Starting at the groin, she slipped her dagger's point under the skin, blade up, and cut a long slit up from the bottom of one thigh, past the knee.
She proceeded to perform this on each side as she loosened the skin around each knee and cut around the joint. Rin carefully peeled the skin off the back legs and down to the tail.
After each procedure was finished, Rin's body swayed a little as she sat down on a flat boulder to regain her breath. She stared down at her hands quietly and gripped them.
Her hands felt stiff. It had been a while since she had skinned a deer.
Truthfully, it was still a little sickening to her.
At the same time, the old, white-haired monk observed the girl's movements on the side. Hands on his knees, he propped his chin with both of his palms as he watched the girl's seemingly skillful, butchering actions.
He cast a curious, measuring gaze towards Rin. "Say, girl, were you a butcher in your past?"
The corner of Rin's mouth twitched. While still regaining her breath, she glanced at the laid-back old man propped on top of a boulder.
With dead eyes, Rin pulled out the shining dagger beside her and looked at the old man.
"What parts do you want? Remember, you only get half."
After heeding her words, the old man's bored eyes sparkled as he rubbed his hands excitedly.
His answer came without hesitation. "I want the backstrap, tenderloin, rump, and sirloin tip!"
Rin visibly froze for a second. She furrowed her eyebrows and shifted her gaze to the old man, dumbfounded.
Shameless, gluttonous old man! Those were all the best, most tender pieces of meat!
If not for the fact she required his help, she wouldn't have bothered with such an impudent person.
Rin sighed deeply. "I'll only give you the sirloin tip and rump. You pick the rest."
As expected, the old monk's face grew sour. "Hah? Why not all of them?"
With a lowered head, Rin was silent as she cut away at the deer's meat. The monk harrumphed. Though he wasn't very happy with the turn of events, the old monk quietly watches her slice away with precise movements.
The longer he watched the girl's actions, the more impressed he became.
As he looked at her porcelain-like face, his expression turned deep. She was so petite and light, but at that moment, she had the strength of an adult man.
She not only knew how to hunt with a crossbow but to butcher her catches as well!
The old monk stroked his chin as he fell into deep thought.
"Here are your shares." Rin passed him deer meat wrapped in bleached reeds.
"Hmm…" The old monk examined the pieces of evenly cut meat with a pondering expression.
He then glanced over at the portions of meat in Rin's basket.
"Girl, did you cheat me? It looks like you have bigger pieces."
A smile surfaced on her lips as she said, "I dare not cheat you of what was promised."
Rin's face was calm. Her beautiful and graceful face maintained her usual gentle smile, but the smile did not reach her eyes.
The old monk snorted. "Very well."
He grabbed the packet of cut meat, his dark eyes twinkling as if he was a child. Rin wordlessly opened and closed her mouth. She stared at him, waiting for the words she desired to hear.
"With this, will Mister Qiu promise to teach me?"
The old monk glanced up and stared at the girl, his playful expression shifting to one as calm as a crystalline lake.
At that moment, he suddenly asked: "Tell me, girl, why do you want to grow stronger?"
Rin was slightly surprised by his sudden question. She sat calmly in her spot, her clear gaze staring at the snow-white ground beneath her.
After a brief period of dazed silence, Rin finally said, "Once I've become stronger, those around me won't have to suffer. I want to be strong enough to protect those I care for."
She slowly shifted her gaze, the icy, deep filled eyes staring at the old man. The old monk examined the girl's expression thoughtfully. A glint flashed in his eyes, but he didn't say anything.
He suddenly sighed. "There is some truth in your words, but I don't believe that's your main reason."
Rin blanked out for a moment. She blinked her eyes with some confusion and tilted her head.
If that was not her reason, then what was?
Although he was a little disappointed that the girl failed to grasp his words, Mister Qiu still honestly said, "You see, if you were to look deep inside your heart, you'd see what you truly want. What you truly desire, is the same as to what your heart wants. When your heart and path follows the same understanding, then your motive to grow will improve."
