by Take Henjyou (他日返静)
The scholar was on the top of the world.
The scholar was in the throes of despair.
The glad tidings was that he, a lowly orphan with little connections and less wealth, had somehow triumphed and emerged as the top scholar in the year’s District Examinations. It was a matter as unlikely as the oceans drying, or the mountains crumbling, and yet – and yet! It had happened! To him!
The despair he was in stemmed directly from his delight, for alas, the scholar was of severely limited means and had no way to take full advantage of this choice position to go on and try for the Imperial Examinations. The journey to the capital was long, and his pocket too lean.
He had been wandering the streets the past days, hoping to catch the eye of some rich pretty gentle lady who would kindly fund his trip to the capital; but rich pretty gentle ladies were thin on the ground this year, and there were none to be found despite his best efforts. The scholar cursed the facile tongues of story-tellers who constantly spoke of rich beauties willing to bankroll a poor handsome student’s journey to the Imperial Examinations in return for a Top Scholar husband, and himself, for believing them.
Glumly, the scholar began to contemplate the possibilities of – horror – actually working to earn his travel expenses. He leaned on the trunk of a flowering peach tree and his sighs caused little eddies of peach blossoms petals to fall on and around him.
Just one more hour, thought the scholar grimly beneath his pensive mien. If the combination of his fine figure, framed by the loveliness of the flowering peach tree does not attract at least one rich pretty lass, he was giving up and returning to his village to be a letter-writer to little illiterate old ladies!
An hour passed.
The scholar was on the verge of giving up, when a deep voice sounded behind him.
‘Are you the scholar who topped this year’s District Examinations?’
The scholar brightened: perhaps it was the father of some rich pretty gentle shy lady! He turned slowly, making sure to give the speaker enough time to admire his fine profile. A flurry of petals fell at this most opportune moment, catching in his dark hair and grey and white robes. Oh, surely he was prime son-in-law material! The scholar smiled modestly, sloe-colored eyes crinkling a little, and replied demurely, ‘I would be that undeserving person, yes.’
Glancing up from beneath thick lashes, the scholar examined his future (potential?) father-in-law.
The speaker was a fine figure of a man, dressed in subdued silks. There was a sprinkling of grey in his hair, bound by a simple jade pin. His eyes were like those of an eagle, dark and bright and keen. He looked nothing like the scholar’s image of a kindly (if stupid) old man with too many daughters on his hand, and rather more like a predator of the highest order.
The scholar quailed a little, on the inside. Surely this was no happy father seeking a son-in-law!
The man smiled a little, and the expression tempered some of the edge of the eagle-sharp eyes. ‘I am a merchant of X___ and have heard much about your scholastic talents. It may be a little forward of me, but… would you be interested in a position as my son’s tutor?’
The scholar blinked, lashes batting like thick fans over bright eyes.
The merchant smiled and smiled and smiled.
A tutor… the scholar hesitated. Well, it was a far cry from his original intentions, but infinitely better than becoming a mere letter-writer. He re-examined the man – a merchant, he had said, and from the looks of things, a wealthy one. The scholar bit his lower lip. It was exceedingly unlikely that he would get a better offer… The scholar tilted his head aside and asked doubtfully, ‘Does the appointment come with full lodging and meals?’
The merchant’s eyes flashed with an unknown emotion. He replied suavely enough, in the best manner of the most crooked of merchants, ‘I have many rooms and an excellent cook, if you would accept. And, of course, I would pay twenty pieces of gold a year, for your services. A pittance, for a man of your standing,’ and he bowed slightly.
The scholar’s heart skipped a beat – he felt that the world had suddenly become brighter, more beautiful, and his heart infinitely lighter – and he said, primly despite his fast-beating heart, ‘I accept.’
And so it came to pass, that the scholar who topped the District Examinations became the merchant’s son’s tutor.
The merchant installed the scholar into his household easily enough. True to his word, his home was large and luxuriously appointed and judging by the dainty snacks served to them upon entrance, the cook’s talents were nothing to sneer at either. They waited in the merchant’s study, sipping tea and chatting idly as they waited for the scholar’s new student.
