Sensing his gaze, Rin averted her eyes and continued to drink her tea.
Raising an eyebrow, An Sun plops himself down on a mat by the table and begins pouring himself wine.
"Quit with the suspense Manchu, spit it out. What's so funny?"
Wiping a tear from the corner of his eyes, Manchu looks over at An Sun and chuckles.
An Sun frowned at Manchu's response.
Once again, he turns to look at Rin for an answer, but she merely shook her head.
Even she didn't know why Manchu was laughing, however, having to repeat her previous question to An Sun, she didn't dare.
Slightly irritated, An Sun's eyes clouded.
Manchu felt an eerily, icy gaze fall upon him, sending a chill down his back. Composing himself, Manchu straightens himself up and coughs.
"How did things go with Duyi Zhong?"
Retracting his cold stare from Manchu, An Sun tsked. "That man sure is stubborn."
"Then I take it he declined."
An Sun shook his head while drinking his wine. "No, he agreed."
"He agreed that easily?" Rin asked, her brows scrunched together tightly, disbelief showing on her face.
"Why do you seem surprised?"
Rin scratched her cheek. "To be honest, based on Duyi Zhong's personality he doesn't seem to be one to give in so easily. Especially if it involves his men."
An Sun nodded. "You're right, in the beginning, he didn't agree. As expected, he claimed my demands were too high."
Twirling the cup of wine in his calloused hand, An Sun's dark eyes stare at the furnace. "But after some convincing, he agreed to give us two-thousand more of his men if we provide him with one-hundred more pounds of grains. He even said he'd be willing to add in five hundred more if we're able to get vegetables, fresh or frozen."
Both Rin and Manchu's eyes widened when hearing these words.
"What?" Both said in unison.
A frown quickly settled on Rin's face. "Lord An, I don't mean to be rude but are you certain you want to trade them one-hundred pounds of grains?"
An Sun's eyes looked at Rin, a single brow raised. "You don't agree?"
"Not exactly. However, one hundred pounds of grains, that's all we have. What about the rest of our soldiers?"
Manchu sipped his tea, but it was clear that he too agreed.
"Do you really think I'd allow my men to starve?" His brows twitched at the two's stares.
Rin shook her head.
Chugging down more of his wine, An Sun says, "I can always ask my father to send a supply of food for my men. It won't seem suspicious either since he believes we'll be looting more small provinces farther North."
Rin went silent. She was surprised by the way An Sun had addressed her. It had been the first time he called her by her name rather than 'kid.'
He looked at Rin with a calm and serious expression.
"You may be smart based on the books you've read and what your grandfather told you. But when it comes down to trading, you're still quite clueless. And at the very least I know my boundaries."
Astonished, Rin froze for a moment. The corner of her lips twitched as it was clear he was saying she was dull in several areas.
However, rather than taking offense to his words, she agreed. He was right, she had no knowledge when it came to trading or establishing an alliance.
But that didn't mean she wasn't aware of how strange An Sun's plan was.
Noting the conflicted expression on Rin's face as she spoke to An Sun, Manchu coughed lightly. "Can't there be another way to handle this?"
An Sun was calm as he replied, "Even if there was, it's already been done. I issued an order to my father for a new supply of grains and if he can, fresh or frozen vegetables. As for the rest, it's all been resolved."
Rin and Manchu went silent.
Why did they even bother arguing with him when he had already settled everything?!
Tired, Manchu chugged his tea and took the jug of wine and began pouring it into his cup.
With times like this, he really needed a drink.
Sighing helplessly, Rin looked at An Sun. "If my Lord already settled it then I guess there's no use arguing over it."
An sun grunted in response and sipped his wine. As if recalling something, his eyes shifted toward Rin's small body.
While drinking her tea, Rin sensed a gaze on her and looked in An Sun's direction.
"Is something wrong?"
He kept his frosty gaze on Rin with an overcast and unreadable expression, his eyes looking her up and down. She was unable to tell what the young man was thinking.
After a while, he pressed his lips into a thin line and averted his eyes.
Watching him continue to chug his wine, Rin tilts her head to the side.
Did she miss something?
Deciding to let it be, Rin continues to drink her warm tea.
The small falcon joyously devoured the blackberry, its juices staining its small beak.
