"Let me see your face," Rin ordered in a light tone.
The boy paused for a moment. After a while, he finally lifted his chin slightly and directly stared at Rin with cautious and vigilant eyes.
At that moment, Rin's face went cold. Her brows were drawn together, her eyes ablaze with fury. Because his hands concealed his face, she was unable to see his injuries. Even earlier, his head was lowered, causing her to see an unclear view of his face.
There were bruises on Aiguo's cheeks, exposed arms and legs from being beaten, even the right eye socket was somewhat swollen.
At that moment, her eyes flared and the boy felt the murderous malice that flowed unrestrained from the girl.
Unable to stay calm, Rin snapped. "Idiot! Why didn't you fight back? You're always so reckless, why weren't you this time!"
With a lowered head, Aiguo remained silent, refusing to speak. At this, Rin felt her rage come back up.
"Look at me!" Though her voice was cold, her hands grabbing hold of both his cheeks was gentle. She was worried she'd hurt him.
Afraid that Rin was angry, Aiguo's eyes darted away from hers. Rin stared at his averting gaze and sighed softly. All thoughts of vengeance, the rage, and malice that was just boiling a moment ago, melted right out of her at that moment.
"Aiguo, look at me." Her tone mellowed.
Aiguo seemed like he was unaware of Rin's order, his pale lips tightened. His eyes stared at Rin for a moment, and he stood perfectly still. The girl's beautiful emerald eyes stared at him not with rage, pity, or blame, but with care and genuine sorrow.
Even her cold and gorgeous face seemed to become gentle as water.
He wasn't sure of what set it off, but seeing her eyes and feeling her gentle actions, caused him to feel a stinging in his nose and a tightening in his throat.
Seeing the boy's quivering chin, Rin knew he wanted to cry.
But he didn't.
The boy jerked his head to separate from the girl's hands, but in the next second, he felt her tug his body forward, his face crashing into her chest. He could smell her cooling scent with the faintest hint of sweat.
Rather than being embarrassed or disturbed, he found it warm and calming.
"It's fine now." Rin softly whispered.
It took him a while to grasp the meaning of her words. When he did, Aiguo suddenly couldn't bear it and nestled his head into the crook of her cold neck. He silently shed tears.
At that moment, the sound of his sobs filled the air. He didn't want Rin to hear, so he hugged his face into her chest tighter and screamed into it. Eventually, those screams turned back into sobs. He was shaking; he couldn't control his body anymore.
"Y-You...you said to use w-words instead of f-fists." He choked.
Though it was muffled, Rin heard him clearly. She seemed to recall the words she said to him the last time he ended up in a fight.
Her heart tightened.
Embracing him in silence, Rin struggled to suppress the sorrowful agony in her heart. She drew in a deep breath and propped her head on top of the boys. Awash in sadness, her eyes looked straight at the sky.
Although she didn't know the sibling's family situation, she could guess it had been similar to hers when she lived in her village.
"I was just like you when I was little. People were calling my family and me names for years. Therefore, I raised my fists to shut them up. One day, my mother told me to use my words than to fight with fists. That as long as I never listened to their words, and I never pay attention to them, they would go away. The only thing I could do was protect my heart. Eventually, they did because I knew who I and the people around me were."
Rin squeezed the boy. "However, I should have known, not everyone's situation is the same. All I can say to you now is, it's my fault, I am sorry. But don't destroy yourself by allowing negative people to add hatred and violence to your character. You are worthy of a peaceful life. You are more than your reaction to them and their lies."
Rin's eyes were burning, and her chest felt heavy as if it were filled with lead. She blinked her eyes, and feeling the tears well up threatening to fall, she lowered her head and pushed back her tears.
Looking up at the sky, she could no longer see clearly as a single tear rolled down her cheek.
"I thought my journey was over, that I could be at peace. We all want peace in this life, but no one can escape a cruel fate. You just have to learn to push past it and bear the scars we create at the end."
Rin shuts her eyes, quietly regaining herself. Aiguo did not speak, his shoulders trembling as he hugged her tightly.
Rin looked at him, her eyes somewhat empty. Suddenly she smiled sadly. "However, right now you can rest easy. It's all right."
For a little while, they both could rest.