There was a light patter of steps, and then the door burst open.
An adorable boy, around eight or nine years of age, bound into the room. He was dressed to the nines in red and white embroidered silks, with a golden amulet around his neck and golden cord which tied his jet black hair back in a single knot. The boy came right up to the scholar, and held his hand in a most affectionate fashion, and asked, ‘Are you my new teacher?’
Charmed despite himself, the scholar smiled back and nodded.
The boy beamed, dimples appearing in the center of two rosy cheeks. ‘Excellent! Would you teach me the Classics? Will you sleep in my room? Oh! You wouldn’t beat me if I didn’t know my lessons, would you?’
The merchant and the scholar laughed at the sudden barrage of questions, and the merchant pulled his son towards him. ‘Give your teacher a chance to rest, at least!’ he scolded laughingly. The merchant then looked to the scholar. ‘Forgive my son. He has been spoiled beyond words,’ said the indulgent papa with no sense of embarrassment whatsoever.
The scholar demurred politely. The young master was obviously a paragon among boys, and would be a delight to teach. The merchant laughed, and clapped his hands. ‘We shall have a feast tonight, to celebrate our fortune in obtaining such an excellent teacher for the boy!’ he declared.
As it turned out, the merchant did have a good cook, and the feast that night was something to behold, with dish after sumptuous dish, and fine wines flowing like rivers. The boy had been dispatched to bed earlier, after the tenth hour, and the merchant and scholar lingered long at the table, feasting and drinking and laughing.
Unfortunately, the scholar had little head for the wines, which were fragrant, heady and strong. After a few rounds, he was soon pink-cheeked and giddy. ‘I say,’ he hiccupped a little. ‘It is a beautiful night! I shall, I shall recite you a poem! Yes, something to commemorate this occasion! Twenty pieces of gold!’ he laughed uproariously, tickled pink by his good fortune.
The merchant looked on with exceedingly good humor.
The scholar got up to his feet, and raised a tiny jade wine cup to the heavens.
‘The gracious moon above—’ he started, and swayed dangerously on his feet.
The merchant caught him around the waist adroitly, and pulled him to the safety of his lap.
‘Oh,’ said the scholar, blinking at his sudden change in position. ‘Do you not like the gracious moon?’ he asked. ‘If you like, I could compose a poem in your honor instead,’ he offered happily, linking his arms around the merchant’s neck. ‘Mm, let’s see,’ he nuzzled the merchant’s neck slightly.
‘White streaked mountain standing proud
With streams of jade and peaks of gold,
Causes admiration within my heart!’
The merchant laughed lowly. ‘So I am a mountain that you admire, eh?’
The scholar nodded, and was about to expound on the sublime meaning of his poem. Of course the merchant was worthy of admiration… He had jade pins! Twenty pieces of gold! Multiples of twenty pieces of gold! But before he could elaborate, the merchant had lifted him up and was already walking out of the room, and the scholar could only cling tightly to the merchant, for fear of falling.
By the time the merchant laid him in his bed, he was panting a little, although he had done nothing except be carried.
‘I’m hot,’ he complained, and plucked fretfully at his robes. ‘And you never said if you liked my poem!’
The merchant laughed again, ‘I did like your poem… and I admire you greatly too.’ He tugged at the ties of the scholar’s robes. ‘Are you feeling hot? Shall I help you cool down?’ he asked as gently as he could, although his eyes were heated as he regarded the scholar. The scholar nodded, and clung a little to his hand.
The merchant brushed the scholar’s hair back with his other hand, and his touch made the scholar shiver with some strange unknown feeling.
The merchant leaned over the scholar, very very close, his breath hot on the scholar’s face. He asked softly, ‘May I kiss you?’
And the scholar blushed and nodded very shyly.
The merchant’s lips descended onto soft skin, over and over, as soft as butterfly wings. Large calloused hands drew away cotton robes, baring pale skin waiting for kisses.
The scholar sighed, and murmured restlessly. ‘Shh,’ the merchant soothed, dropping kisses down his neck and chest. Hands followed where kisses went, the feel of rough skin caressing his body only inflamed him further.
