"My father, actually..." Tang Xinyun began to speak, "is out for a trip to the Swallow Province..."
"The Swallow Province?" Bai Yunfei quirked an eyebrow. He had heard this province not too long ago, so the name was still fresh on his mind. "What is he doing there?"
"He...he's gone to..." Her voice was beginning to grow dimmer now, and Tang Xinyun bent her head down to avoid Bai Yunfei's gaze.
"He's gone to...cancel my betrothment."
"Betrothment? What betrothment?"
Tang Xinyun was starting to look anxious now. Fearful that Bai Yunfei would jump to an unwanted conclusion, she started to speak a little faster, "I...when I was born, my father had me betrothed to the son of a friend in the Swallow Province...our families...have been friends for a very long time, especially my father and their head of house. Since their son was only a little older than I was, the two decided to connect the families together through marriage...it was never officialized and not talked about for years after. But then their family started to send wedding gifts all of a sudden and asked us to officialize the betrothment...My father knows about us, so he's going to the Swallow Province to annul the betrothment..."
She was looking more and more timid by the second, even as she tried her best to explain the situation to Bai Yunfei. She still wasn't brave enough to look up and see what kind of expression Bai Yunfei had.
"I'm sorry for not telling you about this earlier, Yunfei...I only heard about this betrothment once when I was very young, but it was never brought up again. I never thought about it, and I would never agree to it. I'm...I'm afraid...that you'd misunderstand...so I never mentioned it. Please don't be any worse of things...please? I'm..."
The fact that Bai Yunfei hadn't said a single word yet was making her extremely nervous. She was afraid that he was angry. So anxious was she over the situation that she started to tear up in the eyes like a child caught misbehaving.
"Eh?" Bai Yunfei took action straight away. Giving her a reassuring smile, he lifted a finger to brush at the gathering tears under her eyes. "What's all this? Don't start crying now, Xinyun. Aunty Xue would think I'm mistreating you! Don't let auntie Zhao see you either, she'd definitely tear me apart if she sees you like this..."
This wasn't a reaction Tang Xinyun was ready for. A little mystified, she looked up, "Aren't...aren't you angry, Yunfei?" She asked gingerly.
"Angry?" Came the response. "Why would I be?"
"I...because I never mentioned this before...?"
"What kind of betrothment is it if you never had any say in it? It doesn't count. You said so yourself you wouldn't agree to it, so it's nothing significant in my eyes." Bai Yunfei replied, "Who cares about that betrothment? I only know that you're mine now. Does anyone really think a strange betrothment like that is going to take you away from me? No way!"
Tang Xinyun couldn't help but giggle at the way Bai Yunfei was talking now. All of her worries were vanishing seemingly into thin air like smoke. The only thing left behind on her face was a hint of blush when she realized what else Bai Yunfei had said. "What...what do you mean, 'yours'?"
"Aren't you? Well, you'll soon be, haha..." Chuckled Bai Yunfei. "Didn't you say so yourself? If your father is going to cancel the betrothment, then there's nothing to worry about. And why else would he cancel it if not out of consideration for the two of us? I'll be asking your father for your hand in marriage when he comes back. You'll be 'mine' then!"
"I-you-" She was sputtering now to stare at Bai Yunfei with wide-open eyes.
"What? Do you not want to?" Bai Yunfei asked, his face betraying a flash of hurt.
Like an apple, the red hue on Tang Xinyun's face was far more intense than before.
"I...I didn't say that..."
Roaring with laughter, Bai Yunfei swept Tang Xinyun up into his arms for a tight embrace.
Tang Xinyun had only a brief moment to give a small yelp of surprise but her lips were met with Bai Yunfei's own...
Perhaps it was because no one wanted to disturb Bai Yunfei and Tang Xinyun, but no one came to disturb them for a long while. Even Xiao Bai and Xiao Qi were off playing elsewhere, leaving the two alone to enjoy a nice conversation with one another.
Until a series of footsteps came running up to the doors of the courtyard.
"Young miss! Young miss!! Lady Xue is awake!!"
The loud Zhao Mancha came running into the courtyard shortly after her voice made it there. Throwing open the doors, she was immediately greeted with the sight of Tang Xinyun being held very close to Bai Yunfei's chest.
