Proofreaders: Art_emis, gwen, krabbykabbi, kyinskies, Luzo, Pau, Red
Cold Sands ch 41 & epilogue
Everything is blurry as the alcohol kicks in. The candlelight becomes a reddish haze.
He throws me onto some soft blankets laid on top of a thick rug. I sink into them very quickly and Murong Yu piles on top of me while his hands work on undressing me. I bite down trying to hold in my moans as I glare at him—he had obviously planned all of this, the feast, the dancers, the exquisite wine, the woods and finally this small tent.
His lips are tightly pursed, appearing a bit frustrated. My clothes are getting more tangled the more he tries and after a moment of thought, he pulls on both side to outright rip it apart.
“No!” I yelp. “What do you want me to wear if you rip it?!”
He leans in. “No one told you to wear so much. You’re just asking for it!”
My clothes are ripped as we trade retorts. The outer robe, the inner layers and then the pants are all yanked off and cast aside. I shiver from the direct contact with cold air. He presses himself on me, kissing my lips roughly like an angry storm. Our naked bodies stick to each other. His knee wedges itself in between my legs out of nowhere and rubs against my groin sometimes lightly and sometimes hard.
“Murong Yu, you’re just like a sick pervert.”
He laughs, a husky sound emitting from his throat. “Not ‘like’. I am.”
“Xin, I just wanna tear you apart and eat you up, not leaving a morsel behind. I’ll hide you in my heart, bury you in my stomach and after you spoil and dissolve, you’ll be with me forever. I really want to…haha. What say you?”
He holds me tight in his strong arms and it’s as if I’m getting squished into pieces by them. I lean back without even knowing as his lips ravage mine and breathing becomes an extremely difficult task. He follows me, looming over me like a mountain. I circle my arms around his neck and do my best to keep my head up and withstand his tongue kiss.
A kiss, a deep one, a kiss that suffocates us, burning away all rationale and bringing only a storm of insanity and lust. Our tongues dance and our lips play together. Our tongue tips hook onto one another and gyrate in each other’s mouth, unwilling to let go.
I can’t lie to myself. My body thirsts for his loving, for his everything.
I struggle to open my eyes against the tide-like lust. Murong Yu’s eyes seem to be shrouded by a thin translucent layer of mist and in its depth is a tinge of sorrow mixed with hints of madness that not even the overwhelming lust can hide.
A pang of anguish hits me, stopping even my kiss.
He and I both know what this rendezvous tonight means.
His hand reaches down, pressing my body onto his. A violent shudder runs through me when I feel that hard, burning thing against my stomach. I look up into his eyes and all I can see is lust and desire.
Before I can react, his member heads straight for me, entering painstakingly.
He’s moving slower than ever before as if to purposefully extend our lovemaking. The pain makes beads of sweat form on my head and shivers run through me. It’s entering almost a fraction at a time and it’s larger and hotter than usual.
I can’t help but let out a hoarse weeping sound. It hurts. It hurts so much. He’s entering me without any foreplay or caressing. I feel a burning sensation in my groins as if I’m being torn apart.
The pain is a dose of medicine that even brings joy in this moment.
Perhaps because the pain in the heart will lessen if the body is in pain?
I hold onto his arms, digging my nails into his skin. He’s buried inside me and starts rocking his hips without a pause. I clench my jaw to keep myself from making too much noise. I feel sweat forming on my forehead and dripping down.
I will take whatever he has to give me right now. I am no longer the emperor. I’m just a young man who cannot control himself in the face of his own lust and desire.
It doesn’t matter how much it hurts. It’s fine as long as I’m with him.
He starts putting more power into his movement. He holds down my hands and uses his agile tongue to play with my chest. Unable to bear it, I pant nonstop and moan as I rise and fall along with him. Satisfied, he smirks and plants kisses on my face, my neck and my chest, and everywhere he goes he lights a fire.
Every time he reaches the innermost spot within me, my body arches up on its own from the dizzying pleasure. That spot continues to get stimulated and the insane pleasure brings spasms that feel like I’m dying and then coming back to life. I can’t help but cry, “Ple…please…go slower…ah!”
