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69 Been Played

One month later...

In the past month, the entire land was wrapped in a white powder. The previous trees covered in rich green leaves were bare, small piles of snow snuggling in the trees cracks.

The air was crisp and frosty, the bitter winds fluttering with traces of snow inside their chilly gusts.

Inside a room in the governor's estate was the figure of a young boy.

His figure arched over his desk as his body was comfortably covered with a thick royal blue cloak.

The windows to the room were wide open, revealing the deep blue frosty sky.

"Cough! Cough!"

"Young Master, I think you should rest. You've been coughing a lot lately."

Resting at her desk with a heap of papers in her white hands, was Rin. Her body gently clothed in a soft blue cloak.

Across from her, resting cozily in a soft silk pillow was Ju. Its eyes closed as it rested peacefully.

The incense burner on the side released traces of aromatic smoke until it descended within the room's air.

"I'm fine, it's just a minor cold." Rin's emerald eyes calmly browsed the written words on the paper.

"If that's so, then I urge you to close the windows. Otherwise, it'll get worse."

Sighing gently, Rin places the papers in her hands down to pick up a warm cup of tea in front of her.

"Has Governor Tao reported anything yet?"

Seeing as the girl was going to ignore his words, Xu Mujin sighs but continues to reply.

"Not as of yet. He's notified that young Master is to rest until anything happens."

"All right."

Quietly sipping her tea, Rin continues to read the official reports in her hands quietly.

A gentle gust of wind flows into the room through the window, fluttering the girl's tied up dark hair as she jotted down some minor notes.

The silent calm air was soon cut short by the sound of a servant's voice on the other side of the door.

"Master Bai, Governor Tao summoned you."

Lowering the papers down onto the table, Rin stands up from her seat.

"Understood, thank you."

Softly stroking the falcon's feathered head as it slept comfortably, Rin turns to leave to head to the governor – a few muffled coughs escaping her.

...

In the provincial office, Rin quietly sat down at the square wooden table – her small body leaning close toward the large stone brazier filled with burning charcoal.

Sitting comfortably across from her at the table was Governor Tao, who calmly poured himself tea into a miniature white cup before consuming its contents.

"It's been a month since the Tuhan's men have attacked, I'm sure that commander of theirs is planning something." Governor Tao bitterly smiles while carefully pouring more tea into his cup.

"Cough! Cough..." Rin's white fists covered her mouth. "Has Governor Tao looked into their commander?"

"En. Commander An Sun, an adopted son of the great An Clan. Although adopted, he's an exceptionally brave and capable young man. He won his first victory when he was nine-years-old. For the past ten years now, he's been fighting other clans around the Northern Empire and other areas, all which he has won." Governor sighed gently.

"It seems we have severely underestimated Commander An Sun."

Rin silently nodded her head in agreement. He was right, she had underestimated him.

It was unwise of her to think that way. But now that she understood his overpowering strength and aggressive tactics, she still couldn't help but find some of his recent moves unusual.

For the past month now, the Tuhan's hadn't made a move toward them. She reported for a few of her scouts to monitor their base, yet all that was stated was that they hadn't made a move.

Rin knew they had the advantage, their tactics were meticulously planned and they possessed higher military strength and troops.

So what exactly was the reason they were holding off?

Already guessing what the boy was thinking, Governor Tao sighs wearily.

"I realize we're slightly at a disadvantage. Even with the help of your grandfather's soldiers, we were still unable to strike them. It's a shame they had to leave so suddenly to head to the Eastern Empire."

"Yes." Rin lightly held her chin with her slender white fingers. "What I don't understand sir, is why? The Tuhan's have stopped attacking, and my grandfather's army was sent to the Eastern Empire. Could they be connected somehow?"

Unless...

Rin's flashing eyes quickly enlarge with hysteria, her complexion paling.

"It couldn't be..." Rin whispered grimly.

Noticing the boy's distressed appearance, Governor Tao parts his lips to ask what was wrong, when suddenly the frantic sound of a soldier's urgent voice interrupted him.

