Proofreaders: Red & Mion Sakamaki
Cold Sands ch5
Here is chapter 5 for your reading pleasure. :)
I awake from a shiver. My eyes shoot open only to find a face that I want to beat into a pulp.
The owner of said face, Murong Yu, is sitting by the bed with his arms across his chest. His face is emotionless as though I’m simply a fruit and he’s carefully deliberating whether to peel me or juice me.
His expression remains unchanged when he sees me slowly opening my eyes. “Morning.”
I suddenly feel a burst of irritation. It’s his damn fault that I ended up like this in the first place!
I feel a sharp pain in my chest just as I try to get up. Scarlet seeps through the white bandage. I can’t help but fall back into a pile of blankets and pant as if my life depends on it.
“Save it. Just look at you. You are lucky to even wake up.”
He leans in grinning and pulls the blankets back over me. There’s nothing wrong with grinning but his grin is so creepy it makes me shiver.
So creepy it can’t get any creepier.
“Alright, okay, okay.” I push his hand away despite the pain. He frowns and grudgingly oblige. I shrug helplessly. “I’ll just consider myself unlucky for ending up as your prisoner again.”
He nods, seemingly satisfied. “Glad we have reached an agreement.”
I catch my breath before speaking. “Being your prisoner’s not that bad actually. The place I sleep in might be a bit cold, the food might be kind of bad, I might have to get beaten up every now and then but besides that it’s actually not that bad.”
His eyes widen as if he didn’t hear me clearly. “You certainly are optimistic, huh?”
“Well, it’s not like being pessimistic will get me out of here. So why should I bother?” I pause before continuing. “But let me make it clear right now: I really have no information to give you this time ‘round. So don’t try to make me talk or whatever because if you were going to do so you should’ve left me to die back there.”
He coughs lightly and instantly restrains his grin, putting on a solemn face. “Saving a life is better than any offering to god. Plus it was naught but a hand’s turn.”
“I bet many others died during the invasion this time. Are you going to save each and every one of them?” I can’t help but snicker.
The candle flame flickers, casting a dim warm light over the room. Only now do I notice it’s already pitch black outside. I can’t decipher the glint in his eyes as they linger over me as if searching for something.
He suddenly turns his head away. “Forget it. I know you enjoy battles of the tongue but I shall not waste time arguing with you. Here.” He places a bowl of murky black medicine beside the bed. “The external ointment has been applied already so drink this.”
Unsure of what he’s got planned I hesitate and retreat back into the blankets.
Irritation flashes in his eyes. “If I wanted to kill you I would’ve done so earlier. Why go through the trouble of rescuing you? Not going to drink it? Fine!”
Despite his words, he holds out the steaming medicine steadily in front of me. I shrug, too exhausted to debate any further, and take the bowl, downing it in one go. After all I am under his roof and I’m in no state to confront him. He might decide to kill me if I really do tick him off.
My body is tense from the pain of the wound on my chest ripping open again. It hurts as if it’s being sliced open once more by a blade until you can’t tell flesh apart from bone. I cover my mouth, coughing violently, the taste of iron already seeping in my mouth.
Xie Zhen, you fucking cold-blooded asshole. Oh, just you wait ‘til I get my hands on you.
Suddenly a hand is on my back, patting lightly, and a handkerchief appears before me. I glance up and meet with Murong Yu’s slightly delighted eyes.
I am starting to wonder while wiping my mouth; maybe I’ve been injured too critically. So critically that I’m hallucinating—Murong Yu is delighted to see a half-dead person?
He sits back down and I let out a breath of relief. Feeling a bit chilly I pull the blanket in closer.
“How many casualties this time?” I ask.
He takes a quick peep at me. “Not many actually. About half of the Rui troops retreated back to South Hill Pass and the rest surrendered soon after we arrived.”
Then a gloomy shadow dances across his eyes. “But that good-for-nothing scum—Xie Zhen, was it?—wanted to get on everyone’s good side. He was so annoying so I simply put an end to him.”
The shout not only saps all of my energy but also tugs at the gash on my chest. I instantly feel warm liquid oozing out again. In too much pain to speak, I can only glare at him while wheezing.