“I don’t care, Xin. I just wanna make you mine.”
As his member is moving in and out of me, my moans become louder and quicker. Murong Yu suddenly presses himself on me as though he’s mad and starts to kiss, no, gnaw on my neck.
I grit my teeth, trying to withstand his attack that sends a grinding pain out from deep within, but once my mouth opens what comes out in stutters is, “Harder, Yu…I want you…more…”
He latches onto my earlobe and his scorching breaths hit my ear. “Don’t you worry, I’m gonna screw you so hard that your knees buckle.”
He says as he aims for that one sensitive spot, igniting a rush of euphoria and making me shudder all over. I cling onto him and bite down on his shoulder.
He grunts as he pushes his groins down. I try my best to spread my legs as though inviting him to go in deeper even if it means more pain for me.
I want him. I can’t even help myself.
He hasn’t relaxed for a single moment as if all of his desires that have been pent up are being released now. I rub myself against his waist, moaning through my clenched teeth, feeling agony but also tenderness.
I think tears are rolling out of my eyes. I can’t help but sob with my face in his chest and listen to his quick heartbeat.
The next moment will be the end of the road.
He knows that this is the last time. That’s why he’s so reckless, right?
This impulse and insanity can be forgiven, right?
The body on top of me is flexible and hot with the temperature of flames. Even the drops of sweat are broiling hot, searing my consciousness when they drip onto me. Our mouths become glued together once again, sucking with the lips, playing with the tongue and biting with the teeth. Soon, I taste rust.
The blood mixes into the tangle. I’m not sure if it’s mine or his.
The ecstasy of being consumed by fire is also the ultimate pain.
In this moment, there is no state, there is no land, and there is no war. There are only tender lips, entangled bodies and complete intimacy.
We’re so close that we’ve melted into one, as if we were born this way.
I haven’t made love to such an extent for a long time. The strength seeps out of me after the release and I fall limply onto the rug. Everything in my vision is hazy. Even Murong Yu’s complexion is unusually blurry.
Our eyes meet and neither of us bears to leave.
We are able to have this night tonight but perhaps we’ll be on separate ends of this world tomorrow.
The tears are about to escape their confines. He pulls a bitter smile and licks away my brimming tears. “What’re you crying for? Is it because I was so good that you can’t handle it?”
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry some more so I just scold him, “You bastard. Asshole!”
“You just never say what I wanna hear.” He hasn’t pulled out yet and rocks his hips spitefully. I gasp for air as a burning pain spreads through me.
He studies me quietly. Our faces are so close that our breaths merge and our lips are almost touching.
In that instant, the anguish comes crashing down and buries me.
I start to pound on his broad shoulders. “Why did I have to meet you, Murong Yu? Nothing good’s ever happened to me since I met you. I either get beat up by you or topped by you–”
The rim of his eyes turn red and his lips clip together. He seals his lips on mine and stuffs all my complaints back into my mouth.
My mind goes blank. The tears finally break through the dam. I use all my strength to hug him as if I was drowning and clinging onto the only piece of wood.
“As if anything good has ever happened to me after meeting you. I fall in love with this punk for some goddamn reason and then this punk goes and turns into the emperor of the other country.”
I stay nested in his embrace as I cry quietly, clinging onto his shoulders feebly.
“If only… If I died before meeting you, it wouldn’t hurt this bad now.”
He immediately tightens his arms around me without a sound.
“You think I have it easy?” He closes his eyes and sighs. The sorrow in his voice is painfully obvious. “If I hadn’t let you go and made you stay by my side, or sent you back to Yongjing,” he pauses, “it wouldn’t be like this now.”
“Then you’d legitimately be mine and I wouldn’t have to be sneaky just to see you and sleep with you.”
He ducks down and plants a kiss on my forehead before heaving a deep sigh. I take the time to wipe the tears away. I hold him with all my might, not wanting to be apart from him even a fraction of an inch.
Our eyes connect and even time seems to fade into oblivion in this moment. No one says anything to upset the beauty of this moment.
