"Sir, the reports came in. I think you'll want to see this!"
Turning to the sound of the soldier's voice stood the tall, slender figure of a man with dark black eyes.
The soldier walks up to him and hands the young man a scroll. Taking the scroll from the soldier, he quietly dismisses him with a wave of his hand.
The soldier bows before retreating.
In silence, the man reads over the scroll's contents.
The man reading the scroll in his hand, with his bushy brows knitted tightly together, was the eldest son of the An Clan, An Ruo – An Sun's brother.
After a moment, his stern expression loosens.
"An Sun plans to travel further north. It also seems he took in a new strategist," He set the paper down and looked to his side. "I was worried when father provided him the authority to invade the Eastern Empire, but it seems he only plans to stay north."
Glancing to his side, An Ruo's pitch black eyes stare intently at the figure standing off to the side. Standing with their head lowered was another man, his skin pale and his short hair a radiant blond.
"Master Ruo seems satisfied with this outcome." The man's soft voice spoke.
"Of course. An Sun has never been smart, always handling things with raised fists. Allowing someone like him to become the new leader of the An Clan worries me."
Sitting down on a wooden stool, An Ruo rubs the space between his eyebrows.
"Even though father wouldn't allow such a day to occur, I still worried one day his strength may rise. But with this new information, I can finally rest easy. It seems that younger brother of mine is still a fool."
The pale young man nods his head and walks over to pour the man a cup of wine. Nodding his head in thanks, An Ruo consumes the cup's contents and sighs.
"I still don't know what father was thinking, giving An Sun such a large army. Although the outcome was decent, it may give him unwanted ideas."
"You're right Master Ruo." The pale man nodded, his head lowered.
An Ruo looks over at the blond young man standing obediently to his side with a blank stare.
"If you have something to say then say it. Speak."
Only raising his eyes slightly, the blond man's pale eyes squint.
"Pardon me for what I'm about to say master, but…" He froze for a moment before continuing. "This decision of his to go farther north, it seems rather unusual don't you think?"
"Not particularly, An Sun has always been repulsive. When given the chance to shed blood he won't hesitate to take it." An Ruo sighed.
"That may be true, but I believe Master Ruo should keep a closer eye on him. For a while now, you and Chief An have been unable to distinguish his thoughts. Which is why Chief An gave him an army, to test where his thoughts lie."
An Ruo's eyes dimmed, a frown gradually forming on his face. "Do you think An Sun is that smart to discover father's plans?"
The blond man raised his pale eyes to look directly at An Ruo. "I can't be too sure. However, you did say he brought a new strategist to his side, maybe he could be feeding him information."
An Ruo's sharp gaze focused on the young man, his thoughts taking in the young man's words.
"I'll have someone look into this new strategist of his, maybe we can use him if he's willing. As of now, I don't see An Sun as a potential threat."
His coal eyes darkened, an evil glint flashing within them.
"However, if he is, then I'll have no choice but to eliminate him."
Dear brother, you better hope not to become my enemy, otherwise, be prepared to pay the consequences.
Three days passed before Governor Duyi finally made his decision. Rin had foreseen that Duyi Zhong would accept their alliance. However, she hadn't expected him to make such an unusual condition.
"I agree to form an alliance, under one condition. Once you succeed in raiding the capital and gaining a portion of land, I want half of the land."
The four all sat in the governor's office, all settling the alliance terms.
An Sun's brows twitched after hearing the governor's condition.
"We'll grant you higher protection and a larger supply of gold to restore your province." He retorted.
Duyi Zhong's silver mustache twitched. "You seem to have forgotten Commander An; my people hold no importance to gold. Having more land can give my people a better environment for harvesting."
With crossed arms, An Sun's gray eyes narrow.
The land he wished to occupy from the Eastern Empire was large, large enough to fit an entire nation, yet having to share it was not something he planned.
Already predicting An Sun's thoughts, Duyi Zhong calmly sets his hands on the desk in front of him, his gaze sharp.
"Commander An, I don't think my demands are too much to ask. You need my men to win this land; it only seems fair I earn half."
Rin glanced at An Sun. Besides his furrowed brows, his expression was unreadable. However, to her, it was clear he was reluctant.
She understood how much the eastern land meant to An Sun. It was his chance at freedom and proving he could establish his own power.
She was uncertain whether or not An Sun was willing. Her fists clenched beneath the table as she waited for his response.
Duyi Zhong was startled by An Sun's response.
Noting his startled expression, An Sun sighed and stared directly into the old governor's eyes.
"If I'm able to achieve my goal, I'm willing to make a few sacrifices and grant you half of the occupied land. Shongo's army is strong, and their defense is high. I'll need all the men I can get to be able to push through."
For the first time, Duyi Zhong's expression eased. "Then it's settled."
Both nodded in agreement and just like that, the beginning of their newfound alliance was born.
When dawn finally broke, Rin returned to her tent at their camp and wrote down a few tactics she would share with An Sun.
While writing, Rin couldn't help but feel a slight chill run down her spine; as if everything all of a sudden became much colder.
For the past couple of days, the treatment she received was respectable compared to her first arrival. She was given better clothing and food, although she often requested to hunt for her own.
"Nn…" Rin's grip on her pen loosened as she felt a sudden aching and tightening around her lower abdomen.
It was an unusual discomfort that she never experienced before. She couldn't help but hunch over in her seat – her head resting on the table.
Did she eat something bad?
Rin felt the pain only seemed to worsen around her stomach as if something was contracting and squeezing the insides of her body.
Feeling another chill race down her spine, Rin looks up toward her mat and stands up from her seat to grab a large blanket - wrapping herself around it while resting near the brazier.
Her hands and feet felt cold, the pain in her stomach only getting worse and worse.
Rin's mind wrapped around the things she ate that day.
Nothing she consumed was spoiled or poisoned, so why was she feeling this way?
What could it be?
Suddenly, a warm sensation could be felt flowing near her thighs. Confused by the sensation of something leaking, Rin glances down and her face froze.
The sound of incoming footsteps approaching her tent instantly caught Rin's attention.
"Advisor Bai, Lord An requests your presence."
In the An Clan's main base camp.