And then a rough hand took his manhood, and the scholar shuddered and cried out. The merchant murmured, his breath tickling the scholar’s sensitized inner thighs, ‘Shall I kiss this too?’
The scholar moaned inchoately and the merchant correctly took it as assent.
He kissed the tip of the scholar’s erection and then down its shaft, and up again. The scholar thrashed at the onslaught of sensation enveloping him.
The merchant’s tongue danced over the warm trembling flesh, teasing it to greater heights of rigidity. He suckled it lightly, under the sensitive head, and licked it leisurely from tip to root.
The scholar could take no more. With a hoarse cry, he came, spilling his seed into the merchant’s mouth. The merchant swallowed the seed easily and held the scholar for a moment longer, breathing hard.
He too, was at his limit, and he wanted unbearably to take the scholar, right now.
The scholar’s legs were already spread apart as if in invitation, the very image of wantonness. The merchant rose from the bed and took a mouthful of plum wine from a flask amongst his discarded robes, and bent over again.
The scholar had barely recovered from his earlier release, and now nearly went insane again, at the sensation of tongue and lips and wine lapping at the most shameful of places. He bucked madly at the feeling, against the merchant’s hands, pinning him down. ‘No! Ah~!’ he cried, as he felt himself being stretched and flexing.
The warm supple tongue darted in, pressing and lapping at the heated passage, exploring each delicate crease and lapping them smooth. After an eternity, the merchant finally pulled himself up, and brushed a rough finger against the scholar’s lips.
‘May I enter?’ he asked, voice low and not a little uncontrolled.
The scholar writhed in his arms, bucking upwards, grinding his body against the merchant’s body. ‘Yes!’ he sobbed. ‘Yes! Yes!’
The merchant waited no longer at that urging. He pushed at the relaxed opening and entered slowly into the scholar’s warmth. He inched his way in, slowly, inexorably. The scholar shuddered at the slow invasion. He could feel himself stretching further, expanding to encompass the merchant’s length, could feel himself being filled.
‘Breath,’ ordered the merchant, as he covered the scholar’s body with his own. The scholar wrapped his arms around the merchant, and gasped for air, as the merchant moved – so slowly! – within him.
Passion reignited, burning from the center of his body and radiating outwards. The scholar whimpered and he clenched unconsciously in an effort to obtain more pleasure.
The merchant growled at that, but refused to be urged to a faster pace. He kept kissing the scholar, even as the lower half of his body grounded slowly in and out of the scholar’s inner passage.
And so the scholar was tormented, with that painfully slow building of pleasure and anticipation and longing, always just a finger span away from the ultimate fulfillment, and yet never quite achieving it. He clung to the merchant, begging, pleading, incoherent.
And finally, the merchant began to move faster, and harder, and within seconds, the scholar came, uncontrollably, and then swooned away in the merchant’s arms.
The scholar woke slowly the next morning. Strange, his body ached terribly, and – memory flooded back, and the scholar sat up with a jolt.
He fell back to bed in the next instant, groaning with pain, and the merchant, already up and half-dressed, leaned over him. ‘Do you still hurt?’ he asked solicitously.
The scholar blushed, and pulled a corner of the covers over his face. Dear gods, it was all coming back to him now. How last night, the merchant had… sucked his… And that thing with the plum wine…. Worse, he had asked him every step of the way, and he‘d replied… The scholar’s face burned harder, and he cried miserably, ‘Oh, go away!’
‘Nonsense,’ said the merchant. ‘If you are hurting, then we must see to it immediately!’ and he wrestled the covers from the scholar easily. The scholar glared futilely at the merchant, before burying his face into the pillow. ‘Do what you want!’ he gritted from between clenched teeth. ‘It is not as if you haven’t already… already….’ And he turned away from the merchant.
The merchant had barely begun to touch the scholar when the door suddenly opened with a bang. The merchant straightened frowning, and the scholar yelped and dove back under the covers.
It was the boy, seeking his errant teacher who had missed breakfast and the first morning’s lesson. He stopped short at the sight of his father, standing in his underclothes, in front of his teacher’s bed, mouth dropping opened in a perfect ‘O’. ‘What are you doing here?’ he asked, bewildered.