“Yu,” I whisper in a cracked voice, “I love you.”
He cracks a smile of sorrow and touches his chin to my forehead. Our fingers interlock. “I love you, too.”
I struggle to lift myself up and kiss away the tears peeking past the rims of his eyes. They are salty and bitter. I rub my lips together before kissing his lips. There are the remnants of my own tears and the bitterness of it.
And it reaches my heart.
Our mouths are filled with the essence of one another. We gasp for air as the points of connection seem to reach the melting point. I suck up his scent greedily like I can never get enough.
The fires of lust seem to have burned his vocal chords, making his voice even huskier. “Let’s go again, and again and again.”
I don’t know how much time has passed. I don’t know how many positions we’ve been in or how many times he’s taken me. Every part of me, inside and out, has lain wide open for him to see as my body is twisted into all sorts of humiliating positions. But even so, our lovemaking does not show any sign of ending, rather it’s getting more and more intense.
My groin hurts so much that it’s numb. The pleasure is burning strong like a forest fire on a dry summer day. I don’t know how many times I’ve reached the climax; I just know that I’m on the edge of insanity.
Our bodies join and threaten to melt together in the blaze, never to part again, never to be on different ends of the world.
“Ah… Ah! Yu…”
“Uh, uhn…bear with me…”
I want his touch. I want his kiss. I want to be intimate with him. I want to be right next to him, closely, very closely, entangled with him. I want to be devoured by him so that we have nothing separating us. I want to be with him for the rest of my life so no drama, no misunderstandings and no trouble will be between us.
Under wave after wave of pleasure, I can’t think of anything else or stand firm on anything else. Who cares about the state or the land? Who cares about status? Who cares about the social norm? Who cares about war and retribution? They can just… They can all just go to hell.
I blink open my eyes to find myself lying on my stomach on the rug with a soft wool blanket on me. He’s lying beside me with his arm around my shoulders, deep in sleep.
He’s just sleeping there. Those brows that usually look strong and the lips that are usually pressed tightly together are more relaxed now. For some reason, I reach out, wanting to touch his brows but his eyes snap open. Shocked, my hand falls on his neck. He flips over and pushes me under him.
Ripples of desire are apparent in his eyes. I ask quietly, “You can’t be thinking of going again.”
He chuckles, “Why not?”
Only the sound of our breathing can be heard in the tent. I hug his neck and stay motionless. A while later, he reaches out and pushes away the loose strands of hair that are wet from sweat.
“Why so reckless?” Even though I know his answer, I still want to ask.
He doesn’t look at me but instead at the top of the tent. “Why ask when we both know the answer to that?”
I feel my throat clenching together before he even finishes.
The affair between two emperors, no matter how dear it is to us, can never be recognized.
The darkest of nights are the only times that we can meet.
He doesn’t speak and just regards the ceiling. Only after a long, very long time, does he turn to me with something wet in his eyes.
“Honestly, Murong Yu, if you knew it’d be like this today, would you have done what you did? Not killing me, saving me and even letting me go?”
In the silence, I catch the tears glistening in his eyes.
I touch his face with shaking hands but he grabs it.
“What about you? If you knew it’d be like this today, would you have saved me and promised me to help me get the throne?”
I laugh, tasting the bitter tang that seems to spread from my heart to my mouth. Finally, I reply steadily, “I would.”
He caresses my cheek. “As would I.”
If time were to turn back on itself and let us return to the moment we first met, let us have another chance to choose, I would still take the throne and he would still lay siege to my city without a doubt.
Our present was chosen by us. We can’t blame anyone else.
I observe the face mere inches away from my own. His eyes, his hair, his lips; I love every part of him.
He plants a kiss on my lips, a light one, a shivering one, one that lingers on my lips, bringing an overwhelming despair.
This love has always been doomed. Yet, knowing that it’s perpetual doom, that it’s infinite destruction, the moths still throw themselves into the fire until they meet their very deaths.
If only we could have met in some other way.
He lowers his head, closing his eyes, and touches his nose with mine. His hand gently massages my neck and he says in a wavering voice. “You’d lose consciousness in an instant if I struck right here.”
