Standing up to experience a slight soreness in her back, Rin frowns and removes the blanket from her shoulders.
As the blanket dropped to the floor, the faint smell of blood wafted through the small tent.
Scrunching her nose, Rin stares down to see her pants stained with dried blood.
Sighing, she carefully begins slipping out of her red, sticky undergarments. With nothing concealing her frail slender legs, Rin stared down and froze.
Starting from her lower region, trails of dried blood flowed down her inner thighs.
So this is what made her so different from a man - this just being one of the differences between a man and a woman.
No matter the gender, Rin always thought man or woman, there was no difference. Everyone was and could be the same.
Yet, no matter how she dresses or whom she pretended to be, it was as clear as day she wasn't a man - she was a woman.
Rin knew it was better to be born a male, she learned this thanks to her life in the Imperial Palace.
Even born as a girl in the royal family - her parents loved her, nonetheless.
Thinking of all the women she met, Rin could never see herself as one of them.
Women were expected to excel in the seven virtues: humility, resignation, subservience, self-abasement, obedience, cleanliness, and industry.
A woman's virtue was valued more than anything else.
She could never see herself dedicating her life to such a lifestyle. It wasn't the path she wished to follow.
But no matter how much she rebelled against the basic reality of being a woman in this world, she couldn't escape the natural flow of a woman's body.
She had now become a woman.
Struck with the reality of the situation, Rin sighed helplessly while looking away from the dried blood on her thighs.
She had to be more careful.
Taking a wet cloth, Rin wiped away the dried blood on her thighs and private area before changing into a new set of clothes.
However, to ensure there'd be no leaks coming through her clothes, Rin took a few spare sets of thick clothing and cut them into small squares.
Since she was bleeding, she thought she'd treat it as if it were any old wound. Placing them on her undergarments, Rin was satisfied.
After changing her clothes, Rin collected the bloodied clothes she wore previously and placed them in the brazier to burn. No traces of what happened could be found.
Eating a small bowl of flavorless boiled grains, Rin stood up to leave the tent after covering herself with a warm furred coat.
She somehow found the pain in her back slightly numbing as she walked.
When Rin exited her tent she was greeted with the sight of Manchu ordering a few Tuhan men to load the crates of assets onto carts.
Walking beside him, Rin looks at the boxes of tributes for the Jilin province.
"I heard you weren't feeling too well yesterday. I take it you're feeling better now?" Manchu asked without withdrawing his eyes off the Tuhan men.
Rin smiled, "Mm, I'm feeling much better now. I hope I didn't trouble you and Lord An too much."
Manchu had his arms crossed as he said, "There were a few things we could have used you for, but An Sun was able to manage it."
Chuckling, Rin glanced at Manchu, his light brown hair fluttering carelessly through the gentle breeze.
"It seems Lord An is capable of working by himself without my help. It makes me wonder if I truly am needed here."
"Trust me, if you saw the process of last night's events you wouldn't speak such words toward him." His tone was bitter as he spoke.
Rin's smile became softer as she imagined the prideful young man handling things on his own with a disgruntled appearance.
It's a shame she wasn't able to see it.
Manchu shifted his gaze toward Rin and noticed her soft smile. Feeling the corner of his lips twitch, he looks back at the men.
"He's currently negotiating with Duyi Zhong over the number of Jilin troops we received."
Rin's eyebrows raised and she gently sighed. "I take it he wasn't satisfied with the given number of troops?"
Manchu silently nodded in response.
Rin sighs once more and looks back the snow-covered camp.
She was starting to wonder if they were ever going to be able to make an alliance with the Jilin province.
Both were protective of their men. If An Sun were to request for more troops to back him up on his quest to conquer land in the Eastern Empire, Duyi Zhong would disagree based on Rin's observations.
He was already taking such a great risk to go against the most prosperous empire in the nation. To bring more of his men into a dangerous battle was pushing it.
Rin could only wait for things to take place. And hopefully, in the right direction.
After advising the men to load the tributes, Manchu and Rin headed inside the main tent to speak.
Pouring a cup of Sencha into her teacup, Rin lifts it to her petal-like rosy lips and calmly sips.
Her eyes lit up upon sipping the warm beverage.
This was delicious!
It had been a while since she last had a cup of tea, especially of such high quality.
Observing the pleased expression on Rin's face, Manchu smirked while drinking his own cup of tea.
"This is high graded sencha from farther north. It was one of the surrendering tributes we received from a province, that along with a bunch of women."
Rin frowned hearing Manchu's words. Looking down at the tea in her hands, Rin's grip tightened.
"If you don't mind me asking, what do you do with the women when they're gifted to you?"
After staying with the men for the past month and a half, not once did she see any signs of women.
Manchu's expression hadn't changed as he sipped his tea. Seeing how he was silent, Rin couldn't help but press further.
"Do you and Lord An…"
Suddenly, Manchu burst out into fits of loud laughter.
Startled, Rin's eyes blinked dramatically.
Ah, did she say something funny?
Feeling slightly confused and embarrassed by asking such a question, not to mention being laughed at, Rin coughs and drinks her tea.
Although her expression remained indifferent and cold, the tips of her ears reddened.
Ever since she was struck with the reality of being a woman, Rin couldn't help but sympathize more with the women delivered to soldier's camps like An Sun's.
If anything she also felt some resentment toward them. But she knew she couldn't take it personally, especially since that's how the world worked.
However, during the war, the situation is much worse.
Unlike her, she knew the urges men had when they were in the presence of an attractive woman - especially when one was delivered to them so freely.
She assumed, like most men who yearned a woman's touch after being around men and war for so long, An Sun and Manchu also enjoyed their fair share of women.
Thus, she hadn't found anything wrong with her question.
Lost in her thoughts, Rin hadn't detected the sound of incoming footsteps.
"What's so funny?"
Looking up, Rin's eyes were greeted with the sight of An Sun.
His long, dark hair hung behind him with two locks resting delicately on his broad shoulders. The sleeves to his black open collared robe were pulled up revealing his muscled arms and his smooth fair skin.
An Sun's pair of dark eyes shifted to the side as he looked between the laughing Manchu and Rin whose head was lowered as she sipped her tea with an indifferent expression.
Why did he feel like he missed something?
Waking up early the following morning, Rin found her cramps had somewhat subsided.