The pen was silent. An Sun looked at the 'boy', his lips pressed together and a mysterious glint in his eyes could be seen.
"How do you know this?" The depths of An Sun's narrow eyes darkened.
Rin could understand his suspicions towards her. If he wasn't able to discover this then the chances of her knowing were even less. Yet she did, drawing in his suspicion toward her once again.
She replied, "My grandfather is a familiar acquaintance of the Jilin province governor. I happened to overhear some things during my times there."
An Sun's expression hadn't changed, however, the aura around him was less threatening. Rin took note of the man's cold mood starting to change.
"Very well. I wish to hear more of this in the morning. For now, you can rest for the night." An Sun began to walk out.
Halfway, An Sun paused and shifted his gaze toward Rin. Appearing as if he wanted to say something, the young man's handsome face furrowed with a stiff expression.
"Starting today, I'm appointing you as our military advisor. Consider this a reward for your work today."
Rin hadn't expected An Sun to grant her such a title. Although it was seemingly small, it still granted her authority to commit certain tasks.
Bowing her head low with a faint smile, Rin spoke. "I'm honored. Thank you, Lord An."
An Sun tsked, his eyes drifting away from her figure.
"And eat more meat, your body is too weak. You're a man, not a woman. Start toughening up."
Before she could say anything in response, An Sun exited the pen. Rin blinked dramatically at the entrance, her eyes slightly wide in disbelief.
Recalling his previous sentence, Rin helplessly sighed.
Looking down at her fair white palms, Rin noticed their usual smooth, delicateness was replaced with rough callouses. A few faint cuts and blisters were visibly seen - proof of her long and arduous journey.
These hands…they didn't look like the hands of a girl. Nor did they look like the hands of a man.
Tightening her fists, Rin's eyes sharpened with resolution.
To them, she was a man. To her grandfather and the Bai army, she was regarded as their young miss.
Yet to her all she saw was Rin. A human trying to survive with their given abilities.
If he wanted her to toughen up and be the man they saw her as all she could do for herself was quickly recover and present him the best of her abilities.
That night, Rin wrote down tactics and ideas to help the Tuhan men, her eyes darting across the pages with sharp eyes.
By the time Rin woke up, it was already morning of the next day. As expected, a soldier came in to escort Rin to An Sun's tent.
However, upon exiting her pen, Rin took note of the Tuhan men's strange gazes. Their expression bearing signs of curiosity, and surprisingly admiration.
She suddenly felt a sense of déjà vu.
Ignoring their gazes, Rin followed the soldier to An Sun's tent.
Inside, the two began discussing their previous conversation - Manchu silently stood in a corner, pretending not to exist.
"The Jilin province has always kept a low profile to ensure the citizen's safety from outsiders. If one were to know of their great power, they'd be perceived as a threat or be attacked from others trying to gain that power." Rin sat with her legs crossed near the tents brazier. "Their governor, Duyi Zhong, is extremely protective of his people. Gaining his support blindly on strength or force won't get us anywhere."
"Which is why you recommended creating a trade with the Jilin province."
Rin knew the Tuhan army consisted of one-hundred troops in the north and about fifty thousand men in the Eastern Empire.
The Jilin province was small, but their backing wasn't one to look down on. The province governor, Duyi Zhong, came from a military background, thus, his army was trained diligently and slowly built up in case of an attack.
If it really came down to a fight, based on the information Rin had on both armies, Duyi Zhong army was no match for An Sun's.
However, their goal wasn't to raid their province. Fighting wasn't an option. An Sun needed to gain their governor's support to gain more power to cause chaos in the Eastern Empire and acquire land in the eastern areas.
"To ensure his support and assistance, I've made a list of tributes for them."
Rin covered her coughing with one hand and reached into her robe pocket for a folded piece of paper, handing it to An Sun.
Unfolding the small paper, An Sun's eyes scanned the detailed words written on it. For a few moments, the tent was silent until An Sun raised his gaze toward Rin with a raised brow.
"These are just simple necessities. Why not add more valuable things like gold and silk?"
Patiently, Rin coughed into her hand before speaking. "My Lord, while the east values power, and the west and south value gold and fortune, the northern provinces are much more humble. The temperatures here are much colder and difficult to live in during the winters. Rather than gold and silk, northern citizens favor simple necessities over wealth."
Rin pointed her fair fingers toward the brazier.