I stop dead in my tracks. I don’t understand why he said what he said. He goes on casually with a mysterious glint in his gaze. “If I do that, taking you away amidst the dark of night shouldn’t be too hard.”
I shudder and even my breath seems to have stopped. I watch him with disbelief. He kisses my lips again, whispering, “Do you believe me, Xin?”
I feel the chills. “You…”
He laughs and takes me into his arms. “I could do it. It all depends on whether I want to or not.”
I hold my silence for a bit before sliding my hand away from his neck. “You wouldn’t initiate another war. You’re not that kind of person.”
He lets out a long sigh. “There once was an emperor in Yan who unleashed his wrath for a beauty and destroyed two smaller kingdoms for her. When I read this part when I was young, I burst out laughing, but when I think about it now, he got what he wanted by doing that. He was a happier man than me.”
I pull a bitter smile. “What do you want me to do after you take me away? You’re the emperor and I can only be the…” The word concubinus reaches the tip of my tongue but I stuff it back down. “You really think I’d just let you do what you want with me? And how would I face Xiao–”
His eyes flash dangerously and he covers my mouth. “Don’t even try mentioning that little girl right now.” My vision has gone fuzzy. I clench my jaw and rest my head on his chest. For a while, no one says a thing and the quietude is almost eerie. The warmth coming from him envelops me, so soothingly and so tenderly.
I think to myself a little bitterly: having an empress and consorts, bearing and raising children to continue the royal lineage, these are things neither of us can escape from.
Murong Yu’s hand wanders up to my neck and picks up the white nephrite. He observes it for a while before cracking a grin. “Very good, you still have it on you.” I smooch his hand and open my mouth to say something when a thought pops up in my head.
“Let go of me first. I need to look for something,” I instruct quietly.
I push his arm away without answering and just as I try to move, a dull pain creeps up my waist and even my knees are shaking when I lift my legs. I shoot a dirty look at the culprit and struggle as I crawl out, spread the lump of clothes out and start searching.
“What is it you’re looking for?” He props his head up and looks over. “Just wait ‘til daybreak if it’s nothing urgent.”
Slowly, I crawl back into his embrace and he yanks the blanket over to completely cocoon us. I hug his neck. “Don’t move,” I say as I hang the jade twin panlong around his neck and carefully tie a knot.
He looks down and appears puzzled for a split second before realisation hits. “This is the one from before?”
“Even if we…” My eyes start watering as I look at him. “It’ll be nice to have something…” I take his fingers and place it by my lips before snuggling into his embrace and hiding my face. He regards me with a thoughtful gaze and takes me into his arms silently.
“It’s already the middle of the night. If they can’t find me…”
The tips of his fingers brush across my forehead and then he pats my lower back. “Don’t worry about that stuff. This night belongs to us.”
Wordlessly, I nod and intertwine my fingers with his.
This love of ours is just a sinful love that can never be told to the world.
Daybreak means separation; it means farewell for all of eternity.
But at least in this moment, we have each other completely to ourselves. No more misunderstandings. No more guessing.
He holds me tight as if he’s afraid that he’ll lose me once he lets go. I kiss his cheeks and he purses his lips before sealing our lips together. He enters shakily, and softly and slowly, his aura surrounds me once again.
In that reassuringly warm embrace, I fall into a light slumber. I have another dream. In the dream, my hand is being tightly held by someone’s tender hands and the warmth exudes into my very being.
I don’t want to move again or open my eyes. I just want to fall asleep and never wake up.
Eventually, the sky lights up. After some sleep, I feel much more energized. The two of us hoist ourselves up, shake out the clumps of fabric and start to put them on the appropriate body. I spot a ring of small teeth marks on his shoulder that is a purplish-blue hue when I’m helping him dress.
Murong Yu turns to me with a half-smile. “It’s your masterpiece from last night. There’s more.” Then he undoes his undershirt and in that moment, I feel all my blood boiling and gushing to my cheeks.
