Proofreaders: Art_emis, Gwen, Red, and LSL
Cold Sands extra 1
This is an extra that takes place after chapter 16.
Extra I Murong Yu
I remove my gaze from the men before me and slowly turn to view the military map hanging upon the wall. Dozens of bold, red lines strike across it. The places where they mark are the general strategy plan of the Yan army: depart from our current location, push straight into the heart of the Central Plains, block off the critical areas to the south and north, divide into three wings when we reach South Hill Pass and cut off all possibilities of attack from enemies. The Rui capital will be stranded like a rock in the ocean and perish in no time!
I stare at that map, feeling the urge to kill from my fingertips to my heart.
I have been waiting for this day for far too long and Father has been for even longer.
My men are quiet. Yuwen Yuan’s eyes are twinkling when he finally comes forth and speaks.
“Your Highness, since our objectives have been settled, may I ask when decamping will begin?”
I take a moment before replying with a question instead of answering, “Have the necessary rations been properly dealt with?”
A man steps forth and reports, “In reply to Your Highness, the rations You had requested have been delivered two days ago under General Tuo’s supervision. I have properly arranged it so that we may depart anytime.”
I grin. “If that is the case, let my order be known. ‘One day to rest and reassemble for the entire army. Prepare all supplies, equipment and rations and depart the day after tomorrow. Delays shall not be tolerated!’”
They all bow. I drop my smile and instruct, “You all may leave and make preparations.”
“Yes, Your Highness,” they answer in unison and bow once more before leaving the room. Only Yuwen Yuan still remains, lips pursed and eyes focused on the military map.
I pick up a cup of tea and take a sip.
It has gone cold. All I can taste is bitterness, the fragrance completely absent.
I frown very naturally. That guy is probably slacking off again and did not get the water to a full boil. I mean, what did I expect? He just goes around all day with his eyes half-closed like he is about to fall asleep. Always so carefree. It is like he has never even been awake. Just wait until I get my hands on him once I get rid of Yuwen Yuan….
My hand trembles and out spills a few drops of tea.
How could I have forgotten? He…is long gone….
I laugh drily in my head. I replace the teacup and glance up to meet with Yuwen Yuan’s burning gaze.
He steps towards me and chuckles, “It seems Your Highness’ mind was wandering just now.”
I raise a brow. “General Yuwen, you appear to be quite at ease, what with our campaign in hand.”
“After numerous years at the side of His Majesty, He has never shown a hint of fear, His face always calm and steady like a still lake.” He quickly looks up. “Your Highness, it has always been His Majesty’s wish to take Great Rui once and for all!”
I smile. “Campaign after campaign, Father still has not forgotten about the splendid lands in the south.”
He suddenly drops down on one knee, hands together above his head. “At last, His Majesty’s wish shall be realised by Your Highness!”
I warn in a low tone. “Be careful of your words, General. Father is still the picture of health. I am naught but his servant, overseeing this war in his place.”
Yuwen Yuan lowers his head, takes out an envelope from his sleeves and presents it to me with two hands. I have only caught a glimpse when my hand jerks as if stung by flames: it’s Father’s tiger emblem on the red wax.
“His Majesty held a private talk with me before I had left. His Majesty cares deeply for Your Highness, reminding me to ensure Your safety during battles and to escort You back to the imperial capital after we capture the Rui capital and things settle a little.” His look hardens. “His Majesty also said….”
“His Majesty has tacitly consented to Your Highness’ marriage with the duchess. Everything will proceed accordingly once You return to the capital.”
I grasp Father’s private letter tightly in my hands, unknowingly wrinkling it.
“How is Father’s ailment?”
He wavers before nodding. “There has not been much improvement but He is as energetic as always. His Majesty also asked for Your Highness not to worry and to look after Yourself.
“I see,” I pause for a while and then let out a soft sigh. “Yuwen Yuan, you…are excused.”
He leaves and I am left speechless staring at Father’s handwriting on the envelope. I open it in the end. As expected, it is Father’s penmanship. Strong and powerful strokes fill the entire page, covering every big and little thing I should take note of on the battlefield.
Alas, it is just as he said. I feel something warm in my chest. Father, my father…really does care about his son….
I fold the letter up after reading it. I turn my gaze to the map once more.
The pieces have fallen into place—this battle is going to be inevitable.
Once Great Yan and Great Rui clash together, it will undoubtedly be a fight to the death. No one will be able to back out.
I close my eyes. I am faced with so many emotions that I am not sure what I feel.
Han Xin, oh Han Xin. When I’ve destroyed your country, would you still hate me even if you’re on the other side of the world? Now…have you found the life you’ve wanted to live yet?
His voice begins to replay by my ears, flowing like a gentle stream but cutting deep into my heart.
‘I’d dreamt that I’d leave these mansions and their gates when I grow up and live life like the wind, free to do whatever I wish with nothing to hold me down. I can stop and enjoy the world when I want and when I wanna leave I won’t have anything to miss.’
‘Just forget about me, Murong Yu.’
