Meanwhile, Kanuen was handed over to a servant girl just as Hou Dong had said. Since there wasn’t anything for him to do to help Hou Dong’s plan along he just followed her.
The girl brought him to a bath at the back of the inn. The walls and the outer area of the floor were paneled in dark wood while the inner part of the room consisted of an in-ground basin that was several steps wide in all directions. The walls of the basin and the floor around it were covered in stone slabs, making sure that the water wouldn’t drench the wooden paneling.
Kanuen couldn’t help but stare at the room in a daze. He had never before seen this kind of bath. In the kingdom of Sou, they would normally either go and use the natural springs that were close to their town or they would use wooden basins that could be carried around for everyday use. Only the ones that were part of ceremonies would have established places where they stood all year round. Anyway, all of them would be above-ground to distinguish them from the natural water resources and thus pay respect to nature.
He understood that other places were different but when he saw this, he couldn’t help but feel lost. He wished Hou Dong would still be with him, helping him through these hours. Maybe the worst part about this wasn’t that he’d be sold off, maybe it was worse to be alone while being confronted with all these new things and having to wait until the moment when he would finally see Hou Dong again.
When he fled from those bandits, he had thought that it wouldn’t be too bad to be alone in another place. He had thought he’d be able to handle himself well. But then he had been unable to hold on before he reached anywhere and would have died without Hou Dong’s help. Now, after he had been subjected to that man’s care for the last weeks, having to rely on himself made him feel ill at ease. He couldn’t help the urge to glance behind him to ask Hou Dong just what this place was about and what would happen next. Unfortunately, the steady presence from before wasn’t there. Right now, he was alone and he’d have to persevere for the next few hours.
He took a deep breath and turned his attention back to the girl that had brought him here. She hadn’t said a single word to him and even now, she just waved at another two servant girls that had been waiting in the room. The two of them nodded and went to prepare the basin. Meanwhile, the first girl stepped in front of Kanuen, reaching for the small belt around his waist. She pulled at the cloth, trying to open it.
Kanuen reached up and held the robe together. How could he expose himself in front of a stranger in this kind of place? What was she even thinking?
The girl looked up with furrowed brows and slapped his hand away. She pulled at the belt, ripping it off his body and throwing it to the side. She grabbed his robe next but Kanuen once again held onto the fabric and made sure that it stayed in place. Once again, his hands were slapped away and this time, the other two girls already hurried over. They also grabbed the robe and pulled it off his shoulders. Kanuen gave a light yelp but before he could try and pick it off the ground, the girls were pulling down his pants.
Kanuen shook his head and pushed them off, pulling it back up and rushing to pick up his robe. He didn’t have time to put it back on before those girls rushed back at him. He could only wrap it around his shoulders to cover up his naked skin.
The girls furrowed their brows and two of them tried to hold him in place while the third one tried to rip off the robe again.
“No!” Kanuen pushed them off again. He might not be as strong as Hou Dong but he was still a man. Even if there were three women, he was still able to at least push them off his body one by one.
“You dirty slave! If you understand, then stop struggling already. We’re going to take off your clothes and wash you, however much you try to resist. So you better give up now or I’m going to call the guards.”
“Please, don’t do this!” Kanuen backed off, trying to put the robe back into place.
The girl huffed and waved at one of the others. “You go and get the guards. We don’t have time to waste with him.”
The other girl nodded and then hurried out of the room. Kanuen watched her leave and trembled in fright. If she really brought the guards, then there was no way for him to resist any longer. He had seen on the market square what type of guards there were in the kingdom of Kai. Resisting them would be as futile as trying to resist Hou Dong. No, even more so. Hou Dong would stop when he asked him to while these guards … they would regard him as a slave just like these girls.
He turned to the girl again and looked at the basin that had already been filled with water. “You don’t have to do this!”
The girl harrumphed. “It’s your own fault. Whatever they do to you, I wouldn’t care.”
Kanuen shivered again. Whatever they did to him? Don’t tell him … Outside, steps sounded. He looked to the door and instinctively backed up.
The girl only gave a snort. “See now? You should have listened to me when I told you to. Now you’ll get it.”
Kanuen looked back over to the basin and shook his head. “No! I … I’ll do it alone! Just … just let me do it alone. I’ll do it alone!” Wasn’t it just taking off his robe and stepping into the basin? He could do that alone. Why would they need to be there?
The girl laughed. “Leave you alone? Do you think I’m dumb? How many slaves do you think have tried this? You won’t be able to get away.”
