for the East Arrival Cave Master. What are you coming out for?"
Tiny beads of sweat instantly formed on Liu Xinggong's forehead as he replied haltingly, "This subordinate is the current East Arrival Cave Master!"