Proofreaders: Gwen, krabbykabbi, Luzo, Pau & Red
Cold Sands ch 36
Murong made the invitation...is Han Xin going to accept? :o
Stepping out from the secret tunnel, a burst of cool air hits my face. The inky black sky is plastered with twinkling stars. Fires are blazing brightly on the far side of the horizon. The pleasant scent of grass wafts in the air mixed with a hint of soil.
Greedily, I take a deep breath before pulling my hood low over my face. Eidolons flank my sides closely. We have left Yi Xin Temple behind us when we spot a group of several dozen armed cavalrymen waiting ten zhang away.
With just one glance, I find the captain familiar. He seems to be Murong Yu’s personal guard. As I draw near, he nods and I jump on a horse, following him. Cavalrymen immediately join me and ride beside me, putting some distance between me and the Eidolons.
The geography flattens as we advance. In the dark of night, the endless stretch of flatland before me is solid black. This team hasn’t lit any torches either so we traverse the lightless gloom without a sound.
I feel like we are making a big detour. The wind whooshes by my ear and the grass under the horse hooves swishes. It’s been a long time since I last felt the cool night breeze like this. I think I would feel even better if only I wasn’t surrounded by soldiers and on the way to meet that person.
Light and the camp gradually come into view and I hear people conversing. The captain urges his horse forth and enters through a side entrance. I nudge my horse with my legs and catch up to him.
The captain explained to me on the way, that this is behind the front, a bit more than ten li away from the battle formations, and is the campsite for military logistics. The security is tight but nowhere as tight as the front where the soldiers sleep with their weapons as their pillows. Dressed in travel attire, I hide myself with the wind cloak and sneak my way in with the marshal’s personal guards.
We dismount and the captain draws back a tent flap. The soldiers and Eidolons spread out behind us, still eyeing each other warily. Wordlessly, I try to enter but the captain bars my way with his arm. “No weapons allowed inside.”
I chuckle, not showing surprise, and pull out the small dagger from my waist before passing it to him.
I’m already in their camp, what is the point of keeping it. I mean, if he really wanted to take my life, a measly dagger wouldn’t be enough to stop him.
The tent turns out to be quite big, one made of cowhide and held up by nine poles, but the interior is actually very simple. There are only chairs, a desk and an army-style rug on the ground. The captain comes in behind me. “Make yourself comfortable, please, while I notify His Highness.”
I only smile, not wanting to speak, and he backs out of the tent. After seeing the flap lowered, I take off my cloak, take a seat and pour myself some tea. I hold it between my hands that have gone numb from the night chill.
He and I exchanged letters several times during the day and finally agreed on meeting in secret at night to discuss the issues at hand. Being in the enemy’s territory comes with its risks. I made Pei Yuan shut the palace gates and forbade anyone from entering or exiting. Additionally, I entrusted a secret decree to Liu An, if I do not return due to unforeseen circumstances, then the capital will be handed over to Heng Ziyu, including the throne.
He has been after it for so long. So as long he is willing to be responsible for all of the people of Great Rui and give them a good life, I will give it to him. Born a commoner, he should be able to empathise with the people more than I could.
I let out a soft sigh with my lips against the rim of the blue-and-white china. I close my eyes as the tea cools with every passing moment.
Since when does he take so long? If he wants to talk then just get it over with. It’s unlike him to waste time like this.
I hear the quick thuds of boots from outside the tent and the next thing I know the shoes have stepped in. Startled, I look up—and before my eyes are those midnight, enigmatic eyes. Our eyes look right into each others, like two swords clashing, like dancing lightning bolts.
I can barely feel my own heartbeat. No emotions come to me.
Murong Yu is standing right in front of me, wearing a dark battle robe. With the light shining from the wrong angle, I can’t distinguish his expression right now. The wind pushes in and lifts his clothes into the air, making him look all the more isolated.
In this moment, no language is necessary. Betrayal, deceit, country and warfare all lie before us. I don’t want to explain. Whether he believes me or blames me, I still have my dignity and cannot let him look down upon me.
After quite a long period of silence, I hear my own voice saying calmly, “Why don’t You take a seat, Your Highness. You do not need me to act as the host in Your own place, do You?”
His lips are tightly pressed in a dangerously thin line but then dance upwards a tiny bit. “Of course not. Please forgive this inadequate host, Your Majesty.”
As he says this he sits down. I drop my gaze, away from that cold smile, and flash a smile of my own.