Kanuen closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Alright. It seemed he wouldn’t get around this. Even though he felt ashamed, he let go of the robe, letting the fabric slide to the ground and pulled down his pants by himself, undressing in front of the two girls and going over to the basin. He stepped in and submerged himself in the water.
The girl smiled with satisfaction. It was good to see a slave act obediently. It seemed they wouldn’t have any more trouble with this one. She called the other one over and the two started to work, pouring scented oil into the water and throwing in a handful of colorful petals that gave off a sickeningly sweet fragrance.
Kanuen lowered his head, trying to sink into the water as far as he could. He really couldn’t believe that he was in this situation. If he had known that things would be like this …
He shook his head at himself. What use was there in thinking like this? Even if he had known, there was nothing he could have done. When he ran away and went to the desert without preparation, he had already sealed his fate. If not because the person that had picked him up was Hou Dong, then there wouldn’t be any way out of this at all. He was already very lucky. Expecting Hou Dong to abandon the plan he had made just to get him out of this really would have been too much.
Although … He couldn’t help but wonder if Hou Dong would’ve done that for him. If he told him … If he told him what this meant to him, maybe he would’ve understood? Maybe he would’ve made sure that this wouldn’t happen?
Ah, just why hadn’t he insisted to know more? He should’ve asked Hou Dong again what would happen to him after they came to the city! He should have insisted on finding out everything up until the very last minute. Then maybe he could have asked. Now, it was already too late.
Outside, in the courtyard of the inn, the boy that Hou Dong had paid to keep an eye on the situation cursed. One of the servant girls had just come out and started talking to the guards stationed at the door. He couldn’t hear too much of what they were saying but he knew those two and seeing them abandon the game they had been playing and following her into the building, he knew that things weren’t looking good.
He rushed out of the courtyard, ducking through the hole in the wall where he had come in and ran to the inn that Hou Dong had pointed out to him. Even though he had only agreed to find out where that beautiful stranger would be brought, he was clear that this opportunity would be lost if something happened to that person. After all, who wanted broken goods? And since that stranger was the compassionate idiot among the two of them, he had to make sure they stayed together!
He slid into the inn and rushed up to Sun Jin. “I have to report something!”
Sun Jin lowered his chopsticks and stared at the boy. Ah? Shouldn’t this child only come over in the evening? “Why —”
“Bring me to your boss!” The boy kicked Sun Jin’s shin, not looking apologetic at all.
Sun Jin cursed but still stood up and brought him to the room where their Master was preparing. Just in case this was important, he definitely wouldn’t risk anything! “This better be worth it! Otherwise, don’t think I wouldn’t take half that money off you later on!”
The boy snorted and rushed into Hou Dong’s room. He didn’t have any time to listen to the drivel of that fool or it would be too late.
In the other inn, the servant girl opened the door to the bath and stepped in with the two guards from the courtyard. Seeing Kanuen in the water, she raised her brows. “What? You’ve gotten him in without us?”
The first girl laughed. “It seems our guards’ reputation is so fierce that he was scared witless as soon as he heard they were coming. He got in on his own.”
The two guards laughed as well but they didn’t leave. Instead, they walked over, taking a look at Kanuen who was trying to disappear in the water.
One of them clicked his tongue in appreciation while the other whistled. “Mn, quite the beauty! Honestly, you should have gotten us earlier or not told him anything. I would’ve loved to press him down while you take his clothes off.”
The other one chuckled. “What letting them take off his clothes? Let the girls rest for once! We could have taken those clothes off him on our own. He wouldn’t mind it. Would you?” He crouched down at the edge of the basin and reached out, grabbing Kanuen’s chin and forcing him to turn his head around. He smiled when he took a closer look. “Not bad, not bad. Why don’t you come out and let me take a look at the rest? I could show you a few things before you’re given to your new Master. How does that sound? I’ll make sure you enjoy it.”
The other guard laughed. “What are you saying? Show him things? Haven’t you heard? He came with a caravan that stopped here today. I heard the servants say he was fucking the head of the mercenaries that accompanied them.”
The first guard turned to him and raised his brows. “So he already knows how to do it? Isn’t that just one more reason to have a taste?” He turned back to Kanuen and gripped his chin tighter. “Since you want it so badly you should really come out. That kind of mercenary that’s always traveling around should be quite dirty. You’d certainly make a better deal with us.”
The other guard nodded and waved at him. “Yes, come on out here. This evening, you’ll be sold to an old man. Who knows how many years that guy will still be able to get it up? You should enjoy yourself as long as you can.”
Kanuen wanted to back away but the guard was still holding onto his chin and not letting go. On the contrary, when he noticed that Kanuen wanted to back off, he even reached out with the other hand and grabbed his shoulder.
