The youth glances up from the papers in front of him and turns their cold, clear emerald eyes to the soldier. Their small framed body was encased in a furred, royal blue cloak, the hood framing the white palm-sized face hidden inside. A trace of sharp iciness etched across their delicate, sharp features.
"What is it?"
"We have some news on the tunnels! General Manchu and Sir Duyi are waiting."
A radiant light shone across Rin's eyes and she bobbed her head. She and the soldier quickly walked toward a private path within the mountains.
For weeks, the Tuhan and Jilin troops had been working together to dig up tunnels underground to the province Guando, also overrun and being constructed on by An Sun's soldiers.
However, after the incidents with An Sun being summoned by his father and the spy watching Rin's movements, she knew they needed to hasten their plans.
During An Sun's absence, Rin and Manchu informed Duyi Zhong of what had occurred. He frowned upon hearing this and looked at Rin.
A brief flash of admiration flashed across his eyes after he had heard what the young girl had done to the spy.
As expected of Bai Han's granddaughter!
Afterward, he suggested offering more of his troops to aid in the tunnels. Both Rin and Manchu were surprised but didn't hesitate to accept his offer. Now was not the time to be modest and decline assistance.
They had also sent word to the soldiers in Guando on their decision to hurry their plans. There had yet to be a response from them.
After working on the tunnels for the past month, the results were significant. Although not having reached their destination, they expanded around five-hundred feet into the tunnel passing by numerous Northern provinces.
Inside the underground tunnels, Rin met with Manchu and Duyi Zhong.
"What's the news? Did the troops in Guando respond?" Rin asked straight to the point upon arrival.
Both men turned to look at her and bore stiff looks. Watching their expressions contort into ones of trouble, Rin's brows creased up and she knew it was nothing good.
"They've responded. However, the estimated time of completion is two months' time." Manchu said in disapproval.
Rin's expression changed slightly and her lips arched downward. Two months' time was too long. Even if they finished within a month, it was still not quick enough.
Now being under the An Clan's suspicion, their movements needed to be faster. Rin fell into deep thought, and her fingers grazed her white chin.
"If we send some troops over to Guando, we may be able to complete the tunnels within the next three weeks."
Manchu's brows knitted, "But won't the An Clan be suspicious if we suddenly send men out to Guando?"
"That may be so, but we've already run out of options. If such a time comes where they do attack, we'll be fully prepared and the tunnels should be completed by then." Rin replied calmly.
"Should be?" Manchu looked at her with narrowed eyes.
Rin did not seem to care for Manchu's constant contradictions to her words.
She smiled faintly and shook her head as she answered in a wry tone, "I may be intelligent but I'm just a strategist Sir Manchu, even I can't predict the outcome of my tactics."
Manchu's brows twitched. He looked at Rin and clamped his mouth shut. Although he was often silent, he was a cheeky little strategist.
Rin ignored his stinging gaze and turned to look at Duyi Zhong.
Lowering her head and cupping her fists, she said in a courteous tone, "I understand Governor Duyi has already aided more of his troops to us than negotiated and we are all eternally grateful. However, it would seem to quicken the pace of our plans we may need more of your assistance. When this is over, we promise to increase your tributes to compensate you for your help."
Duyi Zhong looked at the youth and sighed. His hand reached out to gently pat her on the shoulder, lifting her back up.
"There's no need for formalities. Considering the situation you're in I'll let it slide. As for the tributes, we'll discuss it another time when Commander An returns."
Rin smiled and in an appreciative tone said, "Thank you, Duyi Zhong."
"Mn. How many more troops do you need?"
Duyi Zhong raised his eyebrows slightly, a soft grin appearing on his face. Voicing such generous and honeyed words only to trap him with a bold request.
She was definitely Bai Han's granddaughter.
"Five hundred huh?" Duyi Zhong couldn't help but laugh out as he said, "Very well. I'll have them appointed to you today."
Rin nodded her head and then turned her aloof face to Manchu, "We should start sending Tuhan troops to Guando immediately."
The three conversed some more and quickly began settling their new plans into action.
As dusk fell, Rin returned to her tent and sat at her desk, writing down new tactics they could use when the time came.
Beside her was another scroll - a letter. Her brows creased together as she looked at the letter.
Although she said it would take three weeks to complete the tunnels, Rin couldn't deny that this time around even she couldn't determine the odds.
Her confidence in their success was half and half if she was being honest. Because of the An Clan's sudden interference, Rin was unsure of whether or not they'd be able to finish on time.
Thinking of the responsibility and trust An Sun placed on her, Rin's hand holding the paper froze.
Trust? Was that was this was? Was he trusting her?
From the moment An Sun left she couldn't help but feel uneasy. It was strange to admit, but her feelings toward An Sun had changed.
Compared to when she first arrived at his camp, she no longer harbored thoughts of escaping and viewing An Sun as an enemy.
She was certain or at least assumed An Sun felt the same. His actions for the last few weeks had been kinder and he no longer used threats against her. The two unknowingly for the past few weeks developed a deep trust within one another.
When the scout An Ruo sent to spy on her ended up negotiating with her, Rin knew the chances of her escaping were actually quite high. It would have been easy for her to manipulate the scout into helping her escape.
She could have chosen to leave and return back to the Bai family, to her grandfather and uncle…but she didn't.
Why didn't she?
Rin fell silent, and she glanced at the letter beside her again. Deep and complex emotions flashed within her emerald orbs and her lips pursed together. She reached her fingertips over the thin paper and grazed it softly.
Just as Rin's thoughts wandered off, they were suddenly cut short by a soldier's trembling and panicked shout, "Someone! Someone call a physician! Its Commander An he's…"
Rin's eyes narrowed, and she quickly shot up from her seat, rushing out of the tent. An ominous premonition swirled in her heart.
Outside, Rin breathed in the cold crisp air and walked to the center of the camp. Reaching the group of soldiers, Rin could see the familiar form of a black, gallant horse.
That horse…it was An Sun's.
Rin's steps hastened but immediately froze in place to the sight in front of her. Rin felt that her throat was a little dry and her mind fell into a whirl. Vague images of figures flashed across her mind.
Her heart felt as if an enormous boulder was pressed down onto it, suffocating her until she was unable to breathe correctly.
Dangling lifelessly on the horse, his back drenched in blood and face pale to the point of transparency was An Sun.
"Advisor Bai!" A crisp voice rang out as a Tuhan soldier ran toward a petite figure.