Confirming their surrender, Rin, currently sent a scout to deliver her letters to the neighboring provinces. At that moment, Rin was writing away at a letter to her grandfather, informing him of their loss.
When writing the letter to her grandfather, Rin's hand tensed - all movements ceasing. Gripping her hands tightly, Rin continues to carry out her letter.
She had lost the battle. For the first time, Rin felt the feeling of defeat, however, she wasn't one to dwell too much on it.
She was willing to admit her lack of judgment toward the enemy. For once she truly met her match.
Yet, even with these thoughts, it still didn't change the fact that Governor Tao…
"Young Master Bai."
Looking up to identify the familiar figure of Wei Jingyi, Rin could roughly comprehend the reason for his sudden presence.
"Is everything prepared?"
"Yes, everything for our surrender is prepared."
Bobbing her head, Rin stands up from her seat and gently folds the letter to her grandfather to the side.
Walking out the door with Wei Jingyi behind her, the two walk down a long hallway in the estate – gradually making their way outside of the estate to a separate courtyard.
In the cold weather and white scenery, Rin's curved brows, wide emerald eyes, tall nose, and thin red lips varied greatly, presenting her the appearance of a celestial being.
Walking into the separate courtyard, both step inside a room.
Within the small room, two soldiers stood obediently by a golden crafted jade chest resting on a polished table.
Rin's steps halted upon seeing the chest.
Inside the chest was none other than Governor Tao's head. Their offer for surrendering and protecting the citizens.
A light tap could be felt on Rin's back, causing her mind to clear.
Looking to the side, she sees Wei Jingyi flash her an impassive smile – his eyes boring deeply into hers as if reminding her of their former conversation.
Rin's pupils glow lightly and her steps continue toward the soldiers.
"Thank you for your work, men." Rin bowed toward the soldiers.
The soldiers stare at Rin with a complicated gaze, however, their eyes never losing the glow of respect and admiration.
"It was an honor serving with you, Captain Bai." Both men cupped their hands, a tilt in their heads.
Rin smiles faintly at the men. It was indeed an honor. For the first time, Rin was given the chance to see teamwork, leadership, and the truth of what went on in war. Including failure and meeting a worthy opponent.
Every so often there were battles even Rin couldn't face, which she was willing to accept. She merely needed to train and study to reach those who were stronger.
Once she was strong enough, would she capable and worthy to take back the Eastern Empire.
Suddenly, the sound of gentle footsteps could be heard approaching the courtyard. Shifting her head in the direction of the footsteps, Rin recognizes the familiar figure of Madam Tao - her usual maidservants unseen.
"Madam," Everyone bowed.
Acknowledging the men with a slight bow in her head, Madam Tao's jet-black eyes set on the golden chest at the end of the room.
Silently, the woman walks toward the chest, her long cotton cloak concealing her hands dragging behind her.
"Please leave me alone with him for a while before you send him off." She gently spoke.
"Of course, Madam."
The four left the room, allowing the woman to be alone with the golden chest. With the doors shut, no one could see what went on inside.
Madam Tao raises her frail hands to the top of the chest and gently lowers her head.
"Tao Guozhi. When I became your wife, I knew of the responsibilities you bore as governor. I knew because of that, you'd place the people before anything else. And I knew…that a day like this would come. But I didn't think I'd…"
Gently, a clear glistening tear falls from the woman's white cheek down toward her red lips.
"Was me asking for us to live peacefully with our daughter too much? You served your people well and faithfully - fulfilled the path you spoke of." She slowly lifted her hand.
From her raised hand, the glimmering iron object inside her cloak could be seen.
"My dear husband, I promised you before that'd I'd follow you anywhere you went. I'm willing to fulfill that promise still."
Outside, Rin and Wei Jingyi had long walked away from the courtyard and back toward Rin's room.
"After our surrender, we must ensure the safety of Madam Tao and her daughter, Lixue," Rin said gently as she walked. "I don't want them to suffer any more than they need to."
"Of course. I've known the madam for a while and know a peaceful life for her daughter is what she wants most. I'll contact some of their relatives in the Northern Empire."