‘Our beginning itself was because of an accident. Let’s just let go now that we’re at the end. I’ve said so many times, we’re not the same kinda people. There’s no future for us. What’s happened is the past so let’s forget it now. From now on, you go on being a prince and I a freeman. Our paths will diverge, never to cross again.’
I quickly cover my face, burying it in my hands to hide my pain and distress.
That guy…he is gone yet he still has the ability to agonize me.
Han Xin, goddamn you. If I’d known it’d end up like this, I’d rather we never meet…and I’d definitely not like you.
He was lying with his hands behind his head on a thick pile of grass that night, gazing up at the sky. The moon was bright and shone on his clear, handsome complexion, his black eyes that had within it too many settled thoughts and his lazy smile with which I was oh-so-familiar.
He said he wanted to live like the wind—‘live like the wind’? Are these his true feelings?
He is always so lazy, half-asleep and half-awake. He keeps others at a distance with an indifferent smile, treating everyone politely, and faces the world all by himself. Always so carefree, always so lonely.
I like him. I do. I do not know why I would like him. I do not know why I would like a man either. All I do know for sure, out of all the chaotic feelings, is that I like him. I have never been an indecisive person. If I am the one to fall first then I will take the first step.
He was looking but he did not see. He carried on smiling half-heartedly, distancing himself. I kissed him, kissed him by force, when I finally could not take it anymore. Our tongues tangled and our breaths merged. I pushed open his teeth and swept across every inch of his mouth, not giving him the slightest chance to leave.
In that instant, I actually felt my body heating up. I wanted him. I wanted to make him mine. I wanted to make sure he never distanced himself from me again. It is not that I did not have concubines—it is not that I had never had a woman—but for some reason my cheeks would flush. For some reason, my heart would beat.
Being a son of the royal family, I have understood long ago that we must not have mercy. Under Father’s ever-so-strict instruction, I have never been merciful. I also know there are two types of people in this world: useful and useless, or beneficial and detrimental. Father had bestowed upon me a concubine at age fifteen and I killed her with one strike without a second thought when I had discovered she had been plotting against me.
He did not have much luck, it seems. He kept getting hurt, never leaving Death’s sight. And that one time he got injured to save me, I had felt fear from the deepest corners of my heart. I did not want to lose him, not one bit.
Perhaps, that is what it means to truly like someone, or perhaps that is love.
He does not like people talking about his appearance but he does not understand just how outstanding his appearance is for a man. He has a fresh, handsome face. His dark eyes are clear but also cool. His brows dance upwards at a slight angle and his lips are constantly clipped, forming a ghost of a smile.
His smiles were the most beautiful thing. His eyes would close a little and then his brows would arch. The corners of his lips would curve up, the lips bound tight against each other into a pretty curve. Joy would exude freely from those thin lips of his and his eyes would also glimmer.
He was holding the bowl of soup, eyes lidded in relaxation and enjoyment. Little did he know just how tempting he looked. Those star-like eyes were barely peeking out and his cheeks were a bit pink. Seeing that, it was as though my body was lit on fire. Every part of me was screaming out: I want him. I want him.
I only discovered afterwards that there had been aphrodisiacs in the soup, but he had long ago become a more potent substance than aphrodisiacs to me.
I was very much in my right mind the first time we did it. By the time I finally got him to lie down, I discovered that I had become breathless. I ducked down and caught his lips in a rough kiss. His lips turned bright red as if I had made my mark. I pulled on his shirt and it came apart easily, revealing his ivory-white skin. I felt my breathing quickening that instant as I reached for it with shaky hands. His skin felt wonderful, very elastic almost to the point my hands would get stuck to them. It was not as soft and smooth like a woman’s but much more attractive.
He still attempted to resist, not allowing me to draw near and trying to break away from me. I began tearing at his lips in frustration and caressing, sucking and teasing—everything I could. His pants began to hasten. His body flushed a light pink colour and even his eyes became coated over with mist.
I admit. I really wanted to see his clear eyes become filled with lust because of me. I really wanted to see him spread himself open for me, to let himself go beneath me. I wanted his very being to be mine, never to leave again.
What an ecstatic night it was. He tried to hold in his moans but he would cry out seductively when he climaxed and wrap himself around me, holding me close while calling my name in breathy pants.
I felt like I truly had someone—someone I loved.
He fell asleep after the lovemaking. The corners of his eyes were still moist with tears. I dipped down and kissed at them. I did not want to let him go. I wanted it to last for the rest of my life.
However, I did not know why he was constantly so wistful. He would sit there all by himself during sunset with his eyes drooping low as though he was reminiscing his past. His lashes would flutter under the golden evening sun, appearing brilliant but at the same time all the more forlorn.
He had a nightmare on that one cold autumn night. He was crying and screaming and kept thrashing around. I took him into my arms and patted his back. Only then did he begin to wake up and mutter in my ears, telling me to hold him tight. I got to see for the first time on that long, dark night his pains and suffering. He grew up an orphan under someone’s roof, never knowing if he would live to see the next day. Every step that he had taken seemed so arduous. Unknowingly, he had distanced himself from everyone after being hurt over and over again to the point he had become reluctant to believe in love.
