"What's he doing here?" He pointed to the boy standing beside her.
Rin gently placed a hand on Aiguo's shoulder and smiled.
"I thought it would be best to let him start training early."
General Guo looked at her calm expression silently for a moment before shifting it down to Aiguo. The boy visibly stiffened under his gaze and felt the sudden urge to lower his head. The middle-aged man's gaze held too much pressure. Aiguo felt with just one look he could see all of his thoughts.
However, met with an unknown sense of conviction, he clenched his hands and raised his head to look back into General Guo's eyes.
If he were to be a man and become Rin's future husband, he needed to get through to her family first!
Naturally, General Guo could see through the young boy's thoughts. Being so young it was easy to read his expression. General Guo's face resisted the urge to twitch. He turned back to Rin and sighed.
"Very well. But we shall continue training as we always do. No going easy."
"Yes." Rin nodded.
"Yes, sir!" Aiguo joined and nodded his head aggressively.
General Guo looked at him with no change in expression before he sighed once more. This was going to be a long training session.
Not even an hour into training and Aiguo felt he was on the verge of death. He propped his hands on his knees and leaned forward, breathing heavily. Warm beads of sweat continued to pour down his flushed face.
This was impossible!
Another hour in, sheer agony. By now, he was completely out of breath. When he looked at the girl beside him, her eyes lit ablaze and filled with fiery energy. He had only briefly seen this side of Rin before and each time it was breathtaking.
Suddenly, a foot swept under his feet, causing him to fall on the ground. Aiguo groaned and rolled to his side. His bottom ached. Looking up from the ground, he scowled at General Guo, who had knocked him down.
"Pay attention." General Guo ordered coldly and turned to look at Rin. "You too. Remember, focus on form not speed, otherwise I'll consider letting you stay in the woods overnight to train."
Aiguo shivered at the thought while Rin did so at the memory when she was young. He had said the same to words to her when she was little.
He meant every word.
Preparing for their next sparring match, Rin readied her stance while Aiguo weakly stood up from the ground with trembling legs.
He could only hope this would end soon…
Occurring at the same time, in the distance, An Sun leaned against a wooden pillar with crossed arms. His eyes on the three training.
"That kid and the little strategist seem to be practicing hard." Manchu walked up from behind and stared at the three training upfront with amused eyes.
An Sun nodded without any change in expression.
"She's much smarter than she lets on."
An Sun snorted derisively. "From the beginning, she's started to let on."
Manchu silently nodded in agreement as they both watched the short-haired girl spar with the large middle-aged man.
"You leave in two days."
Glancing at the man who bore nothing but a cold expression, Manchu sighed.
Without saying a word for a while, both men simply stood.
When An Sun spoke, it was in his usual low tones. "All my life, we've both served to the An Clan. For years, you and I suppressed our thoughts and strength for the sake of peace."
He was watching the three sparring with his slightly narrowed eyes the whole time. Manchu looked at him quietly, waiting for him to continue. An Sun's dark eyes finally revealed a trace of a smile. That smile wasn't bright at all; rather, it made him seem even more terrifying and cruel.
"Peace never lasts." His deep eyes were full of mockery. "If it did, there would never be wars. No violence. No death…and no sacrifices. I know now that peace has and always will be something to be fought for."
Finally, An Sun shifted his gaze away from the front and looked at Manchu. He grinned and firmly gripped his shoulder.
"I will fight to create a new peaceful future for us all. So do me a favor…fight smart, and don't die under the hand of those fuckers."
Manchu blinked before letting out a crafty smirk. "You don't need to tell me twice."
An Sun's eyes curved, there was a slight smile on his lips as he let out a laugh. The two men smiled at one another and walked away from the training grounds.
"I think we're done here for today."
Heeding those words, Aiguo heaved a loud sigh of relief and collapsed numbly on the ground. Rin glanced over at him with a raised brow.
Aiguo breathed heavily, unable to respond. He felt like a dying fish out of water. Seeing this, Rin sighed and shook her head.
"Go rest. Take a bath if you must to loosen your muscles. But come back tomorrow early in the morning." She took a cloth from her pocket and wiped the sweat from his forehead.
Aiguo's eyes opened, their depths sparkling as if he had received the words of a goddess.
"Yes!" He stood up to the best of his ability and bowed down to General Guo and Rin before leaving.
The two watched him limp away silently.
"He's not very strong is he?" General Guo said.
Rin sighed. "No, but he can be with more training."
General Guo looked down at her without any sort of expression on his face. Although his tone was calm, his words made Rin stiffen up for a brief moment.
"Do you plan to train him as a soldier for your revenge?"
There was a subtle hint of awkwardness on her face. She pursed her lips as her gaze swept over her uncle.
He looked at her, his eyes filled with intense, unreadable emotions. One thing was for certain, he looked troubled.
She controlled her emotions and forced out a faint smile. "Are you angry with me?"
"No, not angry."
"Are you disappointed in me?"
"Should I be?"
"In regards to my actions for the last few months, yes." She innocently blinked.
General Guo sighed. "I am not angry nor disappointed in you, Rin."
He stared at her clear almond-shaped eyes filled with uncertainty. He soothed his knitted brows and the corners of his eyes lifted instantly.
"I want you to know I understand. Even though we're family and I want nothing more than to protect you, I understand the purpose that drives you. I was the one who found you after all. Even as a child, I could see the pain and suffering you bore. I know it must have been difficult for you."
As he spoke, he looked down at his niece without any visible emotions in his expression, however, his eyes were soft.
Rin stared back in shock; she blinked her emerald eyes blankly at him. All her life, General Guo had been very brief with his responses, whether he agreed with her or not.
This had been the first he spoke such heart-warming and well depth words. She was deeply touched but also filled with reminiscence. She suppressed the turbulent emotions in her heart.
"No one's less happy about this than I am. I can't forget what I saw the day my mother died. And I can't pretend it won't hurt the moment I leave all of you."
"I know. I respect your reasoning. I wish you didn't have to do it, but I respect it. There are no easy choices with things such as revenge." General Guo's tone of voice was not severe, he spoke simply out of pure honesty and his expressionless face was simply his normal appearance. "However, all I ask is you consider the future in your choices. Because when a choice is made, the future has already been set."
Rin was a little surprised, which showed in her expression as she looked at her uncle. She helplessly replied, "I will uncle. And…thank you."
The man grunted in response before turning to pick up the bamboo staffs from their previous sparring match.
"Go clean up for eat breakfast." He ordered as his gaze turned away from her.
Rin nodded her head, a faint smile appearing on her lips. Without speaking, she turned and left to bathe. When he no longer heard her footsteps, General Guo raised his head and stared in her direction.
Unknowingly, the ice on his face melted away, leaving only a tiny, warm smile on his lips. He sighed while shaking his head.
Waking up the next morning, Rin slipped out of bed and went to the training grounds as usual. And as expected when she arrived, General Guo was there - despite what happened the previous night. Looking up from the bamboo staffs in his hands, a look of confusion arose on his face.