An Hongyu and the additional members of the An Clan diverted their attention to the tent entrance when hearing the soldier's voice. No one spoke as the expressionless An Sun's tall and cold figure strode in, his movements stopping until he stood before An Hongyu.
He cups his fists and gave a slight bow in his head, his voice deep and strong, "An Sun greets the Great Lord Hongyu."
Members of the An Clan looked at An Sun with mixed expressions. Some filled with contempt, others jealously, but despite these looks, An Sun paid no heed to them – his gray eyes fixated on his adoptive father.
An Hongyu hummed in approval to the young man's actions. "Mm. You look well Sun. I hope things are faring well in the northern mountains."
Everyone's ears perked up toward his question, their eyes staring intently to hear An Sun's response.
"Yes, things are going well with the troops."
An Hongyu pupils dilated. He continued to stare at An Sun for a little while before shooting a glance toward everyone else.
He waved his hand in dismissal, "Everyone you're dismissed. An Ruo, you stay."
An Ruo respectfully bowed his head in understanding and stood beside his father's chair.
The other An Clan members faces showed disappointment in being dismissed so early. Standing up from their seats, they all walked out of the tent obediently.
With just the three in the tent, An Sun looks at his father, his gaze calm - an expression that made it clear he wasn't the slightest bit worried or anxious. His calm appearance provoked An Hongyu's suspicion, causing his frown to deepen.
This son of his, he was becoming harder and harder to read as the years passed.
"I've heard you've settled in Jilin province territory for quite some time now."
An Sun wanted to laugh. An Hongyu had so clearly pointed out he was surveilling him. Heeding his question, An Sun sensed Rin's words were correct. He was testing him - a test he would be sure not to fail.
Rather than responding to his father's obvious hint of spying on him, An Sun responds with a short, "Yes."
Having wanted to see An Sun's calm expression crack, An Hongyu was once again disappointed to see nothing changed in that coolly handsome face, he stood there, still, with his frosty countenance and relaxed disposition as before.
An Hongyu continued to probe, "If I remember correctly, Jilin is a rather small province, there shouldn't be a need for a delay in overrunning them."
"Father's words are correct, Jilin is indeed small. But the reason for the delay is I've chosen to negotiate peacefully with them and settle a trade."
"A trade?" Both An Ruo and An Hongyu's expressions twisted.
"Yes." An Sun looks at his father seriously, his eyes sharp. "I was informed by my strategist of Jilin's hidden fortunes and have compromised a trade with their governor. As of now, things are going smoothly."
A tiny wrinkle developed on An Hongyu's brow. There wasn't a single flaw in An Sun's words, but he couldn't shake the feeling that something was off.
"Your strategist…" His eyes dimmed. "What are his origins? To have known such information he must be from a military family."
Unnoticed by his father, An Sun's eyes grew cold, a thin layer of frost hidden within them.
In a chilly voice, he replied, "His name is Bai Lan. He's a member of the Bai family in the Northern Empire."
Astonishment showed briefly in An Hongyu's eyes. The Bai family? They were a rather powerful and influential family, happening to possess one of the strongest armies within the four empires.
A member of their group was now his adoptive son's strategist. This caused him to feel uneasy. He was nothing but a small runt in the pack yet he already secured strong backing by his side.
It was time to put an end to this.
"Your negotiation with Jilin province, I want you to end it. Instead...bring me their governor's head."
An Sun didn't hide his surprise, and his brows immediately formed a frown.
He gripped his fists together. "May I ask why?"
"Because, why must we waste our supplies on their trivial trade? Kill their governor and take all of their reserves."
Although An Sun had managed to keep his expression calm, anyone could see his repressed rage.
An Sun retorted fiercely. "But they've offered to surrender peacefully—"
An Hongyu cut in sharply, "Since when have we shown mercy to anyone? What do we receive besides a few petty tributes from their surrender? An Sun, you may be the commander of your army, but I am the clan leader. I hold control of military orders. Don't think to challenge my orders again."
An Ruo's eyes lit with pleasure while watching on the side eyes, a hidden sneer on his passive expression.
An Sun gripped his fists by his side so tightly his veins bulged against his skin. Dejection, rage, and helplessness appeared on his face. Tightly shutting his eyes, he opens them again to reveal an empty, frozen lake of dark gray.