Inside a room in the governor's estate.
"You still haven't found her?!" Bai Han slammed his fist against the desk.
The soldier was scared silly. His whole body trembled as he knelt.
Bai Han hadn't expected the results to turn out so empty. It was as if his granddaughter's body completely disappeared!
Bai Han grit his teeth. "Keep looking! Ask the town's citizens if they've seen her! A body doesn't go missing so easily! Spread men farther north and if it comes down to it, enter the southern territory."
The soldier stood up from the ground and left the room. Not a moment later, Duyi Zhong entered and glanced at the old commander leaning tiredly in his chair. When he noticed how pale he looked, his pupils shrunk.
"Bai Han, you must rest. At this age, worrying will only worsen your health." Duyi Zhong sighed as he walked up to the man, placing a hand on his shoulder.
Bai Han's eyes were cast downwards, and he remained silent. His emotions at that moment crashed against the walls of his heart fiercely.
"I can't rest." Bai Han muttered weakly. "Not until I see her…dead or alive, I need to see her one last time."
At this time, someone knocked on the door. Both men shift their gazes and stared as General Guo entered.
"Commander An's men returned from their search."
At this, Bai Han's eyes lit up; two sparks of light shining steadfastly in the depths of his dull eyes. He abruptly stood up from his chair before rushing out of the room. Duyi Zhong watched him retreat and revealed a complicated expression.
Waiting in An Sun's main tent, Bai Han nervously paced back and forth.
"Didn't you say they returned? Where is he?!"
General Guo calmly replied. "He's on his way commander."
Bai Han clamped his thin lips together and sunk into silence. His expression showed how displeased he was.
Unlike Bai Han, General Guo looked at An Sun in a more rational view. Though he too blamed the young man for kidnapping his niece, he knew her sacrificial actions were beyond the young man's control.
He knew his granddaughter placed her trust in the young man. So well enough, she'd risk her life for him. Reluctant to believe it, he knew An Sun was an important figure in the girl's heart.
At that moment, the sound of snowy footsteps sounded nearby. The men shift their gaze to see An Sun entering the tent. His jet-black robes and perfectly straight posture caused his presence to feel cold and oppressive.
His gaze swept over to see that Bai Han had a haggard expression, evidently grieving over his grandson. Upon seeing the young man, Bai Han's eyes grew frantic.
"How'd it go? Did you find anything?"
An Sun's handsome face was rather serious and grim. He shook his head with a sigh. "Nothing. None of the villagers from the neighboring towns have witnessed a young man of his description. I've even ordered some men to ask the herdsmen traveling by."
Bai Han's expression sunk. "How can this be?"
Manchu, who entered behind An Sun, rubbed his numb body all over, warming himself at the brazier.
"We can try to search farther north and ask if anyone's seen him. However, at this point, it feels as if we're drawing near a dead end," Manchu said after warming himself up.
Governor Duyi, Bai Han, and General Guo were silent.
It had just dawned on them...
These two…thought that Rin was a young man.
No wonder the search came to a dead-end!
Plopping into his chair to pour himself a glass of wine, An Sun noticed the mens' odd expressions from the corner of his eye.
"What is it?" An Sun asked, an eyebrow raised.
The three men were silent.
An Sun's brows drew together the longer they prolonged their silence. He finally shifted his deep gaze towards them. His thin lips pressed together without a word.
His gaze was cold and expressionless.
"Is there something you're not telling me that I should know?"
Unexpectedly, the three froze when they heeded his voice. Bai Han didn't dare believe the young man's cold tone had an effect on him and averted his gaze stubbornly.
General Guo and Governor Duyi perceive the old man's childish behavior and sighed helplessly. General Guo turned to look at An Sun and bowed his head slightly.
"Please pardon us for concealing this from you, but I hope you understand we had every reason to do this for the protection of Bai Lan."
An Sun's expression hadn't changed a bit beside a slight arch in his brow. It was still the same coldly handsome face as always. He didn't speak and allowed General Guo to continue while sipping his wine.
"This grandson of ours, Bai Lan…" General Guo spoke slowly. "Rather than being a young man, she's a young woman."
An Sun suddenly choked on his wine and broke out into a series of coughs.
Manchu, who stood to the side, widened his eyes. At that moment, his brows furrowed into a deep frown.
"Are you joking?"
General Guo shook his head. "No, I am not. The young man by the name of Bai Lan who served you, is our Bai family's only granddaughter, Bai Rin. Had we not required your help in the search for her, I wouldn't have disclosed this information."
General Guo paused momentarily. "However, it seems that our granddaughter trusts you enough to give her life for you. So, I see no problem in depending on you as well."
"That…" Manchu was astounded. "No wonder…I always thought his body was rather fragile."
Bai Han coldly sneered and said, "Hah! Who are you calling fragile? My granddaughter trained alongside my men since she was little! To stand among your men for months and survive, do you consider that fragile?"
General Guo inwardly shook his head helplessly.
At that moment, he suddenly noticed that the young man sitting in his seat was oddly quiet. He glanced over and was stunned to see the handsome young man's cold face cracked, and was now filled with a glowing blush.
General Guo's eyes narrowed up as he stared with his eyes fixed upon the young man.
Meanwhile, An Sun was lost in his thoughts. The moment he heard General Guo's words, everything turned mute. They were saying something, but he couldn't hear what it was.
All his mind could think of was the small figure, their round emerald eyes gazing at him with an expression of trust.
"If Lord An doesn't mind, I'd like to stay by your side a little longer."
"You will become a noble leader, An Sun."
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An Sun's face felt warm and he covered his eyes with his palm.
No way…Bai Lan—no, Bai Rin…was a girl?
An Sun quickly sorted his emotions and glanced up to notice General Guo's peering gaze. An Sun cleared his throat and averted his gaze.
"In that case, we should continue our search first thing in the morning."
A strange look appeared in Bai Han's eyes after he had heard An Sun's words.
"You…You're continuing with the search?"
An Sun's brows furrowed somewhat. His deep voice was calm as he said, "Sir Bai, although your granddaughter is a woman, I still consider her a trusted comrade. At the end of the day, Bai Lan or Bai Rin, I will still protect her until the end."
Bai Han sunk into silence as he listened to the man's words.
"Very well, we'll continue to search tomorrow."
As much as he wished to proceed with the search, he knew it was fruitless to overwork his men.
After everything was settled, everyone returned to their rooms for the night.
The night was quiet and soundless.
An Sun was seated at the desk in his room within his tent. Only the occasional sound of the howling, cold winds broke the silence.
An Sun's dark, gray eyes stared into the emptiness before him. He propped his head on his hand as if he was thinking about something. He looked down at the green ribbon in his hand and recalled the petite figure in the hot spring.
Half of a fair, smooth upper body was revealed to the open air, the other half hidden from the steamy waters. Long strands of wet dark hair trailed down a long, elegant neck and delicate collarbones.
Snow-white skin like porcelain.
An Sun's thin lips pressed together as the depths of his eyes turned into a fathomless sea.
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes as if he was calming his fluctuating emotions. He only opened them again a long while later, his gaze lingering back onto the green ribbon.
When he spoke, his slightly husky voice, "Bai Rin."
After settling to team together to search for the missing body of the little strategist, the Bai army and An Sun returned to Jilin province.