He glanced up at the sky and scratched behind his earlobe. "Though it is true you want to protect those you care for, your heart and path are not the same, thus, your reason for failing to complete yourself. You can't mend a broken jar with missing pieces."
Rin lowered her eyes. She hated admitting it, but her heart was alarmed by his words.
Was this what prevented her from moving forward? An unclear purpose?
What is it that she wanted? She knew she wanted to protect those important to her but…was that not the case?
Rin's head hurts the harder she thought as she rubbed around her temples. She shifted her eyes back to the old man and hesitated to speak.
"Then…will Mister Qiu help me become complete?"
As if hearing something foolish, the old monk laughed. "There's only so much one can do for another. I may only be able to adjust your fighting abilities. As for what your heart and true path are yearning for, only you can complete."
Rin froze for a moment before gritting her teeth and asking, "Is that a yes or a no?"
He snorted and nodded his head. "Did you hear me decline?"
Rin opened his mouth but stopped herself from saying anything. The white-haired monk stood up from his boulder. With the package of deer meat in his hand, he peered down at the girl with a toothy smile.
"Your training will start tomorrow morning at the top of the mountain, don't be late."
Rin's eyes widened slightly, and the coldness within them showed a rare look of delight. She stood up and bowed her head.
"Thank you, Master Qiu."
Master Qiu raised his chin proudly.
"Remember to be there early, I don't accept disciples who are late."
Rin nodded her head with dazzling, clear eyes. The old monk smiled upon seeing her expression.
For no apparent reason, Master Qiu found his interest was stoked. Maybe it was the distant personality or the rare colored eyes, but they all just made Master Qiu feel the petite girl was no ordinary person.
He was rather eager to take in such an unusual disciple.
"Woah! Is that meat?" The little boy's dark eyes sparkled.
Rin laughed softly and nodded her head.
"W-What is this?"
Jia blinked her eyes rapidly at the pieces of red meat within Rin's basket.
"Where did you find this?" She held the basket carefully, almost as if it were filled with precious silks and gold.
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Rin entered the house and smiled. "I caught it on my way back from the market. I thought it'd be a good addition to our meals."
Jia was dumbfounded and looked back down at the basket filled with meat.
"Y-You, caught it?"
Rin hummed. When Aiguo heeded the pretty girl's words, his eyes brightened even further, his expression filled with worship.
"Rin's the best! We're having meat tonight! Meat, meat, meat!"
Rin was slightly startled by the boy's reaction before she laughed and stroked his head.
Meanwhile, Jia's eyes widened, and her face was filled with shock. She only paused for a moment before calming down. She shot a glance at Aiguo before looking at Rin, who was smiling warmly at the boy.
At that moment, Jia felt the muscle of her chin tremble as she looked out at the light of the window to soothe the incoming emotions in her chest. Her eyes felt hot.
Suddenly, she smacked herself on the head and her expression turned hard. She viciously rubbed her eyes before glancing back at Rin.
Jia felt something new. It is as if invisible holes were poked in her skin and all her tension leeched out. Her steps feel lighter as she walked toward the girl before her.
Rin suddenly sensed the tall girl walking over to her and shifted her gaze.
Before Rin had the chance to finish speaking, the girl had grabbed her by the shoulder along with her brother and pulled the three in for a tight embrace.
"We're having meat tonight!" Jia laughed aloud.
Aiguo tagged along. "Yeah! Meat!"
Rin's eyes widened, she glanced up at Jia and noticed the girl's muscles were shaking, tears streaming from her half-closed eyes.
She was happy.
Rin smiled and felt a warmth fill her chest. She hugged the tall girl tightly back and smiled. The three embraced, while the basket full of meat sat atop the worn-out wooden table.
Rin too at this moment, felt happy.
In the woods, a dead deer lay beside the feet of a girl, her skin like jade. Rin lugged the deer forward and propped it against a tree, taking the dagger from her side.