The first thing she felt upon waking up was a piercing pain in her head. Next, her thick eyelashes trembled as she struggled to open her eyes.
A hazy image of a woman with golden hair and emerald eyes appeared in front of her. The woman's eyes were soft and warm as she hovered over her and placed a warm, wet cloth over her head.
Rin's eyes couldn't help but tremble. She stared at the figure in a daze.
"Hah? Who are you calling this old monk your mother?"
Suddenly hearing a gruff, elderly voice come out of the lovely young woman, Rin blinked her eyes a couple of times.
Sure enough, after her vision cleared, the person leaning over her wasn't her gorgeous mother, but rather a short and scrawny old man wearing white robes.
"Seems like that fever not only made you faint but stupid as well." The white-haired man grumbled. "If that's the case, putting you out of your misery seems like the best solution."
Rin's expression was dull.
Was he speaking about euthanizing her right in front of her?
Before she had to speak, a childlike voice spoke from around the corner.
"Put her out of her misery? I thought you said she was okay?!"
With her head propped on a pillow, Rin shifted her eyes to the childlike voice. Standing between the doorway, was a boy dressed in brown and green robes, his auburn hair spiked up.
He marched over to the old monk and was about to yell words of concern, when he was suddenly knocked hard on the head.
"Noisy brat, I was only joking. She's fine."
The boy clutched his head before blinking his round eyes and breathing a sigh of relief. At that moment, the young boy perceived a pair of eyes on him and shifted his head to the figure on the bed.
Realizing the girl was looking back at him silently, Aiguo's cheeks couldn't help but heat up, his eyes darting away from her face. Not even two seconds later, he peeked back up and was in awe.
A girl possibly no older than fifteen, blinked her quiet eyes at him. She looked so white, soft, and thin. Unhealthily thin. Her eyes were hollow, but her pupils rare color of emerald naturally lit them up. Her cheekbones were too prominent, possibly a result of not eating enough food.
The boy couldn't help but think she was probably very pretty when she was rested and had some meat on her bones.
He would make sure to hunt for meat and make her eat lots!
Lost in his glorifying thoughts, he hadn't noted the old monk looking at him with twitched brows.
"Ouch!" Aiguo's originally warm expression immediately turned into the stormiest one he could summon. "What the hell, old man?!"
The white-haired monk knocks him on the head again. Before Aiguo could snap obscenities at him, the old monk indifferently turned away to walk toward Rin.
"I don't welcome perverts, nor profanity. Take your blasphemy and impure thoughts with the rest of the vile swine."
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"I-Impure?" Aiguo blinked innocently.
He froze for a moment before gritting his teeth and roaring, "Old man!"
The white-haired monk ignores the boy and calmly grasped Rin's hand to feel her pulse. The room was silent for a moment before his thin lips curled into a satisfied, smug grin.
"Her condition has gotten much better." He said proudly. "However, her fever hasn't broken completely, although it's still better than yesterday. If you feed her this nourishing broth and ensure she stays warm for two weeks or so, she'll be fine."
Aiguo breathed a sigh of relief.
"Then after that, you can kick her out when she's all healed or make her pay you back with physical labor."
Rin and Aiguo: "…"
This old man was rather shameless!
Rin stared at the two silently. She moistened her dry, pale lips and opened her mouth to speak, but found her throat to be dry and suddenly burst out in a fit of coughing.
Both turned and looked at the coughing girl on the bed.
"What are you two doing? The poor girl is coughing to death on the bed and all you can do is stare?"
Rin heard the sound of another voice, this time it was a girl.
Through the tears hanging at the corner of her eyes, she could see someone rush toward her. A warm hand supported her back and elevated her up.
"Here, drink this slowly." The girl's voice was slightly rough, but that didn't deflect the warmth in it.
Rin slowly drank the lukewarm water and felt her dry throat moisten by the warm liquid.
She hadn't realized how thirsty she was until now.
