Naturally, before leaving, Jia meticulously wrapped the girl in large fur clothing until she could hardly stand.
When she reached the top of the mountain, tendrils of iridescent silver mist crept over the mountainside. The harsh wind whipped and screamed through the cold air.
Arriving in front of the small, worn down hut, Rin was surprised to see that the old monk resting quietly on a large boulder. His thin legs folded and eyes shut.
The sharp winds were accompanied by icy snowflakes, cutting like razors and jagged stones across his face. However, the old monk acted as if he couldn't feel any of it.
This old monk was ruthless, Rin thought.
Lowering her head as she walked forward to avoid the whips of the wind, Rin approached the old man.
\"Master Qiu,\" She called out.
She knew he disliked being interrupted during his mediation, however, the news she had to relay was important.
\"Master Qiu.\" She called out again.
The old monk remained silent. When it was apparent he would not speak despite her calls, Rin sighed.
\"Master…after all you have taught me, I have learned many things about myself. I have come to understand that I am not as complete as I thought. Although I do not know the reason, I will use your wise teachings to find it.\"
Rin suddenly lowered herself to the ground and kneeled before Master Qiu, ignoring the biting cold seeping into her knees.
\"That is why I have to inform Master Qiu that I will be withdrawing from your teachings. Without a doubt, I've benefited greatly from your teachings and will continue to honor them. I bow one last time to you, as your disciple.\"
A few seconds had passed before the quiet Master Qiu opened his eyes. He turned his head slightly to look at Rin bowing before him.
\"Is this what you desire?\"
With her head lowered, Rin's eyes turned sharp. It had taken her a while to understand, but after her previous encounter with Aiguo, did she remember her purpose.
Seeking revenge on her uncle, Li Chang was the driving force behind her survival. Under such a purpose, she knew how dangerous the unknown risks were.
She did not want Jia, Aiguo and the others to participate in it nor was she willing to pull her family members into such a dangerous whirlpool.
This task, she needed to complete herself. She needed to grow stronger. She no longer wanted to see anyone she cared about die in front of her.
\"Yes. This is what I desire.\" Rin voiced each word with conviction.
Master Qiu stared at her a moment longer before finally releasing a deep sigh.
\"Then, as my final words as your master, I wish you the best of luck on your journey.\"
Rin raised her head and smiled. \"Yes.\"
\"Although, I am going to miss your gifts of meat.\" He sighed with regret.
The corners of Rin's lips twitched. She stood up from the ground to wipe the wet snow from her knees when a sudden bolt of lightning followed by a roll of thunder announced the start of a thunderstorm.
Heavy rain began to pour in the darkness of the night.
The two locks of hair framing her face now clung to her skin due to the rain, and water droplets were streaking down her face and dripping from her chin.
The old man glanced up at the sky and stood up from his boulder.
\"Damn rain,\" He muttered while shaking his robes. \"Girl, it's too dangerous to go down the mountain in this weather. Stay the night and return in the morning.\"
Hearing his offer, Rin didn't hesitate to nod in agreement. Just as she turned to follow Master Qiu into his hut, her nose suddenly caught the scent of something.
It smelled off. It was hard to detect from the scent of rain, but she was certain.
It was the smell of smoke.
At that moment, Rin's heart sank. Whirling her head around, Rin's blood ran cold through her veins and her bones were chilled.
In the distance, she could see thick gray smoke billowing into the skies. A veil of darkness now shielded the once starry blue sky, as the smoke swallowed it whole. The fierce fire could be seen, sneaking its way out from the rows of trees.
The village was on fire!
Tension grew in her face and limbs, her mind replaying distant and stored away memories. The dread creeps over Rin like an icy chill, numbing her brain. In this frozen state of mind, she had only one thought.
Aiguo and Jia!
Without a moment of hesitation, Rin raced down the mountain.
\"Girl, wait!\" Master Qiu called off to the running Rin, but she was no longer in sight.
When he turned to look down at the village, his eyes widened.
In a misty village, a crow lands on a frosted tree.
Aiguo stood by the windows, watching the snow swirl past. Some of the flakes gathered on the windowsill outside, piling at the corners. He sighed.
\"When is Rin coming back?\" He glanced back at his sister who was cooking dinner.
Looking up from the pot of steaming food, Jia sighs helplessly.
\"Mister Qiu will probably make her stay the night at his place. It's too dark for her to come back.\"
After saying so, Aiguo's face formed into a scowl.
\"Hmph, that old man better not do anything to her or I'll…\"
\"Ow!\" Aiguo clutched the back of his head. \"What was that for?!\"
\"Idiot, if that old monk is going to be a pervert to something, it's to a piece of meat.\" Jia scolded with her hands on her hips. \"Speaking of food, go down to the market and fetch me some seasonings for dinner.\"
\"Didn't you go to the market earlier?\" He frowned.
Jia shrugged her shoulders. \"I forgot. Now go quickly so we can eat dinner. Be safe.\"
\"Tsk, whatever,\" Aiguo grumbled while snatching the pouch of money from his sister.
\"Thank you for your purchase!\" The old lady waved goodbye to the young boy.
Aiguo bobbed his head and walked away with the bag of seasonings in his hand. When he remembered Rin would not be accompanying them for dinner, his mood dampened.
With a lowered head, Aiguo walked back home. Suddenly, the rumbling sound of thunder sounded in the distance.
It began to rain.
In alarm, Aiguo, along with everyone around, swung their heads to look in the direction of the sudden scream. When Aiguo turned around, he was unable to comprehend the scene before him.
He watched as groups of large, burly men assailed into the village, slashing their long blades toward all the men in sight. Blood flowed out of the limp bodies and splattered onto the ground.
Other men held lit torches in their hands and began to set the buildings on fire.
They were under attack by bandits!
The sound of anguishing screams cleared Aiguo from his daze and he quickly ran, his eyes wide with fear.
While running, he could hear the sounds of screams from the villagers, and the bandits amused laughter sounding behind him. Numerous people fled passed him in hope of escaping into the woods.
He needed to get home and warn Jia!
At that moment, a villager running past him shoved him out of the way, causing Aiguo to trip and fall to the ground. He hastily tried to force himself up, when he suddenly froze.
He was laying in something wet.
Trembling, Aiguo glanced down and clenched his teeth to keep from crying out. The blood that had flowed so freely from the severed neck of the body beneath him now lay in pools around the corpse.
It soaked into his light cotton clothing, dying it red.
Horrified, Aiguo stared at the blood with fear. He felt his own hands drench with the oozing red liquid.
He couldn't breathe, it felt as if someone was choking him. His heart was racing, and all he wanted to do was curl up into a ball and wait for someone to save him.
But no one would, everyone was fighting for themselves.
Gritting his teeth, Aiguo stood up and ran as quickly as he could to warn his sister.
The moon concealed by clouds seemed to brighten the night, bringing forth stars that shone and hung in the blackness. That night, Rin informed Jia and Aiguo that she'd be visiting Master Qiu's.