The mysterious person who had suddenly halted her movement was quite gentle in temperament, contrary to his previous, persistent chase after the young girl. An Fei had been allowed to stand even-footed on the ground, neither her balance nor position impeded in the slightest.
Having calmed herself significantly, the young girl finally obtained the opportunity to observe the person before her.
Without a doubt, it was the Grand Elder of the Heavenly Sword Sect, Tian Mu.
The elderly man revealed a slight smile towards the young girl, his heart seemingly unaffected by her wary attitude.
Now that the Grand Elder had stood before her in person, An Fei could only state that he looked… different.
Though dressed in the same robes as the dozen youths who had joined the convoy, the old man held a gnarled, wooden staff in his hand instead of a sword – reflecting an aura of tranquility.
Regardless of how she examined Tian Mu’s appearance, she couldn’t determine the old man’s true age.
She had simply labeled him as ‘old’ due to Feng Yu Xin calling him the Grand Elder of the Heavenly Sword Sect, yet Tian Mu appeared more to be in his fifties.
Other than the slight wrinkles on the surface of his hands, the old man appeared no more than a forty-year-old man who had just stepped away from the fantasies of youth, but still brimming with a powerful virility.
“Young Fellow, have you calmed down?”
The Grand Elder nudged forward with a cautionary voice, his placid countenance barely concealing his agitation and unrest.
A pair of beady eyes locked themselves onto the young girl, refusing to allow her to flee without any warning.
An Fei hesitated for a brief moment, before revealing a faint nod.
“What does the Esteemed Senior desire from this junior?”
Tian Mu’s free hand jumped towards his flowing beard at the address of an ‘Esteemed Senior’ as per his customary habit.
However, the elderly man soon regained his consciousness, stowing away his hand with an awkward grin.
“Young Fellow… you must be the one who eavesdropped on us earlier from the imperial carriage…” the Grand Elder mused in a gentle voice.
“Then… your name must be Wei An Fei? One of the three young maidens that accompanied Yu Xin in her carriage?”
The girl deigned not to respond as she stared directly at him in caution and trepidation, but the momentary shift in the pair of scarlet irises was sufficient for the old, shameless Grand Elder.
“Come with this old fellow, ah! The Taiyi Sect isn’t a suitable place for you to cultivate in, the Heavenly Sword Sect shall treat you with the utmost care and provide everything you wish for –“
“I heard everything,” An Fei suddenly interrupted in a dull voice.
“I don’t want to partake in an arranged marriage.”
The Grand Elder flushed at the timid and quiet voice that tugged at his heart, causing his tone to soften immensely without his awareness.
An awkward expression floundered within his countenance as he stared at the young girl, not knowing what to say.
“…can you enlighten this old bag of bones why?” Tian Mu softly murmured, deeply suppressing the urge to choke in bottled emotions.
He was just a single step from accomplishing his goal, his goal of securing his third great-grandson a wife that would be compatible!
All that remained was to bring the bride back to the grounds of the Heavenly Sword Sect to seal the agreement under the heavens, causing the suppressed feeling to magnify by the second.
“…I’ve never met the other person, nor am I appreciative of those other than my Father arranging my personal affairs,” An Fei shrugged, her fingers fiddling with each other behind her back.
“Besides, even if Father were to arrange my personal matters such as marriage, I don’t think that I would comply.”
“…why not? This old thing isn’t offering you marriage to an abrasive, unlikeable uncle who’s twice your age,” the Grand Elder sighed with a sentimental voice.
Hurry and accept, little lass!
“My Ming Xia is a handsome little lad who is gentle and cultured, and definitely knows how to respect others and their boundaries. I can promise you, with my eight hundred odd years of experience and my cultivation as a Peak Nascent Soul Realm practitioner, that Ming Xia will never mistreat you.”
The young girl continued to shake her head in splendid denial, her precise expression concealed behind the veil.
“You’ve heard Yu Xin read the contract, ah?”
Tian Mu continued to attempt persuading An Fei with a pleading expression on his countenance.
“Since you’ve heard her read it, you should naturally be aware of its contents as well. No concubines, no trysts with other women without your express consent, and you will be his single female companion.”
“Furthermore, when Ming Xia inherits the Heavenly Sword Sect in the future, you will be the governess of one of the Three Great Sects of the continent!”
“…I have yet to meet your third-great grandson.”
The young girl was startled at her discovery towards her unusual patience towards the old man.
Leaning her right arm against the rough bark of a nearby tree, An Fei’s mind began to quickly plot a methods of escape as she sought to explain her grievances.
