The courtyard wasn’t large by any means, only a few rooms and a fairly small outdoor area. In the middle of the courtyard was a stone table with stone stools, and on the right was an old tree with a trunk as thick as an arm. The leaves on the tree were sparse, and the tree was yellowing by a small degree, a clear sign of it slowly dying. A purple vine was growing around the trunk and tree branches, but even that vine was slowly fading in color, as if it was on the verge of death.
A figure in white was on the ground underneath the tree. The woman was hard at work weeding the area. Several strands of her hair would sometimes droop down and touch the ground.
When Bai Yunfei walked into the courtyard, the very first thing he saw was the woman using her left hand to brush her hair behind her ear—exactly like Tang Xinyun’s habit.
Clearly engrossed in her work, the woman didn’t notice Tang Xinyun or Bai Yunfei until they were far into the courtyard. A serene smile appeared on her face as she looked up to greet her visitors.
As soon as her eyes landed on Tang Xinyun, the smile on her face froze. Likewise, her hands stopped what they were doing as their owner stared blankly at Tang Xinyun. The weeds that were in her hands fell to the ground and dirt landed on her white robes, but the woman didn’t seem to notice.
Even Tang Xinyun ceased walking to stare when the woman turned around. However, her eyes weren’t as blank as the woman’s. Her eyes were filled with excitement.
Moments went by as the two women stared at one another in silence.
It was Tang Xinyun who was the first to break the silence. Her red lips slowly opened as she said with a quavering voice, “Mo—mother, I’m home…”
And so the mother and daughter started to talk to each other. Not wanting to disturb the two, Bai Yunfei walked over to the stone table and sat down. A small silver knife appeared in his hand, and he started to toy around it with. Every so often, he’d look over to where the other two were with a small smile.
Since the mother and daughter hadn’t seen each other in a long time, there was plenty to catch up on. As such, they were inside while Bai Yunfei stood guard outside.
The door to the room Tang Xinyun and her mother had been in creaked open. Turning his head, Bai Yunfei watched the two women slowly walk out.
Tang Xinyun’s eyes were slightly red, but her lips were curled in a cheerful smile.
Tang Xinyun’s mother, Chu Qingxue, led her daughter to Bai Yunfei and smiled to greet him. “Lord Bai, Xinyun has told me all about you. I thank you for constantly looking after her and for bringing her here. Thank you for all your troubles…”
Her voice was soft, but succinct to the ears, just like Tang Xinyun’s. Not even a wrinkle could be seen on Chu Qingxue’s pale-white skin, making it extremely hard for Bai Yunfei to believe that she was Tang Xinyun’s mother. According to what Tang Xinyun had once said to him, her mother was reaching her older years.
But the woman in front of him right now looked no older than thirty-five at most.
“Haha, auntie, please just call me Yunfei.” Bai Yunfei gave an uneasy smile, “Xinyun and I are students of the Crafting School, so it’s only natural that we look after one another. There’s no need for auntie to be so polite.”
His personality somewhat surprised Chu Qingxue. Her daughter had told her plenty about Bai Yunfei, like how he was the disciple of the ex-headmaster of the Crafting School and how talented and unordinary he was, but the fact that he was surprisingly ‘shy’ was a nice contrast, earning him several favors in her book.
Smiling warmly, Chu Qingxue asked him, “Yunfei, what are your plans? Do you have any desire to go into Mo City and look around?”
“I don’t have any plans for visiting anywhere. I’ll just wait for Xinyun to enjoy her time with auntie before we return to the Crafting School. In the meantime, thank you very much for your hospitality, auntie…” He replied after giving the question some thought.
“Haha, then you may as well live in this courtyard for now.” Chu Qingxue pointed to one of the spare rooms off to the left, “Make yourself at home. Xinyun can take you sightseeing the next few days, but… some of the places in this residence are off-limits. I’m sure Xinyun told you before, the two of us are…”
Bai Yunfei shook his hand before she finished that thought, “Don’t worry, auntie. I won’t go where I’m not supposed to.”
The three of them sat at the stone table and continued to talk. Now that she was reunited with her mother, Tang Xinyun looked a lot happier than before; it showed on her face. She spoke excitedly about several interesting things she saw or heard with Zhao Mancha on their way to the Crafting School. She even shared several stories about her time in the Crafting School.
Bai Yunfei listened to her talk from the side and smiled whenever she did. He felt happy; to see her smile so much made all the traveling it took to get here worth it.
“My lady, my lady! I heard the young miss is back, is it true?!”
All of a sudden, the ‘loud’ voice of another person broke the flow of conversation before a rush of orange light swiftly flew into the courtyard.
The voice caused Bai Yunfei’s heart to suddenly stop beating. He thought about jumping up and running away, but before he could even move a finger, the person was already in front of the three.
Standing up, Tang Xinyun greeted the person with a smile. “Aunty Zhao, I’m home…”
“Young miss, it really is you!” Zhao Mancha was dressed in garbs a simple farmer would wear, but her face was flush with emotions; the smallest of tears could even be seen gathering near her eyes. “Young miss… why didn’t you send a letter before you came back? I could’ve gone to get you…”
“Haha, aunty Zhao, Yunfei used a flying sword to get us here, so I didn’t have the time to send one.”
