It didn't take long for the Bai Manor servants to become overwhelmed by the man's alcohol consumption.
When Manchu entered the room that evening, he witnessed An Sun sprawled on the ground, eyes shut with a gourd of wine in his hand. Papers surrounded the room in every corner.
"What the…" Manchu's brows furrowed into a frown. "Sun, what happened?"
An Sun remained lounged on the ground and faintly released a low grunt.
"I'm thinking," He muttered.
Manchu's brows raised. "About?"
Sarcasm could be heard from his tone as he replied, "Whether to work or drink myself unconscious."
He raised his head. "What do you think?"
Manchu's lips twitched upwards in a smile. "I'm getting slightly concerned about you, Sun."
An Sun snorted in response. Manchu chuckled, he closed the door behind him before he stepped into the room. Glancing down at one of the numerous papers on the floor, he curiously picked one up.
Written on the paper were the written words: [Alliances: Bai Rin]. Manchu stared at the paper with wide, disbelieving eyes.
He looked at An Sun, who had now settled himself at the table and was lazily drinking away at his gourd of wine. Silently, Manchu set the paper back down and sat across from him.
"Sun, there's something we need to discuss."
An Sun sounded a faint 'mm' while chugging his wine.
Manchu had pressed his lips together tightly before he said, "I plan to return to the An Clan."
An Sun's movements paused. Setting the gourd down, he looks at Manchu, the light in his eyes dimmed.
By now with his so-called 'death', An Sun was certain his brother was already planning his next moves to take over the An Clan. If Manchu were to be present when this occurred, he would be the first to suffer.
An Sun clenched his fist and finally restrained his erupting emotions. He asked in a cold voice, "Why?"
Manchu sighed. "No one's as cheerless about this than I am. However, while the An Clan believes for you to be dead, my situation is different. If I stay any longer, all your plans will be in vain."
There was an unreadable look in An Sun's eyes. It wasn't an appreciation towards a loyal subject, nor admiration. It was far from gratitude as well.
It was grievous and filled with reluctance.
He knew Manchu's words were true. An Sun pursed his lips as his gaze swept over the piles of paper scattered around the room. His handsome face was rather serious and grim.
An Sun slowly shut his eyes and took a deep breath, forcing back the feelings that poured into his eyes. When he opened them again, they were back to his usual clear gaze.
"I understand." There was also a bone-chilling quality within his voice when he spoke.
Suddenly, he leaned forward and firmly set a hand on Manchu's shoulder. He looked into his eyes with a very serious expression. "But as my brother, promise me something…"
The late, winter night breeze brushed over the man's skin, lifting the two locks of hair by his face. An Sun stood with his hands behind his back. He stared at the sky in a daze, his mind completely blank. The sourness and bitterness in his heart were overwhelming.
At the sound of a soft voice, An Sun's gaze shifted. Two round, emerald eyes stared back at him with a small tilt in her head. Rin walked up to him and looked up at the starlit sky.
"Peaceful night, huh?" She said, her eyes focused on the dark sky.
An Sun sounded an 'mm' and looked back up at the sky. The ghostly wind broke the peaceful sound of silence as the two stared up at the sky together. After a while, Rin swept her gaze over.
She saw that he was contemplating with a frown on his face, so she asked, "You look like you have something on your mind."
An Sun chuckled. "You really know how to read me like a book."
His eyes lowered, a trace of self-mock flashing within them. "I've just come to realize what a fool I've been again, that's all."
Rin blinked her eyes. She was a little confused by his words, but she remained silent, waiting for him to speak.
After a brief moment, An Sun asked quietly, "Did you know Manchu planned to return to the An Clan?"
Rin raised an elegant eyebrow. "Do you think I'm some sort of seer?"
An Sun's phoenix eyes narrowed with a deep glare in her direction. The air was heavy around him, and his dashing face couldn't get any darker. Rin cleared her throat after receiving that warning glare.
She straightened up and put on a serious face as she said, "While I didn't know, as far as I can see it was long suspected considering the situation."
Rin swept a profound gaze over him before stating, "I am as sure of that as you are."
An Sun was silent. He put his thoughts in order, and his expression became even more somber. She was right. He had known this would happen eventually. He just didn't want to believe it.
There wasn't any trace of emotion in his magnetic voice as he said, "I want to fulfill my purpose, but I also want those I care about to live. Even in a world like this, if there's a sliver of hope, I want to try to protect everyone."
Rin returned with an expression filled with surprise. Her gaze turned a little hazy, and she hurriedly tried to hide the trace of pain in the depths of her eyes. By the time she raised her head, she had already calmed the turbulent emotions in her heart.
She truly was jealous of his way of thinking. She sighed softly.
"In this world, which war was won without deceit, sacrifices, loss and mass murder? The truth is none. To win a war or gain power, you'll need to be ruthless."
Rin hesitated slightly and then her gaze turned resolute again. Her next words were full of sincerity. "However, you're different. You think of not just yourself, but the people around you as well. To be honest, I'm jealous. Your heart…its kind, An Sun. Don't ever change. Not for anyone."
