He wanted him to bring Bai Lan back with him.
By now, An Sun had long known his father was informed of Bai Lan and his background. If that was the case, then An Sun could only assume he either wanted to use Bai Lan to his advantage or kill him.
An Sun turned his head slightly and out of the corner of his eyes, he noticed the youth peering over his shoulder to read the edict.
He had delicate snow-white skin, almost like porcelain coated with beads of sweat and dirt smudges. His long, silky dark hair had been pinned up by a wooden hairpin, leaving two stray locks of hair to frame his small face.
Feeling his piercing gaze on her, Rin raised her head to look up at him quietly. Two pure large eyes blinked up at him, a gleam of wit hidden within them. An Sun stared at her and his lips stiffened.
This kid wouldn't last a day in the An Clan.
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Manchu on the side curled his lips up and snickered. "It would appear that Great Lord An has taken an interest in our little strategist."
Rin didn't reply and felt the corner of her lips twitch. Why did he make it sound more sensual than it was?
Meanwhile, An Sun's eyes narrowed and his lips tightened. He looked over at Rin and appeared somewhat doubtful.
"Hey Bai Lan, are you sure…" An Sun began asking slowly, his voice light as a feather.
But before he could finish, Rin shook her head and gave An Sun a reassuring smile. "Lord An, one thing you should know about me is I'm not one to back out of promises."
An sun was stunned momentarily and then chuckled freely, "Then that makes two of us. No matter what my father's intentions are, I'll protect you."
Rin was warmed and touched by his words. All those weeks of his cold treatment and open threats seemed to wither away by that single phrase. Indeed, her grandfather was right.
'The greatest conqueror is one who overcomes an enemy and makes them a friend.'
She tilted her head and laughed, "En, same to you."
An Sun hummed in return before turning to look at Manchu, his tone frosty as he said: "Pass the order. We leave today."
In no time, the three prepared for their departure and dispatched orders to the troops. Thanks to the volunteered help of the Jilin troops, it took them half a day to finish packing the campgrounds tents and remaining wagons of supplies.
To ease their travels and quicken their speed, they offered a portion of their wine, meat, and furs to the Jilin province. Duyi Zhong accepted without refusal.
"Captain Bai, we all hope to train under you again sometime." The leader to the group of Jilin soldiers walked up to Rin and smiled while bowing his head.
Already used to the youth's stiff, curt responses, he smiles courteously. Though their time together was short, he along with the rest of the Jilin soldiers found the youth highly capable of being their captain.
He not only amazed them with his military tactics but he was also an excellent fighter! With a small and frail build, one would think he was weak, however, as he once said, was an advantage. He trained them on how to use their sizes and level of strengths the best to their ability.
If one could not wield a sword then teach him medicine to heal his brothers! If one did not have the physical strength to defeat an enemy, then use your brain to outsmart them!
Training underneath someone like him opened the eyes of the Jilin soldiers. Saying farewell once more, the soldier turns to leave back to the remaining troops. Rin watches him with a distant gaze and faintly sighs.
She could now understand why her Uncle Guo and grandfather enjoyed commanding the Bai soldiers around so much. To see the transformation and looks of respect in the men one trained was rewarding.
She was going to miss ordering those troops of hers around.
Rin, who had been standing in the open, hands behind her back, swept her gaze to the side and bobbed her head in greeting to the approaching figure.
Duyi Zhong looked at the youth before him, his expression complicated as if he were studying her.
As if not noticing his gaze, Rin said softly. "It would seem we've caused trouble to you and your men."
He sighed and shook his head. "Not all. After all, we're still in an alliance, are we not?"
Rin nodded, peacefully looking at the Tuhan soldiers in front. The two stood in silence, both bearing different expressions. The calm elder for the first time displayed a tense and disgruntled appearance.
Duyi Zhong looked at Rin, deeply concerned. "You…Must you go with them?"
Rin never retracted her gaze and continued to look out at the snow-covered field with Tuhan soldiers.
Quietly, she nodded her head and said resolutely, sounding very sure of herself. "Yes."
Duyi Zhong was a little surprised when he heard Rin's answer and his brows immediately furrowed. He had thought she would at least consider or appear hesitant. But she hadn't batted an eyelid and seemed perfectly set on her decision.
Duyi Zhong had opened his mouth to say something, but a deep voice suddenly sounded nearby, causing Duyi Zhong to shift his head to see An Sun approaching them. An Sun strode toward the two and stopped until he stood before Duyi Zhong.
"Once this situation with my father is resolved, I'll send someone to inform you. I hope to continue our partnership, Governor Duyi."
Duyi Zhong's eyes widened in great surprise, and he stared at until he finally reacted and smiled stiffly. "Yes, of course, I understand. I hope you all travel safely."
An Sun hummed but did not say anything more as he turned to look at Rin. "Let's go, Bai Lan."
Rin nodded. Glancing at Duyi Zhong one final time, she bows her head. "It was a pleasure to work alongside you, Governor Duyi."
Saying her piece, Rin turned to follow An Sun. Watching the youth leave, the smile on Duyi Zhong's face faded and his eyes narrowed. Shuffling through his robes, he takes out a small letter with a set of gentle strokes written on the top.
The day Rin visited to inform him of their leave, she had said:
"I know Sir Zhong has told my grandfather of my location and I can understand your reasons. Regrettably, it seems I won't be able to say goodbye to him in person."
Reaching inside her robes, she takes out a white, folded letter and hands it to Duyi Zhong.
"When he arrives, could you please give this to him?"
She pushes the letter closer into his hands and reveals a strained smile. "Please."
Duyi Zhong looked at the letter, then the girl across from him. Although they had not known each another for long, he felt quite close to Rin - as if she too were his granddaughter. Wrapping his wrinkled hand over her soft one, he grips it tightly and offers a soothing crinkled smile.
Rin smiles back, her eyes arching up. "Thank you…"
Standing at the top of the Jilin walls, he looks down to see the Tuhan soldiers departing. A young youth sat atop a horse beside An Sun's and beamed at the young man. At some point, the youth's emerald eyes glanced up and met with his. Bobbing their head in acknowledgment, they turn away.
Duyi Zhong watched until no more, could their figures be seen in the vast white field. He stood in inner turmoil, his heart filled with pity and reluctance.
Pity for the girl who set herself to strive on the path of virtue. Reluctance to stop her from following this path.
He knew when one intended to weaken, they must first strengthen. When one intends to rest, you must first flourish.
This he knew. He knew this was only the beginning to her path.
"Farewell, Bai Rin."
Soon enough and as anticipated, an edict was delivered to their camp by bird – ordering for them to retreat and return to the An Clan's main camp. However, what caused An Sun's expression to blacken was his father's additional order.