He raises his brows, eyes full of disdain. “Two-faced scumbags such as him are the most sickening. It does not make the slightest difference whether they live or die.”
I watch him quietly not knowing what to say.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t mad that Xie Zhen hurt me this badly but suddenly hearing that he’s dead leaves me feeling a bit sad. But I bet there’s someone sadder than me. That’s the end of His Excellency, Xie Yun’s bloodline.
My skull seems to be cracking open from my headache. I pat my forehead and let out a deep breath.
Realising that I must look miserable right now I turn to him and say, “Hey, it’s late and I need sleep. Do you mind leaving?”
A frown forms on his face before I even stop speaking. “This is how you thank the person who saved you? By ushering them out?”
I blink innocently and wrap myself tighter in the blankets. “What a huge coincidence that must’ve been! The prince himself going down into prison and saving an enemy soldier.”
“That is none of your business. What you cannot deny is that I went to the prison and found a dying you, right?”
I hesitantly nod.
“But I guess you have finally got a taste of what it means to be a loyal subject, Deputy General Han.” He leers and I catch a sliver of satisfaction in his eyes. “You would rather die than betray your country but who knew, after all the obstructions and hardships you return to Rui only to be labeled a spy and almost get killed by your own countrymen! Tsk, tsk. I am not sure whether to admire or pity you.”
“Murong Yu!” I sit up, so angry that I don’t even care about my wounds ripping open. “What sort of man speaks with such sarcasm? I never asked you to save me anyway!”
“But you can’t deny that you owe me a favour.” He snickers as he looks at me.
I glare at him but can’t seem to find any good retorts.
“And what now?” He continues casually as if we’re only discussing tomorrow’s weather. “The country that you pledged loyalty to actually abandons a place they have guarded for decades, retreating with their tails between their legs, leaving behind their own soldiers. Ah…how pathetic.”
His words grate my ears.
He shakes his head but the corners of his lips slyly perk up. “Even you, a member of the royal family, the grand nephew of the empress dowager, are abandoned. How pitiful, oh how piti-”
My fuse ignites as he pokes at my scars. I grab a pillow beside me and hurl it at him.
“Don’t assume just because you saved me that you can ridicule-”
He catches the flying pillow in midair and flashes an enigmatic smile. “Han Xin, I had thought your looks were the only effeminate thing. I did not know you had a woman’s personality too, resorting to this sort of behaviour when you’re upset.”
I throw the bowl and it shoots out like an arrow but he sidesteps it. It whizzes past his shoulder and cracks on the ground with a ‘clunk’. Immediately I hear shouts from the other side of the door.
“Are you alright, Your Highness?”
“Your Highness, shall we come in?”
“I am fine. Stand down. No one enters without my permission!” He turns and replies then turns back with his usual smile and tosses the pillow back to me. “Just focus on getting yourself back into shape because from the looks of it you could not even escape if you wanted to, let alone anything else.”
I mutter through clenched jaw. “O’course I’mma run away, you idiot.”
He has just stood up but quickly snaps around and looks threateningly at me. “Say that again.”
I refuse to back down from his stare or show any fear even though it hurts like hell. After a while he grins and leans in closer.
“I think I should inform you that I was originally quite interested in your stubbornness. I even did some research on the kinds of punishment that would be harsher. I was somewhat disappointed with your sudden escape but now that you have fallen into my hands once more, I think you will find it to your liking…”
Moonlight files through a window and falls onto the floor like frost. The candlelight, on the other hand, seems much dimmer. A chill runs down my spine as I watch that eerie expression of his.
“You….” The cats got my tongue again and won’t give it back.
He laughs quite elegantly with a majestic air enough to entrance tons of inexperienced, extremely shallow and superficial women. He could get hundreds, even thousands of young pretty girls lined up for him if he wanted to.
I wonder if he’s married or not.
Because I’m really worried for that woman.
“Earth to Han Xin.”
His voice rings beside my ears making me jump in my seat. Only when I gather my thoughts again do I realise his face is looming right in front of me. I quickly pull away but his body pushes closer.