“Regardless of how great this person’s personality or disposition may be, I will not be able to make any judgements without meeting him in person. Even then, regardless of whether your third great-grandson is truly possessing a gentle disposition, I still won’t agree to an arranged marriage. Please elect someone else!”
It was at this moment that the Grand Elder couldn’t help himself anymore, his shamelessness surging through great rivers and currents to swallow the young girl whole.
“You can’t decide because you have yet to meet Ming Xia?” Tian Mu revealed a beaming smile as he inspected An Fei through beaded eyes.
“That’s great! Just follow this old sack of bones, I’ll take you to meet Ming Xia immediately, the two of you can even meet atop of the famous lakeside bridge of the Heavenly Sword Sect tomorrow afternoon to make the encounter even more aesthetically pleasing and serene!”
“Esteemed Senior, I clearly said that I wouldn’t agree regardless of the circumstance,” the young girl began to furrow her brows, an unsettling premonition scratching at the depths of her soul.
“That’s perfectly acceptable as well, you are still a young girl, a fledgling! The minds of youths can change depending on the circumstance, as they should be!”
The Grand Elder blurted out with a giddy complexion, appearing even less of a respectable Grand Elder of the Heavenly Sword Sect, and more of a shameless old man intent on exchanging flagrant wordplay with a youth.
Tian Mu even jabbed the wooden stick into the ground to emphasize his point, the earth crying in agony to accompany his happiness.
“Th-that’s not what I’m trying to point out,” An Fei took a deep breath, her fingers curled into fists underneath the linen coat’s sleeves as she fought to maintain a calm and unhurried tone.
“I’m trying to convey to the Esteemed Senior, that the Esteemed Senior, is far better electing someone else to partake in this marriage with the Esteemed Senior’s third great-grandson. My sincere apologies, but neither I nor my Father will agree to this marriage!”
The elderly man’s eyes widened in surprise as he stared at the girl in exaggerated shock, and couldn’t help but look at An Fei with a horrified countenance.
The young girl pursed her lips in trepidation as she carefully gazed at Tian Mu’s catatonic appearance, taking small steps backward to gradually increase the distance between the two.
However, the young girl soon realized for naught that the Grand Elder was truly as shameless as he appeared.
“Your Father won’t agree… that’s fine as well!”
Tian Mu shouted in an euphoric voice, a horrifyingly pleased expression splitting across his countenance.
“As long as you cook rice with my Ming Xia, your Father can’t come searching for the grains! Come with this old sack of bones, ah, I’ll take you to see Ming Xia now!”
An Fei nearly stumbled towards the ground at the elder’s statement uttered without a single shred of shame.
The last vestiges of her unusual patience effectively ebbed away underneath the Grand Elder’s scouring, and the young girl nearly stomped her feet in anger.
“I’m not going with you, and you can go find someone else!”
“But why not?” Tian Mu instantly counterattacked, his emotional countenance quickly displaying a pitiful expression in another attempt to sway the blossoming heart.
“You must have heard me explain to Yu Xin; my Ming Xia is in a dire circumstance, ah! If he can’t find a compatible bride, then he’ll fall under someone’s malicious scheme and waste away! Can’t you help this old sack of bones this once!?”
“Then go find someone from a respectable official’s family in a nearby kingdom!” the young girl shouted in anger, her countenance scrunched up in her fury.
“If not, then nominate a candidate from your Heavenly Sword Sect! If that still doesn’t work, you can go searching for a besotted flower in a brothel or fragrance house, for this Young Miss absolutely refuses to go with you!!”
Tian Mu suddenly fell into a rare moment of solemn silence as he knit his brows in thought, his gaze carefully inspecting the young girl’s countenance for any emotional fluctuations.
Seeing a belly full to the brim with anger, the Grand Elder couldn’t find the necessary strength in his heart to wheedle anymore.
…never in the entire time that she had heard name being selected from Feng Yu Xin’s impromptu list of candidates till now, did An Fei expect such words to fly out of the Grand Elder’s mouth.
“That’s… still acceptable. Every condition you raise, that’s perfectly acceptable as well,” the shameless old man muttered underneath his breath.
“Actually, you don’t need to come with this old thing. All in all, the Soul-Binding Contract is binding to both parties; after you left, Yu Xin signed your name onto the marriage contract, sealing the deal with the heavens as the witness and the judge.”
“Also, a Soul-Binding Contract is impossible to evade, even for old Peak Nascent Soul Realm fogeys as this old thing!”
A remarkable, precisely aimed fatal attack, one that An Fei couldn’t find it within herself to resist regardless of how desperately she searched.