"There's no need." Rin wiped the corner of her mouth with her robe sleeve.
"Call someone over to properly take care of Madam Tao, she needs a decent and proper burial."
Already aware of her body's condition, Rin deliberately chose to dismiss the idea of calling in a doctor - not to mention her being a female.
Leisurely and with Wei Jingyi supporting her, Rin stands up weakly. She strays her eyes down toward the body of Madam Tao, her eyes red and emotionless.
"Prepare to send young Miss Lixue to her relatives outside of the city. If she asks about her parents, you know what to say."
"Yes, young Master." Wei Jingyi lowered his head lightly before departing from the scene.
Rin lightly conceals her mouth to muffle a cough and subtly shifts her gaze toward the two soldiers.
"Make sure to take care of her properly. If someone asks, inform them that Madam Tao couldn't bear the loss of her husband and took her life to honorably join him." Rin said.
"Yes, Captain Bai."
"And get me Minister Chou, I need his report on the Tuhan."
After issuing out the orders, Rin calmly with a blank expression, walks out of the courtyard - the stench of blood wafting through the air.
Once Rin summoned Minister Chou, he hurriedly went over to the provincial office. When the old man arrived, he quickly reported to Rin of the Tuhan's arrival in two days' time.
Based on their commander's direct response, Rin knew it wasn't clear or not if they accepted their surrender. After all, the last time they issued a surrender it was a trap and killed many of their men.
She couldn't help but secretly worry. If they weren't to accept their surrender then…
No. She wouldn't allow it, no matter what, she needed to ensure Governor Tao's last wish and to make sure his daughter was protected.
Although she lost the battle, this was something she refused to fail. She owed him that much.
As she made up her mind, a look of determination and coldness flared within her emerald eyes.
Standing in the center of the currently snow-covered estate garden, Rin stared up at a particular tree in the center.
Despite the cold winters, the chrysanthemum's remained existing - heavy coatings of snow embracing their stem and weak, frail petals.
Her mother in the past said chrysanthemum's reminded her of Rin. Strength, nobility, and elegance.
Rin couldn't help but sigh toward her mother's words. Although she may have possessed some of those qualities, it was still not enough.
Her strength wasn't enough to protect those she cared for or those who served her in her battles. It all wasn't enough.
Looking up at the tree with a serene expression, Rin's ear perks up at the familiar sound of footsteps in the snow. Without diverting her gaze, Rin could already guess who the sudden figure was.
"Did things go smoothly with contacting Miss Lixue's relatives?"
"Yes. Her aunt and uncle have agreed to take her in and raise her." Wei Jingyi casually walked toward Rin.
"En." Rin lightly nodded her head. "Inform the citizens of our surrender along with the remaining soldiers. I'm sure once the Tuhan take over they won't spare the soldiers, so it's best to have them escape the city using the hidden passageways. Notify them to transport some weapons with them as well."
"Won't the Tuhan be suspicious from the absence of weapons we have?"
Rin gently released a light, complex smile.
"They may. But I'm sure they won't be too skeptical, after all, we just had a crucial battle that involved the Bai army. As long as there are still weapons present it won't be too unusual."
Feeling another cough coming along, Rin covers her mouth.
"Young Master…you should rest now. All of this has taken too much of a toll on your body. I'll carry out the rest and ensure everything goes smoothly."
Wiping the corner of her mouth, Rin's body shifts to turn in Wei Jingyi's direction, however, her eyes remained lowered.
A cold wind fluttering through the garden whirled around the girl's robes and tied hair.
"Wei Jingyi, you said you'd listen to my orders and follow me on my path. To ensure Miss Lixue's absolute safety, I want you to go with her to make sure everything goes well. Travel low, I don't want anyone getting wary of her status."
"Although the Tuhan's commander is arriving within two days, I can't be sure if he'll be as generous as to accept our surrender."
Rin raises her eyes to look into the man's dark crinkled ones. With a crooked smile, the girl's eyes were clouded with a numbing forcefulness.
"I ask of you, as a favor, to follow this order of mine."
Shock transformed on the bearded man's face and the look in her eyes caused his thoughts to waver. Sighing with defeat, Wei Jingyi bows his head low toward Rin.
"In that case, I will follow your orders as you say."
"Pretty big brother, how come Lixue's leaving so soon?"
Preparing the young girl in a cotton coat and extra clothing, Rin looks down at Lixue sitting in the wooden carriage.
Deliberately made of wood, the carriage gave off a relatively cheap feeling yet not to the point of looking unsuitable to ride. Rin ordered the guards to choose this carriage to generate a low profile image on Lixue to prevent trouble on the road.