The trees swayed in the cold winter wind. Icicles on the trees dropped with a crash - like glass cracking and shattering. The weather was frosty and the snow was glittering. Like white soft blankets laying all over the floor.
At the dark of night, a small inn in a Northern Province town was lively as ever.
"Did you see those new guests we just received? The old man and his grandson?" A girl whispered to the worker beside her.
"Let me tell you; the grandson is incredibly handsome! He looked slightly cold, but my heart couldn't stop racing! Even the grandpa looked imposing!"
"Really? He can't be that handsome."
The inn's desk girl shook her head aggressively. "No! He's gorgeous! He was so attractive I felt my legs weaken a little bit."
The worker stared at the girl as if she were crazy. Although their inn would occasionally welcome handsome faces, the worker had never seen this kind of reaction from the girl.
She must have worked too hard for tonight.
Meanwhile, upstairs in a room, Bai Han slumped down on the bed and pulled out the letter from Rin. In the quiet room, his eyes skimmed it over, rereading it as many times as he could.
At that moment, the door to the room swung open.
An Sun carried a pot of wine and some food and entered. "I can't sleep. Commander Bai, will you accompany me to drink some wine?"
Bai Han stuffed the letter back into his robe and shifted his head.
"What are you doing in my room? And how can you suggest we drink as we please during such a situation!"
An Sun walked over to the table and put down the pot of wine, roasted chicken and a bag of shelled peanuts.
"What situation is that exactly? If I remember correctly, we are on break right now." An Sun opened the pot of wine and poured it into a cup.
"Let's rest for a while. Drink some wine and eat some chicken to replenish some physical strength. After this, we will go to the next town and look for Bai Rin again in the morning." An Sun pushed the cup out in Bai Han's direction.
Bai Han shot a fierce glare at the young man waving the cup at him, a curve on his lips. He appeared unmoved, but his eyes stared at the cup of wine.
He swallowed. He was a little thirsty.
After a few seconds, Bai Han finally stood up from the bed and snatched the cup of wine from An Sun's hand. Guzzling it down, he released a content sigh and smacked his bearded lips.
It tasted so good! It had been so long since he last had wine.
The smile on An Sun's lips grew slightly lighter as he looked at Bai Han with his eyes fixed upon him. He chuckled and poured a cup of wine, drinking it all in one go.
Bai Han seemed to have thought of something and he opened his mouth to say, "Where did you get all of this from?"
If he remembered correctly, they only brought a minuscule amount of money to lay low. Thus, they didn't have enough to order such extravagant food and wine.
His eyes looked at An Sun with a suspicious gaze. Under his glare, An Sun reclined lazily in his seat.
Now that they were no longer outside, his long, dark hair was draped loosely over his shoulders, like ebony silk floating atop the surface of a spring.
An Sun's gray, dark eyes held no emotion while he drank the cup of wine. He appeared to be completely unbothered by Bai Han's accusing glares.
He lifted his cup and refilled it.
"I brought the wine with me."
Bai Han was taken aback.
"As for the food - when I offered to pay for it, the ladies in the kitchen gave it to me for free." An Sun leaned further back into his seat and smirked behind his cup.
At this point, Bai Han was completely speechless.
No longer able to stare at him any longer, Bai Han grumbled while sipping his wine. "How shameless can you possibly get?"
An Sun continued to drink, as though he was not bothered by everything that was happening at all.
He looked up at Bai Han slightly. "I may be shameless old man, but you too are eating the food and drinking the wine brought by a shameless man."
The corner of Bai Han's lips twitched.
"Shut up brat! Pour me more wine!" Bai Han pushed his cup forward.
A hint of a smile flashed through An Sun's eyes, but it was quickly hidden.
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He accepted Bai Han's cup, poured more wine into it, and passed it back.
An Sun waved his wine cup. "Shall we cheers, old Commander Bai?"
Bai Han snorted, but still raised his cup. An Sun's eyes held a hint of amusement as the two men clinked their cups together before taking a sip.
Both their cheers kept quietly to themselves.
The two walked near a small area in the forest where a rushing stream appeared on the side. Rin informed the boy to sit on a rock while she wet her handkerchief with water. Leaning down beside the cold water, she rinsed it a bit before walking back to the boy.