They were camped near the top of the ridge in a meadow, just below the forest line. Niu had said he wanted to be high up whenever he could be. He was standing there looking out over the thousands of cook fires and tents spread across the meadow when Shun, carrying the supplies for both of them, managed to trudge up the hillside from the road below.
“I wonder which one he is in?” Niu said to no one in particular.
“Who?” Shun murmured as he prepared to set up their encampment.
“The king. The King of Wu. Jili. He must be down there somewhere.”
Shun clucked his lips. He’d heard this a thousand times on their journey from Nantung, first to the Wu capital of Gusu, only to learn that the king was on the march into the neighboring kingdom to the north, Chu, to redress some grievance of his own—or of his own devising. He was known to be fierce for war—not necessarily to acquire land and booty but just because he enjoyed making war and wanted to keep his army on a fine edge of preparedness.
Since they had left Nantung in the middle of the night just ahead of the Duke of Shi’s avenging guard, however, Niu had had the obsession to join with Jili and to swear allegiance to him. The servant Shun had the impression that he wanted to do so because the king and the duke were sworn enemies. Niu had been taken into the service of the duke from the Nantung nanleshijia—male pleasure house—that they had both been employed in. But Niu had returned soon thereafter, pledging enmity for the duke for some indignity he would not name and with the duke’s soldiers in hot pursuit.
Niu now was seeking out the King of Wu, and, nonsensically, Shun thought, assumed that he could audience with the king directly. He apparently believed that all he would need do was meet directly with the king and a collaboration would be struck.
Shun half believed that this could be done. Niu was an arresting man, handsome and tall and muscular, and with a bearing that commanded attention in any gathering he was in. He was a trained warrior too, which had cachet of its own at the court of the King of Wu. The servant equally acknowledged that part of why he saw Niu standing high above the rest was that Shun himself was smitten by the beautiful giant. But he had not been the only one to be so, and thus Shun thought his judgment was sound.
Niu, who had been the nanleshijia’s baoan, or protector of the house, had been sold from the pleasure house precisely because of the effect he had on the jinan—the male prostitutes—in the house. The Cut Sleeve Nanleshijia was famous for being able to supply the most beautiful and nubile—and trained—virgins for the first bite of the peach for any man who could afford it. Niu, who was supposed to protect the virtue of the jinan in preparation, however, was prone to want to take this first bite himself. The premier virgin of the house, Xiu, was only barely saved from this fate on the night Niu had fled the service of the Duke of Shi, with the duke’s warriors in hot pursuit.
Niu probably only made it out of Nantung with his skin because Shun, a servant of the house, had shown him a secret route—and had accompanied him and served his needs along the long road from Nantung to, first, Gusu, and then into the territory of Chu.
Shun, who pined for Niu, hadn’t been allowed to serve all of Niu’s needs, though. As the two folded into the lines of men following the army of Jili to join his service and seek their own fortunes and adventures, young, bright-eyed, and naïve young men increasingly became available. Of these, Niu had picked off the more handsome and innocent of the offerings and thus was quickly adding to his tally of bitten peaches—virgin males deflowered. He had bitten Shun’s peach, as well, but had shown little sexual interest in the servant who worshipped him since.
As they grew closer to the vanguard of the army, the crowds of men grew. Even in this throng, though, Niu stood out. Men naturally gravitated to him as a leader. And this night, when Niu and Shun had finally attained the central encampment of the King of Wu, down in the meadow, this phenomenon was repeated.
Niu hadn’t asked for a retinue, and when the two, at Niu’s instruction, had struck out up the hillside for a camping spot rather than down in the meadow, others had followed him. As Niu stood there enjoying the view of a thousand campfires flaring up in the darkening dusk and Shun finished laying out their blankets and started making a campfire, the men started to gather about them.
While Shun was setting the wood for the fire, he felt a tentative touch on his arm and looked up.
“May I help you with that?” The young soldier was shy and hesitant in his speech.
“I can manage,” Shun said, returning the small smile the young man gave him.
“It would help for me to have something to do.”
“You are afraid of the coming battles and wish something else to think of?” Shun asked. Then, when he saw that his thought had struck home and had caused embarrassment, he quickly Gaziosmanpaşa Escort added, “We are all afraid of that. Even the ones who boast of battle are afraid and are hiding their fright. Yes, of course, you may help. What is your name?”