The olive-coloured skin on his shoulders is littered with half-ovals of teeth marks and below those are numerous deep, bloody marks. My cheeks burn furiously and I can’t bring myself to keep looking so I hurriedly pull his shirt back and dress him in a rush. He chortles as he teases me, “So you’re afraid of this?”
As if his gaze could scorch me, my face along with the rest of my body seems to be ablaze. Embarrassed, I avoid his hand and slip on my outer robe. He hugs me from behind and places his cheek against mine.
“My Xin is so pretty when he’s shy,” he remarks in a tender tone.
“How inappropriate.” Not knowing how to cover up my alarm, I blurt out a random reply.
“Oh my missus, why are you blushing now?” He gazes at me with a smirk. “You’re looking prettier by the second from my loving last night.”
He just has to bring up what I do not want to hear. Hearing that makes me furious because my lower half is still aching and I have to try very hard to not be obvious when I walk.
He brushes his lips against my neck. “Do you like it, Xin?”
The anguish that had just gone down is rising up again. It’s good. It’s wonderful. I’ll take it even if what he gives me is incredible pain.
“Looking like that…it’d be strange not to fall for you…” he mumbles as he kisses me. “If those eyes of that Duke of Huai Nan were hands, you’d be stark naked on the bed underneath him.”
I shudder as my stomach clenches tight. I feel all my blood rushing to the crown of my head but my back feels chillingly cold. He seems to have sensed my stiffness as he straightens himself before turning me around by the shoulder to face him.
He wipes the joking expression off of his face. “Xin, will you betray me if we never see each other again?”
My mouth opens but nothing comes out. I just shake my head.
He squeezes my shoulders. The pain digs deep into my flesh. “You say you love me, Xin, but how much do you really?”
I feel a pang of agony in my heart. I cover the back of his hand and press it tight against the left side of my chest. I smile tenderly at him but the tears won’t stop rolling down my face. “As much as this world is large, as much as nature is beautiful; for the rest of my life, there will only be one in Han Xin’s heart.”
He stares at me, a bit dumbfounded, and tears seem to shine in his eyes. The next thing I know, I’ve been pulled into his arms. His arms constrain me by the waist so that I stick tightly to him.
“I searched for more than twenty years for someone who can share my feelings, who can support me and understand me, and vice versa, but right when I’ve found him, I have to lose him the next second.”
A tiny warm thing hits my forehead. It’s his tear.
“Why must the Heavens be like this? If we were going to be apart forever, I’d rather that we never met.”
I sob in silence as the tears keep flowing.
“I don’t care if you’re Han Xin or Lin Xin. You must remember that you’re mine. Always and forever.”
I nod furiously, getting his shirt wet with tears.
“May we meet again in the next life and never be apart.”
I take his hand and look into his eyes with tears in mine. “And may we join hands in this life and regard the beauty of this land.”
Our foreheads touch. Our breaths join as one. Our tears flow in silence.
Our lips brush together lightly, mixing each other’s auras in one, not for lust but for the intimacy of lovers.
After a long, long time, both of us let go at the same time and back away.
I clutch at my chest and crack a smile at him as something seems to be ripped away from the innermost crevice of my heart. The pain is so much that I can’t make a single sound.
Every step I take towards the entrance feels like I’m stepping over blades; the pain suffocates me.
Then I hear his voice from behind, each syllable making me tremble. “…”
The next line… The next line should be “Let us join hands and leave for aye” but he didn’t say it.
Murong Yu, are you blaming me, or are you begging or are you merely lamenting?
If I hadn’t known you then, you never met me and we never joined hands, we wouldn’t have to bear the torture of not being able to be together, right?
But I don’t want that. If this was meant to be, even if I had known that it would be like this, I would still want to meet you and get to know you, even if what lies ahead is unpredictable and we end up on different ends of the world.
Murong Yu, even though our farewell is imminent, I, Han Xin, from my heart to my body, will be yours totally.
I love you, Murong Yu, and I will never betray that, with the heaven and the earth as witness and the sun and the moon as proof.
I’ve made orders to pack the equipment and supplies in anticipation of decamping and returning to the capital. Everybody has been busy moving all sorts of things with a look of excitement.