‘Your teacher is ill, and I’m looking after him,’ said the merchant calmly as he finished fastening his robe.
‘Really?’ asked the boy, wide-eyed. ‘I thought I heard a scream,’ the boy said worriedly, as he climbed onto the bed, and tried to pull the covers off the scholar. The scholar held on for dear life, for he was as bare as the day he was born under the covers, and would rather die than let his own student see him thus in such a disgraceful state!
Unable to evict the scholar out from under the covers, the boy settled for patting the scholar’s face. The scholar endured the boy’s less-than-tender administrations with ill grace.
‘He is very red,’ said the boy critically.
The scholar blushed harder.
‘Indeed,’ replied his papa serenely.
The boy stared at his father, and then back at the scholar, suspicion writ clear on his face. But in the end, he was defeated by the unchanging smile on the merchant’s face and the scholar’s blushing silence, and withdrew from the room with rather bad grace, stamping as he went.
‘If he doesn’t get better soon, I’m calling the doctor!’ he said loudly, before closing the door with a bang.
The merchant took two swift steps to the door, and barred it after his son. ‘Little devil,’ he scolded affectionately.
A pillow hit him in the chest. ‘You’re the devil,’ spluttered the scholar, still very red-faced. He emerged from under the covers, sitting up from the bed, a blanket draped loosely around his shoulders. His hair fell around him like a dark waterfall, and signs of last night’s passions were clearly visible on his neck and chest. ‘What did you do to me!’ he demanded angrily.
The merchant smiled lazily. ‘Have you forgotten so soon?’ he drawled. ‘Or would you rather I showed you again?’
The scholar threw his blanket at the merchant, for lack of better projectiles. On hindsight, this was possibly not the brightest thing he could have done at the time, for the merchant’s eyes brightened alarmingly, and he pounced on the scholar with the facility of a hunting hawk.
And so the merchant took the utmost greatest ‘care’ of the scholar, for most of the remaining morning, and the better half of the afternoon, until the scholar cried for mercy.
He sulked, pouting most adorably within the merchant’s arms after their exertions in bed. ‘You are going to take full responsibility for this!’ he said, poking the merchant in the stomach with a finger.
‘Mm,’ said the merchant, lazily. His arms tightened around the scholar in retaliation, until the scholar gave off the poking.
‘And I demand a raise, or at very least, hazard pay for bodily injuries!’ continued the scholar, unfazed, as he mentally calculated the amount he deserves – at the very least! – for the indignities suffered… Although he did rather enjoy the… thing at the end…
‘Little fool,’ smiled the merchant and he nuzzled the side of the scholar’s neck. ‘What’s mine is yours, and what’s yours is mine.’ And the merchant’s hands started to dip rather lower.
‘Really?!’ The scholar blinked and started wriggling rather frantically. ‘Wait, wait!’ he cried.
The merchant sighed and stopped what he was doing.
The scholar blushed and toyed with a lock of the merchant’s hair, refusing to look the older man in the eye. ‘It’s just that, well, you said… What’s mine is yours? But, ah, I don’t have much?‘ His voice became very small and soft.
The merchant tipped the scholar’s face up with a finger. ‘Give me you,’ he said, and pressed a kiss to the scholar’s lips.
‘Oh,’ said the scholar. ‘Oh~!’ and he blushed and flung his arms around the merchant and gave himself completely over to him.
The household quickly adapted to the new arrangement. Lazy mornings spent in bed recovering from the previous night’s activities, then the boy’s lessons with the scholar in the afternoon while the merchant attended to his business, and finally sweet passion between the merchant and the scholar late into the night.
It seemed as if it would never change, and indeed no one wished it to. Spring flowed into summer and autumn gave way to winter. The seasons passed in a blur, and the merchant, the scholar and the boy spent their days together most agreeably.
Until one year, there came a particularly harsh winter, filled with never-ending storms and vicious hail. The merchant, the scholar and the boy thought nothing of it, simply adding thicker fur-lined coats to their wardrobe, and spent short days and long nights in their warm rooms, drinking heated wine (and honeyed tea for the boy, who protested the unfairness) and hot cakes.