“Where do you come from, Rong?” The two were working together, stacking the wood so that it would catch fire quicker but last longer. The young soldier was more adept at this than Shun was, which made Shun think he probably was used to these primitive conditions.
“I live three days’ walk from Gusu,” Rong answered. “My village is very small . . . and poor.”
“And you’ve joined with the army to make your fortune?”
“More because there wasn’t enough food for me to stay in the village. If I had not left, my parents would starve. There was not enough for three. Having a son serving in the king’s army brings honor—and increased food—to my parents. I possibly die so that my family can survive.”
It had been said with sadness, but with acceptance. Looking closely at the young man, Shun could see that he wasn’t asking for sympathy, only understanding of the condition that affected so many in the kingdom.
But Shun also saw that Rong was looking beyond him, at the figure of Niu, standing on the hillside, striking a majestic pose, and looking out over the encampment below. And what he saw in Rong’s eyes was admiration—and longing—a longing not less than Shun himself had for Niu.
“You came up here to camp because of him, didn’t you?”
“Yes. Isn’t he magnificent? You are with him, aren’t you? Do you serve him?”
“Not as I wish,” Shun answered sadly. “But I can tell you that you need to be very careful with Niu.” He took a long look at the youth. He was thin, but well muscled as any young man who engaged in hard work in a small village was. His face was strikingly handsome. Not quite as handsome as the young men of Nantung, of course, but their beauty was legendary. This young man had a gentleness about him and a smile that was engaging.
“Niu is a man’s man, Rong. Do not look his way with longing if you do not know what that means.”
“I . . . I don’t understand,” Rong said. And this told Shun what he suspected—and he felt an instant protectiveness for Rong.
“Niu lays with men, Rong. And he prefers men who have never lain with men before. And he is not constant; it is all for just his enjoyment. Do you understand what I am saying, Rong?”
“Yes, I think so. You are with him? Did he lay with you too? And was he your first?”
“Yes to both,” Shun said, remembering, first, where Shun negotiated Niu’s biting of his peach for information about another youth that Niu wanted and then the harrowing trip up Langshan—Wolf Hill—in Nantung, where Niu was trying to get to a conquest who he had been pursuing for months before the monks of the Dragon Temple had ruined the young man. When he failed, he had taken out his anger and despair on Shun instead. But Shun had reveled in that—his second lying with the magnificent man. Alas, since then there had not been another. Niu’s sights were set much higher than the servant who clung to him in eternal hope.
Shun was unable to go on because Rong’s attention now had refocused to farther down on the hillside, and when Shun looked there, his own line of thought was arrested.
Two soldiers, in the livery of the king’s guard and mounted on war horses, were picking their way up the hillside to where the band of men had gathered around Niu to camp. They pulled up in front of Niu, said a few words to him, and then rode to the fringes of the camp and dismounted. The two unsaddled their horses and tied the reins off on trees at the fringe of the forest in a high stand of grass, where the horses could feed. They brought the saddles to near the fire and then sat at the fire and roasted a plucked and gutted fowl one of them had taken from a sack on his saddle. They spoke with the soldiers around them, but only sparingly.
Word made its way around the camp that they were pickets set out on the fringe of the greater encampment to warn of possible attack. The forces of the King of Chu were assumed to be not far away, and the Chu monarch was known for his dishonesty and cleverness. Battles were supposed to be conducted according to formal, long-held rules and on set battlefields. But the King of Chu didn’t always remember or heed this, according to the rumors.
Niu sat with the two imperial guards and chatted as wine was found and passed around. Shun melted into the shadows and watched, knowing what was likely to happen, but not having the power to do anything about it.
Rong was the one passing the wine. When he passed by Niu, who was leaning against the saddle of one of the guard’s horses, Niu reach up and grabbed his arm and dragged Rong down beside him.
“Come rest a while, my fresh little peach,” Niu declared with a jovial voice. “You have served the wine long enough. You are a perfect little peach. You are Gaziosmanpaşa Escort Bayan a peach, are you not?”
“Yes, sire, if you wish me to be,” Rong answered in confusion, but he could not hide the admiration and looking in his eyes for Niu, who now was encircling him with one arm and patting him on the arms and breast with the other.