I’m sitting quietly outside of my tent. The cool breeze blows past, lifting my wide sleeves.
Picking up the xiao, I play the Cries of Soaring Swan Geese once again. The crisp notes of the xiao levitate above the plains like emotional wails.
I’m playing it for him and I trust that he would understand.
Heng Ziyu is standing ten zhang away, looking in this direction. I look down and pretend I don’t see.
I’m not sure if he saw my secret rendezvous with Murong Yu. It’d be best if he didn’t but it wouldn’t matter if he did.
The rulers of Great Rui and Great Yan, I and Murong Yu—officially or personally, he has no right to speak of our affairs. If he wants fame and position, I’ll make him a ; if he wants the company of beauties, I’ll give him the most beautiful of them all. I can summon Heng Zixiang into the palace as a consort and bestow upon her glory and love. His family can reach incredible heights and have major success.
This is all I can give you, Heng Ziyu.
But I will never be able to give you what you truly desire. I even have to pretend to not hear, pretend to not see and pretend to not know.
Like I said, ‘as much as this world is large, as much as nature is beautiful; for the rest of my life, there will only be one in Han Xin’s heart.’
Everything has gone according to plan and everyone has been working like bees. Soon, the day of decamping comes.
The morning wind sweeps over the bare grasslands while the early sun illuminates the earth. The long grasses sway unenthusiastically while the eagle flags of Yan and the war flags of Great Rui flap loudly in the wind.
The thousands of men and horses face each other across a stretch of land. Camp fires burn bright in the empty lot in front of me. The flames jump continuously and the heated air rises, blurring the object behind it.
On the black horse across from me is Murong Yu clad in a black cape embroidered with gold. On the plate on his chest is the head of howling wolf carved in relief. He’s looking straight at me with clipped lips and a collected expression.
I jerk my head back and face the sky. A lone swan goose glides past on the far side of the horizon as it lets out a cry. My lips dance upwards in a light smile.
Deep, patterned steps of metal hooves approach me and four heavy cavalrymen shouts, “A farewell for His Majesty!”
Murong Yu spurs his horse over and stops before the fire. As I urge my ride over slowly, I catch a glimpse of a pair of anxious eyes; it’s Heng Ziyu.
He and I watch each other on either side of the flames.
“I came to see you off.”
“Well, you really didn’t need to.”
I flash a smile as my grip tightens around the reins. Meanwhile, he stares at me fixedly.
Murong Yu’s hand suddenly flies up and a Yan guard walks up holding a tray with two bowls of clear wine. Within the rippling surface are our reflections. Afterwards, another person leads a white horse over and slices its neck, letting the blood drain into the wine.
He picks up a bowl and holds it up to me. I instantly know what he wants to do and I take it from him. His cool fingers faintly brush against mine. I pause as the rites master reads out his passage and I raise the bowl up. I flick a few drops out, up in respect of the Heavens and down in worship of the Earth. After, I tilt my head back and drink it all down.
“If you want, you may leave now.” He regards me as he says in a steady voice.
I shake my head. “I still have something.”
As I speak, I draw out Ding Guang from my waist. His soldiers immediately unsheathe their arms and several thousand arrows point at me from every direction. The light dancing off of the metal is enough to blind me.
The army falls quiet when Murong Yu raises his hand. “What are you doing?”
I take a deep breath and announce loudly, “Every battle, regardless whose victory it was, leaves behind mountains upon mountains of bones. Today, for the lives of the realm, for the peoples of the land, I shall form an alliance with Your Majesty with my own blood to provide the people with peace and safety!”
I press my right hand against the blade and it cuts open my skin, covering my hand with blood.
A spark ignites in his eyes like a droplet disturbing the peace of a secluded lagoon and raising ripples, and chases away the cold.
For a long time there is only the whistling wind.
Murong Yu pulls a smile as he takes out his own sword and slices open his palm in the same manner.
He spurs his steed closer while staring at me and the next thing I know, he’s grabbed my hand.