It was during one such storm that the messenger came, bedraggled and half frozen, bearing dire news of the merchant’s ventures in the southern seas. He was to go at once, if livelihoods for the coming spring were to be saved.
The scholar and the boy tried valiantly to dissuade the merchant. ‘The weather is too miserable right now!’ The scholar pulled at the merchant’s sleeve. ‘What matter if this one venture fails, you have a thousand other such ventures,’ pouted the boy, looking as if he would stamp his foot in a moment, such was his pique, although he was now far too old for such childish displays.
The merchant just shook his head. ‘I have partners,’ he said, as he pulled on kid-skin gloves and threw on his thick fur-lined cloak. ‘And a dozen more friends who are in this business with me who could ill afford its loss. Do not worry. All will be well.’ He kissed his son on the cheek, and his lover rather longer and left that very night with two of his most trusted stewards, amidst a raging snow storm.
For ten days, and ten nights, the scholar and the boy waited for the merchant’s return.
Finally, on the twenty-third day of their waiting, in a dreary, blustery winter’s afternoon, the merchant and the stewards stumbled frozen out of winter, and back into the warmth of their home.
The merchant’s state shocked everyone. It was as if the winter had sucked all the vitality out of the merchant. The vital merchant-prince of yore was no more. His hair was snowy-white, and there was a slackness around his face and little spirit in his eyes. The scholar cried as he tried to get the frozen gloves off the merchant’s hands, and the warmth of his tears falling onto the merchant’s hands caused the merchant to cry out in pain.
They hurried him back to his bed, along with a ceaseless flow of spiced wines and hot ginger tea; they piled furs and heated bricks onto his bed, and burnt sweet incense to draw out the ill humors from the merchant’s body.
But it was all to no avail.
The merchant took to his bed, with a fierce fever and chills that shook his body constantly.
They called in the best doctors in the country, but despite their best efforts, the merchant remained ill.
The boy started waking earlier every day, to go through the day’s business in his father’s stead. His lessons with the scholars were cancelled indefinitely, as the scholar busied himself with the merchant’s health, and the boy – now youth – took on the responsibilities of the household without complaint.
With the new responsibilities came growing maturity and the youth gradually achieved a gravitas so alien to the happy mischievous boy of the past that it was almost painful to watch.
In the meantime, the merchant began his long rocky path to recovery, under the scholar’s tender care. He was still very weak, and tired easily, but the deathly pallor that winter had cast on him had lightened, and he started to take a greater interest in the world around him.
The household gradually began to fall into a new rhythm. The youth would come in every morning, to accompany his father, or perhaps to seek his father’s opinion on a matter of business that had puzzled him the day before, and then depart for the day’s business.
The scholar would prepare the morning’s medicine for the merchant, and then they would sit together. Sometimes, the scholar would read to him, poetry, and old texts from the Ancients. Sometimes, if the merchant was feeling stronger, they would play a game of chess. Other times, the scholar would simply lie beside the merchant under a pale tiger-skin blanket, and talk of non-consequential matters, until the merchant fell asleep.
Evenings were the best times for the merchant, when he regained much of his old canniness and vitality. After the evening meal, the merchant would call his son to his room, and patiently impart to his son the most important aspects of business. How to look at a man, and judge his actions. The importance of keeping one’s word. The difference between boldness and being rash. Dependability. Faith. Trust.
They were lessons of an entirely different scope, and as the father taught the son, the scholar would sit quietly in the corner, keeping watch that the medication was brewed properly, and that the room remained warm. He kept healthful teas on hand, and brought in little snacks at regular intervals to tempt the invalid’s appetite.
So the days passed, and slowly, finally, the worst of the winter broke. The season turned, and the snow and ice receded, giving way to tender green buds on the branches, and the first flowering peach tree.
The merchant’s health grew better with the quickening of warmer weather. The scholar and the youth rejoiced, as the merchant seemed to regain his strength and vitality as quickly as the flowers blossomed.
It was one such spring morning, when the son was at his lessons with his father. The scholar went out to the gardens to pick a branch of flowering peach blossoms to place on the vase in the room for the merchant. The merchant had expressed wistfully his desire to go out to see the blooming garden the night before, but he was strictly forbidden to go out in the cold for fear he would suffer a relapse.
