Inside the An Clan's main tent, An Hongyu looked down at the soldier before him with a dazed expression.
"An Sun is…dead?"
An Hongyu couldn't react in time; his eyes were wide and blank with shock. By the time he recovered his senses, his face was warped into a grim expression.
"What?! This is preposterous! Explain clearly!" An Hongyu's face instantly transformed from its tranquil state to rage.
The soldier made a cupped fist salute as he kneeled on one knee before the An Clan leader.
"Yes, my Lord. During our journey back to the main camp, we were ambushed by a group of assassins. Regrettably, during the attack Lord An…he was pierced by an arrow and fell down the cliff."
The soldier's tone was calm, without any particular emotions in it. However, a painful knit was visible between his brows.
As if he were grieving.
In a deep voice, An Hongyu angrily asked, "The men responsible for this, where are they?"
"They are all dead, Great An. However, it was clear they were highly skilled." The soldier responded.
The look in An Hongyu's dark eyes had turned dark. A tiny wrinkle developed in his sword-like brows.
"Where is your general? How come he didn't return?"
"Replying to the lord. General Manchu stayed in the northern mountains to retrieve An Sun's body and properly bury him."
An Hongyu couldn't find any fault in Manchu's actions.
After all, the young man had grown up with An Sun since he was young. It wouldn't be a surprise if stayed behind.
As for An Sun's unexpected death, An Hongyu was stunned.
He couldn't believe the vigorous young man was now dead! Although he wasn't favored much, he was still a member of the An Clan!
Whoever attacked An Sun, had shown their disregard for their mighty clan name!
Subconsciously, he thought of a familiar figure, and his face turned completely dark.
An Hongyu waved the soldier away impatiently and said, "You're dismissed. Send word to An Ruo to come to my tent."
"Yes, Great An." The soldier bowed his head and stood up before leaving the tent.
A moment later, An Ruo was reported outside by the soldier standing guard.
"Enter." An Hongyu's voice was chilly.
The expressionless An Ruo strode into the tent. Upon entering, he was confronted with his father's sharp, speculating gaze.
He stood a few feet away from him and cupped his fists with a slight bow.
"You summoned me, father?"
An Hongyu gazed at him for a moment and opened his mouth after a long pause, "An Sun is dead."
An Ruo returned with an expression filled with surprise.
An Hongyu quietly studied the young man's expression. There wasn't a trace of fear, satisfaction or guilt.
His face was completely blank.
An Ruo snapped back to his senses, trying to grasp the whole situation, and gravely asked: "How did this happen?"
An Ruo's startled reaction triggered a change in An Hongyu's expression; he frowned. An Ruo's tone of voice was not severe, he spoke merely out of genuine curiosity and his unreadable face looked like his ordinary appearance.
An Hongyu now had a headache.
"During his return, there was an ambush." An Hongyu massaged his temples. "Keep this news a secret for now on until further notice. When Manchu returns, we will prepare a funeral for your brother."
An Ruo nodded his head. "Yes, father."
When An Ruo turned to leave, his father's voice suddenly sounded behind him. "Though you are my son, if I found out you were involved in the death of your brother, don't doubt that I won't disown you. I will never tolerate such actions against our people."
An Ruo's movements stopped, and he casually shifted his head over his shoulder.
His lips remained spread in a smile as he said, "I assure you father; I am well aware."
Without another word, An Ruo left the tent. The look in An Hongyu's eyes had turned gloomy. Again, he rubbed his temples and sighed tiredly.
Now that he had his back to the tent, An Ruo's face twisted with disdain.
His father was naïve.
How could it be possible for power and family morals to co-exist? It was simply wishful thinking.
Within An Ruo's tent, the young man sat casually in a chair with a slight smile on his lips.
"Is something wrong, Master Ruo?"
The pale young man wrapped in a white cloak raised his pale eyes and blinked.
An Ruo curled the corners of his lips and answered, "An Sun has seemed to have died on his journey back."
The young man visibly froze for a second.
"An Sun is dead?" His pale and profound pupils flashed. "Then, is Master Ruo still proceeding with the plan?"
An Ruo shook his head, saying with an unchanging voice, "It's not time yet. I can't be too hasty with my plans. Not until I increase my uprising."
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"I see." The pale man lowered his head. "In that case, I know Master Ruo will do well."
An Ruo was silent but revealed a faint smile to the man.
Now that he no longer had to worry about An Sun, he could now succeed his father.
He sneered internally.
It was all a matter of time before he became a great and powerful ruler.
With this thought in mind, An Ruo's smiles deepened. The young pale man observed the man's expression and quietly lowered his head to stare at his frail hands.
An unseen glint flashed across his pale, emerald eyes.
"Still no sign of the little strategist, huh?" Manchu glanced at the quiet man.
Inside a room in the governor's estate, An Sun stood by the window, staring at the full moon above in a daze. The serene moonlight emitted a faint light over the man's figure, setting him aglow.
Dressed in a dark robe, a modest portion of his muscled chest was exposed to the air. His long, jet-black hair draped behind him.
At that moment, the man exuded an icy aura, his expression dark.
Two weeks had gone by and there was still no sign of Bai Rin.
Despite learning the strategist's true gender, they were still unable to find anything within the neighboring villages.
It was as if Bai Rin's body had completely disappeared.
The winter night breeze brushed over An Sun's skin, lifting the two locks of hair by his face.
"Not yet. But I have faith we will eventually." The man's deep voice was calm.
Manchu stared at the man's mild expression and sighed.
"Sun, are you not mad at her? After all, she lied to us about her gender for so long."
An Sun shot a nonchalant glance over at Manchu. His voice was slightly chilly, "I'm not mad, nor do I blame her for her actions."
An Sun shifted his gaze back toward the window. His lips curved into a self-mocking expression.
"If she had told the truth me back then, do you think I would have killed her?"
Manchu's eyes widened somewhat, but he said nothing as he knew the young man would have. A shadow passed over An Sun's eyes. The hands held behind his back tightened into fists.
"She had every right to lie."
He was glad.
He was glad she didn't tell him she was a woman. Otherwise, he may have done something he would regret for a lifetime.
Manchu stared at the man's gloomy aura silently. After a while, he huffed and stood up from his seat.
"I'm sure you're right about eventually finding the little strategist. She's full of many surprises. I'm sure there will be another to come."
He walked toward the door and turned to look at An Sun.
"Hey, don't overwork yourself. You're still injured, learn when to take it easy." Manchu reprimanded.
An Sun glanced back and chuckled. Manchu snorted and shook his head before leaving the room.
Left alone, An Sun's eyes dimmed. The mix of emotions in his chest made him uneasy.
Who knew two weeks could feel like an eternity.
They just had to keep searching. He was certain the girl would appear before them eventually.
An Sun pressed his lips together and sighed inwardly. He shifted his gaze to the jug of wine on the table and narrowed his eyes.
With all that was going on, it wouldn't help to have a drink.
When An Sun was pouring himself a cup of wine, a knock resounded on the door. He shifted his gaze and strode over. An Sun raised an eyebrow upon seeing the figure behind the door, looking seemingly surprised.
The burly middle-aged General Guo stood in front of An Sun's door. His grim eyes landed on the handsome young man coolly.
With a cold expression, he asked: "If Lord An isn't busy at the moment, there's something I'd like to discuss for a moment."
"G-Great Lord An! There's a report from one of An Sun's troops!"