He grabs my chin forcefully. “You’re an interesting one, aren’t you?”
Puffs of hot air hit my face making me kind of uncomfortable. But he has a firm hold on me so I turn my face away and wave my hands. “If you want to torture me, fine, go right ahead, but at least wait ‘til I recover. Please leave now.”
He chuckles as if he heard something hilarious.
The pressure on my throat leaves and I gulp for air while glaring loathingly at the culprit for my near-suffocation.
He paces slowly to the door, sparks dancing in his eyes but no words coming out. Then he leaves with a grin.
Sloppy piles of books lay before me, already defiled by yours truly. I rub my eyes and lie back onto my pillow, sighing here and there with my eyes shut. Other than reading on my bed, I could do nothing but eat, sleep, drink and apply medicine for the past couple of days. Well, either read or go off to la-la-land.
Murong Yu’s been a nice chap though, getting me a stack of books to relieve me of my boredom but when I think of the torture he’s going to put me through once I recover, I can’t feel any gratitude towards him.
I survey the quiet room blankly then grab some blankets and wrap myself in comforting warmth.
The sunlight is just right outside. It streams through the carved windows and forms spots on the floor, making the room feel even more desolate.
My mind starts to wander and I think, if that guy was here, I’d at least have someone to bicker with. I mean it beats lying on my bed alone with nothing to do.
At least it’d be sort of fun.
My chest is starting to ache with pain again. The gash that Xie Zhen left was too deep, after all. The doctor said that if it was the tiniest bit deeper and a fraction more to the right even the reincarnation of the legendary Hua Tuo could not save me.
Of course, when I’m all snug inside this cozy cotton blanket, I admit, albeit bitterly, that Xie Zhen would’ve probably had better aim if Murong Yu hadn’t invaded with his men at that time and startled him.
I let out another sigh, flipping through the pages of the book in front of me and then wrap myself tight with the blanket.
That’s enough wandering. Why waste your energy thinking about that useless stuff. What is important right now is recovering and finding an opportunity to escape. As to where I shall escape to…
Well, I haven’t exactly decided yet but surely not the capital and I can’t stay here either. Murong Yu-
As soon as I think about him my lips start twitching uncontrollably. I’ve had the worst luck ever since I met him. I’ve literally gone to hell and back—several times! Could it be that our birth signs aren’t compatible?
The slightly opened door is suddenly pushed open and I hear footsteps stop by the bed. I know who it is so I point to the table. “Put it on the table. I’ll eat it later, thanks.”
I’ve barely finished when my blanket is ripped away. A chilly breeze hits me and I shiver. I reach out and take the blanket back. “I’m sick right now! You can torture me after I’ve recovered!”
As expected, Murong Yu’s voice comes from above. “You sure are energetic for a sick person.”
I roll my eyes at him and ignore him by turning away. This sort of thing happens every day and I’ve gotten tired of wasting my words on him.
Unexpectedly, he sits down on the edge of the bed and flings my blanket to the other end of the bed. “It is time to apply your medication.”
Then he starts taking my clothes off. Startled, I struggle a bit and almost fall off the bed but he pulls me back and forces me to stay still.
I initiate my last line of defense when he’s twisting the cap off the bottle. “C’mon man… I mean every day! Don’t you find it troublesome?”
I can’t hear any emotion in his voice. “Do you not find it troublesome to resist, every day, and end up like this anyway, every day?
Not wanting to deal with him anymore, I relax and bury my head into the pillow and let him apply the ointment on me. The lashes from the whippings haven’t healed completely yet and every application is just as hard to bear as the original whipping. I’m having trouble breathing because of the pain and no matter how I move it’s agonizing.
“Hey…can’t you be…a bit gentler…I mean…do you even know how to do this?”
“Hey. It’s my first time, too. Just bear with it.” He says casually as he pushes aside wet hair on my forehead.
What. The. Hell. Keep your hands, which are supposed to be applying ointment, to yourself!
But I bear with it until the end despite my complaints. Swear to god, I can’t let him do this next time, or else, I might just die from this and not from that dead bastard Xie Zhen.