The scholar dallied in the garden, selecting the prettiest flowering branch he could find. It was a beautiful spring morning, and the scholar began planning an outing with the merchant, for when the days grow warmer.
He returned to the room with a lighter step, and pushed open the doors. The room was silent. The youth sat at his father’s bedside, head bowed.
‘Are you finished with your lessons? So soon?’ asked the scholar. ‘Look what I brought your father,’ He smiled as he brandished his spoils. A light spatter of dew littered the floor, and the scent of peach blossoms grew stronger in the dim room, temporarily dissipating the acrid bitter smell of medicinal herbs.
The youth looked up.
‘He’s dead,’ he said, eyes as lost as a child’s.
It was the longest night the scholar could remember.
The day went by quickly enough. The old dependable stewards from the merchant’s business and household had taken over. The mourning cloths had gone up, the funeral altar prepared, the monks and priests invited with all polite haste. The kitchen was preparing the funeral feast. The youth and the old housekeeper were tasked with cleaning the merchant’s body, dressing him in his funeral best, surrounded by all the usual funeral accruements, ready for the final journey into the underworld.
All around him, the household was quietly busy, readying itself for the serious business of death.
Someone had given the scholar the household mourning clothes, white on white on deepest, darkest blue. Not for him, the sackcloth robes. He was not family. Not for him, the night-long vigil, or the loud wailing, or tears.
The scholar sat alone on the bed he’d shared for the past six years. He felt strangely numb, as if suspended in ice.
The door opened then, and the youth walked in. The sackcloth robe rustled as he moved, and the scent of funeral incense rose and lingered in the room.
‘You should be at the hall,’ said the scholar quietly.
‘I was worried about you,’ replied the youth as he seated himself beside the scholar. The scent of incense grew stronger.
‘What will I do, now he is gone?’ asked the scholar in despair. ‘How do I go on?’
‘Live with me!’ exclaimed the youth, his eyes hot with emotion. He embraced the scholar fiercely. ‘Father may have gone, but we are still alive, you and I. We are still alive!’
The scholar submitted passively to the youth’s embrace. ‘I feel as if I should have died with him,’ he murmured against the youth’s shoulder.
A shudder ran though the youth’s thin frame. ‘No, no,’ he said feverishly. ‘I shall not allow it!’
Then he kissed him, full on the mouth, with a hunger that stunned the scholar senseless.
Over and over, the youth ravaged the scholar’s mouth, until they parted, breathless and panting. Before the scholar had the time to react, the youth had pushed him down onto the bed, and straddled him in a most un-boy like manner.
The scholar regained his wits then. ‘What? Why did you—? This is wrong!’ gasped the scholar, face burning.
The youth ignored him, his warm agile hands slipping beneath pale cotton robes to explore the exquisite body beneath. His fingers lingered over the pink responsive nubs on his chest, teasing them to stiff throbbing hardness.
The scholar moaned involuntarily at his touch. He had not done — it with the merchant for nearly three months now, and his body was hungry and eager for such sensations. His moans only served to inflame the youth even further, and he undressed him swiftly, stripping away layers of robes and underclothes to reveal the pale slender body.
‘So beautiful,’ said the youth hoarsely, and he stooped to press a kiss against his stomach.
‘No, no!’ the scholar cried, trying to push the youth away but his straining erection betrayed his own excitement.
The youth ignored him, and his kisses wandered lower. When his breath finally gusted on the tip the scholar’s erection, the scholar writhed and arched his back, like a drawn bow.
The youth laughed. ‘See, your body wants me,’ he said with the gleeful satisfaction that only the very young have, his earlier gravitas long abandoned. He parted the scholar’s legs eagerly, pressing them back up against his chest, so that all of him, every shameful licentious part, was in full view.
The scholar sobbed with shame and excitement, and bit the back of his hand.
The youth’s eyes grew large as they took in the incredible sight spread before him. Smooth white thighs, the eager upright rod glistening at its engorged tip with dew, the two tender delicate sacs beneath, and even further below, the alluring creased hole flexing and closing, more attractive than a siren’s call.