Realizing the situation she was in, Tang Xinyun leapt away from Bai Yunfei like a frightened rabbit with a scarlet face.
Bai Yunfei stood up in turn to give Zhao Mancha an embarrassed smile. "Auntie Zhao."
"Auntie Zhao, you said mother is awake?!" Tang Xinyun cried out.
"Ah-yes." Zhao Mancha replied a half-beat slower than usual; she was clearly a little surprised by the sight earlier. "Please, come quickly, young miss."
"Aunty Xue is awake? That's great! Let's go, Yun!"
Brightening up in the face, Bai Yunfei took Tang Xinyun's hand into his and began to stride for the courtyard her mother was in.
"Ai..." Zhao Mancha watched as the two youths paced away from her with a silent look. After a while, she sighed and shook her head with a smile before following after them.
Plenty of people had already gathered at the courtyard Tang Xinyun's mother was in by the time they arrived there. Tang Jing and Tang Wei, for example, were there with a few other elders. Pan Zhaoqi, the hired elder there to concoct medicine for her was there as well with a hand clamped on the woman's wrist to see how her body was doing.
The arrival of Bai Yunfei and Tang Xinyun were met with the eyes of Tang Jing and Tang Wei at once. The two flashed the former a small look, their eyes showing just a bit of shock when they felt his aura.
"Eldest brother, third brother."
Tang Xinyun greeted her two brothers politely before running urgently for her mother's bedside.
Bai Yunfei nodded at the two as well before following after Tang Xinyun. He stopped a step behind her just in time to see Pan Zhaoqi bring his hand back.
"Senior Pan," Bai Yunfei whispered, "How is aunty Xue?"
Pan Zhaoqi gave Bai Yunfei a small wince at the appellation. "Bai...my friend, there's no need to call me 'senior'. Please...call me 'elder' Pan."
It was only yesterday Pan Zhaoqi remembered Bai Yunfei being a Soul Exalt, or someone of the 'next generation'. But the Bai Yunfei of today was a Mid-stage Soul King, which meant Bai Yunfei was even stronger than he was. How was wrong would it be to have Bai Yunfei call him 'senior' then?
"Elder Pan," Bai Yunfei continued, "Please relay to me aunty Xue's condition, how is she?"
"Please rest assured, Bai, my friend. Miss Tang is far healthier than she was yesterday. The medicinal immortal grass you gave her worked wonders far beyond what I anticipated. The poison might not be fully gone, but it won't be long before she'll make a full recovery."
There was a hint of disbelief in his voice. He was still in shock at the wonders of the medicinal immortal grass in truth. Never had he seen something so utterly effective on a poison such as this before.
Of course, it wasn't just the medicinal immortal grass that helped Tang Xinyun's mother. The Purification Earring did a great deal of work as well so that the poison within Tang Xinyun's mother wouldn't grow any stronger. With the two, the poison would be purified bit by bit.
Tang Xinyun was already seated by the bedside while Bai Yunfei spoke with Pan Zhaoqi. Holding her mother's hand with her own, Tang Xinyun started to speak softly, "Mother, can you hear me? You'll be cured soon! You...you won't have to be in pain anymore..."
Her mother smiled in response to her daughter's words. Stroking the hands holding hers with her free hand, she whispered, "Silly girl, what are you crying over..."
Her voice was faint, and her actions were similarly without energy. The mother's face was a pale white due to the fatigue and pain she had previously been in, so it was little wonder why hardly anyone could hear her beyond those to her immediate side.
Tang Xinyun sniffed once and smiled. "I...I'm just happy..."
Bai Yunfei stood off to the side with a small smile. He felt like a large weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Everything would be fine now that Tang Xinyun's mother was back on track for a full recovery.
But there was also something that was nagging him. He recalled Tang Xinyun mentioning before that this time, the poison in her mother's body had spiked all of a sudden. Her mother should've been wearing the anti-poison earring he gave her last time still. And since her mother was apparently living far better than before with it, it was very very strange to see that a resurgence would happen.
Was it because a certain amount of time had elapsed for the poison to finally act out? Or was it because of something more sinister...?