She nonchalantly placed her hands behind her back, her smile sincere and gentle enough to make one's heart melt. The smile on her face was like the sun, casting away the gloominess hanging over him.
Though he wasn't smiling, An Sun's eyes glinted with gratitude by the time she finished speaking.
"Thank you, Bai Rin."
Rin's lips lifted. "Of course."
The two went silent once again and simply gazed up at the sky.
After a short moment, Rin asked, "Would you like to enter the venture city with me tomorrow?"
With his arms crossed over his chest, An Sun's eyes widened. "Are you serious?"
Rin blinked her eyes. "Do you not want to?"
An Sun cleared his throat. "It's not that I don't want to, rather I'm a little surprised you asked me to come with you. Wouldn't you want to go with that kid or your grandfather?"
Rin hummed, her head tilting as if she were carefully thinking. "True, but I think it would better if we both took a break and explored together. Don't you agree?"
The eyebrow on An Sun's face rose. "Have you not lived here long enough to have explored everything already?"
Rin smiled and shrugged casually. "I rarely got out thanks to my grandfather. When I did, it was out of the empire."
"Right…" An Sun nodded in understanding. That protective old man really was something.
In silence, he thought quietly to himself, his lips formed in a thin line. At long last, he sighed in defeat.
"What time do you want to leave?"
The corners of Rin's lips curved in satisfaction. "I have training in the morning, so why don't we leave after that?"
"Very well then."
Rin nodded with a content hum. An Sun looked at the girl with a pleasant curve in his eyes, and the corners of his lips were rising up uncontrollably. He couldn't help wanting to smile. He sighed helplessly and stared at the night sky, a soft wind brushing past their clothes.
In the blink of an eye, it was morning.
For today's outing, An Sun was dressed in a dark blue round-collared robe with a matching dark blue belt tied around his waist. Other than a sword and the long silver cuffs on his sleeves, he hadn't worn anything extravagant.
While the purpose of the clothing was to make him blend in, his broad shoulders and narrow waist, carried the robe well and made him stand out instead. Beneath his round collar, an inner piece of white fabric extended beyond the collar and wrapped around his throat, giving him an air of restraint.
His long, jet-black hair was put up in a simple bun. The man's features were absolute perfection. Paired with his fair skin, he didn't stand a chance of blending in.
Waiting in the Bai Manor's garden, An Sun adjusted his cuffs with an irritated expression.
"These clothes are too damn tight." He muttered.
He had always been used to wearing loosely fitted clothing during casual outings. Yet with these clothes, not an ounce of skin or availability to breathe was provided.
An Sun swept his icy gaze to the maidservant behind him.
"By the way, how long do I need to wait? I'm getting tired of standing here." An Sun complained, his tone cold.
The maidservant trembled a bit from the pressure in his voice. She nervously lowered her head.
"The young mistress just finished her training, she should be almost done getting ready."
An Sun clicked his tongue. Before he could say anything else, the sound of footsteps caught his attention.
"Took you long—" The moment he turned around, he halted.
Walking toward him was Rin. However, compared to her usual appearance, she looked different. Very different.
She was dressed in a peach dress with a plum outer layer embroidered with flowers. The dress's long sleeves concealed her hands settled in front of her, but her fingers were faintly visible. They looked long and slender.
There was a floral hairpin with gold inlays nestled in her hair and a ruby headband on her forehead. The peach blossom pattern of the lining suited her complexion as well. The small birthmark under her right eye gave her extremely beautiful face an extra layer of uniqueness.
When her extremely light pupils, so light that they were nearly non-existent, swept towards the man standing in front of the garden, a trace of emotion finally rippled across their depths. The corner of her mouth raised a little into a smile.
"I'm sorry I've made you wait long." Rin approached him, her maidservants behind her.
An Sun remained stunned for a second before recovering his sense. This had been the first time he had seen Rin in women's clothing.
"Your hair…it's long again." He frowned somewhat, looking utterly confused and slightly curious.
Rin held back a giggle and explained casually, "For appearance sake, I'm wearing a wig."
An Sun sounded an 'ah' sound in understanding.
A smile surfaced on her lips as Rin said, "So, shall we go?"
An Sun glanced at her appearance and the look in his eyes dimmed. However, he remained silent and nodded his head.
Rin laughed light-heartedly. Taking a veiled hat from the maidservant behind her, she set it on her head. Only a modest portion of her rosy, soft lips was revealed. "Let's go."
Not waiting for him to respond, Rin walked in front, her posture elegant and straight. An Sun watched her petite figure and a hint of a smile flashed through his eyes, but it was quickly hidden.
That girl…was far too interesting.
He stepped forward and closely followed behind her. Thus, the two began their exploration of the Northern Empire's city.
After returning to the Bai Manor, An Sun and Manchu also came with them. During these days, An Sun began setting his plans into action. Given a room, he devoted the majority of his days inside. When he did leave the room, it was to ask passing servants for food or wine.