A simple utterance of ‘Your Highness’ and ‘Your Majesty’ has erected an invisible wall between us.
“I am delightfully surprised that Your Majesty would come to such a place,” he remarks coolly. “How courageous of You to come here in the middle of the night while our two countries are at war.”
I take a sip of tea. “I should set the example at a time of peril for my country.”
His face is still dead and undecipherable. “You certainly have become quite noble.”
“I could say the same,” I comment after a moment’s hesitation.
The candles dance wildly in the wind and our shadows stretch out onto the ground, engaging in a battle of their own.
I lower the cup. “I have come not for chitchat but for matters of importance.” I shift to face him with raised brows. “I believe You have heard of the changes in Yongjing.”
His shoulders jerk as he scoffs. “I am very impressed that You have caught wind of something happening a thousand miles away. However, I think You know much more than I do of its possible consequences.”
I hum a reply. “What action are You going to take?”
He turns his head away along with his gaze. “I might be wrong but could it be that this is all thanks to You, Your Majesty?”
I sigh, overlooking the sarcasm in his words. “It is normal for You to think this way. However, I have my reasons, too.”
Unexpectedly, he shoots up from his seat and takes several steps forward while letting out a few short laughs. “Just tell me what it is that You have planned.”
My heart squeezes together as I stare at him, twinging sorely.
At the end of the day, it was I who betrayed him.
The warmth he gave me, the affection he showed me, was more than anything that I had received before I met him. Stubbornly, I left him without considering his feelings and when we met at the frontlines, I just had to be his enemy and become allies with his arch nemesis, forcing him into the spot he is in today.
I snap my head away to not think about it.
I owe him something I can never finish repaying in this lifetime.
A massive pang of guilt and regret hits me. My throat itches and my eyes moisten. His tall figure is standing in the shadows, clearly close enough to touch, but there seems to be an abyss between us. For a second there, I’d rather he turn around and get mad at me, argue with me, draw his sword out or even end my life. It would be better than showing me this lonely, pitiful picture of his backside.
He coughs quietly, his back convulsing each time, and each sound tugs my heart. “You have come all the way here, why don’t You be straightforward.”
My vision turns blurry and my eyes feel tender, but I grit my teeth and force back the tears. After my emotions die down, I say, “Our armies have been battling for many days but continuing to do so brings no benefits for either of us. Surely, Your Highness wishes to inherit the dynasty. With the current agitation in Yongjing and His Majesty, the Emperor of Yan, in dire conditions, if You were to insist on a trivial victory over Great Rui, You may very well lose the opportunity. Once the mistake is made, You may never make a comeback again.” I pause for a moment. “Also, it will not be difficult if You decide to finish what You have started here after ascension. Great Rui lacks in military prowess and will not have the ability to resist Great Yan’s attacks even if we receive a temporary break. I need not say more for You to comprehend the pros and cons of this matter.”
He whisks around with his eyes shining brightly despite being shrouded by shadows.
I force myself to not look at his face as I continue, “Your Highness is a talented man with a noble goal and will definitely accomplish great deeds. As a display of my sincerity, I am willing to hand over the seven hundred li of land north of Rope Hill Creek on a silver platter on the day of Your ascension without You having to sacrifice a single soldier. Secondly, I am willing to make annual offerings of money, rice, tea, silk and more. Thirdly,” I falter, “I am willing to form familial bonds between our countries by marrying a royal princess to Great Yan.”
My chest starts to sting for some reason as I say this. It’s a pain beyond anything I have ever felt.
That’s right. These proposals are typical for any request for peace. But, somehow, my emotions are going wild. Is it misery, or is it self-pity, or…?
He pulls a thin smile that covers his true expression, masking it all under that disguise of his, but his tone is freezing cold. “You said all that just so I will retreat and you can extend out Rui’s final minutes.”
Before he finishes, he shoots forth in large strides and grabs my collar without waiting for my reaction. After I see his furious face, the energy leaks out of me.
“You bastard! Fucking bastard! You wanna bargain with me? Fine. But how dare you provoke me with something like that?!”
Murong Yu is quivering slightly and I can see the veins on his face pulsing. The candlelight falls into his eyes, appearing scarlet and unstable. His face is mere inches away from mine and I can almost feel his hot breaths, but the murderous intent of the battlefield hits my face along with it, heightening my senses.
I drop my head to hide my face while trying to hold in my painful emotion.