Shun’s heart leapt in his chest. He wondered if Rong even knew that a peach was a ripe, unpenetrated young man. Rong, perhaps unknowingly, had just sealed his fate. Even without the wine he had drunk, Niu could not resist taking the first bite of a peach.
But, with the wine, Niu lost all inhibitions he might have had in the center of a group of skittish and randy soldiers, most of whom had not had a good fuck for days or weeks.
The young Rong didn’t have a chance. When Niu, holding him close with one arm, moved a hand under his tunic and grabbed his thigh and then started working the hand up his leg, Rong strongly suspected what was happening. He could not have escaped then if he had wanted to. But he was conflicted, not knowing if he wanted to, smitten that Niu was showing him attention.
When Niu pulled his tunic over his head and ripped away his loin cloth, though, Rong knew for sure. Here his fear of the unknown and his anticipation swirled together, causing him to cry out in surprise and fear and to grunt and moan, as Niu’s lips and teeth found his pert little nipples and Niu’s hand grasped Rong’s yang chu—his cock.
Shun looked on in horror and concern and disgust as the soldiers who were titillated by such taking—which was most of them—gathered around and egged Niu on with boisterous words and more than one hand getting such groping feel as they could themselves of the young Rong’s virginal body.
The imperial guard who had been sitting beside Niu cupped Rong’s buttocks, remarking on how nicely rounded they were, rolled them apart, and began to finger Rong’s tight little hole, while another young soldier parted Niu’s traveling tunic and took Niu’s yang chu—his pert, small member—in his mouth.
To cheers from the gathered men, Niu, naked, his magnificent yang chu hard and curved upward for all to see, did pushups, his toes digging into the dirt of the hillside and the heel of his hands grinding into the grass on either side of Rong’s shoulders, as Rong lay under him, his heaving belly on the inner curve of the saddle and his rounded little butt cheeks pointed to the heavens and split in two by Niu’s pumping yang chu. Rong was grasping Niu’s wrists in a white-knuckled ineffectiveness and initially writhed under Niu and cried out for mercy, a mercy that did not come. The young man struggled without effect and cried out and moaned deeply as the thrusting Niu took a massive bite of the peach.
One of the imperial guardsmen quieted Rong by kneeling under Rong’s bobbing head, taking his own hard yang chu in his hand, and giving Rong’s face something to bob on. Niu’s stamina in the fuck eventually made Rong’s body go limp and completely accepting, reduced to low groans and whimpers.
The gathered men had cast bets upon which stroke Niu would give up his seed inside the bitten peach, with Niu winning if none guessed correctly. Such was Niu’s skill and stamina in the stroking that they all lost, their highest number having been reached well before Niu was finished. Thus, Niu became a much richer man that night.
So impressive was his performance that, when he had finished biting the peach and had drunk another flagon of wine, he accepted the begging of other men to go with him and mined many another hole that night. But before Niu would pick his next conquest, his deep voice could be heard ringing out. “Who here, who else here is a peach? Who wants me to tease out and pop his pit?”
Hearing the erstwhile friends of a young lad answering that call on the young man’s behalf, Niu took another swig of the wine and lurched off toward his new conquest.
Rong was pulled up from the saddle by four men, each to a limb, and was carried off to the forest and shared out by the four.
It was here, hours later, that, having waited for the camp to quiet down for the night, Shun sought and found Rong, lying on his back in a fern bed, whimpering and moaning quietly.
Shun had brought salves with him and knelt beside Rong’s body and began to rub the salve on the youth’s bruised flesh.
“Have you come to have me too?” Rong murmured. He opened his legs and raised them up, heels dug in the damp earth, resigned to the next in a succession of men in the night.
“No, Rong. I do not take other men. I’m sorry. I tried to warn you about Niu. You could have hidden rather than serving the wine.”
“Do you think he will have me again?” Rong asked.
Shun looked down into the youth’s face. He saw that he was still smitten with Niu—if anything, more smitten now, having been possessed by the magnificent yang chu of Niu’s. He started to say something, but then he locked his Escort Gaziosmanpaşa jaw. Who was he to say anything? Didn’t he beg for Niu to take him again? Didn’t he still seek to ride the shaft again?
