"Another fever…" Rin mumbled in a hoarse voice.
For the entire day, she fought back the heavy pounding in her head and chills running through her body. No matter what, she had to prove her worth to An Sun.
Finally resting, she felt the previous weakness weigh in on her entire body. The braziers red, hot embers radiated, warming her cold body. She had been feeling chilled all day.
Across the pen, in a large woven sack, were the previous animals Rin had hunted during the winters hunt.
As promised, all the animals she caught were hers to keep. Afterward, An Sun ordered his men to skin them and hand over her winnings.
The result of the winters hunt was intense and highly interesting to the majority of the Tuhan men. It'd been the first they saw someone able to hunt at equal par with their commander.
In the end, however, An Sun won. Even with this loss, winning wasn't Rin's primary goal. Gathering food for herself and catching the eye of An Sun mattered most to her.
She knew it'd irritate the prideful and ruthless man, but she was willing. She was willing to risk it.
Rin regained her consciousness, feebly standing up from the mat and walked toward the bag of meat.
The amount she hunted would be enough to last her a month, although had it not been for her weak condition she could have hunted more.
Gathering a few cut pieces and bones she previously asked to keep, Rin coughs into her sleeve and walks in the brazier's direction.
Taking a large staff from beside her, she stabbed a few pieces of meat onto the stick and placed it over the brazier.
With a blanket over her small shoulders, Rin stared at the meat slowly cooking over the flickering flames.
After a brief moment, the red meat started to brown. Satisfied with the color, Rin pulled the stick away and rested the pieces of meat on a cloth to the side.
Taking a pot, she began boiling the clean bones into a pot of water. Once done, Rin placed the meat in the bowl as well until it all started to boil together.
Nearly ten minutes passed until she was pleased with the result and took a small bowl and poured the contents into it.
Gently leaning the bowl towards her lips, Rin drank its' contents and chews on a few pieces of meat to replenish her hunger.
After she had finished eating, Rin stored the meat away into a large bowl filled with snow at the bottom to prevent the meat from spoiling.
Using another bowl beside the brazier filled with water, Rin took a cloth and placed it over her head to ease down her fever.
Tired, she sighed and lay down on her mat, blankly staring at her surroundings. Her calm mask cooled down, revealing her frail and worn out complexion.
She hadn't been able to rest for a very long time. Every day was spent planning her strategy for An Sun.
Her plan, it had to work. No matter what she'd ensure her worth was proven to An Sun.
Rin's eyelids slowly slid shut, her consciousness giving in to the darkness.
"What do you think? Do you trust him?"
Within An Sun's tent, the two men sat at a wooden table covered with bottles of wine and plates of meat.
"His points are valid and his idea isn't bad itself. But…"
But what was his goal? What did he get out of it besides living?
No man on this side of the world did things for free. And knowing Bai Lan's personality, he wasn't one to beg for his life. No, he was the kind to fight until the very end – when he had nothing left to fight for.
An Sun's eyes flickered upon recalling the recent events that took place.
"To achieve your goal, Lord An, you must deceive the heavens and cross the ocean," The boy reveals an unreadable grin. "You point north when your goal is actually in the east."
An Sun's expression changed and his eyes lit up.
"You want to deceive them into thinking we're not trying to overpower them?" Manchu said, unable to hide his surprise.
An Sun and Manchu exchanged looks. He had to admit, this plan of his was clever. If anything, it was genius.
An Sun never wished to become the head of the An Clan, he simply wanted proper and respectable footing.
However, even with such a great plan, it wouldn't be able to fool all of them. It would merely lower their suspicion towards him for the time being.
"What do you get out of helping me exactly?" An Sun's eyes narrowed. "No matter the outcome, all you'll receive is the chance to live, nothing more. Is that really all that you wish for?"
Not surprised by his question, Rin's eyes lowered, her long lashes flickering.
"You're right, I'm not receiving much on my end," Rin said softly.
Raising her head up to stare into An Sun's gray, chilling eyes, Rin's eyes glowed brightly with clear resolution.
"I've already lost and posses no way of regaining anything I once had back, that I will forever accept. However, I do not ask of anything in return, my Lord. Although I am weak in many areas, and I lack the ability to serve you in your army, I have my military tactics and knowledge to grant you. With these small abilities, I believe I can be useful and prove myself to you."
With every spoken word, Rin did not divert her gaze from his. Each word she voiced with all seriousness. Each word filled with determination and honesty.
Her pair of emerald eyes shot directly into An Sun's soul, her expression showing clear indication she was true to her words.
For a while, An Sun remains silent. Not a tinge of his thoughts or emotions could be seen on his face. His eyes stared deeply into Rin's and his lips pressed closely together.
"You're dismissed, I'll consider your words." An Sun turned his body away from Rin to walk toward a table with a wine jug.
"Yes, my Lord."
Standing up slowly, Rin bowed her head in An Sun's direction and walked toward the tent's exit. Just before she left, An Sun's deep, husky voice had ceased her movements.
"Your words better be true, otherwise don't expect to have a painless death."
A faint smile formed on Rin's lips. She slowly shifted her head to the side in An Sun's direction.
"I ensure you, my Lord, my words will always be nothing but the truth."
Finishing her words, Rin exited the tent to leave the two men alone.
An Sun stared blankly into his cups contents upon recollecting their previous conversation.
That's right, he didn't wish for anything. Not wealth, power, higher status or women. He simply wanted to be of use to him - to prove himself capable of being by his side.
A dark, cold laugh escaped his lips and a devilish smile curled up on his lips.
"He's interesting." An Sun chuckled. "Extremely interesting."
Manchu, unsure what the man was thinking raised his brows while chewing a piece of meat.
"So what do you plan to do?"
Raising his eyes to look at the man across from him, An Sun's eyes narrow and the smile on his lips grew slightly lighter.
"I'll allow him the chance to prove himself. Let's see how much this Bai Lan has to offer..."
When Rin finally returned to her pen after the long night, her body weakly collapsed onto her mat. Her chest rose and fell with uneven breaths, her mind heavy and fuzzy.