“I just knew it was you.” He glares at me with a crooked smile. “You said you were going to run wild to the farthest corners of this world yet you chose the highest spot in the palace.”
There is ridicule in his voice but what I feel is hurt.
I want to scream at him, that this wasn’t what I wanted, that this wasn’t my choice and that I had no way out at the time!
But I swallow those words back down before they roll off my tongue.
I want to retort but I cannot. I’m the one with the crown on his head and the regalia on his shoulders. His accusations are not without truth. I did indeed betray my initial wishes, his love for me and his trust in me. I have the blood of the emperor in me; my parents were once the peer of the realm. The result of all that: I cannot abandon my country even in death.
In mere moments, my heart seems to wilt and freeze over.
This is the first time since ascension that I’ve felt such despair.
“The scouts I sent to the capital to look for you who never returned; the description of the emperor that the delegate gave me; Yuwen Yuan’s suspicions; I had already felt a little uneasy but I didn’t want to believe it…until I went to the frontlines myself and heard your voice from all the way over there. Do you know how I felt?”
His words stab through my ears and into my chest, peeling away all my scabs, leaving me bleeding and scurrying to find cover. I’ve been running for too long, hiding for too long, and now that this moment has caught up to me and exposed my wounds to the relentless sun.
“In that moment, I just wanted to drag you down from the walls and give you a good whipping! And see if you dare forget your place again!”
My heart clenches again and it burns as if I’m really getting whipped.
I have nothing to say to him and I don’t know how to face him so I do the only thing I can and close my eyes.
“Open your eyes and look at me!” he barks.
He pinches my chin hard but I shake my head furiously. I don’t want to open them. I don’t care if it’s running away.
Murong Yu, I don’t know how to face you.
He releases my collar then grabs my wrist and slips an arm around my waist. The next moment I’m being yanked towards him. I don’t want to be near him in my current mood so I thrash around trying to push and dislodge him.
“Let go of me, you asshole!”
“Han Xin!” he roars my name, making me come to a full stop. His grip tightens around my wrist so hard my bones seem to be cracking.
“I told you to let go! You hear me? Get away from me!”
I scream at him as I try to rip his hands away. “My name is not Han Xin. And you can’t call me by my name!”
“Nothing good ever comes out from that mouth of yours so why don’t we do something more productive with it?”
He leans in and catches me off guard. Shadows block out my vision and immediately after I am sucked in by a scorching, irresistible whirlpool. He pries open my lips and grinds his burning lips into my mouth like an all-out invasion, forceful and direct without a hint of hesitance.
I struggle with all my might to escape his cage-like arms that are keeping me locked within its embrace. I twist my head around with great difficulty trying to evade him but he keeps pushing forward, forcing my mouth open. His tongue slips in and gets tangled with mine, continuously stirring and licking. I’m not able to move and almost all my oxygen is being sucked away by him, making it hard for me to stay standing. Being held by him makes me shudder and my heart pound. It hurts so much, the dull pain coming from deep within me.
This kiss nearly suffocates me.
He still doesn’t want to let go of me, only parting momentarily for some air before diving back in to intertwine with me. My anger builds up and I chomp down with my teeth. The salty, sweet flavour of blood fills my mouth. He stops for a second and then catches me with his lips again, constraining my efforts to hide from him.
Not able to take it anymore, I swing a punch at him.
My fist lands on target, catching him unawares and making a muffled thud. He bends over and wobbles but still does not let go of me. I bite down again and more iron gush into my mouth. Finally, he releases me. His eyes are stormy and distinct trails of blood hang from his lips.
The next thing I know, his fist comes flying at me.
The two of us tumble to the floor, wrestling across the carpet, using fists, knees, whatever we can use without any mercy or logic, as though the other person is the archenemy. I’m hit in the abdomen and bend over in pain. Murong Yu takes the opportunity to leap forth and lies on top of me while trying to hold down my hands. I angle my knee towards his stomach. He grimaces and topples over, collapsing on me.
I stop. He stops, too. We are both breathing roughly, body against body, faces extremely close to one another.
“I’m saying this one last time, Murong Yu. Get your fucking hands off of me!”
His eyes sparkle slyly. “I’d be stupid to let a free meal pass by!”
“That’s because you’re the one who asked me to come!” I growl.
He sniggers. “So you just did what I told you to? Come to think of it, you sent me the letter first!” Then he shouts at me, “Still gonna deny that you’re offering yourself to me?”
Raging with fury, I swing my palm out.