“Little slave boy, don’t be like this. Just where do you want to go? If your Master wants to fuck you tonight, you can’t just run away either. Just see it as us helping you get used to it.” He forced Kanuen’s arm out of the water and brushed his skin with his thumb. “Look at this, brother.”
The other guard nodded. “Quite exotic. Really wants to make you have a taste.” He walked around to Kanuen’s right side and also crouched down at the edge of the basin. He leaned forward and grabbed Kanuen’s arm, pulling him up.
Kanuen’s chest that had still been submerged in the water was uncovered and the two men laughed. The one on his right reached over further, clasping his arm in his left and feeling his chest up with his right. “Just look at this. His skin is soft everywhere. No wonder that mercenary couldn’t get enough of him and was still sucking his lips in front of the inn. I wouldn’t have let him go either if I was him. I bet he just didn’t have enough money or maybe he was afraid his men would have wanted him to share him with them?
The other man laughed and also moved in closer, finally letting go of Kanuen’s chin. “I bet they already did. There’s no way a group of hot-blooded young men will just watch and go through the desert for several weeks while one of them fucks such a beauty. They probably all had him at least once.”
“Once on that journey or once a night?”
The two men shared a glance and then grabbed him by the waist, pulling him out of the water. Kanuen struggled again, trying to wrest his hand out of the right guard’s hold but that only gave the other guy a chance to hug his waist with both arms. Kanuen found himself trapped between them, his naked back pressed up against the chest of the one on the left while the other was leaning into his face. His legs were only submerged in the water halfway up his thighs while the rest of his body had already been pulled out of the basin.
Kanuen’s eyes widened and he opened his mouth. “No …” He stared into the guard’s eyes but he couldn’t see any kind of compassion. The only things he saw were greed and lust. He finally understood what Hou Dong had meant when he described the kingdom of Kai.
The guard chuckled and reached down, his bare hands stroking Kanuen sides, wandering past his waist and finally stopping at his thighs. “Trembling like a little frightened animal … To be honest, that’s the kind I like the most. Let’s have some fun, shall we?” He leaned closer, his breath brushing Kanuen’s face, his lips closing in on his mouth.
Kanuen pressed his eyes shut and gritted his teeth. Right now, he regretted. Staying at home would’ve meant to fall prey to the bandit but at the very least, that would’ve been before he knew Hou Dong. Maybe he would’ve been able to come to terms with it somehow. Maybe there would’ve been a way to give in to fate and not resent himself and the world this much.
But now, he couldn’t help but think that things could have been different. If he hadn’t hesitated for so long, if he hadn’t silently hoped that things would turn out well in the city and that maybe Hou Dong and he could find a way to share their lives in the future, then maybe he would’ve already given in to him while they were traveling. Who cared if it was in a tent? Who cared if the customs of the Sou kingdom were observed or not? At the very least, his first time would’ve been given to the man he loved and not to some stranger that forced himself onto him.
Those lips pressed onto his and the guard chuckled. “Not bad, is it? I’m sure you’ll like the rest just as much.” He glanced up at the other man, silently negotiating how they would go about this.
Before they could decide, one of the girls that had waited to the side cleared her throat. “I don’t care what you do with him but we don’t have much time. He’ll be sold off this evening already. Just do him in the water so he at least smells nice when he gets out. And don’t leave any traces! If those merchants or his new master find out, then we’ll have hell to pay.”
The guard clicked his tongue but still pushed Kanuen back into the water. “Stop bothering us. It’s not the first time, is it? We know how to do this.”
Kanuen shivered and pulled back into a corner, trying to submerge his body in the water again. He knew that it was pointless though. Even one of these men was stronger than him. With them working together like this, it was impossible to resist. There was no way he could escape.
The guards took off their bracers and threw them to the side, reaching for the armor protecting their chest next. They threw it to the ground, their lips curling into a smile as they looked at Kanuen.
“You really think he’s experienced? That reaction just now …”
The other one shook his head. “Guess that mercenary was his first.”
“And then he still let him suck him like this in front of the inn?”
The other one laughed in response and reached for his belt. “Who knows? He might have thought it was true love. Isn’t that what they call it if you push deep inside?”
The two chuckled and their belts fell to the ground. They reached for the robes below, their expressions getting even more eager.