The youth extended a shaking hand to caress the pink-tinged opening, his other hand fumbling at his own clothes. His finger lingered at the entrance, tracing the light creases there, before finally darting in.
Long-accustomed to such passions, the scholar’s body enclosed the youth’s questing finger easily, his inner muscles pulsing and drawing the finger to greater depths.
‘Oh,’ exclaimed the youth, his face alight. He wriggled his finger a little, eliciting a low cry from the scholar. ‘Stop!’ the scholar gasped, even as his body thrust forward, seeking greater sensations.
‘Ah, do you want something bigger?’ the youth asked mischievously, as he withdrew his finger. The scholar only moaned, and shuddered at the sudden emptiness within him.
The youth laughed. ‘I’ll take that as a yes!’ And without further ado, he took hold of the scholar’s legs, and boldly thrust himself into the pouting hole between the scholar’s legs.
The scholar’s entire body shook with the violence of the pounding, as the youth slaked his passions with a vengeance. It was nothing like what he had with the merchant, thought the scholar dizzyingly.
It was neither better nor worse – simply different.
It was the difference between the merchant’s thick manhood grinding slowly into his body, making him writhe in agonized longing, and the youth’s longer slimmer rod, pounding deeper and deeper without care or thought, as if to bury himself completely into the scholar.
It was the difference between warm calloused hands, sparking fires all over his body, and frenzied kisses that almost swallowed him whole.
The scholar moaned as the youth thrust deeper yet; unbidden, he hooked his legs around the youth’s pliant heaving waist, and simply clung on for dear life as the youth pounded away between his legs.
Before long, the youth reached the height of his passions, and came within the scholar’s body. He collapsed, panting. ‘Ha, ha… You’re so good,’ he panted into the scholar’s ear.
The unsatisfied scholar looked balefully at him, but the flushed cheeks and brightness of his eyes took all the heat from his glance, and turned it into something infinitely more coquettish.
‘Ah,’ exclaimed the youth and his hand slid down the front of the scholar’s body. ‘You haven’t—!’
The youth flushed. ‘Sorry,’ he apologized, hand tightening around the scholar’s body. ‘I was just really excited and happy…. I’ll make you feel better right away!’ he promised.
And so the youth rose again, and devoted the rest of the night to pouring all his youthful energies into the scholar’s eager body.
The youth woke to the sound of chirping birds the next morning. He stretched, sated and immensely pleased with himself, and turned to check on his bed partner.
The scholar was already awake, his long dark hair spread over the covers, his eyes fixed blankly on the embroidered silk canopy above the bed.
‘Good morning,’ greeted the youth, as he bent forward for a morning kiss.
‘Go away, I’m trying to think of the least painful way to die,’ said the scholar distantly, not looking at the youth. ‘And after that, I’m going to have to think about what I’m going to say when I see your father in the underworld. And my head hurts.’ His head, along with other shyer body parts, but the scholar would sooner die than say that aloud.
‘You’re not going to die,’ said the youth, his face set in a fearsome frown.
The scholar looked at him then, a long glance out of the corner of dark sloe-shaped eyes. ‘What do you know? You understand nothing. You are just a child.’
‘Exactly,’ said the youth, black hair falling over his shoulders, his eyes bright and intent on the scholar. ‘Look, you’re ten years older than I am, right? You are bound to die before I do. So you don’t have to worry about being left behind, or alone, or anything like that. I’ll make sure I live longer than you so I can stay with you even when you are old and decrepit and cannot walk. I won’t leave you like the old man did…
‘I love you.’ And then the youth smiled a smile so sweet and luminous the scholar could feel the ice around his heart cracking.
‘Idiot,’ said the scholar, and the ice melted into tears slowly spilling down porcelain-pale cheeks. ‘Fool. You are both fools. Father and son.’ And he cried all the harder.
The youth sighed and pressed the scholar’s face against his chest. ‘Yes, yes,’ he murmured, patting the scholar’s back as if comforting a child. ‘We are both fools. And whose fault is it?’
The youth sighed again.