Slap! He doesn’t hide and stares me down at me instead with his burning gaze. I’m surprised because I didn’t think he would not dodge it.
Red fingerprints start showing on his face and a smile plays about his lips.
Footsteps stop outside the tent. It’s the captain’s voice. “Is everything all right, Your Highness?”
I freeze while he looks down at me with an ambiguous smile. “Say, what should I tell him?”
I pant, not knowing what to say. He adds steadily, “I’ll let him in. I won’t mind if you don’t mind.”
Fucking jerk. I glare at him. With me beneath him, I’m going to be the one who is humiliated.
The captain asks again. Murong Yu slowly nibbles on my ear, licking lightly while whispering, “He’s my personal guard. He’s gonna barge in if I don’t answer.”
I shudder. “Then tell him to go away.”
Satisfied, he laughs and mutters in my ear, “I’ll get him to go away…if you kiss me.”
The captain asks a third time. Murong looks at the door then at me, perking his lips nonchalantly at me. I glance at the door worriedly and with no other choice, I lean forward, hug his neck and plant a delicate kiss on his face.
“I am fine. Return to your post.”
There is no more noise from the other side of the door. I release his neck and let out a deep breath. “Okay. We’re done fighting so let me up. Let’s get back to business.”
He doesn’t budge or remove himself from me. I shoot him a dirty look and then push him. “Where were we? Mhm. Oh right. Forming familial bonds between our countries by marrying a royal princess to Great Yan.”
I have just sat up straight when he shoves me back to the ground and pins me there. I’m not sure what he’s trying to do and don’t want to make a commotion, so all I can do is glare at him with all my efforts. I can kind of spot the seething anger on his face as he leans in until he’s only mere inches away. He replies as he kisses the corners of my lips, “A marriage alliance? Sure. Let me take the emperor’s hand in marriage. Don’t forget the dowry. I’d be very happy.”
My cheeks immediately flush with fire. I turn my head away, hissing, “You’re insane.” I add rudely, “Marrying the emperor? You’re not worthy, Murong Yu.”
He falters but bursts out laughing. “So what you mean is you’ll be willing to marry me when I’m emperor?”
Marry you, my ass!
I keep glaring at him as I elbow his arm away and sit up. “Come on, let’s talk business. I didn’t come to fight and bicker with you.”
He frowns and very quickly fixes his hand on my waist while yanking off the belt around it. The next moment, his hand has sneaked past my collar and with a small pull, the clothing all fall loose to my waist. Before I can react, he presses himself down on me again.
He laughs and then proceeds to undo his own battle robe. His arms reach out from the loose sleeves and nail my hands above my head. Both of our clothes are already loose and saggy because of the fight. His brows wrinkle and he yanks on my collar hard, tearing my clothes off.
His lips slide down along the inside of my arm to my shoulder, then my chest, and then out of nowhere he bites down hard on it. An acute pain shoots up and I can’t help but arch back my head and breathe in sharply. After the pain goes away, I notice that I’m completely topless.
Murong Yu’s eyes are dark with muted traces of lust. He snuggles into the dip between my neck and shoulder, lightly gnawing and licking me with a gentle smile.
“Xin, did you miss me all this time we’ve been apart?” he says in such a tender voice.
I shudder and pant harder. My vision quickly fogs up.
I did. How could I not?
Countless times I awoke from the nightmares, gasping for air and sweating all over. Only when I retreated into a ball in the gloomy, empty palace, closed my eyes and did my best to recall that warm, strong embrace from that night once upon a time could I fall back asleep.
He draws near and seals my lips with a slow, gentle kiss while one of his hands reaches down and starts to unfasten my pants. I yelp in alarm, “No!”
His hand doesn’t stop. I try everything I can to break free. He stops his work to open my legs and I take this chance to escape. However, he lunges for me like a hungry tiger, pressing on my stomach to get me back on the ground. He takes this chance to manoeuvre between my legs and wedge himself in there. My legs cannot close now.
We both have been aroused unconsciously by the wrestling earlier, our naked parts rubbing and pressing against one another, and our rough breaths. I pant for air as I feel his hands undoing my pants and touching the inside of my thighs. I’ve been abstinent for so long, there is no way I could resist this kind of temptation. To my own dismay, I’m starting to get hotter and hotter.
“I said…let go…”
“You know, I’m not scared of ripping your pants right? I’m being considerate here. How are you gonna go back with ripped pants? I’m not going to lend you any.”
