Proofreaders: Dairytea, Mion Sakamaki & Red
Cold Sands prologue & ch1
Our first release for Cold Sands! Enjoy~Prologue
The Fifteenth Year of Rule of Emperor Rui Wen of Great Rui. Murong, the ruling clan of Great Yan in the north, attacked and initiated a war. Lin, the ruling clan of Great Rui, had never put an emphasis on military and so, with a weaker army, the Great Rui troops were pushed south until the South Hill Pass that served as the last line of defence to the Great Rui capital. The last fatal battle seemed imminent.
I waken from excruciating pain.
I open my eyes; it's still the same-old roof beam. There’s a small window on one side and the sky that shows through it is split into fragments by metal bars. A few streams of light meanders in through the windows but still, it's oddly dark inside the prison cell.
I try to loosen up a bit, but the slightest tug sends unbearable pain down my back. Hissing out, I fall back limply onto the moldy hay and stare at the beam. Rats and cockroaches skitter around me. I glance at them, heave a big sigh and close my eyes again.
If it weren't for the injuries, I’d say this place is actually a bit better than the gloomy log shed at Uncle’s house.
There's few drafts in here, but it’s still chilling to the bones. I shiver slightly because the clothes that were ripped apart by whips do little to stop the icy air. After struggling to lift up my head, I realise a thin layer of ice had formed on me and is cracking into little bits along with my shivering.
There’s no way of telling the time in this cell, but I’d say it’s morning, judging from the light coming through the windows.
It hurts, everywhere, like I've been ripped into itty bitty pieces. It feels like my back's been skinned alive. Even the shallowest breath tugs at the wounds, making me jerk painfully. I inhale a breath of chilly air and stay motionless, watching calmly as the golden rays shine through bit by bit between the bars and scatter across the wall into tiny bright spots.
I've been captured for more than ten days already and it's either been torturous interrogation or this dank prison cell, accompanied by hoards of critters, cold moldy food and freezing sleepless nights.
Oh, Empress Dowager, your holy grace which governs our nation with its irreplaceable excellence, the weight of the responsibility of our people rests safely within your hands. Not even the ever flowing river can be compared to the respect and admiration I have toward Your Graciousness. So, Your Graciousness, why the hell did you stick me into the army and slap the title of Deputy General on me when Your Graciousness clearly know that I am one who does more harm than good? Now you've done it, Your Graciousness. I've been captured in a blunder and imprisoned by the Yan troops without even having the tiniest taste of victory.
I would've been fine to just be an average prisoner, but I just had to be the Deputy General who serves under the General! The Yan officers looked as though they got a free lunch, beating me every day in hopes to get information about the Rui army defense tactics. Oh, Emperor Dowager, Your Graciousness, please tell me how I could possibly know anything about such important military secret when General Zhou doesn't even bother looking me in the eye.
There might not even be any bones left for you to bury after a fortnight of this if Your Graciousness doesn't come bust me out soon.
It takes all my efforts to tilt my head to one side. I open my eyes slightly and see a torch burning weakly between thick wooden posts, as if its fuel's all gone. That's exactly what I am, I smile bitterly. I lost both my parents young and none of my relatives care for me, not my grandmother, not my uncle. Then I get thrown onto the battlefield against my will, and now I think I'm half dead because of the interrogation.
How the hell should a soldier who hasn't earned his stripes know about some defense plan?
Heavy footsteps stop my thoughts and shortly two bulky prison guards appear in front of me. The one in front with a beard and moustache frowns and takes a few steps towards the cell.
“Wake the fuck up, you! Your fake sleep don't fool me,” he barks while beating a wooden stick on the steel lock.
I stay still on the moist ground as if I haven't heard a thing, not even batting an eyelash. I don't want to speak but even if I wanted to, I couldn't. Suddenly I'm lifted up by the collar of what's left of my shirt. Caught off guard, I struggle a little and the wounds on my back all rip open instantly, but I still smile disdainfully even though it's so painful that my muscles start jerking.
“Don't worry. We won't let you die that easily!”
The guard in front of me looks angry as he rips my battle robe off my shoulder.
“Our general asks you one more time: are you going to cooperate with us or not?” he demands.