Pain spreads from my palm. Our ten fingers entangle with one another and curiously, the wound seems to burn. Our blood mixes together. The red liquid flows out from the spaces between our hands, dripping onto the field, and is quickly absorbed into the soil.
His expression is nonchalant but a sliver of longing flashes in his eyes. “It is said that once an emperor’s blood enters the earth, drought will plague the world.”
I look down for a second before smiling again. “Then may our blood bring peace to the world!”
He hooks onto my fingers tightly, pressing our palms together. His shoulder quivers slightly.
“Hear mine prayers, the Heavens above! I swear on the blood of two. So long as I live, no soldier of Yan shall invade Great Rui. Were I to break this promise, may I die under a rain of arrows and fall into the pits of Avīci, never to reincarnate.”
I, too, cling onto his hand and draw closer to him. “Hear mine prayers, the Earth below! I swear on the blood of two. So long as I live, I shall never set foot upon the land of Yan. My tribute to Yan shall never decrease until the day I die.”
We look into each other’s eyes and speak as one, “With blood I form a pledge with him today to share happiness and sorrow. Never shall I forsake this. Hear mine true heart, the Gods high and low!”
His gaze penetrates through my eyes like a roaring fire, illuminating everything.
The warmth seeping through my palm seems to be the only temperature I have. My body starts to shake. I just want to burrow into his embrace and never ever leave.
I grit my teeth to stop the stinging in the tip of my nose and force back the tears. How could I possibly lose my composure and how could I possibly depend on him and let myself go so recklessly? Everything and anything was my choice. I have to face the consequences of their results, no matter good or bad.
Our fingertips unintentionally brush together as I pull my hand back and the icy touch makes me shudder. I jerk on the reins to turn the horse around while looking into his eyes.
Murong Yu’s mouth slightly hangs open and his bloody hand falters in midair before dropping down. He just gazes at me as if he had a million things to say but no way to say them.
I crack a bitter smile as I feel all my strength being siphoned away, as though I’m going to fall off the horse.
His eyes are burning with tenderness, intense and enigmatic with a bit of melancholy. Our eyes connect and it’s as if his can hold within it my entire life’s worth of joy and sadness.
Time is like water, Murong Yu. Meeting each other in this world of too much war, too much chaos, was our misfortune, yet the single fortunate thing is that we met each other.
We have never betrayed each other and no matter the challenges or obstacles, we will always be faithful to each other.
It’s just that we have to pay the price for it; to be intimate but never close, to be in love but never together.
I bring my right fist into my left hand. I say to him brightly, with a smile despite the unbearable agony. “Goodbye and take care!”
He closes his eyes and slowly a smile surfaces on his face that exemplifies solitude and sorrow.
“Then I wish Your Majesty a safe journey!”
The deep bellow of a horn sounds as the war flags start moving. The soldiers beside me step forth and separate us. The horn roars again, its notes charging into the azure. The Great Rui cavalry moves out slowly, heading southward on their way home.
I hold in the tears, pressing my lips together, and do not look back.
The wind sweeps over the plains, filling the skies with sand.
I squeeze my right hand. The wound on my palm is hurting more and more. The pain seems to go straight to my heart, leaving a scar that will never ever heal.
I place my hand on top of the jade pendant inside my shirt. It almost feels as though it is on fire, burning into my heart.
This time there will be thousands of li between us, so much so that even the winds will have difficulty traversing. I wonder how long it will be before we meet again.
You want to be a heroic ruler who dominates the land; I want to salvage this establishment of my ancestors’.
Destiny is cruel, bringing us within inches of each other and then pulling us apart to different ends of the world.
But there is hope as long as we’re alive.
Let us wait, and wait some more, for that day when we can meet again.
For some reason, I catch the sound of someone singing in the howling wind. It is originally a folk song from the Yan and Rui borders, a song of a young woman longing for her enlisted lover. It is supposed to be a gentle tune but now the melody has power and energy, breaking through the boundless skies, grand and wistful.
“The Heaven and Earth feel my sorrows, they sing for me; my sorrows have no end, ‘tis more than I can bear. But how could I forget you, far as you may be? I think you the same, longing for me as I do you. When we shall meet again I do not know and I cry for this may be our last; return I shall if I am to live and if I am to die I shall think of you for aye.”