After she had finished drinking, Rin blinked away the tears on her lashes. She glanced up and felt two pairs of eyes staring at her in clear bewilderment.
At that moment, she noticed a young girl beside her. The girl possessed a youthful face, but was exceptionally tall, her cheekbones knobby. Her face was broad, her tiny gracious eyes, which resembled tadpoles, stared at her dazzlingly.
Rin cleared her moistened throat and parted her lips to speak.
"Where am I?"
Jia was surprised upon heeding the girl's melodious, gentle voice and felt her heart thump. Aiguo, on the other hand, felt his entire being flush.
Jia cleared her throat and answered. "My brother and I found you unconscious in the snow and brought you to our home in Su village."
Rin slowly processed this newfound information with a calm gaze.
She gradually began recalling the last moments she had before everything turned dark. During the ambush against An Sun's camp, she shielded him from an arrow and fell off the cliff.
At this thought, Rin's eyes shifted to her chest where the arrow penetrated, but only found a tight bandaged strapped around her chest. Jia saw her line of sight and scratched her cheek.
"Ah, right, there was an arrow in your chest. It was safely removed, so don't worry! But it might leave a slight scar in the future."
Rin paused in thought for a short while, when suddenly, Jia's face peered into hers.
"It's a good thing we rescued you in time though, otherwise you most likely would have frozen or bled to death! Thankfully, we called Master Qiu, and he helped remove the arrow from your chest. Oh, Master Qiu is the old man who was here earlier when you woke up."
Rin's brows furrowed. She glanced up and found the old man that was previously in the room was no longer there.
When had he left? She hadn't even sensed it.
"Don't worry, he disappears like that often," Jia said with a little laugh as if sensing her thoughts.
Rin paused in thought for a short while, but ultimately, she didn't say anything. She looks back at the smiling girl with her hands folded on her lap.
"Thank you, for saving me," Rin said in a quiet voice.
A beaming smile suddenly broke on Jia's broad face, her dark eyes twinkling.
"My name's Jia and this is my little brother Aiguo." She tilted her head toward the boy behind her.
Rin glanced at the spiked hair boy and found his expression was extremely tense, his face slightly flushed. Noticing her stare, he puckered his lips and averted his gaze. Rin noted the tips of his ears suspiciously turning a bright red.
Jia noticed her brother's odd behavior and rolled her eyes.
"So, what's your name?"
Rin sank into silence, but after a moment, she said, "My name is Rin."
Jia blinked for a moment and scrunched up her nose. "Rin?"
"It's an unusual name isn't it?" Rin smiled.
Jia realized her inappropriate response and shook her head. "Ah, no, it's a beautiful name! I was just surprised, that's all!"
Rin laughed softly. "Thank you."
Though Rin's responses were short and polite, Jia felt she did not wish to explore the subject.
Jia coughed gently to dispel the awkward atmosphere.
"Well, you should rest. When you wake up, I'll give you some nourishing soup Master Qiu left."
"Mm." Rin nodded.
Jia smiled before turning to yank the collar of the dazed Aiguo out of the room. Slightly struggling, the boy was forced to leave with his sister.
Rin watched as the two siblings left and quietly stared at her folded hands.
Through the small window in her room, she watched the glowing moon, thin white clouds flying in the sky. A fresh breeze blows against her clothes, locks of satin hair brushing against her pale cheeks.
Her bright eyes dulled and suddenly a melodious, bitter sound released from her lips.
"What is this?"
Had she not chosen her fate - to die honorably for An Sun?
Then what was this? Why was she still alive?
Was this fate's way of saying it's not her time to die?
Rin found it bitter and cruel. She looked back at the moon and her lips crumbled. After a moment of silence, she leaned her head back against her pillow.
Rin shut her heavy eyelids and breathed deeply.
For now, she just wanted to rest.
For a moment, just let her rest.
Rin's eyelids became too heavy to open before she slowly felt her body ease.