I stiffen in an instant and stare in bewilderment. He smirks deviously, obviously delighted.
I’m sure someone like him would do as he says.
He shifts to one side to bite my earlobe, and then moves down my neck. “You don’t want that right? Then tell me, how many consorts did you take in and how many women did you sleep with since you became emperor?”
I answer with great difficulty while he caresses me all over, “Sleep…your ass. I have enough…to do in the day…I’d be lucky if…those old farts…let me have…some peace and quiet.”
He keeps a straight face but I spot the undisguisable contentment in his eyes. “Really? Emperors should have a whole harem and you’re telling me that you’re clean? I don’t buy that."
I just want to scream profanities at him but I’m afraid of someone hearing us. He’s kissing my cheeks as his hands start to work faster down there. My breathing hastens but the sensations become stronger.
Before I know it, he has fully undressed me, leaving my thighs completely exposed to the slightly chilly air. His hand quickly follows suit and the heat from his palm stimulates my naked skin, a feeling of powerlessness snaking around my legs. He breathes harder and harder and plasters his chest against mine. “You want it?” he asks in my ears.
I feel like all of my blood has gone to my face. I claw at the carpet beneath me, wishing I could just slap him right across the face. I grit my teeth and spit, “You pervert!”
He stops but then starts laughing. “I remember you slept with this pervert twice though. Why didn’t you call me that back then?”
What can I say to that? A big fat jerk! That’s what he is! How come I’ve never noticed before that he’s this much of a jerk?
But before I can throw these insults at him, he holds down my waist and the next thing I know a brute force penetrates me, bringing along with it acute pain, threatening to tear me apart from the bottom up. I yell out in pain, cling onto his shoulders and bite down.
“Does it hurt?” He watches my reaction. He only rocks his hips forward a little and I’m sweating from the pain.
“No shit. I haven’t done it for so long.” I just want to take another bite out of him.
I feel as though I’m being forced open from the inside out. It’s painful and numbing; I can’t really differentiate. He seals his lips on mine and touches me all over, slowly nibbling my neck and shoulder while caressing my stomach.
I try to pull as much air in as I can and force myself to relax. I roll my hips a bit and he gasps, thrusting again, which racks me with pain again. I want to break free from his control but I feel him becoming dangerously large inside of me.
His expression is one of self-restraint, not much better off than me, but he still kisses me all over with patience, stroking my member faster and faster.
Then, after who knows how long, he starts to move tentatively. A burning sensation spreads from my groins, to my abdomen, as if to light me on fire. The repeated impact makes me straddle the line of consciousness and unconsciousness.
I arch upwards without thinking, trying to get closer to him. I really want to moan but I can only bite my own hand and hold it in with all I’ve got. Amidst the movement, I notice him frowning. Then he rams into me, making me feel tingly and also hot. My body arches up and the moans escape my lips.
Even in my current state, I remember that there are people outside. I close my mouth and bite down on my hand. He stops and dislodges my hand. “Why’re you doing that?”
Annoyance flashes in his eyes and his movements become bigger. My body quivers at the violent impact of pleasure. I let my head fall back from the overwhelming feeling and hang onto him with all my life as if I’m a fallen leaf in a storm, only by clinging onto him will I not lose myself.
“You fucker…can’t you…go slower?”
“You…think it’s easy…for me? I haven’t…for so long.”
He kisses me with fierce passion and continues his attack as though to merge me into him, or break me into little pieces and stick me on him.
The sound of our nude bodies rubbing against each other, our pants and our moans fill the air. I can’t tell which are made by me and which are made by Murong Yu.
I just feel the scorching heat of our bodies fitting together and I take every one of his powerful thrusts. Every part of me feels fulfilled. We move faster and faster, and the place that connects us is so sensitive that the pain of taking him has disappeared. What is left is just the tingly, numbing pleasure rushing through my veins.
I’m on the verge of fainting as a wave of dizzying pleasure swallows me.
These two below belong to the collection of BAW china in the National Palace Museum in Taipei. The right shows a flat flask on a stand and the left shows a plate.
This below is a vase with shanshui painting on its body and calligraphy around its neck.
I do not know terribly a lot about the production process but I believe a certain chemical is used to paint on the porcelain before firing and afterwards the heat makes the chemicals appear blue, giving it its distinct blue-and-white colour.
ayszhang: >u< finally~~~ some good old man on man action with more to come next chapter OvOb
Cold Sands - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.