I shrug and tilt my head away from the foul odour coming from his mouth.
“I've answered that question already. Doesn't your general have anything better to do?” I retort.
The other guard takes a step closer and scoffs, “There’s a saying from your country: ‘A wise man does not fight when odds are against him.’ Our army is shredding through your defenses. Not to mention our Emperor is a wise emperor that I bet we won't find in your country and His Majesty will find it in his noble heart to forgive your past deeds. What're you still waiting for?”
I chuckle. “We also have a saying that goes: ‘The fate of the country depends on every single citizen.’ I might not have made any major contributions but I still have my dignity and pride. Whatever you've got for me, just bring it on.”
“This idiot doesn't know how to appreciate our offerings,” the guard in front of me spits at me. “The latest report says that the vanguards have already broken through the South Hill Pass and it won't be long before they reach the capital city of Rui! Even with your stupid loyalty, your Great Rui isn't doing so well.”
“Well isn't that strange,” I sneer, “if the Yan army could break through South Hill Pass then why would you need me to tell you Great Rui’s defense plans around the Rope Hill Creek area?”
I glance up in time to see uneasiness flash across their eyes but in a blink of an eye I'm violently dragged up again. The wounds on my back are killing me.
“What do we do if he doesn't cave soon? His Highness, the Crown Prince is arriving soon!” Beardy mutters to the other.
The latter’s eyebrows are scrunched into a knot, eyes darting between me and Beardy. All of a sudden a playful look appears on his face.
He says leisurely, “Hey, isn't it sandstorm season right now?”
Beardy remains still for a second, then turns around and snickers at me, “You piece of shit, that whipping last week is by far one of the nicer treatments you’ll get. You seem like the strong brave type so how about we go for a lil' trip?”
I'm being dragged out of the prison before I realise it but I force myself to not show any sign of fear even though my legs are spaghetti.
The blazing afternoon sun roasts the desert, fighting through layers of flying sand. Someone pushes me down to the burning ground and cuffs my hands and feet. One end is attached to an iron pole. Someone pats me on my head and leaves with a sneer.
The sun beats down on me with nothing in its way and makes me feel like a kabob left to cook on bright red coals. The rays are like golden needles, stinging my body without restraint. A grinding wave of pain bombards my senses, lighting my insides on fire. Sweat drips down my skin and a salty tang enters my mouth.
The weather on the deserts changes erratically. It might be a beautiful sunny day, hot as hell, and the next moment it might become a mess of a sandstorm, sand and rocks blown up to hit you smack on your pretty little face. Not to mention it’ll rub into your freshly-scabbed wounds, making you writhe in unspeakable pain.
Mouth drier than the desert, body on fire, wounds about to rip open again, I slip in between consciousness and unconsciousness. I start to lose my senses as I roast in pain. The sounds around me fade in and out.
Amidst the blur of consciousness, I laugh.
Han Xin, you poor fellow; been on this earth for a good two decades and no one could bother giving two shits about you. And now you’re going to die out here in some desolate desert with no one to even stand vigil for you.
Empress Dowager, rest assured Your Graciousness, even though it was you who sent me to the goddamn army, I wouldn't haunt you if I died. Your Graciousness can rest assured and live a nice, prosperous life and have lots of grandchildren…
And Uncle, even though you never really spoiled me but you've never abused me, either. Well, other than locking me in the log shed from time to time. You rest assured, too. Your dear nephew would definitely not haunt you so just go on being Minister of Personnel…
Suddenly I’m doused in something cold. I open my eyes with a start and realise I’m soaked. I look all over trying to figure out what the hell happened and another bucket of water comes pouring down. It's so cold that I'm shaking like a wet dog but I manage to crack open my dry lips and swallow a few gulps while wiping my face off.
Feeling my senses returning a bit, I let out a deep breath.
Who's this nice guy giving me the elixir of life just when I’m about to die?
“This is the Deputy General of Rui you speak of?” A cold unwelcoming voice rings from above.
I slowly raise my head, only to meet a pair of icy black eyes.
Dairytea's comment: Ah~ the suspense! Who is this mystery visitor???
ayszhang says: Minister of Appointment has been changed to Minister of Personnel
Cold Sands - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.