"You lost the bet old man."
"Shut up! I don't remember every insulting you!"
"I think calling someone a bastard can count as an insult."
Bai Han had a bitter expression on his face because it was true. He had lost the bet. Stealing a glance at Rin, he saw she was gently gesturing Aiguo to the horse.
The boy appeared anxious, but under Rin's reassuring words, he extended a hand out and touched the horse. Rin's face blossomed into a soft smile.
At that moment, Bai Han grew even more reluctant.
"We're wasting time you know." An Sun crossed his arms over his chest.
Bai Han clicked his tongue. "I don't want to share a horse with that boy! Bet something else!"
An Sun raised a brow, and he looked at Bai Han with an amused glint in his eyes.
"All right, I'll change it." An Sun said.
Just before Bai Han could breathe a sigh of relief, An Sun's next words caused him to freeze.
"If you won't ride with the kid, then eat two whole bowls of the inn's rice."
Bai Han was silent. He shot a scowl to An Sun, who was looking at him with a smirk reflected within his eyes.
"Very well." He cleared his throat. He looked at An Sun with a warning gaze. "But don't think I won't be watching you, keep your hands to yourself!"
An Sun's mouth twitches; it seems the old man's tendencies were back. Although he did not intend to do anything vulgar to Rin, he nonetheless agreed.
When the two finally made a decision, they walked to Rin and Aiguo. Seeing the men walking in their direction from the corner of her vision, Rin turned around.
"Are you two ready?"
An Sun sounded a hum and strode toward their horse. While doing so, he said to Rin behind him, "You're riding with me."
After he had said that, Rin's movements paused, and she exchanged glances with Bai Han.
He had a bitter expression on his face. After a while, he uttered a response, "I'm riding with the boy, you…you ride with An Sun."
It sounded as if he were sitting on a pile of nails as he spoke.
Rin frowned. She clearly had doubts about her grandfather's sudden acceptance. She swept a gaze to An Sun, who simply stared back at her with a calm expression. Upon a closer look, one could see the satisfied gleam in his eyes.
Rin innocently blinked in confusion but didn't bother to explore the situation any further. She turned toward An Sun as he was already mounting onto the horse. Glancing down, he reached a hand out to her.
Rin stared at his hand, then at his dark, gray eyes. From up close she could detect a hint of a smile within them. The corners of her lips curled up.
"Mm," Rin nodded and gently set her hand in his.
Seeing her bright eyes caused An Sun's lips to curl even more. He gripped her hand and pulled her forward to sit behind him. After exchanging a nod with Bai Han, An Sun ushered his horse forward and the two left.
They were spending their travels quite leisurely. After riding the whole day, it was only at midnight that they decided to rest and set up camp.
While Bai Han left to grab more wood for their fire, An Sun strode towards Rin and Aiguo and sat on the ground together with them. A fire was set up in front of them, so it wasn't cold.
While sitting around the bond fire where the wild rabbit they caught for dinner was roasted, Rin leaned against a tree, relishing in the warmth. Resting on her lap, Aiguo tiredly closed his eyes until he drifted off into a deep, peaceful sleep.
"How's your foot?"
From the corner of her gaze, Rin could feel An Sun's eyes on her foot. His eyes looked back to her face.
Rin glanced back and replied softly, "It's better. There shouldn't be a problem unless I stand for too long. After a few more days of resting it, I'll be able to walk normally again."
An Sun sounded a hum and looked back at the fire. Rin blinked her eyes and stared at An Sun's features through flickering flames.
He had a well-proportioned figure with broad shoulders and a slender waist, as well as attractive features. Although he always maintained an indifferent expression on his face, he possessed a charming air.
She glanced at his clothing and noticed they were commoners' clothes. It oddly made him appear more relaxed than usual. Ri couldn't hold back anymore and the corners of her lips twitched upwards in soundless laughter.
Unfortunately, An Sun was quick to notice.
"What's so funny?" The corners of his mouth twitched.
She cleared her throat. "Nothing, it's just…your clothing. I'm rather surprised to see you wearing this type of attire. It's quite humble."
In response to her words, An Sun's eyes widened a bit before they cast down to stare at his hands. His lips were tilted into a grievous smile.
"To be honest, I'm surprised myself. Had it been a few months ago I would rather die than be seen as a commoner. Now in my situation, it seems I'll have to stay like this for a while."
An Sun's eyes darkened. He clenched his fist. "I never realized it before, but, I took advantage of the clan's title. Even toward my father's orders, I accepted them willingly to avoid conflict…I was never my own man."
Rin was slightly stunned after listening to him. Her emerald eyes flickered in guilt, "I didn't mean to…"
"I know." An Sun chuckled. "I was just remembering what an entitled ass I had been."
Though his words sounded playful, they lacked some emotion. Seeing the dark, cold aura hanging over the young man, Rin's brows creased. An Sun didn't continue speaking.
After a moment of silence, Rin was the one to softly speak up first. "Even so, you were able to see your weakness and overcome it. Because of this, you can now become your own man."
She sat calmly in her spot, her clear gaze staring at the blazing flames before her.
Rin looked at him, her beautiful and graceful face had her usual gentle smile on, "You have a good heart An Sun. Continue to be true to it and only then will you be the ruler you want to be."
An Sun turned his gaze to the girl and grew silent, although his face noticeably cooled.
"As do you." His tone was softer.
Rin glanced up and looked at him with wide eyes. A sliver of a smile finally appeared on An Sun's face. Two pairs of eyes stared into each other – one pair blinking with surprise, while the other stared back resolutely. After a moment, Rin finally smiled and nodded her head.
The previous dreary air had turned warm and pleasant. This had been the sight Bai Han saw when he returned. In that instance, he shot a glare in An Sun's direction. Sensing the old man's cutting eyes, An Sun averted his gaze and simply stared into the fire.
With a huff, Bai Han set more wood into the bond fire before he sat beside Rin – blocking her from a certain someone. The edge of An Sun's brows twitched, but he said nothing. A satisfied smile surfaced on Bai Han's face. When he turned to look at Rin, he noticed the boy sleeping on her lap.
His mouth twitched.
"Who is this boy anyway?" Bai Han suddenly asked, his gaze shifting from Aiguo to Rin.
Rin looked down at the boy sleeping on her lap before turning to her grandfather and replying with a gentle voice, "After I fell down the cliff, he and his sister saved and took me into their home. If it wasn't for them, I don't think if I would have…"
Rin stopped mid-sentence and bore a strained smile. An Sun narrowed his eyes as he thought of the unimaginable outcome with a hard expression. A lump formed in the back of Bai Han's throat and he gently placed a hand on top of hers. He squeezed it.
"You're here now." He said hoarsely. "When the boy wakes up, I'll thank him."
Rin nodded with a smile, her eyes looking down at Aiguo.
"I want to take him in and help him grow to be stronger. To not make him suffer any more grievances..."
Both men understood the meaning of her words. From the fact that Aiguo's sister was not with them, it was clear what possibly transpired. They went silent. Bai Han felt another sharp pain spring in his heart.
He had forgotten while he grieved and searched endlessly for his granddaughter, she too must have suffered her own grievances. While he was slowly outgrowing the pain and suffering he felt without her, she was still in the process of grieving.
On the side, An Sun stared into the flames, the depths of his eyes darkened. For the remainder of the night, everyone was silent. Their gazes staring silently into the burning fire - remembering the brimming, painful memories.