"Your mother and father thought it was best you stayed with your aunt and uncle outside of the city for the time being, while they resolved some matters here," Rin said as she covered the little girls head with her coat hood.
"Eh? Momma and Papa aren't coming?"
Unseen by the little girl, Rin's hand harshly clutched the rim of the girl's hood but quickly loosened it along with the wave of distress in her eyes.
"En." Rin curtly spoke.
"Then, is pretty big brother coming with me?"
Eagerly, the little girl's round doe eyes looked up at Rin – a blinding radiance shining inside them.
The corner of Rin's lips twitch, however, she puts on a gentle, angelic smile.
"Unfortunately Miss Lixue, I won't be accompanying you. I have to stay here and help with some business."
Listening to Rin's response, the little girl's plump, rosy cheeks puffed out and a pout displayed on her soft face.
Rin couldn't help but feel helpless watching her gaze – a trace of guilt surging in her heart.
"But I promise, whenever I can, I'll come and visit you." Rin kindly smiled, her eyes warming up gradually.
Shocked, Lixue looks up into Rin's emerald eyes and beams brightly.
"En! You must promise Lixue, no take backs!" The little girl enthusiastically nodded her head.
Chuckling gently, Rin stretches her hand out to softly stroke the girl's bangs.
"En, I'll be certain to keep my promise."
With the girl's mood finally being raised, she happily plopped her round body onto the furred blankets on the wooden carriage floor. Rin smiles lightly at the girl before a sudden thought enters her mind.
Placing two fingers by her mouth, Rin's releases a light yet sounding whistle into the air.
Lixue, confused by the sound, looks at Rin with a slanted head and interested gaze.
Suddenly, the sound of fluttering wings could be heard from above. Landing on Rin's outstretched arm was none other than Ju. Its beady, large eyes flickered as it looked at the cross-dressing girl.
A delicate expression etched on Rin's face as she lifted a dainty finger to caress the bird's flat, feathered head. Enjoying the sensation, the bird tucks its neck back and closes its eyes.
After she finished petting the small bird, Rin moves him toward the carriage entrance.
"Open your arms."
Lixue's expression intensified even further after hearing Rin's words and as ordered, the little girl opened up her arms.
Rin lowers the falcon on her arm toward the furred blankets and Lixue's small lap. Casually, Ju flies down from Rin's arm and into the girl's lap.
Excited yet confused by Rin's actions, Lixue raises her doe dewy eyes upward.
"This will prove my promise to you. While I'm busy here, I'll have you take care of Ju in my stead."
Widening her brown eyes, Lixue's eyes glow and she lowers her head to stare at Ju standing on her lap.
"En! I'll take good care of him for you pretty big brother!"
"In that case, I'll take your word for it."
Beaming up broadly, Lixue gently pats the bird on the head, trying her best not to get overly excited and crush the bird.
Ju, already used to the little girl's pampering and smothering, disregards her and looks its beady eyes up toward Rin. Directing her gaze on Ju, Rin's eyes flash with a complicated glint.
"Take care of her. I'll see you again soon." Rin said in a faint voice.
As if grasping her words, the small bird looks away from Rin and nestles up toward Lixue. Smiling gently once more, Rin walks away from Lixue toward Wei Jingyi, who was preparing for the horse to leave.
"Here are Ju's favorite treats. If he gets hungry give them to him." Rin delivered the middle-aged man a small cloth bag.
Staring at the cloth bag in the girl's outstretched hand, Wei Jingyi sighs hopelessly before taking it and placing it in his pocket.
"You're even leaving your bird with her?"
"Just to ensure everything goes smoothly." Rin smiled.
"Young Master, we both know the reason, no need to lie to me."
The corner of Rin's lips remains lifted, but her eyebrows wrinkle and eyelids lowered.
"I guess I can't hide anything from you." Rin scratched her cheek.
"Of course not. You were my disciple for two years."
The corner of her mouth quirked up slightly toward his words. The two stare at one another in silence before Rin bowed and departed away.
Halting her steps, Rin proceeds to keep her back facing him.
"Stay alive will you?"
Turning her head upward, Rin releases a soft chuckle, her glimmering emerald eyes staring to the side.
"Don't worry, I don't plan to die yet."
Rin's halted steps soon continue, the youthful figure disappearing from sight – leisurely walking toward her new and dangerous path.
A soldier, alarmed by the sight of Rin coughing blood, speaks up. "I'll call over the estate physician."