It wasn’t fair. He’d seen him first, way before his father. Brilliant, elegant… Shiny. The eighteen-year-old genius who had just topped the district exams with flying colors, coming down the street with the other scholars and officials, accepting congratulations from all and sundry.
Someone had pinned a small sprig of peach blossoms onto his robe. It made a vivid splash against his student robes of grey and white, and his face, alight with happiness, had its own light that drew every eye.
He’d seen him from the top of his servant’s shoulders, and immediately lost his eight-year-old heart to the bright personage being feted that day.
When they’d returned back to the residence, he’d whined for three days straight until his father finally relented and agreed to employ the scholar as his own personal tutor.
Of course, before the day was out, his father had stole his scholar from him and made him his own. He was too young and innocent of matters between men then, but now… His arms tightened around the scholar.
‘You can cry all you want today,’ said the youth, still thinking rather vengefully about his thieving father. ‘From tomorrow onwards, all your tears will be mine.’
The scholar looked up, still beautiful despite his tear-stained face, and pinched the boy’s – no, man, now – cheeks. Hard.
‘Owww~’ The youth yelped and clapped his hands around his abused cheeks. He stared dolefully at the scholar.
‘Hubris!’ scolded the scholar. ‘What makes you think I’ll cry for you!’ The effect was rather spoilt by his pink-tipped nose (from the crying) and the slight up-tilt of his lips (the natural state of the scholar’s lips).
‘That’s true,’ said the youth with a boastful grin. ‘I’ll never do anything to make you cry.’ He stopped for a moment, and added slyly. ‘Unless, of course, it’s in bed. I am younger, you know, and more likely to last longer–‘
The scholar made to pinch his cheeks again, and the youth laughed and begged for mercy.
They rose from bed then, in a much better mood, and the youth helped the scholar to wash and dress. After a simple breakfast, the two made their way to the ancestral hall and knelt in front of the merchant’s tablet.
‘So, old man,’ the youth started without preamble. ‘I’ve had him last night. He’s all mine now, so you can forget any strange thoughts about waiting for him down in the underworld.’
The scholar gasped and clapped a hand over the profligate son’s mouth.
‘What?’ the youth asked ingenuously, as he pulled the scholar’s hand down from his mouth. ‘It’s not as if we could lie to him now, can we?’
‘Oh, do as you wish then,’ said the scholar helplessly. He closed his eyes and slumped against the youth, covering his face with his sleeve.
‘Fine~’ the youth turned back to the silent tablet, his back ramrod straight. ‘Dear Honored Father in the Underworld,’ He chanted. ‘As you know, we are, respectively, the person you had loved best in the world, and the person you had loved second-best in the world.
‘You know us, better than anyone else in the world. That he is pretty and clever and kind. Also he is greedy and childish and more petty than a real man has any right to be. He has a soft heart, cannot stand to see anyone in pain, and is absolutely terrified of being lonely.
‘And you know I love him, right from the start.
‘So, now that you are dead and gone, we are finally together, in every sense of the word, and we will take care of each other, and certainly, I would make him very happy, and him, me. If you have any objections to that, this would be the time to show it, or else forever hold your peace.’ The youth finished the last statement in a single hurried breath, and the scholar pulled his sleeve down, and bowed his head.
They waited, with half-bated breath.
The breeze continued to blow tiny pink petals from the peach tree in the courtyard. Smoke from the incense continued to meander in fitful gusts to the heavens.
A cricket, early for its season, chirped.
‘I’m going to assume that means approval, you know,’ said the youth loudly to the silent hall. ‘And while you’re at it, some blessings from you in the underworld to your only son and his one true love would be much appreciated.’
The cricket chirped louder.
The youth grinned and took the scholar’s hand in his own, his eyes curved like two shining crescent moons. ‘See, even father approves.’
‘Stupid,’ said the scholar, blushing. ‘It’s not just approval from your father. Everyone knows about your father and I… And now, the two of us…’ The scholar bit his lip, vexed. ‘What would that make me?’
The youth thought for a moment. Then he smiled. ‘That would make you the warm summer breeze, flitting between the months of May and December,’ he declared. And then he leaned close and kissed him.