Kanuen pressed his eyes shut and clung to the wall of the basin. The stone slabs had been warmed by the water, feeling unbearably hot below his fingers. Just why was this happening to him? He hadn’t expected much of his life but at the very least, he had wanted to be able to fall in love and experience a relationship like that of his parents. He didn’t want this. He didn’t want to be forced. He wanted to be with the man he loved. “Hou Dong …”
Tears gathered in his eyes and he had to bite his lower lip to make sure that no sound escaped his lips. He had heard what that guard said before. If he liked this kind of thing, then he couldn’t let him see just how frightened he was and how much he resented this. Maybe then, it would be over soon.
The robes fell to the ground, and the guards reached for their pants, their gazes trained on Kanuen. “I’ll go first.”
“Didn’t you get the first kiss already? I think I should be the first one to enter him then.”
“Don’t be like that. I didn’t even use my tongue.”
“Even if you used your tongue, it still wouldn’t be able to compare to my dick.”
“I guess that’s true. Then again, I guess your dick can’t compare to mine. So maybe you really should go first. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to enjoy him as much after I’m done with him.”
The other guard tsked but still stepped up to the basin. “Don’t think I’m agreeing to it. Mine’s obviously bigger. It’s just that it’s already throbbing this hard so I can’t hold back any longer.” He stepped onto the stairs leading down into the basin when a knock sounded from the door.
“Funial, Tsiultui, how long do you need to get one fucking slave under control?! Get back out here! I’m not going to do your bloody job forever! If you’re not coming back in half a minute, I’m going to screw your sisters!”
The two guards froze and furrowed their brows, sharing a glance and then looking at the door.
“Just give us five minutes!” the one that was just about to enter the basin yelled out. He didn’t want to go back now. This slave was a rarity. In comparison to the ones they usually got here, he was especially beautiful. He wouldn’t leave before he had taken him.
Kanuen opened his eyes but stayed pressed to the wall of the basin. He prayed for that person to call out again. Just one more yell from that man and maybe these two would leave. Maybe nothing would happen to him, after all.
As if his prayers had been heard, a fist slammed against the door. “Don’t fucking try to negotiate with me. What five minutes? You want me to screw your mother too?” Suddenly, a laugh sound from the door. “Hah, as if! Your mother’s fucking ugly! Ah?” The voice stopped and a low chuckle sounded. “Funial, don’t you have a wife? I heard she’s beautiful. Maybe I’ll go and visit her in these five minutes.”
The guard that was still standing outside cursed and gathered his clothes, getting dressed in just a few seconds. He rushed through the door and raised his fist to smash it into the other person’s face. “You leave my wife out of this!”
The other man laughed. “Guess I’m just going to screw that other guy’s sister then. How old was she again?”
The man that had already entered the basin while the other two were absorbed in their fistfight, gritted his teeth and spit. “Bastard! I’ll get you for this.” He took a last, greedy look at Kanuen and then left the basin, gathering his clothes and throwing his robe over on the way outside. “What the fuck are you saying? Do you want to make trouble?” Naturally, he wasn’t worried about his sister. The problem was that doing the slaves was their private deal with the servant girls. If this guy went and blabbed to their boss …
The other man laughed. “Do I need to? You are certainly daring, trying to take one of the goods that our boss’ customers brought in. Even if you want to have fun, you’re certainly not going to have it without me. Not inviting me? Then I’m afraid you won’t get that thing in there.” He laughed boisterously but the rest of the conversation was dampened when the door fell shut.
Kanuen closed his eyes and heaved a sigh of relief. It seemed he was safe for now. Unfortunately, he wasn’t too sure how long this safety would last. With what had happened just now, he was very aware of the fact that being sold off wasn’t the only danger waiting here.
The girl that had been standing to the side, harrumphed. “Lucky for you. Don’t think you’ll get around the rest though. Come on girls, let’s give this dirty slave a wash. We wouldn’t want him to disgust his new Master, would we?” She waved at the other two and they came over, pushing his head underwater.
They poured a scented oil onto him, making sure that it reached every single inch of his hair and skin. Kanuen closed his eyes and just let them do what they wanted. It seemed if he didn’t give them any cause, then he might be just a bit safer. Even though he didn’t like this either, it was still better than having to deal with these guards. At the very least, he wouldn’t end up raped.
Kanuen stayed in the bath for more than two hours. His hair and body had been scrubbed clean from whatever dirt these girls thought to see and the scented oils rubbed into his skin until he couldn’t smell anything else anymore and felt as if he would faint.
Finally, they pulled him out of the basin and dried off his skin and hair, pushing him into another room and draping a light robe over his body. A comb was roughly dragged through his hair before the girls twisted part of it into thin braids that they secured on top of his head with a golden pin.
The pushed him out of the door afterward and dragged him to the courtyard where Mister Zai was waiting. It seemed the time for him to be sold off had come.