“Yunfei?” Zhao Mancha repeated, her eyes slowly slide over to where Bai Yunfei was sitting.
Rather awkwardly, Bai Yunfei nodded his head to the older woman. “Ah… aunty Zhao, long time no see… haha…”
“You!!” Exploding with anger, Zhao Mancha immediately started to interrogate him, “Why are you with the young miss!?”
Sensing the fury and suspicion in her tone, Bai Yunfei started to wave his hands to plead for himself, “Please don’t misunderstand, aunty Zhao. Xinyun and I somehow met at the Crafting School again. I didn’t know that your goal was to bring her there as well…”
Unable to hide the smile on her face, Tang Xinyun spoke up next, “Aunty Zhao, Yunfei and I really did meet again at the Crafting School. He actually got there a month later than we did. Please don’t doubt him…”
At a loss for words, Chu Qingxue listened to the interaction in silence; Tang Xinyun hadn’t mentioned this before.
Fearing that Zhao Mancha might strike out, Bai Yunfei had Tang Xinyun explain the situation to defuse her anger. Zhao Mancha relented most likely because of her trust in Tang Xinyun. She stared at him for a moment. “I was mistaken about you ever since our first meeting. Please forgive me, lord Bai. It was because of your doing that we were saved outside of Gaoyi City, and now that you’ve brought the young miss home to reunite with her mother, I, Zhao Mancha, cannot thank you enough!!”
“Oh…” Clearly not expecting such a calm and fair response, Bai Yunfei shook his hand in a hurry, “Your words are far too polite, aunty Zhao. As long as you believe me, I’m fine with that, haha…”
Just as Chu Qingxue was finally about to inquire about something, Zhao Mancha suddenly remembered something, “Young miss. On your way back home, did you come across Hua Binbai?”
“Eh?” Bai Yunfei spoke up with narrowed eyes, “How do you know about that, aunty Zhao?”
Seeing the change in expression from Bai Yunfei and Tang Xinyun, Zhao Mancha was able to confirm her doubts. Stern-faced, she replied, “On my way here, I came across a group of men from the Hua storming into the Tang residence. The second master invited them in, so I was able to hear from them that the young miss was home. I wasn’t able to hear the details, but I did manage to hear something about Hua Binbai and the young miss needing to justify her actions…”
A chilling light flashed across Bai Yunfei’s eyes, “Hmph! Is he really here? Trying to get revenge is he then? He’s only going to find trouble waiting for him!”
Confused beyond confused, Chu Qingxue asked for clarification, “Xinyun, Yunfei, what is going on? Did something happen between you two and him?”
“I…” Tang Xinyun hesitated, unsure of how to respond to such a question.
Bai Yunfei didn’t have any misgivings. He swiftly retold the story of what happened with Hua Binbai back on Mt. Orchid.
“He said such horrible things to the young miss?” Zhao Mancha blew up, “He’s daring, very daring! Despite lady Chu’s kindhearted nature, even accepting their incessant whinings, they continue to demand more and more; will they not be satisfied until she and the young miss are driven out of the Tang!?”
Worried, Tang Xinyun asked the older woman, “Aunty Zhao, who… who came from the Hua?”
“I’m uncertain myself,” Zhao Mancha replied after some thought, “but I think the one leading the group was Hua Binbai’s second brother, Hua Chenshi. He might have a few guards and other visitors with him…”
Chu Qingxue chose then to say, “Let me deal with them. Xinyun has only just returned home, so it’s best not to make a huge deal out of this…”
“Bah! The Hua grow even more unreasonable by the day! This time, they’ve brought even more people to cause trouble. That Hua Yueying favors the Hua far too much. I’m certain she’ll side with them and raise a fuss to trouble lady Chu and the young miss. I say we should pretend the young miss isn’t home and let them rant by themselves!”
Chu Qingxue didn’t seem to agree. “How could we do that?” She asked, “By now, there are many people that are aware Xinyun is home. We cannot dance around this topic. Do you wish to make Xinyun’s return home seem like she is some sort of thief?”
Throughout the conversation, Tang Xinyun was biting her lower lip in concern, “Mother, why don’t I apologize to Hua Binbai? They’re here to regain what face they had, so if I…”
The sound of something breaking jolted the three women from their conversation. Whipping their heads toward the sound, they saw a piece of the stone table dropping to the ground and an angry Bai Yunfei rubbing his right hand. “Apologize? What for! I disagree! Why should Xinyun have to accept this abuse? Why should the Hua be allowed to act as they are? This is ridiculous! I was the one who hit him, so his qualms should be with me. If he wants, I’ll return the favor again!”
Just like that, Bai Yunfei flew out of the courtyard, running for the lounge.
“Yunfei! Yunfei!!” Alarmed, Tang Xinyun jumped up, crying out after him, but he didn’t respond.
He was already out the courtyard and well on his way. Around the corner he ran, headed for the lounge.