Rin's gaze followed the sound of the elderly voice and was immediately met with the sight of Governor Duyi Zhong.
She couldn't help but compare him to her grandfather. However, the old man before her was much calmer and collected.
Rin cupped her fists and bowed politely.
She greeted him. "Yes. It's an honor to meet you Governor Duyi."
Duyi Zhong inspected Rin's petite figure with scrutinizing eyes. His eyes were like daggers towards Rin. For a while, his cool gaze lingered on her before shifting away to look at An Sun.
"You say you want to develop a trade; had it been anyone else I would have believed them, however…" His tone was cold. "Rumors of the Tuhan scavenging and raiding provinces without mercy has spread throughout the Northern Empire. What exactly is it you wish to seek me for Commander An?"
An Sun, with his arms crossed, stared at Governor Duyi calmly. "As I said before, I want to arrange a trade with you."
Duyi Zhong's expression only seemed to worsen when hearing An Sun's words. He couldn't decide whether or not the young man's words were the truth or if there was a hidden meaning behind them.
When Rin saw the skeptical and dark expression coming from Duyi Zhong, she sighed inwardly and stepped up to speak but was immediately held back by Manchu who silently shook his head - his eyes clearly indicating for her to watch.
Pinching her lips together, Rin nods and steps back.
"What's the meaning behind your words, Commander An?"
"It's exactly as I said. I want to form a trade between your province and my army."
Rather rudely, Duyi Zhong said, "Do you think I'd believe you merely based on empty words? Commander An, if you think I'm foolish enough to accept your words without proper proof don't think I won't hesitate to attack."
Even with his threatening words, An Sun remains calm, his expression never wavering. Reaching into his coat, he takes out a small scroll and sets it on the wooden desk in the room.
"What's this?" Duyi Zhong eyed the scroll with doubtful eyes.
"The set of tributes and agreements for our trade."
Coldly, Duyi Zhong takes the scroll off the desk and begins to read it. As he reads, his frosted expression couldn't help but falter.
Initially, he assumed An Sun would offer him gold and valuable silks, yet the items on the scroll were nothing but simple necessities.
Anyone else would have found the items insulting, but to northern citizens, these items were like heaven and earth compared to gold.
"I was recently informed by my strategist of what your people valued as precious. I understand harvesting is near impossible with the harsh climate, and that your food supply is harsh." An Sun said. "If this continues, your people will suffer."
Duyi Zhong's gaze lifted, a complicated look could be seen in his eyes.
An Sun's handsome and cold features eased slightly, however, his eyes were sharp.
"I can understand the turmoil in wishing to protect your people and own pride. That is why I'm offering you such a deal."
Governor Duyi was silent, his eyes clouded over as he thought.
"What is it you want?" He finally spoke.
An Sun's lips curled up into a faint smile. "I want to settle an alliance. In exchange, we offer you those items listed and a peace treaty between my army and the Jilin province. We'll promise to never issue an attack on the province."
"And if I refuse?"
An Sun chuckled. "Only a fool would refuse such an offer."
Rin and Manchu both held back a sigh toward An Sun's biting words to the governor.
For once could he not speak such insulting words?
The corner of Duyi Zhong's lips twitched. However, with a composed expression he opened his mouth to speak.
"Why exactly do you want my support? What will you use it for?"
This question had been on his mind ever since An Sun offered to form a trade between the two of them.
An Sun's lips stretched into a sinister smile. "I want your army to aid me when I issue an attack on the Eastern Empire's capital."
Duyi Zhong's expression sunk. Never would he had expected for An Sun's reason to be so extreme.
He wanted to attack the Eastern Empire capital? Only a fool would wish to attack the largest and most prosperous empire!
Then again, the man before him was no fool. He was An Sun, commander of the Tuhan men and a member of the great An Clan. Such a man was not to be looked down upon in strength and status.
However, it was clear from his offer for an alliance, that his army was not up to par with the Eastern Empire's capital.
This was the reason why he needed to borrow and build his strength.
"I decline. Such a quest is too risky for my people and men."
An Sun merely nodded as if expecting such an answer from the man.
True to Rin's words, Duyi Zhong was highly protective of his people. Such a trait, An Sun couldn't help but respect.
An Sun sighed and looked at Duyi Zhong with a serious expression, all traces of his sinister expression erased.
"I can understand your reasoning. The feeling to protect my own men from such dangers is why I haven't tried to attack them as of yet. However, that doesn't mean I'll stray away from a fight if I know there's a chance at winning."
An Sun's eyes hardened and his head slightly bowed. "Which is why I seek your assistance to assure such a chance is possible for us. Please think it over."
Duyi Zhong stared at An Sun's lowered head in silence, his expression unreadable. Closing his eyes and sighing, he opens them to stare intently at An Sun.
"I'll take your offer into consideration."
Raising his head, An Sun's stern expression remained. "Thank you."
Nodding his head, Duyi Zhong glanced over toward Rin and Manchu.
"Your men in the prisons will be set free. For the time being while I consider your offer, you all can stay in our province inn."
Rin smiled faintly and bowed her head politely.
"Thank you for your offer Governor Duyi, but we'll be resting at our camp."
Furrowing his brows, he felt somewhat baffled by their refusal.
Wasn't it freezing out there? However, not wanting to force them, he nodded.
Led out by a Jilin soldier, An Sun, Rin, and Manchu walked out of the governor's office.
As they left, they hadn't noticed the governor's lingering gaze on the petite figure in between the two tall men.
The three remained silent until they walked outside into the frosty weather.
"Do you think they'll agree?" Manchu asked.
An Sun continues walking with a silent expression, his eyes glancing over toward Rin. Noticing his gaze, Rin chuckled.
"From what took place, I can't be too sure. However, I believe he's convinced thanks to Lord An's words."
An Sun snorted lightly. "Don't think I only said such words to convince him. I meant every word."
"I know," Rin replied softly.
An Sun stared at Rin with raised brows as they walked. Coughing lightly, he shifts his eyes away from Rin's piercing emerald eyes.
"For now, all we can do is wait and see what'll happen."
Rin nodded her head in agreement with a faint smile.
Unknown to him, Rin's respect toward An Sun grew even further after witnessing his conversation with Duyi Zhong.
It brought a new light into Rin's eyes as she realized the cold, ruthless commander was also someone who could make peaceful comprises and lower his head to those of lower status.
Serving and working alongside such a man didn't seem so bad after all.
Little did Rin know of the tragedy and darkness that awaited her newly discovered journey.