He cleans up the medicine and I put on my clothes while getting up. He sits down quietly at the table, takes a cup and pours tea into it. He’s not wearing his armour today; instead it’s just a light-coloured robe. His hair is partly tied up and his expression relaxed. It’s as if he’s come for a hike and not for war.
Except for that black sword by his waist, of course.
He picks up the cup and shoots a look at me as if he’s contemplating and searching at the same time.
“Han Xin, do you want to know how many prisoners we’ve captured?” He swallows some tea and smiles leisurely.
I roll my eyes at him and reply grudgingly. “Oh, Your Highness, I think you should consider visiting the army hostesses instead of bickering with this sickly person. You should certainly take advantage of this break in the war and enjoy yourself to the fullest.”
If I were him I would rather have delicate women in my embrace than applying ointment on someone.
He just keeps smiling as if he hasn’t heard me. After a bit he says, “Of course I will visit them but now is not the time. They tell me Jiangnan in Great Rui is a place of gentle drizzles, red cherry blossoms and green weeping willows.”
Looking up, he recites:
Fair lands lie in the southeast;
The center of the Wu provinces,
Hangzhou has always flourished.
Misty willow trees and exquisitely carved bridges;
Emerald green beaded curtains sway in the wind,
A hundred thousand residences scatter unevenly across.
Spreads of forest snake along the sandy shores;
The rugged waves crash and form snowy froth,
The endless Qiantang River protects the city.
Pearls and jewels line the markets;
The people dress in vibrant silks,
Rushing to display opulence.
The overlapping mountain peaks about West Lake are gorgeous;
There are sweet olives in the third month of autumn,
And ten li of lotus flowers.
Woodwinds play on sunny days;
Water-chestnut collectors’ songs fill the night,
Delighting old fishermen and lotus picking girls.
The ivory flag posts of a thousand men
Listen to the flutes and drums, wine in hand;
Revel in the splendid scenery, rhymes in mind.
I shall paint this landscape down one day
And display it in the Imperial court.My stomach tightens and my arms and legs go rigid but his eyes are sparkling. “From what I hear, the women from south of the Yangtze are all graceful, agile and as beautiful as flowers in bloom; every frown, every smile, every scold and every tantrum is filled with passion—by far, much better than any hostess we have here. And let me tell you, I am a very patient man.”
Not waiting for him to finish, I blurt out. “You’re going for South Hill Pass?”
He sips some tea before replying. “So what if I am? It is only a matter of time. No need to be so alarmed.”
He looks up at me with a satisfied smile. “I hope you are not planning to stay a loyal subject after all this, are you?”
He has a casual expression but his eyes speak confidence. My mouth opens but no words come out.
“My troops are going through some calibrating these few days. When the time comes, bringing down South Hill Pass, no, even the capital of Rui, will be a piece of cake.”
Hearing his words makes me dumbfounded and the hairs on my neck stand up. I rush off the bed after a moment’s hesitation and stumble a few steps. I speak once I find my balance. “No way. South Hill Pass was made and kept since the establishment of the country itself. It won’t fall just because you say so.”
He stops but bellows out in laughter the next moment. He puts the cup down and walks towards me.
The Yan have always been a tall people. I’m actually considered tall amongst Rui men but I’m still some fractions shorter than Murong Yu. With his back to the light, his expressions and features are all hidden in the shadows and yet his body emits an apparent and powerful aura that rests on your shoulders like dead weights. He comes in closer, not giving me any possibility to escape.
He spells out. “The city might be dead but the people in it are alive.”
I glance up a little bit and see him smirking delightfully.
A thought flies through my mind: he’s saying…there is a spy!
“And also,” he leans in even closer, lips almost touching my ear, “I suggest you do not even attempt to run away. You do not want to tempt me a second time. The punishment will be more than you can handle.”
I look into his black eyes and remain quiet; his brows dance upward and a satisfied smile spreads on his face.
Dairytea's comment: ...until next time! We look forward to reading your comments about this chapter. *u*
Cold Sands - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.