Rin nods her head, however, due to his sentence Rin couldn't help but look at the middle-aged man beside her.
After her meeting with Wei Jingyi in the Eastern Empire when she was visiting her mother's grave, she believed she'd never see him again.
Yet she never would have thought she'd meet him once more as a servant working for Governor Tao. Because of their early separation, she didn't know much about him even when he was her servant in the Li Palace.
She was aware based on rumors she heard on her visit to the Eastern Empire, that one of Li Chang's members betrayed him and ran away. Tightly guarded that day, Rin could guess they were all searching for Wei Jingyi.
Discovering him in the Northern Empire and knowing the Tao's for so long relatively gave her an idea of what his betrayal was about. Knowing Li Chang's weariness, he must have assumed of Wei Jingyi being a spy from another country or empire.
Either way, Rin didn't care to ask him about what happened nor did he ever mention it.
Rin looked up at the gray, chilling sky, the winter days becoming colder and colder.
Currently walking down a long hallway, Rin suddenly halts upon perceiving the familiar figure of Madam Tao's old maidservant. The elderly maidservant was looking slightly agitated at the moment, her wrinkled face pale.
Upon recognizing the young boy, the old maidservant's eyes lit up as she scurries quickly toward him.
"Greetings, young Master Bai." The maidservant bowed hastily.
"En." Rin nodded motioning for the woman to raise. "Is something the matter?"
"Ah…yes! Young Master Bai have you've seen Madam Tao by any chance? The madam ordered for this servant to personally prepare her some tea, so this servant followed their given orders. However, when returning, Madam Tao was missing!"
Wrinkling her brows, Rin's eyes narrowed.
What was she saying? They just saw Madam Tao just a few minutes ago. Why would she leave without alerting her servant?
Rin could understand she may have wanted to go alone and see Governor Tao before they offered him for surrender, but was there a need to leave her maidservant behind without notifying her?
At times like this, maintaining a guard or servant around was important in case of the enemy attacking.
Rin couldn't help but feel an eerie feeling enter her heart.
Without a word, Rin swiftly walks back toward the courtyard where Governor Tao's head, rest. Wei Jingyi, noticing the girl's hurried steps also followed behind.
The cold biting snow, kissed Rin's cheek as she walked faster, her expression stern and frail.
Midway toward the courtyard, Rin saw the figures of the previous two soldiers running in their direction – their faces drained of color.
Seeing them caused the unpleasant feeling in Rin's heart to increase.
"Captain Bai! Captain Bai!" One of them shouted frantically.
"What is it? Where's Madam Tao?" Rin walked hastily toward the men.
Upon hearing Madam Tao's name, both soldiers stiffen, their heads dropping.
"The madam she…" One of them spoke, his voice quivering.
Rin widened her eyes. Running past the men, Rin made her way toward the courtyard to enter the room where the golden chest rest.
The sight before her caused Rin's knees to weaken and go soft.
Falling to the floor, Rin stared at the bloodied body of Madam Tao, a sharp dagger clattered next to her and a faint puddle of blood beneath her.
Rin's expression dulled.
She scrunched up her face in a harsh, pained expression. Once the first tear broke free, the rest followed in an unbroken stream. Rin's body bent down on the floor with her trembling hands pressing down onto the cold floor, her teeth gnashing harshly together as droplets fell from her face onto the floor.
"Why are you all so foolish..."
Why did they give up their lives so selfishly?!
As Rin sobbed a sudden foul taste rose from inside her mouth causing a violent cough to erupt from her.
Coming into the room to see Rin coughing violently on the floor, the two guards stood frozen in place while Wei Jingyi walks toward Rin's side to support her.
"Are you all right?" He creased his brows.
"I'm…" Rin once more broke out into another series of coughs.
"Captain Bai you're…"
As more coughs came out, Rin felt something trickle down the side of her mouth. Wei Jingyi, crouching beside her, widened his eyes slightly.
Blood had come out from the young girl's mouth and spread across her palms.
Inside Rin's room, she smoothly moved her white hand across the piece of paper - written words publishing onto the page.