"Hehe, here have another one Ju!" A small little girl giggles as she reaches for another berry and lifts it toward the falcon.
Without hesitation, Ju eats the berry, his beady black eyes blinking rapidly.
Smiling, the little girl reaches for another berry but halts toward the sound of a familiar voice.
"Young Miss Lixue, are you trying to fatten up poor Ju? What will Young Master Bai think when he sees what you've done to his bird."
Slowly turning to look at the sound of the voice, Lixue pouts once she sees a frail middle-aged man standing behind her. With a dark beard and long hair tied tightly into a bun, the man's slim body was dress comfortably in white and blue robes.
"Wei Jingyi! Lixue was only feeding him a little bit!" The girl's cheeks puffed out.
"Mhm," The man nodded with a dull gaze clearly indicating he didn't believe her.
Feeling wronged, the little girl's soft white cheeks puff out even further, the corners of her eyes reddening.
"Now, now Lixue," A woman's soft voice spoke from behind. "Wei Jingyi was merely concerned for the bird's sake. You don't want him to overeat and get sick do you?"
Walking toward Lixue was a woman, her dark hair tied up into a bun as loose strands fell in front of her slightly wrinkled and beautiful face.
The woman appeared to be in her late thirties but was, nonetheless, a beauty with a few crinkles by her brown, almond-shaped eyes and smoker lines above her upper lips.
The woman was Lixue's aunt, also her mother's eldest sister, Qin Mingxia.
After the events that took place in the Guando province, Lixue, instructed by Rin, was taken to her aunt and uncle's house by Wei Jingyi.
Two months had passed since that incident and Wei Jingyi's hadn't heard a word from the young girl.
Kneeling in front of the pouting little girl, the woman chuckles and ruffles her hair.
"There's no need to cry child, he didn't mean to hurt your feelings. Right?" She turns to look at Wei Jingyi who stood behind with a silent expression.
Understanding the meaning to her stare, Wei Jingyi smiles. "Of course not Young Miss Lixue, I apologize if my words offended you."
Lixue looked at Wei Jingyi with hesitation before lowering her eyes, her dark lashes flutter softly against her round cheeks.
"I'm sorry for overreacting auntie Mingxia," Her pink lips puckered. "And Wei Jingyi, I'm sorry too…"
Laughing softly, Qin Mingxia ruffles the girl's soft bangs and pats her head.
"You're forgiven. Now go freshen up, dinner's almost ready."
Lifting her big dewy eyes, a series of sparkles flash through them as she nods her head rapidly and hops away.
"Come on Ju, let's go freshen up!"
As if understanding her words, the brown falcon flies off the large boulder and follows the round little bun inside.
Watching Lixue's figure with a smile, Qin Mingxia dusts off the invisible dust off her dress skirt and looks at Wei Jingyi.
"I know I've said it already, but…thank you for bringing her here. It truly means the world to my husband and I. And I'm sure my sister…"
Qin Mingxia releases a sad smile, her eyes lowered down to look at the cobblestone path in the garden.
"Madam Tao would have wanted it this way. I'm sure she can rest easy knowing her daughter is safe and sound." Wei Jingyi spoke softly.
A complicated expression overcame his face as if he hesitated to speak. After a while, he looked back at Qin Mingxia.
"However, until the time is right and Lixue is older, you must keep her parent's circumstances a secret. As of now, she's too young to understand. I fear she'll see my young master the wrong way."
Looking up at the man, she nods her head with a smile. "I understand. I wouldn't want Lixue to blame your master, especially after everything he's done."
Looking in the direction Lixue ran off to, her smiles soften.
"Besides, I believe she truly admires this master of yours. I hope to meet him someday."
Wei Jingyi nods his head. "Of course, whenever he can, I'm sure he'll come and visit. After all, he wouldn't abandon his trusted bird for too long."
Laughing at the man's words, Qin Mingxia excuses herself to go check on Lixue to help her with getting ready.
As Qin Mingxia departed, Wei Jingyi watched her departing figure with a vacant expression before turning to look at the residence garden.
"I hope you're doing well, Rin."
Please return safe and sound.
As Manchu continued to laugh, An Sun's brows arched as he looked over in Rin's direction.