In the latter half of September in the First Year of Yan Xing, the emperor returned to the capital and announced the treaty signed with Yan.
The Yan cavalry retreated three hundred li to the opposite side of the Ye River. Five thousand soldiers were stationed on the north shore and a protectorate general was erected.
The two countries, Yan and Rui, made the pledge of upholding the border and not initiating warfare.
What was most surprising was the fact that the two rulers both instituted the border area to be a land for many peoples, moving the large amount of Yan herdsmen who had lost their herd in the war south to the Ye River and the Rui farmers who had lost their farmland and gardens in the war north to the fertile lands, instructing them on farming and how to open up wasteland, constructing cities, inducing commercial growth and allowing the different peoples to intermarry. The northern lands that had once been barren due to warfare gradually began to flourish and change for the better.
The ruler’s sword can divide the land and bring upon it endless pandemonium but it cannot separate the common blood that flows through the peoples of the North. The same, sharp sword can also provide a world of peace for the tens of thousands of struggling civilians.
In the years of Yan Xing, one of the most popular stories that was told in the tea houses and bars was the Blood Pledge of the Two Emperors at Rope Hill Creek. The storyteller would pull exaggerated faces and speak dramatically as though through his movements the audience could witness the thousands of Blood Mounts charging to their graves, the two armies clashing at sword’s point, the two emperors wielding their majestic swords and making a lifelong pledge with their blood.
The children also enjoyed the epic tale. They liked to listen to the two emperors, tall on their horses, looking at each other without a word and swearing to never meet again. One of them turns his steed around with determination and leaves behind him a cloud of dust.
However, this pledge is rather insignificant in the historical records left to the world. The historians were extremely displeased with the cowardly actions of their emperor and with their brushes, easily eluded the pledge that altered the fate of ten million people and the lands of the North. It is noted as such in the History of Rui: The Basic Annals of Emperor Rui An: “The twenty-first day of the Ninth Month in the First Year of Yan Xing, He formed a pact with the Emperor of Yan before the two armies. He ceded four hundred li of grassland. The Emperor of Yan agreed, withdrew his sword and left northward. Since then, the land north of the river, Ye, has belonged to Yan.”
In the Fifth Month of the Second Year of Yan Xing, the emperor married, bestowing upon the daughter of Shen, a family of academics, the title of Empress; upon the daughter of Gu, a family of nobility in the capital, the title of Consort Shu, for Benignity; and upon the younger sister, Heng, of the Duke of Huai Nan the title of Consort De, for Virtue. Furthermore, the emperor made a special decree against all voices of dissuasion to take the capital’s famous courtesan, Wang, as Consort Yuan, for First.
The romanticism of the emperor became a fairy-tale in the training schools and bordellos. Meanwhile, the Confucian disciples, utterly disgusted and bitter towards this, called the emperor unrestrained and immoral for allowing a lowly woman into the palace as a proper one, taking charge of the inner palace and disrupting order.
In the Sixth Month of the Second Year of Tian De, the Emperor of Yan announced a decree naming the daughter of Xiao, the Duchess of Zhaopeng, the empress, and selecting daughters from each of the four noble families of Yan, Yuwen, Tuoba, Dugu and Helou, and bestowing titles upon them in order to populate the inner palace.
The marriage of the Emperor of Yan was made public and many tribes and smaller kingdoms rushed to Yongjing to present their wedding gifts. When the emperor heard, he was silent in contemplation. After some time, he took out a top quality xiao from the Treasure Chamber and handed it to the Ministry of Rites’ diplomat who was headed for Yan. He instructed solemnly, “You must personally deliver this to the hands of Empress Xiao and say, ‘I thank her very much.’”
The diplomat took the instrument and left anxiously.
The emperor stood at Tai Qing Palace, regarding the north in silence. In the end, all that was heard was a faint, nearly inaudible sigh.
dairytea: We've made it to the end~~~ ; A ; Wait, but there's more! Next release will be the extras~
Cold Sands - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.