“I don’t think so, Rong. Not unless you had a palace to give him or could regain what you had before tonight. His ardor is for biting the peach.”
“But he could, couldn’t he? He could lay with me again? He lays with you, doesn’t he?”
“That’s what I tried to tell you before, Rong—before the imperial guards arrived. No, he has not lain with me again—not after that first two times—and both times because he was in a state, wanting something he could not have and covering me for solace when he wasn’t in his right mind. I serve his every need but that one, and he hardly knows I am here. Perhaps if you were a king and could offer him a palace. Or if your name was Xiu. I have only seen him look on one person with love that is more than a carnal desire to be first. Xiu is a jinan in preparation in the Nantung . . .”
But Shun looked down at Rong and saw that he needed no explanation. The young soldier, more worldly wise now than when the sun rose that morning, was already mercifully fast asleep. Shun lay down beside the young soldier and hugged him tight to keep him warm through the reminder of the night.
If only he were a man who penetrated other men.
* * * *
Shun was awake at dawn, finding himself alone in the fern bed. He rose and walked out of the forest and into a camp of muttering, hung-over soldiers stumbling here and there and making ready to be on the move again. Rong was there too, moving around with his head cast down, not speaking to anyone, but being very industrious.
Shun wondered what he should say to Rong about the previous night, but when the young soldier looked up, his face pointed to Shun, Shun could see that Rong wanted to act like the previous night hadn’t happened at all—that Rong wanted to act as if he didn’t even recognize who Shun was.
Rong obviously wanted the previous night not to have happened—other then the lying under Niu. Shun could see from the way the other soldiers looked at Rong, however, and used any excuse to touch him and whisper to him that Rong was now marked for sport. Each night as the sun went down in the camp, he would be carried off and covered by men—more than one. He had now attained a function in the camp of tense men obsessed with near-term pleasures in the face of the dangers of battle. If he was to survive the camp, not to mention the battlefield, Rong would have to adjust to his new role in the scheme of things.
Perhaps it was for the best that he not befriend Rong further, Shun thought, and he went off to find Niu.
But he didn’t find Niu, and when he asked if anyone knew where he was, he was told that Niu had left before dawn with the two imperial guards. Gathering up Niu’s and his possessions and strapping the bundle to his back, Shun gave a little sigh and started to work his way down the hillside, bound for the encampment in the meadow. At least Niu is so tall, he thought, that he will be easy to pick out among the crowds down here.
At that moment, Niu was down in a tent in the meadow, nearly in the center of encampment, where the tents were larger and of the best quality.
He had been bathed and given a new, silk hanfu—robe—and was standing nearly at attention between the two imperial guards he had met on the hillside the previous day. In the morning Niu had found out that the guards weren’t on the hillside to be sentries; they had been sent there especially to seek Niu out in the interest of someone much higher in the rankings of the army.
“Come closer,” said a refined voice from across the room.
Pressed by the guards, Niu took three steps closer to the canopied bed with the damask drapes. A bejeweled hand reached out beyond the foot of the canopied bed.
“Take your robe off.”
With the help of the two guards, Niu drew his hanfu over his head. He was standing there in all of his magnificence.
“Yes, he is pleasing. You have scavenged well. You may go now.” The bejeweled hand beckoned the guards away. “Come. Come into the bed.”
Niu climbed into the bed on his knees, finding himself kneeling between the spread legs of the King of Wu, who had untied his sash and spread his hanfu off of his naked body.
At a signal from the king, attendants closed the damask drapes around the bed as Niu moved closer in to the king’s body and the king lifted his ankles to Niu’s shoulders.
For the next hour all that those inside the tent but outside the enclosed bed could hear were the cries and moans of the king and the grunts of Niu, although no one was there to tell them they could not enjoy watching the wave-like motion of the red lacquered bed with its fine silk drapes swaying.
The king lay on his back on his pillows, his hands tied to the headboard over his head with red silk roping, crying out, “Yes, yes, punish me,” as Niu knelt between his spread thighs and rhythmically pumped his cock in and out of the royal hole. Niu had a multithong leather whip with knotted ends in his hand and was switching it on the king’s heaving chest and flanks, listening for where the king was showing he had reached the thin edge between his pain and his pleasure. The king was in ecstasy.