"Sir! There's an emergency!" The soldier warned while speedily entering the room.

Both alarmed, Rin and Governor Tao's expressions become alert.

"What is it?" Governor Tao asked sternly.

"The Tuhan's main forces of one-hundred thousand men have forcibly broken through the Eastern Empire's neighboring province, and are headed to their capital, Shongo!"

Rin's face stiffened, her hard eyes turning cold.

They already broke through their Eastern Empire's neighboring province?

"Why weren't we informed of this earlier?!"

"I apologize sir, but the speed of the Tuhan's army was incredibly fast and went completely unnoticed until recently. When we were aware of their whereabouts, they were already ten miles from the neighboring Eastern Empire province!"

"I see...so we've been played." Rin chuckled coldly.

"The Tuhan's left a portion of their defensive army near the armed provinces in the other empires, while their head forces aimed for Shongo. Their main intention was to attack the Eastern Empire, not the other provinces. By having their commander, An Sun here, they granted us with no choice but to call in reinforcements from the Northern Empire, lowering the other empires defenses not to mention now ours."

Gently lowering her head, Rin's hands gripped tightly into fists and her eyelids lowering.

Why hadn't she noticed it earlier?

Because of her reckless thinking on the whole situation and for underestimating the Tuhan's Commander, many of lives were put at risk and probably even...

Abruptly, a light but rough enough pat to draw her out of her thoughts was felt on Rin's back.

Looking up, Rin notices the governor gazing thoughtfully at her with a friendly expression.

"Don't think too much of it. In war, not everything will go as planned. Even if it does, it will never go evenly. You're still young, there will be many occasions where things like this will happen." Governor Tao thoughtfully reassured with a hearty chuckle.

"For now, while you recover your thoughts, why not for the time being leave some of the other stuff for the older soldiers to handle? You've professionally prepared some of our scholars enough for them to understand what to do." The governor smiled. "But, since you're captain, what is it we should be doing now?"

Rin's blank eyes warily scrutinized the governor's expression, her rosy lips slightly parted.

Somehow, even if his kind words were reassuring to hear, Rin nonetheless felt anything but consoled.

"We should be strengthening our defenses. Now that An Sun's men have fulfilled their primary goal in reaching the Eastern Empire's capital, he'll most likely come here with brute force and attack. Hence, our best option is to defend the fortified walls." Rin responded blandly.

"En. Then I'll leave that to you. I'll be sending a letter to the Eastern Empire about the situation."

"Yes, sir." Rin lightly lowered her head courteously.

...

On Rin's way out of the governor's office, her grim expression darkened, her eyes piercing with an unknown emotion.

Her grandfather was in the Eastern Empire with his troops. The Tuhan's men were heading there to attack.

For some reason, Rin's heart couldn't help but restlessly squeeze.

"Xu Mujin."

"Yes, young Master?"

"Go to my grandfather in the Eastern Empire's capital to check on the situation."

"But young Master, I was assigned to stay by your side until..."

"Don't forget you were also ordered to obey my every order. I'll be fine without security for the time being. The Tuhan's won't arrive yet and the walls are still up, so go now." Rin harshly commanded with a glaring gaze.

Looking reluctant, Xu Mujin sighs hopelessly.

"Yes, young Master."

In the blink of an eye, Xu Mujin's figure disappears, a gentle wind being left behind. Staring at where the young man formerly was, Rin sighs gently.

"Cough! Cough!"

Covering her mouth from the abrupt coughs, the corner of Rin's eyes tear up. After her harsh coughing fit, Rin looks down at her hand only to feel her body turn cold and her eyes to enlarge.

Blood. There was blood on her hand.

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A/N: I want to say thank you for your wonderful support and patience! It truly means so much to that so many of you enjoy and comment on my story. Whenever I read your comments or received a vote for my story, I can't help but always smile and squeal. I never thought I'd receive so much support and people who like my work.

It honestly means the world to me, and I love you all so much! Merely know, without you I'd never continue writing - so give yourselves a pat on the back for being amazing human-beings.
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