133 The Scapegoa
before the red sun bit the mountain, an sun's troops awoke and departed early in the morning. the snowy mornings were especially cold.
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rin shivered slightly. she shrank her neck and buried most of her face in the collar of her cloak, revealing only a pair of beautiful emerald eyes.
at that moment, before riding on her horse to depart, an sun called her over. tilting her head curiously, rin walked over toward him. standing in front of the man, she watched as his gaze lowered to wander over her figure up and down.
rin dramatically blinked her emerald eyes.
"lord an?" rin asked, her brows creased slightly.
an sun raised his head and didn't bother to hide his look of disapproval. rin heard him mutter something under his breath as he turned to reach for something on a cart.
feeling something heavy and warm wrapped over her body, rin stumbled a bit. an sun then lifted the hood of the blue-furred coat until it cupped around the youth's small, porcelain face. rin looked toward an sun with a baffling expression in her clear eyes as he adjusted the coat around her.
the hint of a smile could be seen in the crease of an sun's eyes - his cold, handsome face showing a rare warmth.
an sun patted her shoulder lightly. in an indifferent tone, he said, "go."
rin blinked blankly before she nodded to his words with a slight upward tilt of her lips and walked back to her horse.
the troops who were preparing to leave saw their interactions and looked at their commander with baffled eyes.
it would seem that the little strategist was favored by their cold commander.
he treated him as if he was a child!
manchu also saw this scene. looking at the tender expression on the handsome man's face, he said nothing and simply released a loud sigh. manchu climbed his horse, and they all set off.
in the early morning, the troops proceeded to ride their horses through the frigid cold air and heavy snow. with her entire body wrapped in the coat an sun gave her, she found the cold weather easier to bear.
while rin rode beside an sun, manchu rides behind them to keep guard of the cargo.
suddenly, rin asked, "what does lord an plan to do when you return to the main camp?"
an sun's dark, gray eyes from beneath his metal mask stole the youth beside him a glance.
"do you doubt me?"
rin shook her head and softly spoke, "no, i'm just a little curious."
an sun was silent for a while before replying in his usual magnetic tone, "the old man might punish me and keep me on guard for a bit. but, after some time, i'll offer to cultivate my skills outside to atone for my negligence to his commands."
rin's brows raised. "you believe he'll set you free again?"
"even if he doesn't, i'll find a way." an sun calmly replied.
rin stared at an sun quietly. her lashes lowered slightly and the hands holding her reins gripped.
"lord an, there is a way to be free of your father's suspicion. you could..."
an sun's cold voice cut her off. "no."
rin was a little startled as she looked over with a slight frown. she hadn't even said anything and he already rejected her idea!
an sun's eyes darkened slightly, yet his voice remained serene. "do you think i can't protect you?"
rin turned mute with shock. it took her a moment to take hold of herself.
rin replied simply, her frown deepening, "lord an, that's not…"
before she had the chance to finish her words, rin closed her mouth when unexpectedly faced with the young man's pair of deep, sharp eyes.
met with such an intense expression, she couldn't help but slightly avert her gaze before she heard his dark, pressing voice.
"to me, before everything else, protecting those on my side comes first. bai lan, for as long as i live, i will protect you and the things you hold dear. i will not allow you to act as a scapegoat for my sake."
rin blinked her eyes. his words brought upon a heavy sensation to her.
so, he did know what she was going to say?
after an sun received the edict from his father to return, she knew things weren't going to be simple. the an clan leader had already been wary of an sun from the start, with the situation in jilin, all of an sun's plans would be in vain.
that was why she planned to be the scapegoat.
to ensure his father would no longer be suspicious of him, rin planned to take credit for manipulating an sun into disobeying his father's orders.
the worst that could happen to her was death, but even if that was the case, rin already strategized a way out of that.
unexpectedly, an sun had already predicted her proposal and without hesitation, rejected it.
rin drew in a breath, forcing her exhaustion away. yet, remembering the heartfelt words he just spoke, the fuzzy sensation in her chest grew stronger.
rin hesitated for a moment before turning her head to meet an sun's gaze. her eyes widened at the sight of the sincere, warm expression on an sun's face. the smile on an sun's lips grew slightly lighter as he looked at rin with his eyes fixed upon her.
he chuckled and spoke coolly. "don't think of anything else. just do what you have to do best and trust me as i trust you."
again, rin felt her chest heat up. it was as if her heart was filled with a burning warmth.
she looked at him for quite a while, then faintly replied, "...yes."
looking pleased with her answer, an sun shifted his gaze back to the front. the troops once more continued to move forward, unaware that their smooth travels would soon take a turn.
after eating dinner, rin lay on her mat and quietly flipped through a book of old poems she grabbed from the jilin province.
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when the minutes passed she found her eyes grow heavy until eventually, she fell asleep, a small quilt wrapped around her body.
the clear, cold night grew deeper and deeper, with no light from the previous morning sun left in the darkening sky, only dense snowflakes drifting down, little by little.
rin, who had been in a light slumber suddenly awoke to the burst of noise from outside the camp.
it was a bugle-horn.
rin's originally closed eyes immediately opened and she shot up from her mat. her bright eyes fixed on the tent flap, which had lifted a little from the winds outside, revealing a trace of red against the white ground.
the sound of the bugle-horn ceased, but it was enough to wake up the quiet camp. the sounds of hoofbeats and the soldiers' shouts from outside blended into a mess of turbulence.
rin's brows furrowed into a deep frown.
this was an ambush!