He placed his face against my chest and embraced me without looking up and finally burst into tears in my arms, quietly and restrained. I hugged him tight and my heart twinged along with his continual quivering.
He and I, we are the same on the inside. The only difference is that I put on an unfeeling mask while he chooses to be indifferent. Actually, we do have one thing in common, at least, and that is the fact that we are both lonely and we understand that about each other. That alone is enough.
Perhaps we could have provided warmth for each other if we were together.
He was slightly shocked and looked at me without a word when I had finally said the words ‘I like you’ after all our quarrels and silent treatments. He never gave me a straightforward reply but he kissed me of his own accord for the first time.
He is too indifferent. So indifferent that he did not even bother to think about whether he felt the same way or not.
I let out a long sigh. My hands snake up to my neck. There is nothing there now. The jade pendant that Mother had left me before passing away is hanging around his neck now and has left me along with him.
In my memories, Mother was a woman with a scholarly air, as beautiful as a light-toned shan shui painting created by a master. I had sometimes thought that it was precisely this unsurpassable air that made Father fall in love with her at first sight despite having so many beauties around him, to the point he still has her on his mind even until this day. I do not know what Father was to Mother, or whether she still detested him before passing away.
Mother was not used to life in Yan and was constantly ill. She never complained or mourned, however, and always kept herself neat and kempt, never showing any sorrow or weakness. One winter, her health became worsened by a cold, and she passed away before the green plums that Father had especially ordered to be delivered from the south arrived.
Before passing away, she called me to her bedside, removed the white nephrite pendant from her neck and put it around mine.
‘After I leave, from that moment onwards, my son, you must remember to never remove this pendant.’
‘Because it was taken to a temple by your grandfather and specially consecrated. It will keep you safe. But if you find someone you like, you may gift it to her.’
‘But why, mom?’
Mother patted me on the head. Her eyes were filled with warmth and tenderness. ‘Why, silly, jade is a token of love.’
I close my eyes and make every effort to smile but my lips will not budge.
I believe Father adored Mother. I also believe Mother had loved Father in the end. But no matter what, everything was sundered by time and it all evanesced.
Then what about me and him?
Would I be able to find him in the sea of people when I have ascended the throne and have ownership of this land? Even if I do find him, who is to say time would not have changed everything between us? Would it all have already withered away and become distant memories?
There can be no guarantees for the future. Time has the power to change anything. Perhaps that also includes our love.
I squeeze the letter in my right hand as my heart begins to ache.
After years of overcoming hardships and obstacles and putting my life on the lines battle after battle, I have longed for someone to be there, for someone to understand me, for us to support each other with all our heart and share our feelings.
Yet the person I have chosen ended up leaving me.
The sadness hits me like a blow to the chest. The pain that I have been suppressing for so long makes it impossible for me to speak. I cannot even breathe. I taste bitterness in my mouth while suffocating.
‘Let me go, Murong Yu!’
‘If I don’t leave today, Murong Yu, I’ll still do it tomorrow. You can’t stop me!’
To let him or not. In the end, I made my choice. I do not know whether or not I was right. I do not know. I simply do not.
It was my own choice whether right or wrong. Just like how Father forced Mother to be his concubine—it was his own choice. I do not know if Father had any regrets when Mother hated him. I only know it was my own choice and I would have to face the consequences myself, regardless there being regrets or no regrets.
I cannot discard my responsibilities. I cannot abandon my longing for the throne, nor can I ignore the desires to conquer and rule. By the time I have crushed Great Rui with my hands, by the time I finally find him amidst the crowds of people, would he have forgotten me? Would he hate me? Or would he pretend to not know me?
He says he wants to live like the wind when he himself is the wind.
Wind has no care or restraints, never stopping for anyone, even if the small ripples prove of an existence long ago. It is not willing to stop, not even for the most stunning of sights.
Is he afraid that once he lingers he will get blocked by the mountains or kept behind by the clouds?
I really want to know if he ever liked me, if he ever loved me.
Perhaps our beginning itself was because of an accident as he had said, and I should just let go now that it has come to an end. Forget each other, forever….
How fortunate would it be if I could actually forget that easily?
I only realized this after he had left. I am afraid I have fallen hard for him, or should I say I am crazy in love with him? If not, how would it be this torturous? Every night I close my eyes, I dream of him but none of the dreams are good. Either he is in danger somewhere out there in the war, or he becomes gravely injured and does not get treated properly, or he returns to his country only to be tried for treason. It always ends with me waking up soaked in sweat in the middle of the night, only this time there is none of the tea that he makes to calm me down.
I miss him so much. Every one of his smiles. His arched brows and devious smirks. His bickering. His seductive figure when he is aroused. His soft, quiet moans. Him… I miss everything about him.
My eyes finally burn with moisture.
This is my first time shedding tears since Mother passed away. A small teardrop slowly slides down my cheek and forms a crystalline drop upon my desk. I drag my cape across and it disappears without a trace as if it had never existed.
Han Xin, you asshole. Where the hell are you?
Han Xin, am I ever gonna see you again?
Han Xin, you get back here this instant!
Dairytea's comment: See you all next week!
Cold Sands - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.