"Trading them more coal to burn fires and furs to make coats are considered precious to them. Fresh vegetables and grains are even more valuable here since they're incapable of harvesting them."
Taking in this newfound information, An Sun's eyes narrowed as his frozen features broke out into a faint smile.
Previously, the night before after he left Rin's pen, he was informed of what took place during their fight with the Su province general.
His men explained to him in full detail what happened.
After Rin issued to kill them, both sides attacked head-on, with the 'boy' idly watching from the side. Assuming he was going to watch, the Su general suddenly charged toward the 'boy' in an attempt to kill him.
However, no one, not even the Tuhan men, expected for the following events to take place. With a steady, almost dull expression, the 'boy' pulled out a dagger from his pocket and with nearly invisible movements, shot it toward the general's knees.
Stunned, the Tuhan men watched as the 'boy' slowly walked toward the now kneeling and howling general with a frosty air surrounding him. An ominous light flashed through his eyes as he coldly glared down at the general.
As the men were explaining to him the details, they couldn't help but shiver upon repeating Rin's words.
"This one's mine."
Just three words, yet they held so much killing-intent and bitterness.
An Sun listened to their explanation with an emotionless expression on his face, but his eyes were laced with interest.
Recalling such a moment, An Sun directed his intent gaze on the feminine 'boy'. A faint laugh escaped his lips.
"Then let's begin."
Two days passed. During those days, Rin and the Tuhan men gathered their tributes for the Jilin province.
On the second day, they gathered their camp, replicating their previous process and started off farther north.
Half a day later, they arrived near the Jilin province borders. Rin looked at the now darkening sky with a gentle gaze, her pale lips breathing out a puff of air.
"Let's set up camp nearby." An Sun strode his horse forward.
Rin followed behind before mounting off her horse and helping the men.
Hours passed before their camp was officially set up, only a few miles away from the Jilin province borders.
Standing outside of her tent, Rin looked at the dark sky and snow-covered field. While it was still snowing heavily, the temperatures felt less chilly and slightly warmer.
Rin stared at the Tuhan men walking around without a care for the frosty weather and snowy grounds. Due to their longtime stay within the northern regions, they became more resistant to the cold.
After a while of standing, Rin walked toward the carts filled with their offerings and carefully inspected them to ensure everything was secure and ready.
She asked the men to cover the fur with a cloth to prevent them from getting damp and to store the grains properly.
Although she knew fruits and vegetables would be a better deal for their plan, finding such foods was rare even in small farming villages – which she searched for during their journey.
As Rin was counting their tributes, An Sun's figure walked toward her, his tall, built body dressed in full armor. Noting his approaching figure, Rin shifts her gaze away from the carts.
"Everything for the trade is set. All we need is to issue out a letter to their governor of our arrival."
An Sun lightly grunted in response and looked up at the carts.
"The letter has already been sent out. It should be answered in the morning. If not, then we could always just force our way in."
Rin stared at An Sun with a dull gaze, her eyes clouded with disbelief.
This man…he really liked performing things without a thought.
Rin felt somewhat bitter toward him.
Her whole life had always been arranged. She was a strategist, planning was her way of life.
When she was young, she was naïve to those around her. When her mother died, she never carried things out on a whim. If she did, she'd die.
Everything - her whole life was planned to ensure her survival.
And yet the young man before her was indifferent towards those things. Yes, he was aware of the risks his actions had, but he never seemed to care.
She felt somewhat jealous.
Rin's thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the sound of incoming horse hooves.
Lifting her gaze, Rin's eyes are greeted with an unfamiliar group of soldiers walking into their camp. An Sun's eyes stared at the men with indifference.
"Are you aware you're trespassing on Jilin province land?" A man mounted on his horse spoke, who Rin could assume was the Province General.
An Sun cast his eyes to the side as if observing his surroundings before looking back up at the man.
An Sun's blunt response left Rin sighing helplessly behind him and the Province General's brows to twitch, however, very quickly his gaze darkened.
"Please surrender your weapons. You're under arrest for the time being until your reason for loitering here is confirmed."
"There's no need."
Furrowing his brows tightly, the province general stares at An Sun wearily. The young man stared up at the men with an impassive expression as he spoke the following words.
"We want to speak to your governor."
Rin stared at the young man's broad armored back in silence.
This man really feared nothing.
"Not many know this, but the Jilin province has exceptional power and backing. Their army is almost at equal lengths with my grandfathers'. I believe if you're able to convince them to support you, you'll be able to achieve your goal for power."